By Mike Steffanos
I think there were many folks who just expected the Mets to go away and die after disheartening losses in games 2 and 3 of the National League Championship Series. They were especially confident that the Mets bullpen, so severely overtaxed in game 2, would take a backseat to the Cardinals bullpen the rest of the way. I guess in a way they were right, the Cardinals 'pen was certainly a bigger story last night, though not for the reasons they may have hoped. Basically, last night was proof of two things -- that momentum is a fickle beast, and that the Mets aren't as soft as some bashers hoped they were.
I've learned the hard way over the years that momentum isn't that big of a deal. I've seen more times than I can count in the playoffs where one team seemed to be on life support and then caught a break here and there, had a couple of players step up, and next you know, you realize momentum is just a lazy answer to a complex question. Many things went right for the Mets for their first 4-1/2 playoff games, to the point where many assumed that would continue to be the case. Then everything went the Cardinals' way for the next game and a half, and suddenly that seemed to be the way it would all keep going. Now we're down to a best of three series, and our team still has the same strength and weaknesses as they've had going in. If the Mets play their game and execute, they have a date in Motown. If not, it will be time for them to get out the golf clubs while we all speculate on trades and free agents. It's a simple game, really.
As for the Mets being soft, that was something I read and heard a lot about, particularly after game 3 when the Mets looked very little like a 97-win team. "The Mets have never been tested," they all cried, and when Willie Randolph insisted the team had responded to many challenges over the course of the year they mocked him for it. Yet Willie was telling the truth. It was one thing after another this season with Bannister and Zambrano going down, then Pedro, Cliff Floyd being hurt, Nady's appendix, Sanchez' cab ride, Glavine's blood clot -- there were opportunities to fold up all year, and many out there waiting for it to happen. Yet the popular thinking was the Mets were an untested team who wouldn't be able to respond to a challenge. I think that myth might be debunked now. The Mets know how to respond to a challenge. Whether they win this series or not will be about execution, not inner fortitude.
Oh, and by the way, can we please stop being hammered with things we can't change at this juncture? I used to like FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, but I'm getting weary of his many snarky versions of, "I told you the Mets didn't have enough starting pitching." Rosenthal, who allegedly grew up a Mets fan but seems to have gotten over that quite nicely, has sniped at Omar Minaya and the Mets quite often since the moves of the winter hot stove season. Fact is, I doubt that Omar is perfect, but I trust him more running a team than I would trust Rosenthal to do it. Beat a different drum, please.
A few other odds and ends:
Joel Sherman and Mark Hale report the following in the New York Post:
Steve Trachsel missed time at the end of the regular season due to personal reasons, so the Mets were already down on him. Now his stock with the team has dropped further.
In his horrible Game 3 start against the Cardinals on Saturday, Trachsel pulled himself out of the game with his right thigh contusion, Willie Randolph confirmed yesterday.
When asked what he thought of that, Randolph chuckled and said while walking away, "I'm not going to answer that."
Trachsel said the decision to leave the game "was mutual." However, GM Omar Minaya corroborated that Trachsel pulled himself from his second-ever postseason start, saying, "My understanding was it tightened up on him. When a player says he can't go, what can you do? You don't want players to play hurt."The combination of Trachsel's poor performance and this further strike against his fortitude severely reduces his chances of starting an NLCS Game 7, if the game is necessary. Yet, both Randolph and Trachsel were proceeding publicly as if Trachsel was still viable for a game Thursday at Shea.
There are many questioning Trachsel's guts following this performance and him asking out of the game. I won't speculate on this matter, for the simple reason that I have no insight into Steve Trachsel's psyche. What I will say is that nibbling, walking batters and pitching from behind is not a blueprint for post-season success. I'll leave it to others who know Trachsel better to judge him as a man. As a pitcher, I sincerely believe the Mets have better options going forward. If it goes to game 7, someone else needs to pitch.
The continuing saga of Pujols disparaging comments about Glavine and La Russa's bizarre defense of his surly slugger provide some comic relief and a good reason to boo the crap out of Pujols in New York. I'll say one thing, though. When CBS SportsLine's Gregg Doyel, who is a jerk of the highest magnitude, can rightfully point out what a jerk you are, you are indeed breathing the rarified air at the summit of jerkdom. Good villains make for good rivalries.
Steve Lyons, one of the very worst baseball color men of all time, was fired by FOX for saying one stupid thing too many. The sad part of all of this was that they never considered letting him go for the simple fact that he never contributed anything of value to a baseball telecast. If there is a poster child for the "FOX way" of presenting sports, is was this idiot who was more interested in playing off his carefully cultivated "Psycho" persona than providing any real insight into a game that he once played (not very well) professionally.
I have no problem that Lyons was fired for insulting Hispanics. The shame was that he never was replaced years ago for insulting the intelligence of everyone who actually cares about the game of baseball. I have no doubt that someone equally ill-suited for the job will be in his place next season.