Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Updated: October 20, 11:40 AM ET
These bullpens are full of babies
By Jim Caple
Editor's note: He managed the Red Sox and coached for the Yankees. So we take a shot at how Don Zimmer, the man who knows them both so well, would scout and analyze the ALCS ... if given the chance. In other words, What Would Zimmer Do?
"I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty sick and tired of hearing people moan about how often the relievers are pitching in this series. This is the one area that I disagreed with Joe when I was his bench coach -- I mean, other than where we liked to buy clothes. Joe, he always wanted to coddle the relievers like they needed to have their hands held.
"Me, I'm embarrassed the way relievers are babied nowadays. Take Mariano Rivera. Don't get me wrong. I love Mo, but it gets a little ridiculous out there. He naps in the clubhouse until the fifth inning, has a couple of the trainers piggyback him to the bullpen in the sixth, has a masseuse come in and give him a rubdown in the seventh inning, he gets his nails manicured in the eighth; and then if his back isn't bothering him and his arm feels strong, maybe -- maybe -- he'll pitch the ninth.
"It wasn't like that in the old days. Back when I was playing with the old St. Paul Saints in the American Association, we didn't coddle pitchers. I remember this one pitcher we had, Accordion Arm Kelly. We pitched him three, four, five innings a day, every day for a week, three weeks out of the month. He pitched 400 innings one season and had a 2.85 ERA. And he didn't complain once. Sure, he had to have his shirts specially tailored and we had to help him comb his hair and brush his teeth and use a knife and fork at the post-game spread, but the team came first in those days, not personal hygiene and looks. Same with Macaroni Elbow Peterson and Herniated Disk O'Houlihan.
"Then there was Ol' 154-Game Sevareid. People went on and on about Cal Ripken Jr.'s streak, but Sevareid pitched every game for three seasons for the Saints. Threw 76 complete games, won 48 and saved 85 one year. He would have been a great big leaguer, too, if his right hand hadn't gotten that awful infection from where the knuckles kept scraping against the floor when he walked.
"People ask me how pitchers could do it back then and I tell 'em, I dunno, I guess we were just tougher back then.
"So, I wouldn't worry about these babies. I'd just keep throwing them out there until the game was over. But Joe won't do that. He would never listen to me. He'd just shake his head, whisper something to Mel and then him and Stottlemyre would look at me and laugh. I'd ask him what the big joke was and he'd always say, 'Oh, nothing. Mel just farted.'
"Well, that's it for today. I got to get going. It's Tuesday and they've got a great Early Bird Special at Red Lobster."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com