Monday, April 18, 2005

Mitch Williams Disease

During the baseball offseason, The Monk had no problem with the repeated rumors that the Yankees might trade Tom Gordon. Why? Two reasons: (1) his effectiveness in 2004 was entirely overstated (dubbed the Yankees' "8th-inning closer", he blew more saves in fewer chances than Rivera) and (2) the possibility of Mitch Williams Disease.

Mitch Williams was the Maalox-moment closer of the 1993 Phillies who blew four saves in the 1993 postseason, two against Atlanta in the NLCS (which the Phils somehow won) and two against the 'Jays in the World Series. A hard-throwing lefty, he was nicknamed Wild Thing because he averaged 7.1 walks per 9 innings in his career, and 6.8 BB/9 before his awful abortive campaigns post '93. After helping choke away a 14-9 eighth-inning lead in game 4 of the WS and giving up Joe Carter's series-winning dinger in game 6, Williams was a complete mess, as you can see here.

Gordon was a ripe candidate to contract MWD: he set Mariano up for the fall by horrible pitching on two of the three blown saves Mo suffered in the 2004 postseason (game 2 v. Minnesota, game 5 v. Bawstin), his awful ALCS (6.2 IP, 6 ER, 10 H, 8.10 ERA) contributed immensely to the Yanks' downfall, his nerves were awful -- he spent copious amounts of time barfing in the clubhouse before the ALCS games, and his history shows him as a post-season choker -- total of 17.1 IP, 20 H, 15 ER, 8 BB, 13 K and 7.79 ERA in his post-season career.

The myth of Tom Gordon as the eighth inning closer is infecting the Yanks today. In the offseason they signed Felix Rodriguez -- the fireballing setup man for the Giants for years and for the Phils last season -- to support the 'pen. Because of Gordon, and Torre's trust of Tanyon Sturtze (don't be fooled, the O's tagged him for some cheap hits Saturday), F-Rod is underused, Gordon is relied upon too heavily, Quantrill is a non-entity, Mike Stanton is being underutilized as a lefty specialist (he's never been one) and the Yanks' 'pen is in limbo. Meanwhile, Gordon has sucked -- two straight cruddy outings in losses to the Blosax and the O's and a 7.50 ERA.

The answer? The NY Post's headline after Gordon's choke job Saturday, "FLUSH GORDON", was a tabloidy-cute play on words. The Monk thinks it's a proper course of action.

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