To: Brian Cashman, General Manager, the New York Yankees
Re: My tryout
Just a heads-up — I’ll be joining the team this week for the final days of spring training, and hope to be in shape for your season opener against the Sox. And by “in shape,” I mean 61 years old. Judging from your offseason moves, you see that as an asset.
I don’t usually write here about baseball, but as a lifelong Yankees fan, I’ve never quite seen an offseason like this one, either. While other teams were dealing like mad, stocking up on 20-somethings with hard bellies, your big move was to re-sign four starters with hard-boiled-egg bellies. Three of them are 38, 39 and 41. The fourth, your best pitcher, is 43 and trying to come back from knee surgery. He and the Internet were born the same year, the year of the debut of “Scooby Doo.”
How old are the Yankees? Jayson “Gramps” Werth, at 33 the oldest player on the Washington Nationals, is younger than nine of the 25 men on your roster. You have become the Bronx Embalmers.
Your spring training facility resembles the Vatican during a papal conclave. Looking around the locker room last month, observing the gerontocracy milling about, salt-and-pepper hair, poochy guts, crow-footed eyes, your manager swallowed hard, pasted on a game face and said to reporters — this is a direct quote — “I love the character in that room.”
Hey, I got plenty of character for you right here, pal. I’ll match my prostate pound-for-pound with any of your guys’.
On the Metro recently, I overheard a conversation among three young guys wearing Yankees caps. They were talking about their favorite player, your right fielder and likely leadoff hitter, Ichiro Suzuki. This is how it went:
Guy 1: I’m a little worried. He’s 39.
Guy 2: (dubiously) It’ll be okay.
Guy 3: (hopefully) I don’t think Asians age as fast as we do.
Anyway, here’s the good news: My knees suck. After botched replacement surgery, the bottom of the top half of my leg sometimes does a startling, impromptu little mashed-potato slide-dance on the top of the bottom half of my leg. I don’t fall, but it does give me an unnerving little tickle of mortality, a wink from the Grim Reaper. I figure I will fit right in with your shortstop, who will turn 39 this season, and whom everyone is watching with bated breath, fingers crossed, hoping his newly repaired broken ankle, held in place by screws, doesn’t shatter like a Limoges vase.
I don’t mean to sound “ageist” here. I acknowledge that experience is a valuable asset. I get that. But I would respectfully suggest that it not quite as important in the profession of baseball as it is in, say, the profession of ophthalmic microsurgery.
Don’t get me wrong. I love this team. They’re in my blood. When I was a kid, I’d go to games at Yankee Stadium with my dad, and we’d watch Mantle and Maris play. He used to go to games with his dad, and watch Ruth and Gehrig play. I love the Yankees. I just didn’t expect that those guys would still be out there.
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