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October 22, 2000

World Series Prospectus

Game One

by Joe Sheehan

Timoniel Perez looked like he was going to get off the hook, thanks in part to Bubba Trammell. Trammell's bases-loaded single in the seventh inning tied World Series Game One and set up the go-ahead infield single by Edgardo Alfonzo. Unfortunately for Perez, the Mets bullpen couldn't hold the lead and he goes down as one of the goats of Game One.

Perez, like Melvin Mora last year, is a utility player getting a lot more playing time, and praise, than he deserves. Perez doesn't hit much, but is fast and plays a decent right field with a good arm. He's supposed to be an asset because he does the legendary "little things" well.

Last night, he did a little thing really, really badly, and may have cost the Mets the game. Perez's misread of Todd Zeile's sixth-inning double, on which Perez jogged around second base instead of sprinting, allowed the Yankees to throw him out at the plate and keep the game scoreless at that point.

Perez's gaffe was a poor decision and a costly one, but it was only a question of judgment, not a blight on his character. Just imagine if it had been, oh, Barry Bonds. Think of the press and fan reaction if Bonds had misjudged a fly ball in the World Series and cost his team the go-ahead run in a scoreless game. Do you think the word "lazy" might have been tossed around? Or worse?

Perez also made a questionable decision to bunt for a hit with one out and two on during that seventh-inning rally. He was credited with a sacrifice, and the move looked better after Alfonzo's infield single. Still, given that Pettitte appeared to be tiring, Perez is not likely to hit into a double play and the go-ahead run was on second base, you'd like to see him at least take one shot at driving the run home. Later, in the 12th, he pretty much embarrassed himself against Mike Stanton.

So if a player whose contributions are the "little things" does those little things poorly, exactly what is he bringing to the table?

Perez was the bad news for the Mets. The good was Bobby Valentine, whose stock has risen miles in my eyes this month.

First, Valentine elected to get Todd Pratt into the lineup for Game 1, using Mike Piazza as his DH. Pratt is one of the best backup catchers in baseball and a better defensive backstop than Piazza. The difference at the plate between Pratt and Bubba Trammell isn't that great, and by playing Pratt Valentine gives Piazza a game off behind the plate and upgrades the defense at a cost of having both his catchers in the game.

Contrast this move with Tony LaRussa's conservative managing in the NLCS. LaRussa carried three catchers, yet effectively gave himself a 24-man roster by refusing to use Rick Wilkins in any situation. Edge, Valentine.

Then, with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning, Valentine pinch-hit for Mike Bordick with Trammell. And yes, that seems like an easy call... until you think back to last year, when Valentine refused to hit for Rey Ordonez in any number of comparable, or even more dire, situations.

I was surprised by the decision, and glad to see it work so well for Valentine. Right now, his managing may be the best thing the Mets have going for them.

Game One Notes:

  • There was another baserunning decision to pick apart in this game. The Mets had second and third with one out in the ninth when Perez hit a two-hopper to Jose Vizcaino at second base. Todd Pratt held at third base, Perez was out at first base and the Mets didn't score in the inning.

    This is ground well covered, but even granting that Pratt moves slower than campaign finance reform and Vizcaino was in on the grass, the contact play has to be on in that situation. There's virtually no downside--the worst-case scenario is first and third with two outs--and the upside is a run and the potential for more.

    Holding Pratt was a needlessly conservative move. A nod to Tim McCarver, who was all over this one.

  • The Yankee bullpen, namely Jeff Nelson, Mariano Rivera and Mike Stanton: 5 1/3 innings, two hits, no runs, no walks, six strikeouts.

  • Nelson was effective, but I thought for sure he was balking on any number of pitches. I didn't see much of a stop at the set position. He sets so high that it may be difficult to discern, though.

  • If they have to ask Charlie Reliford if you swung, you're done. Reliford, last night's first-base umpire, called a couple of questionable checked swings strikes on appeal.

  • Has John Franco gone to the plate yet?

  • I'm no fan of Paul O'Neill at this point in his career, but Joe Torre's decision to let him bat in the tenth inning against Glendon Rusch was correct.

    Sending up Glenallen Hill or Jose Canseco might have brought Turk Wendell into the game, anyway. And in that situation, you want someone up who can reach base in any fashion or, failing that, at least put the ball in play. O'Neill against Rusch was, all things considered, a better idea than Hill or Canseco against Wendell.

    And again, it was Bobby Valentine's decision to play the middle infield back and give his team a chance to turn the double play that saved the Mets in that inning. If they had been in, O'Neill's ball may have snuck through and ended the game.

  • Hey, Turk, "Survivor" called. They want their necklace back.

  • No one really likes the blonde and most people couldn't pick the other guy out of a lineup. I'm thinking that if David Justice wants a gig after the Series, he could probably get a Senate seat without much trouble.

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

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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