Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mrs. Reyes

On Friday, July 25th, the Met’s speedy shortstop married his longtime girlfriend Katharine, in a ceremony at City Hall that was witnessed by Reyes’ parents and only twelve other observers. The couple had been together for quite some time; they have two daughters and have been living, along with Reyes’ parents, in the house that Reyes built in Manhasset after he got his contract from the Mets in 2006. They are planning on having a large ceremony in the Dominican in over the winter.

The main source for the story is an understated entry on Adam Rubin’s blog at the Daily News, and while the SNY broadcasters did congratulate Reyes during one of the weekend’s games, very little else has been made of this. This is not all that surprising, because Reyes’ family life is decidedly down-played in his portrayal by the team and the media. While David Wright’s bachelorhood figures prominently in his image, the fact that Reyes has been a father for almost as long as he has been a Met is almost never mentioned. The obvious explanation is that Reyes’ family life falls into no particularly recognizable or approved of pattern (at least to American audiences) and is thus seen as a potential source of embarrassment, or at the very least confusion. Additionally, Reyes is frequently portrayed as childlike (in both good and bad ways) and this aspect of his persona makes less sense (or seems offensively patronizing), when you take into account that he is a father himself. (and perhaps the Mets fear a drastic drop off in ticket sales to female fans if it ever becomes generally known that the shortstop is spoken for.)

Beyond the oddness of the relative invisibility of the Family Reyes, the timing of the thing is strange enough to suggest some sort of dodge involving taxes or immigration law. Since their oldest child is around two years old, it seems unlikely that they were particularly bothered by the fact that they were living in sin. Since the nuptials will actually be celebrated in the winter, it is hard to tell why they felt the need to become legally married three months earlier, on a day when Reyes would have to spend the evening playing a ballgame.

Speaking of the ceremony in the Dominican, I am extremely interested in the Mets-related guest list. Is Billy Wagner invited? What about Willie Randolph? If some footage of David Wright making an ass of himself trying to do the Samba makes its way onto youtube, I will be extremely pleased. Perdiction: Pedro Martinez has to be helped off the dance floor by a trainer, and misses the first month of the ’09 season.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Talking to the Media Adds 5 mph to your Fastball

Larry Brooks has written an article in the Post defending Wagner’s not pitching the 9th inning in Tuesday’s game, which isn’t exactly insane in and of itself: there is no sense in getting Wagner more injure if he doesn’t feel healthy. However, articles in the Post defending Mets for not playing are sort of hard to come by these days (in the same column he sort of implies that Santana is bum for not pitching the ninth inning in that game) and one gets the strong feeling that this puff-piece is Billy’s little reward for being the best quote on the team. Its kind of frustrating because Wagner has gone through periods of serious ineffectiveness (and cost the National League home field advantage in the World Series for the second straight year); aside from his willingness to talk to them there is no special reason that Wagner should be so uniquely deserving of the Post’s mercy. I would have much rather read an article demanding that Minaya trade Aaron Hielman for Oakland’s Huston Street.

Also, if knowing what the word “quarantined” means was a sport, Larry Brooks would be its Jose Lima.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The USA Trilogy/Thank God for the Internet

Not so much about the Mets, and not so much about baseball. It all sort of popped into my head during a brief break from meditating on Alex Rodriguez, and I figured it was better than nothing:

Don Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy (which I read mainly because it was a high-school graduation present from a friend who has apparently looked occasionally at this blog, so thank you) is probably the Great Un-Appreciated American Novel. A protracted jumble of interweaving narratives, pastiches from newspaper headlines, biographical sketches of prominent Americans, and stream-of-conscious passages that straddles the fence between formalistically brilliant and obsessive compulsive, the work’s major project is too examine how economic circumstances contribute to everything from the formation of individual’s characters, to the course of world events. The book’s socialist inclinations, far more than its formalistic oddity, has to be considered the major factor in its current obscurity; reading the book, one gets the sense that Dos Passos understood (or perhaps expected) the direction in which the country would go—it is a little hard to tell why he bothered.

At any rate, I recently remembered a scene that takes place during the first World War, in which Joe, an American sailor on a British vessel in Trinidad, ignores the advances of a foppish American tourist, in hopes of getting to see a newspaper and baseball scores—Joe is from Washington and the Senators (behind Walter Johnson) looked like they might be in the race. Throughout the scene, Joe’s desire for the baseball scores seems to be an expression of the alienation that Joe feels as a US Navy deserter traveling aboard a foreign ship and his nostalgia for his life and family back home. Joe meets the tourist in a bar and the tourist says that he might have a paper in his hotel. The two then go on a boozy drive through the country-side, while the tourist delivers what Joe probably ought to have recognized as a lengthy and elaborate come-on—but Joe isn’t paying attention to the tourist, he is focused on the possibility of seeing baseball standings. Back at the hotel, the newspaper is nowhere to be found and the tourist offers him $50 for sex; Joe shoves the tourist out of the way and leaves. Back on the ship, Joe tells his story to a British sailor who initially says that Joe should have taken the money, and then suggests that they go to the hotel with a posse and blackmail him. As the scene ends with Joe crawling into his bunk, his major regret is still simply that he didn’t get to look at the baseball scores.

I have always sort of wondered what the sports page that Joe hoped to see would have looked like. It would have had the league standings, and possibly the box scores of some recent games; possibly articles about some of them. Of course, in the old pennant-race system, with the two eight-team leagues, a single day’s standings would have offered a far more complete picture of the baseball season than it would today: once the season was well underway, the teams would settle into identifiable groups of contenders and non-contenders, which would likely only be subject to limited change. If one saw that one’s team was in the contending group, after a prolonged separation from baseball, it would be heartening enough and offer a valuable ray of hope to last until the next port and the next newspaper.

The internet, thankfully, renders the entire interaction obsolete: has Joe’s needs covered, and the tourist could have found himself a homosexual prostitute on Craig’s list.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Starting to like this Manuel Fellow

A strain that runs through much of the dimmer writing on baseball involves extolling the virtues managers who get thrown out of games, and I reluctantly join this chorus in saying that I have come to appreciate Manuel’s tendency to get tossed. I will not go as far as to say that I fault Willie Randolph for not getting thrown out of games—Willie Randolph was a reasonable man, a quality making him nearly completely unique in all of organized baseball, and understood that no greater good would be served by getting ejected. There was a lot to applaud in the understanding, implicit in Randolph’s interaction with the officials, that managerial theatrics ought to be irrelevant to the game’s outcome; something calming and dignified in his acknowledgment that the skill of pitchers and batters would determine the winner, weather Randolph watched from the clubhouse or the dugout.

To use a bad word, Manuel’s interactions with the umpires are somewhat post-modern. Manuel, I think, also knows that his getting ejected is irrelevant, and thus, to him, there is no reason not to have a good time hollering at the umpires until he gets tossed. In the finale against the Philles, after the umpires made an abysmal call on a home run, Manuel kept turning back to get last word in, long after he had been thrown out of the game-- at this point everything was irrelevant: the call had been made and Manuel had been banished, but Manuel stayed on the field, reminding us all that there is something pleasant about a man who yells against injustice, even when the yelling can be shown to have no imaginable effect.

Manuel is a self professed admirer of Gandhi, and I would like to ask him how he thinks Gandhi would handle a blown home-run call in a baseball game he was managing. I suspect that Manuel would reply that Gandhi would understand that there is a difference between the struggle for survival and freedom and the struggle of a baseball game, and that the latter exists largely as a venue for childish rages and frustrations; and that, if he were for some reason managing a baseball team, Gandhi very well might choose to scream at the umpires and use bad language and get ejected.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Possible Explanation of Recent Events:

[December 11, 2007: Oliver Perez and John Maine are leaving Madison Square Garden]

Maine: I can’t believe those fuckers booed us on the jumbo-tron.
Perez: I know, what were those assholes thinking?
Maine: Seriously, we were both throw-ins in deals for relief pitching, and we went and won fifteen games apiece.
Perez: We pitched pretty good in the ’06 playoffs…
Maine: We pitched damn good in the ’06 playoffs. Now, just because Pedro and Alou spend the year injured…
Perez: And Reyes forgets how the hell to get on base…
Maine: and the entire offense folds down the stretch, now we can’t even watch some basketball without being booed.
Perez: This is bullshit. I never want to win a game for those jerks again.
Maine: Do they know how terifying it is to entrust a game to Gilermo Mota?
[Isaiah Thomas steps out of the shadows]
Isaiah Thomas: You gentlemen seem to have unjustly drawn the ire of the New York sports fan. Perhaps I may be of assistance…
Perez: Hey coach, how’s it going?
Thomas: Terrible.
Maine: How’d you know we were in trouble?
Thomas: Well, I was watching you on the jumbo-tron. I try not to pay much attention to the basketball games they are so…awful.
Perez: But aren’t you the coach?
Thomas: I wish you wouldn’t mention that.
Perez: Sorry, coach.
Thomas: Anyway, perhaps I can aid you in your quest for retribution against the sports fans of New York.
Perez: well, I’m not sure you’d call it a quest…
Maine: yeah, I mean they are jerks, but…
Thomas: Oh come on, it’ll be fun.
[Maine and Perez shrug]
Thomas: Let’s discuss this in my apartment…

[Maine, Perez, Thomas enter Thomas’ apartment.]
Perez: Whoa, nice pad, coach. Is your building famous?
Maine: Yeah, this place seems really familiar, like it was in a movie…
Perez: Was this the building where Annie Hall lived, in Annie Hall?
Maine: Or, was this where Woody Allen had his apartment in Manhattan?
Thomas: No, it was not in either of those movies…anyway, in order to completely destroy the hearts and minds of a sports fan you need to always extend the possibility of hope.
Maine: I don’t understand…
Thomas: see, take my Knickerbockers. They can be counted on to play two, maybe even three quarters of respectable basketball in…most games. For a true believer the possibility will always exist that my wretched team will turn it around…in any given game there still exists the remote possibility that they will come away with a win…
Perez: So the goal is to prolong the terror for as long as possible, by dangling carrots of decent play on a stick?
Thomas: Exactly, if you ever become completely wretched, like the Pirates, or the Oriels, or the NBA’s Grizzlies, the fans will just abandon the team, and spend time with their families or read a book. But if you keep on holding out the possibility of success, they’ll keep coming back like masochistic dope fiends.
Perez: ohh, so why don’t I start out pitching abysmally, up to the point where they start to think about dropping me from the rotation, and then at the last moment come through with a dominant performance against a hated rival.
Maine: And I can start out the year kind of ok, but just when the fans get a nice boost of hope from you dominant game, I’ll follow it up with a four inning loss, where I walk batters and commit a costly throwing error.
Thomas: Excellent…you have learned well, my children.
Maine: I’m thirsty, mind if I grab something?
Thomas: No, don’t open that…
Perez: I got it! This is Sigourney Weaver’s apartment from Ghost Busters!
Maine: Oh shit, there’s a demon in your refrigerator!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Ejected:

[Mets Clubhouse, fifth inning, Jerry Manuel and Carlos Beltran. Manuel has been walking around and cursing, several items in the clubhouse have been thrown; Carlos has already calmed down and is watching the game on television.]

Manuel: Fucking umps, like I don’t have enough crap to deal with.
Beltran: oh…oh shit…
Manuel: What? What the fuck is it now?
Beltran: Ollie, he just gave up another home run.
[Manuel nods, a defeated look creeps into his eyes, sits down on the couch.]
Manuel: So who do you think will win American Idol?
Beltran: I don’t know, I don’t really watch that stuff.
Manuel: Yeah.
Beltran: Yeah, I don’t really watch much television now; I spend a lot of time with my kid.
Manuel: Kids are nice. Kids are important.
Beltran: I think it’s very, you know, fulfilling, when you raise a child.
Manuel: Yeah. Family is pretty important, keeps you like…grounded.
Beltran: Yeah, I think so.
[Long pause. Keith Hernandez enters the clubhouse.]
Keith: So this is where the party…oh huh…hi guys.
Beltran: Hi Keith.
Keith: Hey guys, wanna know an old veteran’s trick for dealing with an ejection?
Manuel: What’s the trick?
Keith: You get wasted.
Beltran: and?
Keith: You get wasted. Pretty nifty, right? Hey, I bet there’s still some of Bobby Ojeda’s gin in the equipment closet.
[Keith rummages around in the equipment closet. Produces a dusty bottle of generic gin. Takes a long swig]
Keith: whoo-ee, now that’ll put some hair on your chest. Yeah. Alright, I got a broadcast to do.
[Keith puts the bottle of gin on the table, exits. Manuel and Beltran look at the gin. After a couple minutes, as a Met strikes out on television, Manuel takes a swig of gin, spits most of it out.]
Manuel: Jesus, that tastes like the Koch administration. [Beltran takes a small sip.]
Beltran: That is not very good.
Manuel: He was a pretty good player, though. Real slick fielding first basement. [As he says ‘slick fielding first basemen’ a pained look crosses his face]
Beltran: I didn’t really get to see him much, ‘cause, I was in Puerto Rico, and not all that old.
Manuel: Yeah. He was pretty good.
Beltran: You know what I like to watch on television? I like The Wire.
Manuel: Yeah, The Wire is pretty good.
[Long period of silence, Mariners score another couple runs]
Beltran: You think they gonna deal me for prospects?
Manuel: Man, I have no idea.
[Keith Hernandez re-enters the clubhouse]
Keith: Hey, guys I just thought of something else that helped me deal with an ejection: doing a whole bunch of lines.
Beltran: What?
Keith: You know, coke, blow, the white, snort snort. Hey, I bet there’s still some stuff in the hidden compartment in Daryl Strawberry’s locker.
Manuel: What?
[Keith jimys open a locker, dumps most of the contents on the floor, removes a false bottom to the locker, takes out a big bag of cocaine wrapped in a late ‘80s copy of Penthouse, leaves the magazine in the locker, tosses the bag on the table.]
Keith: Alright guys, don’t have too much fun. I got a broadcast to do. [Exits]
Manuel: We should probably flush that down a toilet or something, before they let the press in.
Beltran: Definitely.
Manuel: or maybe not. Maybe that headline would be less embarrassing.
Beltran: I dunno. So who’s your favorite character on The Wire?
Manuel: Only one? That’s pretty hard. I guess I like Avon Barcksdale, you know, old school gangsta.
Beltran: I like Lieutenant Daniels, because he tries to do the right thing, but sometimes, doing the right thing is hard.
Manuel: Yeah, The Wire is a pretty good show.

[The clubhouse, after the game, players filling in]
Joe Smith: Mother fucker. What the fuck? Who the fuck trashed my locker? What the hell? [Examines the locker, sees the late ‘80s copy of Penthouse, picks it up] Nice… [Flips through thee magazine] nice…

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In the Wake of the Randolph Firing:

-In the 1960s the FBI spent over a year trying to determine if the lyrics to the garage band classic “Louie Louie” were obscene—at the end of which period they concluded that they were unintelligible. These actions were not less logical than the decision to fire Willie Randolph.

-Perhaps the weirdest development was when the younger guy who works at my local pizza place said, unequivocally, that Rick Peterson was the best pitching coach in baseball. The guys at John’s pizza are pretty blue color and I had not figured them as fans of the Jacket. But the possibly exists that the pizza guy, or one of his friends, had recently “discovered” a truck full of Tuscan tiles which he hoped to move at a greater price due to Peterson’s plug.

-The pizza guy also went on to say that he was so mad over the betrayal of Peterson and Randolph that he wanted them to loose last night’s game. I said that that was a little extreme and that I could never make myself root against the Mets.

-I have listened to so much damn WFAN over the last two mornings that I have started to kind of like Boomer Eiseson’s co-host (Craig Carton?). Is there a support group for that?

-Over the next few weeks the Mets will face some pretty bad teams, thus putting them in a good position to go on a little winning streak, and make the decision to fire Willie look smart. In a rare moment of lucidity, my sources (the WFAN guys) said that this was probably taken into account when determining the timing of Randolph’s release.

-At the end of the day, the decision to fire the manager has a tasteless feel to it, simply because it strikes one a misguided effort to try and control the uncontrollable. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Phillies are leading the division because their relief corps is giving up home runs far less frequently than they ever have before: there is no reason for this, and no reason to think that they won’t return to giving up home runs at their usual frequency. Rather than accept that they are ultimately powerless in the face of the chaotic nature of the universe, the Mets chose to fire Willie Randolph.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"The Mets Win the Ballgame!"

On Tuesday, I believed* that a hand-held am/fm radio (and batteries) would set me back ten bucks less than MLB’s audio package (and would also be useful for getting instructions from the government in case of an extraterrestrial invasion or catastrophic earthquake). Shortly after making the purchase, I resolved that I would not allow myself of wander around the city with the archaic object next to my ear. This resolution was astonishingly short lived: approaching my subway stop last night, with Pelfry leading by three into the eighth, I felt compelled to find out what was going on, and managed to tune in as Pelfry went to bat to lead off the eighth inning. The crowed, chanting “Pelfry, Pelfry,” was audible over the announcers, the static, and the street noise, and as Pelfry struck out it was one of those moments that redeems several weeks of awful baseball; a wonderful and poignant reminder of the occasional rewards of obsessive fan-hood.

I was unable to help myself again when I got to Queens, and heard Billy Wagner’s blown save as I approached my apartment. I watched the rest of the game in stunned silence in my living room, as Gary Cohen kept on mumbling the phrase “punched in the solar plexus” and the cameras panned over a stadium full of people who looked as if they had just been told that the bank holding all of their savings had gone up in the same fire with the orphanage, until Beltran won it with a home run in the thirteenth.

Oddly, the comments on metsblog, and the couple of minutes of talk radio that I have forced myself to stomach this morning, seemed mainly negative. The feeling was still that the ball club was somehow not made up of winners, still doomed to mediocrity. (would the reaction have been different if David Wright had hit he dinger?)

I have to say that I don’t understand the negativity. Of course, in a hyper rational view of the thing the extra innings win seems fairly attributable to luck, and it is as easy to emphasize the chances that the Mets missed as it is to focus on the ones that they took. But even if you aren’t a fan, this is not a victory that looks bad for the Mets: the performance by Pelfry is a legitimate cause for optimism; the pitcher that the Mets scored their first three runs off of is probably the best in the National League; and the bullpen that followed him and shut the Mets down is also excellent.

And, if you are a fan, I don’t see how any win could be any better. In my mind, baseball will always be superior to other sports, simply because it can involve walk-off home runs. The image of the ball sailing over the fence, combined with the sudden reversal of the team’s fortunes are about the giddiest experience that a fan can have. I love that there is an actual second or two, between when the ball leaves the bat and when it lands, when the fate is literally suspended in the air. I love that there is a moment, at the apex of the parabola, when you can tell that it is leaving the yard and you say to yourself, “holly shit, we won this.” The fact that I had spent the proceeding innings mentally composing a post about how the Mets were all bums and would probably never win another ball game just made it all the sweeter.

When your team wins with a walk-off home run, I think you need to shut up and be happy. There comes a time when you have to examine why you follow baseball, and realize that you root for a team, not because you think it will win the World Series, but because rooting for that team is what you do. Sure, maybe if the players were less old, less injured, and better at baseball they would win more games: but if you can’t experience unqualified baseball joy after a walk-off home run, I think you need to sit down and figure out what the fuck is wrong with your life. (also, eight fucking scoreless innings from Mike fucking Pelfry and you want to talk about the Mets being just a .500 team, you treacherous fucks? Go root for the fucking Yankees if you want to be like that.)

*I just checked: my radio was actually four or five dollars more expensive. Well fuck.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Notes From Pedro’s Return:

Since Pedro’s return happened on a night game on the west coast and was thus missed by most reasonable people (also, apparently, something happened last night with that election thing? It was really stupid of them to schedule that on the night Pedro came back; don’t they know some of us have priorities?), I am offering the notes that I took on it. Pedro opposed Barry Zito and the San Francisco Giants.

Top of the first:
-Reyes has a kind of “eh” at bat and gets on with an error, or near error, by Giants 3B
-Easley batting 2nd? well he gets a hit, Reyes to 3rd, so working out ok so far.
What’s Easley’s OBP? [.268]Does Willy Randolph know the answer to this question?
-Wright sac fly gets in Reyes
-Beltran takes first 2 pitches, grounds into a double play.

Bottom 1st:
-Leadoff man, Fred Lewis, hits the second pitch for a single.
-Ray Durham, 2B: Pedro throws two balls, not looking great, at all. Durham flies out.
-Randy Winn: Lewis steals second, Castro makes a shitty throw that ends up in the outfield, Reyes works on getting away from the sliding runner, not catching the bad throw, not sure what he should have done, Winn hits a double, scoring Lewis, shity.
-Bengie Molina: Pedro is throwing pretty hard (91). Gets up 2-0 then, throws two curveballs for balls. Molina is fouling pitches off pretty well. Molina hits a ground ball; Reyes gets Winn going to third, nice play by Reyes, rotten base running by Winn, Molina to first.
-Rowand flies out on first pitch.

I guess you take this from Pedro. I guess this looks kind of good. His velocity is in low 90s. He seems a little tentative, but fuck do I know? Two hits, 1 ground out, 2 fly outs.

Top 2nd:
-Church flies out.
-Tatis starts out looking overmatched by Zito’s curve, but hits a double.

pretty pitches are deceptively seductive: often the impression that you take from an at bat will be a very good looking pitch, which will distract you from the end result and the pitcher’s ability to control the at bat, or put the hitter away. I think this has a lot to do with the overvaluation of Zito that has been going on throughout the guy’s career.

-Carlos Delgado, down 0-2, looking pretty bad. Starts watching the curve, takes 2 balls, 3 balls, hits a bloop that gets caught.
-Walks Castro to get to Pete.
-Pedro swings, he wants to get a hit. Grounds out.

Bottom 2nd:
-Bowker 4 pitch walk.
-Rich Aurilia: Pedro makes two nice pitches, 3rd pitch does not miss by much. Throws a couple more balls, Aurilia flies out.
-Vizquel: grounds out, after going up 3-0
[On the ticker: Detroit Piston’s coach Flip Saunders is Fired! Yes!Yes!]
-Zito: grounds out.

Top 3rd:
-Reyes: Reyes really looks like he has his shit together, 3-0, but then gets out on a pop foul. Ball looked like it was going into the stands, but then blew in towards a fielder and was caught; Reyes stands at the plate for a while, looking hurt and pissed
-Easley base hit.
-Wright looking good; draws a walk.
-Beltran: goes up 3-0, but pops out.
-Church flies out.

In that inning Zito looked damn bad, but the Mets were not quite able to turn that into runs. Perhaps his shakiness, ertaticness, hides some ability to control the inning? Nah. Mets just weren’t being that good, and Reyes getting out was a wind related fluke.

Bottom 3rd:
-Lewis: groundball. Reyes makes a nice play to just get him at 1st, should have been safe due to lousy footwork by Delgado, but ump doesn’t notice.
-Durham draws a walk.
-Winn: strikes out, looking good Pete.
-Molina groundball to Easely end the inning.

Top 4th:
Zito looked rotten in that last frame; let’s put some runs up for Pedro, folks.
-Tatis: strikes out.
-Delgado: walks.
-Castro: hits a ball hard, but a nice play by Lewis gets him out.
-Pedro, first pitch swinging, base hit, looks pleased but confused on first base.
-Reyes: grounds out.

Bottom 4th:
-Rowand flies out on a nice play by Church.

The guys are talking about Juan Marichel, w/o mentioning that Marichel was Pedro’s partner in the cockfight video; apparently the dude was a baseball player.

-Bowker hits a ball to Tatis, looks like Tatis could have made the catch, doesn’t, manages to get a close throw to 2nd, but Bowker ruled safe, I think it could have gone either way, lousy play by Tatis not making the catch.
-someone grounds Bowker over.
-walking Vizquel to get to Zito. Vizquel hasn’t been hitting for crap, apparently, so this seems insane.
-Zito grounds out. But now they have to face top of the order in the next frame.

Top 5th
-Easley: draws a walk. Powermind in full force.
-David Wright: base hit, Easley to 2nd.
-Beltran: Keith is talking about a bunt. Beltran, do not fucking bunt. Beltran hits the first pitch for a double, scoring Easley.
-Church sac fly, scores Wright, Beltran to 3rd.
-Walks Tatis, runners at the corners.
-Delgado: shity defense by SS Vizquel, Tatis safe at 2nd, Delgado to first, Beltran scores.
-Zito leaves the game.
-Castro gets a base hit of off new pitcher Chulk (?) to load the bases.
-Pedro gets his second fucking hit of the night, scoring Tatis. Looking extremely happy and animated standing at first.
-Reyes hits a ball for what would have been a double play against any little league team, but a run scores and the bases stay loaded.
-Easley double scores everyone.
-Wright flies out, what a loser.
-Beltran flies out. Apparently this was the biggest inning of the Mets season. Good job everyone.

Bottom 5th:
-Lewis hits a ground rule double.
-Pinch hitter singles, Lewis to 3rd.
-Wynn singles, Lewis scores, runners on first and second, no one out. 9-2, Mets.
-Fly out, advances runners.
-Rowand: groundout, scores a run
-fly out ends the inning.

Now, if they pitched to Vizquel in the 4th and got him out, not unlikely since Vizquel is something like 1 for his last 30, and Zito leads off the 5th inning with an out (by far the most likely outcome of a Zito at-bat), this is only a one run inning. Although, since they lifted Zito in the 5th, it probably would have been a pinch hitter. Still, I think walking the 8th hitter to get to the pitcher is a questionable tactical move.

Top 6th:
-Church gets on, on another absolutely pathetic defensive play. Give credit to the Mets for taking advantage, but the main thing to take away from this is that the Giants are god awful.

Cohen: it looks like Pedro is going out for the 6th inning.
Keith: Unless they have Claude Rains warming up in the bullpen.
Cohen: Or Ralph Ellison.

-Tatis: Church advances to 2nd on a passed ball, Tatis grounds out.
-Delgado grounds out, moves Church to third.
-Castro: takes ball one, Pedro looks ecstatic trotting into the on deck circle, but Castro pops out to end the inning.

Bottom 6th:
-Rich Aurilia doubles.
-Vizquel singles, Aurilia to 3rd.
-Pinch hitter, Brian Horrowitz: strikes out.
-Lewis: strikes out.
-Denker (?) grounds out.

Awesome. So, assuming, and I think safely, that Pedro is done, he has given just a quality start. Still, that’s pretty awesome after all the lay off. Also, I like how after he got runners on the corners in that last inning, he was like “fuck it. I’m Pedro, you’re the Giants, no more runs for you,” 2 Ks, and a grounder.

Top 7th:
-Nick Evens, pinch hitting for Pedro: strikes out.
-Reyes flies out.
-Easley: flies out.

Bottom 7th:
Smith pitching, 1-2-3 inning on 3 groundballs.

Top 8th:
-Wright: flies out.
-Beltran: flies out.
-Church: grounds out.

Bottom 8th:
Feliciano pitches.
-Bowker: pops out to Castro.
-Aruilia strikes out.
-Vizquel: grounds out, on a really nice play by David Wright.

Top 9th:
-I miss the first two batters do to a test of the emergency broadcast system. Castro flies out.

Bottom 9th:
Schoenewies pitching.
-Walks the first batter.
-Walks Lewis.
-Travis Denker hits a 3 run homer, wonderful.
-Wynn hits a ball to Easely, one away.
-Bengei Molina singles, Shoenewies out, Wagner on.
-Wagner throws two pitches, gets a double play, put it in the books.

Hard to know what to make of this one. Not only do the Giants run a butcher shop in the field, but they lack any particularly dominant/competent hitters, so it’s hard to know how much was Pedro, and how much was the sub-par offense. Also, Zito has been pitching badly and definitely pitched badly tonight, so it’s hard to know how much credit to give the Mets hitters. Indeed, if Scott Boras (Zito’s agent) wasn’t such money grubbing twit, Zito would probably have signed with the Mets after ’06, which means they couldn’t have signed Santana. Willy Randolph and Omar Minaya should chip in and get Boras a fruit basket or something since if Zito had pitched like this for the Mets, both of them would have been killed by an angry mob.

At the same time, the Mets took enough of the breaks they were given, and all around did a nice job. In the 5th, for example, Delgado hit a ball that probably could have been a double play, but everyone was safe and a run scored; while the Giants should have made the play, the end result was also due to Delgado and Tatis both hustling. Everything from Pedro seems encouraging, particularly that his velocity was in the low 90s. I think the real lesson is that the Mets should try to see if they could get that kid Lewis away from the Giants for a questionable minor leaguer and an old Jose Lima baseball card, since the Giants obviously don’t seem to be that good at running a ball club; Lewis made some nice plays in the field, and Keith likes his swing. Batting Easely 2nd, at least tonight, worked beautifully.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

“I’ve seen the Future…and it is murder.”

It is widely acknowledged that the Met’s farm system is relatively barren, particularly in the wake of the trade for Santana. With three picks (18th, 22nd, and 33rd) in the first round of the draft this year, the Mets are in position to do something about this. On, Ike Davis and Anthony Hewitt are mentioned as players that the Mets will likely target. Baseball Prospectus has a list of the top 50 prospects, and this is what they had to say about them:

22 (out of 50) Anthony Hewitt, SS, The Salisbury School (CT)
What He Is: On a pure tools level, he’s the best athlete in this year’s draft, maybe the past several years.
What He’s Not: A baseball player.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An absolute monster.
Backup Plan: You want fries with that? All kidding aside, he’s a bright kid who’ll go to a good school and end up just fine if this whole baseball thing doesn’t work out.
Open Issues: His risk/reward balance is so thrown off that people have a hard time coming up with a good valuation; like many East Coast prep kids, he’s a year older than most high schoolers.

27 (out of 50) Ike Davis, 1B, Arizona State
What He Is: A good pitcher like his father Ron (a former big leaguer), but far more desired for his big frame and power bat.
What He’s Not: Anything more than a one-dimensional slugger.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An imposing left-handed power bat.
Backup Plan: Um, a kinda imposing left-handed power bat?
Open Issues: They’re all minor, but he’s been pretty consistently injured; he can get pull-happy at times and lose plate coverage.

I’m not reassured. Hewitt seems like an insane crapshoot, and Davis just doesn’t seem that inspiring. I’ll confess to really not knowing anything at all about the baseball draft. Of the players on BP’s list, Yonder Alonso, a power hitting first basemen, definitely is the one I would go for, but it seems as if he will be drafted by the time the Mets make their first pick.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Only Valid Opinion Concerning Willie Randolph

I know that it has been a while since I have done anything, and I know that I chose a dark time abandon the cause, but I hope that I can begin to start to make it up by laying down the one true opinion on Willie Randolph, in comparison to which all other opinions on Willie Randolph will appear as the feeble nonsense that they truly are.

Background: Primitive tribes would often find themselves a Witch Doctor, Medicine Man, or something to ensure favorable weather. Whenever the weather was good, they would talk about how they were really lucky to have such a good Witch Doctor. If the weather was bad, they would call in to the local radio stations and yell about how the Witch Doctor was a moron. Indeed, when examining the function of the Witch Doctor, it becomes obvious that he was mainly there to provide an illusion of control, a figure to either praise or blame as a way of avoiding the horrifying existential reality: that they were utterly at the mercy of the random workings of chance and nature and that there was noting that they could ever do to change that. Sometimes, after long periods of truly bad weather, they would decide to expel the Witch Doctor from their primitive community, just so they could feel like they were doing something to address the problem; sometimes, following such an expulsion, the weather would change and sometimes it wouldn’t. Lacking actual job skills, the expelled Witch Doctors were forced to wander the countryside alone, until they found a baseball team to manage.

If SamsMetsBlog had a set of core beliefs (and it doesn’t), one of them might be that what happens on sports teams is mostly about the players playing the game, and not so much about the managers or coaches directing them. Particularly in baseball, the areas in which a manager can actually impact the performance of his team are minimal. Teams win when they are getting on base and throwing strikes, and the manager does not contribute to any of that directly.

Randolph makes things a little more complicated by messing up the parts of the game that he can effect semi-regularly. However, anyone who thinks that Mets are a mediocre embarrassment because of the half a dozen times when Willie left Heilman in for a few batters to many or sent the up the wrong pinch hitter is insane. The Mets are in trouble because their offense is miserable and their pitching has been completely underwhelming.

The maddening thing is that there is every reason to think that the Mets, as presently constituted, could be one of the best teams in the National League. The players haven’t played as well as their past performances would lead one to hope. They’ve caught a lot of bad breaks. Carloses Delgado and Beltran have hit a lot of hard line drives at infielders; over the course of 162 games a lot of those will go a foot or two to the left or right and be extra base hits.

The opposing theory, I guess, is that Randolph should be able to inspire in his team the kind of intensity and focus that would prevent defensive lapses and make them fight their way back into games. However, I think many people are mislead by the strength of their desire for the Mets to appear more focused and passionate, which leads them to overemphasize the role that Randolph could play in the situation. Even if there is a deficiency of character on the part of the Mets it does not, in any way, follow that replacing the manager would make it better and not exaggerate it. Specifically, it seems that a different manager might be able to elicit better performances from Jose Reyes, who has a history of having been influenced by the people around him, such as Jose Valentine and Ricky Henderson. But it is not at all certain that a change would have a positive influence on Reyes and not a negative one; and by far the most important factor in Jose Reyes’ performance is Jose Reyes, and not whoever is managing him.

Thus, I think that the question that Randolph posed to a Bergen County Record reporter (in what he claimed to believe was an off the record conversation) regarding his portrayal in the media and the public’s resulting view of him, “is it racism?” is, at the very least, a fair question. There are really only two basic pieces of information about Randolph that are universally known: 1) that he is the manager of the New York Mets and 2) that he is a black man. If the response on the part of the public to perceived lackluster performances on the part of the Mets is to demand the ousting of the manager, it seems fair to wonder which of the only two facts generally available about Randolph they are responding to, particularly if you are of the (only reasonable) view that the role that the manager plays in any team is limited, and take into account that Randolph’s tenure has included successes as well as failures.

In the controversy that ensued in the wake of Randolph’s comments, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman pointed out that Yankee’s manager Joe Girardi, a white man, is not any less likely to be fired than Randolph if his team fails to perform. I would view the example of Girardi in a slightly different light. Before coming to the Yankees, Girardi was fired by the Marlins in the same year that he won the National League Manager of the year award. Girardi was entrusted with a lot of young pitching in with the Marlins, none of whom have performed as well since Girardi’s tenure, leading some to suspect over or mis-use on the part of the manager. The Yankees major strength, right now, is young pitching, and their goal is not so much to win with it right now, as to get it ready for the future. If I were a Yankees fan, I would wake up every day hoping to find out that Giradi had been fired on a Stienburner whim, particularly as the team undertakes the unprecedented, mid-season conversion of Joba Chamberlin from a starter to a reliever. Right now, the Yankees are pretty much exactly as bad as the Mets, and the fact that there is a louder cry for Randolph’s head than for Girardi’s tends to support an assertion that race plays a role in the conversations surrounding them.

In explaining himself, Randolph eventually alluded to Isaiah Thomas, which might be a more informative example. Thomas was bad as a coach, and worse as a GM. However, the hostility that he faced was utterly out of proportion to the extent to which he was actually at fault. A basketball coach probably has a bigger effect on his team’s season than a baseball manager, but the Knicks were still bad because the players were bad. If Phil Jackson and Isaiah Thomas had switched places half way through the season, the Knicks would still have been rotten and the Lakers would still have been good. Perhaps Jackson might have managed a few more wins than Thomas, but not as many more as if Zach Randolph had been replaced with a decent power forward, or if they had found a point guard who wasn’t a midget or insane. Thomas did more to deserve the hostility by assembling the god awful players in his role as general manager, but for the most part it seemed that people demanding his head were responding to his role as coach and their bitterness directed at him seemed to have more to do with expressing rage, than a rational understanding of what was going on with the team. (Don’t get me wrong, Isaiah was awful, but probably not that awful.)

Thus, the official Samsmetsblog view (and only sane opinion) regarding Willie Randolph is that he is ok, not brilliant, not a disaster, and not all that important; and also the New York press and sports fans instinct to pile on black coaches/managers is slightly worrisome, but difficult to definitively label as racism. In the end, someone who thinks that the Mets best move is to fire Willie Randolph is like a man who, when asked his view on Bush as a President, talks to you for twenty minutes about how he fucked up the highway system.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

better than no post at all....

From frequent (only) blog commentator” Nigel Fowler:”
Unless you plan to discuss this on the blog, could you please explain to me why Gandolph removed the estimable Vargas and replaced him with the hapless Thielman, who thereafter lost the game?

Could you also explain why Gandolph had Joe Smith pitch to one (1) person, with demonstrable skill, then replaced him?

If I didn't know better I'd wonder if he was trying to throw the game.But perhaps there are things I don't understand.

Unrelatedly, where's the best place to purchase Mets Caps (including a small child's one)? I have a request from England for baseball caps.

I didn’t actually get to catch the game, so I’m going off of the Post, metsblog and gameday (which actually gives you complete play-by-play information for past games, which is pretty cool— if you ever get asked questions about games that you didn’t watch.)

Anyhow, when Vargas was taken out he had thrown 97 pitches, and the Mets seem to like to limit their starters to around a hundred pitches, whenever possible. Pitch counts are very common in baseball now and, if you believe Ron Darling or Comrade Marty Noble, linked to the decline of the West. The theory, naturally, is that by limiting a starter’s pitches you prevent injury and enable superior performances in future appearances. The Mets seem to be a little more interested in limiting a starter’s pitches than most teams, and I get the impression that this is somehow related to a philosophy of pitching that comes from Rick Peterson.

More to the point, Vargas had given up a home run in the 6th inning, and then walked the second batter he faced in the 7th on four pitches-- both of which are generally regarded as signs that a starter is tiring and losing their control. Randolph thought Vargas was exhibiting commonly agreed on portents of a Heilman-esqu meltdown, and for all we know Randolph was right on this.

The decision to leave Heilman in is a little more interesting/almost definitely the wrong thing to do. One factor is that Schoenwisse had been hospitalized for a stomach virus the night before, and was probably regarded as unavailable (he showed up at the park and told reporters after the game that he could have pitched, but whatever). Recently injured relievers Duaner Sanchez and Matt Wise had both appeared in the previous game; Sanchez had been used in the last two games. With a day game on Thursday (meaning that pitchers used in Wednesday’s game would have less time to recover), Randolph’s desire was too get as much as he could out of as few pitchers as possible; he really wanted an inning or two out of Heilman, and was slow to accept that he wasn’t going to get it. And even when it became obvious that Heilman would be unable to perform, they still had to leave him in for another batter or so, while they waited for Joe Smith to warm up.

As for Smith only facing one batter, you seem to be mistaken: all the sources indicate that he also pitched a scoreless 8th, although that was probably not Randolph’s plan. In theory, due largely to the uniqueness of his throwing motion, Smith should be a specialist or situational reliever who is brought in to face specific batters, mainly right-handers. In theory, Hielman is more like a “miniature starter” (he actually began his career as a starter, wasn’t any good at it and got moved to the bullpen, but still dreams about returning to the rotation) who should be able to pitch an inning or two to pretty much anyone. Thus, ideally, Heilman would have finished the 7th and pitched most of the 8th—if another pitcher was needed for the last batter or so of the 8th inning Randolph would have gone to Smith or Feliciano depending on the handedness of the opposing batter. Randolph’s major mistake was not seeing that his ideal scenario was not going to happen soon enough. His only move was to bring in Joe Smith to perform the role that he had planned for Heilman; Randolph did do this eventually, but he probably should have done it sooner.

For what its worth, Randolph is more stuck with Heilman than he is with pretty much any other player. Heilman is one of only a few “homegrown” players on the squad (Wright, Reyes, Smith, and Mike Pelfry are the only others, I believe), and so there are sentimental and financial (he is still on his first contract which is probably fairly advantageous for the club) incentives to retain him. I am pretty sure that he has been on the team too long to be sent to the minors, and most comparable relievers would be more expensive for the team than Heilman.

Willie’s only motivation for throwing a game would be if he wants to get fired. If the Mets don’t do very well this year, and even if they ever go on a serious loosing streak, Randolph will probably be gone. However, he is under contract and “firing” him would probably involve handing him a big wad of cash, so we can’t rule out anything.

Mets caps are available on the web and at the ballpark, and also at a couple locations that sell team merchandise. One of these is located in the big mall in Flushing, the foodcourt of which seems to have a serious dumpling stand.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Incredibly, Jose Conseco’s Credibility has Taken a Hit

“Here’s something you probably don’t know about Roger Clemens: He’s one of very few baseball players I know who never cheated on his wife. I was amazed by him, to be honest. His wife should be very proud of him.”

So…does this mean that Jose Conseco never actually had any idea what he was talking about?

Having an affair with a fifteen-year old when you are twenty eight (and married with two children, if you want to do the whole bourgeoisie morality thing) is the sort of shit that people generally go the hell to jail for. So for a bit there I was a little disappointed in the ol’ Rocket.

But it just might be mathematically impossible to be white trash-ier than Mindy Mccready. Her resume includes being a country singer (with titles as diverse as “Ten Thousand Angels” and “Guys do it all the time”), being an oxycontin addict (hillbilly heroin, Rush Limbaugh’s drug of choice), a weird incident in 2005 that might have been an attempt on he part to unmask a con-artist and might have been her stealing some dude’s truck (there is weirdly little information about this on the internet), and beating up her mother. So I kinda give Clemens props, in a satisfying episode of the Springer Show sort of way.

If you want to take a moment and actually (shudder) analyze Jose Conseco, you are compelled to realize that he has some very weird issues with Roger Clemens. In Juiced, after making his claim about Clemens’s fidelity, he goes on to broadly imply that Clemens had used steroids. Since the release of the Mitchell report Conseco he has submitted an affidavit saying that he had no knowledge of Clemens’ steroid use, and has also implied that, had it not been for pressure from his publisher—which he links to Clemens’ connection to the Bush family—he would have written more about Clemens’ steroid use in Juiced. Essentially, now, his position is that he never had any proof that Clemens did steroids, but had always strongly suspected that he might do steroids, and he emphasizes either the lack of proof or the longtime suspicion, depending on the situation.

My theory is that Jose Conseco’s two goals in all of this are to be liked by Roger Clemens and to enhance his (Conseco’s) personal celebrity as much as possible. Probably, part of why Conseco wanted to be liked by Clemens was that he knew damn well that Clemens did steroids. Thus, when he initially wrote Juiced he did, in fact, have more about Clemens doing steroids, since it was the most sensational thing at his disposal, but he also threw in the thing about Clemens never cheating on his wife, as an olive branch or consolation prize. Also, Conseco might have known that Clemens’ fidelity would eventually come under scrutiny, and wanted the Rocket to know that he was on his side, at least when it came to screwing underage country singers. Conseco’s publishers made him tone down the stuff about Clemens, because they weren’t dummies and knew that Clemens was the sort of guy who would be a litigious dick about being explicitly called out for steroids. After the Mitchell report, one of the many minor pieces of Conseco stock that went up was the fact that he was prevented from printing unsubstantiated claims about Clemens’ juicing in the first place, and Conseco had to make this known. However, because he still wants to be liked by Clemens, the Clemens camp was able to work something out where he would publicly claim that he had no explicit knowledge of Clemens’ steroid use.

I like to think that, although most of the negotiating was done by their agents, Jose Conseco insisted on a face to face meeting to confirm the details of the arrangement. Conseco went alternately hoping that Clemens would embrace him as a fellow disgraced juicer and eagerly anticipating Clemens’ squirming with the knowledge that he was in some way under Conseco’s power. The meeting was brief and Clemens never made eye-contact with Conseco. Maybe at the end, Conseco said something like “hey, how’s that little blond country singer doing, she was a real nice piece of ass,” and Clemens grunted and shrugged, his eyes clearly saying “jesus christ what will it take to get this fucking spic out of my sight,”…and Conseco, who had been greedily studying the broad, bloated face for any sign of fellow feeling or sympathy, could read that as clear as a billboard, and, after a weak attempt at getting the check, shuffled out into the world to maintain Clemens’ innocence.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Beltran’s Leadership Strikes Again

When Reyes was taken out of the game against the Brewers on Friday, April 11th, Gary Cohen and Ron Darling spent a moment discussing weather it was for defensive lapses, or for not running out ground balls, before the hamstring tightness was announced. The Mets lost the next two games, which Reyes sat out. At some point, before he returned the next Tuesday, Beltran approached Reyes and gave him a pep talk in which he encouraged Reyes to be himself and to return to the exuberant ways that he had renounced after his September slump; in the wake of being generally blamed for the Mets collapse, Reyes had reported to camp committed to being more focused on baseball and less on theatrics. Particularly, he decided to eliminate his choreographed celebratory handshakes, which had drawn the ire of opponents. After Beltran’s talk, Reyes resolved to return to being the “old Reyes,” to take up the handshakes and everything. This resolution has been followed by good play for Reyes, who had good series against the Nationals and Phillies.

Nothing is as important to the Mets as a dominant Reyes, and anything that encourages this is more than welcome. At the same time the incident furthers the perception of Beltran filling the perceived leadership void, which is also fun.

If you are looking for something to feel skeptical about, you can bear in mind that Reyes’ mini-streak has come against the Nationals, who are bad, and in Citizens’ Bank Park, where Reyes has always enjoyed hitting. He hit three home runs there once in 2006, during a terrible outing by an injured Pedro. Reyes’ homeruns also were the bulk of the Mets offense. The first one, which lead off the game, lead to an exuberant celebration in the dugout. Although they were healthily behind when he hit his second, it seemed to give them new life, and again his teammates were hopefully enthusiastic. By the time he hit the third, the game was already basically lost, and the only person waiting for the triumphant Reyes on the dugout steps was infield reserve Chris Woodward; Wright, who had lead the rush to greet him after the first homerun, was off in a corner.

I’m going to vent my disappointment with myself for not having posted enough lately by pointing out that the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro is kind of a moron. He wrote a whiney column, lamenting that the Mets blew their shot at a sweep of the Phillies and attributing this to Castillo’s inability to get a bunt down in the ninth inning, with runners on first and second, nobody out, and the Mets trailing by one. After Castillo struck out, Wright popped out, and Beltran hit a ball that might have gone for a hit but was well fielded by Phillie’s shortstop Eric Bruntlett. Vaccaro claims that if Castillo got the bunt down, the entire complexion of the inning would be changed, which is sort of true: the complexion of the inning would also have been changed if Beltran or Wright had gotten a hit, or if Castillo had been able to get on base. Identifying Castillo’s inability to put down the bunt as the play that cost them the game strikes me as odd: I’d just as soon blame Beltran and Wright for not getting a hit with the tying run in scoring position in the ninth. Or, fuck it; blame Pelfrey for giving up home-runs.

People have been telling me lately that I am unreasonably impatient with bunting as a strategy, and they are probably right. But my impatience is a results form the fact that the Mets in general, and Louis Castillo in particular, seem to display an unhealthy mania for the tactic. Obviously, if you have to make an out you might as well advance the runners and in certain situations the bunt is an invaluable tool. However, Castillo seems to really love to bunt, which is odd because he’s not an utterly incompetent hitter, and he particularly excels at patience and pitch recognition, meaning that, unless he bunts, pitchers have to throw strikes to get him out. If I was Willie Randolph, I’d send Castillo up and make the opposing pitcher throw strikes until he either walked Castillo, or got him out, or gave him a pitch to hit, rather than sacrifice a competent batter in order to advance runners.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bill James: Sunday’s Mets vs. Brewers, Worst Game of Baseball Since 1972

Sabermetric guru Bill James has recently stated that Sunday’s contest between the Milwaukee Brewers and the New York Mets was the worst game of baseball since an Oakland Athletic loss to the Boston Redsox in 1972. In the National League there hasn’t been a worse game since a 1970 contest between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Huston Astros.

“In the course of 162 games, teams will play some excruciating baseball,” said James, “In fact, the human mind is not capable of contextualizing all of the awfulness, and evaluating it in terms of relative terribleness. Thus, I have created several statistics to help us gauge relative levels of suckitude.

“Sometimes,” said James, “both starters will simply have bad outings. What makes a start truly pathetic is when it seems like it might have had potential, but still ends up a disaster.”

Such was the case of the Mets Oliver Perez on Sunday, who entered the 4th with a four run lead that he was unable to protect for an inning. One of James’ statistics, SUC [Starters Underachieving Completely], relates size of a lead to the shortness of the time that it was held. Perez had a SUC of 7.4, and a SUC + (adjusted across eras) of 1.5. “Additionally, the Brewers did half of their damage in that inning with two outs, when it looked like Perez might have been able to escape, contributing to his Lima-factor of 12,” added James.

Another feature of Sunday’s game was that the Mets were able to get the leadoff man on in nearly every inning, but were seldom able to get that runner to score. “Something like that,” said James “speaks volumes of awful about both teams. It reminds you that the Brewers’ pitching was just brutal, but also makes the point that the Mets ability to get the job done with runners on base was, quite frankly, an embarrassment to the sport.”

POOP [Players Offering Outs Pathetically] is used to gauge overall offensive ineptitude. The two teams, aided by the 5 double plays turned against the Mets, combined for a POOP of 24.7 “In a situation like that it is almost as if they were two turds, chasing each other down the drain of America’s pastime,” said James.

CRAP [Continuing Really Awful Play] relates the awful baseball to the inning that it occurred in and also places the game in the larger context of both team’s seasons. Sunday’s game scored a CRAP of 34.6; CRAPs above 26.5 are, according to James “thankfully, exceedingly rare.”

Sunday’s CRAP rating was the highest since the 1972 game, and the eight highest since World War II—the furthest back that James has been able to do his calculations. Strangely, the Mets have been participants in seven of the ten highest CRAP-rated games in that time, even though they were only formed in 1962.

Although all can agree that there was nothing good about Sunday’s game, some dispute James’ assertion about its historic awfulness. Said WFAN’s Joe Beningo “I don’t need a computer to tell me what’s bad baseball. Sure, that Mets game sucked. But I remember a game, in the either ’91 or ’93 between, I think it was the Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates, were the two teams combined for something like twenty errors. Man, that game was awful.”

While James agrees that miserable fielding is one of the main components of pathetic baseball, he believes that errors are too imprecise a metric. He prefers FUCK [Fielders Un-displaying Competence Kompletely] which calculates not only scored errors but other minor and major fielding miscues; Sunday’s game was completely FUCKed, with a score of 12.8.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jimmy Rawlins Defends his MVP

Were there any questions about the value that Jimmy Rawlins brings to the Phillies, they were answered on Wednesday when Rawlins was forced to miss the game with a sprained ankle and the Mets beat the Phillies by capitalizing on lousy fielding and all around sloppy play, in much the way that the Phillies had beaten the Mets in the last nine games the two clubs played. Rawlins was replaced by Eric Bruntlet who committed two costly errors at shortstop, although he did get a hit and a walk in the Phillies 2-8 loss.

The feeling in SABER circles was that the MVP should have been David Wright. Rawlins, who had over 20 each of homeruns, triples, doubles, and stolen bases, benefited from having an historic number of plate appearances, as a result of batting lead off, in a high powered offense, in a very hitter-friendly park. Wright, however, beat out Rawlins in metrics like VORP and EqA, largely by posting a higher On Base Percentage.

If the difference between how the Phillies played the Mets on Wednesday and how the series between them had gone before was entirely attributable to Jimmy Rawlins, than it would be very hard to argue that any player could be more valuable to their team. While this does take away something from the Mets victory, it also helps to underscore the overall fragility of the Phillies.

So, Jimmy Rawlins, you get to be a black guy who is by far the best player on a flawed team from Philadelphia. You should ask “The Answer” how that worked out for him…if you ever find yourself in Denver. (hmm…Rawlins actually did find himself in Denver as the Phillies lost to the Rockies in the NLDS. I remember wondering who Allen Iverson rooted for at the time).


If Mike Pelfrey is actually going to start being a viable big-league starter, it could not have come at a better time, as it coincides directly with the news that some new ailment will keep Old Duque away from the big league club even longer. All the talking heads on the post-game show were saying that it was just one start, which is completely true. But, for just one start, you couldn’t ask for much more: it’s not like the long-term out-look would be better if he had pitched badly.


Oh yeah, if you’re reading this, Joe Girardi: move A-rod to shortstop, dumbass. Jeter is such a calm-eyed, leadership, team-first guy that he would surely by able to take the hit to his ego. Kinda surprising he hasn’t suggested it himself.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Delgado's Opening Day at Shea

Lost amongst the Mets spending the winter and spring talking about putting the collapse behind them and then playing Tuesday’s home opener against the Phillies in a way that was somehow more collapse-ey than anything that they did in September ‘07, was the fact that Carlos Delgado had himself what I can only imagine is a fairly unusual game-- hitting a home run (2-4 overall), turning an unassisted double play, and committing a costly throwing error—which, perhaps more than any other non-Heilman/ Schoeneweis factor, lost them the game.

Jason Werth led off the Phillies’ second with a single. The next batter hit the ball hard up the first base line, as Werth started, but only just started, to head for second. The ball came exactly at Carlos Delgado, who was standing between Werth and the bag, and turned the double play by grabbing the ball, stepping on first base, and applying a tag to Werth—all the work of about half a second, since, at the time the ball came to Delgado’s glove, Werth, ball and bag, were all within two feet of each other. The highlight of the play was Werth, whose move was theoretically to run towards second and get caught in a run-down, but opted instead to stand frozen just off of first base, his head turned down, his body askance, and one arm dangled downwards at an angel to cover his crotch: the position was probably the result of him being frozen in the first motions of running to second, but looked very much like some primal expression of embarrassment.

Delgado led off the Mets half of that inning and hit a towering home run to center field, giving the Mets a 1-0 lead. Delgado had been having a seemingly good start to the year, hitting for some ridiculous, small sample-size average, but most of his hits have been singles, and pretty much attributable to a run of good luck on balls put in play. This was an old-school Carlos Delgado monster shot, and it was really great to see. At the same time, Jamie Moyer is no John Smoltz, and it is important to remember that almost all of what the Mets accomplished, and didn’t accomplish, came against the only active MLB player older than Shea Stadium.

In the next inning, Delgado was part of the sequence that scored the Mets second run. Beltran had drawn a one out walk, and moved to second on Delgado’s single. Pagan then got an infield hit on a questionable play by Utley, and Beltran scored on a Ryan Church groundout. Moyer then intentionally walked Brian Schneider to load the bases and struck out Oliver Perez. Perez’ at bat included the oddest attempt at bunting for a hit: as Moyer released the ball, Perez quickly swung the bat into the position used to bunt, and, as the ball reached the plate, dropped the bat and began to sprint towards first without awaiting the results of the ball/bat encounter—they missed each other completely and Ollie took a strike.

In the bottom of the seventh, Ryan Howard faced Scott Schoeneweis with the bases loaded and one out-- Chase Utley was the runner on first. Howard hit a ground ball that Delgado fielded, as the runners went in motion. Delgado threw the ball to Jose Reyes at second. Ideally, Reyes would have tagged second, getting out Utley, and then tossed the ball back to Delgado at first to get out the slow moving Howard and end the inning. Delgado’s throw, however, hit Utley square in the back and then bounced into the outfield, allowing both the runners ahead of Utley to score, and leaving runners at first and second with still only one out. Those two runs tied the game, and Utley scored latter in the inning, to give the Phillies the lead. Utley was running outside of the base path when he was hit by Delgado, and while the thing was obviously a rotten break, it was also the result of sub-optimal defense by Delgado and Reyes- the latter should not have positioned himself with Utley between him and Delgado. Oddly, Utley had reached base by being hit by a pitch: it was the third time he had been hit that day (although the first two had made more contact with his uniform than with actual Chase Utley), tying the major league record for HBP in a game.

So, when was the last time that a player turned an unassisted double play, hit a home run, and committed a run-scoring error in the same game? And what does it tell us about players who accomplish this feat? Probably not very much…although I’d be pretty impressed if anyone has done it twice.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Notes on a Game: 4/6/08

These are extracted from some notes that I took on Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Braves. I was fairly pissed that the Mets missed The Traitor in the Braves rotation, and I guess I am even more pissed after seeing how Smoltz pitched. As it was, the pitchers duel between Smoltz and Santana lived up to expectations. Smoltz gave five innings, allowing two hits, two walks and no runs, while Santana pitched seven and gave up seven hits, no walks and one run. The Mets, however, managed to do absolutely didly-squat at the plate, either against Smoltz or the Braves bullpen, which is not generally considered a strength. An additional factor in the Met’s loss was a two-run dinger that Hielman gave up in the eighth—but I think that the Met’s major culprit was still a miserable lack of hitting.

2nd Inning:
-Church looks like he’s swinging at garbage…and strikes out.
-Pagan is up, who is, according to the announcers, the first guy to score a run and drive in a run in each of his first four games for a new team since 1969…he still grounds out.
-Schneider goes down, which means they don’t clear the pitchers spot.

3rd inning:
-Santana hits a damn double!
-And takes third on a Reyes groundball!
-Santana stays at third for a shallow Castillo fly ball out, probably wise.
-Smoltz strikes out Wright to end the inning.

-Kotsay with a leadoff double…ick.
-Smoltz bunts…Santana gets the ball and might have had a play at third, but miss-communicates with Wright slightly and gets Smoltz at first, Kotsay to third.
-Santana makes a beautiful diving stop, and gets Kelly Johnson at first, keeping Kotsay at third. Santana’s pitching is not terrific, but he is still fielding like a motherfucker, and got that hit… amazing ball player (Pope still catholic, in other news)
-Yunel Escobar RBI double. Fuck. Pagan might have had a chance at a catch but didn’t get it.
-groundball to Castillo ends the inning.

-Beltran works a 3-2 count...strikes out, but made Smoltz work for it.
-Delgado gets a hit. Hell yes!
-And then Church hits a ball into the outfield, which is caught, and Delgado is thrown out going back to first to end the inning.

-Ruben Gotay, who got a hit and scored in yesterday’s horrible game, comes in as a pinch hitter. Ruben will probably hit a dinger, but it’s nice that we’ll see the Braves bullpen in the 6th inning…Gotay strikes out for the second out.
-Kelly Johnson gets a single. Escobar hits a groundball to end the inning.

Keith Hernandez: I’ll look like Hercules unchained. [in Gary Cohen’s shirt]

Gary Cohen:…a very important trivial part of Mets history…

Mets down 3. Wright leading off. Let’s do this.
-Wright draws a walk.
-Beltran strikes out.
-Delgado flies out.
-Wright to second on defensive indifference—defensive indifference is pretty cool.
-Church singles. Wright scores.
-Pagan comes up, as the trying run. Church goes to second on defensive indifference.
-Pagan works a 3-2, umpire’s calls are getting arbitrary, Pagan draws a walk. Brining up Schneider.
-If I were Randolph, I would give serious thought to lifting Schneider for a pinch hitter, [as Schneider grounds out]…’cause if Schneider gets out, they loose. If there would be a better chance of Easley getting a hit, fuck it, bring him in and use Casanova for the 9th. What do they have to loose? The only reason to keep Schneider would be if they thought he was more likely to hit than Easley, which they might have.

The losing pitcher pitched 7 innings, allowing seven hits, one run, and no walks. Wins and Losses are a very good way of evaluating pitchers. Santana did not really seem to have his best stuff, but still managed to be pretty amazing. Mets and Mets fans are really lucky to have the guy. (go to for some pictures of bears shiting…in the woods!!)

The Offense:Wright and Beltran combined to draw three walks, and hit nothing. Reyes never got on base. No one else had a good game at the plate either, unless you want to count Delgado’s two singles. Sorriano, the Braves closer, looked like crap, and I think that the Mets wasted their best opportunity of the game in the 9th, when Beltran and Delgado made outs against him.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The 8th inning sing-along Adventure

I: Last year, the Mets, following the lead of the Red Sox (who had been doing the same thing for quite some time), played the song “Sweet Caroline” during the eighth inning and encouraged people to sing along to it.

II: This was slightly horrible. Sweet Caroline is a pretty bad song. And a whole stadium of people singing it with differing levels of in-tune-ness was pretty annoying.

IIa: In circles where music is taken seriously, Sweet Caroline is an almost uniquely despised song. I once met a bass player and we had a conversation to this effect.

IIb: It could have been worse: the ballpark is a place of compromise, and will not adhere 100% to anyone’s ideal ballpark. Little as I liked “Sweet Caroline,” it is easier for me to imagine them doing something more horrible, than for me to imagine them doing something I liked.

IIc: “S.C’ is so maddeningly catchy and feel good that you almost have to give it some form of props. All you really have to do is think about it and it gets in your head (sweeeet Car-o-line, la-da-da daa da da daaaaaa –So good! So good!... FUCK!!)

IId: The song is an abomination. Neil Diamond should be burned to death.

III: Possibly in acknowledgment of II, the Mets have announced that this year fans can vote for one of several choices, or write in their own suggestion for a new song to be played during the eighth inning.

IIIa: In conformation of IIb, Billy Jole’s “I’m Moving Out” and Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” are among the choices.

IV: has taken the lead (although others were quick to follow) in encouraging people to write in Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give you Up”—an effort, if successful, that would result in the “rickrolling” of the entire Mets franchise.

IVa: The whole “rickrolling” thing, and internet memes in general, are strange. I get that it is funny to randomly draw attention to different pop-cultural inanities of the past and present. But when you say, of Snakes on a Plane or Rick Astley, that it is “awesome,” what do you actually mean? Is that an honest opinion? Or are you saying that the song corresponds to some set of criteria that you have decided to equate temporarily with awesomeness? Essentially, you are entering a place where traditional concepts like “good” and “bad” have no significance, and the only important quality is some kind of ever-fluctuating, vaguely ironical now-ness—that exists without reference to anything, or references everything.

IVb: That said, an ironical “Never Gonna Give You Up” is, to my mind, far, far more enjoyable than an earnest “Sweet Caroline.”

IVc: That said, I’m not sure how down I am with the Mets being the victim of jokes played by the internet, just sort of on principal.

V: None of this really matters, because the Mets are probably not going to allow themselves to be “rickrolled.” If they don’t want “Never Gonna Give you Up” they won’t have it. They will either go with the next highest vote getter, or just make some other, autocratic, decision.

VI: The whole thing was the subject of a lengthy discussion on metsblog, which also delved into the issues of weather in-game entertainments on the jumbo-tron are desirable or not.

VIa: my feeling on the latter matter: while I like the purist concept of a ball-park with limited non-baseball media, I recognize it as a necessity for many park goers, and have occasionally been grateful for something loud and shinny to occupy my attention in between innings—while other times I have found them inexcusably obnoxious.

VIa1: Ideally they would work on making more in-game entertainments that were fun and interesting, while eliminating ones that sucked. Professor Reyes can teach all the Spanish that he wants; the bit where the kid gets a prize if he hits a home-run in a videogame? Not so much.

VII: Seriously, the song “Sweet Caroline” is quite bad.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Better World…

Right now, I have $26 in my pocket. If my pocket, myself and my $26 were in Port St. Lucie, FL, I could use them to buy thirteen Budweisers and thirteen hotdogs, both of which are being sold for $1, to celebrate the first game of the season for the Port St. Lucie Mets. Or, if I was feeling temperate, I could enjoy eighteen hotdogs, with a mere eight Budweisers while I watched Ruben Tejada take his first cuts of ’08, Indeed, any combination of hotdogs+ Budweisers equaling 26 or less could be mine for the having, if only I were in Port St. Lucie watching the Port St. Lucie Mets.

But I’m not. I’m in New York City, working in the sub-sub-library, with neither a hotdog, nor a Budwieser to my name. The only baseball on is the Yankees, and after work I get to walk to the train in the cold.

Congratulations, by the way, to Nelson Figueroa, on making the team while Pedro goes on the DL…if I were in Port St. Lucie I could drink up to 26 Budwiesers in honor of N-Fig’s return to the big leagues.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wagner: You can’t Pull Fat

They really didn’t waste any time. In two games they’ve managed to run the dizzying gamut of baseball emotions, from the giddy excitement of finally seeing Santana, to “oh fuck, fuck fuck, Pedro’s injured again, fuck.” The dominance and exuberance of youth, giving away to the frailty and uncertainty of age. The entire spectrum of baseball, covered in two games. Everything that happens from now on will seem redundant.

The commercials on am sports radio have to be considered as a candidate for the lowest form of expression ever produced.

Perhaps the best thing about Santana was the sense, not entirely logical, that we were finally done with relying on the murky depths of the rotation, who would now only appear in the number five spot. With Pedro injured, two out of five starts have to come from some mix of Pelfery, El Duque, Jorge Sosa, Nelson Figureoa, the last of whom, Willy Randolph apparently said would probably replace Pedro on the roster.

It was almost inevitable that Pedro would spend some time on the DL at some point, but the hope was that it would have come at some latter point in the season, after he had demonstrated an ability to stay with the team.

Indeed, in terms of actual baseball the injury to Pedro has the potential to be relatively minor. Pedro was probably expected to do fairly little, with the most serious expectations, after Santana, falling on Oliver Perez and John Maine. At the same time, the idea of the five Cy Youngs between Pedro and Santana, the new ace and the old ace at the top of the rotation counted for something, if only to the fans. In truth, Pedro has not had a very major effect on either of the last two seasons, and, while most of the anticipation was geared towards Santana, there was also a fair amount of excitement at the prospect of finally seeing what the Mets had in Martinez.

And perhaps the best thing about watching Santana was knowing that he would be followed by Pedro, and the expectation that the Mets dominance on the mound would continue into the next game.

…actually sports talk itself might be worse than the commercials. They just blamed Spike Lee for the state of the Knicks.

Monday, March 31, 2008

2008 Preview: Bench

Although technically part of the bench, Endy Chavez and Ramon Castro have been included in the sections on outfielders and catchers, respectively.

Marlon Anderson
Chinese Zodiac: Ox
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .268/.317/.396
Although Anderson is listed as an outfielder, he will mainly be used as a pinch hitter, a task at which he freakishly gifted. Indeed, the slightest suggestion from Willie Randolph triggers in Anderson an unstoppable urge to hit a baseball. His neighbors would frequently find him standing outside his house, with a helmet and baseball bat, after Willie Randolph’s Subway commercials had been shown on television.

Damion Easley
Chinese Zodiac: Rooster
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .252/.329/.406
Powermind devote Damion Easley is back after a broken ankle cut short a promising 2007. Easley can play most infield and outfield positions, and adds a good power bat off of the bench.

Brady Clark
Chinese Zodiac: Ox
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .278/.358/.387
Nothing against Brady Clark, he seems like a fine back-up outfielder, but the last spot on the Mets bench has become a frustrating mystery. Late last week, the Mets placed good hitting infield reserve Ruben Gotay on waivers, sighting his questionable defense and a recently injured ankle. The thought was that waiving Gotay was a prelude to putting Fernando Tatis, an older player who could play both infield and outfield positions, on the roster. Thus, going with Clark, a more strictly outfield reserve acquired in the off-season , came as something of a surprise. And Gotay was promptly picked up by the Braves, where he will probably be fairly disappointing… except for the .450 that he’ll hit off of Mets pitching.

2008 Preview: Bullpen

Pedro Feliciano
WHIP: 1.335
Chinese Zodiac: Dragon
Pedro Feliciano is, in my opinion, one of the more overlooked Mets. His value as a lock-down, late innings left-handed specialist is immense. One of the major criticisms of Willie Randolph’s management is his use of a bullpen, and a lot of what people mean by that is his habit of using Feliciano in random situations, for varying numbers of innings. According to occasional comments made in the media by other Mets, Feliciano is kind of a character in the clubhouse, but he gets fairly little attention of his own.

Aaron Hielman
WHIP: 1.274
Chinese Zodiac: Horse
For all the changes to the Mets rotation, both contemplated and made, using Heilman as a starter was never one of them. The theory is that Heilman has more value as a good reliever than a bottom of the rotation starter. However, even though everyone has been saying that for years, Heilman still admits that he would be happier starting. I wonder if a similar change, from the rotation to the bullpen, might be in the future of Mike Pelfrey (who has “won” the 5th starter’s job while El Duque continued to work in extended spring training), who might also benefit from it.

Scott Schoeneweis
Chinese Zodiac: Ox
Schoeneweis was a horrendous last year, although he was pitching with a severed tendon in his foot. He also claims, credibly, that the steroids he took were part of legitimate medical treatment. As I promised, if he has a good year, I will write him a letter apologizing for saying bad things about him on the internet. It still irks me that he got the deal they wouldn’t give Chad Bradford.

Joe Smith
WHIP: 1.556
Chinese Zodiac: Rat
Last season, his rookie year, Smith made the camp out of spring training, did ok for a while, regressed, got sent to the minors, and then came back to the big league team near the end of the year and was fairly unimpressive. Smith’s spring also had a disappointing start, but he heated up at the end of the Grapefruit league and made the team for a second year in a row. Apparently, he bet a stake dinner with Duaner Sanchez that he (Smith) would start the year in the minors, and Duaner would make the big league club. Aside from owing Sanchez steaks, things are looking up for Smith.

Jorge Sosa
WHIP: 1.455
Chinese Zodiac: Snake
Although Heilman remains stuck in the bullpen, Sosa is still part of the conversation about the 5th starting job. Last season, with El Duque injured and Pelfery pitching badly, Sosa came roaring out of the minors and won a nice string of games as a starter, before running into problems and being moved into the bullpen. In retrospect, Sosa’s weird little dominant streak went a long way towards masking the problems of the ’07 Mets.

Billy Wagner
WHIP: 1.016
Chinese Zodiac: Pig
Oh, Billy Wagner. On paper, Wags seems like one of the best closers in the National League, and nervous as he sometimes makes me, I am guess I am still happy to have him, over most other options. This season, the major concern with Wagner is a weekly radio spot that he has agreed to do with ESPN. Everyone’s thinly disguised fear is that it is only a matter of time before he does something like call out Reyes for a lack of hustle on the air, or otherwise lands the club in controversy.

Matt Wise
WHIP: 1.261
Chinese Zodiac: Rabbit
Came from Milwaukee in the off-season, seems pretty good. I don’t have much else to say about him.

Duaner Sanchez
WHIP: 1.374
Chinese Zodiac: Rooster
After Sanchez injured his arm in a taxi cab in ’06 they put it back together with screws. If Sanchez can get back, at any point, at anything like how he was pitching before he went down, it will be an immense asset for the Mets. So far, he seems ok given the circumstances: he is beginning the year in extended spring training, might be with the club shortly.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

2008 Preview: Outfield

CF: Carlos Beltran
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .280/.354/.496
Chinese Zodiac: Snake
The other day, Beltran made a nice, diving, out-of-nowhere catch in a meaningless spring training game. Beltran’s status as a running-into-walls/flinging-himself-at-the-ground-type outfielder belongs in the ongoing catalog of sports-journalistic omissions with vague overtones of racial bias. Guys like Aaron Rowand can win a franchise’s never-ending loyalty with that type of play, but with Beltran it somehow goes unnoticed—in fairness Rowand managed to injure himself more gruesomely than Beltran has, but are you really blaming Beltran for not missing playing time with broken bones in his face? In ’06 Beltran knocked himself unconscious for a few moments while catching a ball at the wall in Huston-- the team that he left for a larger pay-check from the Mets. After the game, he was asked how it compared to a time in ’05 when he knocked himself unconscious running into fellow outfielder, Mike Cameron. Beltran said it was better: “The first time, I didn’t know where I was, but today, when I heard the boos, I knew I was in Huston.” I don’t think he gets enough credit for his sense of humor, either.

RF: Ryan Church
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .271/.348/.462
Chinese Zodiac: Horse
In 2005, concerned over the soul of an ex-girlfriend, Ryan Church asked the Chaplin of the Washington Nationals if Jews were “doomed.” When the Chaplin implied that they were, he (the Chaplin) had his access to the clubhouse suspended-- and Church apologized. Church came to the Mets as part of the Lastings Milledge deal, where he will share an outfield with fellow Christian Carlos Beltran. In the last days of the ’07 season, Church talked trash as his lowly Nationals won games against the heavily favored Phillies and Mets, and might provide the club with some of the feistiness that they might have been missing last year. He also might make me feel really terrible for being so hard on Shawn Greene last season; Greene actually had a pretty good year—the Mets will be lucky to get that kind of production from Church.

LF: Angel Pagan
Career AVG/OBP/SLG:.255/.306/.415
Chinese Zodiac: Rooster
At some point, when Pagan was at his hottest this spring, a rumor circulated that the Mets were in the process of trading him to the Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Coco Crisp. Crisp is regarded as an exceptional fielder, but had only had one particularly impressive season as a hitter, and was underwhelming in Spring Training, while Pagan, owner of very few big league at-bats, was tearing up the Grapefruit League. Opinion on the internet was divided as to weather or not this deal would be in the interests of the Mets. A brief perusal of their statistics showed that Crisp was an established, big-league player, while, Grapefruit league aside, there was no way to tell with Pagan. Indeed, the numbers indicated that 1) the Mets should definitely take the deal if it was available, but the disparity was so great that 2) it seemed completely unlikely that the Red Sox would ever make such an offer. Sure enough, the Pynchon character for breakfast cereal trade turned out to be complete fiction. However, Pagan’s spring was good enough to earn him a job filling in for Moises Alou.

LF: Moises Alou
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .303/.369/.517
Chinese Zodiac: Horse
Alou will miss the first months of the season recovering from hernia surgery. If he ever does get healthy, the Mets should freeze him in carbonite, ala Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, and thaw him out in case of a close pennant race, or appearances in the post season. Although he missed a ton of time with injuries last year, Alou is still the holder of the longest hitting streak in Mets history.

4th Outfielder: Endy Chavez
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .271/.311/.375
Chinese Zodiac: Horse
Particularly with the constant threat of injuries to Alou, and with the rawness of Pagan, Endy will continue to be very valuable as the Mets fourth outfielder. Chavez will be used frequently as a late innings defensive replacement, and to give the regulars occasional days off. The Mets are probably wise in their commitment to keeping Chavez as the fourth outfielder, rather than using him as a starter: while his defense is some of the best in the game, over a large number of at-bats, his hitting would probably become a minor liability.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mets 2008 Preview: Catchers

Previously, with Lo Duca and before him Piazza, the catcher was expected to be both a valuable component of the offense and one of the more media-prominent members of the team. This year marks something of a change in philosophy, as the Mets are looking to get fewer hits and quotes, in return for fewer passed balls and more thrown out base stealers.

Brian Schneider
Chinese Zodiac: Dragon
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .252/.323/.377
I’m not sure how sold I am on the concept of a defense-first catcher. In the end, though, truly good hitting catchers are so hard to come by that perhaps the wise thing is to go with defense, which you can more or less count on, rather than overpay for a player like Paul LoDuca, who is a good hitter for a catcher but still not overwhelming in the context of major league line-ups in general. (In LoDuca’s case the issue is further confused because the two things that he excelled at, hitting for average and not striking out, are probably generally considered more valuable than they actually are) Still, half of a prized outfield prospect doesn’t exactly seem like a bargain, particularly because Schneider is already having hamstring problems in spring. I sincerely hope that Schneider is at least deeply adequate, just so that I won’t have to waste more energy cursing the Milledge deal.
UPDATE: Atlanta was able to tie the first North American regular season game in top of the nineth inning, thanks to a Paul LoDuca passed-ball, so Schneider seems like a little bit of a better idea all ready. And the Nationals won on a walkoff homer in the bottom of the nineth, so that was cool.

Ramon Castro
Chinese Zodiac: Dragon
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: 234/.310/.413
Ramon Castro’s solid hitting and defense are offset by the fact that he has never shown himself durable enough to catch a full season. What is it like being a perfect back-up catcher? Is it like going through life knowing that you excel at substitute teaching? If I were Willie Randolph I would see if I could sort of push things to the point where Schneider was more Castro’s backup than the other way around. The highlight of Castro’s spring came when he stuck a plastic cup onto Luis Castillo’s cap with several wads of bubblegum.

“I got one that can throw but can't catch, one that can catch but can't throw, and one who can hit but can't do either.”
-Casey Stengel

Raul Casanova will probably start the season as the Mets back-up catcher, while Castro recovers from a hamstring injury. Casanova is part of a group of catchers in the Mets minor league system that includes Gustavo Molina and Robinson Cancel, who have had nice spring trainings but are each regarded as some combination of bad at hitting, bad at defense, or too old to be a viable, long-term option in the major leagues. Given the frailty of Castro and Schneider, I would not be even remotely surprised if, at some point in the season, the Mets go and overpay for a scrub to fill in behind the plate. In my uninformed opinion my, the Mets fucked up miserably last year when they allowed prized prospect Jesus Flores to be taken by the Nationals in the rule 5 draft; now they have almost no prospects at catcher, and a long-term solution better than Schneider seems unlikely.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Do…I owe the New York Post…an apology?

Like most other pre-lobotomy sports fans in the greater New York area, I have come to regard The Post as fountain of lies, a journalistic shit-stain further tainting our collective unconscious (and making us pay a higher psychic price than we imagine) —and while that is not the main theme of this blog, it is an opinion that have not hesitated to express here, when appropriate.

However, when I looked at the back page of that publication this morning, I was greeted with one of the most brilliant headlines I have ever read, a headline involving two of baseball’s foremost legends, a headline that kept me grinning all the way to work, a headline that read “Conseco: A-Rod met ‘roid dealer, tried to pick up my wife.”

…if you follow the link, be sure to look at all three images in the mini-slide show. The pictures of Conseco and, especially, A-Rod are completely priceless. The article itself is kind of bad.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mets 2008 Preview: Starting Pitchers

Today I’ll be previewing starting pitchers because, after the infielders, I am most sure about the composition of the rotation.

Johan Santana
Chinese Zodiac: Sheep
Career ERA: 3.22
The arrival of the second best athlete traded from a Minnesota team in the last ten months catapulted the Mets from a shaky team with questions at several positions, into favorites to compete, not only in the NL East, but also for the world championship. I spent a lot of time thinking about this and decided that you probably are better off being a basketball team with Kevin Garnett than a baseball team with Santana. The logic being that in MLB there are perhaps two or three pitchers (Beckett, C.C. Sabathia) that give you more or less what you get from Santana, where as the NBA has one other player, Tim Duncan, who gives Garnett’s combination of lock-down interior defense and solid scoring near the basket; and Duncan has been proving for years that if you surround one of these guys with the right combination of jump shooters and flopping foreign role players, you can compete for the championship until you run out of fingers for rings. Still, in much the way that a KG or a Tim Duncan can improve their team on offense and defense by controlling the paint and taking pressure of their teammates, the presence of a true ace allows for a better rested bullpen, and takes pressure off both the back of the rotation and the lineup. Fortunately, aside from the loss of KG and Johan, everything else about living in Minnesota is completely awesome.

Pedro Martinez
Chinese Zodiac: Pig
Career ERA: 2.80
How will Pedro’s surgically repaired shoulder hold up? How will he adjust to being the number two pitcher on the team? How many jack-ass articles will be written in The Post about Pedro being too greedy and egotistical to come back to the Mets in ’09? Where will Pedro pitch in ’09? And how will he cope with the feelings of remorse brought on by PETA’s letter of protest? Honestly, the outlook on all of these things is good, and the reports from camp are that Pedro is almost enjoying his secondary status. And, in much the way that Santana’s dominance takes pressure of the rest of the Mets on the field, Pedro’s eccentricity and charisma should take pressure off of them in the media. PEDRO FACT: Pedro drives a black Austin-Martin with his number “45” engraved on the hubcaps.

Oliver Perez
Chinese Zodiac: Rooster
Career ERA: 4.43
Sam’s Mets Blog favorite Oliver Perez continues on his quest for some kind of consistency in ‘08. Why can’t he just be good all the time, dammit? The neat thing about Perez is that he still holds out the possibility of transforming into an ace, although the chances of this happening seem more remote every year. I suspect the same oscillation between brilliant starts and disasters. In other news, Ollie won his salary arbitration with the club, which got him a raise of something like $ 4 million. I would really like to know how he spent the night after the arbitration hearing; I hope it involved drinking tequila with Rick Peterson.

John Maine
Chinese Zodiac: Rooster
Career ERA: 4.19
At some point during spring training, one of the Mets Notes, on, was a bunch of bullshit about John Maine going on line for the first time in his life. My assumption is that a reporter saw Maine on a computer and Maine claimed he had never used one before as a joke-- either that, or it was a joke on the part of the reporter. With other ballplayers I might be more inclined to believe this, but Maine is presented as almost an intellectual by baseball standards, doing crossword puzzles and Soduku and occasionally speaking in full sentences. Apparently Maine and Perez have been playing pranks on each other in spring training, and I wonder if this is just fun and games or the seeds of real animosity between the two pitchers vying for #3 status.

The Old Duque (Rooster, or possibly Snake) vs. Big Pelf (Pig)debate took a turn for the terrible as both of them got lit up by the Cardinals on Sunday. Omar Minaya has apparently mentioned Nelson Figueroa (Tiger)and John Niese (Tiger) as possible alternatives. Although, El Duque and Pelfery will split another start before the season begins, I would have to think that any alternative is looking very good. As Dorothy Parker said, “When given a choice of bottom of the rotation starters, I always take the one I haven’t tried before.” Personally, I’m pulling for N-Fig.