Friday, June 29, 2007

Four Month Media Blackout

I hate to jump in and push myself down here, but I love how the New York Media loves to instigate things. The article about LoDuca in today's Daily News smacks of pure Out-of contextness and his reaction on today's Pre-Game show on WFAN just proves that. Everyone in the New York Media, especially the Daily News, and that hideous Anti-Met Rag, the New York Post seem to have this heightened sense of entitlement, as if they somehow honestly believe that the Athletes would cease to exist without them. They've torn apart A-Rod, whether he's deserved it or not, and since the Mets are a relatively controversy-free bunch, they need to have someone to attack on the Mets, and LoDuca is the easiest target.

I'm reminded of a scene from the recent Broadway play, "Take Me Out," which is about a Gay Baseball player. In the scene, a character, a sure John Rocker caricature, is asked a controversial question and gives an answer which is intolerant. And then, when he is asked why he did it, the character replies, "Hey, you knew that that was the answer I was going to give you, why did you ask me the question?"

And that seems to be why the media likes to pick on LoDuca. They know all the rumors, and the stories about the young girls, and the Playboy ex-wife, and the Racehorses, and the fiery temper and the loquaciousness, and they just lick their chops. Sometimes people are in a bad mood. Yesterday happened to be one of those days for LoDuca. And when the Media picked on him, he fired back. Maybe his words weren't well-set, but if you take it out of context, you totally miss the point he was making, and that's the kind of thing the Media seems to love to leap on. Let's create a controversy where none exists. You know what to expect out of LoDuca.

LoDuca Outburst has Latin Accent [Daily News]
Catcher's Words Tools of Ignorance [Daily News]
LoDuca Tired of doing the Talking [NY Post (tabloid rag BS)]

Let's Play One and One!

I remember back in a bygone era called the 1990s, there were these things called "Doubleheaders," in which one could purchase a ticket to a game, and see two games for the price of that one ticket. Many times, I would attend these Doubleheaders; in my younger, more wily days it was but a lark for me to spend 7 hours at Shea Stadium, from 5pm to Midnight, or from Noon to 7pm, and while away an entire day watching some Mets Baseball.

Of course, going further back in time, the Doubleheader was an even more common occurrence, with Doubleheaders actually being planned as a part of the regular season schedule, not just a result of a Rained-out ballgame. But I don't believe that the Mets have had a scheduled Doubleheader since September 15, 1998, during that Magical 4-game series in the Astrodome. The only Doubleheaders we see at Shea anymore happen because that Sunday game against the Nationals or the Marlins got rained out.

It appears that those days have gone by the wayside, with the asinine concept of the Day-Night Doubleheader now being the norm across the Majors. The Mets had been one of the last teams to hang on to the single-admission Doubleheader (in fact, when they held one last season, on July 8th, this was trumpeted to the public). Now, in an attempt to pack the ballpark with a fresh set of fans, who can spend more money on tickets, and more money on concessions, and souvenirs and parking, the single-admission Doubleheader, one of the great last vestiges of a bygone era of Baseball is just about dead. The Mets have one such Day-Night doubleheader scheduled today, in Philadelphia. If you've got tickets, you can be there for that first game at 1pm, then leave the stadium, see a movie, do your laundry, and eat a full dinner and still come back in time for the second game. Sadly, even the Mets have succumbed to this phenomenon. Perish the thought of losing a Weekend Box Office, that Doubleheader on Saturday, July 28th begins at 12:10pm, with a 7:10pm nightcap. When they announced that, it was a sad day indeed.

I don't think that this is what Ernie Banks had in mind when he said, "Let's Play Two!"

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

And if You Don't Know, Now You Know...

Haters better recognize, the Mets have now beaten the St. Louis Cardinals four out of the last four times they've played. Which means little in the scheme of things. Nothing will undo that Yadier Molina home run unless/until New York reaches the World Series this season. All they can do until then is to keep administering systematic beatings to the Cards in the regular season. I'll be diarizing this one using the modified Stableford live-blog system: that is, somewhat fewer laborious updates than I'm tempted to post. We'll be posting half-inning by half-inning.

Promotional consideration provided tonight by a couple of Trader Joe's mini frozen pizzas and New York City tap water, finest in the world (El Guapo hasn't been grocery shopping in a while).

Stay tuned, or, more likely, read all this at once at work tomorrow. First post after the top of the first.

Pre-game update: The game hasn't even started yet and my computer's fan is already running like an MF. It's 90 degrees out there and close to that in here. This live blog might be over before it starts.

Top 1: It's taken me a long time to figure out exactly what to call the thing on Spiezio's chin. I finally figured it out, and it's just about right, so let's just dispense with it here: it's a merkin. A merkin. Spiezio doubles to left.

I'm all set to make fun of the fact that the Cards' cleanup hitter is Juan Encarnacion, who at 31 is at least five years younger than I thought he was, and he doubles in a run. Odaliz Perez strikes out someone I've never heard of before last night's game (Ryan Ludwick) to end the inning. 0-1, Cards.

Bottom 1: Todd Wellemeyer! Meet the Mets, Meet the Mets...! Reyes singles, steals advances on a groundout, gets driven home by a Beltran double. Meet the Mets...! 1-1.

Top 2: I glance at the Internet, look up, and there's already two outs as Perez strikes out catcher Kelly Stinnett, who came out of retirement to be Gary Bennett's backup.

Keith is always better when you unfairly take him out of context: "I only have two balls. I can't go to three."

Bottom 2: A word about last night: Gomez's "styling" might not be acceptable or whatever, granted, but did we really need to give all that airtime over to chastising him for it? A mention maybe, but to the extent they went on about it, including in post-game? Really? Can we please give this "right way" stuff a rest for a while?

3: Awkward pause as the crew waits for Willie Randolph to join them for a between-inning interview. He talks about the June slump and injuries. He's still talking as the game resumes, and you get the feeling he'd rather not be. Reyes flies out on the first pitch as the interview ends. Gary Cohen informs us that Willie, sometime during the Dodgers series, picked up a chair and threw it, breaking a door. I feel that much better about Willie knowing that, and I already liked Willie.

Top 4: 1-2-3 for Oliver, including back to back strikeouts, his fourth and fifth of the game. Pitch count a little high for four innings of work (70), but otherwise he's rolling.

Bottom 4: The Cards shortstop second baseman tonight is named Brendan. This won't strike fear in anyone's heart, but he does turn a nifty double play to end the inning.

Top 5: Brendan grounds out 6-4, which is Perez's first ground ball out of the night. The man's a fly ball pitcher, kids. Keith reminisces about Sid Fernandez's starts, when the Mets could play an offense-only infield (HoJo at short, for example) as long as Mookie and Dykstra were both in the outfield. Sid once had a start where no assists were recorded behind him.

Bottom 5: Mets down 1-2-3.

Let me take a second in an uneventful inning to recommend Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports by SLAM columnist Dave Zirin. He writes brisk, to-the-point prose and is refreshingly unapologetic about his (progressive) politics. A great read so far. I'm about halfway through, just starting a section on the NBA's troubled relationship with hip-hop, which for the league is alternately a cash-cow and a scapegoat. Worthwhile reading for sports fans.

Top 6: Kevin Burkhardt tells us about the GourMets Family Cookbook, which I will absolutely be ordering a copy of, you better believe. DO YOU SMELL WHAT WILLIE IS COOKING?!?!

With runners on first and second and Aaron Miles up, beautiful throw by Reyes to end the threat. We're still tied up at one.

Bottom 6: Wright walks as Beltran steals third with two outs. This brings Delgado up, who doesn't have an RBI in that situation, it seems, all season long. It's very hard to watch Delgado go through this. This is just the kind of moment he's supposed to be around for. And he grounds harmlessly to second. I haven't been this depressed since they shot Bodie.

Top 7: Memo to Budweiser, RE: scoreboard ad: It's no longer flippin' cold. Thank you.

The Merkin strikes again! The Merrrrrrkinnnnnnn! That's Heilman's first inherited runner allowed this year. God-fucking-dammit. Valentin had it with time and bobbled it, and now Pujols is up. He grounds out to Reyes in a fielder's choice. 1-2, Cardinals.

Bottom 7: Respect. Hell of a running catch by Brendan to rob Valentin trying to redeem himself. Mets down 1-2-3. CPU fan struggling again.

Top 8: Heilman stays on with Feliciano and Diamond Joe Smith at the ready in the bullpen. Miles hits a grounder past Valentin. It would be a very tough play for any second baseman, but boy is it tough to watch Jose stumble around there with that brace on his 38-year-old knee. Especially after seeing him so surprisingly good at the position last season. (I don't know if he was statistically good or bad last year, but he at least looked pretty good.) Yet another ground ball straight up the middle scores Encarnacion, and Heilman is pulled to a smattering of boos. All right, which one of you told Brendan I made fun of his name? Because that was him right there.

Feliciano ends the inning with one pitch, a comebacker from Skip Schumaker. 1-3 Cards.

Bottom 8: Pedro watch: He threw to hitters today.

Pinch-hitter Ruben Gotay: 3 home runs and 11 RBI in 53 at bats; a .362 on-base percentage. And he plays second base. Hmmm. Russ Springer strikes him out after a long at-bat. After Reyes strikes out, LoDuca drives one deep to left over the Endyzone, making it 2-3 and chasing Springer. Jason Isringhausen comes in and induces Beltran to ground out. Generation K everyone! Feel the excitement!

Top 9: It's getting crazy out there. Taguchi almost gets doubled off running too far on a routine fly ball out by Spiezio, but Beltran's throw to first sails wide pulling Delgado way off the bag. Mota K's Pujols (you suck, Pujols). Encarnacion grounds out, and it's time for some more late-game magic from the Mets. Shawn Green will come up third.

Bottom 9: Can he do it again? Can he do it?! Kind of! Green works out a walk after battling from 0-2 and lining a long foul ball to left. And Valentin doubles in Green! The Cards kick the ball around and Valentin makes it to third. Green was running on the play; he doesn't score otherwise. Good stuff all around. That's Izzy's third blown save of the season.

Ledee walks, pinch-hitting for Carlos Gomez, and takes second on defensive indifference. It's down to Julio Franco and his .196 batting average. And it's a 4-3 groundout to end the inning.

Extras again! I'll be back after it ends with the wrap-up.

Schowenweis post-mortem: Well, get ready for another angry anti-Schoeneweis screed from Mets2Moon, I guess. Not that I can really blame him. Maybe we'll just re-post the first one. Brendan continues his assault with a leadoff home run in the 11th. He's a one-man wrecking crew. Ron has already called him scrappy and compared him to David Eckstein in yet another depressing episode. Kennedy immediately singles and steals second. By the way, Brendan had six home runs in four minor league seasons. After the intentional walk to Pujols, Scotty leaves to a shower of well-deserved boos.

The immortal Randy "Linoleum" Flores will come in to face Shawn Green, who again represents the tying run. Shawn, have I told you lately that I love you and that I never meant all those thoughtless things I said about you in spring training? What things, you say? Ummm, never mind. Let's just focus ont the moment.

Green pops up. Valentin flies to right. Mets2Moon looks up "hired killer" in the Yellow Pages. I go to bed. Good night, kids.

Serenity Now!

"You are not good. Moreover, you are ugly. I want you off my team and out of my life. Remove yourself from my consciousness completely as you continue to give me nightmares. Please let the door hit you in the ass, much in the same fashion most Major League hitters have."
-Mets2Moon, 10:34pm, 6/26/2007

I didn't see any of the game last night until the last of the 10th, when I entered a bar around the corner from where I was working. When the top of the 11th began, and I saw who was pitching, I stopped, put down my beer and exited the bar, standing outside with my back to the window. I turned, if only for a second, a few minutes later, wondering what had progressed in the game. I saw a ball flying over the fence. My subsequent text message to El Guapo was not repeated in his live-blog, but let's just say it was pretty predictable.

I've been counting to ten slowly, in my head, over and over for the remainder of the evening. That's about all I can do right now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


It's been a long-standing tradition for me that, whenever Shawn Green hits a Home Run, I will yell (or text El Guapo as the case may be) MAZEL TOV!

And Green certainly earned his Mazel Tov last night, capping a tense, taut ballgame by homering on the first pitch I was able to see as I arrived home, a majestic blast off the scoreboard in Right, giving the Mets a big victory in Game 1 of this week's Grudge Match.

The Mets offense was sparse, with 2 of their 3 hits leaving the yard. Carlos Gomez had one of those that went out, early in the game, after hitting a long drive foul (and drawing the ire of Willie by styling at home plate and watching it), which gave the Mets the early lead.

But let's give the credit to where it's rightfully deserved: The Bullpen. First Joe Smith, then Feliciano, Wagner and Heilman navigated in and out of some dangerous situations and threw zeroes from the seventh inning on. Wagner was especially dominant, striking out his nemesis That's So Taguchi and also The Jerkwad in his two perfect innings, and Heilman also rebounded with a solid inning after a few rough outings. Smith pitched himself out of a major jam in the 7th, with help from Feliciano. And Jorge Sosa shook off bad outings in his last two starts to pitch a good game against the frightening MFCardinals lineup, featuring Scott Spiezio and his chin pubes in the #5 spot (how the mighty have fallen. From Cheech Molina on Opening Day to Spiezio. Just a tragedy for the MFC's).

But it's Green who deservedly wears the hero's mantel on this evening. They're down, now knock them out.

Monday, June 25, 2007


It's a nice feeling we all have on this Monday Morning, fresh off a sweep of the Athletics that may be the signal that this team is finally beginning to pull out of this miserable stretch. The A's are a quality team and the Mets just beat them into submission on Friday and Sunday, and eked out one of those lucky victories that had been eluding them over the last few weeks. I'll say that Saturday's victory was the key, because that was the kind of game that the Mets won all year last year. It's a lucky win, for sure, but once the Mets start having games like that, and hits like Wright's game winner drop just in front of the diving outfielder, instead of into the glove of the diving outfielder, that you know the tide may finally be turning.

Good timing too. Because guess who's coming to dinner this week...

Yes, it's the Fucking Cardinals. I call them the "Fucking Cardinals" as a nod to our good friend Lenny Dykstra, who "authored" a book, Nails, following the 1986 season, in which he repeatedly referred to the Cardinals as the "Fucking Cardinals," a sure nod to the existing rivalry between the two teams. I've been referring to the "Fucking Cardinals" as the MF Cardinals, in my own nod to the MFY's referred to over at the Sons of Sam Horn. Whatever you call them, they've been struggling this season. My heart just aches for them. The poor Cardinals, with their best fans in the game, and their amazing first baseman. He's really a great player, isn't he? But really, if you ask me, I don't think he's very good. He's not very good at all. Jerkwad.

So here are these Cart'Nalls (as their announcer Mike Shannon would call them), rolling in in bad shape, 6 games under .500 and throwing a Tigers castoff whose claim to fame is being the last major league pitcher to successfully lose 20 games in a season. Sosa will be looking to rebound after a couple of rough starts. St. Louis will follow that up with starting pitchers by the names of Todd Wellemeyer, Brad Thompson and Anthony Reyes.

The Mets already showed the Fucking Cardinals what was what earlier in the season, when they walked into St. Louis, that great Baseball town with Great Baseball fans, and pissed on their little World Series Kazoo Blowing and handed them a 3-game sweep, essentially setting the tone for their season so far. Now, the Mets have had a rough stretch of their own, and knocking around the Fucking Cardinals a little bit ought to go a long way to erasing the bad feelings of the past few weeks.

3 out of 4. That's the least that will be acceptable here. Win 3 of 4 from the MFC's, and I'll say the Mets are back.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Requiscat in Pace

Rod Beck, 1968 - 2007
Requiscat in Pace

Back in the New York Groove

It's been nice to see the Mets show a little of the ol' "Fire in the belly," as Dallas Green might have put it, over the last couple of nights, coming away with a couple of victories over the A's, who have proven to be a tricky bunch over the last several seasons, stemming from the General Managerial Mastery shown by ex-Met farmhand Billy Beane, but notwithstanding still a young group; one that could be had at the right moment.

True, one of the members of that Famed "Moneyball" draft in 2002 (which mysteriously includes a little-known 40th round draft pick by the name of Jonathan Papelbon), Joe Blanton, proved to be a tough customer on Saturday, holding the Mets scoreless over 8 innings on Saturday night in a rare game that I was actually able to see bits and pieces of throughout the evening. The Mets were able to counter the A's pitching with zeroes of their own, despite a little bit of shaky fielding, behind a good, solid rebound effort from Orlando "ElDuque," Feliciano, Heilman and Wagner (and only the Mets could somehow manage to use 4 pitchers in a 1-0 game). Friday's game certainly didn't have quite the same drama as Glavine himself was able to rebound from a couple of miserable outings of his own and post a solid 9-1 victory on Friday.

More importantly, the Mets were able to win a series for the first time since San Francisco was in town at the end of May, and were able to win back-to-back home games for the first time in just about forever. Hopefully, this finally means the corner has been turned on this recent miserable stretch and some good, solid play is to come.

One could not let the appearance of Mike Piazza at Shea pass without mention, and although I only saw him on the bench on TV as he rehabs from an unfortunate shoulder injury (and is apparently returning to his familiar Catching post once his stint on the DL ends) and bringing out the lineup card to an inevitable standing ovation from the Shea fans. Of course, Mike forever holds a place in the hearts of all Mets fans, and once he does hang up his spikes for good, a spot on the Left Field wall—:and in Cooperstown—is waiting for him.

And then there was LoDuca's tantrum in the 6th. "Good Italian temper in me, was the quote from Paulie, whose head bobbing, eye-bulging, equipment-tossing tirade became far more entertaining following the game than it was, locked in a scoreless duel earlier in the evening. And, of course, LoDuca's ejection from the game led to the other exciting moment of the evening, which was Ramon Castro chugging home from 2nd as David Wright's line drive landed just in front of John Buck, and then bounced pass him, rolling to the wall, and bringing home the game—and more importantly, series—winning run for the Mets, making this weekend a much needed winning one in Queens.

Scott Schoeneweis nowhwere to be found on Friday or Saturday. Coincidence? I think not. And Thank God for that.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Somebody Step on a Duck?

Jeff Pearlman profiles the Long Island Ducks, the unaffiliated minor league team that's come to serve as a graveyard for ex-major leaguers who are still trying to get back to the bigs (and which happens to be co-owned by none other then Bud Harrelson). Their most infamous recent member has to be John Rocker, but it's a trip—albeit a depressing one—to see who's on the team now:
  • Edgardo Alfonzo
  • Lance Davis
  • Todd Erdos
  • Carl Everett
  • Danny Graves
  • John Halama
  • Jose Offerman
  • Donovan Osborne
  • John Riedling
  • Damian Rolls
  • Pete Rose Jr.
  • Mark Watson
  • Ed Yarnall
It's a good read, if a little melancholy given the nature of what it's covering: aging ballplayers who to a man believe they deserve to be back in the show, and who think they're only a phone call away from stepping right back into their former glory, or at very least their former mediocrity. The only one who seems to have any perspective on things is Yarnall, who poignantly recounts being so overwhelmed as a 23-year-old candidate for the Yankees' fifth starter job that he lost control of first his stuff and then his career:
The Yankees traded him to the Reds, the Reds released him, he signed with the A's, was released by the A's, signed with the Red Sox, traded to the Phillies, released by the Phillies, signed by the Nationals, let go by the Nationals, so on and so on. "I played two years in Japan, which was smart because the money I made was excellent and gives my wife and I some security," he says. "But I had to give this one final shot before I move on with my life."
Obviously it's more than a little strange to see Edgardo Alfonzo's name there. At only 33, he's not as obviously past it as the 38-year-old Offerman, for example. But he struggled so much with the Giants and then fell off the radar last season with the Blue Jays and Angels. Of all these guys, it seems that he and Damian Rolls have the best chance to actually make it back. He was my favorite 2000-era Met, so I'll be pulling for him.

My favorite random note from the piece is that Harrelson is not only the Ducks' co-owner, he's also the first base coach. Welcome to the Atlantic League.

These Ducks are waiting for "the call" []

Scott Schoeneweis Must Die

Whether or not this has any bearing on what happened or didn't happen in last night's game, I only feel I need to state what I saw and state my feelings on what happened.

No, once again, I did not see last night's game. In fact, I had two tickets to last night's game that went unused, and I see that not much was missed, despite my repeated attempts to sell said tickets.

All that needs to be said is that when I saw a brief glimpse of the "highlights" of last night's game, I saw the following:

Top 6th, Minnesota 4, Mets 2, still very much in reach if the Mets could hit the broad side of a barn, and here he is again, Scott Schoeneweis, rearing back and incinerating the game, giving up a double to Mauer, scoring 2 runs and essentially putting the game to bed.


It's bad enough that I feel like I'm starting to sound like WFAN's Joe Benigno and his classic rants on Armando Benitez or Roberto Alomar.


Whether or not there was a lack of hitting involved, it's much easier (and less stressful) on a struggling offense to come back from a 4-2 deficit as opposed to a 6-2 deficit. And it's much easier to come back from a 3-2 deficit than a 9-2 deficit.

I know Chad Bradford got the same asinine contract from Baltimore and he's not pitching well either, but what in the hell made Omar Minaya think that this dunce with a severed leg was going to help the team out? He's like the slow, sinking feeling of the old John Franco 9th innings, combined with the mildness of Shawn Estes, plus the square root of the wispiness of Doug Henry, divided by the utter and combined hopelessness of Kane Davis.

So, bottom line, I've had it. I've had enough. If I'm ever listening to a game, I'm shutting off the radio. If I have a game on GameCast, I'm closing the window, if I see him on TV, I'm changing the channel, and if I am at a ballgame again, and I see this worthless waste of a Major Leaguer come into the game, I am walking out of the Stadium.

Scott Schoeneweis needs to go. The sanity of myself and all Mets fans is at stake.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Jesus Fucking Christ

Dear New York Mets,

Enough already.

"El Guapo"

Samuel Beckett Special

While I am immersed in Theatrics of another kind, these games are pretty much a rumor to me; I'm relegated to some SportsCenter clips late at night, and MLB GameCast for a few moments at a time. Last night, I checked the score and saw it 5-0 Twins in the 3rd. My reaction: "This game is toast." Last night's game can only be chalked up as one of those Waiting For Godot games. "Nothing to be done." Facing the consensus Best Pitcher in Baseball, the Mets barely made a peep as Johan Santana shut them down and shut them out on 4 hits.

I don't think a game like this can erase the good feelings that Monday Night's game perpetuated, simply because you knew that Santana was at worst going to be very tough. It's usually around this time of the year that he begins to really kick it into high gear. Never a big first-half pitcher, never started an All-Star game, but by season's end, he somehow has managed to win 15 in a row, and his ERA is hovering around 2.50. He's one of the toughest customers in the game, and even if the Mets were hitting, Santana likely would have had his way with them.

On the other side, it's a little disturbing to see Sosa really struggle for the second time in a row. You have to wonder if whether or not the word is getting around about him, or whether or not his strong performance in May and early June was simply flukish. Next up for him will be the Cardinals, a team that hasn't hit much, so that should be a true litmus test. If he's good, then he just had some bad outings against a couple of hot teams. If not...Oy veh.

The true test, however, of whether or not the team as a whole is on the rebound from the miserable stretch of the past 3 weeks will be tonight, with Oliver Perez on the mound, off his brilliant start against the Yankees, against future Journeyman Scott Baker. If the Mets show up and pound out some hits and runs, then we know that the corner may have been turned, and last night was just too much Santana.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

People Talking

I was all set to respond to a post that recently went up on a new-ish blog all about Julio Franco and the Mets clubhouse and some Latino/non-Latino tensions, all attributed to anonymous sources, but then I wasn't sure it dignified response. I decided on a compromise of sorts. I'm too skeptical even to link to it, but it was covered by Deadspin so you can find it that way if you're curious. I will say this in response to one of the themes of the post: If Omar Minaya looked like Jim Duquette, no one would have ever breathed a word about a Latin bias vis-a-vis the Mets, youknowwhatI'msayin'? Period. You will not convince me otherwise.

There very well might be crankiness that crops up among non-Latinos on the team. Who knows? My point is that this is anonymously sourced and therefore makes for pretty useless rumormongering. The blog in question mentions Paul LoDuca as one of the unhappier white folks. LoDuca continues to say, whenever anyone asks, that he wants to retire as a Met.

Why am I mentioning this at all? Well, I think it's likely to kick up one of those little Internet stirs that might even make its way into the Post or something, and the FAN, if it hasn't already, and ostensibly we're here to give our unsolicited opinions on Mets-related stinks. So: I don't believe it. If it turns out to be true, well, I'll just be surprised, that's all.

There's happier things to think about today, anyway.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Running Diary: Mets - Yankees

Because today is what today is, I have to say one thing before we get started:

"Today is Father's Day, so to all you dads out there, Happy Birthday."

-Ralph Kiner

Now, with that said, I kept a running diary of yesterday afternoon's Mets/Yankees game. All 3 hours and 43 minutes plus a 40-minute rain delay of this absolute and utter mess of a ballgame. I hope you enjoy it, although I should probably be institutionalized for having done such a thing.

It’s been a while since either El Guapo or I have live blogged a game (in fact, I have never done one at all), and several times, plans we have made for a dual-live blog have gone by the wayside. But I have the time this afternoon, a new laptop so I can sit in front of the TV and watch the game and type at the same time, so why the hell not?

12:50 pm - LIVE! From Ballclub HQ, Bronx Bureau as we wait for the game to start. I’ve got SNY on for now, with some dope on Mets Weekly singing some reggae beat poem about Endy Chavez. Earlier, a feature on Delgado, and how he’s back from the two surgeries he had in the offseason. One, an elbow operation, and the other being on his wrist, a surgery for Carpal Tunnel syndrome, which I will likely give myself today from all the typing. He was back, it seemed, for a while, and now he’s not. Definitely not. Last night’s Golden Sombrero proved that.

12:57 – It’s The Captain and Tennille on Soul Train here on Channel 11. Who the hell knew this show was still on? When did 70s retro garbage become all the rage again?

12:59 – Here we are. Welcome to Hardcore, Yankee-lovin’ Stadium. It’s the full roster in the booth, Keith, Ron and Gary. First, a quick recap of last nights game, which can be summed up simply: Oliver Perez, Jose Reyes. Nothing else. And with the current state of the team, Perez really pitched his ass off. Also kudos to Carlos Gomez, who pulled a near-Endy and nearly had a Jeffrey Maier pulled on him at the same time in the 4th inning.

Promotional consideration provided by Hebrew National and Orval Trappist.

1:04 – To get a free coffee at McDonalds, all you have to do is walk into the restaurant and scream in gibberish!

(what’s scary is I’ve seen that work…)

1:08 – It’s Rookie Tyler Clippard going for the Yankees today. The Guap and I had the poor fortune of being at Shea for his major league debut last month. Hopefully that success won’t repeat itself the second time around. I don’t like being shut down by a pitcher who looks like he should be on his way to Social Studies class. His ERA’s up to 5.32. Someone’s been hitting him. Hopefully the Mets can follow suit.

1:11 – Keith’s first slip of the day – At second base for the Yankees, Robinson Cono! Clearly audible is the Roll Call coming from the official Sack-O-Nuts section in the RF Bleachers. El Guapo sat out there last night. I haven’t heard from him since. Clippard walks Reyes on 5 pitches.

1:12 – Torre is busy greasing himself up in the Yankee dugout. Wonder what that’s all about?

1:14 – You know, Tyler, if Proactiv Solution worked for Jessica Simpson, Alicia Keys and Lindsay Lohan, it can work for you too! Look into it.

1:16 – And, we’re on the board! After Beltran popped out, Reyes stole second when Clippard bounced a 58-foot curve to Wright. Wright then worked the count full before nailing a single under the glove of Cap'n Jetes, scoring Reyes.

Delgado subsequently flew out to left on the first pitch. At least he put his bat on the ball. If he’d been able to do that last night, that would have meant a few more runs.

1:18 – Wright steals without even a throw. That curve from Clippard is one of those loopy 12-6 curves. Posada had no chance. That’s 16 steals in 16 attempts for Wright this year, and 30 is a very real possibility. Not bad for someone who wasn’t ever regarded as a speed threat. Kevin McReynolds used to be the same way. “Sneaky Dangerous,” they called him.

1:20 – LoDuca strikes out. Excuse me while I tend to some hot dogs on the grill.

1:23 – Tom Glavine makes his 13th attempt to get win #296. At least it seems that way. Glavine has one of the all-time great selections when it comes to entrance music. One of my favorite moments ever at Shea Stadium came last year at Game 1 of the NLCS, as Glavine warmed up and Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” was blasting from the jacked-up sound system. He gets Stepford Johnny Damon to ground out.

1:25 – Love that hustle, guys! They’re busy talking about how Reyes, Wright and Jeter all have dirty uniforms in the 1st inning. Jeter promptly responds by inside-outing a pitch into the RF corner for a double. What great intangibles! He just goes with those pitches and lines them the other way.

1:30 – “Good Hustle by A-Rod,” says Keith as he reaches on an iffy safe call after hitting a tailor-made DP ball to Wright. A-Rod is also wearing these ridiculous Biker sunglasses while he’s batting. Keith says he never wore sunglasses while hitting. I would think that might hinder your ability to see the ball. Then again, what the hell do I know? Posada pops to Center on the first pitch to end the Yankee threat.

1:34 – “If I could be any food in the world, I’d be a hot dog! I’d smother myself in brown mustard, and I’d just be delicious!

(Will Ferrell as Harry Caray in the bygone days of SNL. One of the few funny things Ferrell has ever done)

1:40 – Keith has just been extolling the virtues of Ruben Gotay, and how he’s been a great spot player for the Mets. And no sooner are the words out of his mouth than Gotay takes a fastball and drills it out into the seats in Right Field. 2-0 Mets!

1:42 – Ron is talking about how great the production the Mets have gotten from their second basemen over the last couple of seasons has been. “Valentin, Easley, and now Gotay have all been productive,” he says. Gary then asks, “What about Kaz Matsui?

I don’t know, Gary. What about Kaz Matsui?

1:47 – Glavine has been missing all over the place. I don’t know if he’s been squeezed a little, because he’s been getting low strikes and inside strikes from Bruce Froemming, but he’s been behind on almost every hitter, not getting the outside edge, and he’s now walked Cano after a leadoff single by Hideki Matsui. I don’t like where this is going…

1:52 – And it’s tied. After a questionable sacrifice by Cabrera and a run-scoring ground out by Cairo, Glavine was actually ahead of Damon 1-2 before nibbling on a couple of pitches, and then Damon hit a little flare that Gomez probably should have caught. He might have had to dive, but still, he appeared to pull up before playing it on a hop. I often worry about the reads he gets on fly balls sometimes. He gets mixed up.

1:54 – Cap’n flies out to right. Phew. Since he’s only hitting about .843 with runners on base, you can’t help but worry. Especially with all the intangibles.

1:58 – Reyes walks leading off the 3rd. That’s the second time Clippard has walked Reyes, which is just inviting trouble.

2:00 – After the Yankees pitched out on 0-1, Reyes takes off on 1-2 on Beltran and steals easily as the pitch by Clippard is well inside. Beltran then grounds to second, Reyes crossing to third. Heaven forbid! A productive out!

2:03 – And Wright promptly negates that by lifting a short pop out to Abreu, but Reyes being Reyes starts dancing down the line with Delgado up and Froemming calls a balk on Clippard! Posada screams and cries like the big baby he is. Turns out Delgado tried to call for time but didn’t get time called. Reyes strikes again. Good thing too, since Delgado would likely have struck out.

2:07 – I was wrong. He popped out to Jeter.

2:10 – “For all you kids out there…” Keith extols the virtues of Jeter holding up his glove to shade his eyes from the sun on Delgado’s pop out.

2:12 – Good work, Glavine. After nibbling to Abreu, who lines a single in front of Gomez, he nibbles some more to A-Rod, before hanging an 83MPH fastball that A-Rod promptly blasts into the Mets bullpen. 4-3 Yankees. Way to hold that lead.

2:20 – Kevin Burkhardt is upstairs interviewing Bob Sheppard, the unmistakable PA guy at Yankee stadium. He’s been doing the PA there for 57 seasons, and he looks every bit of it. He says he’s going to be getting a full suite at the New Yankee Stadium. God Bless.

2:22 – And back and forth we go! (and Gary says the same thing as I type this)! Clippard walks Shawn Green with one out (and he should walk, it is the Sabbath, after all), and Castro follows by slamming one into the same place A-Rod’s HR went. OK, maybe not as long and majestic, but a HR is a HR, and I’ll take it from Castro. Where’s he been? It seems like he hasn’t played in a month. And Gotay follows up by lacing one into the gap in right-center, but Melky Cabrera cuts it off and holds Gotay to a single.

2:25 – And Gomez follows by hitting one of his now-trademark 65-foot single into no-man’s land. Cairo fields it in between the mound and first, but Gomez is far too fast, and Cano didn’t bother to cover first, so Gomez is aboard, and Clippard is done. Nice to see you again, son. Don’t forget to wash your face a few times before your next start.

2:28 - And the Yankee Bullpen Parade begins! Luis Vizcaino begins, the first of 4 pitchers that have appeared in just about every game for the Yanks – Next up, Brian Bruney, then Scott Proctor, and then Kyle Farnsworth. Chances are, we’ll see them all before the day is done.

2:31 – “And we let ‘em off the hook!” Reyes swings at a sucker pitch and pops one out to left, although Matsui certainly took a roundabout route to the ball. Beltran followed by popping out to Posada. So it’s 5-4. Let’s see if Glavine can actually get through an inning this time.

2:32 – Whoever came up with those Geico Caveman commercials needs to be severely beaten with rusty chains, boiled in oil and then quartered.

2:36 – Heaven forbid! Glavine actually has an 0-2 count on Damon! Of course, he then nibbles before Damon finally swings at a ball off the plate and taps into a fielder’s choice to third.

2:38 – Amazing. Simply amazing. Glavine again can’t get out of the inning. He hangs one belt high to Jeter, and Jeter pops it out to left. Another HR. Another blown lead. 6-5 Yankees.

2:41 – This tense moment in the game is brought to you by Family Guy! I bet Peter Griffin would have thrown more first-pitch strikes than Glavine has today. He walks Abreu, and now it’s A-Rod again.

2:43 – Mercifully, Glavine gets A-Rod to reach for Ball 4 and fly out to left. Good thing, because warming up for the Mets…Scott Schoeneweis!

2:50 – One batter short of the first 1-2-3 inning of the game…and LoDuca puts a stop to that. He hits a drive down the line in right, debatably fair (but it was, it hit the line) and Abreu dives about 10 feet too soon, so it bounces in for a double. And now Vizcaino intentionally walks Green, and here’s Castro again, and here’s Guidry on the phone again…

2:53 – It’s Mike Myers warming up. Forgot about him.

2:54 – Long pause, long pause, longer pause by Vizcaino, then he steps off.

Ron: “What’s going on?"

Keith: “He sees dead people.

Vizcaino and Posada can’t seem to be able to get together on a sign. I guess this is one of the many reasons why the Yankees don’t seem to play games shorter than 3 hours and 40 minutes, and this game is heading that way as well.

2:56 – It was probably Ball 4 to Castro, but Froemming must be so tired of waiting for Vizcaino and Posada to get together on a sign that this low, inside pitch to Castro is called strike 3. Inning over. Hold your breath, folks…

3:00 – And back to the Grind. Posada drills a double down the line off of Glavine. Finally, perhaps mercifully, Glavine is pulled. Then again, with Schoeneweis coming in, Glavine may have been the lesser of two evils.

Ron states that Carlos Zambrano is throwing a no-hitter through 7 against San Diego. He then wonders if Marty Barrett is catching him. That would be difficult, since Marty Barrett retired in 1991, and he wasn’t a catcher anyway. Michael Barrett’s not catching him either. It’s Koyie Hill behind the plate today. They neglect to mention that the Cubs are barely hitting either. 2 hits in an 0-0 game. Stark contrast to what we have here.

3:03 – And here’s Schoeneweis. I feel sick.

3:05 – Nice job. Cano singles to right. Posada, slow as molasses, tries to score, but Delgado attempts to cut the throw off from Green and manages only to knock the ball down, so not only does Posada score, but Cano goes to second. Delgado gets an error on allowing Cano to get to second. He just can’t do anything right lately. 7-5 Yankees.

3:09 – And a broken bat, and another break for the Yankees. It’s raining now (although it’s not raining where I am), and Cairo’s broken bat bloop falls in between Green and Gotay, and Cano is able to scoot home with yet another run. Funny how things can turn around. All of a sudden, it’s now 8-5 Yanks, and things are just looking great for the Mets.

3:12 – Schoeneweis K’s Damon and mercifully this inning is over. Close the book on Glavine, and literally, since he was nothing short of Abominable today. 4.1IP, 13 H, 7ER, 8 BB and 0 Ks. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But it sure felt that way.

3:14 – Yankee Bullpen Parade #2 – Now pitching, Scott Proctor!

3:15 – It’s really raining at Yankee Stadium now, and Froemming is now consulting with the rest of the umpires. The grounds crew is dashing around, and nobody knows what to do. Froemming goes back to the plate, and we play on.

Word is that Zambrano just lost his no hitter in the 8th.

(it’s still not raining here.)

3:17 – Kevin Burkhart just reported that Carlos Gomez sniffs his bat as he steps to the plate. Why, you may ask? Well, it seems that he wanted to be different and do his own thing. So, he began sniffing his bat as he walked to the plate.

3:19 – Still pouring, and Froemming has had enough. He waves the grounds crew on, and we have a rain delay. What does one do while live blogging a game and there’s a rain delay? Ron says, “Order the Pizzas, break out the card game, and let’s go!” Channel 11 sends us to “My Wife and Kids.” Whatever that is. It appears to be a program with a Wayans brother. Hilarious insanity ought to be found here! I’ll be back.

4: 13 – And, we’re back. I’ve passed the time in the rain delay by running a few errands. Of course, the game resumed while I was out. Now, it’s not raining at Yankee Stadium, but it’s raining where I am. And also, of course, what has happened while I was out is the Mets rally in the 6th never materialized, and Mota came on in the last of the 6th and promptly gave up 2 runs. Good! Now it’s 10-5, and I’m ready to shut the game off completely. Right now, Delgado’s on first with one out. Apparently he got a hit, but I can’t say I’m convinced that that actually happened. And now LoDuca follows by lining one into right. Maybe a mini rally…?

4:20 – Maybe not. Proctor got Green to pop out, and then he struck out Castro. I believe that makes the Mets 1 for 34 with men in scoring position over the last 2 games.

4:34 – Mota actually has what for him is a relatively drama-free inning. He gets the first two out, walks Damon, gives up a hit to Jeter and then strikes out Abreu. In his second inning, too. Last year, he probably would have given up a triple to Abreu and incinerate the game entirely.

4:37 – Yankee Bullpen Parade #3 – Now pitching, Kyle Farnsworth!

(Conventional wisdom would have Farnsworth pitch two innings to close this out. Knowing Torre, he’ll likely bring in Rivera in the 9th, even if the Yanks have a 6 run lead).

4:44 – With Gotay on first, Carlos Gomez lines a single up the middle, moving Gotay to 3rd. I’ve gotta say, Gomez is beginning to look a lot better at the plate the last few days. He’s hitting the ball on the ground and using his legs, and he’s even working the count and fouling off pitches. Now, the trick is, can he, or anyone else on the Mets get Gotay home from 3rd with no outs?

4:46 – Sort of. Reyes lofts one to Center. Sac Fly as Gotay scores easily. 10-6 now.

4:52 – Nice. Farnsworth gasses Beltran and Wright. Gomez stole second in there somewhere, so obviously the runner in scoring position took the wind out of the Mets sails.

4:56 – You know it’s garbage time when we have an Aaron Sele sighting…

5:02 – A-Rod singles, Posada walks. The Yankees are going to score 6 this inning, mark my words. Keith and Ron are busy talking about going to pubs in London.

5:05 – Keith: “I knew it was OK to go into a bar at 10am in London because everybody else was in there!” Then a quote about his Black and Tan breakfast. Meanwhile, I'm flipping between this and Red Sox/Giants on Fox. Dice-K pitching to Bonds. Fascinating stuff. With 2 on and no outs, Sox up 1-0 in the 6th, Dice-K gets Bonds to hit a sure DP ball, but thanks to the shift, there's nobody there to cover second, so the Sox only get one out.

Yeah, it’s a blowout.

5:15 – OK, so maybe Sele didn’t melt down completely. There was a ringing ground-rule double by Cano in there to score A-Rod. Something tells me all these tack-on runs will bite the Mets in the ass. That’s probably just wishful thinking. 11-6, going to the 9th.

5:18 – Yankee Bullpen Parade #4 – Now pitching, Mariano Rivera!

(You just knew that was coming…)

5:23 – Rivera doesn’t look especially sharp. I think he’s only pitched in about a dozen games this season because the Yankees either don’t win, or they win by 10 runs. And so Rivera just hasn’t had any save chances this year, and he’s blown a couple of the ones that he’s had. It’s not quite the same unhittable Rivera. I’m not complaining about that. Especially after Delgado and LoDuca have both singled off him. Yes, this actually happened. I saw it, I have proof.

5:29 – And Castro singles. Bases loaded. Blazing speed on the bases now…

5:32 – Ugh. Gotay just looked silly, watching one of those backdoor cutters from Mariano. Of course he buckles down and gets the outs he needs most. I hate him. Put a toe tag on this game.

5:36 – Or not…Great, GREAT at bat from Gomez. I figured he’d be overmatched, but he really worked the count well after being down 0-2. Fouled off a couple of pitches and took a few balls that were real close. Then he finally got a pitch to handle and nailed it off Rivera’s leg before it rolled to a stop in front of Jeter. With everyone running, everyone’s safe. Play on!

5:37 – Reyes bats righty against Rivera. I Love it. That’s the perfect move right here. Rivera’s cutter tails into the lefties and breaks bats. So if you can turn around and try to reach for one righty, go for it. Gary mentions that Reyes is 0 for 6 against Mariano, so if you can try something else, why the hell not? Great bit of gamesmanship by Reyes.

5:40 – And it pays off! Reyes works the count just as well as Gomez before lining a clean shot up the middle to score LoDuca. 11-8! And Rivera looks totally gassed right now. He’s thrown about 35 pitches here and the Mets are nicking him to death.

5:41 – AAAARGH! Beltran, like a ninny, swings at the first pitch and pops it right to Posada. Game over. Dammit. Beltran is really scuffling right now, and it’s costing the Mets. How the hell do you go 0 for 6 in a game where there are no pitchers?! Really. Reyes and Gomez can work the count, but Carlos came up there swinging out of his shoes. Rivera’s on the ropes and you let him off the hook. Well, it figures. Nice job to make it interesting in the 9th, but like I said, those tack-on runs came back to bite the Mets. So, it’s a rubber game tomorrow night with El Duque set to return to Yankee Stadium. We’ll see which Mets team shows up. The one that hits, but can’t pitch, or the one that pitches but can’t hit. Right now, I don't know, and I'm not sure I care. I need a nap.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Lost Classics: June 16, 1997

Be it known that it was exactly ten years ago tonight that the first ever Regular Season meeting between the Mets and the Yankees took place.

And be it known that on that night, June 16th, 1997, one of the more improbable events in Mets history took place, with the Mets playing in Yankee Stadium.

With the 1997 season about a third of the way done, the Mets have proved themselves to be one of the surprise teams in the National League. Following several years of misery, the Mets have re-emerged, under Manager Bobby Valentine, in his first full season with the club. A slow start gave way to a number of exciting, comeback wins, and a hot streak that put the Mets in the hunt for a Wildcard spot in the NL. Veterans Todd Hundley and Carlos Baerga have played well, and young, emerging players Edgardo Alfonzo and Butch Huskey have been sparkplugs. And John Olerud, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for a song in the offseason, has been the galvanizing force of the offense, getting on base and driving in runs with great frequency. The pitching has been steady, if unspectacular. Bobby Jones has been off to a magnificent start, with an 11-3 record on this date. Former replacement player Rick Reed has proven himself a very reliable pitcher, and journeymen Mark Clark and Armando Reynoso have also been effective. And Dave Mlicki rounded out the rotation.

Say, how about Dave Mlicki?

He'd be on the mound, on this night at Yankee Stadium, facing off against the defending World Champions, a team with a mix of Veteran and Emerging stars, and a pitching staff that can beat you on any given night. Little do we know that this team is in the midst of a sickening 5-year run that will bring them 4 World Championships, and earn them almost nationwide hatred everywhere outside New York.

It's Mlicki against the Yankees Andy Pettitte on this night, an oddly placed Monday night game, in the first year of Interleague play, and the first time that these two teams that share the same city would face off in a Regular Season game. I was home, watching the game on TV with my father. My father is incredulous. "You really think the Mets are going to win this game?" He says.

Nobody knows what to expect. The stadium is decidedly tilted in the Yankees favor, but a smattering of Mets fans are in the crowd. But it is a sellout, with 56,188 on hand, battling "LET'S GO YANKEES!" "LET'S GO METS!" chants, as Pettitte delivers the first pitch to Lance Johnson. Johnson is back with the Mets in the leadoff spot after missing a month with shin splints. He grounds out, and he proves to be none the worse for wear; he'll go 0 for 5 on the night. Bernard Gilkey follows, and Gilkey bloops a double, just inside the right field line for the first hit of the game. Olerud, with his sweet swing and his penchant for RBIs, is next, and he works the count before punching one past Tino Martinez down the line for another double, scoring Gilkey and sending the Mets fans into a frenzy. Todd Hundley follows with a walk. Butch Huskey, playing the role of the first DH in Mets History, follows by looping a single over the head of Yankees 2Bman Pat Kelly, scoring Olerud and sending Hundley to 3rd. And with Carl Everett at the plate next, some trickery from these tricky Mets. Huskey breaks for second. Pettitte, known for his pickoff move, throws to first. They have Huskey picked off. But as Huskey gets into a rundown, Hundley takes off from third! Jeter is busy throwing back to Pettitte covering first, and Pettitte spins and fires back to Girardi...but it's too late! Hundley's stolen Home! And Huskey easily steals second! And the Mets fans are beside themselves! 3 runs in the first!

But can Mlicki hold the lead against this lineup?

Mlicki is solid in the first, allowing a leadoff single by Jeter before striking out Paul O'Neill and Cecil Fielder to get out of the inning. In the second, things quiet down. The Mets get a man on, but do not score. Mlicki sets down the Yankees in order. The third is more of the same. Mlicki allows a 2-out double to Girardi that is of no consequence. The fourth, only a Cecil Fielder double. Girardi singles in the 5th. They're getting hits, and they're getting runners on, but Mlicki has mostly baffled the Yankees, with his loopy curveball and hard fastball. But Pettitte has been just as tough after his rough first, and going into the 7th inning, it's still 3-0 Mets, and it's tense. I'm on every pitch. My father lost interest and is wondering when we can go out for dinner.

In the 7th, the Mets will strike again. With 1 out, Matt Franco, playing third with Edgardo Alfonzo out with an injury, singles to right. Luis Lopez follows with a single of his own. Lance Johnson grounds back to Pettitte, a chopper off the plate that allows both runners to advance. Pettitte is beginning to labor, and he walks Gilkey on 4 pitches. And it's Olerud coming through again with the clutch 2-out hit, lining one the other way for a single to left, scoring Franco and Lopez and giving the Mets a 5-0 lead. And now with a large lead, Mlicki cruises. He gives up 2 harmless singles in the 8th. The Mets plate a run in the 9th on a Sacrifice Fly by Gilkey. It's 6-0, and now, the only thing left to question is whether or not Mlicki can finish off the shutout.

I've relented, and gone out to eat with my father. But I've made sure that I am in position to see the restaurant TV, tuned to the game. At the Stadium, the crowd has thinned down. The Yankee fans have left, and it's the Mets fans making all the noise. Charlie Hayes leads off the 9th with a shot down the left field line. But Gilkey fields it cleanly and fires a strike back in to Baerga, nailing Hayes trying for second. And it turns out to be a key play. Mark Whiten follows with another single to left. Chad Curtis bounces one to Franco at third, who throws to second to force out Whiten. Joe Girardi follows with another single, that would have broken up the shutout if not for Gilkey's fine play and throw. And so it's down to Derek Jeter as the last shot for the Yanks. Mlicki has been brilliant. 9 hits, none of consequence. No Runs. 2 walks. And his 119th and final pitch of the 9th is one final curveball that freezes Jeter, who watches it pass for a called third strike; Mlicki's 9th strikeout of the game. Mlicki pumps his fists. He's done it! He's thrown a Complete Game Shutout in Yankee Stadium, and the Mets have come away the victors in this first ever meeting between the Mets and the Yankees.

The Mets are ecstatic after the game. The Yankees are befuddled. Jeter's quote sums it up:
Mlicki—How do you say his name?— He pitched perfect every time we had runners in scoring position.

The victory on this night brings the Mets even with the Yankees with won-lost records of 37-30. The joy of this night will be short-lived for the Mets, who will drop the next two games in the series to the Yankees, but this game will be one of the most memorable moments in a year in which they will begin to return to prominence, remaining in the race for the Wildcard until the final week of the Season, finishing with an 88-74 record. And Mlicki will toil the rest of his career in relative obscurity, but he will forever be remembered for his sterling shutout of the Yankees on this night, 10 years ago.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Fight Test

I'm trying hard to figure out what to say about the fact that tonight I'll be sitting the "fabled" right-field bleachers in Yankee Stadium, aka the worst place in the universe, to watch the Mets—at the lowest point of their season thus far—take on the Yankees at their strongest.

Don't pray for me; pray for the Mets. But while you're at it if you can slip in a bit about my physical safety, that'd be nice.

Kumtonk Wa Whe Whe Hershiser

If the title of today's post means anything to you, by the way, that means you're either a huge Charlie Sheen fan or a dedicated reader of the Times' Bats blog.

Speaking of the Bats blog, a couple weeks ago Ben Shpigel dropped this note in a post on Mets injuries:
Scott Schoeneweis has pitched the entire season with a severed tendon behind his left knee, near the hamstring, which, he said reluctantly, has weakened his push-off leg. Schoeneweis was loath to offer the injury as an excuse for his 5.66 earned run average and 18 walks in 20 2/3 innings, but he said that he is working on developing a more comfortable motion.
This is interesting, and actually worth looking at more closely (sorry for the bulk-quoting, Ben):
"When I go to push off and my arm's not where it's supposed to be, then my velocity's not where it's supposed to be, and neither is my location or movement," Schoeneweis said. "I'm trying to throw like I used to throw, but I have this weakness and instability in the back of my knee."
He might be "loath" to offer it as an excuse, but doesn't it sound awfully like a pretty good reason? What happened is he hyperextended the tendon while running in Toronto when his foot landed in the cutout grass above a sprinkler. He kept pitching despite the injury, and then this spring he severed it completely when his spike got caught in the grass while doing fielding practice.
"I don't get sick, I get cancer. I don't get normal arm soreness, I slip while running and snap tendons," Schoeneweis said. "That's how it works for me."
He's either got an excellent sense of gallows humor or he's one self-pitying muthashutyomouth. Either way, that's a guy after my own heart. Even though he sucks. (The part about cancer isn't actually a joke, though; turns out he battled testicular cancer while playing Cape Cod summer league at age 19.) I don't know why I bring all this up. I guess it's never enough for me to say "this guy's terrible." I want to know why he's terrible. I mean, unless it's obvious

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun

Well, the road trip is just off to a fabulous start right now, and it's a couple of losses short of officially being a full-scale debacle. It appeared that the brief power surge that the Mets showed in Detroit was just a mirage. The Mets have looked simply impotent at the plate in all 3 games of an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, who hadn't been hitting much either, and even more alarming was how easily the Mets were handled by Dodger relievers like Broxton, Billingsley and Saito. It seems as though the Mets will score early, run with a lead for a little while, and then simply implode in the middle innings, and then just go into "Operation Shutdown" from the 7th inning on. And on the other side, the Mets pitching has been turning manageable games into hopeless deficits. And nobody's been immune. El Duque had a rare bad outing on Monday. Maine was only middling on Tuesday. Even on Wednesday, Sosa, who as El Guapo mentioned has amazingly become the stopper, fell victim to the dinking and dunking and blooping and blasting of these annoying, aging Dodger hitters (especially Furcal, who I just hate more and more with each passing game).

But, clearly, the offense has been the main culprit; it's ridiculous to try to sugarcoat things (the ol' Bob Murphy treatment, "Delgado may not have any hits this month, but he's a heck of a good ballplayer," would be a trademark of this) and say that the Mets have had good at-bats. It bothers me when you hear someone say, "Boy, LoDuca's really had a lot of good at bats," after he's had 3-straght 10 pitch at bats where he worked the count and fouled off 6 pitches before grounding to short, and then he popped out his last at bat. Point being, what good is a bunch of "good at-bats" when you're 0 for 4? Delgado didn't hit for 6 weeks and got moved down in the order, where he stayed for 2 games in which he happened to hit well, and then promptly got moved back (yes, this was a side effect of Green and Alou's injuries), but he then went right back into no-mans land. Reyes's swing is totally out of whack, and when he gets on, nobody can seem to hit behind him.

Again, it's frustrating, and perhaps I'm echoing El Guapo's sentiments, but I wonder how much Willie may be outfoxing himself by trying to re-invent the wheel and experiment with guys like Wright, Green and Gomez in the 2-hole when LoDuca proved himself the perfect #2 guy last season. Then again, if Reyes leads off and gets on, and LoDuca works a count and allows Reyes to steal, then grounds out and moves Reyes to 3rd, it doesn't matter much when Beltran subsequently strikes out, another all-too-frequent occurence.

I don't know if a team meeting is needed, or Willie needs to get thrown out of a game, or they need a Bench-Clearing Brawl, or someone needs to flip over the clubhouse spread after the game, but there needs to be a jolt. It's to the Mets benefit that the rest of the division has been equally as impotent at times (though it's somewhat alarming that Philly has been able to move to within 2 games of the Mets), but this lead will evaporate if things don't turn around soon. And as we keep saying and we keep hearing, this ain't an easy stretch we're in. It's a cross-country flight home for 3 in the Bronx, and all of a sudden, after the Mets have ruled New York Baseball for much of the Spring, the Yankees are red hot, and ready to whip out that classy gentleman Clemens on Friday, and follow it up with Clippard on Saturday and Wang on Sunday, and if the Mets can't start to punch more than 3 runs per game across the plate, this is going to be a very long, humiliating weekend, and an even more humiliating end to what's shaping up to be the anti-West Coast road trip that was the springboard for the Mets last season.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Gimme Fiction

With the Mets now deeply lost in the dark forest, as Keith would put it, I'm left looking for a foothold, a sense of meaning, a way out, something. I was thinking about this the other day: those who root for a perenially losing team feel the misery as a dull, constant ache. Think back a couple years ago. It wasn't anger you were feeling as much as a thudding depression. Now the situation is different. Glancing away from the sad Cavs loss-in-progress over to the other bar TV in time to see Maine give up his third home run in a row, this time to the opposing pitcher (who flipped his bat like Bonds, the little asshole), that searing shot of fire in the chest is nothing other than the anger of the arrogant brought low.

What. The. Fuck. are they doing losing like this, over and freaking over? This is not what this team is supposed to be doing.

You know something? It's an ugly feeling. I'm not proud of it, the fact that I now assume that they're supposed to beat the stuffing out of everyone. That those magical rallies, miracle catches, and crowd-stunning drag bunts are a Met fan's birthright. I mean, who the hell are we, Yankee fans circa '97-'01? Bellowing from our high and mighty perch, we demand our wins. On the other hand, with this team and, ahem, payroll, why shouldn't they be winning, and why shouldn't we expect it? It's just that big supposed to that leaves me feeling uncomfortable, on shaky karmic ground.

So I'll ask: are we being punished for something? Because what's rational about this slump? It isn't entirely the injuries, although personally I think a healthy Moises Alou would count for a lot right now. Still, nobody is hitting with runners in scoring position, and the starting pitchers have all been bitten by the same mystery bug ... except one. Jorge Sosa, who is now one of the most improbable "stoppers" imaginable, and yet there you have it. He's the stopper, the guy set to salvage the team's pride and divisional standing before they limp home to take on the suddenly resurgent Yankees. No pressure, though.
So in trying to do my part, I dug up this photo I think I stole from Deadspin a while ago and have been sitting on, waiting for a time to use it. I can't say why, but I really think it might have some serious hex-breaking capacity. We'll see:

Monday, June 11, 2007

Go West

"And it feels like I've got something to prove
But in some ways it's just something to do
The state-line highway sign says,
'You have gone west, young man.' "
-Liz Phair

That photo was taken the last time the Mets set foot in Chavez Ravine, that grand dame of a ballpark out in the rolling hills of Los Angeles, rolling in like a runaway freight train and simply beating the Dodgers into submission, pushing them down and eventually knocking them off the dance floor in a 3-game sweep in last season's NLDS.

And during the 2006 regular season, the Mets stumbled into LA having gone 3-3 on a homestand, and lost 2 of 3 to a Giants team that they were clearly better than, capping off a showing in May that was certainly dramatic, but not quite overwhelming. But during their visit to LA, they would begin to hit, and win 2 of 3 from the Dodgers, kicking off a road trip that would see them go 9-1 and cement themselves as the team to beat in the National League.

So much has changed, and yet things seem to be oh-so-similar right now. And perhaps Ms. Phair is on to something when she says "something to prove."

Last season, the Mets had something to prove when they came into LA in June: They had to prove that their strong start was for real, and they could maintain playing well throughout the season, especially on the road.

This season, the Mets have yet another thing to prove: They have to prove that they can overcome injuries and inconsistency, and re-assert themselves as a team that can dominate.

The Dodgers are a prickly bunch in their own right. It seems that Grady Little is still their manager, which won't bode well for them in the long run, but their nucleus of Garciaparra, Kent and Luis Gonzalez, while on par with the Giants for longevity, has held together, and younger players like Russell Martin and Wilson Betemit have also played well.

Monday, El Duque and Randy Wolf square off, and this right away answers the question of "What the hell happened to Randy Wolf?" Randy Wolf for 8 seasons hurled for the Phillies (and was the subject of the dopey "Wolf Pack" in the 700 level at Veterans Stadium) was one of those pitchers who always pissed me off. He had spotty success (3.20 ERA in 2002, 16 wins in '03), and was the kind of pitcher that someone in your fantasy baseball league would always vastly overrate because he was young and he had good stuff (Call it the Jeff Weaver Corollary). Then he started getting hurt all the time, and then he disappeared completely. Now, he's re-surfaced with the Dodgers where it appears he is a #3-#4 starter at best.

Tuesday, a matchup of 2 guys who figured heavily in the NLDS last season, John Maine and Hong-Chih Kuo. We all know about Maine. But remember that it was Kuo who was supposed to be the "Wildcard" for the Dodgers last October; that young guy who befuddled the Mets in a September start, and who was supposedly going to baffle the Mets again in Game 2 of the NLDS. Didn't happen. Endy bunted, Reyes hit, Glavine did the baffling and Kuo barely lasted 5 innings.

In the finale on Wednesday, it's Jorge Sosa and Brad Penny (Bad Penny, if you ask Turk Wendell), whom the Mets have always handled. Even when Penny finally put it all together last season, the Mets knocked him around for 7 runs at Shea in September, and when Grady made the puzzling move of bringing Penny in in relief in Game 1 of the NLDS, Penny promptly walked Reyes to lead off the 7th inning, leading to a 2-run rally that would win the game for the Mets. Penny is again off to a strong start. But will it matter against a team that has always pounded him?

Settle in, folks! These are three 10:10pm start times, so get ready for some late night action! Whether this will translate into late night fun, we shall see...

Finally, one note left out from yesterday's post: It seems that SNY has thrown a little bit of mud in my face. Upon returning home on Saturday, I clicked on SNY looking to see some highlights from that afternoon's game. But what did I find? A Mets Classic game, from Tuesday, April 24th. The Endy Chavez Bunt game that I immediately had awarded the title of "Instant Lost Classic" had earned the right of an SNY Mets Classic. I stand corrected. They have shut me up.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Odds & Sods

With a forgettable week for the Mets in the books, we look back with some observations and odd notes I have mused about over the past few days while incapacitated and unable to express these thoughts in this forum.
  • This team as a whole is suffering from a serious case of the Blahniks. The balance between the struggling offense and the starting pitching is starting to become dangerously magnified, to the point where it's becoming too much to expect the pitchers to be perfect every time out. The poor outings from Perez and Glavine over the weekend are too much to overcome (although Glavine really had a once-a-year meltdown on Sunday), and right now, the team isn't hitting enough to come back from 6 run deficits.
  • Nothing rankles me more than losing to the Phillies. Not only because they are the Mets closest rival, but there are some mitigating circumstances that makes me hate them even more. I fear that they may fire their sleepy manager, Charlie Manuel and hire someone who might actually be able to manage that team. But this week was simply unacceptable. Tuesday's extra-inning affair was simply one of those "shit happens" games that will occur a few times a season. Fine. but the losses on Wednesday and Thursday are the ones that really rankle me. Wednesday was the beginning of this carnage. It was bad enough that Heilman basically pulled a Doug Sisk; got himself into a jam, then nearly got out of it before hanging one to Rollins that he simply blasted out for a 3-run HR that changed the game, but then seeing Endy swing out of his shoes before hitting a shot right at Rollins who started a DP that would have happened even if Endy hadn't pulled his hammie coming up the line. That Endy hit into the DP was enough. But Endy getting hurt and landing on the DL at the same time was like pouring salt on an open wound. Head-shaking moment.
  • Wednesday was bad enough. Thursday night's affair was so bad that it literally threw me over the edge. You could do a study about my reaction to that game and call it "The Evils of drinking heavily combined with Scott Schoeneweis." I had been busy most of the evening, but I had returned to my office and switched on the game in the bottom of the 9th. Wagner had already blown the save, giving up the game-tying HR to that fine, upstanding gent Pat Burrell. I'd missed the great offensive explosion: 3 HRs in the 6th inning that produced a grand total of...3 runs. The Mets went down in the 9th, with the great #2 hitter Ben Johnson leaving 2 runners on base. Schoeneweis came in. And already knowing that this was a dead ballgame, I began drinking. And drinking some more. And the runs began scoring for Philly. And I switched the game off, and continued to drink. And then, the text messages to El Guapo began...
  • "Schoeneweis makes me want to gouge my eyes out"
  • "This is Hell's worst misery. What the fuck is going on here?!"
  • "We are going nowhere. And the bitch of it is this is a better team! THIS IS MADNESS! WHAT THE FUCK!"
  • "I love bullpens!"
And so on, and so forth. El Guapo didn't respond, and, really, how could he have? What was left to say?

  • And the weekend proved to be no better. A colleague called me on Friday and said to me, "You may as well give the Tigers 3 straight wins, because the Mets ain't doing anything this weekend. The Tigers have to be licking their chops right now." And for the most part, he was right. The only saving grace was Sosa's absolute brilliance on Friday night, shutting down and shutting out the potent Tiger lineup through 8 innings, keeping the game out of the hands of people like Heilman and Schoeneweis, bridging the game to Wagner for the 9th. Still not much offense, but a win is a win. And thank God for that.
  • Back to the grind for Saturday and Sunday, as the Mets at least showed some life on offense, but most of their scoring was done after both games were completely out of hand. Kudos to Gomez for his first Major League HR on Sunday, and to Wright for HRing in all 3 games in Detroit. But is it a sign that the Mets bats are actually waking up? Or will it simply be a mirage? Green is due back on Monday, which helps, and I would guess Johnson or Ledee are the most likely candidates to be sent down. With Alou still about a week or so away, it appears that Carlos Gomez will stick around for at least a little while longer (especially given that he is infinitely more valuable even off the bench than the Ledee/Newhan/Johnson types), and probably start until Alou returns.
But all was not lost. Some good things did happen during the week.

  • Newhan was finally cut, sent down to AAA after Chavez's injury because the Mets needed a real Outfielder in his stead. Although, given that he was replaced on the roster by the equally fearsome bat of Ricky Ledee, I'm not sure if this is necessarily a season-changing move by the club.
  • Wright appears to be rolling now, having hit HRs in 4 straight games. Of course, since he is the only Met producing consistently on the offensive side, all the HRs in the world may not be enough to save the Mets hide right now.
  • Schoeneweis was used in all 3 games in the Philly series (and pitching with his severed hamstring tendon which is unfortunately not a severed head tendon) and was therefore burned out and not used in any of the games in Detroit.
  • The last episode of The Sopranos is tonight. Here's my prediction. Paulie Walnuts rats out Tony's whereabouts to Phil Leotardo. They both gang up to go after Tony. They find him, and Phil fires a bullet at him. But just as the bullet is about to strike Tony square in the forehead, Endy Chavez comes leaping in out of nowhere to catch the bullet, and fires it right back at Phil and Paulie, piercing through both of their chests and killing them instantly. And Tony gets on his horse and rides off into the sunset.
This is a real guillotine stretch for the Mets, with 6 straight series against teams that made the Postseason last year, including both of the Mets playoff opponents from '06. And as such, it's a pretty bad time to suffer a teamwide power outage. Hopefully, the team can put this week behind it as we move on to La-La Land, and then back home to Chicken Sacrifice Stadium, before matchups against Minnesota, Oakland and the MF Cardinals (and then off to Philly for 3). Hopefully, Maine, Sosa and El Duque can continue on strong and Perez and Glavine get back to basics. Hopefully Delgado, Beltran and Reyes can catch fire all together and put a hurting on these teams.