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Mets: The Tin Man’s Team

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

It’s less than a full month into the season and normally I’m the first person to say, “it’s too early to panic.”  Seriously, I am.  But this is an exception.  IT IS TIME TO PANIC.

And here’s why:

After today’s sorry loss to the Cubs (8-1), the Mets have now lost nine games.  Of those nine games, the Mets have fallen behind early and failed to score more than 1 run five times.  That is ugly.  The simple fact is this: when this team gets down, they give up.  Don’t believe me? Take a look.

APRIL 6 @ ATLANTA: The offense is shut down by John Smoltz.  No big deal, right? Smoltz is still a great pitcher, a true ace, and losing to him is not a big deal.  But Smoltz only pitches 5 innings, and Mets fail to do anything productive off of the less-than-impressive Braves bullpen.  They squeak out a single run in the 9th but that’s only because David Write is great.  Final score: 3-1, Braves.

APRIL 8 vs. PHILADELPHIA: The boys in blue and orange lead 2-0 on a solo HR by Delgado (this was his last positive contribution to the team) and a fielder’s choice by Ryan Church.  But that’s it.  After Church’s RBI (which is an RBI on paper, but the dribbler was barely touched by his bat) the Mets scored nothing after the 4th inning.  The could not scratch out a run off of an ancient Jamie Moyer or the “terrible” Philly bullpen (Gordon, Romero, and Chad Durbin). What’s worse is that they left runners in scoring position in the 5th, 7th, and 8th innings!  Once again, they simply gave up on trying to score. Final score: 5-2, Phillies.

APRIL 12 vs. MILWAUKEE: Again, the Mets scored 2 early (both in the first inning) but then they failed to score more than a single run the rest of the game.  This was Santana’s homecoming, and, while he wasn’t light’s out, he was still good enough to win.  But the Mets couldn’t score anything against Ben Sheets, despite being very hittable.  They left runners in scoring position in the 1st and 2nd innings, and then proceeded to do nothing the rest of the way.  Final score: 5-3, Brewers.

APRIL 21 vs. CHICAGO: The Cubs jump out and go head by 2 in the 4th inning, and once they’re behind, the Mets just stop.  The offense is anemic, scoring just one lone run.  Reyes led off the game with a single, and if I had known that this would be the high point of the game, I would have stopped watching right then.  Final score: 7-1, Cubs.

APRIL 22 vs. CHICAGO: This was a repeat performance of the game on the 21st.  The Mets fall behind by 3 after the 4th inning, and again manage only 1 single run.  That’s it.  This, just like the day before, was a winnable game; the underwhelming Mets bullpen gave up runs late and put the game out of reach, but had the offense found a way to get something—anything—done earlier, it would have been an entirely different ballgame.  Final score: 8-1, Cubs.

So what’s the point to all of this?  Simple: The Mets seem to be lacking a sense of caring.  The heart just isn’t there.  It’s what was missing last year and it seems to be missing already now this year.  People will tell you that the bullpen blew it for them in September of last year; others will say it was the manager’s fault; I say it was a lack of heart.  I didn’t like the team that lost those games, but not because I’m not loyal or because they were losing or because I’m a fair-weather fan.  I didn’t like that team because they just looked like they gave up.  The Phillies deserved to win last year because they never gave up: they came from behind a ridiculous number of times last year because they had heart.  This team, the 2008 incarnation of the New York Mets, so far, has no heart.  And if this keeps up, it’s only going to get harder and harder to root for them.

I say this to my students all the time (I’m a teacher): I will work as hard for you as you will for yourself, but I won’t work harder.  The same thing applies: I refuse to care more about the Mets wins and loses than the players on the team. They need to show that they actually care or they’re in danger of another disappointing season.

Castillo Aching for a Rest?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

For a guy who just signed a $25 million deal, Luis Castillo sure doesn’t sound like he’s all that enthusiastic about playing all that often. 

Castillo commented to the NY Post yesterday that “Sometimes I do [need  a rest].  When I play three or four games in a row, maybe I can get a day off.  I’m going to talk to Willie about it.” 

In case you missed that last paragraph, let me say it again: Castillo needs a rest after play for “three or four games.”  Three or four games.  Three.  Or Four. 

It would have been understandable if he were suffering from some temporary injury, one that was causing him to tire easily or be more vulnerable to injury or fatigue.  But there is no injury that I know of. He had surgery on his knee over the off-season, but it’s supposed to be fine by now.  Plus, there is not indication that his request for time off is a temporary thing.  The implication in his statement is that he will need that break for the rest of his career. 

Let’s do some math here.  He is signed for three full seasons after this one.  There are 148 games remaining in this season, and then 486 to go from 2009-2011. That’s a total of 634 games he has, games for which he is guaranteed pay.  If he is going to take a day off every 3.5 days, that means he’s bound to miss 181 games, which is more than an entire season.  All of these numbers are, of course, excluding playoff games and spring training games. 

I want to like this guy.  He’s a Met, the Mets are my team, and when I do the math, that means I should like him.  But the way he plays, combined with the slump he’s in to start his season and the huge contract he undeservedly signed, just make my liking him impossible. 

I’m officially starting the countdown:  only 634 more games until Luis Castillo’s contract is off the books.

Does Pedro’s Injury Really Matter?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Two and Out?  Seriously?

Okay, did we learn nothing last year as Mets fans?  Guess not.

Did winning the first three games of the season against the defending champ Cardinals in 2007 guarantee a great season?   Hardly.

So does splitting the first two games of the season automatically means that our World Series hopes can go out the window?  Apparently.

The NY Daily News headline: Pedro Martinez’s injured leg puts season on shaky ground

The NY Post article: “Pedro Martinez heard a pop in his left hamstring last night. Was that the sound of the Mets’ World Series hopes bursting along with it?”

The New York papers seem only too happy to bring up the less-than-exciting possibility that Pedro Martinez will be missing an extended amount of time.  The Mets said to expect he’ll miss four to six weeks, which means he’ll be back sometime during mid-May.  To miss, this isn’t a big deal at all. 

Think about it: Pedro was virtually MIA for all of last year.  Glavine is gone (thankfully) and replaced with Santana (anyone not happy for that swap?).  Maine and Perez are a year older and wiser, yet both are young and strong and in their prime, and both figure to be better in ’08.   Pelfrey starting in the 5-spot is every bit as good as the parade of has-beens who started there last year (Chan Ho Park, Brian Lawrence, etc.).  So what have we really lost?  Nothing.  The only significant change is whatever more Santana gives us then Glavine would have. 

I’ll take that deal any time. 

Mets fans, relax.  Pedro will be back and he’ll be good.  And in the meantime, the staff will be just fine. 

Cytanna Leads Mets on Opening Day

Monday, March 31st, 2008

From the first pitch, Johan Santana was on. His fastball was in the low 90’s and his changup would have fooled Ty Cobb, and he pitched 7 strong innings to lead the Mets to a 7-2 win over the plucky Marlins on Opening Day 2008.

Santana struck out Hanley “I think I’m better than Jose Reyes” Ramirez to start the game, and he then proceeded to retire the first nine hitters to face him. It wasn’t until a very bad ball call by home plate umpire Rick Reed that Santana allowed a base runner, walking the aforementioned Ramirez to start the 4th. After erasing Dan Uggla and Mike Jacobs, Josh Willingham gave the Marlins their only highlight from the night, a two-run bomb of a home run to left/center.

Otherwise, Santana scattered only two more hits the rest of the way through seven very solid-looking innings. He struck out eight and walked just two, a ratio that is very nice to see. What’s more is he worked at a very quick pace throughout his time on the mound, ensuring that his defense was awake and ready behind him.

You could probably blame the Mets offense for Santana’s “shaky” forth inning because in the top half, the boys in gray sent ten batters to the plate over the course of half an hour. Santana was probably rusty from sitting on bench for so long between innings.

The story of the offense was all told in that forth inning. Beltran, Pagan, and Wright all doubled, Church and Reyes both singled, and, after it was all said and done, the Mets sent six runs home. Reyes’ single and Wright’s double both came with two outs and runners on base, so it’s nice to see them come through in the clutch. They would add a tack-on run in the top of the 9th when Marlon Anderson, who had singled earlier in the inning, went to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a terrible throw to third that went into no-mans-land behind third base.

It was a great day for Mets fans. Here’s some observations:

1. Marlon Anderson continued where he left off last season and got a pinch hit in the 9th inning. Plus, he played heads-up ball by scoring from second on a series of Bad News Bears plays by the Marlins.

2. Jose Reyes did seem a bit toned-down today. What was really nice was seeing him sacrifice bunt Anderson to second to help get him in scoring position. A “selfish” player wouldn’t give up a chance for a hit so early in the season, especially with what was at the time already a four-run lead.

3. The Mets’ aggressiveness on the basepaths was seen, thought not to much avail. Castillo stole second in the fourth, but Reyes got thrown out at second to end the sixth and then Wright made the second out trying to steal third base in the seventh.

4. Angel Pagan looked really strong today. He looks fit and I’m excited about having him in the lineup.

5. Enough can’t be said about how strong Santana looked today. If this is what we can expect from him, he’s going to run away with the Cy Young voting.

6. All the commentators (it was good to hear Ron, Keith, and Gary again!) commented pretty regularly on how the Mets are the best in baseball on Opening Day. All I can help wondering is, which team is the best in baseball on the last day of the season, when it really matters?

7. Both Jorge Sosa and Scott Schoeneweise looked great in the 8th inning, and Aaron was great in the 9th. Other than Matt Wise, who seemed tired or something, the pen did a fantastic job holding the lead.

8. The Marlins have male dancers. They’re fat and balding and ugly, and I love them. Thanks to Grim for the link.

It’s Old Timer’s Week at Shea!

Saturday, April 14th, 2007

Yesterday, it was Tom Glavine getting his 292nd win that propelled the Mets to victory. Today, it was an even older Julio Frano who gave the boys in blue and orange the win over the Nats, 3-2.

Franco came up to pinch hit in the seventh inning with runners on first and second and the game tied and, despite looking somewhat slow at the plate, managed to find the hole up the middle. He hit a pitch from Ryan Wagner on the ground right back up the middle and David Wright came in to score what would be the winning run.

The night will probably be remembered for Mike Pelfrey’s less-than-perfect start, as he managed to go five and 2/3 innings but gave up six hits and four walks. That walk total could easily have been higher but he seemed to get the benefit of some very close calls.

I don’t have time to do a full recap but here are a few thoughts:

1. David Wright looked pretty good. Regular readers of this blog know that I’m not too high on Wright so far this season, but he hit the ball hard tonight and had some good at-bats. Hopefully, I’m very wrong about him.

2. This trend of walking hitters has got to stop. Maine, Perez, Glavine, and now Pelfrey have given up a combined total of 4,328 walks over the last few games (my numbers may be slightly off). To be a winning team, that number has got to come down.

3. John Patterson is considered the Nats staff ace. John Patterson. ‘Nuff said.

4. The team is being very aggressive on the bases, just like last season. Reyes, Wright, and Shawn Green(!) stole bases last night, so that was very good to see. The used that aggressiveness as a major weapon last season so if they continue the trend they’ll be dangerous this year again.

31-3 Isn’t a Bad Start, Huh?

Friday, April 6th, 2007

From the moment the game started and Jose Reyes hit a lead-off triple, we knew it was going to be a good night for the Mets offense. We didn’t know that it was going to turn into an old-fashioned shellacking though, as the Mets pummeled the Braves at Turner Field, 11-1.

Reyes’ triple was quickly followed by a sacrifice fly by Paul LoDuca and the Mets had a lead after four pitches. They would never look back. A Jose Valentine double would plate Moises Alou in the second inning, and Jeff Francoeur’s solo home run in the fourth would be the only offense mounted by the seemingly lifeless Braves. The Mets would add three in the sixth, and then blow the game open in the eighth, scoring six more runs (only two earned).

But the offense wasn’t really the story. No, that honor goes to Oliver Perez. He threw just 82 pitches to complete seven innings, and he would have gone into the eighth if the offense hadn’t decided to send twelve very patient batters to the plate in the top half of the inning. Perez looked great. He mixed his pitches, hit the corners, adjusted speeds, and looked stellar. He finished with six strikeouts, only five hits, and zero walks. For a guy who has been struggling with his control for the better part of three seasons, tonight was an unexpected gem.

Things I Like:

  • Reyes’ legs: two triples, including one to lead off the game, really set the tone for the offense
  • LoDuca is truly a leader on the field. On a soft bunt from pitcher Mark Redman that was meant to be a sacrifice, LoDuca was smart enough and in control enough to call for Perez to field the ball and quickly throw out the runner at second. Plus, he quickly hit a sac fly to score Reyes from third in the first inning, which is why I love him in the two-hole. He’s a very, very underrated player on this team.
  • Oliver Perez threw inside and hit his spots well. Plus, after he gave up a towering home run to Jeff Francoeur, he retired the next ten batters.
  • Every starter scored a run except Paul LoDuca, who only had two hits and an RBI.

Things I Don’t Like:

  • Reyes’ reckless sliding. On his first triple of the game, Sandy Alomar, Jr. was clearly telling him that he could come in to third standing up because there wasn’t going to be a play, but Jose slid anyway. Why does he always do that??? Is he determined to hurt himself again? Don’t get me wrong: he’s clearly getting smarter and learning the game more, but he needs to listen to his coaches more on the base paths.
  • David Wright seems to have no bat speed so far this season. Sure, he had a solid double in the fifth inning tonight, but that was really it. He let Mark Redman blow an 85 mph fastball by him. Twice! I know we’re only four games in but I’m afraid that my gut feeling with Wright may be correct: he’s not going to have a good season at all.
  • Moises Alou’s hands: We all know why he doesn’t wear batting gloves (and let me just say “eww”) but it’s a very cold night and they can really help him grip the bat. When your hand is numb, I don’t care how tough the skin of your hand is (or how much you’ve peed on yourself)—you can’t grip the bat with any amount of strength.
  • Why was Howard Johnson wearing batting gloves?
  • Lastings Milledge sitting on the bench. I agree for now that Shawn Green should start, but why should a young kid (22 as of yesterday) sit on the bench and get no work in? He’s had one at-bat so far this season (two, if you count his one-pitch fly out tonight; why not keep him in extended spring training or send him to New Orleans? I realize that he’ll probably go down when Pelfrey comes up, but why do that to the kid?
  • Screw ESPN.com. How can they possibly justify ranking the Mets forth in their first Power Rankings of the season? Have they not been paying attention this first week? They write that they’re comparing their predictions to how teams have played, but a bunch of their own analysts picked the Mets to win the World Series!!! Nonesense. (Gee, guess who was ranked first.)

I’m Now a Reds Fan

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

Not really, but still… this story made me at least pause for a minute.

We all know Josh Hamilton’s story, and anyone with even a small heart is hoping for him to succeed this year.  But they took that hope to a new level in Cincinnati yesterday during the season opener.  Hamilton stepped to the plate to pinch hit in the eighth inning and got a standing ovation from the crowd.  He actually had to step out of the batters box to smile, and, after flying out to left field, the crowd gave him another standing ovation. When he went back to the dugout, all his teammates greeted him with handshakes and high fives. The crowd knew what that kid has gone through and how hard he’s tried to get his life back together, and they let him know that they were there for him.

I want all of you who are reading this to think about this story.   You’re here probably because you’re a Mets fan, so you’re familiar with the fun that is New York sports.  If a guy like Josh Hamilton were making his big league debut for the Mets or the Yankees (even for the Knicks or the Giants or the Rangers), what would the crowd do?  Would we cheer him?  Would we give him a warm welcome and make him feel comfortable?  Or would be hardly pay attention and take the mindset that we shouldn’t bother getting attached and assume that he’ll fail soon enough anyway?  In a town were we can’t decide if we hate ARod or Osama bin Laden more, would be embrace this former drug addict or would we shun him?

Cincinnati cheered him and gave this kid hope.  I say, good for them.  If I were a Reds fan, I would be proud of my peers.

So please, allow me a moment to take back all of the harsh, crude things I shouted at “Mr Red” and “Gapper” a couple summers ago in Cincinnati.  Mr Red, while you are undoubtedly a ripoff of Mr Met, you did a good job modeling a positive outlook to all of your fans.  To you, I extend an olive branch and hope that you will one day forgive me.

Ty Wigginton, How We Love Thee

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

Ty WiggintonWhen Ty Wigginton left the Mets in July of 2004, a lot of Mets fans (including a certain blogger) were very disappointed. Not that we weren’t excited about the idea of highly-regarded David Wright being promoted to become the everyday third-basemen; there was just something so likeable about 200-pound rube from Southern California. He played hard, he seemed to care about the game, and he had the face of a baby. He has since moved on to the prestigious Devil Rays, where he has split time between third and second base. But that’s not why this post is interesting.

It seems that late in December Mr. Ty Wigginton delivered his own son in the closet of his bedroom! Apparently his wife started to go into labor two weeks early and they decided to get ready to go to the hospital. But while she was getting a bag ready she realized that the baby was coming and she couldn’t wait, so Ty called 9-1-1 and within minutes, their son was born. The funniest part of the story is that once the baby was out, Ty handed his wife the phone while he tied the umbilical cord with a shoelace!

Undoubtedly, Ty did a good thing to help his wife and deliver their child, but someone needs to talk to him and his wife because they now have two sons named Chase and Cannon!

Congrats Ty!

The Off-Season Begins

Friday, October 20th, 2006

I just feel numb right now. My hands don’t want to type. My arms are weak. The season is over.

********************

When you’re a team built on offense but you get just two hits after the first inning, there’s not much of a chance you’re going to win Game 7 in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Mets just couldn’t seem to get the job done and were eliminated from the playoffs by the Cardinals, 3-1, in front of a loud, wet crowd at Shea Stadium.

Yadier Molina was the hero, hitting a ninth inning, one-out home run to left field off of Aaron Heilman. The Mets had their chance in the bottom of the ninth; Valentine and Chavez both singled to lead off the inning, but Cliff Floyd struck out, Jose Reyes lined out hard to center, and Carlos Bentran struck out looking. Looking.

Who would have predicted a pitcher’s duel between Jeff Suppan and Oliver Perez? It was 1-1 until the ninth inning and neither team had hit the ball hard. Perez threw six innings, allowing only 1 run and four hits; Suppan made it through seven, giving up just two hits. But once again, the Mets give up a run immediately after they score, so Perez’s shockingly strong performance was wasted.

The story of the game, had the Mets pulled it out, would have been a catch by Endy Chavez in the sixth inning. With one out and Jim Edmunds on first, Scott Rolen slammed a shot over the left field wall, only to have it snow-coned by Chavez, who then promptly threw the ball to the infield to double-off the runner. It was a play akin to Willy Mays against Vic Wertz, to Derek Jeter against Jeremy Giambi. It would have been a play for history. But since the Mets lost, it will probably be forgotten.

There’s not much else to say about this game. It was a great game from start to finish and it seemed that either team could have won, but this one didn’t go our way. It hurts to have lost due to a lack of offense; I would be okay with losing due to poor pitching, but to go out on such a dull offensive performance is very hard to deal with.

We’ll have more to come soon, but for now take a look through the game notes below. Give us your thoughts on the game, the series, and the now-present offseason. (Man that hurts to write.)

GAME NOTES

-The Mets could have struck a real blow in the first inning but settled for just one run. When Beltran singled and Delgado walked, Wright blooped a cheap single to right and scored Beltran. But Shawn Green couldn’t get it done and lined out to third base. He hit it hard but it was right at Scott Rolen. That lead would have been nice, especially since the Cards came back and tied it in the top of the second.

-The Cardinals could have scored big in their half of the third but Perez worked his way out of a jam in impressive fashion. With Eckstein and Pujols in first and second, Perez induced a sure-thing double play to Reyes from Juan Encarnacion. He really was much better than we had any right to expect.

-Is it just me or was this a ridiculously even series? The momentum swung back and forth between teams and the runs were scored pretty evenly. Don’t get me wrong: the Mets should have dominated the series and probably won it in five, but the games themselves were all very good, very close contests.

-quite frankly, that was the best clutch catch I have ever seen. The Cardinals were threatening to go up 3-1 and have all the momentum in their favor. The way the Mets offense had been shut down, that home run could have effectively ended their season. But Endy Chavez, a guy who has become something of a folk hero to Mets fans, nearly lost his glove by reaching over the fence and bringing back a home run, then doubling off Jim Edumuds at first. It was awesome.

-Where exactly is the real Yadier Molina? Isn’t he supposed to be a great throwing catcher but a terrible offensive player? He’s done nothing but hurt the Mets with his bat this entire series, yet his arm hasn’t been much of a threat at all. His ninth inning HR to put the Cards ahead was quite a shot, and it was his second of the postseason.

-If Endy Chavez didn’t make that catch, Willie Randolph’s decision to stick with Perez would have been a heated topic all winter.  Randolph went to the mound, asked Perez if he wanted to say in, and the next batter sends a pitch over the wall.  Not that I agree that it’s Willie’s fault– hey, these things happen– but… remember what happened when Grady Little stuck with Pedro a bit too long a few years ago?  Same deal.

-Add Aaron Heilman to the list of Mets relievers to give up some big runs in this series. Mota was bad in Game 1, Wagner was ugly in Game 6, and now Heilman. They threw a lot of innings and did really well, but in the postseason, you have to aim for perfection. The bullpen isn’t the reason the Mets are heading home for the winter, but it could have made the difference if they had been better.

The Eve of Game 1

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

So things aren’t really looking all that great right now for the Mets.  First Pedro Martinez went down.  That was okay because he hasn’t been much of a factor since May and the pitching has held up without him.  Now Orlando Hernandez is down.  El Duque isn’t a “great” pitcher, despite his reputation as a postseason magician,and he isn’t even in the top 10 reasons why the Mets have been so good during the regular season.  But with both men out, things are getting ugly.

It was what, a week-and-a-half ago when we were debating if the Mets would need a 4th starter in the first round?  We said, “Pedro can go games 1 and 4 if he needs to.”  If not, maybe Traschel would pitch game 4, maybe John Maine. Hell, I even had an debate with my friend about potentially leaving Maine off of the roster in the first round. But today we’re trying to figure out if Maine can pitch GAME ONE!!!  That’s not good.  But is it really a reason to panick?

Let’s face it: this team’s strength in the postseason wasn’t going to come from it’s starting pitching, even with Pedro and El Duque starting.  If both starters were throwing their best and in their primes, this would be different, but we’ve not had that all season.  What we have seen though is the best bullpen in the majors (if not, certainly the best in the NL) and some pretty awesome offense.  The bullpen of Heilman, Mota, Bradford, and Wagner can shut down any of the NL lineups, especially the Dodgers.  And this lineup can hit any pitcher in the postseason, even Peavy and Carpenter.  And since the Dodgers don’t really have a dominant ace, there’s no reason why the Mets can’t just outslug their opponents in this first round.

Tom Glavine will be okay, as long as Willie Randolph doesn’t try to turn back his clock and pitch him on short rest.  Maine should be okay since he’s been pitching in the harsh NY atmosphere all season (granted, he hasn’t really had any pressure situations, but still, NY itself is tough). Traschel has made it clear that he’s been looking forward to pitching in the postseason for his entire career so he should be amped up and ready to go.  If those three can hold the fort and keep the games close, the offense can score the runs and the pen can hold the leads.

I’m not happy that El Duque is out.  I’m sad for Pedro that he won’t get to pitch in the playoffs for the team that he helped turn around completely. But I’m not so distraught that I’ve lost confidence in this team.

MY PREDICTION: Mets in 4.

(Cardinals over Padres in 5, Yanks over Tigers in 3, A’s over Twins in 4)