Thursday, May 31, 2007

Balkoff Walkoff

I know I'm a day late in posting this, but Tuesday Night's game does indeed bear special mention, and not only because El Guapo and I were in the stands for this one. Tuesday night's game was one of those games that simply defies all explanation, harrowing at times, miserable at others, but scintillating at the end.

And it was indeed the end that everyone will remember. What Benitez did can't simply be described as a Blown Save. El Guapo and I were discussing this on the way down the ramps following the game. This was a full scale Nuclear Meltdown (and not as in Nuke LaLoosh). I mean, this is the kind of blown save that you might actually have to sit awake in bed for a few nights and plan out (Note: And subsequently, it would be Benitez's final indignity in a Giants uniform, he was dealt to Florida Thursday Night). It was bad enough that he committed two balks to allow the tying run to score. No, that wasn't good enough. Armando then subsequently grooved a meatball to Delgado on 2-2 and Carlos absolutely unloaded on it, deep into the night, off the base of the scoreboard and ensuring that I would not have a voice for the next day.

This was the kind of game that I'd been missing this season, after seeing so many like it in 2006. That championship-quality, logic defying game that you look back on in 5 years or so and write a blog about it because everyone forgot it except the diehards.

It was another good outing for Perez, despite his rocky start. A leadoff HR from Randy Winn and a subsequent HR by one of the accursed Molina brothers put the Mets in an early hole. But unlike in previous starts, where Oliver might have become unglued and melted down, he instead buckled down and persevered. Following Molina's HR, Oliver would retire 14 batters in a row, and 18 of 19, not allowing another run until a solo HR by Daniel Ortmeier in the 7th inning.

And it's fortunate that Perez was on top of his game, because apparently all the talk surrounding Giants Phenom Tim Lincecum is well justified. Lincecum came out throwing darts at the Mets, who, the first time through the order, looked thoroughly baffled. Not to belabor the point, this guy is GOOD. He came out throwing 96 MPH, and got his fastball cranking up to 99 at times, mixed in with a hard curve and a Low-80s change. And his delivery is such that the ball can be tough to pick up. And, as per usual, the Mets tend to struggle against pitchers like this (Earlier in the afternoon, a co-worker asked me "So how many hits will the Mets get tonight? 2? 3? You know they're not scoring any runs!).

Lincecum retired the first 11 Mets in a row, and there didn't seem to be any reason to think that would change, but he suddenly walked Beltran with 2 out and nobody on in the 4th. He threw over to first a couple of times, and I mused that he was probably paying too much attention to Beltran and not enough to Delgado at the plate. Sure enough, Delgado whacked the next pitch way out, off the Pepsi sign on the scoreboard. Tie game, just like that. But Lincecum settled right back down after that and struck out the side in the 5th. A Reyes single and a Beltran double in the corner gave the Mets a temporary lead in the 6th, before the aforementioned Ortmeier HR in the 7th re-tied the game.

And so it went, into the 8th, into the night, and into the bullpens. The Mets kept mounting opportunities. Wright hit a shot to right in the 9th that looked for all the world to be out of the park. But no. It hit the top of the wall, and just bounced back. Fortunate for the Giants, because with 2 out, Franco hit a smash up the middle that Vizquel (who still gets the job done despite being as old as Franco) just barely was able to knock down and toss to second to get the force and end the inning.

And into extra innings we went. El Guapo was half asleep by this point. I was beside myself because, once again, Willie went and brought in Schoeneweis, who did just about everything he possibly could to blow the game. First, throwing four wide to Bonds, who was pinch-hitting (and it was truly lovely listening to the "BARRY SUCKS! BARRY SUCKS!" chant echoing throughout the stadium), and then allowing a ringing double by Frandsen that fortunately hopped into the stands, because even Bonds on his no knees could have scored on it. Heilman came in and mercifully stopped the rally.

The 11th was quiet. The 12th was anything but.

Joe Smith came on for the Mets. Finally, a decent reliever, I think. But Smith walked Vizquel and wild pitched him to 2nd. Then a sacrifice. Then he hit Sweeney. Meltdown. Winn chopped one to Delgado, who, I believe, made the right play by stepping on first, then throwing home. Given the position of where the ball was hit, and where Delgado was, Delgado barely even had to move to step on the base. And his throw home was true, but LoDuca didn't quite get the tag down. I say that after having seen the replay; from where I was sitting, he was out, dammit! Look at LoDuca's face! Would you want to argue with him?

But we knew what was coming up. And for as loudly as Bonds was booed, Armando was booed even louder when he came in for the last of the 12th. You could see him sweating, even from the upper deck. He went 3-0 on Reyes, and the crowd was all over him. But he rebounded, getting Reyes to foul off a couple of fastballs, before finally walking him. And you knew at that moment that he was screwed. But he was just getting started.

First, with Chavez squaring around, Benitez balked. And then he got upset. He started yelling and pointing, and gesticulating. The crowd was screaming. Chavez got the bunt down, moving Reyes to 3rd. But Armando, amazingly, held firm. He got Beltran to chop one right at his 2nd baseman, and with the infield drawn in, Reyes had to hold 3rd. And he was one out away. And with Delgado up, the infield pulled into their overshift.

But that just invited more trouble with Reyes on third. As Delgado dug in, you could see Reyes inching further and further down the line. By the time anyone noticed, Reyes was halfway home. And then Benitez flinched, looked up, and the crowd went berserk as the second balk was called and Reyes trotted home with the tying run.

And yet, the Meltdown still wasn't complete. But it was. Everyone in the stadium knew it. Armando did it again. He dug his own hole. Totally screwed. And it was only a matter of time before he finally threw that last fastball into his own coffin.

The crowd at the game was announced at 47,940. I would have to guess that most of the tickets sold were the residuals from all the Opener Packs that had been bought. I don't think there were 47,940 at the game, and by the time the game ended, there didn't look to be much more than 20,000 people in the stadium. But somehow, fans seemed to materialize after the game. The Subway ride back into the city was jammed and mirthful following a scintillating win, one that I'd been waiting for all season.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hello, Barry

It's Tuesday and Thursday night Ballclub this week at Shea. And with the Giants coming in to town, controversy is abound with the annual Barry Bonds appearance in New York. It's already known that Bonds won't play Tuesday, but I suppose he will on Wednesday and Thursday. It makes some sense, sit Barry against lefty Perez, play him against Glavine, who he has had success against (including a HR earlier this month in SF) and against El Duque on Thursday. A few weeks ago, I was intrigued as Bonds sat on 745 HRs, a mere 10 shy of Aaron's record, and with an unconscious couple of weeks, Bonds could conceivably have come in to this series close to or at the record. He slumped, and he won't come close this week. At least, not at Shea, where he has had spotty success in the past (112 games, 413 ABs, only 13 HRs and 60 RBIs, 72 walks and 66 Ks).

I have seen Bonds many times over the years, going back to his Pittsburgh days, when he was a shell of the man he is today. I know many people come out in droves to see him and the spectacle that he is. I've become somewhat desensitized to him over the years. I'll still boo him, though.

I'll boo, but not because of the Steroid business. Whether or not he did steroids is fairly academic to me, although the evidence is pretty well stacked against him. I have, over the years, grown tired of hearing about it all, because nobody produces any sort of ironclad proof, and the testing system is inherently flawed, mainly because Selig has no Yarbles, and the Players Union is far too strong to allow invasive testing. The whole business has carried on, for the most part, as a media creation (and the creation of people with far too much free time on their hands, as evidenced here). The fact is, yes, the integrity of the game has been compromised by players juicing themselves up to hit more HRs, but the reality of the situation is that Selig and the Owners allowed it to happen. Sure. A rule banning the use of steroids was put in place in 1991. But there was no testing put in place to back it up. Players used it all the time, free of the fear of getting caught. I'd go so far as to say that it was a complete conspiracy to freely allow the use of Steroids following the strike in 1994, when Baseball severely needed to regain fans and popularity. It was the easiest thing in the world to create a chase for the single-season HR record, fueled by two eminently likeable figures, McGwire and Sosa. But Bonds ruined it all. Because although Bonds may have only been a Steroid user for 7 or 8 years, he's been a Jerk for his entire career. So what did he do? He went out and broke the season HR record himself, and kept on going, and now, he's going to pass Aaron's career HR record. And for years, all this went on as a blind eye was turned to the fact that these guys were shooting themselves full of whatever amphetamine or horomone they could get their hands on. And by the time people caught on and a softball testing system was put into place, it was far too late. So, feel free to blame Barry, boo him, throw needles at him, whatever. He's just another cog in the system. It's not his fault that MLB allowed him to get away with this.

I'll boo Barry. I'll boo him because he's a First Class A-Hole. That's why we should boo Barry.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Who's In Left?

Following another disappointing series in the Mets personal House of Horrors, Turner Field, it was nice to see the team get back on track and back to basics, knocking around the Marlins and coming away with the sweep in Florida over the weekend. I've mentioned before about the killer instinct of this team, and it showed over the weekend, as the Mets went for the jugular and stomped on an inferior opponent.

But somehow all these victories turned Pyrrhic for the Mets, as now it appears Outfielders are dropping like flies (but fortunately not dropping flies).

Friday: Shawn Green fouls a pitch off his foot. The result: A hairline fracture. Out indefinitely. He thinks he can play through it, but it's still undetermined as to whether or not he's going on the DL.

Saturday: Carlos Gomez strains a hamstring running out a ground ball in the 2nd inning. First, Gomez was probably safe on the play. Second, it looked to me like it was an ankle he turned. But then, what the hell do I know from watching on TV?

Both of them are being tested. Gomez figures to be OK. Green may need some time on the DL.

Which begs some interesting questions. With Alou already on the shelf and not quite ready to come back, the Mets are now shorthanded in the Outfield. Beltran remains the constant patrolling in Center. With Green out, it's been Endy playing in Right. Yesterday, we saw second baseman Damion Easley out in Left. Although Easley certainly proved himself a more viable option in Left than, say, Todd Hundley, it's not a good sign when you have only 2 outfielders that can be trusted to play on a regular basis. And should both Green and Gomez need to miss extended time, the Mets have a problem, because the remaining options look something like this:

David Newhan, whom you all know I am just a huge fan of, and his .194 average.

Damion Easley, not an outfielder, but fairly serviceable, which would leave the Mets with plucky but punchless Ruben Gotay starting at second.

Ben Johnson: A mystery, hitting a rather punchless .282 in AAA, with 2 HRs and 6 RBI.

Lastings Milledge: Just got his foot out of a boot, and must now work on keeping said foot out of his mouth.

Jesus Feliciano: Middling. I don't know much about him but his numbers in AAA don't excite me.

Chip Ambres: Who?

(OK, I know who. Ex-Marlin castoff who never amounted to anything)

There's always stud outfielder Fernando Martinez, down in Binghamton, but the last time we rushed someone up from there, he turned into Jeff Duncan. Let him stay down there and get his feet wet.

The other thing that worries me is that with the injuries mounting, Endy ends up being pressed into an everyday role. Now, the case has been made by many that Green or Alou should simply be benched in favor of Endy, because of all he brings in the field and often at the plate. And because he's performed so well over the last couple of seasons, it's easy to think that would be true. But he's not an everyday player. A quick examination of his career stats will reveal that. In 2003, he played in 141 games, hit .251/.294/.354. He fared little better in 2004, going .277/.318/.351. In 2005, he was hitting .215 for Philly before he got sent to the minors. Leave him in everyday, and he will get exposed at the plate. Yes, his defense never suffered, but the Mets success depends far too much on the production out of a corner outfield spot, and if one of them is going to be filled by a rookie or an unknown, Endy could easily become exposed and become a liability at the plate. This was exploited last season during the NLCS. His success is contingent upon his use, and being used as a "secret weapon" type off the bench and a spot starter is his best role for any team. And that's the role that made him a fan favorite. He'll get his ABs, but he shouldn't get them all at once.

But, with that said, I still love you, Endy.

Of course, should either Green or Gomez be fine, all this worrying is useless.

Other notes from the weekend:

Good to see El Duque come back and look just as sharp as he had in April. I was a bit concerned with Vargas, although it's been said over and over that he has good stuff and was rushed by Florida, but I wasn't about to count on him to come out in a big game. What we learned while El Duque was out is that Jorge Sosa was indeed a viable option, and Chan Ho Park was the unmitigated disaster that we all knew he was.

Delgado showed some signs of life on Saturday, which was also nice. Having been dropped to the #6 hole in Atlanta, I can only imagine how much he must have been pressing. But he responded with a couple of hits on Tuesday, and a couple of long HRs on Saturday. But, much like the case with Wright, one good game is a start. But let's keep this going for a few weeks. Get that average above .220 and we'll talk.

Of course, the best sight of the weekend was seeing Pedro back in the dugout on Friday, smiling and goofing around. He says he feels like his old self, throwing in the mid-90s. We shall see. I'll take the Pedro that relies on guile, deception and improvisation just fine, so long as he's healthy. But if he's going to come back and be the Badass Pedro of the late 1990s, well, look out.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Thin Blue Line

toothpaste for dinner
We've had kind of unplanned hiatus this week here at the Ballclub, whilst the Mets dropped a series on the road to Atlanta (dropping a series in Atlanta? Why, that never happens!!). I caught some of the game last night (which I'd boldly stated to Mets2Moon that I would live-blog; riiiight) between switching over to the Cavs-Pistons game (don't get me started) and an old Office repeat.

From what I did watch, the Braves just made all the plays, especially in the infield, right up until that Kelly Johnson boot in the ninth. It was a game where early on in the proceedings you get that feeling that it's just not one of those games that you're going to win. The Mets couldn't cash in baserunners, the Braves refused to screw up on D, and there you have it.

It was a night of bullshit officiating, which of course you can never blame your losses on, but still. Wright got rung up, I don't need to remind anyone, checking his swing with two strikes and the bases loaded in the third. And it was great to see him get mad. The whole golden boy thing is all well and good, but it's heartening that in proper circumstance he'll stand up for himself to an umpire, short of getting tossed, and "show a little fire," as the cliché goes.

I wasn't nearly as upset at the bogus strike on Wright as ESPN's Chris Sheridan was on the LeBron non-call:
The non-call was so egregious, I'd expect Jimmy Clark, Bernie Fryer and Mark Wunderlich to be told by the league office that they can watch the rest of the playoffs from Joey Crawford's man cave, since they don't deserve to be working at this stage of the postseason if they're too scared to call a foul on the biggest play of the game. But I'm not sure whether those three referees will be taking calls from the league office on Friday, since all three must be scheduled for surgery to have the whistles they swallowed removed from their stomachs.
Whoa! Easy there, Chris. But I basically agree. And if anyone's still trying to claim Hamilton didn't commit a foul, even Rip tacitly admits it, as Sheridan reports, "cackling" before and after saying "Nah, you know. I just put my hands up." How frustrating. Complaining about officiating is the second most boring conversation to have about sports, right behind talking about the TV ratings (as ESPN commentators did ad nauseum after Portland and Seattle went 1-2 in the Oden/Durant sweepstakes). There are times, however, when you can't ignore it, and many NBA refs have long since been terrible.

Anyhoo, tonight it's on to Florida and the vaunted pitcher's duel of Jason Vargas (late breaking update: It's El Duque, son!) vs. Sergio Mitre. I'll be up in Westchester with the fam, where I can watch the game with my grandmother, who says things like "Why do they have to spit so much?" and "That beard looks terrible," and is still a better color commentator than Tim McCarver.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere
Just noticed this today: Regis on Mets Heads posted a great YouTube clip by someone who painstakingly (I mean, it must have been!) recreated The Catch on a video game. In case you didn't see it there, here it is:

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

That Game Sucked.

To the loyal readers: My apologies for my absence from The Ballclub for the past week, however work has taken hold and posting has become difficult to do, although I am of course able to leave my thoughts in the peanut gallery. I had planned to post now, although El Guapo has asked that I try to keep this to under 10,000 words. I'll do my best.
As El Guapo mentioned, we were in attendance for the finale of the Ballyhooed Subway Series at Shea. Of course, we were both fired up. After winning the first two games of the series, I was ready. I wanted blood. I wanted to see Yankee fans cry. I wanted the head of Joe Torre on my desk on Monday Morning.

I got an egg on my face. And a raw, sore throat. It was another one of those losses that just rankled me, and, yes, it was probably mainly because it came against the Yankees, and I hate losing to the Yankees, and I hate being present when the Mets lose to the Yankees (and my post here at UMD frpm 2005 pretty much sums it up). And, after the Mets had won the first two games of the series, I wanted in on the fun. I had none of that.

For the third time in a row, Maine really didn't look great, and for the second time in a row, it really seemed like he was battling himself out there. Of course, we were present last Tuesday, when Maine wriggled in and out of jams, and minimized damage that came about mostly from his own doing. On Tuesday, Maine came out and promptly walked Ryan Theriot leading off for the Cubs, walked Soriano 2 batters later, and was one pitch from getting out of the inning before he hung one to Daryle Ward, and Ward parked it for a 2-run double. Maine was overthrowing, wild high, and walking too many guys. He could have been worse, but managed to get some key outs, before the game unraveled completely after he left.

Sunday night, same thing. He started off by going 3-0 to Damon. Fastball after fastball shooting high and outside. And, again, he managed to weave in and out of jams. In the 3rd, he managed to give up back-to-back doubles to Jeter and Matsui without a run scoring (on a ball that was about 50/50 for Beltran--nobody's going to kill him for that). But there's only so many times you can get yourself in jams and manage to squeeze out of them. But it came down to one pitch —the 2-2 pitch to Damon—And Damon hit a popup that really should have been caught (why Green and Beltran were so deep is beyond me), and that pretty much spelled instant doom for Maine. He'd already thrown over 80 pitches by that point, and then he just hung one to Jeter, who hit it out of sight.

And, on the other side, the Mets really had a chance to light up Tyler Clippard. He was totally on the ropes in the second. He gave up a laser beam of a HR to Wright, followed that up with another shot by Green, and walks to Easley and Maine, and fell behind Reyes 3-1...And all the Mets fans were up, sensing the death blow was about to be struck...And Reyes let him off the hook.

And that was it. Clippard settled down, his lanky, swing-armed motion kept the Mets off balance, and he totally shut the Mets down the rest of the way. And, yes, I spent the entire night screaming at El Guapo, "Who the Fuck is Tyler Clippard?" but you have to hand it to the kid. He threw a hell of a game.

Lost in the Box Score was the unusually high number of fights that broke out during the game. The drunken fistfight is bound to happen at games like this, in fact, El Guapo and I almost started one two years ago, but it's become a lost art for the most part, gone with the non-alcohol sections. But there was a doozy in the Upper Reserve down the right field line. I would have to assume that there were a smattering of transplanted Yankee Stadium Bleacher Creatures there, and the combination of them, Rabid Mets fans, and a lot of beer is just a nuclear reaction waiting to happen. And there it was, in the 5th, you could see the beer cups flying up and down, and the mass of security guards streaming down the aisles, and the fans standing and watching, and people being ejected. And it happened again in the next inning. It was bad enough that there was a phalanx of security guards holding post down the aisle in a line for the rest of the night. Fortunately, most of the stadium emptied out by the 7th inning. I did run down the aisle during "God Bless America" just to try to piss the Yankee fans off, though.

So, bottom line is, from my standpoint, That Game Sucked.

What really worries me is that I've been to a few too many shitty games this year. This happened two years ago as well, every game I went to was an unmemorable clunker. Last year was pure magic. The games I went to bordered on legendary. One classic after another. This year has been a different story. Sure, Opening Day was great, and Maine's great effort against Colorado was also good. But mixed in were games like Sunday, and the 10-1 meltdown against Chicago, and Oliver Perez's 7-walk outing, and the Chan Ho Park bloodbath. And it worries me. I probably take these things too personally, but I really hate going to games and seeing the Mets lose. I've always hated it. I know it's unavoidable, but still.

It's always killed me when the Mets win 2 of 3 in a series, or 3 of 4 in a series, and I've gone to the game they lost. I sort of got screwed out of a W on Wednesday because of the rain, although despite my protests, it was probably better off that I listened to El Guapo and left Wednesday's game before it got started (although as I mentioned in my comment, that we left doesn't bother me as much as that they started the game at 10:15, gave freebies to games I couldn't go to and basically screwed me out of a ticket). But we had sat through Tuesday's debacle (and my thoughts on Schoeneweis have already been well documented), and the Mets won the other 3 games in the series. I wouldn't have been at Thursday's comeback game anyway, and I tend to eschew day games (the vampire in me has always preferred the evening affairs, Opening Day notwithstanding), but I can imagine that that would have been a fun game to be at, provided that I wouldn't have gotten fed up and left with the score 5-1. But I usually stick these things out.

Friday night, we watched Oliver Perez continue to evolve, as he put forth his second straight strong outing, which negated the point El Guapo made in his last post (I didn't buy it either). Perez and Maine are not dissimilar, they both throw about as hard, they can both bring their fastball, and if they're off, they miss the strike zone and walk a lot of people. Unlike Maine, we've seen Perez begin to get frustrated and lose it completely, and that's why he's had that inconsistent pattern. But when they're on, like Perez was against Milwaukee and again on Friday, watch out. And it seems like perhaps Perez may be on to a little bit of a hot streak. Next outing in Atlanta, where he threw a great game in early April. We'll see if he can keep that up.

Friday's other story was just another case of Endy being Endy. Endy was up with LoDuca on 2nd and nobody out in the 5th, and squared to bunt on the first pitch. He took ball 1. Willie took the bunt sign off and let Endy swing away. So, of course, Endy swung at the next pitch and whacked it over the wall. And of course, that's the difference in the game. Uncanny the way he does it.

He makes Willie look like a Rhodes Scholar.

Saturday, David Wright stole the show with his 2 HRs, but right behind him, there was Endy, with 4 hits, 2 runs and an RBI, each time against a different pitcher. And the Mets built up a big lead, which was promptly made a little hairy by the stellar efforts of Schoeneweis (and you can pretty much file him along with David Newhan in the M2M Doghouse), but even a sloppy win is still a win. And last night was last night, and we'd all like to forget that.

Now, back to Dixieland. Have things changed?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bring the Hate

Sunday night Ballclub will be in the house for Mets-Yanks '07. The matchup should be John Maine vs. ... somebody. The latest skinny is that Chien-Ming Wang will miss the start for the Yankees and will be replaced by young 'un Tyler Clippard making his MLB debut. Needless to say, I'm excited about our prospects now that the team seems to have shaken off the difficulties with rookie pitchers that plagued them last season.

We'll be in the upper deck for this one. We've had mixed results there in the past with the rival fans. See, I'm not from New York originally. I have this stupid hope that everyone up in the stands will cheer for their team, drink a beer, have a hot dog, and enjoy the game. A little good-natured trash talk will fly around, but everyone will behave themselves.

It, um, doesn't usually happen like that.

Actually a couple years ago we were in the mezzanine for a Subway Series game—the Kaz Matsui game—and it did go that way. It was beautiful. It was like they'd crop-dusted the stadium with Paxil. Sadly, we weren't so lucky in '05, stuck way up and out in section 47. There, a group of Yankee fans behind us began singing "God Bless America" during the 7th inning stretch because they needed everyone in the stadium to understand the following:
  • Yankee fans love America.
  • The Mets hate America, because we weren't playing "God Bless America" on the PA and forcing everyone to stand up and sing along.
  • Take your hat off!!!
  • This particular group of (literally) flag-waving Yankee fans was more patriotic than anyone in the stadium, even the other Yankee fans, but especially the Mets fans, who clearly want the terrorists to win.
The team got its ass handed to it that day, and it seemed like the good guys' fans were substantially outnumbered up there in the four-seven, so all told it was one of the single most excruciating experiences of my life. I couldn't take it. I could feel my face turning bright red, the color it gets when I'm waiting longer than 20 minutes for the G train, multiplied by fuchsia. I was ready to fight somebody, anybody, but at 5'7"/155 that's not something I should ever do, ever. I'm pretty sure I almost had a stroke.

We weren't about to leave early, to slink out like losers, but we did watch the last inning from one level down, allowing my blood pressure to drop below emergency levels. I can't remember another time in my life that I've felt quite that level of helpless, impotent rage. The closest I can think of is the 2000 presidential election, but the anger that time was cooled down a little bit by an icy fear, so that helped.

Needless to say, our experience last year was better.

Tonight, we'll be taking in the action at Ballclub HQ - East Village Bureau, casually known as 11th Street Bar, if the weather cooperates and they get the game in. There's less urgency in this series, I think, then there has been in the past. When the Mets were terrible, there was a sense of fighting for our dignity against the cross-town bullies, of holding onto our pride. If the standings weren't on our side, maybe we could at least have the scoreboard, if just for one night. Now it just feels like a trumped-up opportunity for the fans to go through the motions of their pissing contests. The teams, as always, have bigger fish to fry. I'm still excited to see it play out, I mean it's not like we're sitting through the Padres-Mariners "rivalry weekend" here, but a lot of the edge is gone. Of course, I'm saying this now; talk to me in the late innings Sunday and you might hear a different story.

From ESPN's Diamond Daily:
Oliver Perez has an "every-other-start" thing going. In starts one, three, five and seven this season he's 4-0 with a 1.63 ERA. In starts two, four and six he's 0-2 with a 5.65 ERA. This will be his eighth start of the season.
That's just FYI. I don't actually think it means anything.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The B Team

Take a good, long look at today's lineup:

E. Chavez CF
R. Gotay SS
S. Green RF
C. Delgado 1B
J. Franco 3B (!)
D. Newhan 2B (!!)
R. Castro C
C. Gomez LF
J. Vargas P

Considering last night's game ended about and hour and a half before this one started, this was probably wise. A couple of the regulars (Beltran and Wright) came in to pinch-hit and helped key the ninth-inning rally that won it. I really wish I'd had this oddball game on the radio, but I can't get the internet-radio deal to work in my office, even though I paid good money for the package that includes it.

From the box score, looks like Jason Vargas had a decent outing. He went seven, which is impressive in and of itself. No walks, but two bombs. How lucky are we getting with these spot starters?

M2M and I went out to Shea last night with another friend of mine. We hung around for a while then left (over Mets's objections). All I have to say is, had Sosa thrown a no-hitter I never would have been able to forgive myself.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Word to Daily News: Stop Snitching

If this leads to a knee-jerk trade of Milledge (let's call that move the "Anna Benson") then I'm going to burn down Shea Stadium, or at least take Omar Minaya off my Christmas card list. Do you hear me, Omar? It's an effing rap song. Let it go.

And while we're at this, fuck the Daily News for running with this like it's an actual story. Any other city in the nation and this is nothing. Anyway, I'm too angry to blog coherently and nothing's even happened yet. I hope we won't have to revisit this, but we'll see.

I'm so angry, I'm stealing their bandwith to post this photo. Take that, Daily News:

Lastings's latest bad rap [Daily News]

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Your Nine-Run Lead Means Noth- ... Okay You Win

I don't care, this is still a team of assassins.

I showed up late with the Mets already down 0-3. Mets2Moon filled me in on what I missed, and then things promptly got much, much worse. John Maine's ERA rocketed up to a lofty 2.15. Carlos Zambrano sprinkled six hits and three walks over his eight innings, but the Mets cashed in exactly once, on Shawn Green's solo homer in the fifth.

M2M questioned the move to bring Schoeneweis over Aaron Sele trailing 1-3 in the sixth, and he may have had a point, but to me it was pick your poison. After Aramis Ramirez's truly monstrous grand slam that made this one your proverbial laugher, I guess I gotta concede this one to M2M.

No images today. That's how sternly I disapprove of this loss.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler
In the notes at the bottom of this game recap it's reported that the Mets picked up an infielder named Jake Gautreau from Cleveland for a player or cash (CBS Sportsline sagely suggests that you ignore him in your fantasy league for the time being). The Mets have been suffering mightily for the lack of a French-derived bat in the lineup since the departure of Xavier Nady, so here's a move that could pay dividends down the road. Or at least give our AAA team's fans someone they can really get behind. Vive le Gautreau! Allez!

Your Four-Run Lead Means Nothing to Us. Nothing.

As satisfying as it would have been for Carlos Delgado to turn around and launch a walk-off grand slam to put the game, his slump, and Sweet Lou's mental health to bed all at once, you have to admire how that at-bat played out. Carlos fouled off three pitches at 3-2 and never once looked like he wasn't in the driver seat before Michael Wuertz finally threw that one ball up and away to walk in Reyes. Thus ended one of Those Games, the games the Mets won last year on Beltran home runs after being down a couple runs, lying in the weeds, until the late innings. The games that reveal that this team's weapon is its cold-bloodedness, despite all the laughs and head-shaving parties and multi-step handshakes.

After some suspect D let down Glavine, Diamond Joe, Feliciano, and Heilman silenced the Cubs, giving up two hits over three innings to keep the game tied until the Cubs ran out of good relievers (Ohman and Cotts had both been very good to that point).

So make no mistake, this is a team of assassins. The Braves and Phillies are both pretty good, but they ain't assassins.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Cold Brews

It was 25 years ago, when the Milwaukee Brewers, led by such luminaries as Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Rollie Fingers, Ben Oglivie, Cecil Cooper and Gorman Thomas (and his moustache) rolled to an American League pennant. "Harvey's Wallbangers," they were called, in a nod to their Manager, Harvey Kuenn. They were a solid group of hideous looking sluggers, blue-collar types for their blue-collar town.

25 years later, and they haven't been to the Postseason since. A 25 years checkered with misery, losing seasons and failed promise. An ignominious switch of leagues forced upon them by their owner who masqueraded as commissioner in 1998 put them in a crowded NL Central, where they fared no better.

But now, these Brewers are beginning to come of age. Improved scouting and some top prospects are beginning to show their stuff, and some risky trades have begun to pay dividends for Milwaukee, and, all of a sudden, they're now the hottest team in the league, charging into Shea this weekend looking like the '06 Mets, ready to run away with the Central Division!

But have they really been tested? Mostly, they've played within their own division so far, playing awful teams like Pittsburgh, or struggling teams like Houston and St. Louis.

And now, to New York.

Still bald, and ready to rumble.

El Guapo and I were in attendance for Friday night's festivities, making a rare appearance in the Field Boxes, ready to see the Mets get some revenge on Jeff Suppan. It was a steamy, humid night. Really a miserable day everywhere in the city, with no wind, and some sparse showers, but it was pleasant out at Shea. But steamy. You could see the vapor in the lights. Jorge Sosa took the mound for the Mets on Friday, and just like he did last weekend in Arizona, Sosa was brilliant. He walked Rickie "8 days a" Weeks (that's El Guapo's "Bermanism" for the night) to lead off the game, but got out of it on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out DP, with Weeks oddly running on a 1-2 pitch to Prince Fielder (largest ass this side of Mo Vaughn).

The game settled into a pitchers duel for most of the early part of the game. The Mets mounted a thinly veiled threat in the second, courtesy of a Shawn Green fly ball that was dropped by Bill Hall (yes, Billy has pop, but there was a reason that he never was a full time starter until last season—That would be his inability to field a position adequately.

It's a real toolsy outfield for the Brews. I suppose it's a good thing Miller Park has that dome (which looks like a certain part of the female anatomy), because I could imagine that every fly ball hit his way must be an adventure. Jenkins, who still appears to be a dead ringer for Brett Favre (and have they ever been seen together?) always had Kingman-esque power and Kingman-esque strikeout numbers, and sort of lumbers in left (although to his credit, he made a few nice running catches on Friday), and Kevin "WHAT A" Mench seems more suited to a DH role—which he had in Texas.

Fortunately for Hall, LoDuca followed that up by grounding into a double play. No harm, no foul.

Still scoreless into the 4th. In fact, the first hit of the game by either team came on a single by J.J. Hardy (one of the Hardy Boys—My Bermanism for the night) with one out. But Sosa got Fielder to pop out and struck out Hall.

Finally, some action in the 4th. Wright, who may finally be awakening, had nearly hit one out in the first, driving a pitch to the warning track in right that was caught by Mench. What a Mench he was to make that catch, because in the 4th, Wright hammered one that nobody was going to catch, into the bleachers in left for the Mets first run— and first hit.

Good. Finally, we've broken the ice against that twitchy-faced jackass.

Beltran follows by chopping one in between Fielder and Weeks. Fielder ranges way off to his right to try to field it, which he can't, and the result is that now he's nowhere near first base, and there's no way his big ass is lumbering back to the bag. So it's a footrace between Suppan and Beltran. Guess who won?

Good Guess.

And Delgado follows up by ripping one into the Brewers bullpen. Second HR in as many games. 3-0 Mets. And let's give El Guapo credit for beginning the "SUP-PAN! SUP-PAN!" chant as the inning got away from him.

It got no better as Alou cracked a double off the wall in Center. It's amazing, sitting in these Field Boxes. Now I understand why people are willing to shell out the big bucks for them. El Guapo put it best. If you go to 15-20 games a year like we do, it's too expensive. But if you only make it to 2-3 games a year, why not pony up for these seats? It's a totally different perspective from our normal perch in the Upper Deck or the Mezzanine. Up there, long fly balls can look like a video game. In the Field Level, you can clearly see the arc of the ball off the bat. You can see the fielder's reactions as opposed to only being able to watch for the ball. But at least we weren't able to see Suppan's annoying tourette's twitches.

Moreover, I had been told that there were more food options in the Field Level, which I find only half true. While you have the food court in the RF corner, and the large Nathans, and the useless Subway and the Dunkin Donuts, the for the most part is just about the same as anyplace else. There's also the imported beer stand, which is a plus, and carries Grolsch, which is often hard to come by, but always welcome (albeit expensive at Shea). My food of choice was the cheesesteak from the BB Sandwich Bar in the food court corner. I'd never heard of the place, and that's basically all you can get there, but it's pretty good for what it's worth. It's no Sausage and Peppers, but, then, what is?

It had been 7 years since my last game in the Field Level. It could be Citi Field before I sit there again...

Meanwhile, on the field, the Mets continue their onslaught on Suppan, with LoDuca lining a single to left, scoring Alou. That would be it for the Mets in the 4th, but the 4 run inning certainly showed these guys what's what.

But the Brewers fought back. First, Jenkins homered in the 5th (who knew Favre had that kind of power?). Fielder homered in the 6th (a bomb—Green didn't even give it a courtesy run as the ball hit the scoreboard in deep right-center.

Sosa would continue his stellar work, otherwise. The 2 HRs notwithstanding, Sosa only allowed 2 other hits in his 6.2 innings, Hardy's single and another scratch hit by Scrappy Craig Counsell, but his first and only real jam came in the 7th, when he walked Jenkins and Scrappy Counsell on a borderline 3-2 pitch. But that was it, Sosa left to a standing ovation and with a 4-2 lead. Another nice outing for Jorge. Feliciano came in and got the last out in the 7th.

And in the last of the 7th, Easley led off with a solo HR of his own, one that looked like windowdressing at the time, but would turn out to be the difference in the game. Again, it's Easley, who has continued to surprise everyone with his key hits, surprising power and strong defense, coming up with the hit that made the difference. It's to the point now that you have to think about continuing to start him when Valentin comes off the DL, or at least using both of them in a platoon. Easley's bat can be just as valuable off the bench, but if he's going to continue to play the way he's been playing, it may be a waste to simply shift him back to a pinch-hitting role once Valentin returns.

It got a little hairy in the 8th, when Heilman came in and promptly gave up a leadoff single to Weeks (although this should have been an out. Heilman was in position to field the ground ball, but he only deflected it with his glove, and slowed it down enough that Weeks was able to beat it out) and Hardy followed by launching a HR to left. 5-4. But Heilman settled down to get the next 3 batters. Wagner for the 9th, and threw only 6 pitches in getting the Brews in order to nail down a nice, crisp and very quick (2:18) victory to start off the series.

I missed Saturday's game completely, for varied reasons, and from what I've heard, I didn't miss much. Pelfrey struggled again, and the bullpen got lit up in the late innings. Ben Sheets was Ben Sheets, and you have to consider the Brewers a team to be reckoned with if he can manage to stay healthy for a full season. I heard some callers on WFAN after the game, and it sounded like there was a lot of nitpicking over certain plays, and a bizarre double play in which two runs scored, and some scuffling over a play between Gotay and Green (which may have been the same play, for all I know). Then, there was the 8th inning Meltdown by Joe Smith, the grand slam by J.J. Hardy (who somehow went from looking like a carbon copy of Joe McEwing last season to looking like a carbon copy of Cal Ripken this season), and a big game from Tony Gwynn, Jr (who, if you heard him on the radio before Sunday's game, sounds frighteningly like his father. But can he hit like his father?).

A lot of the talk also centered around whether Sosa's strong outings may have put him in line to take over as the #5 starter when El Duque returns, with Pelfrey going back to AAA. A few weeks ago, I would have said that premature, but it makes more sense now. We've seen 6 starts out of Pelfrey so far, and he's varied in between barely passable and totally horrible. Whatever he's displayed in his early starts last season, he's not showing now. The ground balls he got in the spring are now line shots. Let him go down, work out his problems, and he'll be back. For now, Sosa's the guy.

And before Sunday's game, that's exactly what happened. Pelfrey got sent back down and Carlos Gomez was called up. With Alou hurting, why not? I don't know what Gomez's numbers were in AAA, but Ben Johnson had been hurt, and Milledge as well, and God help me I don't want to see any more of David Newhan (even if they play that ridiculous "BALLIN!" song when he comes to bat). I've never seen more ink wasted on such a mediocre ballplayer. He reminds me of Rich Becker. Remember in 1998 when Becker had a great spring, and hit 2 HRs in the first week, and played flawless defense, and everyone was raving about him? And then just as quickly, he reverted into the Rich Becker who flailed wildly at every pitch, struck out in 1 of every 2 at bats, and was cut by June. That's who Newhan reminds me of. I expect him gone before too long. But I digress, let Gomez play for a few days until Alou is ready. Why not? And if Alou goes on the DL, give him a couple of weeks in the bigs to wet his feet.

So that was what we woke up to on Sunday, Mother's Day (and a Happy Birthday to Bobby V!), with half the team using pink bats, and Oliver Perez on the mound looking to rebound from his disastrous outing on Monday in San Francisco. And he certainly rebounded. It's a big step for Perez, because we saw on Monday that he can be temperamental, and things can get to him, and you don't know how a bad outing like that can fester, but Perez shrugged it off and pitched a masterful game on Sunday. He looked relaxed, his command was great, he kept ahead of the hitters, it was like a completely different Oliver Perez out there.

But, once again, let's see if he can string 2 or 3 real good starts together. He did it a few weeks ago, with that hiccup in Washington being the exception, leading up to the meltdown in San Francisco. His next start will be telling. Friday night, May 18th. Opponent: New York Yankees.

On the offensive side, the Mets dominated Capuano from the outset. Reyes walked to start, and again it was Easley coming up and nailing a HR into the Brewers bullpen. And the Mets really didn't look back. Wright, hitting cleanup, singled, stole second and scored on a hit from Castro. In the 2nd, it was the new guy, Carlos Gomez, coming up and ripping a clean double into the left field corner in his first Major League at bat. (Joe Buck says: "Carlos Gomez, Welcome To New York!") He moved to third on a groundout by Perez, and scored on a single from Easley. And with Perez in control, the game was pretty much salted away by this point.

Wright came up with 2 hits, a walk, and a career-high 3 Steals...

Perez took a one-hit shutout into the 9th, and even chipped in with an RBI single of his own...

Gomez got his second hit in the 8th, and the fast guy followed that up with his first SB...

And Beltran capped off the scoring, and a 5-run 8th inning by launching a HR just inside the RF foul pole.

And so, the Mets came away with a series victory, taking 2 of 3 from the hottest team in the Majors, and making a statement in the process about who's still in charge here. Yes, the Braves still maintain a slim lead in the standings, but there's still a long way to go here, and we know the Mets aren't going to give an inch.

Next, the Cubs, with their own band of heavy hitters, Soriano, Ramirez, Lee, and our old buddy Cliff Floyd. The Ballclub will be represented on Tuesday, for the rather intriguing matchup of John Maine and Carlos Zambrano, and on Wednesday, for the intriguing matchup of Jorge Sosa and Rich Hill. Thanks to the Mets for bunching all of the seven-pack games together (yes, it's two different packs but still), there are 4 series during this season where we have tickets to more than one game, and often on back-to-back nights. But I digress.