It's summer and the Ponsons are sprouting hither and yon
The dog days of summer are scratching at the door, that special time of year when games pile up and major league teams start scouring for bandages to apply to gaping wounds to their pitching staffs. Case in point: the New York Yankees, who reached for the immortal Sidney Ponson in order to have a warm body to start the second game of a Friday doubleheader with their crosstown rival Mets.
Ponson, you may recall, is the 31-year-old, 11th-year journeyman right-hander who went 0-1 with a tidy 10.47 ERA in five appearances for the Yankees in 2006. It was one of his six big league stops -- among them Baltimore, San Francisco, St. Louis, Minnesota and Texas -- on a road that has yielded a career mark of 86-102, a 4.90 ERA not to mention two DUI incidents and a little exchange of fistic pleasantries with a judge in Aruba that is always cause for additional confidence whenever he comes to town.
This resume places Ponson squarely in the legion of profoundly mediocre journeymen who inevitably sprout like dandelions each summer on diamonds across this great land.
Now, if you're a fan, there's nothing quite like the feeling of plunking down $180 for a pair of tickets, opening the paper that morning and seeing that a Ponson or a Tim Redding is starting for your team that day. You can at least count on a nice, dirty scorecard and a round of snickers and horselaughs from rival fans as their team licks its chops. No doubt, the Fenway faithful enjoyed seeing the Yankees trot out Redding for one big game in July 2005. The righty, who'd arrived from San Diego toting a 0-5 mark and mouthwatering 9.10 ERA, faced 11 Red Sox and surrendered four hits, four walks, and six runs in a 17-1 squeaker that day. So much for his Yankee career. But he, as Nationals fans can tell you, survived to hurl another day ... and is currently doing so in Washington, D.C.
Brett Tomko. Chan Ho Park. Mark Redman. Miguel Batista. Esteban Loaiza. Steve Trachsel...
No doubt you have your personal favorites. These are the kind of guys you don't exactly pay to see, the ones you don't quite get around to telling your grandkids about (for obvious reasons), but their sheer longevity at the highest level of their sport is, in and of itself, a notable accomplishment. Mike Morgan, who finally retired in 2002, is the Patron Saint of this wandering tribe. The right-hander pitched for a record 12 major league teams (A's, Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles, Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Twins, Rangers and Diamondbacks) in 22 years, compiling a 141-186 career mark and 4.23 ERA.
Never quite good enough to hang around any one place for too long, these journeymen hurlers nevertheless put in the occasional good season or flashy streak that convinces some team somewhere that they are less of a gamble than a greenhorn from the farm system -- a statement, if ever there were was one, about the scarcity of competent pitching.
Ponson, for instance, earned himself another ticket to the Bronx by going 4-1, 3.88 with the Texas Rangers earlier this season. Fortunately -- or unfortunately for the Yankees, he got himself bounced out of Arlington by having a disagreement with manager Ron Washington about the way he was being used. Fortunately, that discussion did not involve angry hands wrapped around another man's windpipe. But rest assured, Houston's recently-released Shawn "The Houston Strangler" Chacon will pop up again in a ballpark near you.
It's a natural part of summer.