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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Our Strengths Include Starting Pitching & Michael Tucker

In the past ten games, dating back to the finale in Miami on August 3, the five Mets starting pitchers have thrown 63 innings and given up 21 earned runs. That's an ERA of exactly 3.00.

That's not bad. That's not bad at all.

I guess we can now officially slide our floating anxiety anvil from above the rotation to above the corner outfielders because the starting pitching has quietly but definitely come around.

Each pitcher has taken two starts since August 3. These are the results.

Pedro Martinez: 13-1/3 IP, 3 ER

Orlando Hernandez: 13 IP, 6 ER

Tom Glavine: 13 IP, 5 ER

John Maine: 11-2/3 IP, 4 ER

Steve Trachsel: 12-1/3 IP, 3 ER

Not eye-poppin', Doc '85 numbers, but not eye-gougin', '06 Lima lines either. Every start in the last ten has given the Mets a genuine chance to win. The three club losses in this span are attributable at least in part to the other guy (Dontrelle Willis, Billy Traber) pitching just a little better twice and our pen pitching a damn sight worse than the other team's once.

We haven't been hitting a whole lot, which is of some nagging concern, but remember that we were getting antsy because our offense was making up for our pitching so often early in the year. Well, guess what — the reverse works sometimes, too. In Steve Trachsel's turns, it works to ridiculous extremes.

After being fed a mountain of runs start in and start out, he marched parched through the D.C. desert today. I'm not kidding about the parched — he wasn't allowed to haul his beloved case of vino with him on the team plane…a rather unjockly carry-on item that is presumably yet another reason we all love Steve Trachsel as we do. But he didn't let down. The Nationals may be a wine cellar-dweller, but do you feel gently buzzed or horribly hung over when the opposing lineup features the likes of Soriano, Johnson and Zimmerman? Stevie Shoelaces is certainly capable of pouring runs by the bottle for anyone, but he didn't for the second start in a row. He kept the Mets in the game long enough to allow the Nationals to take themselves out of it. And they did.

Good starting pitching today and the last ten days. Good, not great. Maybe we'll get enough great to make up for whatever bad is bound to come. But more than at any point this year, even when Alay Soler had me goin', I'm confident about whoever takes the mound on any given date.

As for the outfield corners, tie yourself up in knots at your own discretion. I'm not worried there either. I know it's quickly become de rigueur to fret the cast of Milledge, Chavez, Tucker and Ledee and the TBD availability of Floyd. I also know that there is a strain of Mets fans (otherwise known as “the majority”) that isn't happy unless they believe there's a segment of the big picture that's dangerously out of focus. The pen is falling! The mound is falling! Left field is falling!

Poppycock! Or pish-posh! Take your pick, they're both delicious.

Yes, it would be sweet to turn back the clock two weeks and whisper in Duaner Sanchez's ear, “you're sleepy…you're very sleepy…you don't want to go find Dominican food at two in the morning.” Then we'd still have Xavier Nady and Xavier Nady would be competent if not spectacular (in itself a crime in some Mets minds during his truncated tenure) and we'd have to stay up nights worrying about Delgado's slump and, perhaps, searching for our own Dominican food given that we're staying up that late. As is, Nady's not here, man. The guys who are, or maybe the guys who will be, will do the job because on the 2006 Mets, somebody usually does.

Can I prove that statement? Not exactly. Speculation is inadmissible as evidence if I remember my L.A. Law, but I can present for the court, your honor, today's Exhibit A, Michael Tucker.

Admit it, Mets fans. You've still got some of that 2004 in you even though we have now won exactly as many games in 2006 as we did during the entirety of two years ago. Maybe you are also unknowingly trudging around the darker portions of 2005, to say nothing of all of 2003 — and any number of the many unsuccessful seasons you've lived through — in your souls. It's OK, I do, too. Those years are hard to shake, but for your own good, at least try to shove them to way in the back, back where you keep your vaguely simmering dismay over George Bamberger or Wes Westrum.

When the Mets brought up Tucker, I don't know how many snarky references to Gerald Ice Williams I read and heard. “Oh no, Tucker! He's Williams! Why do they always do this to us? It sucks to be a Mets fan!” Or words to that effect.

Have you seen Michael Tucker since he came up? He's not Gerald Ice Williams. I don't remember Gerald Ice Williams throwing out a runner like Tucker did Thursday. He might have, but it doesn't stand out, know what I mean? I didn't see Gerald Ice Williams pile on some insurance runs as Tucker did that same day. And I sure as hell know when Gerald Ice Williams was double-switched into games the way Michael Tucker was at RFK Sunday, Gerald Ice Williams didn't wallop the tiebreaking and decisive homer late.

I know it's more fun, on some perverse level, to wallow in woe-is-Mets rooting; there nothing like claiming “I'm a long-suffering Mets fan!” for defeat cred. But that time has passed. If Michael Tucker were a 2003, 2004, even 2005 Met, it likely would have been dispiriting. Michael Tucker as a 2006 Met is at worst an experiment that won't come to fruition and at best a revelation. So far, it's the latter. This is what happens on good teams. It's the difference between depending on Michael Tucker and taking a flyer on Michael Tucker. On the 2006 Mets, Michael Tucker sits way down the depth chart. You get something out of him as you have twice in four games, then life is good. You don't? You find somebody else.

Who? I dunno, but he's out there and Omar knows where to find him. Put another way, who made more brilliant, game-saving plays at second today: you or Jose Valentin?

As for Michael Tucker's lousy, illegal slide into the person of Mike Piazza at Turner Field on July 5, 1998, that was more than eight years ago. He's on our side now. That pardons most crimes. If we were able to forgive Jay Payton for being stupid in Atlanta, we can dislodge the Scarlet A from Michael Tucker's cap if he's going to function effectively with an NY up there. Should he barrel home the same way as a Met that he once did as a Brave, we'll call him exceedingly competitive and exchange high-fives.

Shoot, if Angel Hernandez could catch day games after night games and get a hit or two in the process for us, he'd be dispensated so fast it would make Frank Robinson's head spin. And his doesn't appear to be a particularly spinnable head.

2 comments to Our Strengths Include Starting Pitching & Michael Tucker

  • Anonymous

    On the subject of Steve Trachsel, am I right that he has been a Met longer than anyone else now on the roster? (Or does it just seem that way?) You're right to say that he's nobody's idea of the second coming of Christy Mathewson, but I don't understand why he isn't the obvious third starter in a postseason rotation, with El Duque cued up for fourth.
    Maine and Soler and so on are young and resilient enough physically to be useful in long relief in the postseason, when you can't afford to give up on a game if the starter gets shelled early (as you usually can in the regular season). Unlikely that Trachsel would be effective in that role.
    But Trachsel clearly can still deliver high-quality starts when his splitter is working well, and he doesn't get rattled very easily — just what you want starting in the postseason. If Steve Hyde shows up instead of Steve Jekyll, you can be ready to quick-hook him and send in Maine or even El Duque.
    What do other fans see that I don't? Would they leave Trachsel off the October roster completely? That would be a crappy thing to do.

  • Anonymous

    You are correct. Steve Trachsel has a full two years of consecutive service time over everybody else here. He is the only 2001 defending National League champion Met, albeit he was defending something won by others while he was a Devil Ray and a Blue Jay.
    We've seen Steve Trachsel throw some marvelous games over the years, marvelous enough so that we wonder why he insists on throwing some horrible games. That it seems they come in equal proportion doesn't help his cause, perceptionwise (never mind the intermittent shoelace-staring). He seems to either flirt with a one-hitter or struggle to get through four. Seems to. I know that can't be the either/or case every time, but as in Colbert Nation, we're dealing with what it feels like rather than what it is.
    El Duque has the postseason resume to his credit which is why I think you're hearing him get the presumptive nod as third starter. A lot can go on, hopefully good, between now and then. Hernandez is accomplished in October relief, too, whereas I can't imagine Trachsel pitching on anything less than five days' notice.
    I don't think the Mets are pitching-deep enough to eschew Trachsel altogether. I agree that it would be the crappy thing to do. He's not, to put it in '86 terms, Ed Lynch (good guy/marginal performer traded at midseason after enduring horrible years and promising years). As he showed yesterday, he can pitch. It's the you-never-know factor, to say nothing of the 5 ERA and the 1:1 ratio of Ks and BBs, that makes so many (myself included) kind of twitchy that he will.