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Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your NLCS

Mike SteffanosMonday, October 16, 2006
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:

Steve Trachsel
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.

Albert Pujols
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
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.

More Mets Stories:
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Comments (16)

Exercising my vantage point from the city in which the game is being played, I can tell you with one hundred ten percent certainty this game is getting rained out.

That's what we keep hearing here, too.

I hope it is rained out-I like our chances better with Glavine going on 4 days rest.

How's this sign:

"Steve -
You let us down

Met Fans."

I loved Steve. I loved that he came back last year from his surgery somewhat early in order to help out. But he stunk the other night. If Tom Glavine can listen to Rick Peterson, why can't Trax? I'm sure Rick did not tell him "nibble".

I'm not going to say he is gutless, because I don't think that is the case. I just think that he is not a big game pitcher. I know, he won the clincher, but he was not great in the NLDS, and he was not Saturday.
I do not trust him in a Game 7 of the NLCS. I trust Oliver Perez more. Or Darren Oliver.

Shari - There's logic in that, I just hate playoff rainouts. I want them to keep playing the games.
Ed - I'm not sure that he's not a big game pitcher so much as I think his stuff just isn't there any more. Maybe 2-3 years ago he would have been respectable. He doesn't trust his stuff any more, and that's probably for good reason. If we make it to the series they should consider Dave Williams.

By the time all is said and done, Traxx will need our support. I hope whatever the issue is physical or personal he overcomes it.

Now: Ollie got alot of love but not necessarily his due. Hopefully he will be better his next start. Metstradamus points out how well he battled out of the first. For me his signature moment was the strikeout of Spezio, then Pujols back to back after the Eckstein solo made it 5-3. The mets then picked him up big in the next frame. I mean there were no big innings, yet the ump was giving him nothing off the plate.

Ollie has one tool he rarely uses and thats the rising FB. I still think he needs to use throw the curve for strikes.

On Maine; he also needs his rhythm back. But he is not giving up many hits. His slider needs to come around.

Ed - I'll support Trachsel if he pitches, but I'd rather see someone else.

I don't think Trachsel is nibbling because he lost his nerve. I think he has lost a critical amount of his "stuff," and he nibbles in an effort to survive.

It still comes down to "he can't pitch against the good teams," but this way it is less demeaning. And, as you all know, it's been obvious all season.

Steve Lyons doesn't bring anything to a broadcast, agreed, but that hardly puts him in the minority of baseball talking heads. I live in a town that endured Phil Rizutto practically forever, or nearly forever.

I always liked Trax and felt that he was underappreciated. Having said that, I have lost a lot of confidence in him after his approach during his last outing. It would be sad to have that last performance be our memory of him as a Met. I hope that he can resolve those issues that have been bothering him. But now we need a pitcher whose head is in the game and who isn't afraid of challenging hitters.

dd - I agree with your assessment of Trachsel. I wrote something very similar in the game wrapup.

Rizutto was never on national tv, and Yankees fans loved him in the same way I loved and still love Ralph Kiner. I don't care if he just repeats the same stories over and over, I don't tire of listening to him. Of course, he had some intersting insights into the game back in the day, which is more than I ever heard out of Lyons. I'm just so tired of FOX and the cheapening of the game they represent ...
Joe - That was the way he pitched for most of the year, unless he had the fortune to pitch against a young, overagressive team like Florida. I think Trachsel was just completely overmatched by the Cards, and wasn't all that great against the Dodgers. It's too bad they didn't make the playoffs before he hurt his back last spring, he's not even close to the pitcher he was before the injury.

I just read Kevin collazzo's commentary. i mention it because today's debate is Ollie vs traxx...sort of.

1. I cut Traxx when he bemoaned the fact seo had bumped him for the stretch run last yr, then proceeded to be whacked by the Braves in the biggest late season game the Mets had had in eons. then he moaned when he was named 5th starter in spr, feeling he had been disrespected. traxx has been a .500 pitcher in a Met uni. But many of 'US'noted he has always been 'good' on bad teams. And yes 15 wins with a +5.00 ERA is not 'good' given the run support.

2. Traxx brings up my other nemesis...Ron darling. HE escapes being a despot on the back of sterling relief for 3+ innnings by EL SID. Otherwise as he was in '88..he would have been a game 7 LOSER.

3. Shari calls for Heilman to start. I say no. If not El Duque then Pelfrey, or Bannister get the call. Dave Williams has not relieved yet, And i dont like the balance of 3 lefty starters. Ahern has been a waste of roster space. Especially with another spot 'wasted' on Floyd.

4. Hopefully the extra rest can see floyd in the line up in place of Green. If Green CAN be traded this off season it might allow Floyd to stay. nonetheless we need a righty bat ..(carlos lee) in left with lastings in right.

5. I'm not sure LoDuca is back next yr.

Ed - I think Trachsel will not pitch another game for the Mets. I think in the WS, if they get there, the Mets go back to 12 pitchers. I hear you on the 3 lefties, but I think I'd be worried about Pelfrey on such a big stage this early. Lo Duca is under contract for 2007, and certainly has played well enough to deserve to be here. I'd be shocked if he wasn't.

Ed- I never called for Heilman to start-that was Kevin, I said Darren Oliver should get a start-Heilman for the rest of this post season is too important in the 8th inning -and possibly a 9th if Billy Wagner gets shaky. If they want to try him as a starter for next season I say by all means try it-but not right now.

A slightly off-topic question for you impartial hordes (har!):

As we all know, or at least we have all read a half a hundred times, the American League is far the superior league this season.

Well, how does that "fact" jibe with the playoff results? In the American League we've had exactly one game won by the team that didn't go on to win a playoff series; does that sound like a generally powerful league, or does it sound like a league dominated by one or two teams? And the team that had been doing the majority of the ass-whupping is the Wild Card team, a team that had a terrific record earlier and then went through a 45 day long slump. Sudenly it doesn't sound as if you are discussing a league of powerful teams; rather it soulds like a league that can be dominated at a given time by whichever team is hot. And that is the real story in the AL this year, as the Tigers, Yankees and Minnesota, and even Oakland, all dominated for long periods. Where did all those other mighty teams go to hide, when one of those teams was kicking ass?

Conclusions? The obvious conclusion is that the earlier conclusions were hastily drawn, and perhaps not so well considered. The Tigers look plenty dominating now; but then, there's team in New York that could make that same conclusion at various times this season. Hell, there have been two such teams in New York. We've seen the Tigers dominate and we've seen them slump, both in the same universe so to speak.

Thw world, even the baseball world, tends to be more complicated than the sports writing world would have us think. Writers tend to focus on the stuff that is easy to see; all those big name players on the Yankees, all those hard throwers in Detroit. The Mets get credit for their own big players, but their abilities as a TEAM -- team defense, the ability to mount a sequential offense on a day when the long hits aren't falling -- that stuff simply doesn't register. But baseball played at its best IS a team sport; and the Mets play great team baseball.

Which leads me back to what Mike has been saying: let's watch the games unfold. And let's not give the experts too much credit when their conculsions don't stand up to what we can see ourselves.

yes shari. I stand corrected. hopefully El Duque recovers.

Shari - I'm with you on that one. The Mets only chance right now is to ride their bullpen, so Aaron isn't going anywhere.
dd - Dayne Perry wrote an article on FOX Sports that basically had the Tigers rubbing their hands, wondering which terrible NL team they wanted to face more. Yet weren't these the same Tigers who everyone predicted to be swept by the Yankmes?
Ed - That would be some story if they made it to the W.S. and El Duque came back and pitched well.

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