Relief pitcher's U-turn on name has robbed him of potential soul mate

Game Face

August 04, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

IT HASN'T BEEN easy going through life with a built-in nickname, but when the Seattle Mariners arrived in town, I thought I finally had found someone else who could feel my pain.

The Mariners have a relief pitcher named J.J. Putz, a young right-hander who I was sure would be able to identify with my lifelong struggle to order a pizza over the phone.

No such luck. J.J. claims his surname is pronounced with a slightly longer "u" - so that it sounds more like "puts" than "putts." That's his story, and he's sticking to it.

"He's in denial," said Orioles play-by-play man Joe Angel.

I don't know what bothers me more - the fact that he won't admit to the real pronunciation or that I never thought of telling people that my last name is Schmook.

The flurry of trades at Saturday's waiver deadline proved one thing. Baseball's new-wave general managers aren't afraid to gamble big to improve their playoff prospects.

Fresh-faced Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta broke up one of the best late-inning relief combinations in history when he sent setup man Guillermo Mota to the Marlins in the big deal that also included premier offensive catcher Paul Lo Duca and outfielder Juan Encarnacion.

The first-place Dodgers got some value in return (Brad Penny, Hee-Seop Choi), but DePodesta set himself up for an offseason second-guessfest by dramatically altering the chemistry of the best team in the National League West. Marlins GM Larry Beinfest, on the other hand, is getting rave reviews inside the industry for making a bold move that could get his team back into the wild-card race.

The Nomar Garciaparra deal made perfect sense on one level. The Red Sox knew he wasn't coming back next year and needed to get something more than a draft choice for him.

That won't keep boy GM Theo Epstein from being broiled by the tough Boston media if the Red Sox fall out of the American League wild-card race. One high-ranking major league executive said that the midseason roster shuffle had the "smell of panic."

Cal Ripken, who is serving as honorary chairman of the Constellation Energy Classic for the second straight year, revealed on Monday that he finds golf to be a more difficult game than baseball.

"In baseball, you can rationalize a bad at-bat," said Ripken. "The pitcher is throwing the ball 90 miles per hour. He made a great pitch. He fooled me. I expected him to throw some other pitch. Golf, with the ball just sitting there, it's all on you.

"I give the nod to golf. It's a little more difficult and a lot more frustrating."

Ripken took up the game after he retired from baseball and says he's about a 20 handicap. He's scheduled to play in the pro-am portion of the Champions Tour event at Hayfields Country Club in September.

Larry Nelson, who won the senior event last year, weighs just 163 pounds, but he consistently hits his driver 280 yards.

Imagine what that would mean if distance were directly proportional to mass. I'd be hitting my drives 420 yards and Sidney Ponson would have won the Masters by now.

It's hard not to root for golfer John Daly, maybe because he looks so much like a sportswriter. During the Battle at the Bridges - a match-play event televised nationally Monday night - he was wearing a Dunkin' Donuts logo on his sleeve.

That alone ought to get him a captain's berth on the Ryder Cup team.

Final word: WBAL Radio's Jerry Coleman called me on-air yesterday morning to express his outrage at being referred to as a "microphone jockey" in Monday's paper. I wasn't exactly shocked that he found the reference unbecoming, but I was surprised that he had finished mowing Chip Franklin's lawn in time to wake me up at 7:45 a.m.

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