Posted: Monday July 25, 2005 1:03PM; Updated: Tuesday July 26, 2005 1:38AM
Who would dare disagree with George Steinbrenner?
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Sometimes, usually late at night while watching the dwindling innings of a Braves game, I think, "You know what? I could do that." I usually have this thought after 1) seeing the bullpen coach, whose job appears to be sitting around and answering the phone, two things I already do all day, or 2) the 25th man, who gets one at-bat per week and leads cheers in the dugout.
These are the times when I think being part of baseball must be wonderful -- the sun, the sunflower seeds, the drama, the camaraderie. Sure, there are plenty of people whose job security depends on, you know, actual performance, but in many cases it appears to be about being in the right place at the right time. After many nights of thought, here are my top nine easiest jobs in baseball:
1. Yankees "inner circle" member: Whenever the Yankees start to stumble, George Steinbrenner convenes meetings in Tampa with his "inner circle." This is one of my favorite things in all of sports. I'm consistently amused by the folly of the idea that a bunch of guys sitting around a table in Florida can make men play better baseball in the Bronx. What's required to sit here? I'm assuming you just tell The Boss he's doing a great job. That and hang out around the pool a lot.
2. Braves back-up catcher: This gig has been one of baseball's hidden gems for a decade. With solid starters like Javy Lopez and now Johnny Estrada, the Braves have long utilized a secondary backstop, initially to catch Greg Maddux every four days, now mostly to catch day games after night games. Guys who have held this job are generally "clubhouse guys," around to provide leadership and not much else. Some of the retreads who have filled the role: Greg Myers, Charlie O'Brien, Damon Berryhill, Paul Bako, Henry Blanco and Eddie Perez. (And I'll never forget the time I saw Ted Simmons warm someone up in the bullpen while smoking a cigarette and sitting on a stool.) You work maybe twice a week, and all you have to do is set up outside, outside, outside.
3. Oakland A's financial consultant: David Spade's character in those Capital One commercials should apply for this: An agent wants a raise for his player? No. Should we give Tim Hudson an extension? No. How about we invest longterm in a marquee free agent? No. Will we ever find postseason success? No. But will we win a lot of regular-season games? Yes.
4. Nationals team psychiatrist: Whoever this person is must have a big week ahead. Livan Hernandez, especially, seems immersed in denial. One day after a rambling postgame interview in which he said he was "99.9 percent" sure that he was finished for the season, he cursed out reporters for not reporting his comments correctly. Huh? Besides Livan, the Nats have Jose Guillen running around, and any time you make that duo seem normal, people probably think you're a genius. The Nats have been fun to watch while winning. Now they're making it fun to watch on the way down, too.
5. Rangers media relations director: Before Kenny Rogers snapped and turned into Sean Penn, there probably wasn't anyone interested in talking to the Rangers. But in a way, the Rogers situation makes things easier -- the other 24 guys are now probably tripping over themselves to be nice to the reporters, throwing out clichés like Nuke LaLoosh, and the reporters all know what buttons not to push (or to push, in a few cases). Also, Rangers pr guru Gregg Elkin used to work for the Mavs and Mark Cuban. Anything's gotta be easier than that.
6. Cubs hitter behind Derrek Lee: While Lee is murdering the pitching in the NL, there can't be a much easier job than hitting behind him. I'm guessing Jeromy Burnitz could finish the season batting .250 and no one would care, because after Lee blasts another hit, no one remembers the weak groundout to second.
7. Colorado Rockies GM: Quick: Who is the general manager of the Colorado Rockies? I watch National League baseball, Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter every night, and I had no idea. Turns out it's still Dan O'Dowd. I figured he had to be gone by now, but he's still there. Apparently it's good enough to take a team that won 82 games his first year down to 68 last year. This season, Colorado is 34-63. Come on, I couldn't do this job? I could totally GM a team to 50-win season.
8. David Ortiz's glove repairman: I love hearing people talk about Ortiz being such a great baseball player, because they're half-right. He's a great hitter, especially in the clutch. But he can't play in the field. How can a guy be considered one of baseball's stars when he couldn't even get playing time in the National League? It must be nice to not have to worry about bringing a glove to the games.
9. ESPN's Barry Bonds beat reporter: We can't get enough. At least, that's what ESPN is telling us. So, they've got someone permanently on the Bonds beat, giving almost daily non-updates on his condition, his rehab, his return. The great thing is, there's nothing to tell. Barry himself updates his blog, letting us know there's nothing to say, and giving infinitely more interesting information, like his confusion regarding the Sidekick (doesn't he watch Entourage?). Anyway, if ESPN's looking for someone else to live in San Francisco and report nothing every day, count me in.
It's a little late for SI.com's Multimedia Week, but this Nike commercial with the Li'l Tiger Woods winning the British Open is, to borrow a line from Billy Ocean, simply awesome.
Harry Potter Of The Week
Another good thing about late-night baseball games is that they give me a chance to read while the pitchers shuffle in and out. This week I polished off the new Harry Potter book, and then stumbled across this on the 'net. Your first tip that the book is a fake should be when Dumbledore is repeatedly called Gandalf.