Veteran DeRosa makes MLB Network debut
Third baseman brings extensive postseason experience
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- As a boy growing up roughly five minutes away from where the MLB Network studios are now located, Mark DeRosa was a passionate baseball card collector. His Rickey Henderson rookie card is the personal highlight of his own card collection that survives largely intact to this day.
On Monday afternoon, DeRosa looked at a wall of 4,500 cards outside a makeup room and obliged a request to sign three of them. The first two pictured him in action with the Cubs, and a third with the Braves. He walked down the length of the wall and signed with his marker wherever there was a "DeRosa."
"I'm a common, obviously," DeRosa deadpanned.
The 14-year veteran may be a "common" within trading card circles, but here at MLB Network, he is anything but that. DeRosa was brought in to make his Network debut Monday through Wednesday as a guest analyst, bringing a wealth of Major League Baseball postseason experience to Studios 3 and 42. He provided his two cents about how he would face Justin Verlander or CC Sabathia, what it's like playing for Tony La Russa, why Alex Rodriguez "overthinks" at the plate, and how "nothing will matter" for Arizona "if they can't do something about [Ryan] Braun and [Prince] Fielder."
The Division Series is on TBS, while the League Championship Series is on TBS for the National League and FOX for the American League. And the latter will handle the 107th World Series. MLB Network is on around the clock as a key component of the overall viewing routine, with an increase to 150 hours of live programming, and it's also simulcast before and after the games on MLB.com.
"Right before we went on, as they were saying, 5-4-3-2-1, Al Leiter turns to me and goes, 'Don't worry, only 68 million people watch this,'" said DeRosa, clean-shaven with a navy suit and loosening his blue tie. "So he kind of threw me for a loop there. But I guess playing in front of 45,000 people every night, you're more nervous doing this for the first time. But the guys are easy. They gave me some layups.
"Knowledge is power, and I've been able to face most of these guys, CC, Verlander, [David] Price and most of these guys. I've been in the box and competed against them, so it's not like I'm coming out of left field with some of the things I'm saying. I've seen it firsthand.
"They fill the air so perfectly here. That's the thing for me. It's so refreshing to hear guys who know what they're talking about, who have played in the big-pressure games and have laid their heart on the line in front of 45,000 people and have failed and succeeded, and to know what it feels like to go back to a lonely hotel room on the road."
DeRosa was surprised after the broadcast by his parents, who live in nearby Toms River, N.J. "You're in the makeup room?" she said of her son, one of the Majors' least likely people to need makeup, as he was being praised by Network CEO Tony Petitti and others after the debut.
Harold Reynolds, after working alongside DeRosa, stood next to the Network "rookie" and said, "He went to Penn, he was a quarterback. He was great. Comfortable, relaxed, current. It tells itself."
DeRosa got a "Don't choke" farewell from his wife and kids before heading back to his roots and going to work on set. He's about to be a free agent after finishing strong with the Giants in a comeback from his wrist injury, and this gig could be a harbinger of what's to come after his playing days.
The postseason often has been his domain. He played in six postseasons and knows the pitfalls that come with the territory. Last year he got a ring with the Giants, but he was lost for the year in May. This time, he was one of the few bright spots down the stretch for San Francisco.
"It's a team sport and you get over it pretty quick," DeRosa said. "We ran into such a rash of injuries and just didn't hit the ball at all. Losing Buster Posey, that just fried us. I've watched every game up until this point. Disappointed I'm not playing in it, but at the same time I'm pulling for Mikey Young and guys I have played with in the past.
"It makes you appreciate last year. Even though I was hurt, to watch all the breaks go our way. To watch us go into Philly and pitch the way we did and kind of take the crowd out of it from time to time. It's just amazing. You get there with so many great teams, and last year was just an indication of just getting hot at the right time."
This is a time when so many hearts are broken, when you think you're a World Series club and, boom, you're gone in a blink. Such was the case from 2007-09 for his teams, all out of the NLDS with shocking 3-0 sweeps. The first two times were with the Cubs, the last one with the Cardinals. In all those cases, he was one of the few guys who carried their weight offensively.
In 2008 DeRosa had the only home run for the Cubs, who went away meekly against the Dodgers, just as they had done a year earlier against the underdog D-backs.
"The one that hurts the most is '08," DeRosa said. "I really thought that Cubs team was going to be the team to do it. I wanted to be a part of the team that won a World Series for the people of Chicago and Wrigley Field. But it is a crapshoot. Once you get in, you throw everybody's hat in the ring and you see who gets hot at the right time, who plays fundamental baseball and who does the little things and doesn't hurt themselves. It's frustrating because the best team doesn't always win, but at the same time, it's the team that executes the best on a pressure stage.
"Lou (Piniella) didn't try to do too much. He was a big believer in us. We had played so well the whole year, he tried to get us to relax. To be honest with you, he tried to get us to not worry about doing it for everybody for 100 years. Concentrate on our team and our success and what we have to do to win a ballgame. But it's so hard in that city, when every day you wake up and you're reading that this is the team that's going to save my grandmother before she passes. It's a lot of pressure, and you want to do it for everybody but yourself. He tried to take the pressure off of that and just put it back on baseball."
DeRosa was playing third base that fateful night at Dodger Stadium in 2009 when left fielder Matt Holliday muffed Mark Loretta's seemingly routine line drive that would have given the Cardinals a split of the first two games. Instead it was a 2-0 deficit, the Cardinals unable to get a win out of either Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright, the two dominating aces of that year. Then the Dodgers completed the sweep, so the series never got back to either Carpenter or Wainwright.
That year DeRosa was a Trade Deadline acquisition from Cleveland by the Cardinals, in exchange for Chris Perez, who would go on to big things as the Indians' closer. Although the Redbirds came up empty that October, DeRosa said he now has a greater appreciation of what a La Russa team is like in the postseason -- and understands how they just came away from Philly with a split.
"That's Tony La Russa," DeRosa said. "He's not going to allow his team to not play well. He's going to put his team in positions to succeed. The way he handled his bullpen [in Game 2] was flawless. Obviously they'd love to have Matt Holliday in there and Waino. But Carpenter struggled, their ace struggled, and they're still able to get the 'W.'
"That's their M.O., man. The Cardinals are just a well-coached team, a group of guys who have great chemistry. That's the thing I noticed over there. Instinct chemistry, over there, when I walked in the clubhouse. Guys who knew their manager was there for one reason, to win a ballgame. Check your ego out the door and let's go to work."
DeRosa said that one of the benefits of a transient career is the chance to absorb like a giant sponge when around the best.
"I've played on a lot of teams, I've played with some great players," he said. "I've picked their brains. I was never a superstar in the game. So I had to pick the brains of the superstars. Chipper Jones, Michael Young, Tex, Sheffield, and the list goes on . . . (Albert) Pujols, Holliday. They've all made an impact on my playing career and the way I go about playing the game today."
What's next for DeRosa after these three days for MLB Network? It will be Dad time and then a hopeful offseason while waiting to see what next spring brings.
"The last two years have been so frustrating for me," he said. "To sit there and watch us win a World Series and not be a part of being out on the field. And then this year to come back and rupture the tendon in my wrist and to fight back. I just felt validated by it. I felt that I didn't give up, I honored my contract, I showed up to work every day. You know, I was rewarded for it in the end. So I come into this offseason not knowing. This will be the first offseason in the last six or seven years that I have no idea what's going to happen.
"I know in my heart I can help a ballclub. But it doesn't matter what I think. It's what they think in those rooms. Hopefully my character, the way I go about my business, the way I have performed in the past and in the postseason, hopefully somebody gets me to camp."