Monday, October 29, 2007

Congratulations Red Sox, now what do you think about the Yankees?

Allegedly, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series last night, in a convincing 4-game sweep over the Colorado Rockies.

I'd like to think that this actually happened, except that Joe Buck, Tim McCarver and the rest of the FOX talking heads (especially that gin-blossom drunk Ken Rosenthal) spent most of the time ignoring this and instead talking about the real news story of the day, A-Rod opting out of his contract.

Earth shattering news. Who cares about a World Championship? Thanks for letting us know where you really stand, FOX.

There's not too much to say about the World Series, in all truth. I, among others, were simply hoping for a competitive series, unlike the past few years. But after 2 games, this was over. Hell, this was over after the first inning of Game 1. The Rockies were a good team that definitely deserved to be there, but they were totally overmatched. And, in reality, I don't see them doing this again. They have a good, young, competitive team, but just like they came out of nowhere this year, someone else will do this next season. The Rockies won't sneak up on anyone in '08. And they'll end up being held in the same regard as teams like the '98 Padres or the '05 Astros. You think back and say to yourself, "Wait a second, that team went to the World Series?! They did, didn't they!"

Believe it or not, there was a little Mets news over the weekend, and it didn't even involve a Bunion! This nugget placed smarmily in the infamous Anti-Met rag, the NY Post, is just another slap in the face to the Mets, who apparently have ceased to exist since September 30th. I've got no problem with laying low, especially since with the World Series over, we can now fully turn our thoughts to Hot Stove talk, but the 3-ring Circus in the Bronx have made the Mets vanish completely. Now, we have this article in Sunday's Post, talking about how Citi Field has bad Feng Shui, as explained to us by renowned Feng Shui expert Donna Chang, who just sounds like a real expert on the topic. It's almost as if the Post feels the need to kick the Mets while they're buried. Not only do the Mets suck, but their new stadium is bound to be just as bad. Well, thanks for pointing that out. It's almost as if with all the chaos and turmoil around the Yankees, they felt this need to just take one more shot at the Mets.

As if we haven't suffered enough.

Mets "Feel Bad" Field [Tabloid Rag]

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

He's Not A Real Yankee, Anyway

I have to admit that I was relieved when I heard that Bobby Valentine was not going to be considered to replace Joe Torre as Yankees Manager. My fear was that, in reality, he was probably the one best equipped for the job, combining an ability to handle the spotlight, focus the pressure off his players and deal with the buffoons of the New York Media like a pro, which he did so well when he was managing the Mets. He also made the Mets fun to watch and root for again, after so many down years in the early 90s. Although by the end of his tenure with the Mets, the team had returned to a state of ineptitude, but that was more a reflection of the reactionary nature of Steve Phillips moreso than poor managing by Bobby.

So, Bobby went off to Japan, where he was before he came to the Mets in 1996, and as we all know, he has become a cult hero with the fans, managing former Mets players such as Benny Agbayani and Matt Franco, and winning the Japan series title in 2005. The only remnants of his life here is the legacy of his time with the Mets, and his restaurants dotted across Connecticut. He even has his own hamburger, his own blog, and for all I know, he could be marketing his own line of fake moustaches. And from what I'm told, he's paid like a rock star. But there's nothing comparable to managing in the Major Leagues, and he always had that out clause in his contract to return to America if the right position came along.

It almost happened in 2006, after Jim Tracy had been fired by the Dodgers. The Dodgers were Bobby's team, way back when. His roots with Dodger legend Tommy Lasorda ran deep. But the call never came.

But now, with the Yankees having essentially lowballed Torre in order to push him out the door, the whispers and the calls for Bobby returned. Don't forget how much Bobby had been reviled by the press after his firing in 2002. Many, myself included, felt he had been given a bad rap, and deserved a better fate. I'll always remember him for building the team back up, and making them respectable again, after they were nowhere. He took a team that would have been lucky to not lose 90 games in 1997 and finished 88-74. He took an outfield of Jay Payton, Benny Agbayani and Timo Perez to the World Series. He helped galvanize the city after 9/11. Bobby should be remembered as one of the most loved and revered figures in Mets history. But to see him come and manage the Yankees would have stuck in my throat. That is something I never want to see.

Yanks have little interest in Bobby Valentine []

Also of note, how hilarious is it that Yankee fan #1, Iron-fisted tyrant Rudy Giuliani, is backing the Red Sox? I don't know what's funnier. That he's publicly announced it, or how badly he's being skewered by the media for saying it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Running Diary: ALCS, Game 7

Last year, Bill Simmons did one of his legendary running diaries for Game 7 of the Mets/Cardinals NLCS. Fat lot of good it did us. But it was indeed a memorable game, as many Game 7s do turn out to be (with the exception of the Angels/Giants in 2002). They don’t seem to happen too often, but we’ve got one tonight, with Simmons’ own Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians, in a series that I feel has had some eerie parallels to last year’s NLCS, as I detailed here. Now, it’s come down to one game to decide it all. It’s tense, and if you’re a fan of one of these teams, you’re fried right now. I have a feeling that the parallels may continue here tonight. Not in the sense that Manny Ramirez is going to scale the Green Monster and rob Ryan Garko of a HR, or that somehow Jensen Lewis will strike out David Ortiz to end the game, but that this game might be lower scoring than people seem to think; the bullpens won’t be as relied upon and it’ll come down to someone unlikely getting the big hit in the end. With that said, away we go.

8:07pm – I’m a little late in getting started. Typing the intro, I’ve glossed over Fox’s always glitzy, substance-free intro, where Eric Karros crowed about Josh Beckett’s performance in Game 7 of the NLCS in 2003, The Colorado Rockies practiced while 4 inches of snow fell in Denver, Paul Byrd talked about how he legally used HGH and then stopped once MLB Banned it, and Jeanne Zelasko talked about her hair.



This matchup about as unassuming as Jeff Suppan and Oliver Perez last year. Of course, this was the matchup in Game 3 of this series, where Westbrook pulled a Houdini act over 6 innings, and Matsuzaka did the exact opposite.

8:12 – If the Sox win, I’ll put money on Fox doing some stupid pregame bit on the massive Mountain-Man beards being sported by Todd Helton and Kevin Youkilis, both first basemen. When the Rockies were at Shea, way back in April, The Artist formerly known as El Guapo made some comment about Helton being the “Unfrozen Caveman First Baseman.”

8:14 – And here we go. As Vin Scully once said of Fenway, “It’s the Dowager Queen!

That was 1986. We know what happened then.

8:15 - It’s FOX’s new hit show. Guns, Cops and Churchgoers, featuring the deep-voiced white guy, the attractive white woman, the fat, wisecracking black man and the sassy black woman!

8:16 – “Well, here we go!” Joe Buck is here! It’s just not October without Joe Buck. And say what you will about him, but Joe Buck is really a sharp looking guy. What a hunk. It doesn’t get any better than this.

8:17 – “If you’re wearing a uniform for either side, you better be ready to play,” says Buck. Does this mean that Joe Schmo in his David Ortiz jersey down the third base line is coming in if the Sox run out of pitchers late?


8:22Jensen Lewis announces the Indians lineup. I didn’t know that a home furnishings store could have ever made it to the Major Leagues.

8:23 – Kevin Millar, of “Cowboy Up!” fame, threw out the first pitch tonight. And now he’s announcing the Sox lineup. Meanwhile, Millar is still under contract to the Baltimore Orioles, isn’t he? Isn’t this some form of adultery?

8:26 – Dice-K throws his Gyroball to Asdroubal Cabrera with 1 out in the 1st. “It’s the Gyroball. In reality it’s a glorified screwball,” says McCarver. I think he’s the glorified screwball. The Gyroball was a ball, but Cabrera grounded to second on the next pitch.

8:29 – Dice-K is really gassing Hafner. Four straight fastballs at 96mph, but the last two missed low. Hafner wasn’t close to the first two, down the heart of the plate. Does this mean that Matsuzaka has been taking Tom Glavine lessons?

8:31 – Nope. Gassed him again, same location as the first two, and Hafner swung right through it. What a novel thought, throwing a strike with two strikes on the batter!

8:32 – Red Bull gives you acid reflux, and in some cases, diabetes.

8:35 – Our first hit of the night to Dustin Pedroia. Pulled the changeup off his shoetops and lined it into left.

8:36 – It’s interesting that Kevin Youkilis is called “The Greek God of Walks.” Not only did he only walk 77 times in 145 games this season, he’s not even Greek. He’s Romanian Jewish. He singles through the hole into left. 2 on, 0 out.

8:38 – And guess who’s up? I know Ortiz has been hurting pretty much all season, but in a big game, in a big spot, I would think the scouting report for Ortiz would read something like this: “Don’t pitch to him. Ever.

8:40 – Of course, Westbrook went after him, kept the ball down and in or off the plate, and got Ortiz to whiff on a slider on the inner half. Too close to take, not good enough to swing at. Great job of pitching by Westbrook.

8:42 – Yowzers! Manny, with his hair flying every which way, rips a shot off the lip of the infield grass and bounced over Peralta’s head and into center field. A good hop and that’s an easy DP. Instead, Pedroia’s home, and the Sox lead 1-0.

8:45 – You know, I wouldn’t be against the Mets bringing in Mike Lowell, assuming he’s proven that he’s back from the 2-year malaise that he was suffering from. He’s always been a good, heady ballplayer, although he looks like he’s about 60. But he ripped a single to left to load the bases for Prince Valium, who hit a Grand Slam in this situation last night. All of Cleveland just took a collective shit. Time to get Sabathia up.

8:47 – Clean yourselves up, Indians fans, Westbrook just got out of it! Actually, Drew helped him out by swinging at a sucker pitch on the first pitch and bounced it right to Peralta. He made the nifty barehand play before flipping to Cabrera, who barely gets Drew at first. Easy DP. You can sit down now, C.C.

8:48 – 3:43 left in the first, and Roethlisberger just overthrew Hines Ward on 3rd and 3. That was a terrible read, especially when Dre Bly had him blanketed.

8:49 – These shows on FOX are so dramatic. I get misty-eyed just by watching the commercials.

8:51 – Was that Rosie O’Donnell sitting in the Monster seats? It wouldn’t surprise me, since she’ll sing for whoever’s winning. V-Mart hits a shot right to Lowell to start the 2nd.

8:53 – So far, Dice-K is really keeping that Gyroball down. Outside of Martinez, just about everything has been pounded into the ground. Garko and Peralta got good swings on the ball, but they both pulled it right to Lowell. 6 up, 6 down for Dice.

8:56 – At Wendy’s, you can have a ridiculous red wig with your meal!

8:57 – Oh Boy! Dane Cook! He’s the funniest man ever! And it’s so cool the way he tells us about October! He’s my favorite man ever!

(Well, second behind Joe Buck)

8:58 – Wait, Josh Beckett might pitch in relief? This as Varitek bangs one off the “Mawnsta.” McCarver starts right in again, beseeching the Indians to get someone up in the bullpen.

8:59 – Jacoby Ellsbury, who’s a real comer, fists one of those annoying jam shots that seems to hang in the air forever but nobody can come up with, a single to left moving Varitek to 3rd. By the way, McCarver wants the Indians to get someone up in the bullpen.

9:02 – Julio Lugo is one of those guys who I’m sort of glad the Mets didn’t bring in. I know he’s got a little bit of pop and can play good defense, and for all I know, he might have been a good fit for the Mets at 2B this year, but in reality, he’s essentially a step up from David Newhan on the MLB Food Chain. And he proves this by rolling into an even easier DP than Lowell hit into. Varitek scores, 2-0 Sox.

9:03 – Pedroia pops out. This is again, the power of not panicking. Wedge has allowed Westbrook to work himself out of his own jams, and he’s been able to do that. But, the caveat to doing this is that you are banking on Dice-K to struggle himself and allow Cleveland to get back in the game. It’s possible, but the longer the game progresses, and if Dice-K continues to get the Cleveland hitters to ground out, the worse this strategy looks. The next two innings should tell you what’s what.

9:06 – OK, now I’m confused. The Fox Trax showed the 0-1 pitch to Lofton as being well off the plate, a ball that was called a strike. The overhead camera showed the pitch as ticking the outside corner of the plate, thus a strike as called. What the hell is the point of having the Fox Trax if it’s not only confusing to read, but it’s wrong?

(The trivia answer is as follows: Wade Boggs, Boston, Reggie Jackson & Don Sutton, California)

9:11 – Dice-K is nibbling like hell. He went from 0-2 to 3-2 to Lofton before getting him, and nibbled again after getting 2 strikes on Gutierrez before getting him to pop out. So far, he hasn’t been burned by the wasted pitches, but it’s something to keep an eye on. It would behoove Cleveland’s hitters to remain patient.

9:13 – There’s your first hit, a clean single up the middle by Casey Blake. Dice had been living on that sinker all night, and he finally left one up.

9:14 – Now he bounces one. Varitek blocked it cleanly, but Blake alertly ran as soon as that ball wasn’t caught. Now, he’s on 2nd

9:18 - …but you can always count on Grady to fail in Fenway. Sizemore stepped out on 1-2, but Dice threw anyway, the pitch clearly a ball. This would have meant a walk for Sizemore had he not stepped out, since Dice missed on the next two, but the 3-2 pitch was a rising strike and Grady swung right through it. Same pitch he got Hafner on in the 1st. Hold your breath, Cleveland. Youkilis, Ortiz and Ramirez coming up.

9:21 – I will give a large sum of cash money to whomever lays Dane Cook’s nuts on a carving board and smashes them with a meat tenderizer.

9:22 – Back to the grind for the Tribe. Youk drills the first pitch into the LF corner. McCarver again cries for a relief pitcher. Jensen Lewis and his nifty wraparound sofa are warming up in the bullpen.

9:24 – I don’t know what sort of drum machinations they like to do in the Boston Bullpen, but I know I didn’t need Fox’s ridiculous accompaniment. The rhythm wasn’t even correct.

(Yes, I got the trivia answer right)

9:25 – Westbrook goes after Ortiz and gets him to ground out to Garko at 1st. Now, he intentionally walks Ramirez in front of Lowell. This is the guillotine for Cleveland right here.

9:27 – A brief delay of the execution. Lowell didn’t hit it out of the park, but he hit it deep enough to right to score Youkilis. 3-0 Boston.

9:29 – Jesus. This must be sheer torture for Indians fans. Then again, it’s probably worse for Sox fans. Prince Valium sort of stands at the plate and watches a few pitches for a while before hitting a fly that seems to hang forever, as Lofton drifts around in front of the Green Monster before catching it. Another inning, another single run for the Sox. You can pretty much recycle what I said at the end of the 2nd and apply it to Cleveland here.

9:33 – Asdroubal (who needs a nickname—I think “Assie” might be fitting) Cabrera does just what the Indians needed against Matsuzaka: He swings at the first pitch and pops it out to Lugo.

9:35 – Hafner bangs one off the Monster for a double. Again, it was a sinker that Dice-K left up. That seems to be the only way Cleveland has been able to reach him at all so far.

9:37 – Another ball pounded into the ground. V-Mart hits a comebacker that Dice-K can’t handle, but with the Catcher running, he’s able to recover to throw Martinez out. Aside from the two hits, Dice-K is putting on a clinic right now.

9:42 – Hold that thought…Great AB from Garko, who fell down 0-2 after Dice-K climbed the ladder on him on the first two pitches, then fed him a steady barrage of pitches off the corner which Garko fouled off and fouled off before finally waiting him out, and hitting that high sinker off the monster in left center for a double to score Hafner. Let that be a lesson to you, Carlos Delgado. That is what constitutes a good At Bat.

9:44 – Wait, you mean Josh Beckett might pitch in relief?

9:46 – So, this is now the key to the game for Cleveland. Try to wait out Dice-K long enough, let him keep nibbling and try to foul off anything close until he hangs the breaking ball, then bang it. That’s how all their hits have come tonight. Peralta can’t do that, and he grounds out to Lugo.

9:47 – Meanwhile, John Madden is talking about how you can’t be the first guy to touch the meatball after going out of bounds.


9:51 – Eric Wedge looks stone-faced right now. I bet he just watched one of those intense FOX dramas before the game. Or maybe it’s because Westbrook fell behind 3-0 on Varitek before giving up another hit.

9:52 – McCarver’s microphone must not be working. I can’t believe he didn’t start screaming about Cleveland going to the bullpen right now. Jensen Lewis and the plush loveseat are warming again. Meanwhile, Ellsbury smashed one off of Garko’s glove. That would have been an easy DP if he caught it, but Garko recovers and forces Varitek at 2nd. You get the out, but as Tim McCarver will alertly let us know, Ellsbury, the rookie outfielder, is much faster than Varitek, the veteran catcher.

9:55 – That, my friends, is the perfect execution of the hit and run. With Ellsbury running and Assie covering second, Lugo lines it right where Cabrera was, for the hit, moving Ellsbury to 3rd. Westbrook almost keeled over on the mound. Now I’m wondering just how much longer they plan to leave him in there.

9:56 – I’m not sure, but I think Tim McCarver just said that the Red Sox should “Take advantage of Victor Martini’s arm.

9:59 – Wowzers! Pedroia just pulled an Anti-Lugo. With Lugo running, and Cabrera again covering, Pedroia just lined it right at Cabrera, who tagged Lugo and threw out Pedroia at 1st. That’s 3 DPs tonight and 14 for the series for Boston.

10:00 – I wonder if the Derek Jeter Ford commercials are even more reprehensible than the John Mellencamp Chevrolet commercials. But what I really wonder is if this means that the Ford truck has more intangibles than the Chevrolet. A question for the ages.

10:02 – Lofton was safe. He got his left hand on the base before Pedroia tagged him. But that’s one of those moments where Manny was awake at the right moment. As Lofton hit the first pitch from Dice-K off the monster, Manny played the carom perfectly and threw a strike to second.

10:04 – Gutierrez follows by nailing a single up the middle. Cleveland is starting to figure out Dice-K now. This is what I meant by waiting him out. Although FOX won’t tell us how many pitches he’s thrown, he’s thrown a lot (I’d guess around 75), and there’s all sorts of action in the Red Sox bullpen. Okajima is throwing, Timlin is squeezing a mutant orange and I heard that Josh Beckett might come in from the bullpen, too.

10:06 – Blake follows with a dunker into right. How big was that play by Manny now? Joe Buck tells us that Dice-K has thrown 74 pitches, and McCarver, after innings of screaming for a Cleveland reliever, is now screaming for Dice-K to be pulled right now. If Lofton isn’t thrown out, I’d bet he’d be gone. They don’t pull him, and he’s pitching to Sizemore.

10:10 – Is there some sort of rule that every Red Sox fan now has to look like some dopey idiot frat guy?

10:11 – This time, Grady gets the job done, flying out deep to center to score Gutierrez. Again, Lofton’s play looms even larger, since that was the tying run. 3-2 Boston.

10:12 – It’s Assie and Dicey squaring off. After having pinpoint control for the first 3 1/3 innings, Dice-K has been all over the place. The fastball is tailing high and outside and the sinker is inconsistently placed.

10:15 – Again, thank you Fox Trax. Ball 2 to Cabrera looked like it just barely missed on the outside corner. According to Fox Trax, it appeared to be almost a foot off the plate.

10:16 – After a hairy at bat, in which Dice-K got ahead 0-2 on Cabrera, missed high, followed by Cabrera hitting 2 foul balls with HR distance, and the non-strike for Ball 2, Dicey finally got Assie to swing through a curve to get out of the inning. As Howie Rose might say, “We have an Official Game!

10:20 – Jake Westbrook is out for the 5th. McCarver says he is “On ever so short a leash.” I think he’s been on that leash all game, but he’s lasted this long. And he strikes out Youkilis to start the 5th, which I believe is the first time he’s gotten the leadoff man.

10:25 – To his credit, Westbrook came out in the 5th and looked better than he has all night. After getting Youkilis, he worked Ortiz away, made him look silly, and got him to ground to second, and followed that up by striking out Manny with 2 pretty curveballs. Best of all, he made Tim McCarver shut up. Nice job!

10:29 – And after the first few innings of this game, who would have thought that Boston would go to their bullpen first? It’s Hideki Okajima in the game for the Sox as Timlin is warming and apparently Josh Beckett is warming up in the bullpen as well, and could come in in relief. Hafner flies out to left.

10:31 – “If you haven’t seen Okajima pitch…” McCarver is about to start in with another of his pontifications. I’m tuning out. If you have seen him pitch, especially in the postseason, you know that every time he comes in, McCarver yells about how he finishes his windup with his head down.

10:35 – Okajima makes fairly quick work of Cleveland. After Hafner, Martinez works the count full before flying out to right, and Garko follows by grounding out to short.

10:38 – I bet the Yankees are wishing Roger Clemens’ cell phone cut out when they were talking to him in April. If he could just aim one of those fastballs at Dane Cook’s head…

10:39 – Westbrook is still in there, and all of a sudden, he’s really settled in. He just gassed Lowell to start the 6th. Rafael Betancourt is throwing, and McCarver is still clamoring for the Cleveland Bullpen, but Westbrook is carrying the load right now.

10:41 – Three innings ago, Joe Buck was calling for Westbrook’s head. Now, he’s just gotten Drew to ground out, and he’s gushing, “What a job done by Westbrook!

10:42 – AAAGH! Joe Buck just caught on too. He just made mention of last year’s NLCS. He’s comparing Westbrook to Jeff Suppan. I didn’t even catch that they both wear #37. They also have silly beards. And I think Westbrook is developing a tic on the left side of his face. He’s up to 94 pitches now, and he just yerked Varitek with a curve and made him look foolish. Fasten your seatbelts. This game is headed into twilight zone territory now…

10:44 – I was much more interested in “House” when all the commercials just featured Hugh Laurie screaming, “YOU’RE RISKING A PATIENT’S LIFE!” Damn these FOX Dramas and their storylines and substance.

10:46 - Oh, the drama…This Magic Moment…

10:47 – Okajima still on for the 7th, against the bottom of the Cleveland lineup. No sign of Josh Beckett in the bullpen although I heard he might be available. Right now, it’s Jonathan Papelbon throwing. I wonder if anyone has had a 3 inning save since the days of Goose Gossage?

10:48 – DOH! With 1 out, Lofton popped one over third. With Lugo calling it, the ball floats forever, and somehow Lugo dropped it, with Lofton going all the way to second with the tying run. Retribution, perhaps, for his getting thrown out in the 5th?

10:52 – Bizarre, bizarre play. Gutierrez ripped one just barely fair over 3rd that banked off the stands and bounced back into shallow left field. But the 3rd base coach for Cleveland, Joel Skinner, held Lofton at 3rd. That might have been the right call, but then again, with Lofton’s speed…

10:54 - …and no sooner do I type that, Casey Blake grounds into the 5-4-3 DP to end the inning. Rally over, tying run stranded. As I was saying, maybe Manny would gun him down, but with Lofton’s speed, you at least have to take the chance there. Papelbon is coming in for the 8th for sure, and how many more chances will you have if you’re the Indians? Head shaking play. On the replay, that ball caromed further out into left than I initially thought. Lofton probably would have scored. Indians fans must be dying right now (and I heard they opened up Jacobs field for people to watch the game).

10:57 – It’s Rafael Betancourt in for the 7th. Buck and McCarver are still talking about the Lofton play at 3rd. McCarver is trashing Skinner. I’d bet that if he sent him and Manny threw Lofton out, he’d still trash Skinner.

10:59 – Now it’s Ellsbury lining one off Casey Blake’s glove at 3rd, then he doesn’t run after it to pick it up, and Ellsbury makes it to 2nd. I wonder if that last DP might have cut the wind out of Cleveland’s sails.

11:00 – And the sacrifice by Lugo…

11:02 – …And there’s the dagger. Pedroia unloads one over the Monster. It’s now 5-2 Boston, the entire Sox dugout is out and Fenway is going berserk. In the words of Fran Healy, “HE CA-LOBBERED THAT BALL!” Pedroia even styled a little at the plate, that’s how well he hit that ball.

11:05 – FOX just showed Cleveland’s GM Mark Shapiro. He’s staring glassy-eyed at the infield. He looks completely shell-shocked. Youkilis and Ortiz are out, and the inning is over, but the damage has been done.

11:09 – Nifty bunt by Sizemore to start the 8th. That was Endy-esque. He dropped it perfectly down the 1st base line, between Youkilis and Okajima, and then beat the play at 1st. With Cabrera up, Okajima is still in there, probably at least to get through Hafner.

11:11 – And Cabrera follows with a clean single up the middle. And no sooner did that ball land in center field, then Francona hopped out of the dugout. Here comes Papelbon, for the Mariano Rivera special.

11:12 – We’re not even at the 3-hour mark yet. This game is going a lot faster than I had anticipated. Last night’s game did, too. I’m used to those ridiculous, extended 3 hour and 57 minute AL Playoff games. Maybe it’s because the Yankees aren’t involved. I mean, with the Yankees, there’s always those delays, the sign confusion, the stepping off, the stepping out, the deep counts, the crotch grabbing, the mental masturbation, the intangibles, etc, etc. These guys are playing at a brisk pace by comparison.

11:14 – Another replay of the Lofton play in the 7th. McCarver is still screaming about how Lofton should have gone. It’s done, Tim. Get over yourself.

11:15 – That stare is menacing, but Jonathan Papelbon, you’re no Dave Stewart.

11:16 – But, much like Stewart, Papelbon doesn’t mess around. 3 straight heaters, and Hafner wasn’t close to any of them. Strike 3 buzzed in at 98MPH. 1 down.

11:17 – A tailor made DP ball to Pedroia, but neither he, nor Lugo can get it out of their gloves. Even V-Mart had time to make it down the line, and he did so without a throw. It’s down to Garko for the Tribe.

11:20 – Gas, then Papelbon buckled Garko’s knees with a slider for strike 2…

11:21 – Woah…! Garko gave that a ride into the triangle in center, but Ellsbury was able to run it down for the 3rd out. Disaster averted for the Sox.

11:22 – Meanwhile, on NBC, Pittsburgh came back from a 28-14 deficit to tie the game at 28, with 26 seconds left in the 4th quarter. But Denver has the ball and is driving deep in Pittsburgh territory. But is anyone watching?

11:23 – Oh Boy! Another kooky fake Santy Claus movie! That should be totally awesome! The only way that could be better is if Dane Cook were playing the lead!

11:24 – Seriously, when did every Red Sox fan turn into some poser idiot? Ever since 2004, they’ve turned into hybrid Yankee fans. I know that the hardcore fans have always been there, but the silly signs and the multi-colored shirts and hats are ridiculous. I know that deep down, the hard-liners are annoyed by them just as much as I am.

11:26 – Elam made the Field Goal. 31-28 Denver.

11:28 – More drumming in the Sox bullpen, and more fake drumming from FOX. I think they’re playing the Atlanta Braves chop beat.

11:30 – 1 out and Lowell doubled in the gap. They are showing shots of the Cleveland players faces. Most of them look pretty grim. Prince Valium singles up the middle to score Lowell. 6-2 Boston. I think you can put a toe tag on this one.

11:31 – “All of a sudden, J.D. Drew is locked in,” McCarver gushes. Who the hell thought we’d ever hear something like that?

11:33 – I think McCarver said something dumb, but I’m only speculating. I tuned them out for a moment. Then I heard some idiotic chuckling.

11:34 – Joe Buck reminds us that all the pitchers were available, but we’ve only seen 5 pitchers. I guess all that speculation about Josh Beckett being available to come in from the bullpen wasn’t true after all. It was just a scheme Joe Buck cooked up to get everybody excited.

11:35 – The wheels have officially come off for Cleveland. Varitek popped one up over 3rd. It was clearly Peralta’s play, but Casey Blake ranged way out into left field and ran into Peralta, and the ball dropped and bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double. Now, they’re walking Ellsbury intentionally.

11:38 – Wait, you mean the Rockies are going to play another game on Wednesday, against one of these teams? I thought they were done! I haven’t heard anything from them in a week!

11:42 – Lugo strikes out. Joe Buck is pointing out that Colorado played at Boston in June, while the Rockies were in the midst of a stretch where they swept the Yankees, among other things. They beat up Beckett. And as that happens, Pedroia comes up with yet another big hit, drilling a double to the wall to clear the bases. 9-2 Boston. A crestfallen Eric Wedge mercifully removes Betancourt from the game. Jensen Lewis and his nice, comfortable deck chairs are getting into this game after all.

11:44 – Apparently, in order to serve Miller High Life, you need to be a dive bar or a greasy spoon. That’s the sign of a quality beer right there.

11:46 – Sign in the stands: “There’s no crying towels in Boston.

11:47 MAZEL TOV! Youkilis cracks one off the coke bottle over the Monster. 11-2 Sox. I think the drama has evaporated from this one. This is beginning to shape up like the 1996 NLCS, where St. Louis went up 3-1 on Atlanta, and then Atlanta came back with Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, and won the last 3 games by the combined score of 77-3. So much for my comparisons to last year. In a perfect world, this is how Game 7 should have gone for the Mets. They’re singing “NA NA, HEY HEY, GOOD BYE!” at Fenway. Ortiz strikes out to end the inning, Papelbon back to the mound.

11:50 – Now, at KFC, you can get chicken strips that won’t spill in the car and still might not really be chicken!

11:52 – Someone at FOX needs to check up on the production team. Earlier today, I was watching the Giants/49ers game, when they played Van Halen’s “Panama” coming out of a commercial break. Now, coming out of the break here, they’re playing “Panama” again. Coincidence? Meanwhile, Coco Crisp, wearing Oscar Gamble’s afro, takes over in center, with Ellsbury moving to left.

11:54 – Cleveland has scored 5 runs since late in Game 4. They just look toasted right now, much like one of Willie Randolph’s Subway subs. But Peralta leads off with a single. Sure, let’s just prolong the inevitable.

11:55 – How many times has Kenny Lofton been so close? Well, Tim McCarver will tell you. Nobody’s that interested. He lines out to Ellsbury, who makes a great sliding catch. Meanwhile, David Ortiz is running around in goggles, without his jersey on.

11:56 – Josh Beckett is still in the Boston bullpen and can pitch in relief if they need him to. Gutierrez flies out. The Red Sox are on the top step of the dugout.

11:57Dirty Water! Amazing catch by Coco to end the game, running back into the triangle and leaping into the wall, and banging himself up, but catching the ball. He’s limping in, but smiling nonetheless. And it’s party time in Boston!

11:59 – Varitek is being interviewed by Chris Meyers on the field, and he appears to be slurring every word. I wonder if it’s possible to be drunk before the champagne celebration starts. Meanwhile, assorted shots of some very sad Cleveland ballplayers in the dugout. V-Mart is misty-eyed, and being consoled by Gutierrez. You definitely can’t take anything away from them, they played a hell of a season, knocked off the Yankees, and took it all the way to Game 7 of the ALCS. Much like the Mets last season. They came close, but they should feel proud of themselves and the Indians fans should be proud of their team.

12:01AM – I’m sorry, but Jonathan Papelbon looked downright scary when the final out was made. He flung his glove in the air and made some sort of demented scream and wiggled his arms at Varitek before he jumped into his arms.

12:05 – Now wait a second, I do believe that I didn’t hear John Mellencamp once during this game. Of course, I tuned out most of the commercial breaks, but I don’t recall seeing that, and it’s usually on every break.

12:06 – They’re doing the trophy presentation inside in Boston, whereas they did it on the field in Colorado. I know they usually do it on the field if the home team wins, but I wonder what the protocol really is. In the NFL, they always do it on the field, which is always really entertaining, especially when the road team wins, and they give out the trophy in front of an empty stadium.

12:10 – Shot of the Boston locker room, where everyone seems to be wearing ridiculous glasses. Josh Beckett, who could have pitched in relief tonight if they needed him, is the MVP, which is a little shocking. I would have thought Youkilis was a shoo-in, since it seemed like he only hit .742 for the series. Beckett acknowledges this himself.

So, that’s it. It’s in the books, and it’s the Red Sox and the Rockies for the World Championship, starting on Wednesday night. There’s a lot of questions to be asked, mainly can the Rockies come back from the ridiculous layoff and continue to play as well as they’ve been playing? Will Manny start to hallucinate in the rarefied air in Denver? Once again, this looks like a series of high powered offenses squaring off and it’ll be Beckett vs. Jeff Francis in Game 1.

This game itself, as McCarver noted (in a rare good point), will end up being remembered as a blowout in the end, but it was pretty close most of the way, and Cleveland was that close to pulling even in the 7th. But the Red Sox pulled away and they’ve emerged as the AL Champions for 2007. And their youth served them well, much like it has for their World Series opponent. Congratulations, Bill Simmons. Congratulations, Red Sox Nation.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Acid Flashback

I don't know if this has been the case for many of you, but watching the ALCS this year has just felt very, very strange. It's eerie how familiar this seems to feel to me.

There's a team from the East Coast playing a team from the virtual Midwest. The East Coast team has been pretty dominant most of the season, led by a galaxy of stars, while the Midwest team featured some emerging talents, and pecked and clawed their way to the playoffs. Both teams won the Division series, with the East Coast team dominantly sweeping their way to the Championship Series. In the Championship Series, most onlookers seem to think the East Coast team, with their sluggers and pitching, will romp to the World Series, and Game 1 seems to prove just that. But then, all of a sudden, that Midwest team starts to get plucky, and chippy, and they rally and come back to win Game 2 late, to even the series as they head to their home park, where their stadium is packed with raucous fans waving rally towels, screaming and yelling and being heard. And in Game 3, a completely unheralded pitcher for the Midwest team shuts down the East Coast team. The East Coast team looks baffled, tired and out of sorts.

Is this familiar to anyone?

Now, I don't have any vested rooting interest in the ALCS (although as I have mentioned, my loyalties lie with the Tribe), but watching the first 3 games of this series, and even several aspects of Game 4 on Tuesday night made me feel like I was watching a shot for shot remake of the 2006 NLCS, making me harken back to a week where I wasn't sleeping, barely eating, and a giant ball of nerves, until the bitter end, on a night which resulted in myself, the Artist Formerly Known as El Guapo and SVB sitting in a bar, drunk out of our minds and unable to form words in English.

Now, I feel like I'm watching the same thing unfold with the Red Sox and the Indians. All of a sudden, So Taguchi is replaced by Franklin Gutierrez. David Eckstein is replaced by Asdrubal Cabrera. Billy Wagner is replaced by Eric Gagne. At some point during Game 3, I completely expected to see a close up of Jake Westbrook breaking into a Tourettes fit of facial twitches. Jacobs Field was a sea of bright red and white towels for the past two nights, and I'm sure it will be the same again tonight. It's just too bad I wasn't on an ill-fated date during Game 2, or else this would be too ridiculous to believe. I know the Sox didn't rally back to win Game 4 behind an unlikely starter, but Jon Lester pitched well enough in relief of Wakefield that even Bill Simmons is clamoring for him to take the ball should there be a Game 7...The young, unproven left hander in a big spot.

I feel Simmons' pain right now, because I think I was going through the same thing last year. This sick, sinking feeling of "How the hell are we losing to this team? This isn't supposed to be happening!" or praying for hits in the first inning, just to get a lead and release some of the tension. I think there's a lot of Baseball left in this series, though. The way it's played out so far, there has to be. It's been too weird to just end in a wipeout.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Who The Hell Are These Guys?

They're the Colorado Rockies. You might not have heard of them lately. True, they hold the record for highest attendance in a season, but that was a long time ago, when they played in a football stadium that held over 70,000 people. They play in a nice, spacious Baseball stadium now that seats a manageable 50,000.

But since then, they haven't done much as a franchise. Until this season, when they still weren't expected to do much. Then, a group of guys, mostly young, mostly unheralded players you probably never heard of banded together. For most of the season, they were an afterthought. A slow start, but a hot middle of the season, one in which they knocked off some pretty formidable teams like the Mets and Yankees. But still, nobody gave them much thought. There were better, stronger teams with more star power that would certainly wipe them out.

But that didn't happen. And against all the odds, the Rockies persevered. The flashier teams faded away, and when the dust cleared, here they are. The upstarts. The guys who were nowhere in the eyes of the experts. A team that rallied together and came back from the dead. A team that relied not on the exploits of a few sluggers and a star pitcher, but the sum of all parts. Young, hungry players who cared little about anything other than having fun and winning.

The Colorado Rockies are going to the World Series. Lest that be a lesson to you, Freddie, Omar, Willie, Boy-King, et. al.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lost in the Shuffle

Somehow, the Mets have ceased to exist.

With the quick exit of the Yankees from the postseason, followed by the subsequent chatter over the state of the team, and the future of Joe Torre's job in flux, and the great "meeting" going on between the Yankee Higher-uppers in Florida as we speak, combined with the playoffs continuing on and continuing to surprise everyone, it's almost as if the Mets have become persona non grata across all of Baseball.

That's not necessarily a bad thing right now.

I know there have been the odd rumblings and grumblings being bandied about. Buster Olney of ESPN proposed a massive trade involving Reyes and Johan Santana as the key figures in his blog last week (which I'd link to, but it requires insider, which I don't have), but otherwise, nary a peep from Willie, Omar, heck, you haven't even heard anybody talking about whether or not David Wright has a girlfriend lately.

That's not to say that there's nothing to talk about. Jason at Faith and Fear wrote a compelling breakdown of the state of the team last week. I offered up my player capsules a couple of weeks ago. Undoubtedly, there will be players that I filleted that are sure to return, or others that we like destined elsewhere. There is a short list of pending Free Agents on the Mets, plus a host of other options about to flood the market, lest they are re-signed by their current club before the requisite 10-day period following the World Series ends.

Here's what the Mets have:
Sandy Alomar, Jr.: Hell of a way to start.

Moises Alou: The case for him has been and had been made ad infinitum over the course of the final, miserable few weeks of the season, when he was the few players producing offensively on a consistent basis. The case against him was nailed down perfectly by Jason at FAFIF: Yes, he's great, but we know that he's only great for about 90-100 games, and that means there are 60-70 games that we leave to chance because he'll inevitably get hurt. And for a team that needs time to gel and click, it's difficult to do when you are relying heavily on the dreaded creaky-old-guy-who-can-hit-but-is-rarely-healthy. My thought: If a more attractive, younger, and less injury-prone option presents itself, please take it.

Shawn Green: Green is sort of Alou-lite, if only because he's not as creaky, and not as injury-prone (not yet, anyway), but at the same time, I can't realistically see him even as the lefty half of a RF platoon with Milledge, which is totally asinine, but somehow in the back of my mind I could see Willie doing this because of his hatred of Milledge. But that shouldn't happen. Milledge deserves the RF job, despite what Willie, Boy-King or anyone in the Media thinks about him. If Green stays at all, he should be kept at a vastly reduced price and come off the bench as the key lefty pinch hitter, unless...

...Marlon Anderson is brought back to be that lefty pinch hitter. Which he should be, because he's demonstrated himself comfortable and capable in that role, and can offer a bit more in the spot starter role than Green probably would.

Luis Castillo: An e-mail string I've been involved with was talking about how Jose Valentin was a much more positive influence on Jose Reyes than Castillo, who can apparently be a space cadet of Manny Ramirez-esque proportions. Word is Castillo often doesn't know which city he is in. Then again, if he's healthy and can hit, he can think he's on Mars for all I care. But, like Alou, if a more attractive option should present itself, the Mets should take it.

Jose Valentin: Speaking of Valentin, did you know that he was supposedly a good influence on Reyes? Apparently, Reyes' downward slide coincided with Valentin's trip to the DL. Maybe he can be brought back as a coach...

Ramon Castro: I said it before and I'll say it again. He's not good enough to start every day. He'll get exposed so fast it won't be funny. He's a perfect backup if he'd like to return in that role, or even the righty half of a catching platoon if that should be the situation. But under no circumstances should he start.

Paul LoDuca: I'm convinced he won't be back. It's a shame, since he can be a good vocal leader, but his issues with the Media combined with his age seem to be pointing to LoDuca walking.

Aaron Sele: Darren Oliver put up similar numbers for the Angels that he did for the Mets in 2006, albeit pro-rated over fewer IP. Point is, if the Mets had kept him around and maybe thrown the kind of asinine money at him that they did at Schoeneweis, this wouldn't have been necessary.

Damion Easley: I would prefer that the Mets do their best to keep away from the dreaded "creaky old guys." That said, I know they won't, and it's pretty much impossible to fill out a roster without at least one or two of them (even the Rockies are trotting out the ancient Matt Herges), and if there has to be a couple of them here, I would like Easley to be one of them. He provides a nice righty counter to, say, Marlon Anderson off the bench.

Tom Glavine: Go back to Atlanta. I would prefer to have Philip Humber make the 33 starts. Or someone who won't shit the bed in the biggest game of the year.

Jeff Conine: Retired.

Mike DiFelice: See here.

There are other Free Agents out there, a comprehensive list is here. There are some nice, attractive options out there (in the vein of players like Bobby Abreu, Francisco Cordero or Mike Lowell (if this season proves that Lowell is Lowell again, and if he could, perhaps, be moved to another position, say, 1B, but that leaves a very expensive mess in the name of Carlos Delgado, who I've completely soured on after the evasiveness and the Jeter jersey incident, but this is another issue for another time)), but for each guy like that, there are another 10 Steve Trachsel/John Mabry/Neifi Perez types who are completely useless, except for those guys who could catch lightning in a bottle for a season (which is all hearsay at this point), or for me to put in a list to make snide remarks about in a future post.

It's going to be a head-scratching good time.

Congratulations, Rockies. I wish I'd put $100 on them to make it to the World Series back in April.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Building A Mystery

I opened up the 2007 season with a photo essay of sorts, depicting the day at and around Shea, and giving some note to the construction of Citi Field, going on in the parking lot. While many have seen the construction first hand, some are unable to, or haven't noticed just how far things have progressed with what will undoubtedly be the Mets Mall of the Future. Let's look back before we look at the present:
This was how things looked exactly one year ago today, October 12, 2006, as Game 1 of the NLCS was about to begin.

Things had started to get pretty serious by Opening Day, 2007. It's still a skeleton, but a lot had gone on during the winter.

Now, it's no joke. Citi Field is coming, and it's coming FAST. As the 2007 season came to its horrendous end two weekends ago, this is what we're looking at. Here's the view from the exit of the 7 Train.
The broad spectrum from the Upper Deck:

At some point, while other people were screaming, yelling, throwing things, vomiting or other such behavior, I became more interested in getting pictures of the construction.

As the clouds roll in, signaling the end of a dark chapter in Mets History, the sun is still shining over the future.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Radio Daze

In the 80s and well into the 90s, in New York City, on WABC Radio (770AM), which used to carry the Yankees games, there was a well known, late night talk show host named Lynn Samuels, who might have had the worst, most horrible, grating Brooklyn Yente accent I had ever heard in my life. Not only did she used to scream incessantly, she also hated Baseball, and so whenever she was pre-empted for the Yankees, she would scream about that, too.

Suzyn Waldman was the same way, although there was something comforting about her doing the updates on WFAN during that same era. But something about her changed once she started covering the Yankees. That voice became more grating, more high-pitched, and much more difficult to listen to. Perhaps it was because she became the #1 Yankee apologist, or because she fawned over everyone in a Yankee uniform, but I came to start calling her "Queen Yankee." A sad state of affairs for an accomplished woman who was the first female to ever call a Baseball game, when she covered the Mets. This came to a head in 2005, when Waldman took over as the Color Commentator for the Yankee radio broadcast. At this point, the homer ism and the voice and the shrieking became simply unbearable, as evidenced by her bizarre, over-the-top reaction to Roger Clemens' return to the Yankees last Spring (WARNING—make sure your speakers are turned down low if you click that link!).

Now, with the Yankees having been eliminated by Cleveland (more schadenfreude, especially with several relatives of Mets2Moon residing in Cleveland), Suzyn is at it again, coming back to the radio booth in tears after she sat in for a few minutes of Torre's postgame press conference. El Guapo believes she is sincere in her sadness over Torre's impending departure (which is another topic for another blog). I believe she's sad, but I also believe that perhaps working with Sterling has made her just go over the top with everything. This from the woman who all but accused the Indians of planting the flies in their stadium in order to deliberately distract Joba last Friday. I don't know what other people's reactions are. I suppose most Mets fans, if they were listening at all, reacted as I did—hysterical laughter.

Howie Rose might have screamed and yelled (as he did in 1999, when he destroyed Kenny Rogers on FSNY). But at least he didn't cry. There's no crying in Baseball.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Laying Low

I admit it. I've been watching the playoffs all weekend.

It's been somewhat tough for me to get into the games, especially the Arizona/Chicago series, where the games hold little or no interest to me whatsoever. It's also tough, as a Mets fan and with the Mets having done what they did over the last 2 weeks of the regular season, to root too heavily against teams like Philadelphia and the Yankees. By that I mean that Mets fans probably should lay low for the most part and not say anything bad, lest we draw the ire of some iron-headed Philly fans, or worse, happy-talking Yankee fans.

But there was indeed some nice, hearty schadenfreude going on late Saturday night, as the Phillies fell in 3 games to the Rockies, their lone bit of offense coming from a HR from shrimpy Shane Victorino. I had a feeling, looking at that matchup, and looking at the respective stadiums, that no game would see fewer than 10 runs scored, and I was dead wrong. But give a hell of a lot of credit to the Rockies, first of all just for getting there when nobody gave them any bit of a chance, but also for staying red hot. That was a quality Philly team they beat, and, if the Mets had somehow made it and had to play this team, I'm afraid to think what the results would have been. Something tells me the Mets would have gotten their clocks cleaned good and proper.

Kudos also to Kaz, who was run out of town last season and given to the Rockies for a song, for coming up with a grand slam in Game 2 and another big triple in Game 3. I know there are probably some Mets fans suffering from residual Kaz bitterness because of how badly he played here, but most of the Mets fans I spoke to were pulling pretty hard for him.

We at The Ballclub will always have a warm spot in our hearts for Kaz, simply for that one night in July, 2004, when he owned all of New York.

But there's one other thing that the Rockies victory did that really should have all of us scratching our heads.

Has anyone taken a look at this NLCS? Did anyone in their right mind think that either of these teams would even sniff a Playoff spot, let alone be playing each other for a chance to go to the World Series?

The Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks. They've done it with youth, youth and more youth, most of it home-grown and with the sage advice of a few veteran leaders (Helton for the Rockies, Livan, Brandon Webb and Eric Byrnes for the DBacks), they've somehow managed to navigate through the NL West and a round of the playoffs. And against all odds, here they are, and one of them is going to the World Series. Parity is alive and well and living in the National League West...

...That is, if anyone can remember who's playing when the NLCS finally begins on Thursday night.

Something bugging you?
On the other side, there are the Yankees, who, after losing on Friday night, seemed to be just as well off as Philadelphia. But they battled back and won on Sunday night, extending their series (and thus being the only Division series not decided in a sweep). But the Yankees have had their own controversy, as BugGate (or GnatGate or MosquitoGate, or whatever the hell they're calling it) theories are running abound. The ringleaders behind blaming the bugs in Cleveland for the Yanks Game 2 loss are, of course, John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, who seemed to be doing everything short of calling for a do-over last night, and how dare anyone blame Joba Chamberlain for...Gasp!...actually pitching poorly for once. Guess what? He's human. It happens. He bounced back and pitched great on Sunday and the bugs didn't seem to bother Fausto Carmona at all.

But I digress. They play on tomorrow.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Dealing With It.

Dave, who long ago was an acquaintance, has presented one particular way that we've been dealing over the past week. Screaming is indeed therapeutic. I myself did a bit of screaming into El Guapo's voice mail while leaving Shea Stadium on Sunday. I've been involved in a 3-day long e-mail string that has smacked with bitterness. People at my office haven't laughed at me, they feel sorry for me. Having this hanging over my head has been pretty bad...

...But, oddly enough, I've been okay with it. I was worse off last year, when I spent a weekend sitting in my bedroom with the shades drawn, refusing to watch the World Series at all until El Guapo and I re-convened the following Thursday to watch one game, where the Tigers handed the game to St. Louis and just depressed us even more.

I've stopped screaming. I actually watched some of the Red Sox/Angels game this evening, and listened to D'Backs/Cubs on the radio. I didn't torch my playoff tickets (although I'm still waiting for my refund, Freddie!). I've folded them up in the envelope they came in, and stuck them in my 2007 Yearbook, tucked away safely so that I can find them someday and remember just how awful this all was, and hopefully, I'll be able to laugh about it.

In the meantime, as a staunch historian of the Mets, I've been dealing with this the best way I know how.

In 1999 and 2000, I had my VCR cranked up for several weeks in October while I was tucked away in College, and my collection of game tapes includes just about every Playoff game the Mets played in that time span (less the first 5 innings of 1999 NLDS game 3, half an inning of 1999 NLCS Game 6, and all of 2000 NLDS Game 4, because I had gone to the game and my bastard roommate didn't tape it for me, and if anyone has a copy of this game, I can send blank DVDs or pay for a copy!). And at times when I've been most depressed, when the Mets have ripped my heart out or whatever, I pull out one of these tapes. Because all you need to do is look at something like this:

And don't you immediately cheer up? As Tim McCarver said later on in that broadcast, "That ball was Fucked." Ben-ny! Ben-ny! Ben-ny!

Anyway, my choice last night was Game 4 of the 2000 NLCS, in which the Mets fell behind 2-0 to the Cardinals in the top of the 1st, and then proceeded to hand Darryl Kile (may he rest in peace) one of the worst thrashings I've ever seen. It's 7-2 Mets after 2, Piazza adds another run with a moonshot in the 4th, and Glendon Rusch comes in to stop a Cardinal rally in the 5th. Mets win, 10-6, up 3-1 in that series. If that doesn't warm your hearts, nothing will.

PS - If you must know, I'm going with the following in the Division Series: Rockies, Cubs, Red Sox, Indians.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

2007 Mets - Your Season Is Gone

I have usually written one of these team capsules each season after the Regular season has ended. I've shared it with a group of friends. This year, you all get to read it.

2007 is undoubtedly going to be looked back on as one of the darkest seasons in Mets history. This team appeared to be unstoppable on paper, and after the first few weeks of the season, they looked to be just that. But something happened, and nobody can really pinpoint when. I've noted that I thought it was Jose Reyes somehow thinking he was Roberto Clemente, and swinging for the fences after Endy's HR against the Yankees. What happened was that this team, supremely talented and justifiably confident, somehow got complacent. They started loafing, and playing unexciting, unmotivated baseball. The wins were boring. The losses were frustrating and frequent. And yet, they remained ahead because the teams behind them played just as poorly. Yes, there were good streaks mixed in, but overall, you knew this team needed a shot in the arm from somewhere. A midseason coaching change didn't solve much of anything. Holes involving personnel were not addressed and not fixed by the trading deadline. Inconsistency still reigned. But they were still in first place. Even after an inexplicable 4-game sweep at the hands of their closest competitors, they rebounded with another hot streak to stretch out their lead. But just as a second straight division title seemed firmly in their grasp, the bottom fell out. Completely and totally. And what ensued was a wholesale failure by the team to accomplish anything. Confidence abandoned them. Complacency reigned. The lead shrank. The pitching, suspect all season, imploded. And before anybody could completely grasp what had happened, the lead was gone, first place was gone, and shockingly, horrifyingly, the entire season slipped away in one final, awful performance, ending with the entire team getting booed off the field and hanging their heads in shame.

An e-mail from the Mets on Monday afternoon offered scant consolation while offering up a perfect summation for the final result of the darkest hour in Mets history.

"You deserve better results."

We certainly do. But history cannot be undone, and we have to carry this with us through what will certainly be a long winter trying to figure out what happened and think about what could have been.

With that said, the ratings for the 2007 Mets:
Willie Randolph - D
Two weeks ago, while the collapse was unfolding, I wrote a pretty scathing post calling for Willie's head. I'm not going to say that my stance has softened at all, but realistically, Willie won't be fired. He's under contract for another 2 seasons, and has already received 100% support from Omar. I don't want to sit here and damn him all to hell, because Omar is right. He is a good manager and has brought this club a long way. But it's inexcusable for him to simply continue to mumble over and over about how "we're gonna win this thing" when all the buttons he pushed down the stretch continually failed him. His stubborn-ness and his refusal to use, or at least try out some of the younger players on the team ended up, I believe, costing him because he burned out several of his arms in the bullpen and was afraid to use the untested ones. I'm not going to go and say that he needs to re-make himself and become fiery and angry, because then he wouldn't be Willie Randolph. But he needs to know what he has to work with, and he needs to be more willing to spread around the workload. And if he is going to be tough with his players in private, he needs to spread it around. He's obviously tough on the younger players. But sometimes, the veterans need to be read the riot act too. His style worked well in 2006. But he needs to have more of a plan when adversity strikes, because it's inevitable during a baseball season. Spouting cliches and repeating yourself doesn't endear yourself to anybody and makes you out to look like a complete idiot.

Paul LoDuca - C+
LoDuca didn't perform nearly as well all around as he did in 2006. Although I give him credit for having a great September, and for being one of the few players who actually cared and was vocal about the team's problems, not just during the final weeks, but for the entire season. But his defense wasn't quite up to par, and overall, he didn't hit much in the clutch, and contributed a lot of DPs. Plus, he's getting up there in years and once Catchers hit the proverbial wall, they generally don't come back. Free Agent, and odds are, he's not coming back unless the Mets simply have no other options.

Ramon Castro - B-
A pro's pro who has always been an excellent backup. But has also become very injury prone over the last couple of seasons (I can't imagine why, he's in such excellent shape), and back problems can't be good for Catchers. Performed very well offensively when he played, perhaps enough to garner serious talk that he, not LoDuca, should have been the starter. But Castro has proven, over time, that he's not cut out to be a full-time starter, and had he been given that opportunity, that would have likely become evident. Another FA, likely won't be back, which puts the Mets in the unenviable situation of re-building their Catcher position.

Mike DiFelice - B-
Still prickly, still hideous, and yet in the week or so that he had to start, I think he might have hit better than he ever did at any other point in his career. Go figure. Aging career minor leaguer who could very well be back and surprise the hell out of me when they recall him and I realize he's still on the damn team.

Sandy Alomar, Jr.
El Guapo and I were at one of the games he started. What a neat little coincidence!

Carlos Delgado - D
I know Carlos was one of the few people who did open his mouth and voice his displeasure, but in all honesty, action on the field speaks a hell of a lot louder than words, and Carlos did very little as far as that was concerned. I don't know whether it was the offseason wrist surgeries he had, but he not only hit smaller, he also looked smaller (which may be calling the dreaded "S" word into question). The hot streaks were scattered, if best. Signed through next year, and I don't know if he could be dealt. Getting up there in years, too. It's hard to say what he has left, but when you consider what he brought to the team offensively last season, he has to be one of the primary culprits for the team's struggles. Poor situational hitting. Poor at bats. Popping out with runners in scoring position. .238 with men on base, .218 with RISP, .188 with 2 out and RISP. Bad job, bad season.

Luis Castillo - B
I don't know if it was a popular move, since I was pretty much incognito when the deal went down, but I liked the Castillo trade. It cost the Mets pretty much nothing, and it solved one of the things I liked the least about this team, which was the incessant revolving door at 2B. He provided some sharp defense and hit well in the #2 hole, and it always seemed like he was on base. Also one of the few Mets who didn't go down the toilet at the end. Played through some injuries to his knees that had him running Cliff Floyd style. That said, I'd be happy if they brought him back. But then again, I wouldn't be too broken up if they didn't bring him back, provided a more solid option were acquired.

Jose Reyes - D
Here's the main culprit as far as position players are concerned. At the beginning of the season, the comparison was Reyes and Jeter. Now, the comparison is Reyes and Rey Ordonez. I know that Jose had to have worked hard and shown a lot of determination and discipline to put together the kind of complete season he had in 2006, and he gave all of us every reason to think that that would be the norm from him for years to come. And as I've said, maybe it was the Chavez HR and media crush getting in his head, or something else, or just a regression from a 24-year old kid, but he turned back into that young, raw, inexperienced rookie with little polish and little discipline. But more alarming was the poor attitude he seemed to show. The smile was there, but at the wrong moments. Pitches that last year were being driven in the gaps were popped straight up in the air. Ground balls weren't run out. I don't know if Willie ever sat him down and spoke to him, I know he was benched in that one incident in Houston, but instead of teaching him a lesson, it seemed to make things worse. After 2 months in which he looked every bit an MVP candidate, Jose spent the last 4 seasons undoing everything he had put together, as his power dropped and his batting average plummeted. And in that final, awful month, he just didn't show up at all. So disappointing, and so very, very frustrating to watch. We all saw what he could be last year. We know what he can be. I don't know if it's got to be Willie, or Omar, or someone else, but someone needs to go down to the Dominican Republic this offseason, sit down and have a long talk with him about what's going on, and how this can be fixed. When you count on someone like this to carry the load and be the linchpin to the entire team's offense like Reyes is, you simply cannot afford to have him regress the way he did over the final 4 months of the season. It's simply not acceptable. And if he comes back and performs like this again, you can fully expect more widespread booing and Omar shipping his ass out of town.

David Wright - A
Because he cared. Because he pulled himself together after a miserable April and put together one of the most dominant offensive seasons this side of Mike Piazza. Because when nobody else was hitting, he hit. Because he clearly was pained by the team's collapse. Because he never stopped giving his all, even when it seemed like every bit of hope was gone. Because he's truly become the voice and the face of this team, showing the poise, discipline and polish that seems to be beyond Reyes. Because for all the talk and all the hype, this guy is the real deal.

Ruben Gotay - B-
I'm not sold. He was a very nice addition off the bench, and came up with some key hits and filled in nicely in Valentin's stead to a certain point. But for a while, he played over his head. His defense at 2B is subpar, and he's yet another switch hitter who for some reason can't hit lefties at all. I'd bring him back, but only as a bench guy and a spot starter. I think he'd be very valuable in that role.

Jose Valentin - F
As one of our preseason 5 key Mets, Valentin was one (along with the Bullpen) who fell flat on his face and made us look silly. I know I'm repeating myself, but I don't like to be made to look silly. Valentin played poorly, got hurt, came back and played poorly again, and then got hurt again, and was done for the season. Shouldn't be back and hopefully will be cut loose. One of the problems with this team is there are too many creaky old guys in the Valentin mold blocking the playing time for young guys who could be more durable and useful.

Damion Easley - B+
Damion was another one of the creaky old guys, but unlike Valentin, Easley actually played well, coming up with several late, clutch hits, playing a lot of good, heady defense and really filled in well when Valentin initially got hurt. Went on a power streak in mid-May that surprised the heck out of all of us. But when he went down with a sprained ankle in August (an injury that just hurt to watch), that was one of the truly sad moments of the season. Future unknown.

Julio Franco - D
Only because he hit a HR off of Randy Johnson. Little else to speak of otherwise and thankfully was cut at the All Star Break.

Jeff Conine - Whatever.
Brought in because the team needed another 40+ guy after they cut Julio, I guess.

Carlos Beltran - B
By now, you know what you're going to get out of Beltran. Beltran is basically a .275 hitter who hits a bunch of HRs because he can go on raging hot streaks. In 2006, Beltran spent most of the season on a hot streak. This year, he was banged up quite a bit, and still managed to put together a solid season overall. But, like several other players on the team, he was a victim of the poor situational hitting that plagued the Mets. He was merely decent with RISP, hitting .277, but driving in 72. But a paltry .224 with 2 outs and RISP. And in between his injuries, he went on a couple of extended streaks where he just didn't hit at all, and it really hurt the team. Carlos is obviously withdrawn and not necessarily the leadership type, but we did get some quotes from him down the stretch, and the fact that he played it out on some severely banged-up legs shows his guts.

Moises Alou - B+
We knew what we were getting into with Alou. We knew he was going to miss time. And we weren't disappointed with what we got when he was on the field. For someone to keep plugging away and plugging away, and put together a 30-game hitting streak that seemed to come out of nowhere is just a testament to what a professional hitter Alou has been. I think the clutch tag might be a bit much (.222 with 2 out and RISP), but he'd certainly be welcome back in my book, especially if it gives Gomez a chance to develop a bit more in the Minors. Then again, he does boil down to another old, creaky guy, similar to...

Shawn Green - B
Gets this high of a grade because we had all given up on him completely before the season began. His power is pretty much gone, but he still came up and hit the ball all over the place in April, and did so again later on in the season, playing in spot starts and filling in at first for Delgado in September. The foot injury he suffered in Florida really undercut his season, and he struggled quite a bit after he came back from that. But overall, considering what we expected out of Green, you have to be pleased with the end results. Which begs the question: Where, exactly, was he that final day, once Willis came out of the game?

Endy Chavez - B-
Bench player supreme, no matter how much everyone loves him and believes he should start every day. Parlayed The Catch into his own bobblehead night. Pulled a hammie and missed a significant chunk of time, and was sorely missed as the sparkplug off the bench. Also hit that notorious HR that ruined Jose Reyes. Should be back and probably will be back.

Lastings Milledge - B
Played well for quite a bit of time, and proved that he's Major League ready. He'll scuffle a little bit, and for some reason is stuck in Willie's doghouse, probably because he's an exciting and excitable young player and for some reason that doesn't jive with him. I have this sick fear that the organization as a whole just doesn't like him and will probably end up dealing him. I seriously hope not. He's going to take his lumps, but I think he's ready to take over the RF position full time, and in a couple of seasons, he'll blossom into a star. So what if he showboats after hitting a HR. Who the hell doesn't?

Carlos Gomez - C+
Flashes of brilliance, flashes of youth. Clearly over matched at times at the plate, and ranged between brilliant and frightening in the outfield. There is quite a bit of obvious talent with Gomez, but he's not quite there yet. He could use more seasoning, but it's not a given that he could handle Major League pitching on a consistent basis. He could be part of a Left Field platoon if Alou doesn't return. Or, he could be a trade chip. Remains to be seen.

Marlon Anderson - A-
Great bench presence who we probably shouldn't have let go after '05. Came back and came up with tons of key hits throughout the second half. If the team as a whole hadn't fallen apart, Anderson would be hailed right now as the unsung hero of the season. Problem is, someone will probably try to give him a job as an everyday player, which he's not really cut out for. I'd have no problem having him back as the key lefty bat on the bench.

Ben Johnson
He played this season. No, seriously, he did! I saw him with my own eyes!

Ricky Ledee
I often feel like whenever a team brings up Ricky Ledee, that is basically tantamount to admitting "WE GIVE UP!"

David Newhan - F
I don't know one positive thing he brought to the club this season. He had an RBI triple once, in a blowout loss. He didn't hit at all otherwise, and proved himself little more than a 4-A guy who happened to get lucky and have a good Spring, which he managed to parlay into far more ink than he ever deserved.

Chip Ambres - A
Had a Game Winning hit! He's Awesome!

(Ok, ok. He got sent back to AAA the next day and wasn't heard from again. But still, that one shining moment made him the talk of the town for a couple of hours)

Tom Glavine - C-
Before you rip him apart for his last few starts, you have to examine the entire season, which for the most part was good. Glavine had several classic Glavine games over the first several months of the season, counting down to his 300th victory in August. He was pitching well and looking solid, like the Glavine we had slowly but surely come to trust over his 5 seasons here. And then, it all came crashing down at the worst possible time, just like everyone and everything else around him, culminating with the final, epic stinkbomb he threw up on the season's final day. Whether or not this is it for him remains to be seen. I'm sure he wouldn't want to go out like he did. But his reaction, lukewarm and milquetoast, as if it didn't much matter that he failed to show up in the biggest game of the year, certainly soured his relationship with the fans, and has to damage the chances of him being brought back. I don't know too many people who do.

John Maine - A-
Yes, he ranged from uneven to terrible at times in the second half, and he obviously had hit a wall. But given that this was Maine's first full season in the Majors, 15 wins and a 3.91 ERA is pretty damn good. Of course, we all know how good he was in the first half, along with copping Pitcher of the Month awards and garnering serious All-Star credentials. But here's what I like the most about Maine that nobody ever seems to notice. Think about how many times Maine took the ball in a big game. And there were several times. And think about how many times he pitched great in those games, and you'll realize it was most of the time. And when he took the ball in the biggest game of the season, he came through with an outing that was equal to the magnitude of the day. Maine won't ever be an ace, but he'll certainly be a mainstay as a #2-#3 type guy on this team. He comes after hitters and doesn't let up. He pitches with guts and emotion, and is able to learn from his mistakes. He's truly got a good head for pitching, and that counts for a hell of a lot more than one might think.

Oliver Perez - B+
Oliver's season easily mirrored Maine's as far as statistics are concerned. Maine's ERA was a little higher, and Ollie had more walks and Maine more strikeouts. Ollie also took the ball and pitched really well in some key games of his own. But Oliver often got blown up because he has a tendency to get frustrated and lose his concentration. And when he doesn't have his right arm slot, he starts walking guys and getting killed. It's to the point where you can't really be sure which Oliver Perez will show up, but you'll usually know by the 1st or 2nd inning. He's inconsistent and frustrating. But he made some significant strides to right himself and find his proper mechanics, which is a testament to how hard he works and how much he wants to do well. He basically resurrected his career after basically being handed over to the Mets last season. And when he has his good stuff, he flat out dominates.

Orlando Hernandez - B-
When he was good, he was very good, and when he was bad he was horrible. Such was ElDuque, who was exactly who we thought he would be. He had a great start to the season, got hurt, came back, was good, if inconsistent, got hurt again, came back, was terrible, and then sat out some more before coming out of the bullpen. Another one of the old, creaky guys who I could do without, but he does bring some good experience.

Jorge Sosa - B-
Human Yo-Yo. Miserable in Spring Training, and then somehow managed to come out of nowhere and pitch lights out for a month in the starting rotation, even supplanting Pelfrey. Then, the batters caught up to him, and he was eventually moved to the Bullpen, where he pitched well, except for this annoying habit he had of getting absolutely lit up by lefty hitters to the tune of a .326 BAA. Not good. Yet through it all, he was somehow one of the more dependable guys coming out of the bullpen, so long as Willie didn't insistently use him day after day after day until his arm falls off. Perhaps that was part of the problem...

Aaron Heilman - D
The act is getting pretty tired. We know, we know. You want to start. Just remember. You got a pass for Yadier Molina because of the team's offensive failures. But this season, you offered very little in response. I've seen enough. Time to get rid of him.

Mike Pelfrey - C
Made the rotation with a terrific spring, where he showcased a hard, biting sinker that batters could only pound into the ground. Then, when he came to the Majors, it seemed like he panicked, and started getting that sinker up and he got routinely hammered. Mercifully, he got sent down in May, after going 0-5. Made a couple of spot starts later on, before coming out of nowhere to pitch an outstanding game in Atlanta, which could be proof of what he could be. But he was again uneven over the last couple of weeks.

Billy Wagner - B
Basically undid his great, off the charts start to the season by first blowing several saves in a row towards the end of August, where he began to rely on his slider more and more and get hit hard, rather than sticking with the fastball, which is what made his career in the first place. Then got hit with back spasms at the worst possible time, leading to another bullpen meltdown. I don't know what to make of him. Like any closer, he is a complete enigma and I don't know whether or not to trust him at all.

Pedro Feliciano - B
Great all around reliever who was idiotically wasted as a situational lefty most of the time. The idea was that SCHOENEWEIS should have been the situational lefty, and Feliciano was the guy who could be used in the key spot in the late innings and beyond. One of the few relievers who I'd accept to have back.

Pedro Martinez - A
For coming back and showing heart and guts. Something lacking from most of the other pitchers on this team. Also imparted his knowledge on some of the younger pitchers. I know that people seem skeptical about having a 36 year old with a surgically repaired shoulder leading the rotation next season, but let's face it. Pedro is no ordinary 36 year old. Pedro knows how to pitch better than anyone out there, and he can improvise on the spot to get himself out of a jam. Anyone who doubts that can take a look at his last start against the Cardinals. With the team hanging by a thread, Pedro went out there and simply pitched his ass off for 7 innings, doing everything he could do to will his team to victory. And the rest of the team gave him nothing.

Joe Smith - C+
Good at the beginning, but another one who Willie overworked early on and ended up getting knocked around but good for a while. Rested up for a while in AAA and came back strong. Needs to work on stamina and harnessing his slider, but I think he can be OK out of the bullpen.

Philip Humber - Inc.
I was a supporter of giving Humber the one start when he got it. As if nothing else had worked up until that point. What bothered me was that Humber had been allowed to basically rot away in the bullpen with no work, pitching in all of 2 games for 3 innings before the start on September 26th, another victim of Willie's refusal to use the youth around him. If he was going to be used in relief, then use him regularly, otherwise what the hell is the point of having him there at all?! Let's see what he has, especially if the organization speaks so highly of him. There's something to be said with the way the Yankees brought along their young pitchers, specifically Joba Chamberlain, who was a starter, gently groomed for the bullpen for a few weeks in AA ball, and then unleashed as a dominant setup man who could be called upon regularly. If Humber is as talented as we are led to believe, why couldn't something like that be done with him, especially given the state of the bullpen?

Willie Collazo - Inc.
Ditto Humber. If you're not going to use him, why the hell is he even here?

Guillermo Mota - F
You suck. Next.

Aaron Sele - F
You suck. Next.

Scott Schoeneweis - F
You suck. Next.

Brian Lawrence - F
You suck. Next.

Jason Vargas - F
You suck. Next.

Ambiorix Burgos - F
You suck AND you're hurt. Next.

Dave Williams - F
You suck. Next.

Chan Ho Park - F
He's here just to make you all laugh. I was at the Chan Ho Park game. I think that ball Hanley Ramirez hit is still going.

Carlos Muniz - Inc.
Don't know anything about him. Called up as an emergency arm and yet Willie only used him 2 or 3 times.

Jon Adkins

Lino Urdaneta
You suck and you used steroids. And that didn't help you like it helped Mota.

So, where do we go from here? There are a lot of holes that need fixing, and not so much patching as much as real, tangible fixing. I know we're all still stewing. This will take some time to get over. It's a horrible, horrible day and a miserable feeling we all have. I don't know how this team will respond, those who return, next season. El Guapo made a very good point. As much as the players can try to have a short memory about this, the Media, the jackals that they are, won't let them forget. They won't let us forget. This could make us all crazy by the All-Star Break next season. Unless they win. Funny. Winning heals everything.

Coming up Next: Suggestions and Solutions...