WW, of course, being scorecard shorthand for “wasn't watching.”
Last night went down as a rare WW on multiple fronts. I did catch an inning or two during dinner at 2 Toms, the justifiably legendary old-school Italian place in Gowanus, seeing enough on their old black-and-white set to grasp that we were tenuously ahead and the Padres were wearing those camouflage disasters. But then they changed the set over to basketball. I protested, but fairly quietly, despite the fact that at that point I was already drunker than a monkey: 2 Toms is a bastion of Yankee loyalty, and my being a Met fan had already earned me an only-half-kidding growl of “You're on thin ice.” If you've ever been to 2 Toms, you know that you don't mess around there, and I've already used up about eight of my nine lives where it's concerned: During the 2001 World Series Emily and I ate there with friends and in rapid succession our friend Pete (who has an amusing, maddening attraction to what you're not supposed to do) asked for the dinner options to be repeated (a no-no), then asked for something off the menu (a bigger no-no). And then we got caught cheering for the Diamondbacks.
Anyway, the rest of the night turned into a fairly taxing misadventure: There was the ill-advised bar after dinner, the subway may as well have been a tesseract given my tattered ability to navigate it, and I don't even want to talk about some of the other things that went awry. End result: For the first time in a very long time, I woke up this morning with no idea if we'd won or lost. Happily, my blog brother provided. Sounds like a great game, I thought, before staggering back to bed. (And when Keith noted that he was familiar with the wrong side of 4:30 and these days the recovery time is 72 hours, I nodded and moaned.)
The second WW, for today's game, could stand for “wasn't watchable.”
Is there anyone among us who still thinks Victor Zambrano is salvageable? Here are the counts Victor ran leading up to pitches put in play, against a team whose hitters didn't exactly show themselves to be selective this series: 2-1, 0-2 (a home run), 3-1, 2-1, 3-1, 3-1, 0-2, 0-1, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1, 3-1, 3-2, 3-1, 3-1, 1-0, 0-0, 1-1, 3-2, 1-0, 3-2, 0-1. End result: 81 pitches, 44 for strikes, and a tired pen. A typically awful Victor outing, and don't tell me it's just that his location was horrible. He kept mucking around with predominantly change-ups and sliders when it was obvious he had no command of them, got into bad counts, then had to throw fastballs — which, predictably, got hammered.
It's yet more evidence supporting an unhappy but inescapable conclusion: Victor Zambrano doesn't know how to pitch.
The arm is a gift from the gods, but the brain doesn't know what to do with it. Witness last week, when he followed Willie's curt scouting report that “he made bad pitches” by lamely arguing that the pitches were good but the location wasn't. Huh? Wha? That was reminiscent of Warren Spahn's famous quote that “for the first 60 feet that was a helluva pitch,” but Spahnie was kidding. Victor approaches hitters backwards, is scared of his own superb stuff, is easily rattled, and shows no ability to bear down when he has to.
And he's going to be 31 this summer — at this point, he ain't gonna learn. The fans loathe him, and I no longer feel sorry for him when they let him have both barrels. Yes, Victor's trying his best, and my philosophy is that you shouldn't boo anybody who's trying their best, saving the leather lungs for malingerers, the immoral or amoral, spectacularly negligent mental mistakes (which shouldn't have carryover) or repeated moments of incompetence in the same game that doom the team. (This also shouldn't have carryover.) But I do think there's something else that's boo-worthy: repeated evidence that a player isn't mentally prepared to perform at the necessary level. Armando Benitez is the obvious example, with his eggshell ego and his endless off-field disasters that he let follow him onto the mound. But Zambrano has reached that point too: He's taken the L in his own head before he ever throws a pitch.
And it's not survivable. Beyond the fans, the writers smell blood: When the beat guys start criticizing your clubhouse demeanor, you've entered a death spiral that's almost impossible to pull out of. Tom Glavine managed it last year, but Victor Zambrano ain't Tom Glavine.
Forget Scott Kazmir. This has nothing to do with Scott Kazmir. This is about 2006, and the dead spot in our starting rotation, and what's to be done about it before it costs us too many games. As for Rick Peterson's infamous prediction that he could fix Victor in about 10 minutes? I think there must have been an exponent missing.