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You need a game lost? Call on Young

Robert DeNiro acts. Eric Clapton plays the guitar. Jerry Seinfeld tells jokes.

You are what you do. It is true in life, but particularly true in the world of entertainment _ which, if you stretch the definition hard enough, includes the New York Mets. This is especially true in sports _ no longer are you defined by what you are, but by what you do.

Michael Jordan dribbles. Cecil Fielder homers. Jerry Rice catches passes. Bill Laimbeer fouls.

All of which brings us to a pleasant-faced young man named Anthony Young of the Mets, and what Anthony Young seems to do better than just about anyone:

He loses.

You need a game lost, A.Y. is your guy. He can lose big, he can lose close. He can pitch his heart out and get no support. He can hold an opponent to one run and lose, or he can have eight-run support and lose. He can lose to Reds and Astros and Phillies.

To Young, you see, it just doesn't matter. And that is the beauty here. It's just so democratic.

Poor Anthony Young. Twenty-one times in a row, Young has walked to the mound with a chance to win a game or to lose it. Twenty-one times in a row, through good times and through bad, over 14 months, Young has lost.

How bad is that streak? Consider that the man who has the record of 23, Cliff Curtis of the Boston Braves, has been dead for 50 years.

I know what you're thinking. That if called upon, you have complete confidence that you, too, have it within you to walk onto a major-league mound and, by golly, lose 21 straight times yourself.

But the paradox of Young is this: He's bad enough to lose all of those games, yet he's good enough that they keep giving him the ball. A Met named Paul Gibson stunk it up the other night, and the team promptly fired him. Young? He'll get the ball again Thursday or Friday.

The twin imagery also translates to Young's image. As a loser of 21 in a row, he is on the verge of becoming a national punchline. On the other hand, how hard can you be on a pitcher simply because he isn't Mets-proof?

Watch Young in small doses, and you do not think: "This guy is really lousy. Where do they keep the bats?" What you think is: "This guy has pretty good stuff. I wonder how much money he owes those guys who refuse to catch the ball behind him."

If ever a pitcher had a case to sue his teammates for non-support, it is Young. It is a given that the pitchers the Mets are hardest on are their own, but 21 in a row is a little much. Heck, the Mets even win occasionally for Frank Tanana, the first pitcher in history whose fastball speed matches his age.

Yet, here is Young, single-handedly returning to the Mets the vision of huggable failure. More than anyone, Young is the leading victim of the misery this team has become. Every infielder catches like Bill Buckner, every outfielder catches like Jose Canseco, and the whole darned team hits like Rafael Belliard. But they keep putting the L's next to Young's name.

If I am Young, the first thing I do upon my next start is call a team meeting. And I say this: "If, for any reason, I have offended the people of this clubhouse, I apologize. Please stop treating ground balls as if they had a rash."

Poor Anthony Young. Last year, after starting the season 2-0, he went through a streak where the Mets wouldn't get him any runs. He lost 3-1 twice. He lost 3-2. He lost 4-1. (Okay, he got hammered some, too. I said he was 0-for-21.)

This year, it hasn't been much better. Young lost five times out of the bullpen. He lost twice as a starter. On June

1, he had a three-hit shutout going through six innings when he left for a pinch hitter. His team lost 8-5.

Consider this: Young is 0-7 with an ERA of 3.60. Across town, Bob Wickman of the Yankees was 7-0 with an ERA of 3.76 before Tuesday's start against Boston.

The thing is, Young has a big-league arm. In 1990, he was the pitcher of the year in the Texas League, going 15-3 with a 1.65 ERA for Jackson. Of course, at Jackson, Young didn't have to turn around and see the 1993 New York Mets.

Back then, of course, it was considered cute to notice Anthony's last name and remember that a man named Cy Young won more games (511) than anyone in history. Of course, Cy lost more (316), too.

Poor Anthony Young. With the Mets, he seems destined to get the losses first.