03.21.11

The Passion of the Sisk: Pearlman, in WSJ, on D. Original Ollie Perez

Posted in Baseball, New York, New York at 11:27 am by

On Friday, the Mets mercifully cut loose the hobbling shade of Luis Castillo. Which makes it sound like the most boring exorcism ever, which is in turn maybe not totally inaccurate. When the team finally dropped Oliver Perez on Monday morning — with the parting gift of $12 million in what GC rightly described as possibly bouncy severance checks — the reaction was somewhat more muted.

The move had been anticipated (and richly, richly earned) for so long that most of what was left was relief. Ted Berg pondered the sadness of the whole thing (which is sort of my gig, man), and Amazin Avenue’s Rob Castellano wallows a bit in that sadness. There’s not much else to do, besides be happy that his salary isn’t coming out of your personal bank account. Perez went 3-9 over two seasons and averaged 8.0 walks-per-game while earning $24 million. There is not too much to feel about all this that is good, or even all that complicated.

But while the estimable Mr. Berg ponders Ollie’s next act, Jeff Pearlman offers something of a best-case scenario in a Wall Street Journal piece on Doug Sisk (above). I was too young to understand why everyone hated Sisk when I was a kid — a glimpse at the Scum Bunch ombudsman’s Baseball Reference page reveals a few very good seasons wrapped around one horrible one; I can only blame the ease and relatively low cost of cocaine at the time, as well as a general NYC-in-the-’80s aggro-osity for the vitriol that Sisk’s one poor year engendered. But if Castillo never quite deserved all the shit he got and even Perez seems to think that he got more or less what he deserved ($12 million in walking-around/just-walking-dudes money makes for a nice, level path to self-assessment), Sisk is something else entirely. Perhaps, though, he could serve as an example to Ollie P. of how to be cool with life as a fan base’s speed bag. Sisk, if you were wondering, lives in the Pacific Northwest, works as a commentator for Tacoma’s Triple-A team, and is happy to report that ostensible fan-types aren’t trying to kill him anymore because he sucked in 1985.

Whenever Sisk walked to the Shea Stadium mound, boos accompanied him. The narrative was a predictable one: Sisk would walk two, strike out one, walk another, allow two or three runs then exit with his head down and his reputation increasingly tattered.

Before long, something in New York fans changed. Sisk wasn’t merely disliked—he was loathed. Mets loyalists took to scratching the paint off his car with their keys and snapping his antennae and windshield wipers.

One time, while driving out of the players’ parking lot following a game, Sisk was shocked to see someone jump in front of his car, pull out a gun and point it at his head. “[Reliever] Jesse Orosco was with me, and we swerved out of the way,” Sisk says. “That scared the absolute hell out of me.”

Shortly thereafter, Sisk was returning to his home in Port Washington when he noticed a suspicious car trailing him all the way from the stadium. Sisk turned, the car turned. Sisk sped up, the car sped up. “There was no way I was going to drive home to my wife and child with these guys behind me,” he says. “So I pulled into [the parking lot of] a bar I used to frequent and walked in. I told the bouncers to look out for these guys, and when they walked to the door the bouncers wouldn’t let them in. Clearly, they were there to rough me up.”

So yeah, Ollie: it gets better. And sorry about your car’s antenna.

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