You are pitching with a 9-3 lead in the bottom of the 9th. You just got 2 outs in a row. You are 2-2. If you get this out, your team wins.
- DO YOU HIT THE BATTER? I DON’T THINK SO!
- Pitchers weren’t warned despite 4 previous hit batsmen (3 hit by Red Sox, of course) and yet Yankee Scott Proctor — who has every reason to avoid another suspension — is thrown out of the game? Was he more likely to be guilty because he has a "record"? Even Joe Torre, who took an unusual position earlier in the game and got himself thrown out on behalf of a bad call against Bobby Abreu, would not back up Scott Proctor, who swears he didn’t mean to hit Youkilis. I believe him, and Joe’s job is to believe what his players say, at least publically. Instead his position is that he understands why Proctor was thrown out, because the ball could so easily have hit the head of Youkilis. In my opinion, that is all the more reason to believe Proctor, who would not want to take a risk like that. He’s no Roger Clemens, who didn’t get punished for those Mike Piazza incidents, by the way. And remember Pedro as a Red Sock? No umpire dared throw him out, despite his history, which always went unpunished. Clearly his hit batters were purposeful — he stopped hitting batters when he switched leagues and started batting, for the Mets. By the way, John Sterling and Susan Waldman were critical of Proctor, too. I am disappointed, especially because earlier in the game, they sounded as if they were finally speaking out straightforwardly about the bad calls that the Yankees have been receiving these last weeks. Susan even said she was going to start keeping a list. Yet, they made no comment on how Youkilis – screaming – came at the mound.
- Youkilis — the hit batter — came at Proctor screaming. I think that’s why the benches cleared for a brawl. WHY DOESN’T YOUKILIS GET THROWN OUT?
- OK, it turns out Youkilis was scared. Weee Weee Weee. (Kudos to Posada for calming him down.) Regardless, a big guy is charging the Yankees’ pitcher Proctor, who — several pitches into the at-bat, at 2-outs in the 8th with a score of 9-3– hits him up and inside. It just doesn’t sound like an intentional hit.
- Shame on the umpire, Torre, and Sterling/Waldman for not backing Proctor, or at least supporting the possibility that he did not hit Youkilis on purpose, especially after he went straight to Torre’s office to say so.
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.
October 2005, the Right Sox won the World Series and everywhere everone who cared awakened afterward under the light sprinkle of pixie dust bearing evidence that It had really happened, that nothing was the same, and It was good. I don’t have to tell you that the "morning after" the last game of any World Series is no proverbial condition, not for those of us who wake up each day in the offseason looking for signs of spring training’s imminence, hoping we see dew on the grass or daffodils at the corner grocery, seasonal markers that tell us that it is safe to start counting days until Pitchers and Catchers without bringing on despair or the ridicule of colleagues.
We are halfway through the 2006 season now, and some of us are like the young man who called-in to WFAN this afternoon, feeling down about being on the short end of the year. Hearing the caller reminded me that it is time to refresh my sense of baseball’s infinity.
Three of today’s results — results that echoed with due annual import at the season’s symbolic midpoint — thrust us back into the pixie dust of recent history and swing us up and into this year’s history to be.
Tomorrow begins the All Star Break. In the context of ALCS and NLCS 2005. Look what happened tonight, July 9, 2006:
- in 19 innings: Red Sox 5 Right Sox 6
- in 12 innings: Cardinals 5 Astros 5 (as of 11:54 ET)
I did mention 3 results. Accompanying the White Sox win last year was a corresponding experience, one bearing a tectonic verisimilitude to the postseason events. As we head into the might-as-well-be-proverbial All Star Break, this parallel storyline, (interwoven with baseball, I need not assure you) too, has just this very early morning born a marker of its own, one that announces its origin in the same infinity of possibility that created the pixie dust of last October and the death of Mark Gremse just days later. It recalled the signs of daffodils and dew, and of possibility that is about to turn toward hope, as it did for me on New Year’s in Paris.
part 2 to follow
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.)
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.
- 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.
- 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….