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A Good Time Was Had By All

Mike SteffanosWednesday, April 11, 2007
By Mike Steffanos


Mets 11 - Phillies 5

Back quite a few years ago when I worked second shift there was little to do after work except hit the bars for a couple of hours. We had a regular group that used to hang together, mostly single people in our twenties that enjoyed each other's company.

There was one guy that was a part of the group who stands out in my memory. He was a fairly quiet, intelligent and easy-going guy most of the time. Unfortunately, after a few drinks his personality underwent a dramatic shift. He became oddly desperate to make himself the center of attention, even if that meant getting people pissed off at him enough to want to kick his butt.

I can't tell you how many times we talked some stranger out of beating on this kid. It probably didn't hurt that several of us were fairly large guys, but it got tiring after a while. Since I managed to stop getting myself into fights while in High School, the near-melees that this kid kept getting us involved in finally just got old.

The night finally came when enough was enough. Our nuisance friend went out of his way to annoy a girl who was in the bar with her boyfriend and several other male friends. We talked to the guy, who was justifiably furious, and asked him simply to keep the fight one-on-one. Since he outweighed our friend by about 50 pounds, he was only too happy to comply. We hoped the beating would serve as some sort of wakeup call to him, but our unfortunate psycho actually seemed to take the same sort of perverse pleasure in the attention he received from an ugly a**-whooping. The lesson learned, I guess, is that even negative attention is satisfying to someone who is desperate for the spotlight.

What brings this all to mind was Jimmy Rollins' encounter with the faithful at Shea in yesterday's opener. Even being mocked as the goat in the eighth inning didn't seem to phase the Phillies shortstop, who is clearly an attention wh*re in the same vein as the idiot from my past. While I won't question your right as a Mets fan to boo him, I myself will not give him that satisfaction if I attend a Mets-Phillies game at Shea.

As for the game itself, my colleagues Dana Brand and Joyce Mandelkern have already done a wonderful job of sharing the experience of actually being there. As for me, I settled for watching it on tv. Here are a few observations.

I was actually somewhat impressed with John Maine's performance, although I would hope not to see a repeat anytime soon. He never stopped battling, despite fighting his control to the tune of 104 pitches in only 4-2/3 innings work. Young pitchers can learn something from this kind of a game, and it was clear that Maine was fighting his command rather than nibbling and shying away from contact. I know it's a cliché, but it's an important sign of a pitcher's growth when he keeps his team in games when he doesn't have it.

I was disappointed in the booing of Ambiorix Burgos. Years ago we booed guys who we thought weren't playing hard. Now we boo for failure to perform, even when it's a young guy doing his best. Burgos made a terrible pitch to Howard and paid the price, but his outing was not without merit. He came into a tie game with the bases loaded and retired Nunez to get Maine off the hook.

He was a little unlucky to set up that fateful sixth inning, bouncing a splitter into Rollins and then giving up a weak single to Victorino after jamming him with a very good pitch. Then Burgos battled Chase Utley for 12 pitches without giving in, culminating in a strikeout. He almost had Howard struck out, but the big guy managed to spoil a great pitch on the outside part of the plate before Burgos hung that meatball splitter that put a damper on festivities for a while.

Take none of the above to mean that I think Burgos is ready for the eighth inning of big games, but he wasn't that bad yesterday. He seems to be making progress, and I see none of the fragile mentality in him that we saw from Jorge Julio last year. I could fault him for throwing too many splitters to Howard, but he made him look really bad on 2 swinging strikes and a weak foul on that very pitch. He didn't appear to shake off Lo Duca at all during that at bat. Although I heard nothing definitive on who called the pitches, it appeared to be Lo Duca.

I liked the way Burgos battled against Howard and Utley -- the homer came on the 7th pitch to Howard after the dozen pitches to Utley. Then Burgos kept his composure enough after being beaten for Howard's bomb to retire Burrell and keep the game at a run. In his eventful inning-and-a-third Burgos threw 23 strikes and 14 balls. If he hadn't hung that split, it would have been a terrific effort from the kid. While he didn't deserve a star of the game pick, I don't think his effort warranted boos from the home fans while walking off the field. Maybe I'm just a fossil from a kinder, gentler era, but I wouldn't personally have done it.

Enough bloggers have weighed in on the whole question of why Willie pinch ran for Shawn Green in the eighth inning rather than Alou. It says something about how far Green has slipped defensively over the last few years that Randolph feels more comfortable with Alou in the field in a tight game than with Green. Both corner outfielders are slow, but Alou plays pretty smart and seems to get better reads on balls to the OF than Green. Alou is a notoriously bad baserunner, however, and got a poor jump on what was admittedly a poor bunt by Jose Valentin in the fateful eighth inning.

One thing that Shawn Green probably deserves more credit for than he receives is the quality of his at bats. On a team that sometimes struggles to be patient enough and work pitchers, Green usually does a decent job at this. Against a team like the Phillies, this is of vital importance. When you can get a Cole Hamels out of the game and replaced by a member of that bullpen, your chances of scoring some runs rise dramatically. Still, Green really needs to produce offensively to offset his defense and baserunning.

Finally, I mentioned Jose Valentin's poor bunt in the eighth. I should also point out he had a huge at bat in the fourth when he broke up Hamels' shutout with a 2-out, 2-run single. He might only be batting a buck fifty for the young season, but Valentin has a knack for making contributions to wins.

Box Score

Comments (10)

i hate to think that the fans are going to kill Burgos - a 22 year-old kid with a million-dollar arm - over stuff like yesterday. He was really pretty good, and showed a lot, and when it's Ryan Howard, all ya gotta do is hang one pitch. Most guys Burgos' age are in AA or maybe AAA, not facing Mr. ROY/MVP in a key spot in his second inning of work. I know that Mets fans are more savvy than most, but sometimes, not savvy enoug. We should be adopting this kid, not killing him. I have a sense that he can end up being Lee Smith, but if we destroy his confidence, we can just as easily turn him into Armando Benitez. I'm not saying that it's all about the fans' reaction, but jeez.

Green and Alou are certainly going to be double-edged swords for us this year, huh? The thing is, that both really are professional hitters. The kind you'd hate to have to navigate late in a game at the bottom of the order. Not sure what the answer is here, other than hoping we get the right side of the sword at key times this season while we wait for Milledge/Gomez. If they both hit .280 or so with some pop, we probably end up ahead of the game. So far, they look like a good bet to do that.

By the way, I told a friend of mine that Carlos Delgado would bust out yesterday. Here's a guy who has his first child, then immediately has to leave home for two weeks. It had to be killing him and the only thing on his mind. So, they finish the road trip, he gets home and spends a night with the wife and baby, and goes to the park feeling great rather than feeling like he should be somewhere else. The bunt alone told me that a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Now, if only he can get some sleep while he's home, he should be alright.

5-2... not bad. Let's finish these guys off.

Once again I have to agree with everything you said. I was at the game with my son and actually felt bad for Burgos. He did let up the go ahead home run but it was to last years NL HR King and MVP (and it was debatable whether he should have been pitching to Howard with a lefty specialist warming up). He did a good job with the other hitters and his stuff looked quite good. It is everyone's right to boo, but I just wish fans would have a little more patience. I personally would only boo a member of my team if they didn't try or were an obvious clubhouse cancer.

Keep up the good work.

Yup.

I love contrasts, they reveal things to the meanest understanding (mine). This game gave us a good one, namely Aaron Rowand's throw to the plate in the 8th, a custard-soft rainbow that carried high and wide left, and late.

The contrast, of course, is Carlos Beltran and the laser he threw in St Louis to retire Dave Eckstein.

Rowand; that is all they were able to get for Jim Thome? I know Thome had a bad year; he was hurt after all; but jeez. Thome is going to hit his 500th home run this year, and he'll probably be in the Hall one day. But there was a day he was worth a non-hitting centerfielder with a rag arm, apparently.

His splitter was very good until that one, which went flat and into the hitting zone.

So what can you do, things happen like that.

And it is way too early to boo the guy.

Just maybe down the road, if Willie keeps using him, we will find out if he is hot, or not.

I don't blame Burgos for losing a tough battle with the reigning MVP at all. Although I think the wise move at that moment would have been to bring in a fresher lefty to face Howard. Burgos was already around 35 pitches and we all noticed in March that he had great difficulty navigating through a lineup with too many pitches thrown or in a 2nd inning of work.

For the fans to boo the kid was rough. But as you said Mike, he seems to have a better head than Juio did, and I imagine he'll win that stadium over before too long. His stuff and the team's confidence in it is too strong not to find success.

As for Rollins, I freely admit I plan to boo him to all his gleeful bliss. I respect your stance of non-acknowledgement Mike. But I'm still far too immature to not take part in a good Shea Stadium harrassment.

ajsmith - Not being at the games, I can't say what % of fans booed Burgos coming off the field, but it seemed to be a relatively small number. I really think Burgos has a chance to be a good setup man later this season. I like his stuff and the fact that he seems to be mentally resilient. The big question is can he learn from his mistakes. Apparently that wasn't the case in KC, hopefully it will be here.

I agree with you on Green and Alou. Nice call on Delgado.
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Joe - I understood what Willie was trying to do there, but I probably would have walked Howard there and went after Burrell rather than burn another pitcher there. On the other hand, Howard looked terrible on all of the other splitters, and Burrell has been kind of hot. Did you notice that Wagner struck Howard out in the ninth with sliders? He's having trouble with off-speed stuff right now. Maybe that's why they kept throwing the splits to Howard.
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dd - I didn't remember Rowand's arm being so weak. You could definitely take the extra base on that Philly OF in general.

I guess at the time they made the trade Thome's back was a huge question. In fairness to Philly, they had to make room for Howard. Bet they wish they got bullpen guys for Thome now, though.
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fredsaid - Agreed. He's an interesting arm. With the lack of strikeout pitchers in the bullpen, they could really use him if he puts it together.
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Salman - I'll never give anyone a hard time for boing opposing players:
http://www.mikesmets.com/2006/08/booing_utley.html

I like 5-2, for a geeky statistical reason only a baseball fan would understand.

.714

It just feels right.

Now, 50-20 would be even better. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. For now, let's set our sights on 6-2. That would revise that decimal to .750 - or only .005 less than the number that replaced 714.

NostraDecimal - You just gave me a headache.

>
I like 5-2, for a geeky statistical reason only a baseball fan would understand.

.714
>

Thank you, Mister Monk.

Did you know, on the television show Dragnet -- actually the second version, 60's of that show, not the more recent encarnation -- Jack Webb chose Joe Friday's badge, shield #714, as the image for the title credits?

dd - Yes, I did know that.

Did you know that in the Topps 2005 set, Roger Clemens has card #714?

Natalie, wipie, please.

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