On fantasy trades and no-hitters

The Late Show‘s Top Ten Cool Things About Pitching A Perfect Game

As read by Randy Johnson on May 19, 2004:

10. “After this, I can go 0-15 for the year and honestly not give a crap.”
9. “My pre-game dinner at Denny’s tonight? On the house!”
8. “Shows everyone that even though I’m 40, I can still … I’m sorry, I lost my train of thought.”
7. “Cool to get congratulatory call from the President, even though he kept calling me “Larry.”
6. “Can walk up to guys who’ve thrown no-hitters and whisper, ‘Loser.'”
5. “All the pine tar I can eat!”
4. “Your catcher hugs you and it feels kinda … nice”
3. “Maybe people will finally forget about the time I killed that bird.”
2. “It’s just one more thing about me that’s perfect, am I right, ladies?”
1. “George Steinbrenner just offered me a billion dollars to sign with the Yankees.”

Maybe two weeks before Randy Johnson’s perfect game last week, a Red Sox fan in my fantasy league e-mailed to see if I’d trade him Curt Schilling for Johnson. He was wary of making the “homer” trade, thinking Johnson could be slightly better than Schilling this year. I thought otherwise, and turned it down.

Then Johnson went out and lost 1-0 to the Mets, pitching a great game. He followed that up with perfection.

My thinking was this: Schilling and Johnson can have very similar numbers on the same team, but now Schilling is on a better team. I figured his numbers had the potential to be better. Besides, Schilling’s injury last year wasn’t a common pitching injury — he broke some bones in his hand on a hard hit up the middle. It wasn’t a shoulder or elbow injury, no rotator cuff or ligament damage. If anything, it allowed him to rest his arm and throw less innings last year. Johnson’s injury was different: It was his knee, and some reports say it’s still suspect, that as long as the pain remains minor, or as long as he can pitch through it, he’ll go on. But when that pain threshold gets too high, he’s in trouble. Our league also doesn’t have DL slots, a decision I abhor and a fight I’ve not been able to win with the majority of our 10 members voting against it. Without any DL slots and with our lineup settings, any injured players have to become part of our five-man bench. So if you have four injured hitters and two of your bench spots are taken up by pitchers, then you’ve got to cut somebody just to get another hitter to put into your lineup. So I couldn’t take the chance that I’d be trading my No. 1 pitcher (and one of my three keepers from last year) for a very similar pitcher on a weaker team who, if he went down, would leave me without a No. 1 starter. Yes, if Schilling goes down, I have the same problem, but at least that’s one that didn’t have the warning signs of a potential Johnson injury.

* * *

As some writers and announcers are fond of saying, for the 6,706th time since the team’s inception in 1962, a Mets pitcher failed to throw a no-hitter. Tom Glavine came close yesterday, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning and giving up the only hit in his 4-0 complete-game win with two outs in the eighth.

Four outs away. Again.

And, for the record, I was offered Glavine in a trade in the same fantasy league about a month ago. Turned that one down too. Decided to keep Juan Pierre.

I’ve watched so many Mets games get past the fifth with a 0 in the hits column for the opposing team. I once remained in the same horizontal position on the couch one night as David Cone mowed down the Phillies or the Braves or whoever it was in the late 80s that he nearly no-hit. I didn’t move until he gave up that first hit, and by then I really had to go to the bathroom. I’ve seen two minor-league no-hitters in person, but I’ve yet to watch one in the majors even on TV — most likely owing to the fact that the Mets are usually the only games I watch from the beginning and, well, you know. I was at the ballpark on September 2, 1990, when Dave Steib threw one for the Blue Jays, but that was in Cleveland and I was at Shea.

Maybe I’ll see one tomorrow night. I’ll be at Shea when Steve Trachsel, who threw one of the Mets’ two one-hitters in three games last year, faces the Phillies. It’s my fourth Mets game this season … and my fourth Steve Trachsel start this season. He’s quickly become the pitcher I’ve seen throw the most innings in person in my lifetime. Last offseason, I discovered Retrosheet and began the process of cataloging ever major league game I’ve attended. I remembered many of them offhand, not by date, but by pitcher, home run, event, etc. I remembered Lenny Dykstra’s inside-the-park home run for the Phillies against the Mets, and found the date of July 24, 1990, in a Phillies media guide I have. I recalled Joe McEwing and Mike Piazza homering off Randy Johnson on a Sunday afternoon at Shea in 2000, so I browsed for that box score. I consulted friends and family who attended certain games for their recollections, and I dug out old scrapbooks for ticket stubs. I’m certain I got every one, which is now up to 85 games since my first one in August 1983, and I would also count the 1989 Mets-Yankees exhibition game at Shea at the end of spring training, since it was two major league teams in a major-league park close enough to the regular season, but I can’t find a box score. Because I can’t remember exactly when I got to the park, or if we left early, or when I was in the bathroom and missed an at bat or four, I used artistic license to just count all stats from every game for which I had a ticket. If I was in the ballpark for an inning, I was in the ballpark for five innings, and the stats count.

So Trachsel leads in individual innings pitched, and Mike Piazza has both games played (24) and at bats (91). I’ve yet to scour the data for leaders in all the other categories, but I do know this:

• I’ve been to 16 ballparks, including the now-retired (and, in some cases, razed) Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, County Stadium in Milwaukee and Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

• The Mets are 21-22 in the 43 games I’ve seen them play. The Yankees are second with 22 (14-8), the Phillies third with 11 (4-7). The Braves and Pirates, with nine each, lead the teams more than a two-hour drive from the Jersey Shore.

• I’ve seen all 30 teams play at least once.

• At 3-0, the Royals are the only team undefeated in more than one game I’ve attended.

• The Dodgers are the opposite at 0-3.

• The Brewers are 2-0 as a National League team (a win each at County Stadium and Wrigley Field), 0-1 as an American League team (at Yankee Stadium).

• After attending one game in 1983 (Yankees 2, Angels 1, August 21) and two in 1985 (the Mets split at Shea, losing to Cincinnati and beating Chicago), I’ve seen at least one game every year since 1988.

• The 12 games I attended in 2000 are the most in one season, followed by 1990’s 10.

• July’s 21 games is tops by month, followed by June’s 16 and September’s 15.

• I’ve seen four October games, two of them postseason (the Mets’ Game 1 NLCS loss in Atlanta in 1999 and their Game 5 NLCS clinching victory over St. Louis to send them to the 2000 Subway Series).

Tomorrow we’ll see if the Mets can break .500 for 2004 and reach .500 for my career, and if

Trachsel can improve upon his 2.48 ERA, his 1.20 WHIP and his 2-2 record in 40 innings over six starts.

And just maybe a no-hitter.

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