If you’ve seen Steve Trachsel pitch before, you know it is a nightmare. First and foremost, you can see flights take off from Laguardia and land in LAX before he throws a pitch. Also, like we saw in the 1998 Wild Card play-in game, Trachsel can just lull a team to sleep with his pace and absolutely shut a team down. That’s what he did to the Mets today.
Over Trachsel’s seven innings, the Mets could just muster six hits. Fortunately for the Mets, two of those hits came in the fourth inning when Edgardo Alfonzo and Todd Zeile hit a pair of doubles giving the Mets a 1-0 lead. Zeile’s double looked foul for a moment but curved back in and confused Rays left fielder Greg Vaughn. Believe it or not, that would be it for the scoring in this game.
As good as Traschel was, Al Leiter was guttier. Leiter, who is mostly known for using his cutter to constantly pound the inside of the strike zone against right-handed batters, just couldn’t locate that pitch. That lead to him and Mike Piazza reconfigure the game plan on the fly. Instead of the vaunted cutter, we saw more curveballs. That proved to be a great decision.
In Leiter’s 6.2 innings, he only had only one 1-2-3 inning. That was partially a result of his walking five batters and hitting another. Still, with his also striking out eight batters, the Rays batters really had little other option than to just stand at the plate and hope Leiter walked them. In the end, while Leiter was wild, he was still difficult to hit.
In the seventh, Leiter had reached the end of the line. He allowed a lead-off single to Trachsel. After getting the next two out, he walked Vaughn. At that point, he had throw 124 pitches, and with the left-handed hitting Fred McGriff due up, Bobby Valentine went to Dennis Cook.
While Cook has struggled this year, McGriff was only 1-for-5 against him in his career. That became 1-for-6 when Cook got McGriff to ground out to end the inning. From there, we saw almost a mirror image of what happened over the final innings last night. After John Franco pitched a 1-2-3 inning, Armando Benitez got himself into trouble in the ninth.
Miguel Cairo hit a one out single, and he immediately got himself into scoring position by stealing second. After a walk to Steve Cox, the game was once again in Vaughn’s hands. For the second straight night, Benitez struck out Vaughn to end the game and earn the save.
Just because you are facing bad teams, it doesn’t mean they can’t play you tough. That’s what the Rays did tonight. That said, the Mets perserved and did what they needed to do to get to pull out the 1-0 victory.
Game Notes: After getting hit in the head by Gary Sheffield and missing yesterday’s game, Mike Piazza returned to the lineup and was 0-for-4. Melvin Mora got the start at short, and Jay Payton was in center again. Payton is earning his playing time as he has gone 4-for-12 with a walk, double, homer, and three RBI over his last seven games. He is also provided good defense out there.
Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.
It doesn’t matter who is the General Manager or the manager. The Mets always want to tell everyone else they are wrong, and they are smarter than you. There is plenty of history on this front during the Wilpon Era.
Steve Phillips told us Alex Rodriguez was a 24 and 1 player. So, instead of pursuing A-Rod, he signed Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Kevin Appier, and Steve Trachsel to try to improve the team. When that didn’t work, he made a series of questionable moves over the ensuing two years which somehow led to Roger Cedeno being a center fielder. Ultimately, Bobby Valentine was fired, and he was not too far behind.
There were plenty of decisions past that point. The most recent example was Terry Collins‘ insistence that Michael Conforto was a platoon bat because he was a young left-handed hitter the team had no time to develop because they were trying to win. Somehow this led to Matt Reynolds making a start in left field despite never having played the position in his life.
Now, we are in the era of Brodie Van Wagenen and Mickey Callaway, and things remain the same way.
With Dominic Smith jumping out of the gate hitting well, Pete Alonso showing no signs of being overwhelmed as a rookie, and the team’s questionable outfield depth, everyone said it was time for Smith to get reps in the outfield again. Everyone included Mets hitting coach Chili Davis. The Mets scoffed at the idea and instead insisted it was better for Smith to be a younger version of Julio Franco or Lenny Harris.
The Mets gave up Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn in a deal which helped bring them Edwin Diaz. There were big games early in the season where the team needed their closer to go more than four outs. That was all the more the case with Jeurys Familia‘s struggles. But no, we were told Diaz is just a three out pitcher who was to be saved for save chances only.
To begin the season, Jacob deGrom had no consistency with the catchers behind the plate. That became more of an issue with Wilson Ramos not hitting or framing. Given how deGrom has reached Greg Maddux like status with this team, the strong suggestion was to make Tomas Nido his personal catcher as deGrom was the one pitcher who could easily overcome his lack of offense, especially with Nido’s pitch framing. Instead, the Mets said deGrom was not pitching well enough to warrant a personal catcher.
J.D. Davis was atrocious at third base. In fact, by DRS, he was the worst third baseman in the Majors. With him clearly not suited to the position, everyone said to the Mets they should at least try Davis in left field. It wasn’t until the Mets literally had no other choice that it would happen.
And that’s where we are now. The Mets are under .500 and in third place. Callaway’s job has seemingly become tenuous. Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are on the IL while Jeff McNeil is dealing with an abdominal issue. Justin Wilson is on the IL, and Familia just had another poor performance. Suddenly, the Mets, who knew better than everyone, suddenly don’t anymore.
Now, Smith will get reps in left field, and Davis can start playing out there more. Diaz can pitch more than three outs when the situation merits. Nido will now be deGrom’s personal catcher. Of course, the Mets waited a long time to finally admit they actually don’t know better than everyone. The question now is whether they waited too long.
Fortuantely, the Mets finally listened to everyone. Now, the goal is to finally get through to them that everyone else is indeed smarter than they are and that the Yankees financial model is sustainable. In fact, it could be sustainable for the Mets as well if they were willing to try.