Is Aaron Boone Clutch?

Two Baseball Nuts on the World Series

Is Aaron Boone Clutch?

Two Baseball Nuts on the World Series

Is Aaron Boone Clutch?
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The stadium scene.
Oct. 20 2003 2:04 PM

Two Baseball Nuts on the World Series

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Charles,

Funny you should mention that. My daughter and I scream, "Go-gee-rah!!!" when Hideki is up, our attempt to emulate the correct Japanese pronunciation of the legendary monster's name. What I like about him—what I like about all the Japanese ballplayers I've seen so far—is how well-schooled they are in all the little things that American ballplayers seem to have forgotten about. You're right, he hits everything hard and he almost always adjusts to the situation. He wasn't suited to a lot of the breaking pitches they throw over here, but after a while he adjusted and started making very good contact. He hit "only" 16 home runs, but, damn, he hit 40-something doubles. When I hear someone say, "Well, sure he drove in 106 runs, but he was batting fifth and sixth for the Yankees," I reply, it's a good thing he did, because somebody had to. It sure wasn't Bernie Williams or Jason Giambi picking up all those runners. I also like that scoop, spin, and throw he used in the first game, which would have cut the runner off at the plate had Boone not interfered.

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Rivera is indeed "ethereal" and "elegant"—I may steal both of those from you. There's almost no one else I can think of that fits both those categories except maybe Sandy Koufax.

I'm glad you brought up Aaron Boone. First of all, I want to defend him, although I'm not sure why I want to or why I need to. I'm not really sure that your remarks aren't accurate. I just want to make a point about how the postseason changes our entire perception of a ballplayer. Boone is a pretty damn good ballplayer, and he's been a good ballplayer for several seasons. The guy, after all, is an All-Star. You play him a whole year, he's going to hit about .270 with about 25 home runs and steal about 25 bases.

Until this postseason, Boone had an excellent reputation as a fielder—he even played several games at shortstop for the Reds—and no particular reputation as a clutch hitter. Now, two or three plays at third base and one swing of a bat in front of a national TV audience have changed all that around. It used to be that if Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle had a mediocre World Series, everyone accepted it as part of baseball and didn't let it affect our evaluation of the player as a whole. I mean, Willie Mays played in four World Series and never hit a home run, but I've never heard anybody say that he wasn't a great clutch player. Now, in the age of endless cable replays, it seems our judgment on ballplayers' abilities changes from day to day. My guess is that if Aaron Boone played in 150 postseason games, he'd do pretty much what he did in 150 regular season games (allowing, of course, for the fact that playoff pitching is a little better or the pitchers wouldn't be in the playoffs).

By the way, the Marlins' Josh Beckett is just 23. We could be in on the birth of a superstar if he comes up big Tuesday night.

Best,
Allen