True to his word---and we know a man is only as good as his word---ol' Popeye Zimmer quit the Yankees immediately following their Game 6 loss. Zimmer and George Steinbrenner--old track buddies--have been in a spat all season. According to Popeye's ghost writer, Bill Madden:
Choking back tears, Zimmer said: "I woke up this morning and my wife was crying. She said: 'Don't make yourself a little man.'
"Usually she does the dishes and I do all the talking, but this time, I'll do the dishes. All I'm gonna say is for 25 years Steinbrenner called me 'Zimmer' and I called him 'Boss.' From now on as far as I'm concerned he's just 'Steinbrenner.'"
Zimmer's hairy spaz in Game Three of the ALCS is what King Leyritz called Popeye's "Woody Hayes" moment. I think that probably led to him finally walking away as much as all the garbage with George. But George made this an especially uncomfortable season for Zimmer, Stottlemyre, Rick Down and the rest of the Yankee coaches. Stott was measured in his response:
"Zim's an emotional guy," Stottlemyre said. "I was hoping that he would do the same thing I'm doing: go home, think about it and let his mind clear up. But he seems to be dead set on what he wants to do."
Zimmer is a one proud, stubborn man.
"The man obviously didn't want me here," said Zimmer. "That was very obvious throughout the winter and the summer. How much can you take?
"I can remember eight years ago, we were all together in the coaches' room, and one of the coaches said something about George, and Joe (Torre) said, 'Wait a minute here. Anybody here should know what they got into. It should be no surprise.' And Joe made a statement: 'If you're going to take his money, you've got to take his guff.'
"Now it's, where do you want to draw the line?" Zimmer said. "Some people here never draw the line. I've had enough. It's that simple."
Stottlemyre has been hurt by George's antics too:
"This has been my most stressful year out of the eight," said Stottlemyre, who was a member of Torre's first Yankees staff in 1996. "A lot of things have happened during the course of the season: the way we battled, some problems that we had early and off-field happenings.
"Normally you just kind of let them go by. But in my case, I feel personally abused because of some things that happened during the course of the season. It was a tough situation for me. I'm over it. But nevertheless, it was a tough year."
So while Rick Down waits for the axe to drop, Zimmer walks. Nuts to you George. Make no mistake, this was a premeditated act of spite on Zim's part: I'm going to show George up and go out like Yogi, on my own terms. Say what you want about Yogi, but Zimmer is in the running for Least Mature Man of the Millenium. He actually makes George look like the sane, rational one even though there's really not much difference between George and Zim in terms of emotional development at all: they are a both high-maintenance babies. The Daily News reports:
Zimmer, 72, said his relationship with Steinbrenner began to sour after the Yankees' division series loss to the Angels last season. He said that Steinbrenner came to believe several rumors about comments Zimmer supposedly made, like the leaking of the Yankees' interest in signing Jose Contreras. "I didn't even know who Contreras was," Zimmer said.
The rift snowballed. Zimmer said Steinbrenner didn't speak to him at the Florida racetracks they frequented. He said Steinbrenner took away his spring training rental car. He also cited constant scrutiny of the coaches, some of whose jobs may be in jeopardy.
"I think the whole year has been disappointing in that respect," Zimmer said. "Every time you pick up the newspaper, the coaches are getting fired."
But Zimmer wasn't satisfied with simply stepping away. He not's that big of a guy. Fighting below the belt, Zimmer's vowed never to return to Yankee Stadium again as long as George Steinbrenner owns the team. According to the Post:
Zimmer said he wouldn't come back to the Yankees, even if they had a day for him.
"I ain't coming back to work for Steinbrenner or be around him," Zimmer told reporters. "No. They could have a day for me and the answer would be no and only because of him."
Zim often changes his mind, but not this time, "Nobody talks me out of it," he promised. "When I make a decision, I've made it and I'll live with it."
Oy veh. As Kevin Kernan opines, this is like watching "Grumpy Old Men." The Reality TV show. Zim should just get over himself, because he's an adult like everybody else. But he doesn't get over himself--he's all schtick like Tommy Lasorda. You have to take him as he is and either love the lunkhead or disgard him as an ignorant old putz and be done with it.
Zim probably figures the best way he can get back at George is by out-living him. Then he can go back to the Stadium like Yogi. Now that would really piss George off, huh Zim?