The Yankees’ 2-1 win over the Boston Red Sox this past Monday will be remembered as a turning point game if the Bronx Bombers go on to win yet another American League East title. Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez and Yankees hurler Mike Mussina were engaged in a brilliant pitching duel in which neither was involved in the final decision. This was the kind of game I used to see all the time growing up in the late ’60s and early ’70s but it has become a rarity these days.
George Steinbrenner made a rare appearance in the press box in the last frame of the game to cheer his troops on. You could not blame “The Boss” for being excited. The Yankees were able to salvage a split of the four-game series after being pulverized by the Red Sox in the first two contests of the holiday series.
When the Mets traded second baseman Roberto Alomar to the White Sox last week it seemed as if the fans and the media reacted with the kind of unbridled glee which should be reserved for when Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein are apprehended. While Alomar never performed up to expectations as a Met, it is unfair to vilify him as someone who did not care. He appeared to hustle, if not always intelligently, based on his numerous head-first slides into first base trying to leg out an infield hit. He was always thrown out by a step however and that pretty much sums up his career in Flushing.
Ace Mets pitcher Tom Glavine voiced his displeasure last week at the QuesTec camera system which is being employed by Major League Baseball to critique umpires’ pitch calls. Glavine feels that the umps are being pressured by MLB officials to call borderline pitches in the hitters’ favor. Arizona Diamondbacks’ Curt Schilling, a Cy Young Award winner, objected so much to this surveillance that he smashed a QuesTec camera with a bat. When informed of Schilling’s strenuous protestations, Glavine chuckled and said, “Now that’s telling you something. And Schilling has far better stuff than I have.”
Al Leiter is never shy displaying his emotions but he went overboard in defending himself on 1050 ESPN Radio in response to WFAN air personalities Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo and Joe Benigno attacking him on the air for allegedly asking Mets Manager Art Howe to pull him from a tight Yankees-Mets game which the Amazin’s went on to lose. The obvious implication was that Leiter lacked the guts to face the Yankees. The fact is that he was in physical pain.
Leiter’s best days are behind him and frankly he is way overpaid for what he produces on the field. Having said that, it is ridiculous to question his courage as anyone who watched him throw 142 pitches in that nail-biting Game 5 of the 2000 World Series would attest. Leiter probably feels betrayed because he has been a frequent guest on WFAN and he probably expected “kid gloves” treatment from them.
You can’t blame Mets General Manager Jim Duquette if part of him is pulling for the Phillies at Shea this weekend. It is not that he would be disloyal, it is just that any successful baseball GM has to have a Machiavellian streak in him. If the Phillies can challenge the Braves for the NL East title then it means that they might be interested in such high-salaried Mets players as Al Leiter, Jeromy Burnitz or “All-Star” Armando Benitez. The more playoff contenders there are, the more talent Duquette can extract from other teams. The Phillies have some superb minor league pitching as exemplified by Reading Phillies righthander Gavin Floyd and Lakewood Blue Claws southpaw Cole Hamels.