BY KEN DAVIDOFF
Newsday Staff Correspondent
November 16, 2006, 10:41 PM EST ____________________________________________________
NOW they’re talking. Here’s Brian Cashman’s quote, from Naples, FL:
"We’ll probably have him proceed and prepare as a starter, because you can always go the other way, slide him down and reduce his workload. But it’s hard to go the other way. But that’s for another day."
In 2005, Scott Proctor was a starter being squeezed into a reliever’s innings. I used to grimace when I heard that he was warming up in the bullpen. Floraine Kay and Marc Marc can tell you how I would repeat myself whenever he failed, announcing with familiar emphasis that the should have expected this, as he was a STARTER, not a reliever, that you could tell by how he used so many pitches and how he approached the at-bats. Early in the 2006 season, Proctor stared down death and helped his baby daughter recover from a life-threatening heart condition, he re-joined the team a little late and was nearly flawless as a reliever. I do not know what happened, and I wrote about this transition from starter to reliever at the time. In fact, back in 2005, I complained that he was being shoehorned into a role that did not fit. (In 2005, we kept hearing that "they" "loved his ‘stuff’" and were willing to put up with his struggles.)
In 2005 Proctor played in 29 games and averaged 49.2 innings, ending with an ERA of 6.04. He started 1 game and won it, accounting for his 1-0 W-L record. In 2006 he played in 83 games and averaged 102.1 innings, ending with a substantially lower ERA of 3.52. Although he did not start any games, his W-L record was 6-4, and more importantly, his Hold count was 26, whereas it was 0 in 2005. (As I may have noted elsewhere, I believe the Hold is one of the most under-used stats in baseball, and I strongly argue for its inclusion in box scores.)
So now, back to starter. Wow. Scott, I admire your Iron-Clad stomach. Good Luck.
Readers, should the Yankees convert Proctor back to a starter now that he is a successful reliever? What about the Mets’ Aaron Heilman, who shares the profile, and who has been quite vocal about his desire to return to starting?
It was hard to know whom to root for in this afternoon’s Game 2 of the second Subway Series of 2006. On the one hand, the Yankees needed the win, and I am a Yankee fan. Should be cut and dried, right? The Mets did not need the win. Even simpler. But Steve Trachsel was pitching for the Mets against Randy Johnson and the Empire.
Forget the typical pleas for the so-called underdog. Please. The Yankees represent, among many things, my willing concession to the intertwining of power, money, and success. (I was recently gratified to find a similar sentiment expressed on the webpage of a politician I liked. I’ll have to look up his name.)
I started following Trachsel when he became a Met in 2001, as soon as Floraine Kay suggested that I keep an eye on him. She has a good eye. (Check out her Saddleshoe blog, linked to the right on my Blogroll.) Year after year, he threw pretty good games only to lose them either because the Mets’ line-up was on strike, or because the fielding behind him was anemic. Factoring in The Great Unravelling that followed the 2000 World Series, Trachsel — who already felt betrayed by the Cubs for letting him go to begin with (he split 2000 between Tampa Bay and Toronto) — walked into a clubhouse that was infected from top to bottom with mindgames, machinations, and backroom deals. What I remember is that the callers to the Joe Benigno WFAN show, which was on late nights back then, could say nothing good about this man. Sell him, get rid of him, he stinks, and much more colorful, less creative suggestions were made, and he wasn’t even bad. Good? No. But neither were the Mets as a whole. I’m not sure what they hit behind him that year, but he was 3rd in winning percentage among the 4 pitchers who earned decisions in 20 or more games (also Leiter, Appier, Rusch). From last in ERA in his first year with the Mets, he went to first in 2002, with 3.37, beating even Leiter who had 3.48. He and Leiter both posted .500 seasons, not bad in a season when the Mets won less than 47% of the time and had the worst fielding percentage as well as the highest number of errors commited in baseball.
Circling back to yesterday’s post, 2002 was when I first grew suspicious of some of those who call themselves "diehard Met fans" because they truly sound as if they hate the Mets. I may boo less than the average fan, but I can identify a [self] hater when I hear one. They are still calling-in to WFAN with the most insulting commentary on one of their steadiest pitchers, who never let himself get embroiled in the soap operas, even during the most turbulent years.
So, am I glad Trachsel won, holding the Yankees to 2 in front of Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner for over 6 innings? YES. Did I hope the Mets’ bullpen would give up the game? YES. (In light of a post earlier this week, I must confess that I share in some guilt: As soon as A-Rod hit his 25th home run off Aaron Heilman in the 8th, I knew any hope of a comeback was futile. Is that backward logic, or what!)
I am, by the way, worried about Trachsel’s health. Willie Randolph saw something and pulled him immediately in the 7th. It turns out that his groin tightened after a fielding play, having aggravated an injury that has nagged at him for a couple weeks now, according to Marty Noble, the MLB.com Mets correspondent (Another article, with more detail about the injury, is here.)