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.)
- We might as well take Keiichi Yabu off Oakland’s hands, so no one else can. We can’t hit off him.
- Aaron Rowand, Jaque Jones, and Eric Byrnes weren’t good enough? Was Johnny Damon really necessary? Some of us are still a little sore about Boston’s statistically-probable fluke of 2004. (Let’s get this straight, though. I’m more upset about losing to them in the playoffs than about their WS win. Ouch, that hurt — I couldn’t get myself to spell out WS!) I didn’t bother detesting the Red Sox until they started relying on dirty play, beginning mainly in 2004. From Tier Reserved, I even rooted for Boston against the Yankees when Ramiro Mendoza started — and WON — July 5, 2003 with 5 shutout innings at the Stadium back after we traded him away, way back in December of 2002, after 11 years with us. We haven’t treated Mr. "I want to die a Yankee" too well now that we have him back, by the way. Read on.) He beat Roger Clemens, by the way, 10-2.
- Mendoza and Al Leiter got minor league contracts and invitations to Spring Training? Am I supposed to be angry that David Wells’ pride was too big to do that back in 2004?
- We couldn’t offer Tino Martinez a one-year or even a minor league contract? I know he froze in the post-season, but there’s no excuse not letting him retire from a live position, at least. (The Free Agent Tracker reports that the Yankees declined his option, not that he retired.) His "Bam-Tino" bunches of home runs lifted a lot more than the score, and his outlook steadied the team when the back pages doubted. What about his defense? He did more than just cover first while Giambi healed — didn’t you feel good when he started a game? As a defensive substitution he is peerless. There was that one major miss, but wouldn’t Giambi love to have hat said about himself? Did anyone notice that Giambi came back a better fielder than he started? Anyone wonder why?
Johnson 5ER 15.0 3.0 IP; 2 batters in 4th
Small 2ER 6.75 2.2 IP L, 0-1
Sturtze 0ER 13.5 .1 IP
Gordon 1ER 6.75 0.0 IP; 4 batters in 7th; 1 unearned run
Leiter 2ER 9.0 1.1 IP
Proctor 0ER 0.0 1.2 IP
NOTE: 2 errors (though I’m not sure I agree about Sheffield’s throw)
- Poor Aaron Small. To paraphrase what someone said about Wang the game before, "he deserved better than he got." Second-guessing Joe Torre’s pitching changes is futile, even when we turn out to be right. Right? As they keep saying about Ozzie Guillen, his management choices were brilliant, because they worked. If they hadn’t worked, they wouldn’t have been so brilliant. There’s a logical flaw in there somewhere — I hate when people use that kind of reasoning, but we know what they meant. The choices wouldn’t have SEEMED so brilliant. Well, some of Torre’s Game 3 choices don’t seem brilliant either, but chance and luck — distinct entities, I think — may have thrown a knuckleball, and we all know we don’t hit those too well. Anyway, I thought — and still think — he left Randy in 1 too many innings. Did it have to be almost 4? I didn’t catch Torre’s explanation for that. If you know, please leave a comment! I also thought — and still think — he took Small out too quickly. Another inning or so, even if runs came in, would have controlled the bleeding. As it was, Torre had to let Leiter pitch too long, accelerate Sturtze’s slump, misuse Proctor as a short reliever (He is a STARTER!), and give Gordon too much lead time to prepare mentally because he knew he was in for 2 innings. He says he works best with no warning. As regular readers know, I have my questions about whether Gordon is a big game pitcher. To be fair, I am glad to say that he did great when we were closing in on the pennant.
In sum, everyone went home demoralized because of the pitching when a 1-inning alteration in the pitching plan could have kept the game within range. Remember how the sudden shock of Small’s entrance sparked that fabulous double play and the subsequent 5th inning spectacular? Oh, well. Wait ’til…Sunday.
- Anyone hear what happened with the Red Sox? (2090!)
- I swear they are chanting in Chicago (I’m still here): WHITE SOX! WHITE SOX! GOOOOOO WHITE SOX! In unison! Who knew White Sox fans could be so cute?! That’s not a barb. I’ve liked them a lot for years now. Yankee fans like them. I wrote about that relationship somewhere below….Can I still wear my #26 Yankee t-shirt, El Duque? I’d never have let you go.