Thursday, June 28, 2007

Official Blog Nemesis: Jay Greenberg of the Post

Mathews died in 1899, 12 years after the end of his career, unable to blame relief pitching for his premature demise. Life was simpler for pitchers then, without Scott Schoenweis, without African-American players, without puffed-up substance abusers uncounted numbers of which Glavine has gotten to tap weakly to second over 20 seasons.”

--New York Post Colum, “Another vintage Glavine outing,” by Jay Greenberg

Ok, I was originally just going to let that speak for itself but, damnit, why does that asshole have a job? I understand that he is trying to make a point-- a lot has changed in baseball, some good, some bad—but the syntax is blatantly racist. He put the integration of baseball as the middle item on a list along with a god-awful relief pitcher and steroid cheats.

Probably, if I had the patience to deal with the Post’s crappy search engine, I could find some glowing piece by Greenberg about the Jackie Robinson anniversary. Probably, you could talk to him every day, or know him for half of your life without hearing him come out and say that he thinks that the integration of baseball was the start of a decline of which steroids is only a continuation. Probably, he doesn’t admit that he thinks that to himself. At the same time, that is what he thinks, and no denial and no apology can really answer this reflexive admission.

It was Greenburg, by the way, who wrote a column demanding Milledge’s head after “Bend Ya Knees-gate.” Milledge was/is partners in some music venture and put up a “raunchy” rap single on his web-site. The song was far from tasteful (and quickly taken down), but not much more offensive than a whole lot of other popular music. And if respect for women in hip-hop is a concern of yours, a relatively inoffensive, unreleased single by a minor league-baseball player seems like an odd place to start.

Greenburg’s column on Milledge was called “The Last Straw,” which some paranoid Mets fans might interoperate as a disparaging reference to another brilliant, troubled, African-American ballplayer. While he never mentions Strawberry by name, he does bring up Allen Iverson’s rap music and Kobe’s rape trial as arguments for trading Milledge. I wonder why he left out Brett Myers, a Phillies player who got in legal trouble last year for punching his wife in the face outside of a stadium? Probably didn’t have space…

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Trade Suggestion

After reading the most recent “Mets Mailbag” and reviewing this blog, I became aware of a grave deficiency. The cockamamie trade suggestion is the bread and butter of the armature sports pundit, and I’ve been doing this since March without proposing one trade. Of course, I took immediate action and after rejecting several trade scenarios for being too reasonable or likely to happen, I think I’ve come up with something that is as weird and unhinged as anything that was ever sent to any sports franchises’ hapless PR guy.

Ready for this?

Ok. Julio Franco for… Steve Trachsel; Met-thusala for the Human Rain Delay.

From Baltimore’s point of view this even makes a little bit of sense. They just got rid of their manager and are looking for a new one. Franco has publicly stated that he wants to manage, and Baltimore would offer him a great opportunity to break in, if not necessarily as the full time manager, at least as a player-coach.

And who wouldn’t want Steve Trachsel? After his so-bad-it-made-Cy-Young’s-ghost-cry post season and subsequent ignominious release by the Mets last year, Trachs got picked up by Baltimore where he is having a completely decent season. In fact, Trachsel is doing so well that it took some guy on the internet three or four pages of ridiculously elaborate statistics to prove that he is actually pitching far worse than his record and ERA indicate—mainly getting by on luck and run support.

In War and Peace, Tolstoy scoffs at the idea that either Napoleon or the Tsar were especially important to the political events described in the novel. It would be more reasonable, he says, to look to all the army’s sergeants: had all the sergeants decided to quit the army, there could have been no war. Tolstoy sees history, not as the result of the actions of great men, but rather as the glacial, inevitable and causeless movements of the masses of people—of which Napoleon or the Tsar are only an articulation.

Thus, don’t look to Pedro Martinez, don’t look to Roger Clemens, or even the all-star offensive talents, A-rod, David Ortiz, or Reyes. A winning baseball team happens when you get better than expected performances from the little people, the utility players, the bottom third of the line-up, the back end of the rotation. That is, if you want to go by what some guy said who was Russian and crazy and not talking about baseball.

Steve Trachsel is the salt of the baseball earth, a back end of the rotation guy who is almost always good for a more or less quality start, six or so innings and not too much more than three runs. A pitcher like Trachsel, not Clemens, was what the Yankees were hurting for at the start of the season—and might still be hurting for, since it seems that they are hurting for something.

For the Mets, Trachsel would allow them to move Sosa into the bullpen where he could be used for long relief—generally, I would imagine, long relief of Steve Trachsel.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


"I've never been in jail, so I guess I'm a good citizen."
-Paul Lo Duca

Trip to Shea: 6/25

Baseball is a sort of slow game and following it diligently is a somewhat meditative process that becomes more rewarding as one’s knowledge increases, and in its final form endows one with a certain reverence for history. However, if one were ever to seriously doubt the American-ness of the sport, it would take only a very brief time at the ballpark to see that baseball is not our national pastime without cause.

The ballpark is like America. To sit in the warm summer air with several more hours of baseball ahead of you is delightful. The smell of the hotdogs and grease is delicious. The green of the field is beautiful. The feeling of unity, of shared hopes and fears with the teaming mass of fans is wonderful. There is something whimsical and mechanical about the grounds crews, like the figures on an elaborate coo coo clock. The seats all face inwards, towards one central project, yet one frequently looses the game to the antics of the fans, and the distractions and exultations to make noise that emanate from the big, neon screens. The seats are arranged in tiers, that are in fact clear demarcations of class, as the tiers correspond directly to changes in price; yet it would be somewhat uncouth (and, indeed, misleading) to form an opinion of one’s fellow fans based on how much they paid for their seats. You can’t spit without hitting someone trying to overcharge you for something that will make you fat.

The following observations are presented in approximately chronological order:

I showed up very early for the game, and paid five dollars for a wad of glossy advertising that happened to contain a score-card and the rosters. The score-keeping process was badly explained, in a poorly written, smarmy piece that uses (of all things) game 6 of the 1986 NLCS as an example. My efforts at keeping the score card ended after the third inning, when I decided that I found keeping it distracting and couldn’t find the symbol for “wandered off the bag and got caught in a run-down like a chump” which is what happened to Valentine in the first.

In many ways the high-point of the evening was watching Reyes and Carlos Gomez warm up before the game started. The energy and excitement of both young players, even as they did something as mundane as stretch out, was visible in the stands.

There were only a handful of players on the field during the national anthem, and they all stood for it, but with differing levels of attention. David Wright looked like he had wandered away from basic training. Paul Lo Duca also looked military but more like an embittered Clint Eastwood character, whose life is the army, because his wife left him, because she realized that his life was the army. Reyes and Gomez were fidgeting, and I think Delgado was talking to the trainer standing next to him out of the side of his mouth.

Lo Duca, perhaps because of his all-star election campaign and perhaps because of his recent ejection and impending suspension, was the only player whose name was regularly used as a chant (Paul—Lo—Duca, clap clap, clap clap), aside from the “ole/Jose” song.

Alcohol at the ballpark is primarily available in the form of domestic beers (Budweiser and Miller) sold in plastic bottles, that are specially designed so that the effects of getting hit with one will be minimal; one of these will set you back $7.50. I didn’t have one. In retrospect, I wish I had, if only so I could have gotten a first hand-look at the process by which they were distributed: I saw bottles in the hands of two men sitting several rows in front of me, who looked and acted very much underage—I would have imagined, however, that the carding process would be rigorous. Perhaps they had really good fakes? Back in the day, I would never have tested my fake ID in a place as well-lighted, organized and corporate as a ballpark.

Conversely, I never saw the four young men sitting in front of me with beer-bottles, but from overhearing their conversations I gathered the impression that they had been drinking. They liked to sing along with the jumbotrons, and one of them made a comment about how a sound clip of them slurring the words to “Enter the Sandman” should be put in an advertisement against teenage drinking; the fact that the guy thought that they would make “a million dollars” on that advertisement could probably be included in the commercial as well.

The primary interest of these four young fans was Billy Wagner, and they salivated whenever they posted his pitch speeds. On this night that made sense, as Wagner worked a scoreless ninth and tenth. Personally, I felt like Wags owed me that, since the last time I went to the park Reyes hit for the cycle and Wagner blew the save.

Prior to a Delgado at bat late in the games, they blasted the song “Mr. Roboto” and flashed the words “MISTER DELGADO” on the screen, along with clips of him doing impressive things. What the hell?

The picture of Keith Hernandez advertising “Just for Men” hair color that they show whenever a new pitcher is brought on (“stay in the game with Just for Men”) is one of the most atrocious pictorial representations of any human being ever. It makes him look like a combination of a used car salsmen and a terrifying, aging lounge-lizard-- which would, I guess, be a men’s hair-dye salesman.

Shawn Greene won the game with a walk-off homerun in the eleventh. The Mets piled onto the field behind home-plate and I exchanged high-fives with the four Wagner fans in front of me. The jubilation of the moment rendered irrelevant all the tawdry commercialism surrounding the ball-park. The yells of fans as we exited the stadium were louder, more vibrant, more real, than five dollar score cards and seven dollar beer.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

How Queens can you get?

Since I have been doing this, I have written about half a dozen posts that never made it to the blog since my neighbor’s wireless was down during the twenty minutes when they would have been topical. The wireless was down on Thursday, but I felt unusually obliged to put the post up anyway, since it was an apology, and I felt it needed to be delivered in a somewhat timely fashion.

Getting a file from my PC to open on my roommate’s Mac is a maddening process that involves using some open source word-processor, which takes a little longer than a baseball game to load. I opted instead to take a USB drive down to a weird little bakery/ice cream/internet café that recently opened down the street.

The place is has Arabic writing in the window along with a Western Union sign, and the people who go there and work there are generally Middle Eastern. They have a sort of generic oven that seems to produce generic pastries out of made of yellow, sticky sweet filo dough. The place is run by several very nice middle-eastern women. I have been going there for coffee lately, since they are next to the nearest deli that sells the Post, and the service is so slow and confused that I can make it through about a quarter of the sports section before they give me my cup.
In the back of the place there are about five computers, all fairly new, mostly with flat screens. When I walked in on Thursday, I found out that it costs $3 for an hour of internet; I gave them a dollar for an amount of time that I described as “like five minutes.”
The only free computer was in between a little girl who was listening to some educational CD and a woman in a Muslim head scarf, with whom the girl working the counter sat down once she had given me my coffee. The internet was not connected on the one free computer, so I asked the girl if I could get my dollar back.

The woman with the scarf instead offered me their computer and, after I tried to decline, moved away. I sat down, and put my post up as quickly as I could.

But there you were: in the mysterious internet-bakery, a woman in a hijab was offering her computer to an unshaven white-boy in a Che Guevara T-shirt, so he could update his Mets blog. Someone should have taken a picture and put it on the borough flag.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


This should probably be my lesson to get out of the crystal-ball racket, and I can’t really shake the feeling that by making announcements I managed to damage the karma of the team. But, while looking over the highlights once I got home, it occurred to me that there might have been a few things other than karma at work.
First off, I don’t think Shawn Greene has any damn business playing behind Oliver Perez. Not very long after Moises Alou got injured, Perez took a one-hit shut-out into the ninth inning. The out fielders behind him were Carlos Beltran, Endy Chavez and Carlos Gomez. All three are centerfielders by vocation, all three are defensively excellent, all have good speed. Watching that game I couldn’t shake the feeling that, had Alou and Greene been playing instead of Gomez and Chavez, Perez’ outing would have been far less impressive. Against Perez, hitters hit a lot of balls into the outfield, and how often they get caught and how long it takes them to make their way back into the infield, can easily be the difference between success and failure in an Oliver Perez outing. The first run against Perez was a walk that was driven in by a triple from a first baseman who had hit six previously in his career, and stolen all of three bases. I have this weird feeling that, had the ball been run down by someone who didn’t have a broken bone in their foot, the batter would not have reached third base and the runner might not have scored; if the ball had been fielded by someone with Gomez’ speed and Gomez’ arm (someone such as Carlos Gomez), they might have had a play at second.
So, yeah, "Nigel" it was actually all about Endy: they miss his defense as much as they miss Alou's bat.
In the end, though, it was the walks that did Perez in, so I guess there is also a lesson about the in-game web-surfing habits of my favorite south-paw from south of the border: Perez obviously does not keep up with this blog, if he did, he might have known to stop walking people.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The game in progress....

I don’t know if this is bad form, or bad luck, but I guess I’m doing it anyway. BEFORE the game, I assured Haxi, an Albanian co-worker of mine and extremely recent inductee into baseball fandom, that the Mets would win tonight. A friend told me that predictions I make here do pretty well; I’ve actually been reluctant to make any since he threatened to take them to a bookie.

Now, though, the game has started and I don’t think that the bookies are taking any more bets, so I’m calling a Metropolitan victory… partially because my gut tells me so, and partially because they are up 1-0 in the second.

Also, should Oliver Perez happen to stumble on Sam’s Mets Blog, while surfing the web in the wireless-enabled dugout: Hey Ollie, no more walks, okay?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Internet at the ballpark

I’m back on the weird schedule and only catching the last couple minutes of games on television. Generally, I find other things about the schedule redeeming and can get over it, (don’t have to wake up at any particular time… well, that’s really the main one) but last night I particularly wished that I’d been able to see more of the game.

Not merely because a resounding offensive performance, and a well pitched game would have been balm for the weary soul of a blogger disheartened by the recent tribulations in the Bronx, but also because the Shea faithful apparently launched a full-on “vote Lo Duca” campaign to get the fiery, blue-color catcher voted onto the All-Star ballot, where he was trailing by a significant margin.

The campaign was apparently somewhat successful. Although the catcher himself, according to his post-game comments, did not take to the polls, some of his teammates did. Carlos Delgado, who also had a break out night hitting 2 of 4, with a homer, claimed that he voted on-line five times in the fifth inning.

Wait a minute, how?…I guess it is pretty naïve of me, in this information day and age, but clubhouses are wired for internet? Really? Is it wireless? Do players bring laptops with them to the game? Or is there just a public terminal and they all take turns checking their e-mail between innings? Or did Delgado use a blackberry? Or is web access a privilege reserved for senior players (perhaps they are allowed to go into the manager’s office, which logically would have a web connection), and Carlos Gomez has to go home to write himself in for the all-star ballot?

I’m really curious. I guess, I’d also like to take a good look at some complicated statistics about batting averages, ERAs, on-base percentages, and all that before and after the installation of the internet. Or are their still parks that don’t have web access in them, and what do statistics look like in those parks as compared to the ones that do?

I guess I’m going to start posting more during games, so that the Metropolitans will be able to take my insight and wisdom onto the field with them, in real time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Roger Clemens Facts:

“Brother Soldiers, should not a half-pay officer roger for sixpence?”
-James Boswell’s London Journal, 1762-63

-As of now Clemens is 8th on the all-time wins list, behind Kid Nichols.

-Clemens once pitched inside to his own son.

-Clemens was the starter for Boston, in the infamous “Billy Buckner-error” Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. All season long he had followed a ritual of not shaving on days he pitched. After probably taking himself out of the game with a blister, after 7 innings, holding onto a 3-2 lead, he shaved to look good for the cameras at the Red Sox victory press conference…chump.

-Clemens has been mentioned as a juicer by both Jose Conseco and Jason Grimelsy, and seems to pitch as well as well in his 40s as he did in his 20s but BARYY BONDS IS DESTROYING BASEBALL! BARY BONDS! HOME RUN RECORD!

-Roger Clemens is white.

-Although Clemens was notorious as a “head-hunter” for most of his career in the American League, he only hit nine batters over two years while pitching for the Astros in the National League, where he would have been subject to retribution.

-If you take into account the 18th century usage, every time you say Roger Clemens’ full name, you also express my exact feelings about him.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Thoughts on Leadership, Aging

During last night’s broadcast, Ron Darling had one of those moments, which I assume all ex-pro sports casters are contractually obliged to have, where he blithely jumped from calling into question the current Mets team’s intensity and conduct (there had apparently been laughter coming from the showers while Glavine was giving his post-mortem comments on Sunday’s game), to claiming that today the entire game is played with a lack of toughens and respect—he referred to the modern ball player as “sensitive” and whined about them listening to their i-pods on the team flight, instead of commiserating with pitchers and figuring out how to win. To back this all up he told a story about how upset he was after a tough loss for the Mets in the ‘80s, where he would have won if anyone had gotten a hit; but after the game the position players were apparently more interested in college football than why they screwed over Ron Darling. Of course this actually makes the opposite point, and one would not be surprised to learn that throughout the game’s history there have been things somewhat more compelling to certain players than their immediate failings—and I seem to recall that in the ‘80s the Mets were pretty good, despite the preference of football over Darling.

I’m not generally tempted to listen to people who are being crotchety, but there are actually some points here. It’s hard to tell if the Mets are just on a run of awful luck, or if they are losing because they are taking things for granted and not “doing the little things that it takes to win.” Well, I guess it is actually pretty clearly a combination of the two, but there is no way of knowing which is the principal factor. Darling and Gary Cohen seemed to think that the answer is for one of the veterans to step up and get the clubhouse in order—the only candidate that they discussed at any length was Paul Lo Duca, although Julio Franco’s name was also mentioned.

For my money, I wish it could be Carlos Delgado—although there are a myriad of reasons why it probably can’t. The principal of these is that, perhaps more than any other single factor, the Met’s current problems are a result of just how god awful Delgado has been this year. Lately, Delgado has been hitting approximately nothing with runners in scoring position, and while he has been hitting more home runs, they have generally come without runners on base. Then there is the feeling that things have never been exactly right between Delgado and the team brass: they tried to recruit him as a free agent in 2005, but he found their efforts to woo him patronizing and offensive and signed with the Marlins instead; when they traded for him before 2006, everything was supposed to be resolved, but it is still hard to know how well he gets along, as a proud and clearly intelligent Latino, on a team owned by the Wilpons and in a clubhouse that seems to be dominated by venerable old white guys like Tom Glavine and Billy Wagner.

Beyond these issues, I think that Delgado is the perfect person to lead the team—in previous years he has been the definition of clutch and he clearly commands the respect of most people who know him. There are tons of things that point to the idea that Delgado is a man of uncommon character-- from his charitable efforts to, quite frankly, his refusal to sign with a team that he felt treated him condescendingly. Perhaps most telling was the fact that, during last year’s post season, Lo Duca published a comment about how Delgado was a great man both on and off the field—which I found significant because Delgado’s politics are openly left of center and Lo Duca seems to spend all the time that he can spare from the ponies signing baseball caps for soldiers and policemen. I wish that it were Delgado’s team…but if he just felt like getting a couple of RBIs I’d take that too.

On a kind of an opposite note: Willie Randolph needs to buy a water-board and a cattle-prod, and go to work on Carlos Gomez if he ever even thinks about hitting a home run again. What’s the point of being faster than Jose Reyes if you hit the ball out of the park? There isn’t one.

Oh, and condolences to Jose Reyes: yesterday was his birthday. I’m about two months younger than the star shortstop, and I’m already shaking in fear at the mere idea of being twenty-four… and it’s not like people start questioning your fitness for library work when you turn thirty-five.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Says it all:

“I made some mistakes. They made me pay for it. I made some good pitches. They hit those, too.”
-Tom Glavine

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Everything about the last two games completely sucks, but last night’s game…oh man.

First off: Endy Chavez is injured, and it looks bad. Well fuck. Endy was always the Met’s ace in the hole; Endy always got them the hit, or made the play that it seemed that they didn’t quite deserve to get; Endy is about 60% of the reason that I am thinking of moving to Venezuela. Endy was what allowed the entire starting outfield to go gimpy on us without anyone really freaking out or even noticing—in fact Endy’s presence on the bench, is probably what allowed Minaya to sign an outfield of brittle old dinosaurs, without anyone seriously questioning his sanity. Moises Alou makes a hell of a lot more sense if you can bring Chavez in for defense, days off, and the inevitable periods when Alou is injured—one of which we are in right now, and which does not seem likely to end anytime soon.

And Easely came up with a bum knee before the game, marvelous…the silver lineing is that this might exactly coincide with the return of Valentin.

Way to be injured right now, Lastings Milledge: the club is so strapped for outfielders that he’d be getting playing time even if he had been collaborating with Don Imus on the hip-hop adaptation of the works of the Marquis De Sade (instead of putting a track on his website that would only offend someone who had never listened to hip-hop). But he’s injured, so we’ll probably get to see some Ricky Ledee. Awesome.

Also, screw you, Aaron Heilman. I try real hard to like you, honest. I got much sympathy for the whole ‘I want to start but they won’t let me start’ thing, that seems like a bummer. But you gotta stop losing us games. Seriously.

Casey Stengel once remarked that “good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice versa.” Right now, both his old teams are built primarily around that “vice versa,” and this season (along with, oh I don’t know, THE ENTIRE GOD DAMN HISTORY OF MAJOR LEAUGE BASEBALL) is serving to prove that this is a seriously flawed premise. The Mets are where they are because their pitching has been outstanding, through no fault of the general management. Going into the season the odds that either Maine or Perez would show themselves to be a major bum were more than decent; the fact that they have both been excellent so far (knock on wood… oh please god don’t let me jinx those poor kids) is a serious piece of luck. The hell there was any sane reason to think that Jorge Sosa was going to stroll out of the minors and be lights out, but that happened and that has been huge. Going into the season everyone said that the bullpen was the club’s weakness, but it has been outstanding and one of the club’s major strengths; at the same time, the fact that it has lost two games in a row to the Phillies (who hardly even have a bullpen) shouldn’t actually shock anyone, given the initial doubts about it.

The strength of the Mets, and the Yankees, is supposed to be their offence. Delgado, Reyes, Wright, and Beltran are supposed to be coming up with key hits, and they are not. The Mets had chances to win last night’s game and score more runs, but they did not do that. The main difference between the Mets and the Yankees is that with the former the pitching has been far better than expected and with the latter it has been far, far worse.

Billy Wagner and Paul Lo Duca have apparently been calling the team out, and saying that it is not playing with the ‘fire’ that it had last year. Perhaps. Lo Duca is the same old singles machine that he ever was (knock on wood again), so I guess that he can say whatever he wants. Wagner has also been technically brilliant, converting all of his save opportunities. He’s still either a disturbing adrenaline junky or not quite the pitcher that everyone thinks, because he makes it interesting and puts runners on base, or gives up any runs that he might have to spare. I hate to do this, but I predict Wagner’s first blown save for either tonight, or sometime on the upcoming inter-league road trip. Again, sorry. Hope I’m wrong.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Injuries Shaping Both New York Baseball Teams:

This was initially intended as an audition for the yet-to-be-created job of sports writer at, but they haven’t gotten back to me and it is getting less topical by the minute:

The baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. This is one of those things that players, coaches, and sports writers like to say until they are blue in the face—but fans and the press persist in acting like the Yankees, at twelve games out of the lead in the AL East, are in significantly better position than they were at thirteen.

Due to the length of the season, the frequency of games, and the nature of the game itself injuries are a more integral part of the baseball season than they are for other sports. Particularly, baseball teams have to be able to weather injuries to multiple players— good GM’s build them that way.

At the same time, no team could be expected to weather the injuries that have faced the Yankees. Initially it was their pitching, as first Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina went to the DL, followed shortly by Jeff Krastens, Phil Hughes, and Darrell Rastner. Even Karl Pavano bravely overcame his brief bout of health, and is now scheduled for Tommy John surgery, which should end his Yankee career. However, they eventually reached a point of equilibrium with their pitching when Wang and Mussina returned, and now Roger Clemmens is expected momentarily to provide even more help on that front, but only in time for the injury bug to transfer itself to the offense. Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, and Johnny Dammon have been dealing with nagging injuries, hampering their games. Now Giambi is out for the rest of the season, just in time to avoid being suspended for admitting to doing steroids. At this point their ability to score runs seems to come and go with the pain in Dammon’s calf.

The Mets got beat the first time that they played with their entire opening day outfield injured, but all-star third basemen David Wright was joining them on the bench due to back-spasms. In fact, the Met’s starting second basemen, Jose Valentin, has been on the DL since April, and they played almost all of May without their number two starting pitcher, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, and half of it without Moises Alou. The club is still waiting for Alou’s return; although Shawn Greene and Carlos Beltran, the other two outfielders, should be out for significantly less time.

But the injuries have not slowed the Mets down much, largely because, outside of El Duque (who is at best “pre-injured,” rather than healthy), they have been lucky enough avoid injuries to pitching. The Spring Training line-up that barely lost to Brandon Webb, might have beaten a less dominant pitcher. Indeed, many of the changes that the Mets have gone through as an organization are seen in their personnel at second base. In 2005 they had poor old Kaz Matsui— the most laughable and doomed of the Mets efforts to emulate the Yankees. In 2006, injuries to Anderson Hernandez and the continued awfulness of Kaz, forced them to experiment with Jose Valentin, a veteran form whom they had hoped for little more than the occasional pinch-hit. Valentin, however, played the position admirably, won the job of every-day second basemen, and became a valuable member of the ’06 Mets. He had continued to contribute for them into 2007, until he went down with injury—but he was replaced by Damion Easley who has also stepped up, fielding well and hitting seven home runs. Ruben Gotay has been filling in as Easely’s back-up, and he hasn’t been awful either.

To those of us out of the loop, it is impossible to tell weather the fact that the Mets have been regularly able to come up with a completely decent back-up option for second base and most other temporary needs is a result of managerial brilliance or dumb luck—but it is a huge part of why the Mets are holding onto a (admittedly not very impressive) lead in their division and the Yankees are hoping that a magnificent run of dominance and luck will have them in the Wild Card race sometime in August.

Gary Sheffield

You know those annoying car commercials with Dwayne Wade? The commercial opens with some urban children sadly contemplating a dilapidated basketball hoop. Dwayne Wade rolls up in some SUV, unloads a brand new basketball hoop and a whole bunch of basketballs, flips the keys of the car to the hard-working-looking-urban-basketball-coach-guy, and then rides away on a bicycle. True story: they initially were going to do that commercial with Jose Reyes. In the beginning the soulful urban youth were going to be dejectedly contemplating the fact that they had nowhere at all to play baseball, and then Reyes drives up. He uses the SUV to drive to a series of meetings where he negotiates the purchase of several un-used lots and adjoining dilapidated houses and resolves some zoning issues; he then uses the SUV to drop off construction supplies and tear down a couple of buildings; and finally he unloads, from the SUV, enough baseballs, gloves, bats, caps, cleats, bases, steroids, catcher’s masks, and pitching coaches for a little league team, before turning the car over to the coach, and running away exuberantly (Jose Reyes needs no bicycle!). Unfortunately, they scraped it because they felt that the SUV got upstaged by the logistics of bringing baseball to the inner city (and because it had a running time just under Citizen Kane) and re-did the commercial with D-Wade instead.

Okay, so that’s actually not true at all, but my point is that it is basically hard as hell to play baseball in the inner city, particularly if you don’t have lots of money, as is occasionally the case of the inner city’s residents-- and I think that that is the sort of thing that informs the relative lack of African-Americans in baseball. Gary Sheffield, a former Yankee, currently DHing for the Detroit Tigers, disagrees and, in a recent interview said that there are fewer African-Americans in baseball because they are harder to “control” than Latino players. For one thing, I have it from no less of a source than Keith Hernandez (who is actually a white dude, and unbiased as a consequence) that Latino players are “fiery” and tend to be free, first-pitch swingers, and that doesn’t sound all that easy to control to me.

The racial situation in baseball is clearly awful—there is currently the lowest percentage of African-American’s in the league since the late eighties and several things, from the ‘the-lady-doth-protest-too-much’ celebration of Jackie Robinson’s anniversary, to the controversies surrounding Barry Bonds, speak to a lingering racial uneasiness within the sport; there is clearly room for dialog, and clearly frustrations and grievances on the part of African-American ballplayers that ought to be heard. What annoys me about Sheffield’s comments is that to blame this on the Latinos demanding less respect than African-Americans… I mean, come on Sheff, isn’t it DEPRESINGLY OBVIUS that that’s what the White Man would want you to do?

SYNCHRONISITY NOTE: While taking a technical-difficulty-enforced break from writing this post, I watched Fat City (1972) which is a completely good movie about small time boxers. Stacy Keach plays an alcoholic has-been trying to get back into the game, and an extremely young Jeff Bridges plays a kid who is sort of trying to break into the boxing world. Perhaps the strongest aspect of the film is the two coaches/trainers who oversee a gym and manage Bridges and Keach. The movie does an excellent job of portraying the relationship between these men and the boxing world: their vast knowledge about it and their passion for it; their anxious desire for greatness for their boxers, and the way that this prevents them from fully perceiving the humanity of the athletes. For them, the loves and demons of Bridges and Keach are merely obstacles obscuring one great goal. In one of the film’s best moments one of the trainers describes the potential that he sees in Bridges to his sleeping wife, while the two of them are sitting in bed: “He’s got a great reach, and a good pair of legs, and he’s white, you know? Real clean, good looking kid. I got nothing against coloreds, there’s just too many of them in the game. Anglos don’t want to pay to see two colored guys fight, they want to see a white guy fight.”

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Damion Easley and Powermind

You have to be pretty impressed with Damion Easley: the guy drifts around from team to team, playing whatever position they tell him to; in the normal course of things he expects nothing more than a pinch hit or two and rare start to give a regular a day off— becoming an everyday player for only as long as Valentin stays injured, with the certain knowledge that as soon as Valentin returns, he’ll be headed back to the bench. Yet Easley adjusts to it all, coming up with clutch hits, for occasional power, and doing it all with that cool, composed demeanor, that the announcers are fond of drawing our attention to. The other day Easley made his first start in left field of his fifteen-year career, and he caught all the balls that were hit at him and didn’t bat an eye-lash.

So how does Easley do it? Does he have a secret? As a matter of fact, yes. Easley, as I learned from this vaguely racist parody site, is a devote of Powermind, a system for building SUPER CONFIDENCE, and is, in fact, their most famous celebrity endorsement. Powermind was developed by Peter Segal, R.H., which I think stands for registered hypnotist, and not Royal Highness.

The first time I went to the Powermind site, all I could find were these really cultish statements about how effective the system was, and no actual information about how it worked or what their ideas were: I was even going to make the thrust of this post about how when people praise their ideas extravagantly, but do not explain them, it is generally an awful sign (if you have ever read any literature from people like Scientologists or Moonies, you will notice that they talk adamantly about is how good their system is, but never actually explain it). Unfortunately, the second time I went there, I was able to read the openings of the chapters from one of the books; or I could have read them, but was unable to do so, since they were so extremely tedious and silly that I couldn’t force myself past chapter four.

The fleeting impression of Powermind that I took away from the experience:
Confidence….it’s a good thing…perhaps if I discuss it repetitiously, with poor analogies that will help you build some… take deep breaths, while clenching your fists, before leaving your house every day.

So, yeah, I’m not all that impressed with Powermind. But if it works for Easley, more ‘power’ to him. I will say, though, that of the quirky performance enhancing methods discussed in this blog, pissing on your hands seems like it might be cheaper and more fun.