Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Final Indignity


The 2006 season ended in a blink. An instant that was beautifully depressing and sad, and at the same time filled all of us with a great sense of pride and hope for the future.

The 2007 season ended with a sputtering flameout, that was neither prideful nor hopeful, nor gave us any sort of sense that this team was going anywhere in the near future. I showed up to a rollicking House Party at noon, and by 4:45pm, I was leaving a Morgue.

Last month, I listed the 5 worst games I had ever attended. Well, bump them all down, there's a new king.

Perhaps, coming into today's game, we could have some sort of a sense of optimism, following the thrashing on Saturday, and the Phillies going down quietly to Washington. And it certainly seemed optimistic at the outset. But let's face it. This game was over by the National Anthem. Tom Glavine did an outstanding job today. He did an outstanding job of undoing every ounce of Good Will he had built up in his 5 seasons with the Mets by coming out and completely shitting the bed in a fashion that was beyond humiliating. How a Hall of Fame pitcher can come out and completely yak like he did is simply baffling. It was a perfectly miserable bookend to his Mets career, where he successfully managed to get totally blasted in front of a full house in both his first and last Mets starts.

Why, it's a microcosm of this entire season. Simply baffling. It defies belief, description or explanation, which is what none of us have right now, and which this organization certainly has quite a lot to do. It was as if yesterday was the anomaly, and the rest of the past two weeks were the reality of this team. And I said it a few days ago. Lifeless, heartless, and now going home for the winter, where I hope they sit for a long time and think about what they've done. We are now hung with this scarlet letter over our heads for the rest of our lives; this horrible indignity that we have suffered. Not to take anything away from the Phillies. They earned it and they deserve it. They did absolutely everything they needed to do in order to win this thing, and we didn't. We stood there and handed it to them. Congratulations to them.

Whatever anyone has to say, any players, Willie, Omar, Freddie or his idiot manchild Boy-King have to say, I'm not interested. I want my playoff refund as soon as possible, and I am taking the tickets, putting them with today's scorecard and putting them away, in the back of my closet, so that someday I can find them and remember this day, and how we must never be embarrassed like this again.

Zero Hour

So it all comes down to this.

After the Mets resurrected themselves from the ashes in a most impressive display on all fronts, and dragging all their fans in from the ledge, we find ourselves once again dead even with Philly. It all comes down to one afternoon to try to sort out the mess that has been the National League Playoff scenario.

The Mets blasted out of the gate on Saturday, playing fast, loose and free, without a care in the world. The clutch hits and the good at-bats that seemed to have eluded this team for much of the season, and almost entirely over the last two weeks seemed to have melted away, as the Mets poured it on and didn't let up. The game was already out of reach by the 3rd inning, and by the time the bizarre fisticuffs erupted in the 5th, there was little drama left in this laugher of a game.

While you could certainly see that the Marlins were frustrated and tired, and being beaten off the field by the Mets, it was rather odd seeing Miguel Olivo going completely apeshit and charging Jose Reyes off the mound and ultimately close-fisting Sandy Alomar, Jr, touching off a real Bench-Clearing Brawl, the kind the Mets haven't had in quite some time. Sure, there was the Pedro Martinez/Jose Guillen incident last season, and who can forget Dennis Cook/Marvin Benard in 2000, but I don't even know if I can remember the last time the Mets really dusted it up with anyone since the Kevin Foster/Pete Harnisch/Scott Servais brawl way back in 1996 (not to be left out is my personal favorite, the Pat Combs/Doc Gooden/John Kruk/Strawberry/Mackey Sasser fight in 1990).

Instead, the crowd at Shea got to sit back and watch John Maine mow down batter after batter in what was by far and away his best outing of the season. True, Maine has been uneven this season, and at times was downright hideous, especially through much of the second half. But the Mets turned to him today, when they needed it the most, and Maine delivered with a performance as clutch as the day itself. If this all works out for the Mets in the end, Maine's outing today could live on for a long time in Mets lore as one of the most dominant big game performances in team history (right up there with Bobby Jones or Al Leiter).

But, while the 13-0 thrashing was certainly welcomed by all, and certainly much needed for all of us who have suffered the slings and arrows and indignities of the last two weeks, where the Mets for the most part looked lifeless and hopeless, it would have meant very little in the larger scheme of things unless things worked out right in Philadelphia. And the Nationals helped the Mets out bigtime, as Matt Chico threw shutout ball into the 7th, and the Nationals Bullpen was able to get out of a jam, and escape with a 4-2 victory to knock the Phillies back into a tie, setting up what will certainly be a wild Sunday.

I'll be there today. I had figured I would wait until the game ended today to see if I would go, but by the time the Mets had gone up 8-0, I figured it was pretty safe to go ahead and get a ticket. Good thing, too, since by the time the Philly game ended, the game was sold out. Shea is going to be rocking today, guaranteed, from start to finish. And we won't need those silly little hankies they give out in Philly, either (with that said, watch them hand out rally towels today).

But let's keep it all in perspective. This still isn't over. The Mets are going up against a Marlins team that has little to play for, but they are facing one tough cookie in Dontrelle Willis, who has always been hard on the Mets. Tom Glavine is battle tested, and has proven time and again to be a big game pitcher. But the Mets really have to come out with the same chip on their shoulder that Lastings Milledge spoke about after the game Saturday. Get ahead and keep the foot on the gas, don't let up until the game is over. Because a loss, and it's all moot, and all the bad feelings, and the snide remarks and the collapse is still there. Philly has a tough matchup of their own, with ageless Jamie Moyer taking the mound for them. And that's not even taking into account the Wildcard scenarios, and San Diego and Colorado, and lord knows who else could pop into the picture.


It all comes down to one day to sort it all out. I'll be at Shea, with 55,776 of my closest friends. We're behind the Mets 100%, just like we've always been. We're prepared for arrogant hope or desperate shame. Whatever happens, we just have to close our eyes, hope for the best, and take that leap...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Shame! Shame! Throw Yourself Away!

Long time coming
It seemed to get me by
Long time coming
It seemed to satisfy
You longed to taste the shame
That everybody tries

Shame shame throw yourself away
Give me little bits of more than I can take
If it sits upon your tongue or naked in your eyes
Give me little bits of more than I can try
Throw yourself away
Throw yourself away
Throw yourself awaaaaaaaaay!

-Soundgarden




If the header doesn't say anything more, then the following ought to:

During the course of Friday night's game, I...


...Called El Guapo the "Jose Reyes of Bloggers" and challenged him to a fight...


...Attempted to eat a Martini Glass after the 3rd inning...

...Ate a lemon rind after Matt freakin Treanor hit a HR into the Yadier-Zone...


...Prepared myself for admission to the Betty Ford Clinic or the Richard Nixon Library or some shit by the end of the 6th...


...Threatened to hurl myself off the 59th Street Bridge by the end of the night.

If this doesn't speak volumes of the state of the Mets right now, nothing ever will.

Now, with that said, I must now hold my head over a toilet and vomit my guts out.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Agony and The Agony


In 2006, the Mets ran away with their division, playing out games with guts and heart, and giving all of us the feeling that no game was un-winnable.

In 2007, there has been no guts, no heart, and now no victories. And we as fans are looking at a monumental collapse of epic proportions that is about to see its final, awful chapter unfold this weekend, with no sense that anything will be able to reverse it.

I suppose you could say that the collapse has been recent, but in actuality, this has been going on since June. You could pinpoint it, I suppose, with the Home Run hit by Endy Chavez against the Yankees on May 18th. Endy hit this HR, and got a lot of well deserved ink because of it, as it aided the Mets to a victory. But for some reason, this may have gotten in the head of Jose Reyes, because ever since then, his swing has been so cocked-up, as though he is suddenly trying to uppercut the ball and hit more Home Runs, when he should swing flat and hit line drives. Now, he's foul tipping balls, popping them up, or missing them completely. Jose no hit, no runners on base for Carlos, Carlos, David et.al to drive in.

But this season long collapse has gone largely un-noticed, aside from the odd, snide remarks here and there because they were winning games, here and there, and there seemingly were just idle threats from Atlanta and Philadelphia, who we figured would fade soon enough, once we really got going.

We never got going. Atlanta and Philly hung around. No improvements were made at the trading deadline. Why not? We're still in first.

But then, all of a sudden, Philly kicked our asses. And they got hot. And we stayed flat. And the pitching faltered. And the offense sputtered. And the lead shrank. And now, the panic has set in, but it's too late.

Now, the articles are coming out, and everything about the glaring shortcomings of this team are coming to the forefront. And all we get is a manager who can do nothing more than mumble to himself after yet another loss in which the team looked lifeless and hopeless.

I've been kicking around the idea of going to all the remaining games, because I feel completely helpless and frustrated just sitting there while all this is going on. I may, I may not. I wonder how much I feel like paying for the privilege of watching my team fall apart. But I went last night. I subjected myself to it. I felt nervous all day. It got worse as I got to the ballpark. Whatever the crowd was announced at, I assure you Shea was only about half full. Nervous, but mostly in good spirits. The crowd was behind the Mets, 100%. Trying in any way we could to will this team to victory. And Pedro answered the bell, allowing 3 runs over 7 heroic innings.

He was the only one who bothered to show up.

I can't really make too much more sense of it. I guess it can best be explained in the following series of text messages to El Guapo:

7:25pm: It is a small crowd but they are trying to will the Mets through this while Philly is stampeding. I feel sick.

7:30pm: They look so tight.

7:55pm: Whatever this team has left needs to come out now. Down 3 and Philly up 6. I'm too upset to speak right now.

8:25pm: OH MY FUCKING GOD WHEN DO WE GET A BREAK?

8:52pm: This is a truly heroic effort from Pedro. He has energized the crowd but the offense has taken us right out of it.

9:13pm: Remember how I felt last year during Game 7? That's about how I feel right now.

9:25pm: Do they want this anymore?

9:35pm: Well, that might not have been the worst game I've ever been to, but it's certainly the most depressing.

9:52pm: Mets fans can smile like they mean it.

What's left? I don't know. Something tells me that I should save the money I would have spent on a ticket to tonight's game and spend that money instead on several alcoholic beverages, which I will consume at Ballclub HQ, East Village Bureau while watching the game on TV...

...If I don't have to put a bag over my head first.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lost Classics: October 3, 1999

On Sunday, September 19th, 1999, the Mets completed a series with the Philadelphia Phillies with a record of 92-58, one game behind the Atlanta Braves for the lead in the NL East, and a 4 game lead over the Cincinnati Reds for the National League Wildcard. The Mets had been riding high all Summer, and appeared to be streaking towards their first Postseason appearance since 1998, a long, arduous 11 years prior.

And then, all of a sudden, the bottom fell out. A road trip to Atlanta resulted in a full Larry Nightmare, a 3 game sweep. Subsequently, the Mets went to Philadelphia and got swept by the lowly Phillies in 3 games. Suddenly, a mere week later, the Mets were 92-64, now 7 games back in the East, and one game behind the Reds for the Wildcard.

After losing 2 of 3 to Atlanta at home, prompting the memorable "Mets fans can go home and put their Yankees stuff on" quote from good friend Larry, the Mets were pretty much left for dead. At the beginning of play on Friday, October 1st, 1999, the Mets stood at 93-66, 2 games behind both the Astros and Reds, who were tied for the NL Central lead, with the loser in the lead for the Wildcard. With the pressure building, the fans fuming and the press swarming, Bobby Valentine called for his own firing if the Mets did not make the playoffs. A blaring Post headline after the final loss to Atlanta trumpeted "WHY WAIT? CAN THE PHONY NOW!"

But the Mets resurrected themselves. That night, they beat the Pirates in 11 innings, while the Reds lost to Milwaukee and the Astros lost to LA. Saturday, more good news for the Mets, as the Reds lost again in Milwaukee. Rick Reed's masterful shutout of the Pirates that night meant that amazingly, the Mets were back in a tie for the Wildcard, at 95-66.

So it came down to one final game
for the Mets to try to keep their Playoff dreams alive. A victory, and they could do no worse than tie the Reds. A victory and a Reds loss, and they were in. And with that in mind, fans flocked to Shea Stadium in droves to cheer the Mets on to one of their most Amazing comebacks.

Although my roommate and I had discussed making the trip from Binghamton to Shea that day, we decided against it and watched on TV. Orel Hershiser, he of the improbable team-leading 13 victories, was on the mound for the Mets against Rookie Kris Benson, whom, in July, had beaten the Mets soundly. The tension was unbearable, right from the outset. Hershiser started off by walking Al Martin, who was sacrificed to second, stole 3rd, and scored on Kevin Young's 2 out single. And just like that, it seemed like the wind was out of the sails. But Hershiser buckled down and didn't allow the Pirates on the board after that. But Benson was equally tough. A pair of singles from Alfonzo and Olerud in the first produced nothing. The pitchers duel continued into the 4th.

Olerud led off with a shot that Kevin Young fielded, but threw away on his attempted throw to Benson, and Olerud was on second on the error. Mike Piazza was next, and his long fly ball to right got the crowd out of their seats, but it was caught by Brant Brown. Olerud moved to 3rd with one out. Robin Ventura was next, garnering chants of MVP, but his line drive was right into Young's glove for the second out. So it was down to Darryl Hamilton, acquired in a midseason trade from the Rockies, and who served to solidify the team's outfield defense, and also chipped in with some key hits. And he worked the count against Benson before ripping a shot just fair inside the 3rd base line, scoring Olerud to tie the game.

Phew. Relax.

But not for long. Hershiser left with one out in the 6th after allowing a double to Martin. Dennis Cook came in and struck out Abraham Nunez, but then walked Adrian Brown. Valentine pulled Cook in favor of Pat Mahomes, an unheralded righty who had become one of the unsung heroes for these '99 Mets, chipping in with spot starts, big relief outings, and even some clutch hits here and there. Mahomes got Kevin Young to strike out, and Mahomes ran off the mound pumping his fist.

The Mets staged their own rally in the bottom of the 6th, loading the bases on singles from Ventura and Hamilton, and a walk to Rey Ordonez, but Matt Franco, pinch hitting for Mahomes, popped out to end the threat.

On we went. Turk Wendell came in, slammed the rosin bag down, and slammed down the Pirates 1-2-3 in the 7th. Rickey Henderson led off the 7th with a single, and, playing with a balky calf, exited the game as only Rickey can, being run for by a little-known 27-year old journeyman Rookie by the name of Melvin Mora, who had provided little offense, but very solid defense for the Mets in a few cups of coffee over the course of the season. But Alfonzo, Olerud and Piazza failed to move him up or even move him over, and it was off to the 8th. Once again, Wendell shut down the Pirates effortlessly. In the bottom of the 8th, Jason Christiansen came in to replace Benson for the Pirates. Benny Agbayani drew a 2-out walk, but that was it. Still 1-1, going to the 9th.

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, the Reds and Brewers were waiting out a rain delay. While the Mets needed to worry about their own game, one had to keep an eye on the Reds game. A Reds loss, and the Mets were bound for Arizona, and the NLDS. A Reds victory, and it was off to Cincinnati for a one-game playoff. But heavy downpours had delayed the game, and postponed any travel plans for the Mets.

In the 9th, Wendell retired the first two Pirates, before allowing a single to Young. Wendell departed in favor of Armando Benitez, who had taken the closers role over in July and run with it, and was putting the finishing touches on a thoroughly dominant season. Although Young stole second and he walked Warren Morris intentionally, Benitez was able to strike out Aramis Ramirez to retire the side, and set the stage for the frenetic bottom of the 9th.

The Pirates brought in Greg Hansell to pitch in the last of the 9th. The Mets countered by sending up Bobby Bonilla to pinch hit for Shane Halter, in the game as a defensive replacement (and one of the more forgotten Mets). Bobby had played out the season in true malcontent fashion, getting hurt, getting fat, arguing with his manager and once again doing very little to endear himself to anyone in New York. And yet, here he was, and if he could pop a Home Run here and win the game, perhaps all would have been forgiven.

Didn't happen. He grounded to first.

Bonilla was followed by Melvin Mora, the anti-fat cat. And his looping single into right field got that winning run aboard. Edgardo Alfonzo was next, and in typical Edgardo Alfonzo fashion, he got the clutch hit, ripping a single to right field, sending Mora scampering all the way to 3rd. John Olerud was walked intentionally to load the bases, and bring up Mike Piazza.

"And here we are. When the Mets brought Mike Piazza back, it was to get the big hit, drive in the big run. And now here he is with a potential playoff berth 90 feet away," were the words of Howie Rose as Piazza came to the plate. But we would have to wait. Hansell was pulled from the game in favor of sidearming ex-Met Brad Clontz.

"Be Alive for the Wild Pitch!" Valentine yelled to Mora.

Be alive indeed. Clontz went through his submarine delivery, and delivered his first pitch. It was low and outside. It skipped under the glove of the Catcher, Joe Oliver, hopped up and onto the screen. Wild Pitch! Mora dashed home and jumped on the plate, and was immediately swarmed by the rest of the Mets, as L.A. Woman blared from the Shea speakers.

"And for the first time in 11 years, the Mets will be going to some semblance of Postseason Play!" Howie Rose yelled.

As for me, I hadn't sat down since the 6th inning. And when the pitch bounced, it was as if 11 years of frustration finally released, and I jumped up, let out a whoop and picked up my roommate. He yelled at me to put him down. So I did, ran to my room and blasted L.A. Woman myself.

And so the Mets had indeed done what was necessary to ensure them no less than another game. But would that game happen? Time passed in the afternoon, and the Reds and Brewers were still waiting out that rain. What if they couldn't play until tomorrow? Then a play-in game on Tuesday? Time continued to pass. Night fell. Still a rain delay. Not wanting to wait any longer to fly, and not wanting to be presumptuous, the Mets packed their bags and headed for Cincinnati. Finally, the Reds and Brewers began, at around 10pm Eastern Time. Led by Greg Vaughn, hitting a long HR and charging up and down the Reds dugout like a drill sergeant, and in front of the 16 or so Brewers fans who sat through the asinine 7-hour rain delay, the Reds did what they had to do in a wet 7-1 victory, forcing the play-in game the next night.

And we all know what happened that night, and what happened after that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Congratulations.

So, for 8 innings last night, it seemed like the Mets had failed to show up for the biggest game of the year (and at this point in time, every game is the biggest game of the year). They couldn't field, they hit into double plays every time there was a man on base, Glavine was horrendous, there were fielding mistakes, mental mistakes and the team looked lifeless and staring at yet another total embarrassment at the hands of the hideous Nationals. How bad was this game? El Guapo and I were exchanging text messages throughout:

El Guapo: Last 6 games, here we go. Make sure you have some booze handy.
Mets2Moon: I'm shooting heroin right now.
El Guapo: Probably a good idea.

El Guapo: Let's see how many runners in scoring position we can strand in one game.
Mets2Moon: How about how many times we can no-show the biggest game of the year.

El Guapo: 2 big blown chances at the plate and failing to cover 2nd in the 7th. That's the ballgame.
Mets2Moon: Here comes the DP. I want to die.
El Guapo: Phils lost. So that's something.
Mets2Moon: Whoopee.

It was so bad that at some point I stopped paying attention to Howie and Tom and forgot what inning it was. When Delgado hit into the DP to end the 8th, I thought the game was over.

Then, of course, they woke up in the last half of the 9th and made the final score look like something somewhat respectable. But in typical 2007 Mets fashion, the rally was a day late and a dollar short and now we can only think about the whatifs in the game.

I guess we can take solace in the fact that Atlanta stuck it to Philly last night, rallying to win even after blowing a 4 run lead of their own, thanks to HRs from Mark Teixeira (just a handsome, strapping young man) and Larry (perhaps the first thing he has ever done in his career that was helpful to the Mets). The cheers and the tomahawk chops at Shea after the final score was posted were clearly audible over the radio. Of course, we should not turn a blind eye to Atlanta; they're still on the fringes of this race, although 4 games out with 5 to play is about as fringe as it gets. But we have to root for them now. I wholeheartedly admit this. It's like pouring sand down my throat, but dammit, we have to root for the fucking Braves.

But while Brave victories over Philadelphia are nice, and helpful to the cause, it would better (and much less cathartic) if the Mets could actually show up for one of these very important games. Tonight will be a mystery of epic proportions, as Philip Humber finally is given a chance to show us what he's got. You know, Philip Humber, he of being buried in the back of the bullpen by Willie despite the fact that he's one of the organization's top prospects? He of the 3 innings pitched in the last month? Yeah, him. You remember Humber, right (That's Humber, not Humbert)? I have high hopes for Humber, although I wish his first start was in a game that wasn't so pressure-packed. Especially considering that if something goes badly, the bullpen parade of Mota, Schoeneweis, Feliciano, Heilman, Grumpy, Dopey and Bashful are sure to be summoned, and in rapid succession.

Tony Paige on WFAN read an open letter to Humber last night, asking for 8 or 9 innings, 1 run and no walks. We can dream, can't we?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Heart Attack

After the Mets came away with the victory in what was a classic Heart Attack game on Sunday afternoon (and for a perfect definition of what a Heart Attack game is, I give you this example), things looked good. Philly had lost, the lead was back to 2 1/2, and it seemed like, after 3 straight victories to close out the weekend in Florida, the Mets finally had this thing under control. The clinching would come, perhaps as soon as Wednesday.

But more than that, the key performances were coming from some unlikely places. Joe Smith, Aaron Sele and Scott Schoeneweis were the unsung heroes, as well as Mota chipping in with some key outs in between big hits from usual suspects Alou, Delgado and Wright. Yes, Heilman was terrible. Yes, Wagner was rusty. But the victories over the weekend looked like the signal that the worst was over for the Mets. Now, back home to cruise.

We should have known it wasn't going to be that easy.

Coming home, where the Mets have not played well at all this season, playing a Nationals team that ran them through the wringer last week (and did the same to Philadelphia over the weekend), the Mets came home and fell flat on their faces, in a performance that seemed to hearken back to a number of bad habits and bad times. Pelfrey was wild, Mota was terrible, Reyes couldn't hit a line drive and the Mets just got killed, shrinking the division lead and ensuring the Phillies one more day of life in this ridiculously extended race for the division.

Merely a hiccup, we all hope, although a very good, and really fucking frightening point was made by Greg over at Faith and Fear: Just when it seems like the offense is clicking, and able to overcome the poor performances out of the bullpen, the offense suddenly grinds to a halt and then the bullpen starts pitching well, leading to a lot of those miserable, frustrating 3-1 losses that the Mets seemed to play for pretty much the entire month of June. And as we have seen, it is absolutely essential for the Mets to hit if they are going to contend for the Denslow Cup.

Maybe I'm nuts. Maybe the Nationals are just that frisky, and Manny Acta is just really cranked up to be the spoiler (much like Bobby Cox is fixing to do in Philadelphia). Maybe they just ran into Matt Chico on one of his best nights. Maybe it will all turn back to the good side tomorrow. Once again, this season has just completely baffled me as far as what to expect. All I know is that now, a potential clincher can't come any earlier than Thursday. Or, the Mets hold on first place can last as far as Thursday. One or the other.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Shut Up, Tim McCarver

It's no secret that Tim McCarver is an annoying blowhard who has somehow managed to make a career out of pontificating and hammering the most obvious facts into our heads over and over again until we're ready to scream. It was bad enough that we were subjected to him all afternoon Saturday on the FOX telecast, alongside Chaz Bonnifusco or whatever the name of the guy announcing was. I rarely watch games on TV, for what it's worth, but it being Saturday, Yom Kippur afternoon and me being home, and the game being of paramount importance. I put the game on. I'm usually pretty good at shutting the announcers out when I have to, but it seemed like McCarver was all too giddy to remind us about the struggles of the Mets bullpen, and how poorly they've played over the past 10 days. He only managed to make mention of this about once every half inning. But by the 9th inning, I was a little surprised he didn't wave an Aaron Heilman voodoo doll in front of the cameras. He did everything short of scream out loud, "THE METS BULLPEN MIGHT BLOW IT! THE METS BULLPEN MIGHT BLOW IT!" and really did nothing except make all of us crazy for 15 minutes despite the fact that Heilman ran into a minor annoyance in the 9th, working with a 6-run lead.

Tim, we all know the story. We've been watching the last week or so. We don't need to be reminded about it over and over again, while we're trying to enjoy our first easy victory in over a week. Do us all a favor and SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Now that I'm done pontificating (and tearing my hair out at the Nationals for essentially handing the Phillies another victory), yes, we're all back in from the ledge for the moment, after the Mets have finally been able to wake up and string together two good, solid victories over the leaky Marlins and their hideous team defense. Rather than folding their tents and declaring themselves all cursed following the meltdown in Miami on Thurdsay night, the Mets grew some balls, caught some breaks and did what they were supposed to do: Beat the Lousy Team. And then do the same thing the next day.

It's always helpful when the Mets are finally able to catch a few breaks. Friday night was a prime example of the Mets finally catching these breaks and cashing in on them. After 2 innings, we were all ready to jump off of the ledge. Down 3-0, Pedro looking bad, Marlins getting dink hit after dink hit, and running around blowing their kazoos. But then, suddenly, they were the ones looking like the inexperienced last-place team. Miguel Cabrera, all world at the plate, showed us his set of stone hands, and Mike Jacobs, former farmhand, flashed us his pair as well, as the Mets very quickly tied the game. Then it was Pedro, getting himself into a bases loaded jam, and then just as quickly getting himself out of it, in typical Pedro style, mixing his pitches, throwing from different arm angles and thoroughly baffling Cody Ross, then just curveballing Olivio to death for the 3rd out.

And just when it looked like the Marlins were going to get out of their own jam, it was Scott Olsen, the sometimes drunken, sometimes surly, usually frustrated malcontent pitcher, sweating like a punctured waterbed (one of the moments I would have not wanted to see in Eye-Popping HD), walking Reyes, failing to throw a 3rd strike to Wright, throwing a tantrum on the mound, and then giving up a 2-run single to Beltran to incinerate the game entirely. Again, his defense didn't help him, but when a pitcher can get rattled like that, it becomes increasingly easier to jump on him, and the Mets did that, just when they needed it most.

Then came the scare (Beltran's frightening landing on Hermida's drive in the 5th), the rain (pushing the game later and later into the evening) and the rest of the game ending up being mostly uneventful if you look at it on paper, and completely and totally hair-raising if you stayed up for it. First, it was Mota, coming in after the delay, much to the dismay of us all, and miraculously tossing 2 shutout innings, allowing 1 hit. Then, it was Feliciano, usually reliable, giving up 2 runs in the 8th. And then, Scott Schoeneweis. Scott Schoeneweis! Schoeneweis, who, unlike fellow Semite Shawn Green did not elect to take Yom Kippur off, pulled the double-miracle, coming in, striking out Hermida to end the 8th, and then going 1-2-3 in the 9th, with 2 more strikeouts and picking up the save.

Scott Schoeneweis picked up a Save! When did you ever think something like that would happen?!

So, with all the good vibes flowing through the clubhouse as the game ended around 1AM Saturday Morning, even the Philly victory couldn't bring us down. But the real question was could they keep it up. With Perez pitching on Saturday, the question was once again raised, as it always is when Oliver Perez goes to the mound.

Which Oliver Perez will show up?

Big Game Oliver Perez showed up on Saturday. And maybe he should just be Big Game Oliver Perez on a full time basis, because it seems like every time he takes the mound in a high-stakes game, Ollie comes up big. He did it against the Yankees. He did it against Atlanta. He did it last October. And he did it again on Saturday, throwing strikes, hitting his spots and basically looking unhittable from the outset.

Not only did Oliver not walk anybody over his 8 masterful innings, he provided his own bridge to the 9th inning, allowing the overtaxed, overstressed and generally overdone Bullpen to rest and relax. Ollie, Ramon Castro and the rest of the offense did everything they needed to do in order to ensure a nice, easy victory, despite what Tim McCarver would have had all of us believe.

And some Kudos...

...To Carlos Beltran, who, after banging up his knee in that ridiculous triangle, on the rubber warning track in Center Field, came back, not 100%, and played it out on Saturday when a lesser player might have sat the game out. Anyone who wants to malign Beltran for some subpar performances (and I include myself in this group) can look at this game and know that you can't ever doubt his heart.

...To Carlos Delgado, who came back after missing 2 weeks (and he was sorely missed; despite his subpar year, he does add that element of fear to the lineup, as well as protection for the batters around him) and chipped in with a few hits, and a truly monstrous HR on Friday night that salted the game away.

...To Moises Alou, who officially broke the Mets Hitting Streak record (although Wright still holds the multiple-season record), passing Hubie Brooks and Mike Piazza on Friday night, and extending his streak on Saturday.

So, everything seems much calmer for the moment, although the Mets are certainly not out of the woods yet. But if they can continue to string these victories together, the good vibes will continue to permeate. It's clear that Philadelphia is not going to go away that easy. Even though they match up against Atlanta next week, and you know Atlanta will play them tough (Hudson and Smoltz are scheduled to pitch in that series), but take nothing for granted. I can certainly be called two-faced for going back and forth as the Mets ebb and flow through the season, but in reality, isn't it just an expression of how all of us feel at any given moment in a long season? When it was bad, it looked pretty hopeless. Now, it's not as bad, but we're still not where we need to be. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done.

Right now, the onus is on you, John Maine. Keep focused, keep your head, keep in control. Just like Ollie did on Saturday, it's up to you to do the same on Sunday.

Magic Number: 7.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dreams Aren't What They Used To Be

Hope for the Mets is now Hopeless.

-Steve Somers

I'm again speechless. There are no more words to be said after yet another completely perpelxing, befuddling and completely unacceptable loss that the Mets have put forth tonight in Florida.

IT seems like, in a season where the Mets have pretty much loafed their way through the entire summer, it's all fallen apart on them at the worst possible time. I don't know if I'm repeating myself, or repeating things I've been writing all Summer long. I don't know. I'm just at a loss. Totally deflated, frustrated, depressed all at once. It almost seems as if the Mets just don't want it anymore. The way these losses are piling up, and how they continue to happen in the most confounding ways imaginable...How can anyone make sense of this? How can the players? How can Willie? What the hell is going on here?

Who can you blame, after the Marlins put forth a 21-hit attack, battering the Mets within and without for 10 innings, seeing the Mets lead early, fall behind, pull off a miraculous comeback and seemingly have the game well in hand in the 9th before turning around and handing the game right back to the Marlins, all while the Phillies pecked and scraped their way back against the same Nationals that the Mets just couldn't beat just a few days ago (El Guapo will kill me for just writing the longest run-on sentence in history, and quite honestly, I don't give a flying fuck).

I have the feeling that any Mets fan who doesn't drink has just been driven to do so. How on earth Willie couldn't allow Feliciano to at least try to get through the 9th inning is beyond me. Even if Cabrera hit one to the moon at that point, it's still a 1-run lead. But he continued to go to Jorge Sosa, who gutted it out heroically for 2 innings on Wednesday night, and for some reason stuck with him despite the fact that he was obviously gassed. I know the other options weren't exactly palatable, and while Dave Williams and Aaron Sele wouldn't have calmed any of us anymore, I wonder what, exactly, Willie is waiting for with Philip Humber? I know he's young and inexperienced, but in the biggest game of the year, if he's going to go to Joe Smith, and if Jorge Sosa is obviously totally spent, why not give this kid a shot and see what he has? WOULD THAT KILL YOU? HUH?!?

When it appeared that Marlon Anderson had perhaps come up with the biggest hit of the season, that was the high of highs. Text messages were flying in in celebration. And it was all too soon, and the joy all too fleeting. Is there a reason for optimism? Is there any reason to continue to believe in this team when they just keep turning around and stabbing us in the back? I felt awfully low last season, when everything came crashing down on October 19th, and I wanted to believe that this team would remember that and have it spur them on to greater things. But it seems like they can't even get out of their own way. If the collapse continues and we, as fans, are left to face the offseason with this great indignity, it will probably be the greatest disappointment in Mets History.

As a rule, El Guapo and I will always attend the final home game of the season. We may have to boycott if this continues. I feel like I'm in an abusive relationship where she continues to suck me in with the sweet talk and the great moments, and yet she always ends up leaving me flat. Kind of like my ex-girlfriend, the Phillies fan.

Is there any reason for optimism?

Well, one.

I harken back to one such September pennant race in which the Mets fell completely flat and lost 7 games in a row to Atlanta and Philadelphia, squandering a sizable lead in the Wild Card race and seemingly dooming them to another season of obscurity.

In one such loss, the Mets trailed Philadelphia 3-2 in the top of the 9th. They had the bases loaded with one out, and Rickey Henderson came to the plate. A simple fly ball, or a chopper he could beat out would have easily tied the game. A hit certainly would have given the Mets the lead.

Henderson swung at the first pitch and hit a one-hop shot right at the second baseman. Easy double play. Game over.

And yet somehow, someway, the Mets were able to rebound and win 4 of their last 5 games, coming back from the dead to force a Wild Card Play-in game, which they won, and rode the momentum all the way to the NLCS.

Right now, we're all praying that somehow, the Mets can summon that juice and pull themselves out of this mess.

If only...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

THEY'RE WHAT WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!!!

I've really got nothing more to say right now, so instead of my usual rant, here's something else for your enjoyment. For some reason, watching this over and over again just slays me.



I think letting Dennis Green yell for me is probably good therapy right now. And also much better for El Guapo's blood pressure.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Teflon Willie


We’re a pretty strong team mentally. You don’t start doubting yourself, and we’re not.

This was the quote from Willie Randolph plastered all over the New York Papers Monday morning, following the shameful display the Mets put up over the weekend. In response, the Mets went out and put forth yet another lifeless effort against the worthless Nationals, behind the stellar pitching of Brian Lawrence, as the Phillies walked into St. Louis and just hammered the Cardinals.

Maybe I'm speaking purely out of frustration, and maybe I'll end up looking silly if the Mets should manage to pull themselves out of it in the end, make the Postseason and succeed, but, in all seriousness, have they given us any reason to believe that's feasible right now? I spent a large sum of money to buy my Playoff tickets last week, and right now, I have the feeling that that money is going to be refunded sooner rather than later if things don't turn around soon.

How on earth Willie Randolph told us that the team is solid and didn't need any motivational speeches, while his Marquee player is tearing his hair out, his leadoff hitter can't seem to hit or field, and his bullpen continues to implode is beyond me. And somehow, the Press just eats this crap up.

Willie is beginning to remind me more and more of another such man who coached a major Sports franchise in New York City, and was widely loved by the local media for his entertaining banter and witticisms, despite the fact that he was largely clueless in the way he ran his team, and his weaknesses were often exposed to the point of embarrassment. But he was a great talker! He was exciting! He told us all so much without really saying anything at all.

Remember this guy...?
Willie has basically become the new Herman Edwards! Say a whole hell of a lot while really saying nothing at all to cover up the fact that there's no real plan in mind other than just stand idly by as everything falls apart.

It won't be a very popular opinion, I'm sure, especially in the eyes of the almighty New York Media (and even the visiting team's media seems to be brown-nosing him...just as the Mets storm into town and get pasted by a 5th place team), but if the Mets collapse, and that scenario is becoming more and more frighteningly real with each passing day, Willie needs to go. I know, you're only as good as the players you have, but the right manager can win with just about anyone. If this one can't, FIRE THAT ASS!

You think this garbage would have gone on under Bobby Valentine's watch? Hell Fucking No. Bobby would have called someone out weeks ago, got in somebody's face, been abrasive, been cocky and smarmy like he always was, and made the players so mad they turned the ship around to spite him. And if that didn't work, he would have called himself out. That's why Bobby's teams won. Bobby always spoke his mind, and didn't give a rat's ass about pleasing anybody. Say what you will about him, but there's something to be said about a guy who went to the World Series with an outfield of Timo Perez, Jay Payton and Benny Agbayani.

Of course, the bridge has been burned, and Bobby can't save us now. Currently, he appears to be hocking Hamburgers in Japan while managing many of his ex-Mets in the Japanese league and being a major folk hero.

Bobby was pretty much vilified by the press for being too standoffish. Willie's been a total media darling, so the uneven and often pitiful play of his team over the course of the season really hasn't been put on his shoulders. But how often can you blame Guillermo Mota for sucking when we all know this to be fact. At some point, the blame has to fall on THE MANAGER WHO CONTINUES TO USE HIM DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE SUCKS!

Furthermore, with Monday night's game being as important as it was, how dare Willie even think that starting Brian Lawrence and his noodle arm was a good idea? The fact that he allowed that joke of a pitcher with his flutterball to take the mound last night was basically an insult to every Mets fan who watched a second of that game. When he has two pitchers rotting away in his bullpen whose jocks Brian Lawrence is lucky to be able to sniff, this is the guy taking the mound in the middle of a Pennant race? I don't think anybody is surprised that the Mets and Lawrence got blown away last night. And for what purpose exactly? Shame on you, Willie Randolph. Shame on You.

Again, I sincerely hope that this all blows over, the Mets rebound tomorrow behind Maine and go on to win the Division, and go far into October and we'll just look back at what I've written here and laugh. Oh, silly Mets2Moon and his overreactions.

I sincerely hope I can laugh at this in October. If we can get that far.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nice Job, Guys


I suppose whatever I could say right now could very well have already been said the last time the Phillies indignantly swept the Mets and thoroughly embarrassed them in the process.

I'm really at a loss right now because it looked like the Mets had turned a corner and were finally ready to march into the Playoffs after a completely ass-backwards regular season. But it appears I'm mistaken. After another three games in which they looked like they were the last place team and the Phillies were the first place team, the Mets now, once again, have to turn it all around and reclaim their division lead, which has shrunk to 3 1/2.

How does a team with championship aspirations manage to get themselves completely humiliated again and again by their closest division rival? It's bad enough that they were swept in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, but now they've allowed the Phillies to march into Shea and sweep them TWICE IN A ROW! This is now 6 straight losses at Shea and 8 overall. And it's completely baffling and totally unacceptable.

I'm not sure what the problem is. All signs right now point to the Bullpen, and that's the obvious choice right now, considering they had huge hands in the pissing away of all 3 games this weekend. But while Heilman, Sosa, Mota et. al. are all worthy of the blame they receive, what's lost is that while the Phillies were doing things like getting hits and driving in runs with runners in scoring position, the Mets were grounding into double plays and getting sacrifice flies from their cleanup hitter. On Sunday, the pitching matchup featured a guy with an ERA in the mid 3s, and a guy with an ERA in the mid 6s. And guess who came out of it looking worse? It's not Oliver Perez's fault that his offense didn't back him up, and certainly not his fault that his teammates also forgot how to field.

The bitch of it is that with 2 weeks left, Philly is probably going to go out and get killed by St. Louis. The Mets right now seem to be the only team they can beat! Of course, the Mets are headed into their final stretch of the season, with 14 games against mostly dregs. It would be nice if the Mets could get their shit together and wallop them good and proper, but I don't know if I can count on that right now. Coming into another must-win game, with ElDuque clearly ailing (and my feelings that he is now the one who should go to the pen in the postseason—if there is a postseason—is another post for another time), rather than giving the ball to someone who might actually throw a good game (Pelfrey), or someone deserving of a shot just so we can see what he has (Humber), the Mets are once again announcing their presence as a World Championship Contender by sending the almighty Brian Lawrence to the mound tonight in Washington. Good God, what the hell is going on with this team!?

Magic Number: Still 11.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Out For More Blood

After a particularly nasty blowout loss on Tuesday evening that featured El Duque not having anything and getting whacked all over the ballpark, the Mets were able to rebound with a nice, albeit hair-raising victory on Wednesday that served to win them another series from Atlanta, and ship the Braves off to those nice, pretty Atlanta area Golf Courses. Fittingly, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it would be Shawn Green coming through with the big hit to give the Mets a victory that was nearly frittered away at the mostly incapable hands of Guillermo Mota, who really has shown that he deserves no part of a Postseason game whatsoever. True, it didn't help that he came into a tight spot created by Feliciano, and he almost got out of the inning when Francoeur (who has officially solidified his spot on the list of "Braves I Really Hate") foul tipped one that LoDuca couldn't hang on to, before getting the game-tying hit.

But it was Green who was able to save the day, blow the Shofar and drive home the winning run. I noted on Monday night that Green has had an exceptional career record against the Braves (his record against Smoltz has been well-noted), and his strong showing on Monday and Wednesday nights only served to further his credentials.

I know that Green has pretty much fallen out of favor, mostly with the fans, and that's not undeserved as he really is merely a shell of the player he once was, but, looking back, Green has really made his hits count. True, he was absolutely miserable for about 3 months following a red hot April and early May, and the foot injury he suffered in Florida really derailed his season, but lately, he's rebounded. It's been quiet, a single here, an RBI there, and no real power to speak of, but he's performed admirably, and I have a feeling, and it may just be gas, but I have a feeling that he's going to come through in a key spot come October. Call me crazy.

Meanwhile...

The blowout loss on Tuesday night was rendered meaningless, and tonight proved more of the same in regard to our friends in Philadelphia, as the Colorado Rockies whipped them good and proper on Tuesday night and did the same on Wednesday night. I know before the season I maligned the Rockies as an unidentifiable obscurity, but they kicked the Mets asses back in July, and now they're doing the same to the Phillies in Philadelphia.

Have I told any of you how much I love Matt Holliday? I mean, he's a one-man Wrecking crew right now, and probably the first, last and only reason the Rockies are mysteriously tied with Philadelphia in the race for the Wildcard right now. Holliday homered twice on Tuesday and again on Wednesday, and if the Rockies somehow find themselves even closer and perhaps even winning the Wildcard (and they're only 2 1/2 games out right now), Holliday could become the odds on favorite for NL MVP, this despite the fact that most of the nation may not have any idea who the hell he is. Well, he's showing you, and in case you missed it, the Rockies are miraculously hanging around here.

So, Philly and Colorado have one more game coming tonight, and the Phillies really need to win it, else they come into New York on Friday night, with a team that is itching for some revenge after the nasty 4-game disaster at the end of August, and a team that has been red hot ever since they left Philadelphia, and ready to put them down and out and sew up the division and knock them out of the Wildcard race at the same time. I wanted blood against Atlanta, and I want more blood with Philly coming in. I know it won't happen, but part of me really wants Glavine to come out on Friday night and put his first pitch right under Jimmy Rollins' chin. This Philly team just has this air of being a little too cocky and a little too comfortable at times. Pat Burrell needs to get flipped in this series too. Not hit, just flipped, buzzed, whatever you want to call it. Just let them know. The Mets are here. We're watching, and we mean business.

Magic Number: 11.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oliver's Army, Revisited


Back in February when we were detailing the five key Mets for this season, we spent a lot of time talking about Oliver Perez being able to find consistency and pitch like the dominant pitcher we all knew he had the potential to be.

Although it has been a mostly uneven season for Oliver Perez, he has had the habit of throwing his best in big spots. Last night was a prime example of this. With the Braves coming in reeling, and the Mets ready to deliver a knockout blow, Oliver reached back and delivered a haymaker, tossing what may have been his most dominant effort of the season at the Braves.

Sure, there have been outings where he's given up fewer runs, or struck out more batters, or pitched deeper into the game. But at no point this season had Oliver given you the impression, from the first batter of the game when he battled back from 2-0 to strike out Yunel Escobar, that the opposition had little or no chance against him. He was throwing everything for strikes, hitting his spots, mixing in his breaking pitches and keeping the Braves off balance. But for one pitch, the 3-2 fastball to McCann in the 7th, he didn't allow a runner past second, and was able to get himself out of his only other jam in the 6th by picking off Tim Hudson at 2B, a nifty daylight play between him and Castillo. I don't think we have seen Perez more dominant than he was last night as he earned his 14th win.

Now, whether or not he can build on this remains to be seen.

Magic Number: 14.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Out For Blood


With a pair of Ballclub Nights at Shea coming up tonight and tomorrow, I had this faint hope that somehow Pedro would be held back an extra day and start tonight's game against Atlanta. I had no such luck on that front, however El Guapo and I will get the return of El Duque tomorrow evening.

With Atlanta coming into town reeling, and the Mets primed to pull away in the East, these next six games will pretty much tell us everything we need to know. Should the Mets continue their strong play, the race for the Division could very well be put to bed by the end of the day on Sunday. The Mets are rolling right now, having posted sweeps in two of their last 3 series. Atlanta seems to have gone in the other direction since the Mets put them on the mat in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend. Another series like this, and the Braves should be buried completely.

It's no secret that we at The Ballclub cannot stand the Braves, and want them to suffer the indignities that they had inflicted on us so many times in the past. As the final games of the two seven-packs we purchased before the season fall tonight and tomorrow evening, we are licking our chops. We want blood. We want to see them fall and fall hard. We want to wipe that smug grin off of Andro Jones' face. We want Larry to go home and put his Falcons shit on. We want to eat Bobby Cox's children!

OK, maybe that's a little much. But while it would be great to sweep the Braves and kick them in the nuts, 2 of 3 is all that is needed. Just keep playing well, and Just keep Winning.

Magic Number: 15.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

You Know You're a September Call-up When...

... they spell your freaking name wrong.

This is from the UniWatch blog. Pardon their dust. They're moving, so the links might be a little wacky for a while.

Anyway, Willie Collazo is the recipient of this ultimate call-up indignity. He's only gotten into two games since getting the call from New Orleans, giving up three hits and a walk in 2.2 innings. In AAA he went 6-5 with four saves and a nifty 2.46 ERA and a more than respectable K/BB rate.

Why am I telling you all this? My man just had his name spelled wrong on his jersey on his first ever shot at the big leagues after minor league stints with the Braves and Angels; hasn't he earned a little respect?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

It's My Fault

It's my fault. I'm sorry.

After I wrote about how John Maine deserved to be in the Mets postseason rotation, he went out and tossed a real stinker in Cincinnati Wednesday afternoon. He started out by giving up another HR to Brandon Phillips, who seems to just own him, in the 1st. Then, he followed that up by grooving one to hotshot Rookie Joey "Fuhgeddaboutit!" Votto, who whacked it out for his first Major League hit. And only downhill from there.

It was pretty typical of Maine's bad outings. He missed high and outside, and got killed when he did get the ball over the plate. It seems like this has been his big downfall all season. When he can hit the corners and mix in his slider, he's been great. But when his fastball starts drifting, it's been bad news and yesterday's game was a prime example.

Meanwhile, the Mets were again stymied by a pitcher they had never seen before, another memorable name mixed in with the Bucket Brigade Reds pitching staff.

Overall, you can't be too thrilled with ending this road trip at 5-5, but then, considering how things started out, I suppose we should all be thrilled with a .500 record here.

What Comes Around...

Meanwhile, down in Atlanta, where our two most favorite teams were doing battle, it was the Phillies throwing down the Epic Choke Job against Atlanta. The mighty bullpen tandem of Tom Gordon and Brett Myers somehow managed to piss away an 8-2 lead in the 8th inning, and coming away with a 9-8 loss. I only saw this on Sportscenter, but it appears that the Braves began by getting around 8 straight bloop singles off of Gordon in the 8th, and then following that up by loading the bases in the 9th against Myers after 2 were out, and then Matt Diaz (who I am officially sick of—toss him in the Hated Pool with Larry and Andro) hitting a long 3-run double to win it, setting off a giant kazoo blowing party down in Dixieland, and keeping the Mets lead at 5 games. I guess I should be happy about this, but then, how can I be happy watching the Braves celebrate?

A recycled comment. Both those teams can eat themselves.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Drive For Five


For the eighth time this season, the Mets entered a game with a chance to win what would be a season high five games in a row.

For the first time this season, the Mets managed to succeed in winning their fifth game in a row on Tuesday night in Cincinnati.

It's about damn time.

The game was not without its drama, as Perez seemed to unravel in the 4th and 5th, losing control, losing composure and almost losing the game completely. But tonight, the Mets would not be denied; not on a night where Paul LoDuca somehow managed to cram what for him is about a month's worth of HRs and RBIs into one magical night, as he smacked a pair of 3-run HRs in Cincinnati's tiny Great American Ballpark Steroid Park #3, where the Mets have plated 10+ runs for the second game in a row, against a team mostly devoid of Major League-quality pitchers.

Meanwhile, Atlanta and Philadelphia continue to beat up on each other, as they have swapped victories in the first two games of their three-game series. I'm not sure who exactly to root for more. Conventional wisdom says to root for Atlanta since they are further behind, however rooting for the Braves comes as easily to me as chewing on glass. This as compared to rooting for Philly which is as easy for me as drinking fermented Yak bile. So let the two of them beat each other up while the Mets keep winning. They can both eat themselves.

As the season continues to wind down, we have been hearing more and more about which pitchers the Mets will carry in the postseason. Gary, Ron and Keith were discussing it on SNY tonight and Howie and Fritz were talking about the same on WFAN. Even Homeboy and the Little Guy were discussing it this afternoon (on a rare day when I was coerced into subjecting myself to them).

Right now, with Pedro back, it would appear that the Mets would be wise to go with a rotation of Maine, ElDuque, Glavine and Pedro, start them as you will, and have Oliver Perez coming out of the bullpen. This being all fine and good assuming Perez can a) Deal with being the odd man out of the rotation after performing admirably well as a starter last October as well as all of this season, and b) Come out of the Bullpen and throw strikes and get people out. I have more faith in him to do this than several other members in the bullpen, but that's neither here nor there. It would appear that the battle would be between Perez and Maine for that final spot; certainly you wouldn't put Pedro, Glavine or ElDuque in the 'pen given their collective history in the Postseason. It could be that Maine might be more a more reliable choice from the bullpen, but then, both he and Ollie have had their moments with the strike zone over the course of the season. But then, Maine also performed admirably last October as well, and furthermore has had a better season overall than Perez has, despite their numbers being basically the same (Maine: 14-8, 3.57, 144 Ks in 27 games, 163.2IP; Perez: 13-9, 3.46, 149Ks, 25 games, 153.2IP). Both have had outings where they were completely dominant. Both have also had totally miserable starts as well. But the one thing that we have seen Maine do far more consistently that Ollie is display that little extra something, that one extra intangible to buckle down and get the big out to get himself out of a jam. We've seen Maine do this all season long, and in some pretty big games. Perez has done this less frequently. Moreover, he has a tendency to lose his composure when things go bad, and this has led to bad innings snowballing completely out of control. Now, this becomes equally frightening coming out of the bullpen in the Postseason, but then, I could easily see Perez come out of the bullpen and throw darts for an inning or two and be done before he ever had the opportunity to get into trouble.

My choice is Maine in the rotation and Perez in the 'pen. Also doesn't hurt to have that extra lefty out there to ease the burden on Feliciano and Schoeneweis. Then again, if the Mets play a team like Philadelphia in the NLCS, you might have to start Perez. It's a tough call.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Real Men of Genius

This was a big day for the Mets. Not only did Pedro Martinez make a successful return to the pitching rotation and record his 3,000th career strikeout, but Keith Hernandez managed to work the words "floozy" and "blusterous" into his pregame analysis and later to go on about the importance of the Mets "bulge" (i.e., their five-game lead over the Phillies).

Look, all I know is that my life would be a lot less complete without these two gentlemen. God bless you, Pedro Martinez and Keith Hernandez.

It's been a roller coaster of a couple weeks in Mets Land, so let's just enjoy the upswing. And oh yeah, keep on rooting for those Bravos! (For two more days, anyway.)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Hell Yeah


Somehow, someway, this guy got his wish. Just when it looked like the Mets were hanging by a thread, much the same way things have looked so many times in this ridiculous season, the Mets bounced right back, stormed into Atlanta and Kicked the Braves square in the nuts, walking out with a 3-game revenge sweep and knocking them 7 1/2 games back in the NL East.

There were so many good things that came out of the sweep this weekend, enough to almost make you overlook the one overwhelmingly bad thing that seems to be occurring (that would be Wagner's continued struggles). Primarily, the praise can go to the starting pitchers, beginning with Maine's strong outing on Friday night, wriggling in and out of jams as he has done so often, and coming away with 7 solid innings.

Saturday, the hero of the day was Mike Pelfrey, in what has to be his most successful and most gratifying game in the Major Leagues. How many of us looked at the pitching matchup on Saturday, Chuck James, a tough lefty against winless Pelfrey, on National TV and sighed. It had come down to this.

Somehow, Pelfrey shut us all up and delivered the best outing of his career in the biggest start of his career. Mixing in his fastball and his sinker like a seasoned veteran, Pelfrey looked like a totally different pitcher than the clueless rookie we had seen so many times earlier in the season, the guy who would get into jams he couldn't get out of. No, Pelfrey started out like the ground-ball machine he was all through Spring Training, and then dialed it up a notch when he got into a couple of jams in the 4th and 5th innings. He was helped by a few HRs, from Beltran, Delgado and Milledge, and by Mota and especially Feliciano at the end of the game. Pelfrey so throughly baffled and frustrated the Atlanta hitters that when he drilled Jeff "Don't call me Charboneau" Francoeur to lead off the 5th, Francoeur yelled and whined and pointed like a little bitch, trying to somehow intimidate Pelfrey and fire up his own team. It didn't work. Yes, Francoeur would eventually score, but only on a wild pitch that should have been stopped by LoDuca, and that was while his teammates were busy squandering their best opportunity of the afternoon.

Sunday, it was the old pro, Glavine, coming up with his second brilliant outing in a row, outdueling his golfing buddy Smoltz in a tense 3-2 victory that was made even more tense by Billy Wagner's near meltdown in the 9th inning. Glavine on the mound was certainly good, and pretty much clamped down on the Braves following a shaky first inning, but Glavine also helped with his bat, drilling a long sacrifice fly in the 2nd inning that could have been a 3-run double were anyone other than Andro Jones patrolling center field.

The big blow on Sunday was supplied by David Wright. Wright, wearing his socks high as he usually does in Afternoon games, was also sporting a rather spiffy looking pair of shoes that appeared to resemble spats moreso than cleats. Whatever they are, they certainly helped enough as he drilled the first pitch he saw from Smoltz in the 5th over the wall in dead center field for his 25th HR, providing the difference in the game.

A word about Wright, if I may. Yes, we've all had our gripes about Wright this season. I've written several tongue-in-cheek posts about Wright's Matinee Idol status. We all worried that he might have been toasted after his strong showing in last year's HR Derby; that he may have permanently ruined his swing after he struggled and went homerless through April. But Wright has made a complete and total turnaround since that low point when he hit his 1st HR, way back on May 1st. Not only has he been hitting with power, he has been hitting with absolute and total authority, raising his average to among the best in the league, and driving in runs in bucketloads. And he has been doing so very, very slowly, and very, very quietly, to the point where I noted to El Guapo last week that Wright has almost come from out of nowhere to put together what could turn out to be his finest offensive season to date. While the Mets were slumping, Wright hit. When the Mets were hot, Wright hit. Last week, in Philadelphia, when the Mets couldn't buy a damn bit of luck, Wright hit. He's clearly emerged as a leader on this team, and as a player who is certainly capable of living up to the hype placed upon him in New York. With that comes the spoils, and he's certainly a handsome guy who can take his pick of any woman within a 50-mile radius. But he as well as anyone knows that he's got to back it all up with performance if he wants to keep this status, and he's done just that.

No, he can't do it alone. He's just one man on a team of 25. But I'll take my chances with him on this team any day. And this weekend, he rose up when he needed to and made sure that the Mets would come away with the sweep when the absolutely needed it the most, and, as the Marlins helped us out by taking 2 of 3 from the Philly Mirage, these victories proved to be even more important as the season winds down.