…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.
- First things first: Credit goes to Marc Marc for the title of this post.
- Games of Sun. 9-18-05:
- EMBREE — Toronto 6 Yankees 5. Wright lets in 3 runs, gets HBB — hit by bat — and leaves for Leiter. Thank goodness Leiter’s willing to work long relief. He lets in only 1 run. Sturtze
relieves Leiter. (To paraphrase Joe Torre, he’s back.) Torre starts “that righty-lefty ****,” as Marc calls it. He pulls righty Sturtze for Embree, who throws the pitch that allows Toronto to score off a Jeter error. Convince me Embree’s not a Boston spy. You just know Boston said, “Fine, you want Mendoza back, you take Embree with him. Otherwise, no deal.” Convince me Mendoza wasn’t a Yankee spy. Remember, he beat the Yankees at the Stadium as a Boston starter, and couldn’t do a thing for his new team after that. Now he can die a Yankee like he always wanted. (I’ve got to find that quote.) Let’s just hope his recent starts in Columbus represent what he can still do better than that promising – turned – disastrous appearance out west. He’s got my vote.
- EISCHEN (I’ll give Majewski a break, or will I?) — San Diego 2, Nationals 1 Loaiza pitches 7 scoreless innings on 3 days’ rest. Gets a no-decision. Can we buy him back, please? I won’t rub it in, I promise. Majewski let one in in the eighth to tie it. (I do like that Khalil Greene.) Eischen let in the winning run on a throwing error. From Sept. 6 through yesterday, Majewski hasn’t had more than 1 day off. Like almost every pitcher, he won’t admit he might not be at his best without a couple days’ rest thrown in. Eischen works a little under every other day. Here are some revealing quotes from Bill Ladson‘s MLB.com article on the game:
“The Nationals relievers have given up 10 runs — nine earned — in their last six innings. Asked if being overworked was the reason for their ineffectiveness of late, [Manager Frank] Robinson said, ‘Those are excuses. If you do have a tired arm, there is no reason to hit people or walk people. Just put the ball over the plate.'”
“‘It’s one of those games. I didn’t get the job done. The control wasn’t there where I wanted it,’ Majewski said.
“Majewski said that his arm is not tired. His 73 appearances puts him in the NL’s top 10, and he’s never appeared in more than 57 games in his professional career.
“‘Everything is good. I told [Nationals manager Frank Robinson] to put me out there. I want the ball. I’ll do the best that I can every time out,’ Majewski said.”
Pardon me, but, after reading what his manager said (see quote above this one), what else is he going to say?
- After missing him at Comiskey and Yankee Stadium, I finally got to see Esteban Loaiza pitch live at Shea on Wed., Sept. 14. It was a long-awaited thrill, as readers of this blog will have inferred. Yes, Mom, I skipped work. Marc Marc came along, and we had fun being thrown-at by Met fans annoyed by our cheers for Loaiza and fellow ex-Yankee Nick Johnson — plastic cups, balled-up cellophane, etc. In fact, there may have been more Yankee fans at Shea that night than Met fans. You could hear them loud and clear. (Well, it was a $5 ticket night, and the Yanks were at Tampa Bay.) OK, how can you tell a true Met fan? S/he hates the Mets. Those boos bearing down on their starter Kris Benson in the FIRST INNING were from his supporters. With fans like that…. Back to baseball, I should mention that this very satisfying 6-3 win by the Nationals was framed by two unsettling errors on the part of their starting and closing pitchers. Loaiza’s 7-inning start to his 11th win was marred by an un-recorded error when he neglected to cover first base and receive the ball from Johnson, who had left the bag to field. It was strange — he just stood there, about halfway between the mound and first, just watching the batter run safely to the bag. Johnson had nowhere to throw. In the 9th, stellar closer Chad Cordero (ERA 1.84, with 46 saves, as of today) pointed hastily up to the sky to indicate that an infield popup needed catching. When it started dropping down toward him, he looked a little panicked, and, as two players converged on him, the ball dropped to the ground amid the three. He escaped unscathed, but, that was a bit unnerving. The rest of the game was great in a classic way. After the Nationals broke a first-inning 1-1 tie and pulled ahead 3-1 in the third, Loaiza lost the lead in the 4th when the Mets tied it up. This got tense. Having lost the advantage of some of his best run support this season, Loaiza looked likely to lose, but his teammates came back to score two more the next inning, and he was ahead 5-3 when he walked off the field in the 7th. I was glad Frank Robinson hadn’t taken the ball from him — those moments always come across ugly. I was hoping for a Mike Stanton sighting (3.81 lifetime, with 984 innings pitched as of yesterday) — the last time I saw him at Shea he was relieving David Cone in a Mets uniform. But Gary Majewski (2.65), who is flourishing, came in, and came through, for the eighth, and I was so pleased to see Cordero — the Eric Gagne (hurt this year, so I omit his stats) of the NL East — close it out in the ninth. Cordero trained as a closerat Cal State-Fullerton, sparing us his adjustment to the position. I wonder how prevalent the collegiate development of relievers is….
TRACHSEL: “Miffed and Sarcastic” after 8-inning Shutout Wins Him Bullpen Role
“Talk to my lawyer.”
That’s from one of the quietest, most well-spoken players in baseball. That’s also nicer than I’d be if I’d just pitched an 8-inning shutout in my first appearance this season, coming off back surgery and 8 minor league rehab starts, only to be rewarded with hints from the media that I’d lost my place in the rotation. “It’s not right. I guess I should’ve given up one hit.” That’s more like it, Steve. (LINK to Marty Noble’s 8-28-05 article)
This after he and manager Willie Randolph had agreed back in mid-August that relief pitching was a bad fit for Trachsel. Why were they discussing the bullpen at all? Because in Randolph’s mind, Trachsel had already lost his spot in the rotation, before he’d even reclaimed it, way back then? Is something going on behind the scenes here? Let’s look this over.
- Against Pittsburgh back in mid-August, Randolph let Jae Seo take Trachsel’s scheduled start — even though it was to be his highly anticipated return from back surgery — and gave Steve the choice of pitching as a reliever out of the bulllpen or going back down to AAA Norfolk to pitch his 8th minor league rehab start. (He went back to Nofolk) Why? Wasn’t Seo almost as fresh out of Norfolk as Trachsel? More so, even, as he is so recently a rookie?
- “It’s just a matter of, right now, our rotation’s pretty set…Seo’s been throwing the ball well [in his 2 major league starts] and we’re not going to go to a six-man rotation. The math is easy,” Randolph said. (LINK to Bryan Hoch’s 8-16-05 article) Does that sound like Willie was making a temporary arrangement, meant only to defer Trachsel’s return to the rotation? Let’s do the math. Sounds like Willie wants Seo in the rotation, at least for now. Who else has a sure spot? Glavine and Pedro, agreed? Plus, Benson has pitched too well all season to get booted for a few recent struggles. That’s 4. Who’s #5? Read on.
- Randolph has given Trachsel’s next start — against the Marlins — to Zambrano. He cites Zambrano’s success against Florida. Sound fishy? (Sorry, couldn’t resist)
2 Possible Reasons Informing Randolph’s Decisions to Skip Trachsel Twice
- Is Randolph’s decision to start Zambrano over Trachsel compromised by pitching coach Rick Peterson’s widely-publicized confidence in his own ability to “fix” Zambrano “in 10 minutes”? — That is, after all, why he was acquired, right? Is Peterson’s confidence operating like a huge salary sometimes does, as justification for playing someone when better alternatives exist?
- Is Randolph’s preference for Seo over Trachsel informed by feelings of guilt he would have if he sent Seo down to Norfolk AGAIN, after Seo’s been so successful and cooperative? And — it couldn’t be — that these feelings override Trachsel’s veteran status? If not, what does? Surely he didn’t forget about him, or decide he doesn’t like him.
These headlines tell the story themselves:
August 16 Trachsel Back? Not Seo Fast: Jae’s Success Forces Veteran To Make Another Rehab Start
August 22 Trachsel’s Role in Limbo
August 23 Trachsel Set To Start
August 26 Trachsel Faces Giants in First ’05 Start
August 27 Trachsel Dominates in First 2005 Start: 8 Scoreless Innings Help Extend Mets’ Winning Streak
August 30 Trachsel Learning New Role in ‘Pen: Righty Had Hoped to Reclaim Spot in Starting Rotation
LOAIZA: Succumbing to One Batter Earns Manager’s Ire
“We needed a better performance out of Loaiza to have a chance to win the ballgame,” manager Frank Robinson said. “We didn’t get it.” (LINK to Bill Ladson’s 8-31-05 article “Nat’s Can’t Contain Jones, Drop Game 1”)
Thanks to Mr. Ladson for prominently pointing out that only one player was successful against Loaiza. All 5 runs scored on at-bats by Andruw Jones, MVP candidate for the National League. By the way, how was the fielding?
Wells Forced To Swallow His Own Words and Spit Out Uncharacteristic Words Written by Others
Really. Does this sound like David Wells?
“I met today with Major League Baseball and the Players Association and was happy to have the chance to answer questions about…and to learn more about … and …
“Now that I have had this opportunity to sit down and discuss the issues, I better understand the …I now know that neither Bud Selig nor anyone else … I also understand that ….”
So, he said more than he should, about pitching. Then he said more than he should about what someone said about that. Then he got angry when he was not agreed with, and he said something about something else entirely. Then someone had to say something to make this go away, so the Players’ Association put this newsmaking something-or-other out “on his behalf.”
When Major League Baseball procedures start sounding like passages out of Gertrude Stein, baseball is baseball is baseball.