…but in the end it’s all the same anyway. Or is it?
By the time I came in from O’Hare on Monday April 2, the anticipation of Opening Day had ended, with the Northsiders’ loss to the Reds in Cincinnati with Zambrano falling to Harang and the Southsiders’ self-defeating home opener in which Contreras finally left the mound with a 63.00 ERA, leaving Cleveland’s starter Sabathia to win handily if shakily. (Yankee fan that I am, I have always said with goodwill, God bless the White Sox if you can get Contreras to pitch for you. And, you did. Once in awhile, in moments like this, deja vu floods all over again, and I have to remind myself that he’s not mine any more. Don’t worry. He always seems to come out of it for you. Sigh. I was so glad to get Loaiza in return. Wish we still had him.)
Sports radio was mourning the joint losses and that’s about all it was doing. I got no serious recaps, and even heard nothing about Sabathia — who had given his team an injury scare in the last game of spring training, leaving everyone wondering if like last season he like Loaiza (Oakland) would be spending an early portion of the season on the DL. (Right- Photo of Loaiza by Jeff Chiu/AP)
In fact, I would have heard little about either game without settling in for the late night with The Score, WSCR, and even they were covering college football — while acting cute — when I tuned in.
I avoid contrasting cities because it smacks of measuring siblings against each other and I hear that’s bad. Not having any, I wouldn’t know, but I do not want to step on toes, so I will say no more than this:
In NYC, even left-leaning news & talk radio AIR AMERICA (1600 AM) gives better baseball detail about important games (Opening Day, games against Boston, post-season games) than I heard about the Cubs or the Right Sox on sports talk radio here. I’m sure there were the usual postgame shows, but really!
Thank goodness for MLB.com Radio and TV! I subscribe to the premium package and I recommend it. Years ago, I started with the audio alone, and stayed with that for a couple years. It’s a terrific deal, and when I had access only to my home dial-up connection, it was the wisest deal, too. Can you believe that we can watch or listen to Vin Scully any time we want? If it’s just on audio, it’s $14.95 for the whole season!! No, I’m not being paid by MLB.com! I was just so glad to have it when I couldn’t find any late night baseball talk radio!
One of the better auguries.
Notice how John Sterling has had it in for Shawn Chacon the last couple times around, especially time before last? Unless I missed it, he didn’t even get a rehab start off the DL, and then Torre lifted him too early last week, leaving us to hear nothing but how he supposedly can’t last more than 5. Anyway….
Look’s like Loaiza had to assure us that it was just the Rocky Mountain air and that peculiar humidor treatment that they give the baseballs up there that locked jaws like mine in the desire for disbelief as he blew his third start after 2 great outings off the DL. Last time out, he was solid and LONG — went all 9. Hmmm, are the Yankees noticing?
Take a look at these ERA’s:
For a moment, think about Houston and the White Sox last season. Now, think about Detroit. Close your eyes and listen.
Sabathia is pitching tonight, too, against the Cardinals. Should be fun. Right, CC?
Keep an eye on these guys, if you like:
A’s: Loaiza, Street Reds: Claussen, Harang, Womack Diamondbacks: Clark Boston: R. Seanez, Mota (+ Foulke no less!) (Wells says he commits) Beckett, Lowell Padres: Peavy, Estes, Greene Tigers: Rogers, Maroth, Robertson, Bonderman, Seay, Inge, Leyland Cleveland: Sabathia Rockies: Fogg Orioles: Benson (Bottalico, Yates), Duquette, Mazzone Mets: Trachsel, Heilman (+obvious Billy Wagner), Keppinger Angels: Figgins Cardinals: David Eckstein Cubs: Eyre, Jacque Jones Brewers: Capuano Tampa Bay: Marlins: Girardi Pirates: Zach Duke, Ty Wigginton Phillies: Rowand (great fielder, does not hit under pressure, though) Dodgers: Sele White Sox: McCarthy Rangers: Benoit, Eaton, Dellucci, Durazo Royals: Runelvys Hernandez, McEwing Astros: Taveras Yankees: Chacon, Small, Wang, Proctor (as a starter), Sturtze, Mendoza, Ron Guidry (Hughes, Cox)
How did I miss this? It seemed that the Nationals had sewn up Esteban Loaiza for a few years, so I’d stopped checking his status on the Free Agent Tracker. Billy Beane must have come across some extra stuffing in his turkey, since he invited Loaiza home to Oakland for Thanksgiving on a $21 million one-way ticket through 2008.
How do I feel about this? Resigned to several more seasons of overpriced acquisitions and overzealous housecleaning by GM Brian Cashman, seasons that will be managed by the increasingly dyspeptic Joe Torre, both of whom were recently re-signed. (Did you ever reach for the remote to reset the color quality, only to realize that it was Joe’s complexion that had made your walls glow sallow during one of those endless close-ups? I wish him well, but if the directors are going to use his enigmatic Mona Lisa smile/grimace to lend visual pep to the deceptively static quality of a baseball game, they might as well send him to make-up and give him a SAG card. No one told him he had to emote. That was Mel’s job. By the way, has Mel separated himself yet? Last I heard, he was going to have a look at spring training after all, and would check-in on Ron Guidry. Odds are he won’t find it easy to stay away.)
You do know that Loaiza was in pinstripes for part of that archetypally painful season of 2004. Loaiza for Contreras. I couldn’t believe our luck. (No, we weren’t wrong about Contreras. Remember? George sent the yacht down to Cuba, rescued his family, and he finally won a game? While we were ahead, BOOM, GONE. It was brilliant. Besides, did you ever wonder if Contreras was El Duque’s revenge? His opinion was sought, long-distance.)
As I was saying, remember how Loaiza found his New York self, won his 100th game, helped us get to, and through, that archetypally painful postseason,…how on that last night l for once bolted out of work early, way out by the terminus of the #2 subway…how I met Loaiza’s cousin on the Franklin Avenue platform while waiting to transfer to the uptown #4 in time to catch a few innings at the Stadium. (Well, really at Stan’s, though his cousin did try to get Floraine and me a seat.) It all seemed so possible, and this time we wouldn’t let the Series get away. At last, finally, no, NO ONE would put Loaiza into the game, despite his stellar big-game performance out of the bullpen earlier that series. Oh, no, I won’t go there. Not now.
On the bright side, the Yankees play Oakland at home for 6 of the 9 scheduled games, on weekends, and I’ll finally get to see him play at the Stadium, even if it is in the wrong uniform (He does look better with his goatee, which he couldn’t sport as a Yankee) (Last year at Shea was fun, even if he did almost error himself out of a W. More about that night can be found here) Home Series 1: Friday May 12 at 7:05, Saturday May 13 at 1:05, and Sunday May 14 at 1:05. Home Series 2: Friday June 9 at 7:05, Saturday June 10 at 1:20 (note time), and Sunday June 11 at 1:05. We also play our season-opening series in Oakland for 3 nights starting Tuesday April 3 10:05. All times are ET.
Last time I saw Kris Benson, he lost to Esteban Loaiza on a night I played hooky to see the game with Marc Marc at Shea. September 14, 2005. Inexplicably, the ticket price was $5. I’d have paid a lot more to see this match-up. As he so often has, Benson pitched well until Mets Dementia set in. More about that night can be found here.
Nevertheless, as I feared earlier this off-season, General Manager Omar Minaya has gone ahead and arranged to trade him for a reliever (Jorge Julio, plus a prospect). Floraine Kay suspects this may be another example of his apparent desire to hispanicize the team. The pattern is looking hard to ignore, but I withhold judgement, for now. Offered my choice of Benson, Aaron Heilman, Steve Trachsel, or Victor Zambrano, (all 4 had been rumored as trade bait for this offseason) I, too, might reach for the more promising younger player if I were managing Baltimore. Why Benson — or Heilman or Trachsel, for that matter — would be offered, I can’t quite comprehend, however.
On the other hand, maybe it was a friendly trade, at the management level at least. (Didn’t we all wake up today to the news that Mrs. Benson wasn’t happy about this?) As MLB.com’s Tom Singer points out, former Mets GM Jim Duquette is now working for Baltimore’s Mike Flanagan and, as some of us recall, had made a big trade for him with the Pirates in July of 2004. Apparently he had support from the Orioles’ new star pitching coach. According to Singer , Mazzone had been eying Benson for 3 years, over which time he had seen Benson keep Atlanta’s slugger squad to a batting average of .212. "Mazzone saw a project," Singer reports "and someone who could inject consistency into a volatile rotation that already included Rodrigo Lopez, Bruce Chen, Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard."
A great reliever might have been worth a trade for Benson, but I’m disappointed that the Mets seem to have picked up a pitcher whose numbers appear to be on the decline, if only temporarily. I can see wanting to hold onto Heilman to move him back into the rotation from the bullpen, where he was so successfully ghettoized last year. Ah, too familiar are these pre-season Mets Misgivings.