Archive: May 20th, 2006

Game 42: Loss

Yankees 5 Mets 4

What a disaster. Mere hours after an overwhelmingly dramatic win over the Yanks in the opening game, Wille Randolph goes ahead and gives one back to his former team.

That’s right, I said Willie Randolph, not Billy Wagner.

I’m not a “Monday morning quarterback”, and criticize people after the fact. I criticize them the moment they make a stupid decision. So when Mr. Willie pulled Pedro after pitching seven innings of four-hit, shutout ball, I nearly threw my beer through the TV.

I don’t want to hear any more crap about “saving” Pedro, or being cautious with him, or any other bull. Pedro had just barely gone over 100 pitches, was going through the mighty Yanks like a Ginsu knife through warm butter, showing no sign of wear or tire. And he had a comfy four-run lead.

So tell me again the logic behind taking him out?

Then, after Duaner Sanchez throws his typically perfect inning, Mr. Willie summons the Sandman to close a game in a non-save situation.

Once again I had to restrain myself from throwing an object at the TV. Would someone tell me WHY ??????????

What is it that Mr. Willie has against pitchers who are doing well in a game? Why must he find ways to lose? Why fix what ain’t broke?

This all comes back to the nonsensical reasoning behind Aaron Heilman being too valuable to come out of the bullpen. You put so much value on the bullpen, you think it has to be used every single game. It’s kind of like spending an exorbitant amount of money on a weekend beach share: because you spent all the money, you’ve cornered yourself into going to the beach every single weekend, even if the forecast calls for rain all weekend.

Omar and Mr. Willie have cornered themselves into believing that the bullpen must have the final say in every single game, regardless of the circumstances. After watching today’s game, it makes me think that the only way Pedro would ever be allowed to pitch past the seventh is if he was throwing a perfect game and had only thrown 70 pitches.

What compounds the situation is this: if you don’t let the starters go deep when they’re able, and if you don’t let them get up to 120 or 130 pitches once in a while, they’ll never build the endurance to go deep later in the season. You are thus forced to depend on the bullpen every game, for the entire season.

That’s great, if you have ten guys in the bullpen. With Sanchez, Julio, Bradford, Heilman, Wagner, and Feliciano, the Mets have six pretty good guys. However, all but Julio are on course to pitch in 70-80 games each this year. There’s no way you can get all six guys throwing effectively when they are all throwing every other game (at least, not without performance-enhancing drugs). At some point, there’s going to be a breakdown.

In fact, the breakdown is occurring already. That’s why I don’t blame Wagner for the meltdown, I blame Willie. Wagner should never have been in the situation to begin with; he was signed to close out games in save situations. Willie, however, has taken to use him in nearly every situation where there’s a win at stake. Why not let Sanchez at least start the ninth? If the logic is that you want to limit Sanchez to one inning because you might need him tomorrow, well that doesn’t make sense either, because if Sanchez throws two today then Wagner should be strong enough for two tomorrow.

Ah, but there’s the rub: that’s not part of The Plan. According to the no-fault, no-blame cheat sheet Mr. Willie follows, Billy Wagner only pitches in the ninth. ONLY the ninth. No two-inning saves; those aren’t allowed according to The Plan. The Plan states that the starter goes five innings, you use a LOOGY-ROOGY-LOOGY combo in the sixth, Heilman in the seventh, Sanchez in the eighth, and Wagner in the ninth. No ifs, ands, or buts, no regard to the game situation.

So when Pedro goes six, or seven, full innings with ease, Mr. Willie doesn’t know what to do, because The Plan doesn’t address a quality start. It doesn’t address any “other plan”, such as rearranging the relievers and the days they pitch. As a result, Mr. Willie short-circuits, and does dumb things, such as take pitchers out when they are pitching effectively.

There were a lot of positives in this game, before the meltdown. But I haven’t the heart to discuss them now.

Tomorrow night: Glavine vs. Small. Hopefully Glavine will be allowed to go past the fifth.


Game 41: Win

Mets 7 Yankees 6


A great game to watch, a fantastic outcome. So much for the Mets’ playing down the subway series, comments that this wasn’t such a big game, etc. It sure didn’t look like “just another game” after LoDuca scored the winning run, hands raised, egging the fans, and guys mobbing each other.

LoDuca, by the way, has turned into the perfect replacement for Mike Piazza. Of course, it would have been impossible to replace what Piazza once meant to this team. Instead, LoDuca has filled the position in so many ways Piazza never could. True, we’ll never see LoDuca bang 30 homers, bat .320, or drive in 120 runs. But, we also never saw Piazza take a leadership role on the team, work hard to get the most out of pitchers, frame pitches well, advance runners from first to third, drop perfectly placed bunts, and come through in the clutch in myriad small ways. True, Piazza was a frightening presence in tight ballgames, but LoDuca seems to use his lack of presence to his advantage by getting little base hits.

Carlos Beltran has quietly been on fire lately, and erupted again with a huge homerun to bring the Mets within striking distance in the first. He also made a nice catch on a Robinson Cano drive in the third. Xavier Nady popped a huge one as well, tying the game and is making the Cameron deal look better and better every day (and me look dumber and dumber).

How great is David Wright? Three for five against the mighty Yanks, with a game-winning blast to the centerfield wall on a 1-2 pitch against the greatest closer of all time. Add to it his aw shucks comments after the game and you just want to cry, he’s so damn genuine … it’s like he came out of a time machine from the 1950s.

And how good is Jose Reyes getting? He walked TWICE, including leading off the game, and made a couple crucial, impressive plays in the field that saved runs. Plus, in the fourth, he did something I’ve never seen before: he was picked off first, but made it back to first base without being tagged out. Usually, a pickoff is botched by a bad throw, but in this case Reyes simply outran Robinson Cano. In fact, he even hesitated for a moment on his way back to first, giving Cano an extra step, and still beat him. The Yankees were so concerned with the possibility of Reyes running, they walked Paul LoDuca … but not before Reyes stole second cleanly on the 2-0 pitch.

Kaz Matsui continues to shine, both in the field and at bat. He finally came through with runners on, in a big way, with the game-tying basehit in the fifth, the result of a great at-bat. Though he didn’t get hits in his other at-bats, he hit hard line drive outs to the outfield each time. Also, he made a great play in the first inning, diving to tag out Alex Rodriguez’s attempt to stretch a single into a double. Robinson Cano followed with a double, so the play saved at least one run, possibly more. (Note: both A-Rod and Torre argued the call, but on the replay it looked correct. Though A-Rod beat the tag by hitting the bag with his toe, he continued the slide with his leg up and off the bag, while Kaz was still tagging him; that’s an out, Alex.)

Kaz and Jose saved a minimum of three runs all by themselves, which was obviously vital in a one-run game.

Two quick questions, one that could have affected the outcome, one that definitely did: 1. why didn’t Mr. Willie pinch-run for lovable but lead-footed LoDuca in the ninth? Endy Chavez was available, and even with the horrible arms in the Yankee outfield, there was no guarantee Pauly would score on a single. 2. Where the hell was Johnny Damon playing David Wright? Damon was so shallow, you’d think there was a man on third and less than two out. Did he not get the scouting report on Wright’s power, or was he not aware there were two outs? Wright hit a bomb, but with the non-swift LoDuca on 2B and two outs, you’d think Damon would have been deeper. Thankfully he wasn’t.

What can you say about Billy Wagner? Three batters, three strikeouts. The Yanks didn’t have a prayer. And after the game, all Billy could talk about was the performance of Aaron Heilman, stating that Heilman was great enough to start, relieve, close, whatever. (Unusual side note: I listened to the game live on radio, and Howie Rose kept referring to Wagner throwing a changeup. It seemed odd, since I didn’t think he threw one, but Rose reported “changeup” at least five times. After watching a replay of the game, all I saw were 98-MPH heaters and filthy sliders … you’d think Rose would have a clue about one of the most highest-profile Mets.)

Indeed, Aaron Heilman was absolutely fabulous, retiring nine out of nine in three innings of relief. He faced the entire Yankee lineup and gave up nothing. So of course, Ron Darling’s comment after the game is, “Heilman today showed why he is so valuable in the pen, and why the Mets can’t break up their strength”. Jesus Friggin Christ … so if he gave up eight runs, Darling would be saying that he doesn’t have the stuff a starter needs to succeed. What more does Heilman have to do to prove to the world that he is an excellent pitcher, period? And you don’t waste away a talent like this by using him for two and three inning stints when you have two humongous holes in the starting rotation. If Mr. Willie thinks he can use Heilman for two or three innings every other game, he will, and Aaron’s arm will fall off by August. If the bullpen is so damn important, why not put Pedro there? OK, I’m done with my rant for the moment …

Well, I’m done with my daily Heilman rant, but it leads to the current bad news emanating from the game: Jeremi Gonzalez looked like he was throwing batting practice for the Yankees: lots of chest-high, straight, underwhelming fastballs. In fact, his outing could easily have been a lot uglier had it not been for an assortment of excellent defensive plays by Reyes, Matsui, and Beltran. Let’s face it, even Randy Johnson and Kelly Stinnett were getting good swings off of him. And, for a guy who allows so many baserunners, he doesn’t do a whole lot to help himself; he doesn’t field his position very well, he gives baserunners plenty of time to steal bases, and he doesn’t handle the bat well. All that adds up to a guy who’s not going to help much, even as a #5. To compound the situation, it was learned the Brian Bannister would be out for at least a few more weeks. Furthermore, it was announced that LimaTime is finally over, as he was DFA’d. So it appears that the Mets braintrust has at least acknowledged that the rotation cannot continue in its current state. What they’ll do next is anybody’s guess.

My guess is that they’ll give at least one spot to Darren Oliver, who once again gave up a run. (Remarkable he didn’t give up more; A-Rod looked at two hittable strikes and was robbed on a third-strike call that LoDuca eased beautifully onto the black, and Reyes saved a run by keeping an infield single from reaching the outfield.). Yes, yes, I know it wasn’t “his” run that he gave up, but I’ve been saying it all year: the guy gives up a run, inherited or not, every time he pitches. And sorry, I’m not terribly impressed with what he’s shown in his limited 2-inning stints. Every Mets announcer, writer, and official loves to talk about how effective Oliver has been, but I’m not buying it. And tell me, spin crew, if Oliver has been so damn effective, why might it be OK to pull HIM out of the precious bullpen but not you-know-who?

Next game: Pedro vs. Mussina. Should be another great game.