We bookended the baseball season by attending the first and last games played at Shea Stadium. The sun was shining and the temperature was definitely high for an October afternoon. We brought Robbie, who hadn’t seen a game all season, and sat way up high in the Upper Reserved, but in section 1 so we could see everything.
And we watched in horror as the Mets played sloppy, rushed baseball. It was certainly thrilling to see Mike Jacobs and Victor Diaz hit back to back home runs to tie the game but just as quickly, Victor Zambrano gave up more runs and more runs.
He was maddeningly inconsistent so he’d toss eight strikeouts but also gave up lots of hits up the middle.
I had to question Willie Randolph’s strategy in the 5th. Zambrano had given up the lead, he’d tossed 100 pitches and was due to lead off the bottom half of the inning. You have the entire bullpen available. Logic dictates you use a pinch hitter to try and get something going. But no, Willie lets Zambrano lead off and he gets the first out.
And then, later, they finally pull Zambrano and Heath Bell is equally ineffective. Again, you have the entire bullpen at your beck and call so who do they bring in? Danny Graves which made no sense. He lasts all of two batters and by then the Mets gave up. The hitters swung at two many first pitches, the fielders were sloppy committing two errors.
They lost 11-3, still showing their best season standing since 2000 and had they been in the incredibly weak NL West, would have won the division by a game.
Now last year, we saw the final game of the season and there was much pomp and circumstance for Todd Zeile’s official retirement. There was also a nice tribute to John Franco whom the Mets had no intention of re-signing for the 2005 campaign. We loved it and thought they did right by both players. (Franco, of course, signed with Houston and lasted something like two months before being released.)
This year, the tribute was for Mike Piazza, ending his contract and likely to be a DH for any team foolish enough to sign him. I’ve never been a big Piazza fan thinking he was poor defensively and choked way too often in clutch situations. He also was never that great a team leader or clubhouse presence. Mike was, mainly, a huge bat in the lineup. Over the last two years (and possibly longer), the skills atrophied at an alarming rate. He played out his contract, he played hurt, and he played poorly. Sure, he could still smack a towering home run now and then, as he did Friday night. But, more often than not, he choked such as the bases loaded pinch hitting opportunity on Saturday. He popped out. And on Sunday, he grounded to short all three times.
Still, the faithful applauded, stood and cheered. Over the course of his time with the Mets, Piazza’s power helped often enough to deserve the adulation. He was being honored not for the last few years but his total time and for that I stood and cheered. I did not, though, join the chorus for “One More Year.” Deb, who has never liked him, remained seated.
So, whither the Mets? In the off-season their shopping list starts with a real, serious threat of a closer. Follow that with a catcher. Then you rebuild your bullpen a bit. While they still seem enamored of Kaz Matsui at second, if a better option exists they should take it. Mike Jacobs is tantalizing at first, so much potential and if no one better is available, then he’d be fine. Short with Jose Reyes and third with David Wright are solid. Should Cliff Floyd remain healthy, left field is a lock as is Carlos Beltran in center (although the pressure will be on to better his numbers). Presuming Mike Cameron is healthy, the Mets should probably keep him in right, using Victor Diaz as the number four outfielder.
As for the rotation, Glavine and Benson will be back. Jae Seo has pretty much pitched his way back into the rotation. Steve Trachsel looked healthier and the abbreviated season should make him strong for 2006. That leaves the fifth slot and let’s face it, it should never be Victor Zambrano. Too inconsistent, too ineffectual. If there’s a fresh arm out there, they should get it.
But we’ll see what happens since no one hired me to be the GM.
Speaking of General Managers, if I owned San Francisco and Los Angeles I’d fire their version of GM. Both teams had way too many problems in April, problems that could have been avoided with judicious use of cash during the off season. Everyone blames the Dodgers on having too many injuries, I blame them for a poor rotation and bench. San Francisco was too damned old and built around Barry “Really, I didn’t know I was rubbing myself with steroids” Bonds. SF began their youth movement too late to make a difference but does position them for 2006.
Do I care about the post season? Sure. Lots of interesting match-ups and battles. I’d love to see St. Louis take it all, redeeming themselves from last year’s sudden collapse. Boston vs. Chicago will be fun to watch. Atlanta will battle Houston quite nicely while San Diego should crumble before St. Louis. And the Yankees, the team that had no hope two months ago? They won’t make the series so the Hot Stove story will be what about Joe Torre, who deserves to stay on the job given the job he did getting them to first place.
Finally, you might wonder about my own Final Frontiersmen. After leading the Federal League most of the year in first, I saw a way to solidify the lead by making some trade deadline moves to pick up saves. The plan backfired. My saves guys stopped saving and then my rotation starting going 0-2 every week. September saw me in freefall so I finished in 5th place and feeling very frustrated.