Of Mystery and Misery
Sometimes no matter the strength of your newfound
conviction, the depth or your resolve, the seriousness of your commitment to
caring more about dirty nukes and Clean Air Act rollbacks than 0-2 pitch
selection... well, you find yourself backsliding into familiar bewildered fury.
Why, oh, why would a pitcher whose just given up a
500-foot foul ball on a 93-mph fastball to get ahead 0-2 come back with another
fastball? Think about it. If a hitter was out in front of a fastball, isn't he
primed for a change or a knee-buckling curve? And with runners on first and
third, which of Pedro's three pitches is Gary Sheffield least likely to ground
into a double play? That's right, fastball. Why Varitek called for the fastball
up and why Pedro didn't shake him off is one of those thousands of sad mysteries
that all - in their perplexing little ways - contribute to this unending cycle
Other misery-inducing mysteries that come to mind:
the hell has happened to Trot Nixon? He is suddenly a horrible baseball player.
Tough as nails, to be sure. A big heart, no doubt. But have you happened to see
the last 10 jumps he's gotten on pop flies to shallow right? He breaks on the
ball after it starts coming down. And didn't he used to have decent speed? He
hit a ball that kicked twenty feet away from Todd Helton in the Colorado series
and was still out by a step at first. And tonight Keith Lockhart robbed him with
an all-out dive up the middle and threw him out easily from right near the
second base bag. He looks like he's loping when he runs. He moves like a guy who
should hit 35 homers, which is what we all started to expect when he pushed his
slugging percentage over .500 last year. I've heard murmurs that he's hurt. But
where? How? His sudden swoon into late-career Ivan Calderon-like
anti-productivity is perhaps the biggest mystery of the season.
Mystery No. 3 is how - after all that preamble -
does a New York Met get hit in the head last night and then, without
retaliation, that weak-kneed sorry excuse for a team folds in the ninth and
10th? Felix Rodriguez and Robb Nen combine to blow the rubber game of the
Giants-Yankees series, then Bob Brenly gives away the middle game of the
D-Backs-Yankees series by serving up Bret Prinz, then tonight Armando Benitez
continues the Major League-wide largesse to the pinstripers. What is going on?
Please, can't anyone play this game when they're playing the Yankees? I mean,
Robb Nen gives up a two-run double to Nick Johnson on a 1-2 pitch? Bob Brenly,
who has to be the worst manager to ever win a World Series, opts for Prinz
against Ventura over the Unit or even Mike Myers against Ron Coomer? And then,
apparently not having anticipated Torre's move, Brenly is forced to walk Ventura
and load the bases in a one run game for a guy whose biggest problem is throwing
strikes. What an idiot! Thanks a lot, moron. And you have to hand it to Benitez,
he only blows big games. Never an April game against the Marlins. Thanks for
nothing, you jackasses.
Oh, and while I'm handing out Jackass Citations,
here's one for Jason Schmidt, who helped keep the A's undefeated in interleague
play and closing in our rearview by walking a frickin' American League pitcher
to start a rally.
Mystery No. 4 - Why is Shea Hillenbrand suddenly
showing that spastic
incontinence at the plate again? The avalanche of 0-2 counts and lunging swings
at pitches off the plate epitomize the ugliness of this past week.
Mystery No. 5 - Tony Clark.
Mystery No. 6 - How the hell are we in first
Hurry, Manny, hurry.
And if all this weren't troubling enough, we can
look forward to even more acid rain in our beloved New England from those
belching smokestacks of the Midwest. Hard to believe anyone could be a bigger
disappointment than Tony Clark, but Christine Todd Whitman is hitting .000 at
the EPA. Hardball