Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Dangers Of Waxing Nostalgic, A Teeny Bopper Leaves Beantown

It seems that our friends in the rebellion don't quite know how to take Al Leiter's departure from the good fight.

Metstradamus seems quite annoyed about the whole to-do of Al retiring after a spring training game with the Yankees. While our friends at Faith and Fear In Flushing seem torn in how to feel about a player who on one hand was an important cog in their playoff runs in 1999 and 2000, but was such a divisive force as lockerroom politician toward the end of his run at Shea.

While I would never try to interfere in the internal affairs of my sworn enemies (Who, me? Never!), I do know how it feels to see a former friend playing with your sworn enemy and I can relate to the confusion that it creates within your baseball psyche.

My personal feeling about Leiter was that I never wanted him to leave us in the first place. I thought it was a huge mistake to trade him for Jesse Barfield. You don't trade young southpaws with stuff like his. You exercise patience. Mets fans like talking about how bad the Zambrano for Kazmir trade was a couple of seasons ago. Well, Leiter-Barfield has its place in the pantheon of bad trades as well. Yeah Barfield was an established slugger, but this was a trade that was the result of Billy Martin's impatience with young pitchers and King George's desperate need for Star power. This had nothing to with good baseball sense and building a potential winner for the future. What we needed back then was pitching not offense.

It killed me watching Leiter win two titles in Toronto. I know it was wishful thinking, but can you imagine a staff of Leiter, Cone, Key, McDowell and Pettite in 1995 vs Seattle? Or Cone, Leiter, Wells, Andy and El Duque in 1998? Wow.

He should have been one of us. It was sad for me that Leiter had to be the one who lost game 5 of the 2000 World Series for the Mets. Why couldn't it have been Mike "Good School Districts" Hampton or Armando Benitez? Why did Bobby Valentine have to leave him in in the ninth? I know Mets fans are asking the same question for different reasons.

I'm glad Al came back to have his one shining moment in Yankee uniform at Fenway last July. It was nice to see what could have been. The banished son was back home in the fold.

Do I want to see an Al Leiter Yankeeography? Hell no. He played with the enemies of the empire far too long and there are much more deserving subjects who haven't been covered. But it was nice to have him back wearing pinstripes...wearing "Rags" old number. Hopefully Mets fan will appreciate what they had in Al as time goes on.

Speaking of the Mets....Let me go on the record by saying that I can't wait to see this new ballpark built. It will be a great thing for New York Baseball and sports in general to see two modern ballparks in town. If for no other reason than not have to see that eyesore of a stadium on the Grand Central anymore.

But I'm still trying to figure out this nostalgia kick with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Ebbets Field.

I live not too far from where the old ballpark used to stand. So I'm somewhat intrigued by the idea.

But the Mets have over 40 years of history of their own to draw inspiration from. Why wax nostalgic over a team that didn't even want to stay in New York? I understand both sides of the argument of why the Dodgers left town. I understand wanting to recreate some of the passion from what Roger Kahn affectionately calls "The Era".

But the Mets will never be the Dodgers or the Giants. Nor should they want to be. If they ever want to be revered and looked at with the same respect as those teams were and are...they have to get out of their shadow and stop evoking the names of Robinson, Reese, Mays, Irvin and Snider. And start focusing on names like Carter, Seaver, Hernandez, Gooden, Strawberry, Backman, Piazza, Franco and Knight.

Embrace their past, the good and the bad, in the way fans of the Reds, Pirates, Red Sox, Orioles and yes, the Yankees do. Then maybe, they'll stop feeling like second class citizens in their own town and in the baseball world.

Stop hating my team more than you love yours. Then maybe, you'll realize that actually have a team and a history worth rooting for.

Red Sox fans might hate the trade right now, but the Pena for Arroyo deal was a good baseball move.

Pena has got some pop in his bat. Yeah he's streaky and he won't remind anyone of Clemente in the field. But this kid could potentially wreak havoc in that park.

And eventually, they have to cut their ties with Trot Nixon. I know that saying that in New England is punishable by death. But this guy is useless versus quality southpaws. Useless. He's average fielder at best and has no speed on the basepaths. And while everyone loves bringing up the usual suspects up when it comes to the juice....I wouldn't be surprised if Nixon has or had a fondness for needles as well.

You got a good young power hitter who could really develop into something with Manny and Ortiz as his mentors. And you gave him up for a soft throwing righthander who has a penchant for hanging curveballs to A-Rod and Sheff.

I know all the infidel girls loved "Brandon" and his guitar. But he was never going to be more than a number five starter or long-reliever in the American league. Too many good hitters who will eventually catch up to his stuff. Jim Kaat says that once a hitter knows that you can't blow it by him, than all he has to do is wait for his pitch. And when you hang curves and sliders like Bronson does, they won't have to wait long.

This works out well for both teams. The Reds get an experienced starter who is used to pitching in a bandbox of a park while the Red Sox get someone who can hit against good lefties like the Big Unit and Johan Santana.

And on top of that, it's great for the Yankees because it hurts the Sox starting pitcher depth. Now the Red Sox have a 40 year old coming off of a bad ankle and a flamethrower who has never thrown over 200 innings in year anchoring their rotation. With a 40 year old knuckleballer, a 43 year old southpaw with a bad back and a kid who has started a full season in the majors to back them up.

I love trades like those.


Blogger Metstradamus said...

Okay, this is why I hate you.

You have the absolute gall to compare Al Leiter for Jesse Barfield to Kazmir for Zambrano. Those two trades aren't even in the same area code in terms of how awful they were.

Leiter had at least a look in the majors before he was traded for Barfield, and while he did have potential, he also had blisters. And while in hindsight you can say the trade didn't work out, you can't say that there was the backlash over trading Leiter as there was over trading Kazmir. Mets fans do not need the benefit of hindsight to tell you that was a disgusting trade.

Here's the new rule: when you win 26 titles, and you defeat the Mets in the only World Series ever played against each other, you lose all rights and privelages to play the role of the victim. Those two trades do not even belong in the same blog let alone the same sentence.

1:57 PM  

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