He blurted it, like a boy opening his best birthday present, in front of everyone. (He was about to turn 48, and has just done so.)
"This is going in my bedroom. Right over the bed."
Instinctively, immediately, he wanted to sleep under a photograph with breadth that would stretch panoramically across the bed, as the sky that night had swagged Tiger Stadium and hovered, encouragingly, over our seats on the Front Porch. These were terrific seats, which he had somehow sniffed out as we walked toward Michigan and Trumbull to sold-out Tiger Stadium, where he had himself once suited-up, and where after this night the still-inconceivable no one would.
We almost never got there. An apparently convincing phone call to him at his Mother’s, made from Lenox Hill Hospital, where my only friend-with-child had just given birth, worked. On a hospital payphone, I learned that he was too tired, had too much to do, that the game didn’t matter so late in the season, etc. Then, he changed his mind. I should ask him if he remembers exactly why, because this is not a common occurrence. We agreed to meet in an outdoor smoking area on the boarding level, if I remember right. Seven serious-sounding words from one late-arriver to an even-later-arriver still echo: "Now, Sharon, I do not miss airplanes." arriving from different states, we made the plane.
What a gift to me was his reaction — regardless of whether his girlfriend asks him to put the photograph somewhere else. These were not feelings I had even hoped to touch in him or myself. In fact, I am glad for my innocence, as I am not sure I could have brought myself to give him this photograph knowing how stirred he and I would be.
I will not try to break someone up, yet also not be will not be dishonest about my own feelings. Now, what good is this? Well, something good happened on his birthday, whatever it was. I do not require definitions and stats for every play every day.
That is another episode of Marc and me, and as usual, that’s baseball.
Thanks, Gremse, as always. We know you’re watching.
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?
|Paul Byrd, RHP (7-6, 4.71)
|@||David Wells, LHP (0-1, 8.64)
Red Sox (62-40)
Indians 8 Red Sox 9
David Wells typically gave up an early solo homerun — I never worry about those with him — and then had some trouble with his signature curveball, but his team was hitting behind him, and his delivery improved through the 4th, when he looked so good that he came out for the 5th despite his high pitch count. Unfortunately, the optimism cost him a 3-run homerun and the win, which predictably came about by hand of a homerun by David Ortiz at the bottom of the 9th, went to the reliever Kyle Snyder, who completed the remaining 4.1 innings and did not allow the runner he inheirited from Wells to score, nor his own baserunners, for that matter. All 8 runs, sadly, Wells earned, perhaps out of ego, pitching an inning longer than he had simulated in advance (Boston decided to skip a rehab start). For Cleveland, starting the 5th after Paul Byrd was pulled, Jason Davis held Boston scoreless allowing just 2 baserunners over his 2.2 innings. Rafael Betancourt kept them from scoring when he closed out the 7th, and he allowed no runs or hits during the and he pitched a clean 8th. The rookie closer is a converted starter who could probably use another year in the minors to learn the role. I think he may have gotten spooked by the frenzy of the crowd, because he blew the save and lost the game to the now cliched bottom 9th game winning homerun by He’s Not My Papi.
White Sox (61-42)
White Sox 8 Royals 4
Poor Runelvys. He got 2 balk calls in the first inning. It was that kind of night. It’s been that kind of year for him, ever since he started out ill. I hope this year finishes out with promise, and that next year will be a fine one. Contreras, thank goodness he is not a Yankee, and I am glad he helped the White Sox win again.
Much as I like Chris Capuano, I am becoming a Rockies’ fan. Listening to their KOA radio broadcasters and the way they describe the crowd, the way players describe improvements they discern and are encouraged by even in loss, I am heartened. And, I remember that this is where Shawn Chacon came from.
Nationals 10 Giants 7
Go Pedro!! ASTACIO, that is. A renaissance he is having, and it is a good thing for us to witness, especially the skeptics among us. I agree with Fkay (see comment below) about Lowry being under the radar and better than his numbers. Strange it was to root for Stanton against the Nationals yet not for his team and overall be rooting for the Nationals, whom I saw with Marc Marc last season at Shea and celebrated all the former Yankees on both sides, no matter what the crowd said. Loaiza was pitching. You’ve read about that. That opened up some dialogue that in some ways helped October 28 and New Years Day happen the way they did. That’s baseball, right Mark? (Gremse, that is. Gremse whom I met when Marc took me to his baseball shrine of an apartment on East 4th Street to watch a Yankee game.) Now Stanton is playing for Gremse, once the greatest living New York Giants fan, now the platonic form of New York Giants fan. God, I hope he really did see the World Series before he died. Marc, you said you talked with him about it?
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.
- 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….