Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Jose Reyes stole a base, naturally. Your first RBI of the spring? That would be newcomer David Newhan, late of the Orioles, with a sac fly in the sixth, scoring Ben Johnson. Random note on Johnson for the curious: doesn't look like he runs that well. He did drop in a classic "Bermuda Triangle" ball on a converging 1B, 2B, and right fielder in the eighth, the kind you can see coming a mile away as the fielders collapse on the ball. Johnson saw it coming too and dug in for two bases.
I'll say it: I missed the announcer banter, I really did. Keith and Ron had some fun reminiscing about the time the light-hitting Rafael Belliard, now a Tigers coach, tagged Ron for two home runs in a spring training game in the early Eighties. Darling cheerfully noted that Belliard had exactly two homers in his entire 17-year major league career. It will grow old quickly, and Keith in particular can get irritating, but there's nothing quite like baseball announcer b.s., at least when it's not of the obnoxious Michael Kay or Hawk Harrelson varieties. Really.
Neifi Perez had two errors, which is always fun to see. I have no idea how it is that reasonable baseball executives keep giving jobs to Neifi Perez. It's one of those ongoing mysteries, like, What did the cave drawings mean? or, What the hell is nougat made of? We might never know.
Let's not focus on this too much, but since I brought it up: As the game got started there was poor old Shawn Green staggering around right field while Lastings Milledge and Endy Chavez looked on helplessly from the bench.
Oliver Perez got off to a decidedly rocky start, pitching two innings and leaving everything up in the zone and out over the plate. As Keith and Ron are quick to point out, he's just airing it out, stretching his arm and getting into the habit of repeating his motion and arm slot. If I had the stomach for it, I'd have tuned in to WFAN later to hear the fans overreact and tear their collective hair out giving up on Ollie for the season, but you know what? Life's too short.
The just plain curious
Odd starting lineup: Reyes, Beltran, Alou, Delgado, LoDuca, Wright, Green, Julio Franco, Damion Easley. I think it's safe to say David Wright won't be batting sixth this year. And Beltran hitting second raises the ol' eyebrow. I always wonder about these spring training moves that don't end up amounting to anything. There's no problem with them, but what's the point? Just for the hell of it? Why not, I guess.
Mets2Moon will like this: we had a Timoniel Perez sighting! I keep forgetting he ended up with the Tigers. He flied out harmlessly in the seventh.
The tigers have spoken
Down 5-1, the Mets rallied to put up three in the eighth, but that was as close as they got. And Spring, the season of glorious meaningless baseball, is underway.
Monday, February 26, 2007
If kids still are collecting baseball cards, I believe it's safe to say they're not being done any favors if this is the current state of the card:
You'll note the ghostly presence of Mickey Mantle looking on from the dugout, and the utterly bewildering presence of President Bush standing up in the crowd, somehow in focus in a sea of blurry spectators.
Yes, it's an error. Somebody at Topps was screwing around with the card in Photoshop, and it managed to find its way out into the world. That's Topps's story and they're sticking to it. Topps, however, might not bother running a corrected version of the card, so all of these Jeter cards will feature the Captain striking out under the watchful eyes of two of America's most famous alcoholics. Apparently this means the card won't be worth as much as it would if a corrected version were produced.
And Here's Our 2007 Derek Jeter Card ... What the Fungus? [Deadspin]
Mantle Active Again on 2007 Topps Derek Jeter [Sports Collector Daily]
Sunday, February 25, 2007
You've gotta have the arm rest. And the wide-brim hat cocked to the side, but it's gotta be a real pimp hat. You have to look real cool while you're doing it.So, any guesses who's talking and what he's talking about? Why, it's Willie Randolph, and he's describing how to execute a perfect gangsta lean. For some reason.
Big Willie Style [New York Times]
Saturday, February 24, 2007
It is Sunday Morning, October 15th, 2006.
The previous night, the Mets had been stymied by Jeff Suppan, losing game 3 of the NLCS, and falling behind in the series, 2 games to 1. Things look grim. Especially looking ahead to Game 4, and who will be taking the ball for the Mets that evening.
That would be Oliver Perez.
A hard-throwing left hander, with a killer fastball and suspect control. That was Oliver Perez when he first reached the Major Leagues with the San Diego Padres in 2002. He made his Major League debut at age 20. In 2003, he would be dealt from the Padres to the sad sack Pittsburgh Pirates, amidst an unspectacular season that saw him post mediocre numbers, albeit a high number of strikeouts.
Perez would harness his talent in 2004. Despite pitching in a pitcher's park, on one of the major's worst teams, Perez would put together a breakout season. 12 Wins. A 2.98 ERA in 30 starts. An eye-popping 239 strikeouts in merely 196 innings pitched. An ace. A star in the making.
And it all fell apart very quickly. Perez failed to build on his success in 2005. By mid-2006, Perez was sent to the minors, in the midst of a miserable campaign that saw his ERA balloon to over 6.
And then he was dealt once again. This time as an ignominious throw-in to an emergency deal made with the Mets, along with Roberto Hernandez, following the injury to Duaner Sanchez. Perez was seen as little more than a hopeless reclamation project, and began his Mets career in AAA ball.
Recalled to the Mets in late August, Perez did little to excite Mets fans about his future with the team. He struggled in his first few starts. But on September 6th, in the 2nd game of a doubleheader with the Braves, Perez showed a glimpse of what he could be, tossing a 5-hit shutout. Still, he ended the season in inconsistent fashion, and left the Mets and their fans with little to no confidence in his ability to succeed if he were to be called upon in the postseason.
Surely, he wouldn't be needed...
Then the injuries hit. Suddenly, the Mets fourth playoff starter was a man who boasted a 3-13 record, with an ERA over 6 for the regular season. Fortunately, he wasn't needed as the Mets wiped out the Dodgers in the NLDS. But he would appear in the NLCS. On that Sunday night. And in the most crucial game of the Mets season.
And he delivered.
No, he wasn't great. But considering that all the Mets wanted him to do was keep them in the game, the Mets had to be thrilled. He gave up 5 runs in 5.2 innings, but most of the damage against him was done long after the game was out of reach.
That would pale in comparison to what would face him 4 nights later.
Pitching once again to save the Mets hide, Perez would again deliver in the most crucial game of his life. Pitching on a national stage, pitching to save the Mets season, and perhaps pitching to save his own career. Perez slowly but steadily kept the Cardinal hitters off balance through most of the evening.
Six innings, 1 run. Yes, he would be bailed out by Endy Chavez making the greatest catch ever. But nonetheless, Willie stuck with him, the Mets stood behind him, and Perez didn't let anyone down. There are a lot of Mets players who can shoulder the blame for the NLCS loss last season. Oliver Perez is not one of them.
But still, questions remain about Perez as we enter 2007. Can he repeat his success in the playoffs? Has Rick Peterson solved his problems? Will he be able to recapture his form of 2004? Will he even be in the Mets starting rotation this year?
Oliver Perez went a long way last October to convincing Mets fans that he was more than "just a throw-in" to a trading deadline deal. But now it's up to him to keep us believing in him. We know that Willie Randolph loves him. We know that hitters have raved about his stuff. But can he translate it all into success? We shall see...
If he does, we got us a hell of a pitcher here.
"Oliver's army is here to stayOliver's army are on their way"-Elvis Costello
Friday, February 23, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
At 21, he might be better served starting the year in Triple-A for purely baseball-related reasons, but I wonder about what effect his problematic rookie campaign will have on that decision, and about what this kind of thing reflects about baseball.
Let's be frank about our favorite sport here. Baseball is not an institution that has ever tolerated flashes of individual style to the extent that, say, the NBA has. There have been plenty of guys with flair to spare, but they always seem to get cast in the bad guy role, a la Rickey Henderson. It's a tricky point I'm trying to make. After all, showboating doesn't really serve any purpose other than to show up opponents, and often gets in the way of making plays. Even in basketball or football, the line sometimes gets blurry between the guys who marshall their style in the service of competitiveness and playmaking and those who seem not to be especially interested in their team or the game they're playing.
Milledge, if he succeeds, has a chance to be something baseball doesn't see much of: a five-tool player with style and attitude who doesn't get tagged with the hot-dog or loafer stigmas. He could be the ultimate Ballclub Player, the embodiment of style, swagger, talent, and on-field intelligence (I'm trying to think of a suitable baseball equivalent to basketball's "court sense"). I'm waiting to see not only if Lastings can pull it off, and you have no idea how much I'm rooting for him, but also how the league reacts. Will it accept a player like that? This is a league of gamers and grinders, where the David Ecksteins are celebrated, along with guys like our own LoDuca. This is a league that's too often threatened by cornrows unless they're being worn by Bronson Arroyo.
According to this Times article, Lastings is impressing the veterans and "saying all the right things." I just wonder about his future in a league so obsessed with appeasing vets and making sure everyone says the right thing.
Milledge Looks to Rein in Free Spirit but Retain Flair [New York Times]
Monday, February 19, 2007
The ball is a blur as it flies through the air of the cool, wet October night off of the bat of Scott Rolen. Too high. It's surely a Home Run that will give the Cardinals a 2 run lead.
I watch the left fielder sprinting back towards the fence. Maybe a futile leap, but that's all.
Ball, wall and left fielder seem to converge at a frightening speed. That ball is coming down quickly! Perhaps a shot? Only the best timed of leaps could flag this ball down.
Suddenly, just as it appears the ball is gone, the left fielder takes a flying leap off of the warning track, as if he'd jumped off of a trampoline. He might have this one!
Leaping higher than he's ever leapt before, he goes over the fence with his glove extended. The ball lands safely in the webbing of his glove, momentum carrying it slightly backwards. But the left fielder's hand is sure. He squeezes it. He's Got It!
And as he comes down, the ball safely in his glove, he stops and rifles a throw back to the infield. Not only has he robbed Rolen of a sure fire Home Run, he's doubled Edmonds off of first base for a miraculous double play.
As he returns to the dugout, the sellout crowd screaming and chanting his name, he's given a hero's welcome by his teammates.
That was Endy Chavez. For the moment, it looked like he would be the great unsung hero in the Mets World Series run. Instead, the catch is simply remembered as an eerie prelude in one of the most miserable nights in Mets history.
But Endy did much more for the Mets last season than make that catch. Truth is, he'd been making catches like that all season long.
Picked up off the scrap heap following a 2005 season that saw him get released by both the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Cheesesteaks, Chavez was considered a 6th outfielder for a team that only needed 5 in Spring Training. "Why even bother picking him up?" people asked. "Useless." "A bum."
But Chavez stuck it out, and eventually made the team, against all odds. He would bring speed, and a steady outfield glove, we thought, but not much else. No punch offensively. Few thought he would last the season. After all, he failed miserably as a starter and a leadoff man for the ExpoNats, and had spent most of his career bouncing around from team to team, a fringe Major Leaguer at best.
But instead, Endy shined. Off the bench, he came in late in games for defense and sparkled, making great catches look routine. Offensively, he bunted and used his speed, and served as the key for several Mets rallies. And when Cliff Floyd went down with his balky achilles, Chavez stepped in and made the transition seamless. All year long, Endy produced for the Mets, in a fashion that was seldom spectacular, but definitely not un-noticed by Mets fans, who knew, that with Floyd ailing, Chavez would be a huge key player for the Mets as the postseason began.
Game 2, NLDS. It's Chavez, starting in place of Shawn Green, against the Left hander Kuo. See Endy square around and drag a bunt leading off the 3rd inning.
The Dodgers are befuddled. Chavez beats out the play easily and scores the Mets first run in a 4-1 victory.
Game 1, NLCS. Floyd starts, but can only last until the 2nd inning because of his achilles. Chavez comes in. The game is a pitchers duel. With 1 out in the 5th and a man on first, Ronnie Belliard hits a slicing line drive to Left. It's sinking fast. Endy knows he must dive, and at least try to trap it. It dare not get by him, for surely that would be a disaster. He dives.
And as we look forward to the 2007 season, so we look as well to Endy to be that guy off the bench who comes in and always does something to help the Mets win. He'll never be spectacular. He'll never blow you away. But he'll be consistently good, tough in the clutch and sharp with the glove. He'll be forever remembered for that catch, but he contributed so much more to the cause and cannot be overlooked on the Mets roster.
Friday, February 16, 2007
I remember when Trachsel came to the Mets. His signing was about as heralded as that of, say, Rich Rodriguez or Allen Watson. This was during the Steve Phillips era. You know, when the team was run by a guy whose idea of mathematics was Kevin Appier + Steve Trachsel = Mike Hampton (c. 2000).
A friend of mine was quoted as saying in April of 2001, "I don't like this guy Trachsel. I don't like him, and I don't trust him."
"How bad could he be?" I mused. Well, 8-15 with two teams in 2000 didn't bode well.
Little did I know.
Trachsel was so putrid early on in his Mets days that he made Anthony Young look good by comparison. He got hammered for 10 runs in his first start against a mostly punchless Expos team. Another 7 against the same Expos 2 starts later. And his most memorable effort, 4 HRs given up in 1 inning to the Padres in May. He wasn't Trachsel. He was TRASH-el. He was so bad that he ended up getting demoted to the minors for a few weeks in July, following another thrashing at the hands of the Cubs, which dropped his record to a brilliant 2-10.
But something happened. After coming back from the minors, Trachsel seemed to right himself. All of a sudden, wins were piling up, and he ended up finishing the season with a mediocre but respectable record of 11-13 for the season. 2002 would be miserable for the Mets, but Trachsel again was nothing better than solid. In 2003, Trachsel had what could be called a career year, winning 16 games (for a team that lost over 90) and spun 2 one-hitters. Still, sporting a decidedly unsexy repertoire of pitches and working at a pace that made Sid Fernandez look fast, Trachsel still never quite won the fans over in New York. A good performance is a good performance, but it doesn't mean much for a losing team. Again in 2004, Trachsel was consistently mediocre. A back injury wiped out most of his season in 2005, and, for the first time, Trachsel actually gained some appreciation from Mets fans. 16 starts out of Kaz Ishii were enough to do that.
Then came 2006. In a season where Trachsel would have been counted on to do nothing more than what he had done in the past several seasons, Trachsel responded with his worst year since his arrival with the team. And yet, he won most of his starts. It helps when your team puts up 7+ runs routinely when you're starting. 15 wins, yes, but an ERA that ballooned to almost 5. And little love and no faith from the fans. But he did have one final shining moment, hurling shutout ball into the 7th inning in the Mets Division Clinching game.
And it was on to the playoffs for the first time for Trachsel, by now the longest tenured Met, and the lone holdover from the Bobby Valentine era. His closest playoff experience had been a brilliant performance in the 1998 Wild Card Play-in game, pitching for the Chicago Cubs. A few solid outings in the playoffs for the Mets would have certainly solidified himself fondly in the memories of Mets fans.
Pitching to clinch the NLDS, Trachsel did everything but blow an early 4-run Mets lead, departing what would become a wild Mets victory. OK, fine. That was a mere prelude to the epic stink-bomb Trachsel would vomit up in his Swan Song with the team, that Saturday evening in St. Louis. Barely getting out of the first inning allowing 2 runs, Trachsel proceeded to put his team in a major hole in the 2nd, first by allowing a home run to the opposing pitcher, and then departing with the bases loaded following getting hit in the leg by a comebacker. A performance of no grit, no guts and no heart. And that would be it for Trachsel. His final indignity with the Mets would be being bypassed for a potential Game 7 start in the NLCS for a man with a 3-13 record in the regular season. And out the door he went. Goodbye and good riddance.
And, irony of ironies, Trachsel is now called upon to fill the void left by another injured, ineffective ex-Met, Kris Benson, gone for the season from the Orioles with a rotator cuff.
Orioles fans, I have no sympathy for you. You know what you're getting into.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Learned of this by way of Deadspin: David Wright is retiring the Beastie Boys' "Brass Monkey" from his roster of at-bat songs. We're sad to see it go, seeing as how fans in the stands at Shea last year always seemed to get a kick out of it. You could see registering on the faces of guys of a certain age demographic: "Hey, I remember this song. Nice choice!" Some people sang along. Really broke up the monotony of interchangeable reggaeton that made up most players' at-bat music. Mets2Moon and I liked it so much we named our fantasy team after it (yes, we co-own a fantasy team. That was going to have to come out eventually. Now you know).
Deadspin has the (sometimes snide) suggestions flowing in their comment section. Someone on there throws out the "You're the Best" Karate Kid theme song. I'll second that.
Help David Wright Choose a New Theme Song [NY Daily News]
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
February 13, and the Hated Yankees have pitchers and catchers reporting today. Dice-K arrived in Red Sox camp. The Mets show up in a couple days. Me, I'm still knee-deep in the NBA season, rooting for my favorite team to lose. So I'm going to ease into this baseball preseason thing slowly.
But I do want to open with a question. It's not who's gotten better or worse in the offseason. It's not who'll rise up in the AL Central (which, by the way, should be a great division to follow this year). I'm talking about who's going to make things interesting beef-wise?
Let's step back. Baseball is still a fairly genteel sport. It has its share of brawls, brushbacks, and knockdowns, but it tends to skimp on legitimate feuds, except among fans. This season Gilbert Arenas vowed to drop 50 on any team employing a coach or assistant involved in the Olympic team selection process, just to get back at them for not selecting him. When was the last time a baseball player vowed revenge on the entire league? That's what I want to see. Silly fistfights help, but that's not really what I'm about here.
Nor do I condone poor sportsmanship. I think what I'm really on about here is that MLB as a whole has suffers from a lack of swagger. This is a game where middle-aged white reporters go on TV and strain themselves, veins popping out of their foreheads, to whip some poor schmuck for admiring a home run or not running out a grounder, or break out the dreaded double-C ("clubhouse cancer") for anyone who calls out a teammate. And fine, of course you shouldn't do that stuff (kids at home: always run out your grounders and fly balls). But I think the tendency for everyone to break their legs leaping onto their high horses at the smallest provocation has had the ill effect of keeping the game stodgy.
So here at The Ballclub we're going to be keeping an eye out for the guys who buck the trend, who make crazy predictions, guarantee victories, talk about themselves in the third person, say things like, "These guys hit me pretty hard last time, tonight I'm gonna strike out 15 of them." I want guys who start trumped-up feuds, who, in short, are hungry for beef. I want to be clear: there's a difference between this stuff and disrespect. We don't condone disrespect and full-on arrogance. Think about that Gilbert example. He's making a crazy, impossible promise rooted in his self-proclaimed (though earned) underdog status, in a way that gets himself up, gets the fans up, catches media attention, but doesn't disrespect anyone he's facing. That's swagger. Why doesn't Major League Baseball have any?
Sunday, February 11, 2007
As my first post as the alternate contributor to The Ballclub, I wanted to make sure I covered a hot topic for the offseason. With the Mets pitching staff about as stable as America's Foreign Relations, it is important to consider the key members of the Pitching Staff. Because, as we all know, Pitching Wins Championships.
Yes, yes, we all know that Glavine and ElDuque will be anchoring things to kick things off. Two pitchers with a combined age of 132. But we're going to be counting on them for quite a bit in 2007. But, as we know, people can break down. ElDuque was supposed to be the linchpin for the Mets playoff chances before a balky calf (and have you ever taken a look at that man's calves?) sidelined him.
And all of a sudden, this was what all Mets fans woke up to on the morning of Game 1 of the NLDS:
Enter John Maine.
Acquired as an afterthought before the 2006 season, in a much-maligned deal involving Kris Benson and his trashy bride, Maine was looked at as a fringe pitcher, a failed prospect who would serve the same role as that of, say, Jeremi Gonzalez. The slop starter to fill in for the injured pitcher.
Maine made one start in May, and didn't pitch well. Then he got hurt and was all but forgotten, until he returned in July. But then, something strange happened. Maine started pitching really well. He spun a masterful shutout against the Astros on July 21st. Next, another 5.2 strong innings against the Cubs. And before anyone could really grasp it, Maine was turning into a gem. By the beginning of August, Maine was up to 23 consecutive scoreless innings, and giving the Mets a chance to win every time he went out (hear that, Trachsel?).
Maine's numbers for the season weren't eye-popping good, and he did take his lumps a couple of times. But what he accomplished was enough to inspire the confidence in his teammates and fans of The Ballclub that he'd be OK when he took the mound on October 4th vs. the Sad Dodgers.
And he was. Not a win, but his effort was good enough to put the Mets in position to win the game. His start in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cardinals was erratic, but he would redeem himself with a stellar performance in Game 6 to keep the Mets from being eliminated. And although that would be his final outing of the season, it left Mets fans feeling mighty excited about the fortunes of the kid whom nobody had heard of 6 months prior.
And so, we look forward to 2007. And we look forward to the prospects of having John Maine, the kid with nuts the size of Saturn, ready to take the ball every 5th day and give his all to help out The Ballclub.
Go get 'em, John.
It's no supposed to be the best players, which would be boring, and who am I to say? Or even my personal favorites at any given time, because who cares. It's just the All-Ballclub Team. We'll let you decide what it adds up to.
It's safe to say that the most Ballclub pitcher in the league is Dontrelle Willis. The most Ballclub position player is without question Jose Reyes. Here's the rest of the list in alphabetical order.
- Carlos Beltran
- Milton Bradley
- Mike Cameron
- Robinson Cano
- Endy Chavez
- Shin-Shoo Choo
- Carl Crawford
- Coco Crisp
- Carlos Delgado
- Jermain Dye
- Adam Everett
- Sal Fasano
- Prince Fielder
- Nomar Garciaparra
- Bill Hall
- Felix Hernandez
- Orlando Hernandez
- Ryan Howard
- Torii Hunter
- Francisco Liriano
- Pedro Martinez
- Joe Mauer
- David Ortiz
- Jonathan Papelbon
- Jose Reyes
- Mariano Rivera
- Francisco Rodriguez
- C.C. Sabathia
- Reggie Sanders
- Ervin Santana
- Johan Santana
- Alfonso Soriano
- Nick Swisher
- Chien-Ming Wang
- Vernon Wells
- Dontrelle Willis
- David Wright
- Delmon Young
- Joel Zumaya
- Bill "Spaceman" Lee (member emeritus)
Friday, February 9, 2007
But if that sounds like a complaint, it's not. Don't let anyone tell you the Mets blew it this offseason with free agent pitchers. They bid handsomely on Dice-K, but no one was going to get within leagues of what the Red Sox put down. And as far as Zito is concerned, they were right to pass. It isn't so much the money as the years. Seven years is too long for all but the most special (and young) players, it's not for the guys who are good, but only commanding that attention because they're the best who happen to be on the market.
Chan Ho is not likely to give the Mets much of anything. This isn't really about him. The strategy is the right one.
Chan Ho Park reaches deal with Mets [AP/Yahoo Sports]
Thursday, February 8, 2007
What is this and why am I reading it?
In 2006 the New York Mets had a season that erased several years' worth of growing desperation and even anger among fans. The previous few seasons had witnessed an upheaval in the management and front office, a shipping in and out of questionable veteran players, and several disappointments among the touted "can't miss" prospects of the team's farm system.
2006 saw the genesis of a new order in the team, as a new general manager effectively said, "Okay, enough. We're serious this time," and fielded a winning team of established stars, rising young players, and valuable role players led by a capable new manager. The team won 97 games and took its division for the first time in almost two decades. They got to within one game of their first World Series appearance since 2000, and then …
And then that ellipsis appeared. A good reliever gave up a home run to a weak-hitting Cardinal catcher. The Cards' closer threw a perfect curveball to the Mets' number three hitter. And that was that.
But, hey, hell of a ride, right?
The Ballclub is about the Mets and the coming season, and any beyond that we're around to chronicle. I decided to create this site when it occurred to me that there weren't enough smart-alecky white guys writing about sports on the Internet. Now, as to why you're reading it, that's between you and your AA sponsor. But if we offer you a unique perspective that sets us apart from the thousands of other blogger/hacks, or that you just enjoy for whatever reason, we're satisfied with that.