Yankees-Braves series causes unsettling flashbacks

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The Yankees play the Braves starting tonight, and whenever that happens, I get seriously bad flashbacks . . .

I was in my second year of law school in the fall of 1996 and I had a
professor that semester who would just go on and on and on about the
Yankees. He’d use them as the example of greatness, in much the same
way people used to use Cadillacs (e.g. “Goldman Sachs is the New York
Yankees of investment banks,” etc.). I cut him some slack because he
was in his early 50s, which meant that he grew up at a time when the
Yankees won all the time and such comparisons made sense. Because of
his age, he could be forgiven for overlooking the fact that the Yankees
hadn’t won anything in close to 20 years, and had only been in the
playoffs once in the previous 15. The way in which he clinged to the
past was kind of cute and endearing.

But then the Yankees started working their way through the playoffs.
My Braves — the reigning World Series Champions — were too, and
despite a big scare from the Cardinals in the NLCS, I and many others
expected them to coast easily to another title. My professor, high on
New York’s run, noticed my Braves cap in class one day and decided to
taunt me a bit. Asking me how I’d feel when the Yankees thrashed the
Braves. Asking me if I’d need a couple of days off from class to
recover from the epic beatdown that was to come. When I realized that
he was looking for someone to jaw back at him I obliged, and for a
couple of days two or three minutes of class was taken up with our

When the Braves put the hurt to the Yankees in games one and two, my
professor backed off. I, however, amped it up. I talked about how
unlikely it was for a team — especially a green and untested team like
the Yankees — to come back from a 2-0 deficit. Especially when they’d
have to beat Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux —
in that order — to do it. I was a total ass about it, really, and that
would have remained the case even if what happned over the next four
games hadn’t happened.

But it did happen. Oh, God, did it happen, and to this day I can’t
think about that World Series without shuddering, partially because of
just how epic was the Braves’ fail, but even more so for the complete
lack of humility and grace I displayed in the runup to it all. To my
professor’s credit, he only rubbed my nose in it for, oh, three weeks
afterwards. When I got my A in his class, I couldn’t help but wonder if
pity was just as much at play as performance. Since then I’ve done my
best to blot the memory of 1996 out of my mind, and I’ve succeeded to
varying degrees.

But then a blogger like Jay at Fack Youk goes and starts what looks to be an excellent series reviewing the 1996 and 1999 Yankees-Braves World Series,
and the bad memories start flooding back. Not so much for 1999 — every
Braves fan just sort of knew on some level that the Yankees would kill
us — but for that awful, awful 1996.

He has Game one up right now.
Since I knew it would have a happy ending I managed to make it through
it. By tomorrow morning he’s going to have Game Four posted, however. I
can’t decide if I’ll read it yet. It’s been over 12 years so you’d
think I could handle it by now, but I’m not sure I can. Maybe I’ll
email Jay and ask him to move Game Four up to this evening so it will
be a little more acceptable for me to take a belt of scotch or
something before diving in.

Anyway, Jay’s series should be enjoyable for (a) anyone too young to
really remember the details of the 1996 Series; (b) Yankees fans; and
(c) masochistic Braves fans. As for the rest of us? Well, whatever
doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger, and the 1996 Series hasn’t
killed me. Yet.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.