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.