Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Citi Field, Take Two

So, two games in and I'm 0-for-Citi Field.

In reality, however, the game provided mere scenery for the other nonsense that seemed to go on for me throughout the evening.

I had been fixing to make an attempt to try to get to one of the high-end concessions at Citi Field, and I made a concerted effort to get there early and beat the crowd. I was angling for Shake Shack, since I'd heard so much about it from a number of different sources, but I've never been there myself. El Guapo is a big fan, but he has the advantage of working rather close to the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. I, on the other hand, do not and so this was the first time I'd ever really been close to one. And I'd heard more than a few people on varied WFAN shows call in and say that it's the best burger ever. As I've mentioned, I am a big hamburger connoisseur, so I was chomping at the bit to try it for myself.

I got to Citi Field at around 6:15, dropped El Guapo's ticket at Will Call and made a beeline for the Shack. There were plenty of people milling around, but I was hopeful that the line wouldn't be too long.

No such luck. The line had already formed well past the little aisles they set up and had extended back towards Left Field. Maybe I should have just said screw it and gone upstairs. Nooooooo, I figured. I came here for a Shake Shack burger, and by crikey, I'm going to have a Shake Shack burger. So I stood on line. I figured I had plenty of time before the game.

I got on line at about 6:20. The Guap texted me at around 6:35 telling me he was having a beer in the Promenade Club. I was still on line. I said I'd see him around the 5th inning. But I was exaggerating. I was in my seat by around 6:45.

Bottom line: In the words of Samuel L. Jackson, "That IS a Tasty Burger." I'm still on the fence as to whether or not it's worth waiting on line for 25 minutes to get, but it's a damn good burger, far better than the burgers they were serving in the Promenade level. It's got cheese (which I believe you can ask them to leave off), lettuce, tomato and what they refer to as "Shack Sauce," which I believe to be little more than overglorified Russian Dressing. The single shack is small, but substantial for your $5.75. But throw in some fries and a soda and I ended up dropping as much on food as I did on my ticket for the game. C'est la vie, I assume, in this Citi Field day and age. I recommend it and I'd definitely go back, provided you don't mind the inevitable lines that will form there early. When I was leaving, the line was significantly longer than it was when I got there.

El Guapo had been in the Promenade Club, as I'd mentioned. I didn't realize that you could get in simply by having a Promenade level ticket, I thought you needed a Promenade Club ticket. Apparently not. He raved about it, and he also raved about the Sausage and Peppers, which I've yet to have this season (next time, that's what I'm going for). Apparently there's a full bar in the Club, and even a Wing bar. This could prove to be a hidden gem.

In general, we both seem pretty happy with Citi Field. The team, again, is a bit of a problem and there's not much memorable to report about the game, short of things looked OK until Sean Green decided to do his best Aaron Heilman impression. And he really did a spot-on Heilman and screwed up the game good and proper. Once the Mets got behind, I think just about everyone knew that was it for the game, no matter how bad the Marlins bullpen supposedly is. Kudos to Alfredo Amezaga for hot-dogging catching a pop-up at the end of the 7th and further entrenching himself on the list of Marlins Players who need to get a pitch in the ribs at some point.

Some of the problems that I discussed from Opening Night seem to have been rectified. For one, the speakers above the seats were working. They didn't sound especially great (there was some sort of crackle that I tend to associate with a speaker that's been blown out), but at least I could hear the announcements and ambient Ballpark Music they play.

El Guapo reported back to me that there are TVs at the concessions in the Promenade Food court behind home plate. He says they're small, and so there's a very good chance that I missed seeing them on Opening Night. One other thing we noticed is that there were little to no lines there, which is great. I think most people were walking around and getting food at other places. The stadium seemed about half full most of the night, but there were definitely a lot of people who came and walked around rather than sit in their seats and watch the game. That's probably why there was such a lack of lines in the Promenade. I'm not complaining.

The egress problem was better last night as well, though I think that was more a side effect of the Mets being behind and people leaving early. We managed to get out of the stadium pretty quickly down the staircase that's right behind our section. Little to no lines in the men's room once again, which is always nice.

Afterwards, I mused to El Guapo that once the novelty wears off, and it's just people going to the stadium to watch the game, it's going to be pretty good. Those normal, dopey, Tuesday night games with 25,000 people are going to be great, particularly since we're now watching the game in a nice, modern, comfortable ballpark.

Then, came the ride home.

El Guapo, who lives in Brooklyn, and I always take the 7 Express back, without much debate. We ride in the rear car of the train (a little-known fact that you can always get a seat in the rear car). The game ended at 10:25 and he got off at 45th Road and I continued on to Grand Central. I was on pace to be home at around 11:10, until, mysteriously, the train stopped in the tunnel just after passing Vernon/Jackson. And it sat there. There was an announcement of "Train traffic ahead of us." But we continued to sit. And it got to be 11:10. Then 11:15. This was getting ridiculous. People in the car were getting restless. 11:25. Still nothing. All of a sudden, we see someone walking down the tunnel with a flashlight. He walked up to the train and climbed on. We asked him what was going on, but he wasn't very descriptive or helpful. It got to 11:35. People were getting frustrated. Finally, the train started moving, slowly, and kept starting and stopping before finally getting into Grand Central. I don't know what, exactly, the problem was and nobody would say. I have a feeling there was a train stuck ahead of mine, but nonetheless, tacking an un-necessary half hour onto the trip home after an already miserable game wasn't exactly the perfect capper to the evening.

If there's something to take away from this, I suppose it's that you can't blame the Mets for the MTA's problems.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Return of the Death Cab

"I think I was really rushing myself and I concentrated this time and in my bullpen session on really slowing myself down. For some reason I just get a little too excited out there and it hurts me."
-John Maine

If there was ever a quote that was, basically, tantamount to "Don't Think. It can only hurt The Ballclub," that might be it.

Maine's solid outing probably wasn't the biggest story of last night's game, but in the long run, it's probably going to be the best.

John Maine so far this season had made three starts. One in which he looked pretty good but got beat on a couple of instances, and two in which he started strong and then imploded in the middle innings, generally when he ran into a rough situation.

Last night, Maine looked like the Maine from 2007 that we remember. The Maine who was battling out of every jam, making the big pitches when he had to, and performing like a Pitcher, not just a guy up there throwing the ball and hoping it goes where he wants it to.

Basically, last night was the Return of Death Cab for John Maine. The return of the pitcher who will dig deep inside to confront the demons that threaten to rise up against him and will his way out of the dark morass on his way to victory. The kind of pitcher he needs to be if he wants to be a man, worthy of being selected as one of the Key Mets players for this season.

Yes, Maine battled through a difficult first inning, that appeared to be unraveling before he even had a chance to get started. And yes, it helps when your unheralded backup catcher delivered what appears to be the first truly clutch hit the Mets have had all season, staking him to a 6-1 lead after 1 inning. But Maine still had to go out there and pitch his game, and he was up to the challenge, throwing as hard as he's thrown all season and working his way through the Marlins lineup with ease.

If, as it has appeared so far, it's going to be the case that the guy that is #3 in the rotation is going to be gigantic question marks (and I don't think I even need to mention his name, it's incumbent upon Maine to step up, prove that his poor year was directly due to his shoulder injury and his problems this season a result of overthinking and pushing himself too hard. If he's going to be out there, he needs to be there with a clear mind. Trust your stuff, John. We'll go places with it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Unremarkable Weekend

It seems to be a recurring theme with the Mets that, more often than not, when they are going against a team that is far inferior to them, or even just partially inferior to them, that they win the first two games of a series, and then let up and let the lesser team win the 3rd game, rather than smashing them for the sweep they really should be getting.

This past weekend was just another example of this. The Mets played what was, for them, a typical Idiot-Mets Series against the Washington Nationals, a team that they should have pounded into submission, kicked in the nuts and taken their lunch money. In fact, this weekend featured so many of the same stupid performances that we've come to know over the past few seasons that this weekend was probably indistinguishable from any other 3-game weekend series that the Mets have played in Citi Field, or last season at Shea. You could probably write it up in a script.

Starts with a gloomy Friday night, either rainy or just hazy. With the Ace on the Mound, the pressure should be off the offense to light it up. Just a few runs ought to do it, but considering the quality of the opponent, and considering the track record against the opposing starting pitcher, the Mets really should be pummelling this guy. But, these are the Mets. They get single after single, and get guys on base all over the place, but, try as they might, they can't seem to get any of them home. By the end of the game, they've managed 11 hits and drawn 7 walks, but scored only 4 runs. But the Ace is the Ace, and as such removes any such drama from the game in his 6-inning effort. The closer makes it a little hairy in the 9th, but ultimately closes out a victory for the Mets, in spite of themselves.

Cut to a bright, warm, sunny Saturday afternoon, in front of what should have been a packed house (39,000 was the count). The Mets, today, jump on their opponent early and often, and their #2 starter, back from an arm injury that had limited his effectiveness, is solid throughout. There are flashes of brilliance and flashes of suckitude throughout the game, but the Mets, aided by 3 errors and terrible pitching from their lesser opponent, manage to score 8 runs and win the game fairly handily.

Cut to Sunday, where the Mets, happy and cheerful following their runaway victory on Saturday, appear primed to sweep the lesser opponent. But, hey, with the series already won, why not let up? Because a good team isn't supposed to let up. A good team buries the lesser opponent. With the opponent throwing a rookie in his 2nd Major League appearance, that scenario seems likely.

Oh, wait, I forgot to mention the plot twist: The Mets are starting the guy who mixes good outings and putrid outings, sometimes within the same game. The fate of the series depends upon which version of this pitcher will show up today.

Predictably, it's the bad one.

As is generally the case with this particular pitcher, he starts off well, getting out of the 1st inning without much trouble. The Mets even get him the lead in the bottom of the 1st. But you know that, at some point, he's going to give that run back, and probably some more. You just don't know when. Could be the 2nd, could be the 5th, could be the 7th.

Sunday, that lead is gone before the paint can even dry. And before anyone knows what's hit them, the opponent's rookie starter is dominating the Mets and the Mets inconsistent starter is getting tagged for 8 runs and getting booed off the mound in another typical Mets bloodbath. So much for the Sweep, so much for the sanity.

The Mets could have gone a ways in restoring some of the fan base's confidence over this weekend, and a sweep certainly would have helped. But for some reason, I kind of feel like they were lucky to win 2 out of 3. They win a lot of games in spite of themselves, and you can get away with that against a bad team such as Washington. Once the good teams start rolling into town, the Mets need to prove they can hang. One thing that means is that Ollie has to stop puking up games like this. I don't know what his problem is in particular, but this isn't encouraging and it isn't good. The rest of the problems have been talked about enough. Hell, Ollie's been talked about enough.

This team needs to just shut up and start playing good baseball if they want to earn any respect.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Photo Quiz

1) What is Jerry Manuel thinking about in the above photo?
  1. Hey, we may have lost, but we scored 8 runs! That's more than we usually get in a week! We're right back in it, guys!
  2. No matter how hard I try, I just can't look as sharp as Tony LaRussa.
  3. I hope they serve Chicken a la Wilpon on the flight back to New York. Mmm, that's the best!

2) What is Ramon Castro saying to John Maine?
  1. Dude, check out the Blonde in the 2nd row!
  2. No, no, no! When I put my glove on the outer half of the plate, you're supposed to HIT it, not throw the ball straight down the middle!
  3. Wait a sec...Ollie?

3) What is Livan Hernandez thinking about?
  1. That pitch always worked when Orlando threw it.
  2. I thought this game was getting a little too close.
  3. I'm hungry. Sooner Ankiel hits it out of the park, sooner I get to hit the buffet in the clubhouse.

4) What is Carlos Beltran thinking?
  1. OK, what's the score? 12-5? Good. Time for me to pad my stats with another garbage-time Home Run.
  2. I really like hitting in this ballpark. Too bad none of my teammates seem to agree with me.
  3. That's a shiny arch.

5) What is Jerry Manuel saying to the Umpire?
  1. Come on, man, we have enough trouble scoring runs as it is!
  2. All right, look, I'm not here to argue, but I have to at least let my players know I'm somewhat conscious.
  3. If you call him out, I'll treat you to a few Shackburgers when you come up to New York.
6) What is Johan Santana thinking?
  1. Oh, goody. Now I get to bail these clowns out again.
  2. 8 runs today? Where the hell is that when I'm pitching?
  3. Maybe I've been wearing everyone out with all those secret handshakes.
Post answers in the comments section.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Never Happened

I actually forgot that the Mets were playing a day game today until around 5pm, when my infamous co-worker called and asked if I had the game on.

I immediately turned the game on and realized I hadn't missed much. Or, rather, I hadn't missed anything that I hadn't already seen out of the Mets.

Then, about 10 or so minutes after I put the game on, Ronny CedeƱo hit his grand slam and that was pretty much that.

With the extent of the Mets/Cubs games in Chicago coming and going within the span of 24 hours, I fully expect to have no memory whatsoever of the Mets at Wrigley Field this season. It's probably better that way, given how things have turned out.

I suppose the brunt of the blame will focus on the pitching, specifically the Bullpen, and while they haven't been very good, or very consistent at all over the first few weeks of the season (Heilman and Sosa repeatedly victimized over the past few days), it's too easy to heap all the blame on them.

Look at it this way: Aaron Heilman came into Monday night's game with the Mets trailing 2-1 in the 8th. Aided by a Jose Reyes error and some long hits, a 2-1 deficit turned into a 7-1 deficit, the runs unearned. Unearned, yes, but given up nonetheless.

Going further, however, is the fact that had Heilman pitched well, and held the Cubs, then the Mets would have lost the game 2-1, rather than 7-1. Heilman and Sosa wouldn't have magically taken the Cubs runs off the board.

The pitching can do what they can, and whether they do it or not, it doesn't make much of a difference if the Mets could only muster 2 runs over 2 games. If the bullpen does right itself, and start to pitch with some authority, it'll certainly be nice, but will it matter if nobody not named David Wright hits?

Carlos Beltran languishes with a .215 average and 1 HR. Carlos Delgado is barely off the interstate at .208, 1 HR. These are major players in the Mets offense, and for them to not be hitting creates a lot of problems and a lot of pressure on the rest of the team. It's an awful lot like last year. The Mets seem to win when they have a spark, like a bigtime outing from Santana or a 4-hit game from Wright or Reyes. But these guys can't and won't carry the load day after day, and it's not realistic to expect them to do so. More disconcerting is that there's still no anger or chip on the shoulder, especially on the day after they got their heads handed to them. We expected there to be some kind of difference, especially after basically the same team muddled through most of last season, and after the air of confidence and cockiness had seemed to return during Spring Training.

I know Beltran is a streak hitter, and he could right himself and put together one of those weeks where he hits .485 with 5 HR and 16 RBI and everything would be better. I'm less sure about Delgado, to the point where perhaps Moises Alou or Angel Pagan should be taking First Base lessons.

I keep saying this, but especially after the way last season went (and I'm not going to refer to "The Collapse" specifically anymore, and neither should anybody else, because the Mets were lousy all season, and everyone knows this as truth), it's really really easy to panic even though it's only April. But they're not playing consistently good baseball. Sure, they won 5 games in a row last week, but that could just as easily have happened by accident. It's a step up from last year, however, when they didn't manage 5 wins in a row until September, but what's that saying? They're the same team now that they were then? I don't see much of a difference.

Yes, yes, it's very early to panic. But this season, right now, looks like it has all the potential to get real ugly real quick. But so I don't sound too pessimistic and upset the optimists out there, I will say that last year, at this time, the Mets looked like a World Series team, and that pretty much fell apart starting in June. These things can turn around.

At least, I think they can...

(Author's Note: Yes, I've shamelessly copied and pasted a post from this time last year. But this is only to illustrate a point. If the Mets can't be bothered to show up for their games this year, and put up lifeless efforts reminiscent of 2008, why, then, should I waste my time writing about it when a prior blog will pretty much say everything you need to know?)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I've Had Enough

I know it's April 21st, the season is only 13 games old and we're supposed to be patient, but, quite honestly, I've had it with the Mets already.

I keep thinking about the chapter in Greg Prince's Faith and Fear in Flushing book about the 1999 Mets. Greg details 199.9 reasons to love the '99 Mets. That was such a beautiful team. They were undermanned most of the time, but they had guts. They had pride. They never quit until that last little bit of energy finally ran out at the end of their 173rd game of a magnificent season. That was a team that made me proud to be a Mets fan.

10 years later and this team is the exact opposite. There's no pride, there's no fundamentals, there's no guarantees of anything. Forget the fact that the Center Fielder, someone known for his strong instincts on the bases, committed an egregious error on par with Jeremy Giambi. Forget the fact that the Left Fielder has got himself so psyched out that he's clearly got the outfielder's version of whatever Mackey Sasser used to have. Forget that the only thing the team has managed to do consistently is leave men on base. The team has played 13 games this season and while they've by some miracle managed to be in every game down to the end, it appears as though they've more or less rolled out of bed and onto the field each night.

Nobody seems to exemplify the loser-ness that permeates this team moreso than last night's starting pitcher, Oliver Perez. I've stuck up for him a lot, but it's beyond the point that he'll change my mind. He gives us a glimpse of hope last week, and this week it's right back to the same old Shit Show.

Last year, the offense's problem was that they couldn't score enough runs to counter their lousy bullpen.

This year, the problem is that they can't score enough runs to counter their lousy 3rd starter. You give him a 4 run lead, clearly that's not enough. Last night, he vomited it back up in the blink of an eye. Hell, why not just pull him after the 4th inning. Screw the stats, get the win for your team!

I just...I'm just beyond coherence and sanity after last night. I said it an awful lot last year and it looks like we're in for another season of me saying it again. This team has no guts, no heart and no killer instinct. Teams will continue to play against them until the end of the game because they know that they're never out of it. The Mets will have a game where they're up 7-1 after 4 innings, they'll let up, and the other team will keep playing, and pretty soon it's 7-4, then 7-6, then it's tied, and then the Mets lose 8-7 in 12 innings. They don't finish games. They don't step on their opponents. And until that happens, they will not be a winning ballclub.

This is going to be the longest season ever for the Mets fan. We're all going to age exponentially.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What's Eating David Wright, Part II

Two years ago, I wrote a post under the same title as today's post as a tongue-in-cheek response to the fans overreaction to David Wright's slow start. At the time, Wright was one of New York's most eligible bachelors and, perhaps, maybe his slow start could have been attributed to too much time in the Batting Cage and not enough time between the sheets. Though it was completely satirical, the post evolved into one of the most read and seminal blogs I've written here. That season, Wright overcame his slow start and delivered, probably, the best season of his career, statistically.

Since that time, David Wright has established himself as one of Baseball's biggest stars, he has a lovely (albeit rail-thin) model Girlfriend, and has even caught the eye of some of Hollywood's most attractive women.

However, this hasn't translated to further on-field success. In fact, now, when I ask the question, "What's Eating David Wright?" I'm not doing so in a humorous fashion. Now, I'm seriously concerned.

I don't think it's been overlooked that Wright has struggled in big spots. But this hasn't always been the case. In 2006, Wright was all-World in key spots, coming up with at least 4 Game-Ending hits in the first half of the season. He still has come up with his share of key hits, but it appears that, more often than not, it's his clutch failures that are getting noticed. He was pedestrian in the 2006 Postseason (.216/.310/.378, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 8Ks). When he came back in 2007 and more or less carried the Mets down the stretch and, at times, was the only player playing with any sense of urgency as the team went down in flames, his key stats (.346/.447/.590 late & close, .352/.432/.602 in September) were borderline heroic.

It was in 2008 when things started to go wrong. I can't quite pinpoint where, because in general, Wright has a knack of playing at or close to his career norms just about all of the time. A quick glance at Wright's career numbers reveal a rather steady performance.
  • 2005 - 160G, .306/.388/.523, 27 HR, 102 RBI, 113 K
  • 2006 - 154G, .311/.381/.531, 26 HR, 113 RBI, 113 K
  • 2007 - 160G, .325/.416/.546, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 115 K
  • 2008 - 160G, .302/.390/.534, 33 HR, 124 RBI, 118 K
Things don't vary much for him. Even when he's going bad, the numbers seem to always be there. But how "there" are they, really?

You first noticed a problem at some point during the 2008 season, that Wright was becoming a little too pull-happy. Nobody seemed to pay it much mind, though it was worth noting that after hitting .325 in 2007, Wright's BA was hovering in the high .200s most of the way. Where Wright used to drive balls the other way, it seemed like everything was getting pulled, and there were too many instances where Wright would appear to be squeezing the bat to sawdust and simply hacking at the plate as opposed to going up there with a clue.

This was magnified during the final weeks of the 2008 season. Oddly, Wright had, perhaps, his best statistical month of the year in September of 2008, going .340/.416/.577, 6HR, 21 RBI. But his strength in '07, those "Late and Close" situations saw an alarming dropoff to .286/.412/.464.

Not a gigantic drop, but considering that if Wright had at least been able to equal his output in similar situations in 2007, the Mets probably would have been able to overcome their bullpen and make the Postseason.

Nowhere was this particular problem magnified more than on September 24th and 25th against the Cubs. With the Mets desperately fighting for their lives in a pair of barnburners against the Cubs, both nights Wright came to bat in the bottom of the 9th of a tie game. One game, the winning run was on 3rd with no outs. The other, the winning run, Jose Reyes, was on 1st with 1 out. Both times, Wright struck out. Wright struck out 23 times in September, his high for the season.

This season, Wright seems to be picking up where he left off. He's getting hits, yes, but more often than not, they seem to be hits of little consequence, for example, with 2 outs and nobody on, or leading off an inning. Through two weeks, Wright is hitting .289, with only 1 HR and 4 RBIs, 3 of them coming on one swing. He has 15 strikeouts in 12 games, putting him on pace for close to 200 for the season.

This isn't the kind of offense you should be getting out of a #3 hitter.

The problem seems fairly simple and logical. Wright, in the past, used to keep his front foot forward, and dive forward with the pitch. He'd reach for that outside pitch and hit it the other way. Now, it appears as though his front foot has drifted back and when he kicks into his swing, he's pulling off the pitch. Now, everything is pulled either down the line or foul, and he can't come close to catching up with the outside pitch. It's totally predictable to pitch to him because he doesn't appear to be cognisant of the issue, or if he is, he's not listening to whoever's talking to him. Where's the Great Hitting Coach in all this? Taking Art Howe lessons?

It doesn't take a genius to pitch to him right now. Throw him a dinky little slider on the first pitch, he'll swing and miss. Come inside with a fastball on the 2nd pitch, he'll take it for a strike, and then throw the 3rd pitch about a foot outside and he'll just flail away.

There are plenty of obvious problems with the team right now. I'm no genius by any stretch of the imagination, but I think this is a pretty major problem that nobody seems to be noticing right now. And if nobody picks up on it, or if Wright doesn't make some kind of effort to adjust and fix the problem, he's going to find that he's become a .260 hitter who only hits Home Runs, except that he's not going to be hitting many Home Runs in Citi Field if the first week is any indication. The clutch hits will come if Wright can just get this problem straightened out. He was so good at adjusting 3 years ago. What happened?

It was so much easier when Wright's problem was when he just needed to get laid. Now, I think he needs to get himself back in the cage.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another Bad Rerun

I think I've already watched this Movie. And I didn't like the way it turned out.

I suppose I can't go off and say this year's visit from the Brewers was a carbon copy of last year's visit. After all, that was in a different Stadium, with a different set of results. But for some reason, it's more or less felt the same way. You saw very few things you liked out of the Mets, and quite a few things you didn't. Probably more disturbing was the fact that you didn't really see anything that surprised you.

It got kicked off on Friday, where El Guapo and I gathered at Ballclub HQ, East Village Bureau for a few drinks, which turned into more than a few drinks, and watched the game. It was, for the most part, a blur, which is kind of interesting when you consider that the game was 3 hours and 18 minutes. But it certainly felt that way. The Mets did a very nice job of letting Dave Bush more or less hand them 3 runs in the first, then did very little most of the rest of the way. They were doing what they seem to do best: Get one or two guys on every inning, then hit a popup, strike out, and then a ground ball. You could mix a double play in there, too. And the other team will eventually come back, which is exactly what happened, when Ryan Braun (perhaps the best Landsman we've seen since Shawn Green) nailed a 3-run HR off a fading Livan to give the Brewers a 4-3 lead in the 6th. I don't think it was wrong to leave Livan in at that point; he'd certainly been doing a good enough job of getting in and out of jams, but he was clearly spent when Braun hit the HR.

Spirits were relatively ambivalent when Sheffield came to the plate in the last of the 7th, prompting a minor tirade from El Guapo about how he disliked Sheffield, and how he'll be a headache, and it was an unnecessary signing, and it's going to screw up Church and Murphy, and who cares, he's a jerk, and of course, all this was punctuated by the Iron Sheff nailing his first hit with the Mets, oddly enough his 500th Career Home Run, to tie the game.

Say what you will about him, but he makes them count.

So, now, a tie game. And it's now late, and both of us have downed a fairly large amount of beer. I'd like to say there was some sort of deep Baseball discussion going on, but it kind of got foggy from there on out. I remember seeing Sean Green pitching, and I think Feliciano as well. I'm sure I was ogling some of the women at the bar as well. Some people I knew came up and said hello. I smoked a few cigarettes. At some point, the Mets surprisingly had a couple of guys on with Wright at the plate, I think in the 8th, and I said to El Guapo, "Here comes the Fielder's Choice."

"Don't be so negative. Wright's the man." he responded.

Wright hit into the Fielder's Choice.

I remember the end of the game. I was pretty sure that extra innings were imminent, especially since the Mets had runners on 2nd and 3rd with Castillo up. But I suppose even the Mets can't fail every time, and Castillo did what was necessary, grounding a ball far too deep in the hole to be thrown out, allowing Delgado to score the winning run.

I then went home, which is about as impressive considering it was a tall order for me to walk a straight line at that particular moment and didn't have the necessary cash for a cab. Somehow I managed to wait until I got home to pass out.

Saturday, I was nursing a heavy hangover and of course was stuck in the same long, nonsensical meeting I usually am subjected to on April Saturdays. What I missed was, basically, the Johan Santana Show, wherein he mows down opposing batters with a ferocity and the Mets score very few runs in support of him. Fortunately, the formula that everyone had in mind when the "Improve the Bullpen" moves were made this past winter was in order. Santana, Putz, Rodriguez, and once again, the Mets won in spite of themselves.

So, Sunday, the Mets were going for the sweep, although it really didn't seem like they were going for a sweep. But since those final scores from the past two days apparently did end up on their favor, I guess they were. Not that they acted like a team that had been beating up on a lesser opponent in any of the 3 games, and particularly not on Sunday, where they managed to do exactly what I was afraid they might do: Get 12 hits, score 2 runs and hit into a double play in just about every inning.

I hate seeming like a clairvoyant.

Right now, I just have a bad feeling about this team. They're starting out exactly the same way they did last year, sleeping through games, not playing with any kind of a sense of urgency, allowing all their question marks and obvious problems to rear their heads at the worst possible times and, if that wasn't enough, making an already apoplectic fan base even more hysterical. It's April 20th and we shouldn't be going crazy, but the Mets are already 5 games behind the Marlins, and everyone's going crazy.

The season is only 2 weeks old, but it feels like it's Mid-June already. If that's the case, how am I going to feel when we get to September? We haven't even played Philadelphia yet.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Boggs for the Mets

Every so often, I like to give a shoutout to my beleaguered Blue Jay Brethren to the North at Tao of Stieb. But there's another Blue Jays blog that has provided me with the impetus for today's column.

About a year ago, I was poking around other team's blogs, and I chanced upon a blog titled "Drunk Jays Fans," which is written by what appears to be a hearty bunch of gentlemen. It was on their sidebar that I saw a floating Wade Boggs head with the number 70 next to it. The explanation wished me "A Wade Boggs Weekend." The accompanying story blew me away.

Apparently, legend has it, Wade Boggs, already known for other off-field exploits, was known to down as many as 70 Miller Lites on a cross-country road trip. Many teammates have corroborated this, and Boggs has reluctantly admitted it himself. As a result, Miller Lite is now referred to as "Boggs" in certain circles.

Where am I going with this?

Well, after hearing caller after caller after caller and two overly indignant hosts fillet the Mets and Citi Field over the past week, I'm ready for a Wade Boggs Weekend. Yesterday it was the dynamic duo of Benigno and Roberts on WFAN screaming, and I mean quite literall SCREAMING about how beautiful the new Yankee Stadium is, and how Citi Field is a dump, and we should be ashamed, and how dare the Mets do this to us. One of them actually had the nerve to say, and I quote: "If you like Citi Field, you're not a real Mets fan."


How about coming up to Section 518 and I'll show you a Real Mets fan. How dare you say that! You're a pair of closeted Yankee Fans! That team has you by the balls so bad, and you're both clearly so insecure about them that you're afraid to say anything negative about them. But when it comes to the team you supposedly root for, well, they suck and everything they do sucks. But you've got season tickets and you'll be at Citi Field tonight. What a pair of loony Yankee-loving Hypocrites. I'd seriously like every one of my readers here to pick up a phone or log on to WFAN and tell Joe and Evan what a pair of duplicitous pricks they are. They are Yankee Castrati of the highest order. I'm not a real fan because I like Citi Field. Give me a fucking break.

That said, there are a pair of very fair and even-handed reviews of Citi Field floating around the internet, one of whom I would consider a FAR more reputable source for fair writing than those two clowns. It's been 3 games. Things can be fixed.

Then, there's the team.
So, Wednesday night, expecting the worst, Oliver Perez comes out and throws one of his good games, the Mets look fairly clueless most of the night offensively, but capitalize on some poor defense by San Diego and come away with a routine victory.

Thursday night, expecting the Best, John Maine does a very good impression of Oliver Perez, coughs up an early lead, the Mets fall behind and can't catch up, thereby losing the first series in the History of Citi Field to the San Diego Padres.

Why does this feel eerily like I'm watching last year's team play? Oh, wait, because for the most part, it IS last year's team. Thought so. I guess that means we can look forward to the Mets not being able to get out of their own way for the next couple of months or so. I mean, the upshot of all of this is Delgado is hitting like a house afire, so maybe it's not all the same, but if they have a game against Milwaukee where they manage to hit into 5 DPs this weekend, I'm going to be very concerned.

Basically, take everything I've written here into account, between the idiot radio hosts, and the overreacting fans, and the team itself...Well, as they say, Have a Wade Boggs Weekend. I certainly will.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Visions of History

I have to admit that I'm more than a little taken aback by the outcry of negative feelings that many people seem to have about Citi Field. I can understand the complaints, particularly from people who have seats that are somewhat obstructed, but you have to be a little realistic: Not every seat is going to be perfect, no matter how much the powers that be promise that it will be, and how can anyone really know until they actually sit down and watch a game there before they know it?

There's also the complaint about the lack of Mets representation, and I can see that point as well. But I don't think Shea Stadium had much about it, outside of its color scheme, that screamed METS HISTORY until the Mid-1990s, and even then, it was little more than hanging some photos from banners on exposed pipes...Not exactly charming, and half the time not even noticible.

I've stated my complaints about the stadium, and I think that most of them are easily remedied. That ramp issue is going to be a little sticky. Maybe in a game that's not totally sold out, it'll be easier to get down the stairs without creating a hideous bottleneck. Maybe running some of those escalators down after the game will smooth things out. Other problems, like the other fans, well, those were beyond repair in the first place.

Point is, I think a lot of people get caught up in the spectacle of Citi Field itself, and I can understand some ill will coming from the naming fiasco, and the problems with the economy, but it seems like a lot of people have lost sight of the real History of the Night, and what an amazing, magical thing 41,007 of us witnessed on Monday evening. I really hate all the negativity, because my positive comments make me feel like I'm blowing some sort of company line noise. Like it or not, this is our new home. It's going to take some getting used to. I'm sure Freddy and Jeffy will hear the complaints and hopefully will make some effort to fix what's fixable. But I think, more than anything else, the atmosphere, and the Mets colors and the representation comes from us, the fans. We're going to create the atmosphere, we're going to wear the blue and orange, and we're going to watch our team. And, for me, that's what it's about above anything else: Watching. My. Team. Shea Stadium was my sanctuary, this is my new sanctuary. I require little more than a Sausage & Peppers or a couple of Hot Dogs, some ambient ballpark noise (which they will hopefully fix), and, Good Lord Willing, a Mets Victory.

That said, here's how it all looked from where I was sitting. The outcome didn't come out the way we hoped, but regardless, it's a night I'll remember for the rest of my life.

I've already done a photo-heavy post from Citi Field recently, so, I'm going to keep this one somewhat truncated. The full array of my (usable) photos from Monday night are here on Flickr (I would be remiss if I didn't give a shoutout to MetsGrrl's photos from Monday, which blow mine away completely).

Here's Darryl Strawberry, on the SNY stage, getting ready for the pregame show. Straw looks in phenomenal shape. I'd guess he could still run out there and play if he wanted to.

Before the game, I felt pretty good. Afterwards, I felt like a...

Inside and upstairs, wooing the Baseball Muse.

I hastily started shooting video of Piazza and Seaver as they walked in from the Bullpen, but my camera was zoomed all the way back.

So, I stopped, zoomed in, and resumed shooting. Seaver threw a perfect strike, and we were ready to rock and roll.

Out of focus, but here's Wright and Delgado throwing around as Piazza and Seaver walk off.

More video, as the Mets take the field for the first time. Note the lack of volume. That's not intentional. There's music playing, but I can barely hear it.

And here's the first pitch.

Pelfrey on the mound, this is after he fell and probably after the cat cameo as well.

First trip to the concession. This was one of the semi-self-serve concession stands that didn't have a ridiculously long line.

Iron Sheff.

Wright's HR. Blurry because I was jumping and screaming.

Reyes up with the bases loaded in the 6th. We know how this ends.

New Apple.

Murphy at the plate.

Exiting, walking through the Field Level to avoid the crush.

Old Apple.

I've said my peace. I'll be back soon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Citi Field Experience

I'm not going to deny the fact that last night at Citi Field was a magnificent, magical night, but I think the whole evening can be summed up in six words:

Beautiful New Ballpark, Same Stupid Team.

Things were just a little bit off for me yesterday, starting with my meeting a friend outside the stadium. We'd agreed on a 6:30 meeting time so that we could get inside for the introductions and the national anthem and the Piazza/Seaver First Pitch to bookend the last pitch at Shea in September.

Well, the Subways weren't cooperating, and his 7 Express suddenly became a 7 Local. By time he arrived, I'd logged enough time staring at the back of Chris Carlin's bald head, listening to an assumedly drunk Craig Carton drop F-Bombs (mostly pertaining to the Yankees) over a hot microphone and listening to Alex Anthony tell me to "Have a Great Time at Citi Field." He came dashing up around 6:50 and we made our way in, through the Rotunda, navigated our way through the Field Level just as they were wrapping up the American Flag and were finally in our seats in time to see Piazza and Seaver walk in from the Bullpen.

(I'd love to show you my pictures and video of all this unfolding, however circumstances beyond my control have prevented me from doing so at this point. You'll have to wait until tomorrow. Or later today, perhaps.)

And, with all that out of the way, it was time to start the game.
And things more or less went downhill from there.

It's rather frustrating that the Mets have a habit of gagging in these marquee games, but given that the team on the field hasn't changed all that much in the 7 games separating my last game from last night, I guess it's not totally surprising that the result was the same. I mean, things started off well enough, Pelfrey fired in a first pitch strike, but then Jody Gerut, in a style reminiscent of a game I went to last season, sent Pelfrey's 3rd pitch screaming down the right field line. It looked to be curvng foul, but it didn't quite get there, tucking itself just barely fair and giving Gerut the first Hit, Run, Home Run and RBI in Citi Field History and pretty much serving as a Buzzkill to the entire evening.

I suppose I could give Pelfrey a pass for that, I think it's awfully easy to be more than just a little amped up on a night like last night. But things took a rather frustrating turn for him in the 2nd inning when, after he somehow managed to trip over himself and fall off the mound with 2 outs and nobody on base, he proceeded to give up four straight hits, including one to the pitcher, and just like that, the Mets are in a 4-0 hole.

Of course, the Mets looked mostly clueless at the plate against the 32-year old Rookie, Walter Silva. They scraped across a run in the 2nd when Castillo doubled in Schneider, which was possible because the Padres gave a good chunk of the line in Right to Castillo, and when he hit the ball that way, it just seemed to roll forever. It wasn't until the 5th when Silva really unraveled, and when Wright hit his HR, tying the game, the crowd was sent into an absolute frenzy and it looked like things were finally going to settle down and go our way.

Nope. Luis Rodriguez started the 6th by lining an at-'em ball right at Ryan Church, who appeared to be battling the ball just a little...And off his glove for a 3-base error. But Stokes and Feliciano appeared to be up to the task of the houdini act of getting out of a man on 3rd, no out jam until puny little David Eckstein started fouling off pitches and taking balls and jumping and pointing and squealing about a Balk that didn't particularly look like a Balk from where I was sitting, and the lead run scored.

I thought that Feliciano should have stuck the next pitch in Eckstein's ear after that.

No matter, though, it's a one-run deficit and the Mets have 4 innings to make it up, and the Padres Bullpen is full of guys you've never heard of, and Heath Bell.

In the 6th, the Mets loaded the Bases before Jose Reyes swung out of his shoetops and flew out to Left.

In the 7th, Wright made a strong bid for his 2nd HR of the game, but his drive to Center died at the Warning track and Jody Gerut ducked a flying beer to make the catch.

In the 8th, Duaner Sanchez reappeared (I didn't know the Padres had picked him up) and set the Mets down 1-2-3, which was pretty galling.

In the 9th, Heath Bell, the newly anointed Padres Closer, came in and threw gas I didn't think he was ever capable of throwing (my thoughts on Bell remain the same. He wasn't good with the Mets and he was never going to be good with the Mets) and the Mets went down 1-2-3.

And, much like the last game I was at, that was that.

Despite the loss, there still seemed to be a festive atmosphere among the crowd. I don't believe what I seem to be hearing from WFAN hosts, the stadium seemed to be plenty loud last night, and loud at the right moments. I think, in the long run, this will prove to be a loud stadium. But there were a few complaints I have about Citi Field. Not many, but a few.

1) Acoustics - The acoustics are pretty bad. I know that there are PA speakers above each section, and I wonder if they were hooked up or turned on, because I couldn't hear any announcements, introductions or music, or anything. Or if I did, it was faint and muffled. If they were on, and it sounded like that, that's a problem.

2) Egress - With now only one ramp, in the Left Field Corner, and only a lot of staircases to get down after the game, the backup to get downstairs after the last out was bordering on insanity. In the Promenade, behind Home Plate, the backup was bad enough that I prompted my friend to follow me further out into Right Field, where it wasn't any better. And when you get an especially drunk fan who might not be well-equipped to walk down the stairs, it could get ugly. People move on the stairs, but it was slow.

3) Concessions - Because I was so late in getting in, I didn't have a chance to get to any of the high-end concessions in the Field Level lest I miss a big chunk of the game. So I stuck to what was in the promenade around the 4th inning. What I noticed was that if you waited in the big courtyard behind Home Plate, you couldn't see the Field, and there weren't any TVs around to see the game on. If you walked out towards the lines, not only could you see the Field, but the Concession stands out there had TVs. Why aren't there TVs at the stands where you can't see the Field?

4) The Team - We've already covered this. But beyond the obvious problems, there's this: You're not supposed to lose the last game in your beloved old Stadium, and you're not supposed to lose the first game in your beautiful new Stadium, and they've successfully managed to do both.

5) Surrounding Fans - I usually tend to have a problem with a few of them. I was in a row where people were going in and out and making me stand up 2 or 3 times per inning. Also, had I known my seats in section 518 were in the same section as the gang of Angry Old Men that used to inhabit UR1, with the bellowing and the chanting and the whining, I would have tried to get seats in another section.

Then, there's the field itself and the way it plays
. What I've noticed is that while the fact that the whole field is encircled makes it appear smaller, the Outfield is enormous. It swallows fly balls completely. The three HRs were hit to Right, Right and Left field respectively. The two to right looked to be about to hook foul, but just barely stayed fair, and carried. But it appears that this may be the only spot in the ballpark where the ball will carry at all. Wright's HR looked to be crushed to Left, but even that ball seemed to die at the end of its flight, and just barely made it into the first row in Left. If you're going to hit a HR to Left-Center, Center or Right-Center, you're really going to have to CRUSH the ball. Wright and Beltran hit deep drives to Center that, off the bat, looked like they had HR written all over them. Both of them died at the warning track. Plus, because it's such a large outfield, it appears that you could just dunk a ball in over 2nd base or shortstop for a hit, and if you get one down the lines, particularly the Right Field line, it's going to roll a long way. This is going to be a great extra-base hit ballpark, but NOT a Home Run park.

Also, it appears that the foul area around Home Plate is larger than normal, particularly around the dugouts. There were a number of popups that I was certain would have reached the seats, but were caught.

Wind does not seem to affect play much. I had a stiff, strong breeze at my back for most of the game (and thanks to the fact that I am a a veteran of April night games, I dressed accordingly, I was just fine), but I didn't see any players get thrown off by balls getting wind-swept, or at least not quite as much as you might see in other wind fields. Remains to be seen.

All things considered, yes, the evening was a buzzkill based on the way the game turned out. But, if nothing else, we're going to have a great time watching them in this magnificent new stadium, which is finally here, finally open and, finally, we're on our way.

Monday, April 13, 2009

This Next One...Is...The First Song...On Our New Album.

Last year, I talked about how I'd been ready for Opening Day for about two months before the day came. I think this year, you can double the time and magnify the intensity factor by about 100%.

For the past 2-3 days, I've been hearing the voice of Howie Rose in my head, as he bellows "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO CITI FIELD, AND THE START OF THE 2009 NATIONAL LEAGUE BASEBALL SEASON IN NEW YORK!!!" A more beautiful sentence, I don't think I could hear on a day like this.

Over the weekend, Rose was talking about how the Mets should be playing the Pirates today, since the Mets first home game ever was against the Pirates in the Polo Grounds, and their first game at Shea was against the Pirates. I think I may be the only one who sees any symmetry in the Mets playing the Padres tonight. It's fitting for me, because the first Mets game I ever attended at Shea Stadium was against the Padres. And on the 20th Anniversary of my first game ever, the Mets played the Padres, and I was at the game. And now, tonight, the Mets will play the Padres in my first game at Citi Field.

There's going to be a lot to get used to for a lot of people as we open Citi Field tonight, and not just for the players on the field, or the fans getting used to a whole new set of stairs, escalators and food options. For me, it will mean the formation of a new series of pregame superstitions. As I'd mentioned, I would always enter Shea Stadium through the same gate, go up the same escalator, walk around through the Loge and then resume up on the same escalator. Now, I've got to figure out a new way to do things. My tickets specify that I enter through the Jackie Robinson Routunda, which I didn't actually get to see in my maiden voyage last weekend. No doubt, this is the easiest gate to get to, even easier than it was to get to Gate E from the Subway at Shea. You get off the subway and you're right there. The Left Field gate holds some potential as well, but you do have to walk a bit to get there. I may never see the Bullpen gate if things remain equal. Where will the program vendors be? What is the easiest route by escalator to get to my seats in the Promenade level? Will the lines at the JRR be ridiculous? I suppose we'll all find out tonight.

One final thought: With the Construction of Citi Field taking up most of the parking lot, it's obscured my view of the action and I've noticed that we haven't had a good Car Fire for a few years, or at least not one that I've been able to see. I think the Opening Day Car Fire is always a good omen for a new season (and our plans to set our own Car Fire last year on Opening Day were thwarted by better judgement), and though the Parking Lot now exists behind the stadium and not in view of anyone watching the game, it is very easy for me to turn around, look behind me and see the entire lot, thereby getting a clear view of any car fires that may occur. I think we're overdue for one, and it should be in order for tonight.

Happy Opening Day, everyone!!!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fighting Words

I know that the Mets/Phillies rivalry is the one that gets all the ink, with the war of words and the mutual dislike and the fact that the fans seem to take more enjoyment in invading each other's ballparks than actually paying attention to the games. But I think that, if the Mets are going to throw down with a particular team, a team that especially deserves to take a few lumps, that would be the Florida Marlins.

It's been going on for a few years now, and nobody seems to talk about it much because the Marlins aren't considered to be much of a factor. But they dusted it up a little bit last season, and they dusted it up a lot in '07, and if you ask me, this team hates the Mets with a passion, and they take just a little too much enjoyment in beating them.

If you're a Mets fan, I don't blame you for focusing your hatred on the Marlins one bit. They deserve our ire just as much as Philly, or St. Louis, or any other team that's done something to piss us off over the years. But the Marlins are a special case. They're the ultimate in inferiority. They play in a ballpark that's completely mis-shapen and wrong for Baseball. Their two World Series Championships came without the benefit of a first-place finish and were immediately followed by a swift and immediate dismantlement of the team. Most of their roster is composed of those pesky, annoying-type players who always seem to play a style of baseball that rubs you the wrong way.

And the past two seasons, they've come into our house, kicked us in the nuts and stood over us and laughed.

I'm sick of it. I'm sick of them. Sick of losing games on walk-off hits in that stupid ballpark, sick of them jumping and yelling and whooping it up like they won a Division Title on April 10th, sick of them talking trash about us while they do the same damn thing.

This weekend series could have taken place at any moment over the last three seasons. Three games that seemed to play out as, basically, every matchup between these two teams in a nutshell. Marlins Walk-off win after a furious Mets comeback. Mets rebound victory despite a late Marlin Rally. Marlin pitcher outdueling Mets ace on a fluke error. One win in three games that the Mets could have easily won if they'd managed to play to the level we expect them to play. Why lay down against these guys? Why play at their level? They're not world-beaters. They're the Fucking Florida Marlins, and I've had enough. The Marlins are not to be taken lightly anymore.

Someone on that team needs to take a fastball in the puss. Forget about the Phillies. The Mets and Marlins are going to brawl this season.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Well, it's official. The Mets will not be going 162-0 this season.

All kidding aside, the Mets first loss of the season unveiled what will more than likely be one of the most confounding and frustrating storyline of the new season.

That would be the curious case of Oliver Perez.

Certainly, after two-plus seasons of watching Oliver Perez do his thing for the Mets, we know by now that we just won't ever know what the hell to expect out of him. He's good, he's bad, he's up, he's down, who the hell knows. But basically, You can sum Oliver Perez up in one sentence: Oliver Perez is a Loser.

Harsh, perhaps. But it's basically true. Oliver Perez is really the worst kind of loser. He's a loser with talent. He's got the talent to tantalize, but ultimately disappoint. He comes up big in games when it's needed most, but, almost always, he comes up frustratingly small in games he should be eating his opponents alive. It's to the point where you really have to question whether or not re-signing Perez last winter was really the smartest idea. True, there weren't any other options, and true, the Mets needed to bring someone in who could give some sort of veteran stability in the middle of the rotation. But we basically know what we're getting with Perez, and that is to say that we know that we can't ever be too sure which Oliver Perez is going to show up. He could throw 7 shutout innings. He could give up 6 runs in 3 innings with 6 walks. Neither one would be a surprise. Sometimes, he's inconsistent within his own games. Thursday's game was such a perfect example of this. Through two innings, you couldn't not be encouraged. He was mixing pitches, spotting everything perfectly and keeping the Reds off balance. Then, he gets a 3-run lead, and he goes and gives it back before the paint even dried. The Mets tie the game, and he goes and buries them the following inning. And he was getting killed by lefty Joey Votto, who, if you read his splits, is someone he should be getting out.

The larger problem exists when you consider the fact that the Mets are counting on Perez to be a major part of their rotation. It's beyond the point where you could truly call him a Key Player. I didn't name him as one of the 5 for this season because there's nothing key about him. You know that he's going to be a basket case, and this isn't going to change. The question, then, becomes why consider him to be a big part of the starting rotation when you know that it's more or less a lock that he's going to shit the bed a good 40% of the time?

I'm sure, when he goes out against Philly or Atlanta and gives up 2 runs on 5 hits in 8 innings, I'll recant all of this and say that Perez is wonderful and we're lucky to have him, but in reality, it just underscores my point. Oliver Perez is a talented pitcher, a solid competitor, and he just seems like an eminently likable guy. More than anything else, I think most people wanted the Mets to re-sign him because they like him. He gets along great with his teammates, all that good stuff. But I don't see how a team that has Championship aspirations can survive knowing that every so often their #3 starter is going to get up on the wrong side of the bed and not be able to sweat his way through 5 innings.

I'd like to say I don't know, and it remains to be seen, and maybe he can be coached up, but I think by now we all know the answer. The answer is we're just never going to know which version of this guy is going to show up on any given day. And it's frustrating the hell out of me.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Feels so Good to Feel Again

So, it took the Mets two games to play their first, official Heart Attack Game of the 2009 season. It seems like sort of a rite of passage for the season, like, we have to sit through this game, watch the Mets fall back, storm ahead, almost blow it at the end, think, "OH NO, NOT AGAIN!" and then sigh a sigh of relief.

Monday's game was a revelation, no doubt, particularly after the way things ended last year. But not every game is going to play out like Monday's game. Some days, the bullpen will be shaky. Some days, the bullpen will blow the game completely. But even if the Mets two victories haven't been sparkling on all fronts, I'll still take them. Whether it's April or September, a bad win is still a win, and that's going to make the difference at the end of the season.

Last night being Passover and me being in Seder-land most of the night, I didn't get to see much of the action. I didn't see Pelfrey struggle through a 44-pitch 1st inning, give up 4 runs, but then settle down to will his way through 5 innings. I wouldn't chalk this up to anything more than Pelfrey pitching in a ballpark where he's had trouble before, on a night where the weather was less than stellar, in his first start of the season, when it's easy to be a little amped up. I'm sure Joe Benigno, the defeatist, is busy screaming right now about how Pelfrey is no good, or at least how he's no Joba (and he's not, in the sense that he didn't make 12 starts and break down) like the Yankee Castrato he is, but that's another topic entirely.

I didn't see the Mets offense show up for the first time this season, either. Delgado and Beltran had already done most of their damage by time I did join the action, which was right around the time Brian Schneider shot a sinking liner into Right Field in the 7th inning, which Jay Bruce somehow slid over, allowing 3 runs to score and the Mets take a seemingly comfortable 9-4 lead in the late innings.

At least, until the bullpen decided to give us a little bit of a wake-up call.

I think, after last season, we all have a bit of the ol' PTSD. Every time things start to fall apart for the bullpen, Mets fans are going to start shitting their pants repeatedly. And last season, it was more than likely a given that once the Reds got going, they weren't going to stop until Laynce Nix's fly ball went out of the ballpark off of Luis Ayala or Scott Schoeneweis whatever poor slob happened to be in the game. In fact, it all started for the Reds against the lone holdover from that bullpen, Pedro Feliciano. But Sean Green got hit, and J.J. Putz got hit (not especially hard, just a shot from Taveras that found a gap), and Francisco Rodriguez looked totally uncomfortable on the mound. That, in particular, was really frightening to watch. It's always comforting to see your new, high-priced closer who was brought in to stop the bleeding like this, go 2-0 on every batter, and walk around the mound wincing and grimacing like he's in some kind of pain. Clearly, there was something up with the mound, or at least that was what I thought since Rodriguez seemed to keep looking down at it with disgust. I don't know. But he basically reminded us all that not ever game will be like Monday, and did his best John Franco impression at the same time.

It's a good reminder that this is a long season, and there's a lot of wacky things that can happen. Man, will it ever be a long season. Especially if we have more games like this.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pleased to Meet You

I've done a lot of photo posts that have reflected the building process of Citi Field, beginning with its formation through to now. I mentioned that Sunday was my first actual trip to Citi Field, and I had plenty of photos to show off, so I'm going to do that now. Of course, I'll have more come Monday night. But, basically, if you haven't been there, here's a chance to see what the fuss is about, and if you have been there, you can share your opinions of the Mets new digs.

This is, truly, my first look at Citi Field, rolling up on the 7 train. Some will remember this photo from last season and remember that this was the view you were used to. Those days are over.

I mentioned the new signage at the Subway station, and here it is in action...
...however, nobody's seemed to mention anything about these old-school signs that haven't been changed or even touched.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand, here we are!

The Subway staircase that I'd made such a big stink about last year now actually looks much more in place with the construction work out of the way.

There are plenty of photos floating around of the mural over the Left Field gate, but here's something not so photographed, the information signs that are all over the place, much more prevalent than they were at Shea.

I ended up going in through the Left Field gate, mainly to beat the crowds at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, however the downside to this is that I didn't actually get to see the Rotunda. So this shot, behind 3rd Base in the Field Level is my first official look at the inside of Citi Field.

Menu at a generic concession in the Promenade. Prices are, for the most part, not dramatically more expensive than they were at Shea. In fact, certain items probably aren't any more expensive at all.

But my first real order of business was to go up to the Promenade level and check out my seats, and here they are.

And here's the view from said seats. Less that tiny sliver down the left field corner, you can see the whole field.
The much-ballyhooed New Apple, which I didn't actually get to see in its raised position.
This is one of the new things I like. This ticket booth is located rather centrally in the Promenade Level food court behind Home Plate. In Shea Stadium, the only internal ticket booth was mostly hidden from everybody, down a dead-end ramp in the Field Level. I called it the "Secret Ticket Booth," because if you didn't know it was there, you missed it completely.

And here's that food court.

And here's that amazing, space-age Citi Field urinal.

These I'm sort of on the fence about. El Guapo likes them, but I have the feeling that having the condiments out like this is just asking for trouble. I can see it now, there's some drunken fans out during a Mets/Phillies game, and all of a sudden there's sauerkraut flying all over the place. This has all the makings of instant disaster.

But, then again, in case you need instructions on how to prepare your hot dog, they've got these signs up for you!

And, after having shown you my final Shea Stadium Hot Dog last September, I present to you my first Citi Field Hot Dog!

It's much easier to navigate your way around Citi Field. Though it's more staircase than ramp, it's a breeze to move between levels. I've moved down from the Promenade to the Field Level, where there's a different selection of food, especially once you get out into the Outfield.

A different, more eclectic and expensive selection, that is. Because, you know, when I think of Ballpark Food, I think of a $17 Lobster Roll.

And here, out past Center Field, is the much-ballyhooed Danny Meyer Alley, replete with Blue Smoke and Shake Shack and the Taco stand...And the skyline from the old Shea Stadium Scoreboard! It survived and made the trip to Citi Field!

Mr. Met and the Sterling Level seats that were conspicuously empty this fine afternoon.

Here's the broadcast booths.

And, one final look back where we started.

I have to say, though I only spent a little over an hour in the ballpark, I think it's going to be great. I think it's going to be a stadium that grows on all of us. I don't think it's necessarily lacking in Mets "feel." I think that's something that will ultimately be created by us, the fans. I think, though, as the years pass, it will seem like more of a home for all of us. It's going to be a fun place to be. I'm looking forward to being back next Monday, and many more times beyond that.