On Wednesday (May 9) it became known that a new Jerry Seinfeld television series may be in the offing. Those reports, about a car-related reality show, came the day before I got a text message from a friend expressing the hope that Jesus Montero can become for the Seattle Mariners "that Buhner power bat, high RBI guy, a big part of the Mariner puzzle."
The Montero-Jay Buhner wishful comparison came, coincidentally, on the eve of the M's, weather permitting, playing three in Gotham starting today (May 11) against the Yankees. The latter is the organization, of course, that gave up Jay Buhner in an infamous (for pinstripe fans) trade immortalized during a 1996 episode of the classic Seinfeld program. Execs for the same Yankees effected what could prove to be an equally fan-lamented deal by swapping Montero during the recent offseason for Michael Pineda.
Due to injury, Pineda isn't expected to play at all this season. Montero, a mere babe (though not yet Ruthian) at just 22, is playing like a seasoned veteran. Indeed, even though somewhat green as a position player, the catcher still might've fit in a timely fashion behind the plate where Montero's professed idol Jorge Posada was a Yankee fixture until retiring about a week after the Montero trade (nice timing, Yanks).
Certainly Yankee fans could imagine that Montero would be a more promising hitting prospect than resident backstop Russell Martin, who has just 15 hits, three for home runs, in 26 games. Montero? He's got 30 hits, four for home runs, in 29 games.
This is the long way of suggesting that M's fans probably would savor nothing more (aside from a series sweep at Yankee Stadium, and a stellar Felix Hernandez performance in Friday's opener would be a good start) than watching a Mon-TEAR-o rip some New York pitching.
Yankee management already has publicly lamented letting Montero go. New York's general manager, Brian Cashman, the architect (or sucker) of the January swap, has been especially guilty of violating — at least figuratively — the dictum of the Tom Hanks A League of Their Own character, who insisted that "there's no crying in baseball."
Getting back to show biz, the coincidence of my friend's references to Montero and Buhner in the same sentence prompted me to pull up the famous Seinfeld episode with the Buhner reference. The sequence seems funnier every time I see it.
The set-up: Jerry's pal George Costanza works for Yankee's owner George Steinbrenner (since deceased). "Steinbrenner" (never seen from the front and voiced by "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David) believe's Costanza has died. In grief he goes to visit Costanza's patently neurotic parents; the mother lament what has apparently happened while the father, played by Jerry Stiller, is visibly irked about something. The Stiller character suddenly blurts to Steinbrenner:
"What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for? He had 30 home runs, over 100 RBIs last year! He's got a rocket for an arm. You don't know what the hell you're doing!"
Steinbrenner then apologetically says his advisors kept urging him to go after the M's Ken Phelps and, in "Seinfeld" fashion, the scene soon ends.
Buhner, of course, flourished in Seattle and is considered by many one of the franchise's 10 greatest players. Phelps, famous for long balls, seems in retrospect to have peaked in Seattle, where he should've been a natural fan draw, having played baseball both at local Ingraham High and in college at Washington State.
Instead of being an ongoing fan fave, Phelps proved to be the villain of what could've been the most remarkable performance in M's history. Phelps, playing for Oakland on April 20, 1990, was the 27th batter in what Brian Holman seemed destined to complete as a perfect game. Instead, it wasn't even a shutout after Phelps' long ball spoiled the perfecto.
Too bad Phelps wasn't still playing for Seattle a few weeks ago. Maybe he could've messed up the flawless gem Philip Humber tossed against the M's.
In any case, here's some unsolicited support for another Seinfeld series. I'd be particularly grateful if it could work in a skit in which some latter-day Jerry Stiller could demand of Brian Cashman: "What the hell did you trade Jesus Montero for?"