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On the wrong Trax

I've practically worn out my DVR rewinding that horseshit pass interference call against Tim Carter, yet every time the officials seem to get it wrong. The final drive was frustrating to say the least. There was plenty to like about the Giants' performance (rush defense, running game, Eli Manning), and plenty to work on (pass defense, offensive penalties).

As for the Mets, they are on auto-pilot now, trying to maintain the balance of keeping their regulars healthy while making sure they remain fresh and sharp on the field. Their magic number is down to four, and one would suspect them to clinch their first division title in eighteen years sometime this week, either in Florida or Pittsburgh. All I ask is that the clinch come on the field with a Mets victory instead of off the field with a Phillies loss. Really, I would just as soon see them lose a bunch of games on this road trip so that they can clinch at Shea Stadium next week in front of the home fans.

Of greater concern right now are the continued struggles of Steve Trachsel, who continues to be the Mets' least reliable starting pitcher. I will readily admit that, while I have never been much of a Trachsel fan in the past, I was always impressed with the way he managed to achieve a modicum of success despite questionable talent and unimpressive peripherals (strikeouts, walks, homeruns). Yet it becomes clearer with every start that whatever magic he was spinning when he compiled three straight seasons with an ERA of 4.00 or less has been lost for good in the bowels of his wine cellar.

The bigger question right now is what impact Trachsel's failings will have on the team's postseason roster, which must be declared prior to the first game of any series. As it stands, I don't see how there's any way you can let Trachsel start a playoff game ahead of John Maine or Orlando Hernandez. It's still unclear if the Mets plan to utilize Hernandez as a versatile bullpen arm as the White Sox did so successfully a year ago, or if they are banking on his voluminous October experience to aid their starting rotation.

Assuming good health (a weighty assumption right now), some sequence of Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine will start the first two games of the series. If the Mets are to go with four starters, I don't think there's any question that it should be Maine and Hernandez. If they decide to run only three starters out there in a series (a less likely scenario, in my opinion), I'd be inclined to give El Duque the nod over Maine, mostly because of his playoff pedigree.

I doubt there's any way that Trachsel would be left off of a playoff roster entirely, but you could definitely make the argument that he should be. If he's not going to be starting any games, I would have a lot more confidence running Darren Oliver out there in a long relief role than Trachsel. Oliver has been something of an unsung hero for the Mets this year, handling mop-up duty with aplomb and oftentimes keeping the Mets in a ballgame when the starter failed to go deep. Moreso, Trachsel is such a "creature of habit", as the Mets broadcasters mention with some frequency, that I wonder whether he would be able to adequately fill that long relief role. He is so accustomed to a strictly-regimented schedule: four days between starters, scheduled bullpen sessions, pregame meal, etc. that I shudder to imagine how he would react to the life of a relief pitcher.

I fear that since Trachsel is a Proven Veteran™ Willie Randolph will feel inclined to give him a start come October. I also fear that this would be a terrible error in judgement on his part. This post-game quote scares me a bit, as Randolph reacts to Trachsel's second consecutive dreadful start:

"I'm not concerned," said Randolph. "You can't always be perfect. The next time, he'll probably pitch a gem.
Personally, I would sooner give a postseason start to Dave Williams, who has been terrific with the Mets (his performance thus far reminds me a bit of a young David Wells, more in terms of his control and less in terms of the hammer curveball).

The Mets stil have a few weeks to sort these things out. I have a certain level of respect for showing loyalty to guys who have won in the past and have been with the team for a long time. That respect runs short when such loyalty puts the Mets at a disadvantage, especially in a five game series.