I know, I know. I'm a couple of days behind the times on this one. But I couldn't let the signing of Steve Trachsel by the Baltimore Orioles go un-noticed.
I remember when Trachsel came to the Mets. His signing was about as heralded as that of, say, Rich Rodriguez or Allen Watson. This was during the Steve Phillips era. You know, when the team was run by a guy whose idea of mathematics was Kevin Appier + Steve Trachsel = Mike Hampton (c. 2000).
A friend of mine was quoted as saying in April of 2001, "I don't like this guy Trachsel. I don't like him, and I don't trust him."
"How bad could he be?" I mused. Well, 8-15 with two teams in 2000 didn't bode well.
Little did I know.
Trachsel was so putrid early on in his Mets days that he made Anthony Young look good by comparison. He got hammered for 10 runs in his first start against a mostly punchless Expos team. Another 7 against the same Expos 2 starts later. And his most memorable effort, 4 HRs given up in 1 inning to the Padres in May. He wasn't Trachsel. He was TRASH-el. He was so bad that he ended up getting demoted to the minors for a few weeks in July, following another thrashing at the hands of the Cubs, which dropped his record to a brilliant 2-10.
But something happened. After coming back from the minors, Trachsel seemed to right himself. All of a sudden, wins were piling up, and he ended up finishing the season with a mediocre but respectable record of 11-13 for the season. 2002 would be miserable for the Mets, but Trachsel again was nothing better than solid. In 2003, Trachsel had what could be called a career year, winning 16 games (for a team that lost over 90) and spun 2 one-hitters. Still, sporting a decidedly unsexy repertoire of pitches and working at a pace that made Sid Fernandez look fast, Trachsel still never quite won the fans over in New York. A good performance is a good performance, but it doesn't mean much for a losing team. Again in 2004, Trachsel was consistently mediocre. A back injury wiped out most of his season in 2005, and, for the first time, Trachsel actually gained some appreciation from Mets fans. 16 starts out of Kaz Ishii were enough to do that.
Then came 2006. In a season where Trachsel would have been counted on to do nothing more than what he had done in the past several seasons, Trachsel responded with his worst year since his arrival with the team. And yet, he won most of his starts. It helps when your team puts up 7+ runs routinely when you're starting. 15 wins, yes, but an ERA that ballooned to almost 5. And little love and no faith from the fans. But he did have one final shining moment, hurling shutout ball into the 7th inning in the Mets Division Clinching game.
And it was on to the playoffs for the first time for Trachsel, by now the longest tenured Met, and the lone holdover from the Bobby Valentine era. His closest playoff experience had been a brilliant performance in the 1998 Wild Card Play-in game, pitching for the Chicago Cubs. A few solid outings in the playoffs for the Mets would have certainly solidified himself fondly in the memories of Mets fans.
Pitching to clinch the NLDS, Trachsel did everything but blow an early 4-run Mets lead, departing what would become a wild Mets victory. OK, fine. That was a mere prelude to the epic stink-bomb Trachsel would vomit up in his Swan Song with the team, that Saturday evening in St. Louis. Barely getting out of the first inning allowing 2 runs, Trachsel proceeded to put his team in a major hole in the 2nd, first by allowing a home run to the opposing pitcher, and then departing with the bases loaded following getting hit in the leg by a comebacker. A performance of no grit, no guts and no heart. And that would be it for Trachsel. His final indignity with the Mets would be being bypassed for a potential Game 7 start in the NLCS for a man with a 3-13 record in the regular season. And out the door he went. Goodbye and good riddance.
And, irony of ironies, Trachsel is now called upon to fill the void left by another injured, ineffective ex-Met, Kris Benson, gone for the season from the Orioles with a rotator cuff.
Orioles fans, I have no sympathy for you. You know what you're getting into.