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October 6, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

Fun By the Bay

by Joe Sheehan

Just what is it about the Mets that they play these amazing postseason games? They played two of these against the Diamondbacks in the Division Series last year, then three more against the Braves in the NLCS. They were also in the middle of The Greatest Postseason Ever, 1986, which included maybe the best LCS game ever and the most memorable World Series moment in the last 25 years.

Whatever it is, it makes for entertaining baseball. Timoniel Perez? Someone, somewhere last week--I believe it was on ESPN--made a mention that he could be this year's Melvin Mora. On the list of things I wish I'd said, that's moving up rapidly. Perez's performance last night--three hits, including a two-out, two-run single and another two-out hit that set up Edgardo Alfonzo's home run--was right out of Mora's year-old playbook.

As much as we talk about teams, last night's game was really about individuals. Perez, for one. Shawn Estes, for another. His decision to stand up going into second base in the third inning neutered a rally and probably cost the Giants two pitchers for the next few days, with Estes on a bad ankle and Kirk Rueter having to toss 4 1/3 innings in relief. Rueter, for that matter, whose relief work kept the Giants in a game that Al Leiter was dominating.

J.T. Snow, of course, was a hero for his pinch-hit, three-run blast in the ninth. And while many people will take Barry Bonds to task for getting caughtballfourlooking in the tenth, Bonds also doubled to start the ninth-inning rally.

One other play will probably get too much attention. In the the tenth inning, Armando Rios was on second base with one out and Bill Mueller at the plate. On a groundball to shortstop, he tried to go to third base and was thrown out by Mike Bordick.

It looks like a blunder, and the Fox announcers were quick to call it a blunder, but how bad is the play, really? If he doesn't go, there's a runner on second base with two outs. They ended up with a runner on first base and two outs. The downside is one base.

The upside, though, is enormous. That's not an easy play (although Rios was out by a lot). The shortstop has to throw across his body and from behind the runner while trying to hit a third baseman on the move. Lots of things can go wrong on that play, and if any of them do, there's first and third with one out. That's a big payoff, when the cost is only one base.

I'll add that spending that one base with Barry Bonds due up--who can drive the runner home from first--makes more sense than spending it with, say, Mueller due up. All in all, it wasn't the major gaffe it appeared to be or was sold as, and I hope no one decides to blame Armando Rios for the loss.

I realize it goes against the grain to criticize Dusty Baker, but if you really need to find a goat, what about the Giant manager? In the top of the tenth with two outs and a runner on second, he had the best reliever in the league available, a day off Friday and no save situation imminent.

Now, I can almost understand letting Felix Rodriguez start the tenth inning. What I can't understand is letting him pitch to Jay Payton with the go-ahead run on second base. In the postseason, you have to win the game you're playing, and sitting on Robb Nen in that situation was a bit too conservative for my taste.

And I'm not saying it was Baker's fault the Giants lost, any more than it was Bonds's or Rios's or Rodriguez's. Because even in a game that was about individual performances, it still takes an entire team to win or lose.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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