An unprecedented amount of clowning abounded at Yankees spring training camp in Tampa, Fla. on Tuesday, and it was not a new cocaine-related legal defense strategy from Darryl Strawberry, or even Steve Howe.

No, Tuesday’s tomfoolery involved another member of the illustrious 1986 Mets World Championship team, one of the game’s most imposing – and overweight – left-handed hurlers of all time, Sid Fernandez.

El Sid signed a minor league contract with the three-time reigning world champions after a 48-pitch workout that was termed “impressive” by observers. I assume that means they were impressed his legs didn’t collapse under the sheer weight of his meaty torso like a piece of balsa wood under a brick house.

In other news, Wally Backman, Danny Heep, Tim Teufel, Terry Leach, Rafael Santana and Bob Ojeda were reportedly seen circling the Yankees’ complex in Tampa greedily hoping to cash in on 1986 Mets nostalgia.

Under the terms of the contract, the 37-year-old ex-Met would be paid $500,000 if he makes the major league squad. The deal, which also includes performance incentives that could pay Fernandez $150,000 above his base salary, was negotiated by Fernandez’s agent, Barry Meister.

Rob Schneider, the Rich-meister, could not be reached for comment by press time.

Like Jim Palmer, another aged pitcher who once attempted a comeback, Fernandez should pull the plug on this lark before he damages the reputation he built in the late 1980s as a dominant ground-ball pitcher.

From 1986-93, Fernandez was a fixture in an impressive series of ets rotations that featured the likes of Doc Gooden, David Cone, Frank Viola, Ron Darling and Rick Aguilera. He posted a career 3.36 ERA and more than a hundred wins in the early portion of his career.

And then he inflated.

I don’t know if he was eating too much or he stopped working out or one of his metabolic chemicals stopped producing, but all of a sudden, he became extremely rotund.

But for a guy with the physique of a chicken, he could throw a hell of a sinker, and he was still a dominant force until his health, or lack thereof, began to dominate his performance.

His knees gave out, and with them went his power, and soon, he was a joke.

Who am I kidding? He still is, which is why he should hang it up before he manages to drive his reputation even further down the slippery slope of respectability.

But as a former Mets pitcher trying to make it with the Yankees, he has some impressive precedents before him. Gooden and Cone both took the cross-town trek from Queens to the Bronx and ended up pitching a no-hitter and a perfect game respectively. Cone also managed to win a handful of World Series rings to boot.

Fernandez last surfaced with the Houston Astros, long renowned for their pitching prowess, in 1997 before hanging it up – supposedly for good. His stated reason for ending his career was elbow problems caused by a career of junkballing coupled with his earlier mentioned shaky knees.

Now, he’s back because he says he wants to prove to himself that he didn’t retire too early. “So at least now I can say I tried. If it doesn’t work out, I tried,” he told the Associated Press Tuesday. “I didn’t want to look down the road and keeping hitting my head against the wall and saying `what if.'”

Fair enough, Sid. If you want to give it another go, more power to you. I wish you nothing but the best of luck.

Just don’t be surprised when I laugh every time I hear an update on your progress.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.