Here’s the scenario: There’s one game you have to win, and you can choose Jake Peavy or Josh Fogg. Your choice?
OK, so that’s like asking whether, you’d rather own beach-front property or be live in an apartment. It’s a complete, 100-percent no-brainer. You take Peavy, not only because he’s going to win the pitchers’ Triple Crown in the National League, but because he’s fearless. Absolutely the perfect person to go into the hostility that will be Coors Field and shove it up the you-know-where’s of baseball’s hottest team.
That said, baseball is rarely that cut-and-dry. And even though Fogg has forged a career that will be lost in the fog the moment it’s over, he might be the right guy at the right time for Colorado. Fogg has had a terrific September, and so far has proven himself perfectly adaptable to big-game environments. This happens with players sometimes. They get exposed to important games after years of playing on losers — as Fogg did with Pittsburgh — and suddenly, they raise their game.
So it is that today’s showdown to determine the NL wild-card is anything but a slam dunk for the Padres. Baseball is full of supposedly lopsided pitching match-ups in winners-take-all that didn’t go the way they were expected. Go back only three years ago in the NLCS when Houston trotted out Roger Clemens and St. Louis started Jeff Suppan. Advantage, Astros, but victory to the Cardinals.
Anyway, my gut says the Rockies win, because they’ve come too far to lose now. My brain says the Padres win, because Peavy is so good. To borrow a line from my least-favorite ESPN broadcaster, “That’s why they play the game.”
Meantime, the collapse of the Mets pained me. Not because I’ve got anything against the Phillies — in fact, I dare say Jimmy Rollins has morphed into vintage, 1989-style Rickey Henderson, and we all saw how Rickey dominated that postseason — but because I’ve always been a huge Willie Randolph fan. He was a classy, smart player, and the engine that made those great Yankees teams of the 1970s go. On teams loaded with stars, he was the quiet one, and it was impossible not to root for him.
So having said that, I sure hope his team’s historic failure doesn’t cost him his job. But it probably will. It’s hard to imagine Randolph regaining the faith of 25 players after the events of the past two weeks, and if the manager doesn’t have that, he has to go. Randolph was criticized for some of his decisions when the heavily favored Mets lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS a year ago, so stack this on top of that, and there might be a need for a new boss in Queens.
Still, make sure you dole out the blame for the Mets’ malaise equally. General manager Omar Minaya gets a large chunk, for his failure to upgrade a rotation that forced the bullpen into nearing “E” back in July. Pitching coach Rick Petersen deserves a chunk for apparently being closed off to the wear-and-tear the bullpen was getting. And, of course, the players get the bulk of it, for playing the final two weeks as if they were Little Leaguers.
All in all, it was a sad thing to watch, because Randolph is as quality a guy as you’ll meet in baseball. But the game isn’t always fair, and he’d be the first to tell you that.