Will Leitch Unspectacular on Television


MSG Network continues to waste our time with “The Lineup.” So far, there haven’t been any picks by the five-man panel (Sparkly Lyle, Gary Carter, Will Leitch, and Steve Hirdt along with host Fran Healy) that couldn’t have been phoned in: Yogi Berra as the best catcher in New York baseball history, Lou Gehrig the best first baseman, and, now — surprise! — all five agreed that Jackie Robinson is the best second baseman ever.

We can’t wait to hear how they weigh in on the their controversial “Round Earth” theory. The one excuse for a show like this would be at least to get some history right. None of the panelists except Hirdt, though, seems to have any sense of history. Lyle and Carter spend most of their time gassing and don’t seem to remember anyone but their old teammates, and Leitch’s baseball knowledge seems confined to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Speaking of Frankie Frisch, one of the five nominees for best second baseman, Leitch said that his father told him “I didn’t even know Frisch [who spent 11 years in a Cardinals uniform] played in New York.” He was with the Giant for eight years, Will — did you know that?

Though Robinson’s selection as the best was a foregone conclusion, a much better job could have been done selecting the five finalists. Bobby Richardson may have been “a darn nice guy” (I think Lyle said that), but he should not even be considered in the same company as Robinson, Frisch, Willie Randolph or Tony Lazzeri. In fact, the company he should be considered with is the much-maligned Horace Clarke. Clarke, a capable second baseman for the Yankees from 1965-1974, has become a punchline in New York, a symbol of the Yankees’ decline after 1964 and just before George Steinbrenner bought the team — commonly panned as “the Horace Clarke-era Yankees.”

That needs to end sometime, so I’ll end it now. Horace Clarke was a better second baseman than Bobby Richardson. In ten seasons and 1,272 games, he hit just .256 but had an on-base average of .308 and stole 151 bases. Richardson, in 12 seasons and 140 more games, hit .266 with an OBA of .299 and stole just 73 bases.

One of the panelists offered, “But Richardson was a great World Series hitter.” No, he wasn’t. His 1964 performance, in which he got 13 hits in seven games against the Cardinals, has clouded the reality. In his other 29 World Series games (not counting 1964) he hit only .273, with a single home run.

Don’t any of the MSG panelists have time to do a little homework before the show? Next Monday’s segment should be more interesting than the first three: They pick the best third baseman in New York baseball history. There’s only been one great third baseman ever to play for a New York team, and he’s playing right now for the Yankees. Let’s see if the MSG panel has the guts to make an unanimous vote for the man who, at least before last year’s postseason, was called the most reviled player in New York baseball history.