First: The much-ballyhooed appearance of Roger Clemens at Shea Stadium passed without a lot of incident.
Shawn Estes, not even a member of the Mets when Mike Piazza was drilled by Clemens two years ago, wasted little time in trying to establish himself as a good teammate. His aim wasn't the greatest, but his first pitch to Clemens sailed about a foot behind him. The intent was clear, even if the aim was off. Clemens simply smirked and touched the bill of his helmet while looking out at Estes, then got back in the batter's box. The fans who were standing in anticipation of so much more obviously went home disappointed.
The Mets got their revenge, though. Both Estes and Piazza homered off of Clemens, who left with an apparent foot injury after giving up six runs.
If it were me, though, I would have drilled Clemens in his big fat head instead of throwing the ball a foot behind him. Rob Dibble might be a big-mouth glory hog, but he has a point.
Second: In Clemens' previous start, he hinted that he might hit Barry Bonds because of the excessive padding he wears to the plate. Sure enough, Bonds got plunked right on his ridiculously oversized elbow pad.
Hitters wear entirely too much armor to the plate. Baseball was supposed to crack down on this, but hitters like Bonds and Mo Vaughn go up to the plate with enough armor to make Sir Lancelot jealous. Bonds supposedly has a medical dispensation to wear the pad, apparently a reward for ordering so many refills on his steroid prescription.
It is a common observation that pitchers don't pitch inside much anymore. There are a lot of reasons for it (and I think the aluminum bat in every level except the pros is the biggest), but if a hitter is wearing a lot of armor, what will the inside pitch accomplish? I'm sure Barry Bonds weeps every time a ball bounces off his elbow pad. More pitchers should think like Clemens. If the hitters won't take off the armor, drill them in the ribs. There's no padding there (at least not since Cecil Fielder retired), and a fastball into the rib cage hurts.
Baseball didn't suspend Clemens, which was the right move. Mets fans, obviously needing some form of farcical conspiracy in their lives since "The X-Files" went off the air, accused Clemens of throwing at Bonds so he would miss his Shea start due to a suspension. Some people obviously need a hobby.
Third: Can we kill interleague play already?
How ridiculous is it for the Giants to be playing the Devil Rays? (One could, of course, make a valid point that it's ridiculous for anyone to play the Devil Rays. While I agree, that's a matter for another column.) Jeff Kent was right; the games don't mean anything, and the players would rather play games that matter as opposed to meaningless contests that were supposed to liven up MLB eight years ago.
I never liked the idea of interleague play, but it was cool . . . for a little while. Now, teams play eighteen interleague games in a season, which is simply ridiculous. I love the unbalanced schedule, and there are a dozen and a half games just waiting to actually mean something to a divisional race. But no, the Giants get to play the Devil Rays instead. Forgive me if I sleep thru that one.
I've started to warm up to the wild card. But interleague play has worn out what little welcome it had, and needs to be eliminated.
Home: Can Luis Castillo do it?
Every time someone's hit streak evolves past the mid-twenties, The Countdown To DiMaggio begins. Castillo is different than a lot of the other players who have pursued records, in that he seems to legitimately not care whether or not he gets any closer to the Yankee Clipper's mark, let alone breaks it. Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds obviously wanted their respective home runs records. Maybe if Castillo gets really close to the record, it will mean more to him.
In the meantime, though, his lack of interest in chasing a very elusive record is refreshing in this, the Me Generation of baseball players. Personally, I don't think he can do it, but I think he will break forty games before his streak finally comes to an end. Not that he'll care.