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A Rouse-ing Victory And "The Big Meltdown"

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First of all, have a major league debut, Mike Rouse. 3 hits, a walk, a stolen base, and two runs scored--basically exceeding all of Antonio Perez' season stats in one day. Feel free to stay hot for 2-3 weeks, "Rousie," even if you have a Micah Bowie career that peaks at Yankee Stadium and doesn't sustain. The A's could really use it right now, fo' shizzle.

And while the A's bullpen may have too many has beens and never wases right now, it also has two studs: Kiko Calero and Huston Street. Blips aside, these two guys have been incredible. Thank you, both.

Certainly, the post-rain events turned a tidy victory into a nail-biter with multiple storylines to choose from. But the story tonight, to me, was Randy Johnson's visible meltdown in a start that gradually unraveled as he did, to where the A's could get the 6 runs they would need to win.

Was Johnson squeezed unduly by umpire Chad Fairchild? I'd say yes, a little bit, but not extraordinarily. There were a couple inside corner pitches I thought he really should have gotten, and also a couple I thought he shouldn't have gotten where the "Big Unit" went into "Big Pout" mode. And as Johnson pouted more, the strike zone seemed to shrink more, and Joe Torre's blank stare seemed to become just a tad more an irritated blank stare. Not irritated at Fairchild, but at his so-called veteran, who was putting on a clinic in how not to handle frustration. If I had to describe Torre's non-verbal running commentary, I would translate it as, "You can finish the goddamn inning, as long as it takes you, you #$&%$ing baby."

The whole thing unfolded like a soap opera:

  • Did Chad Fairchild "punish" Randy Johnson for challenging his strike zone by shrinking it further?
  • Did Joe Torre "punish" Randy Johnson for acting petulant when he is supposed to be a role model for the Yankees' younger pitchers?
  • Did Randy Johnson "punish" the fans for booing him by losing interest and dispassionately serving up gopher balls and walks?
I think starts like Johnson's is why they say about baseball, "90% of it is mental." The Big Unit doesn't have "3rd all-time in K's" stuff anymore, but he's a lot better than he pitched tonight. And while he probably blames Fairchild for tonight's debacle, Torre--and anyone else who has watched him all season--can tell you that Randy Johnson has met the enemy, and it is he. And for the A's, who need every edge they can get right now, the weather gods helped them again by pushing the Big Unit's start back to tonight, because a good pitcher in a bad frame of mind is a pitcher you want to face. As opposed to, say, Kiko Calero and Huston Street. Thank you both, again.