Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Why it’s important not to jump the gun

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

The reason?  Johan Santana.  He can make a lot of problems go away.  He helped put an end to a losing streak with a performance that may have stopped short of dominating, but was still very good; 7 hits (only one extra base hit, inexplicably hit by pitcher Tim Redding) and one walk, striking out four.  He kept the ball in the park, which is key for a good Santana start, and even chipped in with two nice looking doubles.

Most importantly, the Mets scored first, which as I discussed yesterday, is so important in baseball.  Not only did they score first, but after two dink hits and a double made the score 2-1 Nats, they came back the very next half-inning to tie the game, then took the lead for good one inning later.  See?  Heart.  It’s funny how a bad game can make you forget the good things a team is capable of accomplishing.  After two rough games in Chicago, all of a sudden here come the Mets with a good game.

It’s important to note that the Mets won this game despite a combined 0 for 9 from Reyes and Wright, the two young stars of the offense.  Wright has had a bad stretch the last few games, but I’m confident he can come out of it because he’s played well for most of this year; he was bound to cool off.  Reyes worries me a little, though.  In 2006 and 2007, he showed great strides in being patient at the plate, taking walks and looking for good pitches to hit.  This year, he seems to have regressed to his pre-2006 self, not taking pitches, not looking to get on base.  The Mets need him getting on base; right now, he has the 2nd lowest on base percentage of anybody in the starting lineup, even lower than perennial MiracleMets.net whipping goat Luis Castillo.  It’s all coming from walks; he has only four, lowest of all Mets starters.  They need Reyes to start taking pitches again, looking for good pitches to hit, and if pitchers don’t want to give him any, settle for walking and wreaking havoc on the bases with his speed.  I think Reyes is more fixable than Carlos Delgado, who just doesn’t have the bat speed he used to have; Reyes just needs some tweaking to his approach, and he’ll be fine.

Other than that, great Mets win.  It’s nice to see some things go the Mets’ way, like the three runs the Mets scored in the 6th; the only ball the Mets hit out of the infield was Carlos Beltran’s leadoff single.  They got some help from bad Nationals defense, but they also took advantage of good baserunning to push across three runs.  Beltran scored from first on an errant throw to first base by Ray King, with Ryan Church advancing to third.  After Church scored on a ground ball by Angel Pagan (Pagan beat out a throw to first, although King botched the throw, he would have been safe anyway), Pagan then stole 2nd and 3rd and scored on a groundout by Brian Schneider.  So while the runs weren’t impressive from a hitting standpoint, the Mets still played good baseball in putting themselves in position to score, and then getting the runs home.

The Mets will look to sweep this 2 game series and put themselves over .500 for the series tomorrow in Washington, with a 7:10 start at Nationals Park.  Shawn Hill will start against Oliver Perez, with the game appearing on all the regular outlets (SNY, WFAN, Extra Innings).

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.

Rewriting the script

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Last night looked like another sequel in a movie we’ve seen too often.  Mets take an early lead; bullpen blows the lead, Phillies tie.  Shaky Mets reliever puts a runner in scoring position to take their first lead of the game late with one of the Phillies’ bit hitters at bat…and here’s where we went off script, because Scott Schoeneweis got Chase Utley to ground into a double play with the Phillies poised to take the lead in the top of the 11th.  Then, in what was really an event off-script, Jose Reyes hit a two-out double, and scored the winning run on a single by Angel Pagan, and the Mets escaped Shea with a 4-3 win in 12 innings, drawing first blood in the Mets/Phillies rivalry.

I’ll be honest, though – I think the Mets may have received a gift tonight.  Replays at the plate show that Reyes may have been out, and because the game was in the 12th inning, I think umpires will be more likely to give a call like that to the home team because at that point, they just want to go home.  Still, it was close enough to where I don’t believe it was a grievous error to call him safe, and hey, at this point no Met should ever refuse a win against the Phillies.  After the home opener went so poorly, the Mets really needed to take the next two games, and it’s a great pick me up to finally win a close and late one like this.

I didn’t see the early parts of the game, so I can’t comment on how John Maine looked, but I can comment on how his stat line looked, and that’s not particularly good.  Five hits and five walks with only one strikeout in 6+ innings means he was getting bailed out a lot.  This is a patient team, a really capable hitting ballclub, so that can explain the walks, but it still seems that something may be off with Maine since the season started, because he hasn’t resembled the pitcher we saw in spring yet.  It is worth pointing out that through six innings, he had only allowed three singles, a double, and the five walks, and then he got hit hard to start the 7th with a home run by Pedro Feliz and a double by Chris Coste chased him for Pedro Feliciano, and that none of that damage before the 6th allowed a run.  Still, he can’t keep pitching in and out of trouble, because eventually, the runners are going to score.

Then there’s Aaron Heilman doing his best Guillermo Mota impersonation in the 8th, allowing a solo homer to Ryan Howard to start the inning (why not leave Feliciano to pitch to Howard before bringing Heilman in?) and then allowed the tying run to score.  I don’t want to make excuses for Heilman, because he hasn’t pitched well at all, but I also think Willie is overusing him.  He’s already pitched in five of the Mets’ eight games for a total of 6 IP.  He’s also getting crushed by left-handed hitting, which makes Willie’s using him against Howard even more suspect.  I wish they’d get away from 7th and 8th inning roles all together, because I feel it’s not always the best use of the Mets’ best relievers, but they really might need to consider giving Heilman a few days off and trying other pitchers for the 8th.  I also have a strong feeling that Duaner Sanchez can’t come back soon enough.

Carlos Beltran continues to struggle at Shea Stadium, and while he drove in a run and scored, he also had two prime opportunities to send everybody home today late in the game and couldn’t pull the trigger.  For whatever reason, Beltran hits significantly worse at Shea than he does on the road; I guess Shea just isn’t designed for his swing, for whatever reason.  Hopefully, Citi Field will be more to his liking.  David Wright also had an 0 for 3, and he’s cooled off considerably since starting off hot against the AAA pitching of the Florida Marlins.  He did draw two walks and steal two bases, putting himself in position to score an insurance run and a game-winning run in the 8th and 10th (Jose Reyes was on third, as they both stole as part of a double steal) but Beltran and Delgado couldn’t get them home.  At least these instances didn’t come back to haunt the Mets, as they so often do.

The Mets and their bullpen will get no day off, as Opening Week continues at Shea tonight against the 6-3 Milwaukee Brewers.  Nelson Figueroa will get his first start for the Mets, opposite Manny Parra.  I don’t think the Mets were hoping to have a tired bullpen going into this game with the Brewers, as Figueroa is untested, to say the least, but at least they should get some time off on Saturday, with Johan Santana starting. Tomorrow’s game starts at 7:10 on SNY and WFAN 660 if you’re in the car.

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.

Santana to the Mets

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

It is official; our long national nightmare is over.  USA Today is reporting that the Mets have traded Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber, and Delois Garcia to the Twins for Johan Santana, pending the results of a physical and if the Mets and Santana can agree to a long-term contract extension in the next 48-72 hours.  The big victory here is not only landing Santana, the best pitcher in baseball the past 3-4 seasons, but doing so without trading Fernando Martinez (the team’s top hitting prospect and likely successor in LF or RF) and without trading Mike Pelfrey (who is still young enough and has good enough stuff to where he could be a stud pitcher at some point).

This leaves the team with six starting pitchers heading into spring training, a certifiable ace in Johan Santana, an aging, injury-prone but still awesome Pedro Martinez, solid #3’s and #4’s in John Maine and Oliver Perez, and a spring training battle between Mike Pelfrey and Orlando Hernandez for the #5.  That’s a damned good rotation.  Backed up by a solid lineup with David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes, and…man, this is a great team they have here.  I am excited and pumped for the season to start, and I’m not sure I would have said that a week ago.  What a day today wound up being – Johan Santana is a New York Met.  Congratulations for Omar Minaya for getting this done, and leavine enough in the pipeline that shouldn’t be too far depleted.  What a coup.

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!

Why I haven’t posted anything in the last week

Friday, December 15th, 2006

Because right now, we’re all in a holding pattern.  I have already discussed frequently the cat and mouse game being played by the Mets and Barry Zito.  It continued this week, with David Wright offering to give him a tour of New York, Willie Randoph saying he’d love to have him here, and Omar continuing to talk about how strong he thinks the rotation is.  Meanwhile, Zito’s agent Scott Boras has been otherwise preoccupied with the Daisuke Matsuzaka negotiations, and Zito was wined and dined by the Rangers, with him expected to come to New York next week.

I think this is something that will be over, one way or the other, by next week.  I think Zito would prefer to be a Met, but being a Boras client, he also wants a big payday.  The Rangers are usually Boras’ sucker of choice, since Tom Hicks is usually dumb enough to agree to pay whatever price Boras wants, only to be saddled with a contract he doesn’t want and is desperate to get rid of two years later.  Right now, from the Zito camp, the question I am thinking, “Is Boras using the Rangers to drive up the Mets, or is he using the Mets to drive up the Rangers?”

Then there is the Mets.  How badly does Omar Minaya want Barry Zito?  Does Omar really feel confident with this rotation going into 2007?  Does Omar Minaya think that Barry Zito will be the pitcher they need to make the World Series next year?  We’ll know this by next week, if Zito does tour New York.  At that point, it would stand to reason he won’t leave without an offer.  If Omar really, truly wants Barry Zito, he will make him an offer he can’t refuse.  If he’s comfortable with what he has, and can take or leave Zito, he’ll stand by his guns and watch as Zito signs with the Rangers.

We’re going into the home stretch here.  It is impossible to figure out on a day to day basis where the Mets really stand on Barry Zito.  I have a gut feeling that Omar Minaya isn’t comfortable with the rotation he has, realizes that no Mets pitcher reached 200 innings last year (only one had even 170 innings last year), which overworked the bullpen, and Zito will, if nothing else, give you 200-230 above average innings next year.  He may not want to make the big offer to land Barry Zito, but I suspect he’ll feel he has no choice in this market but to do so.  I don’t think he’s in love with Barry Zito, but I think he realizes that Zito is somewhat necessary for a team with World Series aspirations.  My prediction is a week from today, you will be able to start shopping for “Barry Zito 49″ jerseys at Mets.com.  But I’ve been wrong before.