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Being There

Mike SteffanosSunday, October 2, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 3 - Rockies 1

My girlfriend and I decided at the last minute yesterday to go to last night's game. We bought a couple of handy dandy print at home tickets on-line, jumped into the car, and came on out to Shea to be with Fran and the Mets.

This was a milestone for both of us. For Lisa, it was her first game ever. For me, it was my first live game in over 15 years. I stopped coming out after they butchered the team with awful trades and even worse free agent signings. I meant to come back earlier this year, but problems with what eventually was diagnosed as Lyme Disease impacted me most of the summer.

I knew I wanted to go to one of the games this weekend, to say goodbye in person to Mike Piazza and a team that, despite everything, I really enjoyed watching this year. I wanted to see what old Shea looked like after so many years: still tired but actually a little better than she looked last time I was there.

It was disappointing to both of us that Piazza wasn't starting, especially for Lisa, although I knew coming in that would be a possibility. Despite the fact that Lisa didn't become a Mets fan until after Mike's decline, she really likes Mike and always pulls for him. I had a funny feeling that Willie would find an at bat for Mike somewhere in the game.

The game itself was a decent game. I don't think Jae Seo was quite as sharp as he's been at his best, but he did a good job of digging down and getting himself out of a couple of jams. David Wright's home run was a monster -- one of the most impressive I have witnessed in person, not just sheer distance but in how that ball jumped out of the park.

Still, the real highlight was Mike Piazza pinch hitting in the sixth. It was great to be there and add our voices to the cheering that Mike received, even after the strikeout. For me, it was a weird combination of joy and sadness. Although I know there is a chance Mike will be back next year I tend to doubt it, and it's hard to say goodbye to a truly great Met. I wish I could be there today, but I am confident the fans that are at Shea will send Mike off right.

Finishing some thoughts

I never really fully developed my thoughts on Benson and Heilman from yesterday. Shortly after I began writing yesterday's post Lisa expressed interest in going to the game, so I just kind of wrapped up quick. My point on Benson is, despite the struggles he had coming down the stretch we saw some real progress. He needs to develop some more consistency, especially in keeping the ball down and keeping it in the park. I still worry about his durability over a full season. Still, I see him as an effective third starter with good potential for improvement.

It was quite a year for Aaron Heilman. One of the highlights of this season for me was definitely that out of nowhere one hitter against the Marlins that probably saved his career. It's been fun to watch his development into an effective relief pitcher, and I can see his potential as either a closer or set-up guy. Still, even at the game last night there was discussion about how he should have been closing games much sooner, and how things might have gone differently if he had been.

I don't think that's really fair. As well as he pitched for most of the year, he did struggle with control of his fastball at times, and he had some trouble in pressure situations because of that. (See the game in Pittsburgh that he and Looper combined to blow in the ninth.) He needed time to grow into the role, and I think it might have done some harm to his development if he was rushed into the role. I think he was handled correctly for the most part, and I am excited to see what he can be for us next year.

This blog's off-season plans

For the most part, I've stayed away from looking back on this year as a whole or speculating on what we should be doing over the winter. I wanted to stay with the games while they were still happening, and there is one more to go. After that, I'll be adding my 2 cents in rating the 2005 season and looking ahead. That will begin this coming week. Please stay with us.

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