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
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,
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.