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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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.

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In Something Approaching Praise of Steve Trachsel

Steve Trachsel is a hard Met to love. He showed up here as an afterthought, introduced himself with incompetence and has done his best work under suspect circumstances. Even when he has succeeded, he has engendered little to no loyalty. There are no T Tallies to record each of his pop outs. There is no section of Steven's Stevedores, loading and unloading baseballs in his honor. Fans don't clap when he gets two strikes on a hitter. They look at their watches and wonder when he'll attempt to throw strike three. The lack of feeling is mutual. The next commercial in which the pitcher invites fans to “come out and get on the winning Trach with me!” will be the first.

There was never a Steve Trachsel bobblehead day per se. Instead, the Mets gave out his nodding likeness to a random row of patrons during his home starts. I think it was in his contract.

The Steve Trachsel oeuvre has been pretty well summed up in his past three Shea starts, all of which I've witnessed first-hand. On September 10, he didn't make it out of the third inning and was mostly booed. On September 18, he shut out the Marlins into the seventh en route to the Mets' clinching their division and was given a standing ovation. Yesterday, he plodded his way into the sixth before he was removed, trailing 3-1. He was mostly grumbled at.

In all three cases — pitching terribly, pitching brilliantly, pitching OK — Trachsel left the mound quietly and without acknowledging what was going on around him. Even when positioning himself as the first star of the game on the night the Mets became N.L. East champions, he kept his head down and kept walking.

That's Steve. Whether it's because he's ridden the rollercoaster of “who have you struck out for me lately?” far too many times or because he hadn't forgotten being unloved eight days before being showered in adulation or because he's steady as he goes, you're not going to get a lot that is warm or fuzzy out of Trachsel.

Check out this picture, the one appropriately entitled Joy. Carlos Beltran has just launched a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-7. At one point, the Mets were down 7-1. In what was then considered a National League Championship Series preview, the Mets had gotten the best of their most serious opponent. There was no stoppin' us now.

Beltran, not the most animated centerfielder on the block, is enraptured. His teammates are rushing home plate to embrace him. Dave Williams, a Met all of five minutes at that point, is joining in. And on the outskirts, lightly applauding as one might at the opera? It's Steve Trachsel, the longest tenured Met. Steve was pitching the next night. Maybe he didn't want to risk injury in a dogpile. Or maybe that's just Steve, a man who hasn't lasted as long he has in one place by getting too high or getting too low.

If you catch a replay of Mets Weekly this week, there's a ton of neat footage of the clinching celebration, lots of tape of the players frolicking on the field after they sprayed themselves silly in the clubhouse, lots of champagne bottles being swigged from. And there's Steve Trachsel standing off to the side, small smile creasing his face, holding a champagne flute. Ever the dedicated oenophile, Steve — the first Mets pitcher to win a division-clincher since Ron Darling — wasn't going to drink his sparkling wine in any way but the correct one.

Again, he was just being Steve Trachsel. The way he carries himself, the way he acts and doesn't react, the way he takes his time with runners on base, the way he gets little support when pitching exceptionally well, the way he gets loads of support when pitching a little too typically poorly…that's Steve Trachsel. There may not seem to be a lot of there there, but there he is: here.

When the Mets won in 1969, Ed Kranepool had seen it all, going back to the Polo Grounds. When the Mets won in 1986, Jesse Orosco could tell you what it was like in the last, dark days of the de Roulet administration and Mookie Wilson could add a few sentences on how far the team had come since the crowds barely equaled quorums. When the Mets made it back to the playoffs in 1999, all eyes turned to John Franco and the longevity he symbolized through a slew of bad and embarrassing seasons. In 2006, the Met who's been around longest is Steve Trachsel with six seasons of service. Yet there's nothing about him that suggests legendary perseverance or smacks of “this one's for Steve!” He signed a series of contracts starting in December 2000 and the latest one is still in effect. Result? Longest Met tenure. Save your tears for someone else.

He's pitched well over the years. Rarely great. Occasionally awful. He began about as badly as one could. In his first 7 starts, his ERA topped 8. He accepted a demotion to Norfolk and, in layman's terms, got his shit together and pitched like a professional for the rest of 2001. He was better in 2002 and 2003, but the Mets got worse. When his team turned a corner in 2005, they did so without him. By the time he was recovered from surgery, he was an afterthought. He was back for 2006 because his option was a relative bargain. He has taken every start this year because he's been healthy, the only starter from the original rotation of Martinez, Glavine, Zambrano, Bannister and Trachsel who's been able to say that.

Trachsel has the second-highest amount of wins, 15, among National League pitchers right now, one behind Brandon Webb, Carlos Zambrano and Brad Penny. His ERA, 4.97, is 34th among 39 qualifiers for the N.L. title. He has struck out 79. He has walked 78. This season, he has passed Bobby Ojeda, Craig Swan and Rick Reed on the Mets all-time victory chart. Steve Trachsel is now No. 10 among all Mets pitchers ever in wins. Bobby Ojeda was a World Series hero, Craig Swan won an ERA title, Rick Reed a two-time All-Star.

Steve Trachsel is Steve Trachsel, y'know? It's not even a matter of Good Trachsel and Bad Trachsel. There's just Trachsel. Sometimes what he's throwing works, sometimes it doesn't. He'll have one more start in the regular season and will probably be handed the ball at some critical juncture in the postseason. He will pitch and we will hope he succeeds not because he is Steve Trachsel but because he is on the Mets. However he accounts for himself next month, whether he produces a stifling conquest of the other team's batting order or an utter implosion that gets the bullpen cranking immediately, it will probably be the last we see of him. His contract is up, his manager doesn't seem terribly attached to him, his potential successors in the organization and on the open market are already looming.

And that will be that.

17 comments to In Something Approaching Praise of Steve Trachsel

  • Anonymous

    It's no coincidence that Trachsel arrived the moment Bobby Jones left. Because, at least spiritually, they're the exact same pitcher. Both of them would yo-yo between annoying, brilliant, terrible, reliable and nightmarish and somehow remain utterly unmemorable through it all.
    I drove up from DC to Philadelphia to see Bobby Jones's debut. It was promising and irritating, just like the rest of his career. He pitched a one-hitter that I now barely remember. (I remember the fans and the chanting, but not the pitching performance.)
    Earlier this month Omar Minaya was running down the list of Met starters and forgot Trachsel. Of course he did. He's Forgettable Steve Trachsel.
    What will he do in the postseason? Beats me. A Jonesian one-hitter wouldn't surprise me. Neither would a three-inning flopped souffle.
    And, while I'm on a roll, his name is impossible to say in a life-affirming, celebratory manner. Just try it. It sounds vaguely like the sound a washer might make when it needs a new belt.
    He's Steve Trachsel, the Rorschach that never inspires anybody to see anything. They just look at the blot until you take the paper away.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, he's kinda just… there, isn't he? I don't love him, I don't hate him, I don't really have any name-able emotion for him whatsoever besides generic “he's a Met” support.
    He just… is.

  • Anonymous

    Poor Steve.
    He's that co-worker whose farewell card comes around, and you write “Best of luck — we'll miss you!” and then you IM your friend and say, “Who the hell is Steve?”

  • Anonymous

    you guys are not wrong, and yet, it's not right.
    that is, something doesn't ring true.
    there was some conversation trachsel was having on saturday in the dugout that fox had miked up. i came in on the middle of it, but it didn't seem like he knew it was being broadcast. he's telling some unidentified young'un how when the mets play in the playoffs, the organization will be wanting them to turn over their uniforms, bats, etc. to be auctioned off or something. as i say, i came in on the middle of this, so i may have the set up wrong.
    the one thing he said that struck me was, and i'm paraphrasing, though only a bit: “after 13 years, getting into a playoff, you think i'm giving up my shirt?”
    just a hint from the guy that this season, and the run the team is on, means something to him too. (i also read a quate attributed to him that he had 15 wins and that ought to eliminate the need to “try out” for the post-season roster. more proof of intensity.)
    we get on trachsel because he's not as teamy as the rest of our guys. fine, not everybody can be that way. and let's not forget that some of the teamiest guys are just clubhouse politicians. senator al, you know who you are.
    trachsel has put in his time — and don't we know it, as we seem to have witnessed every extended excrutiating at-bat of it. he has come back from a back injury that could have been a career-ender; he has thrown the occasional gem, as greg notes, like the one-hitter last year against the giants. he has made all his starts. the only thing he really hasn't made is a true connection with us, da fans.
    one of the mets scorecards earlier this year had a cover shot of glavine and titled it, simply, the professional. that's what trachsel is. if we can't jump up and down for the guy — and i know i can't, i've seen too many of his starts to work up a joy about him — we should just acknowledge that regardless of the flavor of the month or the heat of the moment (he's not one of willie's boys, and he has never sought to ingratiate himself with metsdom generally), he has taken the ball and given us innings.
    is that so bad?

  • Anonymous

    I don't get on him at all. He's just another in a long line of so-so Mets starters who are sometimes brilliant, sometimes notsomuch, and usually sort of OK. He quietly goes about his business the same way most people do their jobs. He comes to work, does his job with varying degrees of quality and little fanfare, and goes home.
    Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  • Anonymous

    OK – I like Trachsel. I can't say that I love him – as you said, he's not warm and fuzzy. But I like him.
    Over the years he has signed autographs for my kids as well as my husband's banners. That goes a long way in this household.
    Also, even though it's a dry one, Trax has a great sense of humor. Remember the time he was the beneficiary of a triple play? After the game, reporters asked him what a triple play is, considering that a double play is considered a pitcher's best friend. He thought about it for a moment, then said, “A sexy mistress?”
    And I loved the fact that he was drinking champagne out of a flute last Monday. In his own way, that was totally appropriate.
    Sure, we're never going to see a sea of Trachsel 29 jerseys at Shea. But Trax is a good guy and a workhorse – we wouldn't have been able to get this far without him.

  • Anonymous

    I've been fascinated all year by one thing about Traschel's rep: it's the lack of notice for what he might otherwise be most famous for.
    September 8, 1997. Traschel surrendered Mark McGuire's Maris-breaking 62nd home run.
    Somehow that fact's been lost, if not to history, at least to hotstove discussion. All these decades later, I still remember the names of Jack Fisher (#60) and Tracy Stallard (#61) going into infamy for surrendering the tying/breaking homers in 1961. Both, naturally, went on to be Mets.
    Why the intentional or unintentional pass, I wonder? Is it because McGuire hit more than just the one tiebreaker? Because Bonds went on to wipe out the record (and hit #70, amazingly, NOT off that game's starter, ex-Met Dave Mlicki, but the immortal Wilfredo Rodriguez)? Because McGuire's achievement is de facto tainted? Because Trasch has Marty the Press Agent to keep these facts covered up?

  • Anonymous

    i, for one, have never forgotten that. i just assume that, yes, mcguire's subsequent run through the 60's, to end at a symmetrical 70, obscures trachsel's spot in the lore.
    which, i assume, is just fine with steverino.

  • Anonymous

    Teamy…I like it. How would you define it?

  • Anonymous

    I love Steve Trachsel. There, I've said it. He's an adult playing a boy's game, and I truly do mean “adult.” Not just someone over the age of 21 who does his best to forget it. Steve is an actual grown-up. He's got a very dry sense of humor, he's self-deprecating and he seems to be very smart. All those go a long way in my book.

  • Anonymous

    Teamy (TEEM-y), adj., fr. n., team: a) Contributing to the sense of the collective good of a team, especially in professional sports; b) Behavior that benefits a team, including but not limited to zealous on-field play at the risk of self-harm, clubhouse banter that keeps fellow players loose and media responses that praise or defend others and accepts responsibility for poor performances. See New York Mets, 2006 Eastern Divisional Champions.

  • Anonymous

    ——————————————–
    wasn't going to drink his sparkling wine in any way but the correct one.
    [...]
    ——————————————–
    How to skewer a guy without really trying. Absolutely hilarious. I wouldn't want to be the Guest of Honor at one of your blogroasts…

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg- The problem with Trachsel is he is too intense for his talent level. You know how great artists and musicians have that look?
    Steve has it, but his talent is just OK in the end. If you average out all of his starts good and bad he ends up somewhere in the middle.
    He has the same look if he winning 5-0 or losing 5-0. The shame of it is when he is interviewed he comes across very likeable, it's just his worrying about runners on base turning a game into a 6 hour deal, and his look of desperation when he is on the mound thinking the game is solely on his shoulders is what turns most people off.
    heneeds to lighten up out there and maybe his starts won't be as painful for him and us.

  • Anonymous

    There, you've said it. Excellent counterpoint…though I feel a small Trachselian smirk coming on at the notion that the best defense I've ever read of Steve comes via “Anonymous”. Walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of Trachsel admiration!
    (In other words, I liked what you wrote, whoever you are.)

  • Anonymous

    I thought it had something to do with bread. Or maybe that was yeasty.
    Not everybody has to be or should be Sen. Al or Sr. Pedro. I sense if Trachsel were simply more consistent, his detachment would be viewed as admirable stoicism.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe he needs to be that intense just to muster what talent he has. Sort of like me trying to make simple household repairs (a task at which my ERA is in double-digits).

  • Anonymous

    Self depracating from the get-go: Before Trachsel ever took the mound at Shea, he hit a spring training home run. “Are you known as a good-hitting pitcher?” he was asked.
    “I'm not even known as a good pitcher.”
    If nothing in his perfomance stands out as memorable, the 2001 resurrection should.
    From July of 2001 through June of 2002 (admittedly a gerrymandered season of the type they used to use to construct MVP years for Bernard King), he returned from Norfolk and went 15-11 in 199 innings, fanning 146 batters, while walking only 69, with a 3.57 ERA.
    For a team falling apart all around him. I was impressed.