It’s getting to be the time where “gasbag gulch”, that dismal place where political pundits gather, starts the play-by-play on the 2012 Presidential election. Last week the “big” story was the Ames (IA) straw poll and the end of Tim Pawlenty’s campaign. This week the airwaves are filled with unoriginal thoughts of Gov. Rick Perry. As one can tell I find the coverage dismal but it does remind me of Ed Yarnell, one time pitching prospect for the New York Yankees.

Ed Yarnell had tore up the minors in 1998 and had a respectable 1999. As a late season call up in 1999 he acquitted himself well in “the show”. The Yankees won their second consecutive world championship and, come January, the talk was who was going to be the new fifth starter in the rotation.  Sports has it’s own “Gasbag Gultch” and the unassailable consensus was that the fifth starter was Ed Yarnell; the only question was how fast and how far he would develop. All through January and February, along with the swirling rumors which follow the Yankees at all times, the talk was Ed Yarnell’s place was all but in stone – Torre all but confirmed it off the record.

But there’s a reason you’ve never heard of Ed Yarnell. He arrived in spring training in 2000 ready to go.  But the first few games he was shelled. Not just pitched poorly but as if he were throwing batting practice. As the spring progressed Torre continued with supporting statements and kept putting him in but, for some reason, the promise of the previous year was unrealized.  Finally, Torre had to recognize reality and the Yankees went north with Ramiro Mendoza in the rotation – a young starter/long reliever already on the roster who would go on to play a key role on five world championship teams (four with the Yankees, one with the Red Sox).

Now don’t get me wrong – it is a very important part of the season. It’s where players get back into shape, work on new pitches and generally prepare themselves for the campaign ahead. But, despite all the coverage it really says little about what will happen once the team “heads north”. Ed Yarnall was what the pundits call a AAAA player – he was too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors. In late 2000 he was traded as part of a three player deal to Colorado for Denny Neagle. He then bounced between majors and minors before finishing his career in Japan. All very respectable but did not turn out to be the top man in the rotation.  At this point in their respective campaigns Sen Harold Stassen, Sen John Glenn and Gov. Mario Cuomo were all slotted to be top men in their presidential race – all went on to have very respectable careers but come the primaries none made the rotation

So, when people ask whether Perry or Romney is up or down I tell them “I don’t follow spring training games”. Ask me in January when the contests start counting.

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