(EDITOR’S NOTE : Earlier tonight, the New York Mets chased their former prospect, LHP Scott Kazmir en route to a 10-1 victory over the AL West leading Oakland A’s. Kazmir, famously swapped for Victor Zambrano in one of the worst trades in Mets history, allegedly ran afoul of veteran teammates while preparing for the 2004 season in Port St. Lucie, most prominently, starting pitcher Al Leiter. Said incident is recalled in this post from July 9, 2006 – GC)
Tomorrow’s sports pages will be filled with accounts of Chien-Ming Wang’s tremendous performance against Tampa Bay. As though that were the most important storyline.
Though the Yankees’ 5-1 win helped the Bombers keep pace with Boston in the AL East, I’d rather focus on things far more crucial. The issue of respect. Feelings. Defering to a veteran. Knowing one’s place in the pecking order.
You might not agree with his politics, you might wish his final year in a Mets uniform saw him reach 100 pitches in less than 3 innings per start. But you’ve got to acknowledge that Al Leiter has always been a quality individual.
After everything Leiter has done for baseball, if not the city of New York, was it asking so much that he be allowed to play the music of Bruce Springsteen on the clubhouse boombox during Spring Training 2004? Is there something inherently wrong with Leiter misinterpreting the Boss’ populist themes for some kind of ultra-patriotic anthems? If there were, you’d have to lock up much of the Tri-State Area.
So how was Leiter supposed to react, when that young punk Scott Kazmir arrogantly strode into the Port St. Lucie clubhouse and snapped Leiter’s ‘Born In The U.S.A.’ CD into pieces, and then replaced it in the player with Solger’s “Raping Dead Nuns”?
I know how I’d have reacted. I’d have used every bit of influence I’d build up through years of golfing and glad-handing to have that little creep shipped off to the baseball equivalent of Siberia at the earliest possible opportunity.
Al, if you’re reading this, not all Mets fans hold a grudge. Kazmir lost tonight, a game he might’ve won with any sort of top-flight team with a ten-figure payroll playing behind him. Sure, he’s going to the All-Star Game on Tuesday, and soon, he’ll be making enough money to have the members of Solger reunite at his 23rd birthday party. But for tonight, he’s a loser.