June 5, 2014

Somewhere, Bill Lee Is Smiling

Some articles on Don Zimmer, from a Red Sox perspective:
Gordon Edes: Zimmer Central To Many Memories

Tim Kurkjian: Don Zimmer Simply Loved Baseball

Bob Ryan: Don Zimmer Was Truly A Baseball Man

Marty Noble: Zimmer, Baseball Mainstay For 66 Years, Dies At 83

Bill Speros: Don Zimmer's Time In Boston Historic For All The Wrong Reasons

Rick Burleson "Best Manager I Ever Played For"

For many oldtime Red Sox fans, Zimmer's astonishing mismanagement of a great 1978 team - playing his regulars day after day after day despite injuries and the need for time off, allowing his personal feelings to obscure his baseball judgment - is impossible to forget (or forgive).

SoSHer mabrowndog:
My upbringing taught me not to trample on the graves of the dead, especially if they're not even buried yet. But my experience as a fan who watched him manage this club into the ground more than three decades ago is winning the battle of conscience and morality.

This was the guy who put Spaceman in his doghouse and ultimately forced him out of town. Bill Lee was one of the 7 best lefty starters this franchise has ever had, but because Zimmer didn't like him personally, he kicked him to the curb. Imagine if Tito had decided to bench Manny Ramirez for all his bullshit, and the front office let him get away with it.

The guy who similarly ensured the club dispatched Carbo, Willoughby, Jenkins, and even Luis Tiant among countless other capable players in the latter half of the 70s.

The guy who decided Bob "Beetle" Bailey would be an adequate replacement for Carbo down the stretch in '78. (Bailey would end being being the guy that Zimmer sent up against Goose Gossage with the season on the line on October 2nd, but instead of being hot shit in a champagne bottle Bailey was, quite predictably, lukewarm diarrhea in a Dixie cup.)

The guy who gave us The Bobby Sprowl Experience. This kid was reputed to be Clemens before Clemens, except he was still pitching in AA when the club jumped him all the way to Boston at age 22. His first start? Against Jim Palmer & the Orioles in Baltimore on 9/5, with the Sox already in a death spiral. His second start? Against the Yankees at Fenway on 9/10. Poor kid didn't make it out of the first inning (4 BB, a Reggie Jackson RBI single), and by the end of that game the Sox' one-time 14.5 game AL East lead over the MFY had completely evaporated. And Sprowl, clearly damaged goods in the team's eyes, was shipped off to Houston the following summer.

The guy who had screwballing closer Bill Campbell throw 140 relief innings in 69 games in '77 (He'd also been burned out by the Twins the year before he signed with the Sox as their first high-profile free agent, but he'd gotten through '76 healthy. Soup dealt with chronic elbow soreness in '78, but Zimmer ignored it and kept pitching him. Soup was never the same thereafter).

The guy who insisted on playing Butch Hobson day after day, night after night (speaking of chronic elbow soreness...) despite the fact that his third baseman's throwing arm had multiple sets of craps dice rattling around within the joint, and he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn on his throws to first.

They guy who presided over one of the most stunning regular-season collapses in baseball history.
"Presided over"? More accurately, "was the architect and director of".

Although Zimmer has the highest winning percentage (411-304, .575) of any Red Sox manager (min. 400 games), he is still remembered as one of the franchise's worst managers.


allan said...

efd posted this on Facebook from Red Sox fan Matt Fiveash:

RIP Don "The Gerbil" Zimmer, baseball lifer and the man who ran the first team I ever really cared about, the 1978 Boston Red Sox, into the ground by burying Bill Lee in the bullpen for stupid personal reasons and setting the stage for Bucky F'ing Dent. In a way I owe him thanks for teaching me the meaning of real pain and suffering, as it made the improbable 2004 postseason that much sweeter. When Pedro Martinez tossed the charging, enraged Zimmer to the ground in '03, he was just doing what every Red Sox fan in the world had wanted to do since 1978.
"The man knows nothing about pitching or pitchers. He's a lifetime .230 hitter who has been beaned three times. He hates pitchers. We will never see eye-to-eye."
-Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins

johngoldfine said...


Usually I agree with Poz, if only because he says interesting things in a wonderful way and knows a million times more than I do about the topics he writes about.

But here where I actually do have a previous and somewhat-informed opinion, I can't agree at all. That is, the Poz 'RIP Zim' piece is all fluff and sparkle (but Poz being Poz, it's outstandingly fine fluff and sparkle), a nice eulogy, but we all know that eulogies are a form of special pleading not always tightly tethered to reality.

allan said...

This interesting piece is grounded in a little more reality, although the photo they use might be triggering.

Don Zimmer: A Life in Baseball, for Better and Worse
Charles P. Pierce, Grantland

johngoldfine said...

The trigger photo underlines the sarcasm of: "Lee called him a Gerbil, which was completely unfair, but which, alas, stuck."

"Alas"! "Completely unfair"!