Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cosmic Retribution

Call it Schadenfreude or whatever, I'm really enjoying the way the League Championship Series turned out this year. Although it felt like October just started out with pure misery, just a continuation of what had been a miserable, forgettable season, with an outcome fait accompli, the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants refused to cooperate, refused to lay down at the feet of their supposedly superior opponents, and now find themselves playing in a most unlikely World Series.

THAT's why Baseball's a great game. You never know.

But more than that, it was the way these two series closed out that really felt good. We in Metville are all too familiar with this such outcome, with the guy who was probably the best player on probably the better team taking a called 3rd strike on a killer pitch. We've been taking crap from people for that ever since it happened. That image has been burned into our brains to the point where it's never going to leave, even in better times. It happened, and the Mets haven't ever really recovered. We went from one inning from the World Series, to a pair of final-day fadeouts, to abject embarrassment. It can happen that quickly.

Now, there's certainly no guarantee that the Yankees or Phillies await a similar fate. These are organizations that certainly have better pieces in place, and smarter people at the helm than the Mets did. But these are also a pair of fan bases that love to kick the Mets around. They laugh at us, particularly when it comes to Beltran and that called 3rd strike four Octobers ago. But now, the shoe is on the other foot. Now, it's their turn to watch their sluggers take that 3rd strike. We've suffered enough. Now, it's your turn to see how it feels. It's not so great, is it Philadelphia? You're the better team, at home, with the tying and winning runs on base and your best power hitter at the plate. The crowd is roaring. Their closer is sweating. Everything seems in your favor. But, in a blink, it's gone. And all of a sudden this random, ragtag team is whooping it up on your infield, and you're left with this image all Winter. We've been there. Now, it's your turn.

Hurts, doesn't it?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Restoration of Faith

Fittingly, the guy who was supposedly the best player on the better team, who at one point savaged the prospects of the supposedly lesser team, looked at strike 3 to close out the 2010 ALCS.

With that, some of my faith in the game of Baseball was restored after a long summer that tested my patience.

Congratulations, and Thank Yous are in order to Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Colby Lewis, Cliff Lee, Ron Washington and the rest of the Texas Rangers organization for winning the American League pennant, kicking the Yankees in the nuts and making me believe in Baseball, just a little bit, once again.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Santana Show

I hadn't been to a game in well over a month for one reason or another. Usually I don't miss the entire month of June, but things happen. Tuesday night's game against the Reds was the next game up on my package, and there was no way in hell I was missing it, no matter who was on the field that night. Turned out it was Johan Santana starting for the Mets. I had only seen Santana a couple of times in '08 and just about missed him completely in '09. But as it seems every year that there's usually one guy who starts most of the games I go to in a given season, such has it been with Santana in 2010. Tuesday's game was my 8th of the season, and the 3rd time I've seen Santana.

If there was ever a night to see Santana, last night was the night.

You don't think much about these things early on in the game, and I certainly didn't think about it at all when Brandon Phillips led off the game with a double into the gap in left-center. After Cabrera bunted him over, you almost took for granted that Votto was going to get his bat on something and get that run home. But he didn't. Santana got him on an ugly, excuse-me swing, and Rolen followed by flying out to end the inning.

Quiet through the first few innings, as Reds starter Matt Maloney (whoever he is) was matching Santana. He wasn't getting the first or second pitch flyouts that Santana was, the Mets were working him intensely, but he wasn't getting in jams and certainly wasn't giving up runs. In fact, until Ruben Tejada singled in the 3rd, the Mets hadn't had a hit. So, of course, with Santana up to bunt, Tejada promptly got thrown out trying to steal (My friend contended bunt and run, but I think Tejada screwed up). Well, fine. There goes that. But there was Santana, fouling off pitch after pitch from Maloney. After about 6 or so, I'd lost count, he'd started to get the timing down. After a few more, my friend conjectured that Santana was going to put one in the Pepsi Porch. I didn't think that possible, but on the next pitch, Santana cracked a good shot down the right field line that hooked foul. All right, close. Nonetheless, that didn't make the next pitch any less of a shock.
This pitch was hit similar to the last one, but it was a little higher, and a little farther, and a little straighter, and it was hooking...CLANG! Right into the foul pole for a Home Run! Holy Crap! Well, if nobody else will score for him, why not do it himself!? Santana appeared ready to faint when he came around the bases, probably not from rounding them, but because I don't think he expected to do that either. I don't think anyone had any problems with it, though.

But with that lead, albeit slim, Santana went back to work. And by back to work, I mean he didn't give the Reds much of anything the rest of the night. I know he'd made some adjustments to his windup or whatever, but I think the talk of his demise and how he's no longer an ace may have just gotten to him. He was out there with a bit of a chip on his shoulder these last couple of starts. I think what all the talking has done has made him mad and mean, and he's reflecting that on the mound. He wasn't blowing the ball by people, he was just making everyone make paltry contact and hit lazy fly ball after lazy fly ball, which in this ballpark is going to be an out every time (except when Jason Bay whiffs in the 9th inning). After Phillips' double, Santana allowed a walk to Votto in the 4th, a 2-out single to Cabrera in the 6th, followed by another walk to Votto, and a walk to Miguel Cairo in the 8th, and a single to Rolen in the 9th, and that was pretty much it. Phillips was the only guy who got as far as 3rd base. More impressive was the fact that just about every out came on the 1st or 2nd pitch. By comparison, Maloney had thrown about 60 pitches after 3 innings, and was well over 100 by time he came out in the 6th. Santana didn't crack 100 pitches until the 9th inning.
And there was that 9th inning. Santana had, what was for him, a jam in the 8th when he walked Cairo and fell behind Phillips, but he rebounded to get the next two batters with two guys warming up in the bullpen. The conjecture was that Santana was finished after the 8th and Rodriguez would unfortunately come in for the 9th, unless the Mets could score a couple more runs. But the inning came and nobody was in the bullpen. The inning past and nobody even stood up out there. So, Santana would get the 9th. The crowd was already chanting "JO-HAN! JO-HAN!" in the 8th inning, so you can imagine how loud everyone got when he came out for the 9th. He got Votto very quickly (another 1st pitch out), but then came the Rolen single and the almost unconscionable Jason Bay error, and there was Rodriguez in the pen, and there was everyone screaming for Jerry to stay in the dugout. Nonetheless, Santana was up to 111 pitches and things appeared to be slipping away. Here came Manuel. Here came the boos. No signal went up. Jerry walked away with Santana still on the mound. I was pretty sure that if he tried to pull Santana there, fans would have stormed the field and torn him apart. 2 pitches later, the game was over. True to form, Santana got both Gomes and Stubbs out on the first pitch, Gomes on a screamer that was headed for disasterville if not for a fine play by Ike Davis (otherwise we were looking at 3-1 and Rodriguez surely in the game), and Stubbs on a harmless grounder to Wright. And that put away what was easily the best game I've been to so far this season.
This, hopefully, was a statement from Santana, that the old guy we're used to seeing isn't gone. He was injured last season, but you can expect something special out of him in the 2nd half. We'll see if this is true, but if his start last night was any indication, he's going to be fun to watch the rest of the way this year.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

This Already Happened!

I guess it doesn't matter where they play, if the Mets ever play a game against the Marlins where they fall behind, peck and scrape and fight back to tie the game in a late inning, it's just about inevitable that the Marlins will somehow anticlimactically win the game in the bottom of the 9th in some stupid fashion. It's a Walk-off HR from Cody Ross (who appears to be Joe McEwing against other teams, but Barry Bonds against the Mets), or it's a scratch single by Chris Coghlan, or it's Hanley Ramirez running around the bases. So it wasn't much of a surprise that Dan Uggla came up and poked the winning hit through last night, even after Pedro Feliciano got the first two outs in rapid fashion. It didn't matter what Jerry Manuel decided to do, whether Feliciano pitched to Uggla, Ross, Paulino, Cheech, Chong, Abbott or Costello, the Marlins were going to score in the 9th inning. Because they were playing at "home" against the Mets, and that is how it is ordained to be. And because it's the F-ing Marlins, and because it's a walk off hit against those dastardly Mets, you just knew they celebrated like they just won a title or something, because that's probably the closest they're going to get.

I probably should have seen this one coming, but the Mets have perpetrated too much positive thinking. I was almost lulled to sleep thinking they would come back and tie against this awful Marlins bullpen. I kind of didn't realize what was going on until Cantu hit that double, and even then it didn't hit me. But once Uggla hit his 87-hop Astroturf single that Jose Reyes had no prayer of fielding, it hit me. Oh God! I was following a dead ballgame! Of course this was going to happen!

Predictably, the Mets went to San Juan, where I'm pretty sure they never won a game when it was the Expos "home ballpark" and lost two in a row. Way to keep the good vibes going, guys.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Road Worrisome

Nothing like a nice road trip to a US Protectorate to make you start worrying about the Mets again.

See, these homestands have been so good for the Mets, and that last road trip where they rolled over a pair of doormats really got us pumped up even further, because you thought maybe the Mets were going to pull out of this road trip funk that has plagued them most of the season. But they are playing the Marlins, who already kicked them in the nuts once in their own sorry excuse of a home stadium, and the Mets boast an in-division road record of something like 3-29 this season, so you can imagine how this conglomeration of bad can escalate.

Thus, you have games like last night where nothing goes right.

You figured someone was going to catch up with R.A. Dickey at some point, and of course it was the Marlins, who did their usual pizza party act while beating the Mets in front of a crowd that barely appeared conscious (I'm pretty sure I heard more cheers from the Puerto Rico crowd for the Mets than for the Marlins). I suppose it doesn't make much difference that the Marlins have 4 fans and their stadium is so putrid they decided to stick these games in Puerto Rico. A road game is a road game is a road game and for some reason the Mets seem to look a little bit tardy in these games. It doesn't matter if it's against the Marlins, who, for God's sake the Mets need to start getting a little nasty with, against Ricky Nolasco, who they've faced about 493 times over the past 4 years and they should be hammering mercilessly, but if it's not within their comfort zone at Citi Field, it seems to matter little.

I don't know. Maybe a couple of wins in the next couple of games could serve to make me feel better. That would be nice, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Joie de Vivre

This is #5 of 5 Key Mets Players for the 2010 season.
I know late June isn't exactly the time to start talking about Key Mets Players, but, you see, this is a special case.

I couldn't quite land on who the 5th and final Key Met should have been for the current season. There were too many players who held too important a role to pick just one. Plus there just wasn't enough excitement to really get it up. If the team was sort of haphazardly thrown together, then why exert more energy than necessary. The team was un-finished and my list went un-finished.

However, almost halfway through the season, it's clear who this 5th Key Met is. It's Jose Reyes.

Last season, after Reyes disappeared in May and didn't return, the sentiment towards Reyes, which was tenuous to begin with, seemed to be reaching an alarming level of negativity. Most people I spoke to were tired of Reyes being all sizzle and no steak, and basically considered this season his last chance. And when he came back from his injury and his Thyroid issue and struggled, the naysayers were ready to pounce. "How long before we can just say he sucks?" people were asking. "What sort of trade value do you think he has?"

But eventually, the switch flipped for Reyes. Sometime in late May, those popups turned into line drives, and those line drives started to find gaps, and suddenly, it's 2006 again and Reyes is flying all over the place, leaping and clapping and everything's right with the world. It was a more mature Reyes now, though. You could see it. After he hit a HR against Philadelphia on May 26th, a laser beam into the Mets bullpen, Reyes didn't get homer happy, as he used to do. Instead, that swing stayed level. He kept swinging for line drives, and getting them. Not surprisingly, with Reyes on base, the guys behind him started hitting too, and the end result is that the Mets have been winning games. This was the recipe. Jose Reyes gets on base, makes people sweaty and uncomfortable, and scores a bunch of runs, spurring the Mets on to victory.
More heartening, however, has been the role that Jose has taken on on this ballclub. Because he still exudes that same youthful energy that he's had his entire career, it's easy to forget that he's not a kid anymore. He turned 27 earlier this month, and he's now in his 8th season in the Major Leagues. He's a cornerstone of this era of the Mets, and I think he's begun to realize that. The handshakes and the dancing are still there, and Jose is still Jose, but it seems like he has become a clear leader on this team. You don't see him pop out of the dugout to high-five anyone, now he's staying down the stairs and waiting for people to come back to him. He's smiling, but he's keeping it amongst friends. I still think other players around the league probably don't like him, but that seems to affect him less and less. He's made errors, he's had bad days, but you don't see him pouting or throwing his glove anymore. The energy will probably never go away, but I'm really starting to believe that Reyes is maturing as a person, something we all knew he needed to do in order to succeed. It started when he admitted losing focus, admitted letting things get to him more than they should and letting his exuberance come before his performance. These are things that we're not seeing out of Jose Reyes this season. This season, all I've noticed is that once he came back, he offered no excuses, he's just shut up and played baseball. And as of late, he's been playing baseball pretty damn well.
When we started this blog, we said that Jose Reyes was the most Ballclub player in the Major Leagues, that is, he's the guy who not only plays well, but genuinely looks like he's having fun out there. But for a few seasons, that guy wasn't showing up. It looks like this guy is coming back now. We like that guy. The Mets did really well when he was around. I hope he stays a while.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

YAHOO!

Hey, let's keep this going! Long as we possibly can!

I mean, I know this winning streak won't go on forever, but this is the first time since sometime around May, 2007, that you're going into these games almost expecting the Mets to win. Even when they're going up against the Yankees.

Hisanori Takahashi was a little more Hey-Hey-Hisanori, and a little less like the guy you're thinking should go back to the pen, sort of like he was the first time he went up against the Yankees. For the second time, he shut out the Yankees for 6 innings, but this time the Mets bats backed him up, and the Mets bullpen backed him up, and the result was that the Mets, even in the ridiculous bandbox that is Yankees Stadium, came away with a sharp shutout victory.

I feel like I could jump as high as Jose Reyes right now, because every time you think this is over, every time you think the Mets are going to come back to earth, they end up pulling together to pull out a game. Again, I don't know how long this will last, and I don't know if this is just a hot streak that will turn the other way in August, but for now, this is pretty sweet. Especially when they start beating the Yankees.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What Road Problems?


Yeah! I mean, what road problems?

I know it helps when you're playing miserable teams like Baltimore and Cleveland, but you can't not feel good about the fact that the Mets have gone out on the road and kicked the teams in the nuts that they should be kicking in the nuts. When they left Citi Field, you were sorta worried that they would be something like 3-3 or 2-4 going to Yankee Stadium for the weekend, but here they are, 6-0, and now whatever happens this weekend, the road trip has to be considered a success since they can do no worse than 6-3.

More than that, the Mets are now amazingly 10 games over .500 and right in the thick of the division race, something that seemed a pipedream at the outset. But, here they are. How they're pulling it off is a mystery to everyone, but it's clear that they're not going to lay down, and they're not going to go quietly. I mean, when R.A. Dickey is 5-0 and just looking lights out, you know things are going pretty well for you, right?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cleveland Rocks!

...or, at least, the Mets are rocking in Cleveland.

People in my office have been saying things to me like, "Hey, the Mets are looking good," or "Boy, break up those Mets," and I sort of have to go along with it. Strange as it may sound, the Mets are hot, and they're fun again. Even though I haven't been able to follow any of the games due to my usual summer nonsense, I know what's going on, and I'm enjoying it.

This is what the game generally looks like for me: I am in almost constant contact with a friend who will send me updates via Blackberry Messenger. Usually, I'm sitting in a workshop, taking notes on a speaker or an improv or whatnot. Sometimes, I will steal away for one reason or another, and I'll slip into my office and put Gamecast up on my computer. By time this came around, the Mets were already up 3-0. We take a break, and it's usually the 3rd or 4th inning, and I've got some time to sit back and actually see things unfold for a bit. Then, it's back in for more whatever, and more BBMs, and maybe another opportunity to catch a snippet on Gamecast. If it's tight, I will slip my phone into my shirt pocket and throw the paltry mobile gamecast on there. And if I ever need to know what's going on, I just glance at my shirt. We finish at 10, usually around the time the game ends. But, fear not, I've been keeping track the whole way through. Maybe I'm not super well-informed, but at least I know the haps. And last night's haps were pretty happening.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cleveland Clinic

It was a bit of a clinic the Mets put on last night, even if it was only isolated to a 5th inning that saw them erase an early deficit and take a lead over the hapless Indians. But after falling behind 4-1, the Mets basically nagged the Indians to death with a few singles, Jose Reyes, some smart baserunning and a haymaker from Ike Davis. Suddenly, what was looking like an embarrassing loss turned into a slick comeback victory against a team they should beat.

As usual, I don't get to see much, or any of these games (not having cable notwithstanding, I'm now entrenched in my Summer Theatrics), so I'm relying on the benevolence of my friend to text me updates, or those brief moments where I can slip out and click on Gamecast. But after so many years of doing this, I've become used to following the Mets this way. I can always come home and see the highlights online afterward.

The season is starting to become fun. All of a sudden, the Mets are creeping back up on 1st place and building a steady margin over the .500 mark. It was a surprise to me last week to hear that the Mets were 6 games over .500. But they're playing well and winning the games they're supposed to be winning. In spite of their issues, this is becoming a very cohesive team that plays for each other and, amazingly enough, is fun to watch (or listen or grok, in my case).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cuyahoga

So it's off to Cleveland for the Mets this week. It's rare that the Mets show up in Cleveland (I believe 2004 was their last appearance there). However, it's worth noting that I have my own connections to Cleveland. See, a sector of my family migrated there years ago, and every so often I have voyaged out there. Last Summer, in fact, I made my first trip to Jacobs Field (which is now Progressive Field, since Progressive Insurance pretty much has a stranglehold on the region, and if you like Flo, their ubiquitous spokeswoman, that's the place for you since her face is everywhere. Almost as much as LeBron James' face, for the time being. But that's besides the point. It's Jacobs Field and in my mind will always be Jacobs Field). I don't know how many loyal readers have ever been to Jacobs Field, but it happens to be on a short list of stadia I have been to that aren't Shea Stadium or Citi Field, so I thought I'd share my experience there.

My lone pilgrimage to Jacobs Field came on an oppressively hot (because there are only two real temperatures in Cleveland: Oppressively hot or ridiculously cold) Sunday afternoon last July. The game, between the Tribe and the A's, was eminently forgettable. However, Jacobs Field is a nice, pleasant place to watch a game. It's a very intimate setting. I know that Citi Field was somehow designed with intimacy in mind, but Citi Field feels like the Taj Mahal compared to Jacobs Field. It looks small, and it is small. I sat in field level seats along the first base line, giving me a nice clear view of Cliff Lee (in his last month with the team) and also a good shot of Ryan Garko's (also in his last month with the team) ass. But a quick look to my right and it appeared as though the right field seats were on top of you.

I wore a Mets hat to the game. I figured this was one of those rare chances to be the "Confused Fan," sort of like the guy who wears a Cardinals hat to a Mets/Braves game. As it turned out, I wasn't even the only person there in a Mets hat. While I was circumnavigating the Field Level (much the same way you can at Citi Field), I saw another gentleman in a Mets cap. We briefly nodded in some sad commiseration and went on our way.

People in Cleveland are, in general, a very friendly sort, which is strange considering how depressing the town feels. Jacobs Field, were it in New York, would probably be situated in Long Island City. Even on a Sunday afternoon, with a game to be played, Downtown Cleveland was more or less a ghost town. But the people in the stadium were there, and pleasant. I went up to an information desk to grab a schedule or something, and the guy at the desk gave me a funny look, as if to say, "Aren't you in the wrong stadium?" I said hello and mentioned that I was from New York and this was my first time here. He immediately brightened up and said something to the effect of, "Oh! Welcome! Welcome to our humble little stadium!"

The food at Jacobs Field is relatively unspectacular. I don't know if there is any great cuisine that could be associated with Cleveland, so I guess that makes sense. There is the general selection of fare, hot dogs, sausage, burgers, etc, etc. There's a pub-like section in the Right Field corner. The food costs about what you would expect ballpark food to cost, so anyone who thinks they're getting ripped off at Citi Field, well, you're not alone. The $7 sausage was nice, but what killed me was at the hot dog stand. See, you can get your $4.50 hot dog, or your $5.00 chili dog or whatever. But instead of Citi Field, where you can turn around and bathe in a tub of sauerkraut for free, in Cleveland, THEY CHARGE FOR THE SAUERKRAUT! If you want Sauerkraut, it's an extra 75 cents! I deemed this as sacrilege and walked away, indignant.

There is also a nice, large team store situated behind Home Plate, and an Indians Ring of Fame in a heavily-shrubbed area behind the Center Field fence. Security isn't especially prevalent in Jacobs Field, so you can pretty much have your run of the place up until game time. As I said, Clevelanders are a generally friendly, well-fed bunch so if you're lost, someone will more than likely be glad to point you in the right direction, even if you're rooting for another team (however I cannot vouch for their opinion of Yankee or Red Sox fans).

All in all, Jacobs Field is a nice, quaint, pleasant place to watch a game. I'd have to imagine it's markedly more interesting if the Indians are contending for something, or it's not 95˚ out and you get burned to a crisp (which happened to me. A note: If you're sitting in the Field Level or the Outfield, bring sunblock!). Should anyone ever find themselves in Cleveland when the Indians are in town, it's worth stopping by. Probably because there's a limit to the interesting things you can do in Cleveland (my trips out there have usually consisted of going furniture or appliance shopping with my cousins, or just passing time between meals).

Friday, June 11, 2010

No More Mr. Niese Guy!

I guess I should have gone to that makeup game last night.

We've seen some very encouraging signs from Jonathon Niese thus far this season. While there was certainly no guarantee that he would ascend as the 5th starter this season, he was certainly more worthy of the job than his competitors. But last night's magnificent 1-hitter was something else.

First of all, on the heels of Niese's solid outing last weekend against Florida, it appears Niese has turned a bit of a corner. He's demonstrated an ability to buckle down and get key outs when he absolutely needs to get him. But he was undercut by the fact that he was getting himself into all these jams in the first place. It was a little bit of John Maine in the sense that he just wasn't putting hitters away. Too many dinky hits, too many walks, too many baserunners, and he was toast by the 6th inning of a 2-2 game. The stuff is there. Niese features, among other things, a sick bender, that curve that he really should be able to just drop out of the sky if it's working well. Last night, he appeared to have it working, and the result, allowing simply a 3rd inning hit, speaks for itself.

Second of all, it took away the sting from the first game, where you can decide what the bigger story was. Was it a) Lady Gaga making a spectacle of herself (something that, knowing her, could have easily been staged) or b) Johan Santana having what was for him a pretty lousy game, coughing up an early 2-run lead and giving up too many annoying 2-out, run scoring hits while the Mets had a hard time figuring out Mat Latos.

Either way, by time Niese had finished off the nightcap, which I annoyingly missed out on, the happenings of the afternoon were long forgotten and the Mets capped off yet another homestand that saw them lose 1 game. Now, off to the road. A dicey proposition, except that the Mets have the good fortune of seeing a couple of the worst teams in the league on this trip.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Free Game!

Last night's rainout proved beneficial for me.

See, Wednesday's game was part of the Weekday Plan, which as many of you know I have. Unfortunately, due to my usual theatrics, I was unable to attend last night's game. I had even passed the tickets off to El Guapo. But sometime on Wednesday afternoon, someone came into my office and handed me an envelope with Mets tickets in them, one of which happened to be to that night's game. So after knowing I couldn't go, and already having given away my tickets, here I was, still stuck with a ticket to that night's game.

But then it started raining hard, and around 5pm word came down that the game was called. I notified El Guapo who said he'd give me back the tickets. I still had the 3rd ticket. Whether I decided to go to the makeup game tonight or not was academic. This is Free Baseball we're talking about, essentially. I know I already paid for the tickets (or, at least two of the tickets), but instead of missing a game I had intended to go to, I can now go whenever I please. Rock.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Play It Again, Ike!

Once again, turnabout is fair play.

The Mets and Padres played a fairly similar game just a week ago in San Diego, where the Mets took an early lead in a taut pitchers duel, but San Diego came back late and won the game on a walkoff HR in the 11th inning of a game that you just knew the Mets had no chance of winning.

Last night, the Mets fell behind early in a taut pitchers duel (headlined, not surprisingly, by Mike Pelfrey), came back on a disputed HR from Jose Reyes that was clearly a HR, almost won on an undisputed non-HR by Angel Pagan, and then finally won on a HR by Ike Davis in the 11th inning that didn't bear any sort of questioning since it landed somewhere in the vicinity of the Shea Bridge.

We'll let Ike wear the hero's mantel on this night, and deservedly so, since he's come back to earth a little bit. Let's not forget that the Mets started this uncanny ability to win just about every game at Citi Field on the night he made his first appearance almost 2 months ago. Let's also not forget that he's only spent 2 months in the Major Leagues and he'll have his ups and downs. He's making his ups count, that's for sure, and last night was one such example.

But Ike's heroics wouldn't have been possible without the effort of Mike Pelfrey. Just yesterday, I anointed Pelfrey the new Mets Ace, the guy who you could give the ball to and basically expect a good outing. Well, that's basically what we got. A 9-inning, 103-pitch sweat-fest that saw him not give the Padres an inch after giving up an early run. This has been his M.O. all season long. Once the Mets tied the game, you just knew Pelfrey wasn't going to give it back. Hell, he even said as much after the game. Despite runners in scoring position in the 8th and 9th, Pelfrey just reared back and got the necessary outs to keep the game even and keep the Mets in position for Ike to win it. No, he didn't get the win. But on a night where young, up-and-coming pitchers owned the night, Pelfrey certainly did his best to not be counted out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Overnight Sensation

If you haven't been paying too much attention to the Mets, you probably haven't noticed that their ace right now isn't named Johan.

The Mets ace is going to take the mound tonight against the San Diego Padres. His name is Mike Pelfrey.

I've written plenty about Pelfrey in the past, particularly when he's been going good. It's very easy to get behind Pelfrey to begin with, considering he's a home-grown guy, someone who struggled mightily at the beginning of his career only to find himself during the 2008 season. We all know that he couldn't build on it last year, and at the beginning of this season, he was basically at a crossroads because nobody knew what the hell to expect. But the Mets invested a lot in the hope that he'd return, and they have been rewarded tenfold for their faith.

I don't know if it was the indignation of a poor spring, or frustration over being dropped down to the #4 spot in the rotation at the beginning of the year, but whatever it was, Pelfrey got mad and mean and started putting up numbers worthy of All-Star status.

He started strong early and the hope was that he could keep it up. After a pair of minor hiccups which you could basically just chalk up to days where he just didn't have it, Pelfrey has basically become the guy for the Mets right now. At this point, he's had, what, two bad starts all season? There's no guy in the rotation I feel more confident taking the ball right now than Pelfrey, and that's including Santana (who hasn't been pitching badly at all). That's called being a Key Met. And that's how you remove yourself from Key Met status and put yourself under the Sure Thing column.

It's back. Go Big Pelf.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Home Cooked Fish Fry

Alright, we've already established that the Mets play much better at Citi Field than they do on the road, but this is getting a little ridiculous.

Not that I'm complaining. Anytime the Marlins, who as any reader here knows I am no fan of, come in here all high and mighty after sweeping 4 from the Mets mere weeks ago, and come out of here having had the revenge sweep handed to them, you can't help but feel good. Home streak or not, it's always fun to kick the Marlins around and make them suffer in the process.

Not that any of these games were particularly easy. The Mets sandwiched a pair of frenetic comebacks around a brilliant performance from Jonathon Niese to do it. It's nice to see Niese back and doing his thing, but more surprising is the way they have hung around in games where they've fallen behind early. Sunday, in particular, was a good example of this. After Takahashi, who seems to have come back to earth a bit, fell in a deep hole, things seemed somewhat hopeless. But the Mets, in a trait that wholly avoided them last season, hung around, chipped away, and out of nowhere there's Jeff Francoeur hitting a game-tying HR, and then they're scraping the lead run across in the 8th, and there's K-Rod making it hairy in the 9th, but, hey, Cody Ross, little bitch that he is, struck out to cap off a rather sweet sweep.

So, now, here are the Mets, sitting just a tick above .500, hanging around on the fringes of contender-ship. It's markedly better than anyone really wanted to give them credit for, and a lot can be said about the way they've done it. That is to say, they've been doing it without major (or any) contributions from a lot of the guys you'd figure would be in the thick of it (Bay, Francoeur, Beltran), Wright scuffling half the time and Reyes taking weeks to find his sea legs. It's been less them and more guys like Angel Pagan, who seemed to spend most of the offseason learning how to play baseball, and the catching tandem of Barajas and Blanco, and perhaps most surprising of all, R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi pitching well. These are guys who were unceremoniously plonked in the middle of the rotation. These are guys whose signings were met with scoffs and laughter. But they're winning games for this team. The contributions of these guys have meant that we can't just go to sleep on the Mets, as much as it feels like we should at times. These games they're losing are usually fairly winnable (last Monday notwithstanding). And right now, this is anyone's division. This Summer is going to be kind of interesting.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Willed To Lose

The Mets seem to find an awful lot of ways to lose road games, usually by coughing up a late lead or pecking and scraping back from a deficit only to have some schmo hit a walk-off HR in extra innings, but I think yesterday's game is the first time this season that bad vibes caused the Mets to lose.

Consider that Johan Santana just pitched his heart out for 7 innings and 123 pitches, and by all rights deserved to win the game. Consider also that the Mets scratched out 1 run and spent the rest of the game not hitting and looking their usual putrid selves with bats in their hands. Consider also that these Padres are one of those annoying teams that creeps and pecks and scrapes and gnaws until there's nothing left but a carcass. Add all that up and you just had a bad feeling that the Mets weren't going to win this game 1-0. And I'm pretty sure that about 95% of Mets fans felt this way. Therefore, the collective stink just willed the Mets to lose. One strike away and Frankie Rodriguez naturally allowed David Eckstein and his .238 OPS to hit a dinky little single to score the tying run.

It would have been very convenient if Eckstein had scored on Gonzalez's subsequent double, because it would have spared us the prolonged misery. The game was already dead, I figured it was just a matter of time before someone like Chase Headley or Will Venable or Luis Salazar hit a walk-off HR to win the game. But nooooooooo, the Mets rose up and threw Eckstein out, thereby allowing them to spend two more innings looking foolish before Adrian Gonzalez hit the almost totally predictable walk-off grand slam.

These losses are frustrating, but what can you do when the Mets basically fell victim to their own self-fulfilling prophecy? It's OK, though. They're coming home. Expect them to win as many games this homestand as they lost on this road trip.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

HOORAY! HOORAY FOR THIS!

Well, when in doubt, just give the ball to Mike Pelfrey, let him throw 7-8 innings, give up 1-2 runs and just hope the offense can back him up. More often than not, this strategy seems to work for the Mets, primarily because Pelfrey has been equal to the task just about every time it's been asked of him.

Last night's game in San Diego was no different. With the Mets screaming, and I mean absolutely screaming for a road victory to stop this insanity, Pelfrey went out, licked his hands, and threw his 8 innings, and the Mets bats gave him a small smattering of runs to stick in his pocket while he did it.

It's enough to make you jump for joy, watching Pelfrey pitch, because right now he's not just looking like the best pitcher on the staff, which is what we were tantalized into thinking he would be, but he's even looking like one of the top pitchers in the league right now. But more than that, Pelfrey has been a stabilizing force in the rotation. Never mind how he's been the anti-Maine or Perez or whoever else has been awful, but he came in when the Mets needed him to throw a lot of innings and keep the game manageable, and that's exactly what he did. No need for Elmer Dessens or Igarashi, or Feliciano, or Nieve, or whatever else the Mets would slop out there to get to K-Rod, Pelfrey's actions basically said, "Sit down, you clowns. I'm doing this myself."

I'm waiting for him to start finishing off some of these games, though. I think they'll come before too long.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Nautical Disaster

I'm starting to think I should just not bother following the Mets when they go on the road. Very little good seems to happen to them there.

Following an eminently forgettable weekend series in Milwaukee, where the Mets were undone primarily by the usual problems that have plagued them all season, the Mets steamed into San Diego and Petco Park, where I believe they've never won a game, and continued to look like a bunch of assholes.

I'm not quite sure how the Padres are doing it, because they aren't a good team. They are Adrian Gonzalez and the Del-Tones, more or less, but somehow they lead this division. Outside of Gonzalez, there's not a single name in that lineup that will strike fear into anyone's heart. Yet, here they are, with Jerry Hairston hitting grand slams, and Chase Headley and Nick Hundley bopping around, and David Eckstein continuing to piss me off, and all of a sudden "Hey, Hey, Hisanori!" turned into an embarrassing 18-run debacle that ended with Oliver Perez taking his lumps at the end of the game (I'm biting my tongue on Ollie at this point, because what's the use, but suffice it to say I think it's about time someone pulled a Tonya Harding on him). All this added up to yet another road loss, yet another mostly lifeless outing, and yet another game where the Mets managed to generate some offense and failed to back that up with any sort of tangible pitching.

I realize that the Mets have every right to feel as though they are contending, but, really, how can you seriously call them contenders when they have 7 road wins on June 1st? I'm not looking forward to the rest of this series at the Dog Run.

Friday, May 28, 2010

000000000000000000000000000

That's not some binary code I'm th rowing at you, that's the line score for the Phillies in their most recent trip to Citi Field. Doesn't look like much, does it?

You never see these kind of things coming, and usually it's a pleasant surprise when they do. Three straight shutouts of the best offensive team in the NL, however, is something else entirely. I don't know where it came from, I don't know how they managed to pull it off, and I sure as hell don't know if they'll keep it up, especially considering this is something they haven't done in 41 seasons.

It takes some luck, yes, and that's what got the shutouts. But it also takes a good deal of skill simply to get the victories. Pelfrey proved that last night by punching his way through the middle innings, protecting a 1-run lead by serving up his specialty: The inning-ending, ground ball double play. Hamels was certainly up to matching him, at least until he ran out of steam in the 7th inning, allowing the Mets to tack on a pair of runs that pretty much iced the game, or at least iced it as much as you can consider a 3-0 lead iced.

In a series like this one, a 3-0 lead was apparently insurmountable. Go figure.

So, the Mets are back, once again, after another one of these rip-roaring homestands where they lost 1 game and won all the others. They're hot again, people are excited again, everything's wonderful in Metville. So long as they don't go to Milwaukee and San Diego and lose 4 of 6. Then everyone's head is on the chopping block once again. Hopefully this time they've gotten hot and will stay hot for a little while longer.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hey, Hey, Hisanori!

So, I think it's time we start gushing over Hisanori Takahashi.

Last night was my 7th game of the season at Citi Field. After 4 quick wins out of the gate, I'd sat through a pair of games where I either froze my ass off while the Mets looked lifeless, or sat comfortably while the Mets looked lifeless. Last night, I sweated out a rather easy Mets victory.

Obviously, I'll take the latter every time.

While Jose Reyes provided much of the sizzle in last night's game, between his 1st HR in well over a season, and his acrobatic leaping catch to end the game, it was Hisanori Takahashi who really provided the thrill, going out and throwing 6 shutout innings for the second time in a row.

Takahashi was near-heroic in his effort against the Yankees, constantly getting in and out of trouble by basically throwing everything he wanted to throw exactly where he wanted to put it. I called him the Anti-Oliver Perez and I think that's quite fitting because not only does he throw strikes, but he seems to almost always keep things under control. The Yankees appeared to always just get close to getting to him. Last night, the Phillies didn't even appear that close. Aside from a bunch of singles and one well-struck double, the Phillies only managed to get two runners on base in the 6th, and of course Takahashi responded by striking out Ryan Howard and getting Jayson Werthless to fly out.

Basically, Takahashi has demonstrated that he knows how to pitch, he knows what he has to work with, he knows when to show what he has and he knows where he needs to put his pitches. How long this success will last, I don't know. But for now, he's the answer in the rotation, I don't think there's any debate about that.

Meanwhile, after the Phillies threatened and were turned away in the 6th, there were the Mets, coming out on offense and basically stopping and demoralizing the Phillies by tacking on 3 more runs and essentially putting the game out of reach. The Mets had been running at will against Joe Blanton all night. After a well-struck double from Wright, Angel Pagan laid down a textbook bunt single and appeared to have taken off for 2nd before Rod Barajas even stepped in the batter's box. Barajas followed with the double to plate both runs, and Reyes came up later and iced the game with a single.

The crowd was alive in a way I haven't felt much at Citi Field, primarily because there was never a reason to. Yes, there were plenty of Phillies fans. No, they didn't have much to talk about, and when they did, it appeared there were plenty of Mets fans shouting them down. In the stairways after the game, the chants were all in our favor, and all over the place. It was the kind of magic I haven't felt since Shea. It's nice. I hope it keeps up. I mean, can they? Think about it. Back-to-back shutouts of the best offense in the league by pitchers named Dickey and Takahashi? Jose Reyes back? Rod Barajas anchoring the offense? What's going on here? I was about to leave this team for dead just 5 days ago. If this is what's going to happen, maybe I should start calling people out more often.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Picking Your Spots

I wonder if it took facing the Yankees, a familiar foe from his Red Sox days, for Jason Bay to finally start to get on one of his hot streaks. After a 4-hit game on Saturday night, Bay finally flipped that power switch and knocked out a pair of HRs, not only aiding the Mets to a game and series win, but also tripling his HR output for the season and (hopefully) signaling that he's finally going to go on one of his tears.

I haven't especially worried about Bay or his slow start, because he really doesn't seem like he's pressing or bothered by any of this. Pressure doesn't seem to wear on him like it does on a few of his teammates. It's as though he knows the hits will come, just be patient and stick with it and the numbers will go up. But he certainly knows when to step it up and get some big hits, and last night proved that.

I still maintain that Bay just makes the Mets feel a little more professional. I wouldn't get down on him at all even if he goes back in the tank, because in the long run, I'm pretty confident that we're going to like this signing. I can see him maybe having a Beltran in '05 season, not quite right, and then coming back the next year and lighting it up. Hell, he could come back in the 2nd half and light it up.

Then, there's Johan Santana, who had a lot to prove himself, given that the last time he took the mound in The Biggest Game In The Galaxy, he got lit up by the Phillies, and the last time he took the mound against the Yankees, he got lit up. But, with the Mets primed to steal this series (one in which they were one stupid error and one key hit away from sweeping, honestly), Johan came out and looked like the Johan we're used to seeing. He was unusually economic with his pitches and he kept the Yankees off balance and off the scoreboard and basically just wagged his finger at everyone as if to say, "Don't write me off just yet..."

This rubber game business has seemed to always be a problem for this particular incarnation of the Mets, so it's particularly important to look at the performances by Santana and Bay last night and see how they stepped it up a little bit when the Mets needed them to. I'm not totally convinced that the Mets are going to go on another hot streak just yet, if they come back on Tuesday against Philly and knock them around, maybe I will be, but if they are, you can look to a game such as last night's as an instance where the Mets best players played their best and basically willed them to victory.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Our Savior!

I think Saturday night's Mets win could fall into the "Holy Crap, they won!" category, primarily because I don't think anyone really figured it would happen.

I think we can thank Mike Pelfrey for that one. In fact, if you're Jerry Manuel and the rest of the coaching staff or the other folks I called out on Friday, you're probably ready to kiss Mike Pelfrey's feet right now. Jason Bay, too, but Pelfrey first, since this is probably the 2nd time this week he's pulled everyone's asses out of the fire. Or has he just been doing it all season. Probably both. Basically, he's been the only pitcher who's gone out every time this season and pitched like it mattered. Even the couple of starts where he wasn't that great, he managed to will his way through it (or he was just undone by his defense).

Last night, he navigated the Yankee lineup masterfully. And not only that, he actually got some early runs to work with, making the task a little easier. Wright and Bay, who have been a couple of the chief culprits of the Mets offensive ineptitude, chipped in with a bunch of hits, and a few key RBIs as well as the Mets built up a 5-1 lead that, try as they might, the bullpen couldn't quite manage to hand back to the Yankees. No, the bullpen hasn't been great lately, but if I were going to point to a primary culprit, it would be their overuse rather than their not being good pitchers (hear that, Jerry!?). The 8th got a little frightening, but fortunately K-Rod was able to come in and stop the Yankees, because another stupid error, or a blooper that fell in for a 3-run 2B seemed imminent.

So, even. No Mets getting swept. No alarm bells throughout the organization, no imminent heads rolling. Not yet, anyway. Now, a chance to win the series if they can pull it together again tonight. That would be nice, wouldn't it?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wasting Time

I seem to have a problem, lately, of starting posts, but not finishing them until a substantial amount of time later. It's either I'm tired because I'm working too late and getting up too early, or I'm tired because I sat through a 3 hour, 18 minute crapfest that masqueraded for last night's Mets/Yankees game.

If this is how the Mets are going to come out and start what's probably the make-or-break homestand of the season, then they may as well just start canning people right now, because this was pretty pathetic, both from the players and the manager's standpoint.

Predictably, the Mets went out against the much-maligned Javier Vazquez and made him look brilliant. Vazquez has been having his lunch fed to him on a regular basis all year long. So, of course, he no-hits the Mets into the 5th inning.

On the bright side, Hisanori Takahashi came out and pitched a heroic ballgame. You couldn't help but be a little skeptical, given the recent history of Met spot starters, but Takahashi clearly would have none of that. Not only did he pitch well, not only did he get out of jams, but he THREW STRIKES! It was like watching the anti-Oliver Perez out there. By the 4th inning, he'd thrown about 90% strikes, he only walked one guy in his 6 innings and he got every key out. The argument could have been made to keep him in, but you figured 6 innings was about all he was good for. I wasn't raring to see him navigate the Yankees lineup a 4th time, so pulling him wasn't the wrong move.

The wrong move was who Manuel went to to replace Takahashi.

When I saw that Elmer Dessens was warming up, I hoped it was a mistake. I thought he'd been cut, never to return. But there he was, on the team, starting the 7th inning. I've always felt that Elmer Dessens on the roster was like some bad joke or something. And almost like clockwork, he gave up a hit, Cora made his horrendous and egregious error (funny how Mets 2nd basemen always look their best against the Yankees), and Kevin Russo, with all of 1 Major League hit and 0 RBIs, drove home both runs. And right then and there everyone knew the game was over.

By time the 9th rolled around, most of the Mets fans in the crowd had left. With 2 hits to that point, who could blame them? Fortunately, the Citi Field Subway Series crowd seems much more civil and pleasant to be around than they were at Shea. The transplanted section of Bleacher Bums was nowhere to be found. Not that that made us feel any better. With Rivera in to protect the lead, the final seemed academic. At least until Bay reached out for a 2B that nearly got out, and Ike Davis followed with a rope to the wall in right center (proving the point that Ike Davis owns Mariano Rivera. Owns him!). A glimmer of hope! A chance with Wright at the pl...Oh. He grounded out. Never mind.

Pelfrey tonight, but what does it mean if nobody can get a hit?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Spring Cleaning, Revisited

This weekend's Subway Series and the 3 game visit from our friends in Philadelphia is basically Jerry Manuel's last stand. I don't think that's being dramatic at all. If things don't go well, he's going to be fired, and I don't think any Mets fans will complain about it.

There's a sort of sick, sinking feeling that's surrounding the Mets right now, particularly as they continue to go out and make the same stupid mistakes, put forth the same lifeless efforts and come up with the same frustrating losses. It's beginning to become evident that most of the Mets fans who aren't complete idiot lunatics like myself have just become fed up and stopped going to games. I don't think the Mets are even on pace to draw 2,000,000 fans right now, and if you go by people who actually show up to games, 1,000,000 is a dicey proposition.

So, what's the solution? Well, right now, the Manuel death watch has begun to reach Willie Randolph-like proportions. The only difference is that Willie had that quick-talking likability that made everyone overlook the shortcomings until it became painfully obvious that he'd lost the team. But basically, May, 2010 feels an awful lot like May, 2008. While the people's choice to replace him is our beloved Bobby Valentine, it seems like the organizational choice is bland, boring Bob Melvin whose track record in Seattle and Arizona is about as memorable as, say, Mike Cameron's tenure with the Mets: Short, unspectacular and quickly forgotten about.

But it's not just Manuel that's the problem. Dan Warthen needs to go, too. Probably the training and conditioning staff as well. I'm surprised that we don't discuss this more often, but doesn't anyone find it sort of strange that EVERY Mets pitcher has had some strange issue with their velocity dropping? It's not just Maine and Perez, it's EVERYONE! If it's a couple of guys with injury problems, that's one thing. If the entire staff has this issue, the coach needs to do some explaining. Why is Santana now throwing 89-90 instead of 93-94? Why is Niese not throwing his curve? Why can nobody seem to throw Strike 1? And say what you will about Rick Peterson, but who was the pitching coach when Maine and Perez were pitching so well? And who was the pitching coach when it was a tall order to ask the Mets bullpen to get 3 outs without screwing up the game at the end of '08? I can't even give Warthen credit for Mike Pelfrey's resurgence, because I think he just got mentally tougher and learned to trust his stuff as opposed to anything Warthen would have done for him. It's at the point where I cringe when I see him waddling out of the dugout. So you can get rid of him too, I don't think anyone's complaining.

Finally, there's beloved Ho-Jo. Mr. Met, the organizational hero. The only guy who survived the 3:14am massacre in 2008. I thought he should have been fired then, and guess what? He should be fired now, too. Much like it's a little too strange that the entire pitching staff stopped throwing hard and can't throw strikes, it's a little too strange that half the offense seems to have no concept of bat control or situational hitting. Not to mention the fact that Jose Reyes still isn't hitting line drives. I could waste more breath discussing this, but, quite honestly, I don't have the energy. Just get rid of him. I don't care if he was an '86 Met, we can remember him for that forever. HE'S NOT A GOOD HITTING COACH! FIRE THAT ASS!

So, there's the Spring Cleaning for 2010. That might solve a few problems, or at least wake some of the players up. If that doesn't work, then it's time to start getting rid of some of them, too. You hear me, Jeff Francoeur, Luis Castillo, Alex Cora and Gary Matthews, Jr.? You're all next on the hitlist if things don't start to get better. The NL sucks right now and all that needs to be done to keep things interesting is to just hang around on the fringes of the Wildcard race and get hot late in the year. We know this team can get hot in fits and starts. But if they play like this for 3 months, it's not going to make a damn difference come September.

The annoying thing about the way this is playing out is that if the Mets have a good week, everyone stays. Even Omar, who ought to get the axe too if the house is going to be cleared out. Part of me almost wants the Mets to get swept and embarrassed just to expedite the process.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In Spite Of...

I'm not sure, but if I were John Maine, I probably wouldn't be too vocal about my displeasure over being pulled from last night's game. While I admire his determination, there's clearly something wrong with him. In fact, there's something wrong with most of the team.

Things lately have been dissolving into early-2008 around here. Everyone is grousing, people are calling for everyone to be fired, and for all I know this could happen pretty soon if things don't go well this upcoming weekend.

Maine's been particularly putrid lately, and it's sort of been a microcosm of the team. He goes out there and clearly, he's trying, and clearly he wants to do well, and, hell, we all want him to do well, but he's just not right. Optimally, he'd be throwing around 92-93mph, where he was when he was doing so well, but right now 2007 seems like a generation ago, and that time seems like a joy as compared to this dreck. And it's beginning to become a liability. I mean, this guy started off his last start by throwing 12 straight balls. Who does that? Seriously, who does that on the Major League level? That's High School crap. I mean, it's well and good that Warthen and Manuel finally tired of the Oliver Perez shit show and threw him in the bullpen, so let's throw Maine in there as well. Let Takahashi start, he's basically been their caddy for the first 6 weeks anyway.

So, fine. Maine's out, in comes Raul Valdez, part of the mixed bag that the Mets bullpen is, and somehow he throws 5 innings and keeps the Nationals at bay, while they go out and beat up Luis Atilano, who showed the Mets what was what just last week. An encouraging sign since the Mets used to do the exact opposite, but, then again, they saw Livan Hernandez and his heap of crap all the time last season and they couldn't manage much off him last night. Of course, 10-1, a lead that appeared to be windowdressing at the time, got whittled down to 10-7 when that mixed bag bullpen seemed to have a collective attack of 2008-itis. But, they hung on. In spite of themselves.

These victories in spite of themselves are getting all too familiar. I don't like where this is heading. They're starting to become what we thought they were, and that's not a good thing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pulling a Dick-Out

So, it's come to this. Rolling into Washington behind R.A. Dickey. It's almost as promising as when they came in with Brian Lawrence. Yes, Dickey has pitched well in AAA this season, and even threw a perfect game of sorts, but let's face it: Dickey is the consummate 4A guy. Looks great in the Minors, call him up and it's a mixed bag.

I know this may not happen, but I just feel like the situation is rife for Dickey to come in, flutter his knuckleball around and get lit up for 7 runs in 2.2 innings. That's the way things seem to be going for the Mets lately.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Out In The Cold

At the end of the 6th inning of last night's long, frigid affair, El Guapo had had enough.

"I hate to be a dick," he said, "But it's late, and I'm cold, and I have to be up early tomorrow."

And with that, he departed.

I can't say I blame him. In retrospect, I should have gone too. Silly me and my sticking it out to the end, blindly hoping the Mets would do something positive.

Didn't happen. In fact, not much seemed to go positive for the Mets last night in what basically amounted to an eminently forgettable night at Citi Field.

Neither pitcher appeared to be especially sharp. Maine was, well, Maine. He got into and out of all sorts of trouble all night long, but was fortunate to only be scored upon on a pair of HRs in the 3rd inning. His sweaty, 30-pitch 1st inning was matched, however, by Washington's Luis Atilano, one of those pitchers I'd never heard of before the game. Of course, after walking some guys and loading the bases in the 1st, the Mets managed not to score, and you sort of knew right there that the Mets weren't going to win this one. Almost like clockwork, Atilano settled down and started getting the outs he needed to get. The Mets got all sorts of guys on base and managed to screw it up each and every time. This, compounded with the howling wind and ridiculous cold for May 10th left me in a pretty foul mood by time Jason Bay struck out to end the game. Basically, I could sum it up as follows:

Maine Sucked.
The Offense sucked.
The situational hitting sucked.
The bat control sucked.
The weather sucked.
Everything else sucked.

I don't think much more needs to be said on the matter.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Blame Everyone Else!

Since Oliver Perez was all too eager to blame the unseasonably cool, windy weather for his putrid performance yesterday, I guess we should just take it easy on him, rather than lambasting him for once again stepping on the mound and vomiting out another gutless performance against the Giants.

It wasn't his fault, really. The Mets came back and had a late lead and Jennry Mejia gave up that late HR to Rowand that would ultimately sink the Mets. I mean, that was the first HR Mejia had allowed all season, and into the teeth of a howling wind that echoed all over NYC. So you know it was probably really tagged.

I mean, let's just cut poor Ollie some slack here. It's difficult for a guy who's been in the Major Leagues since 2002 to prepare himself in such harsh conditions. We should be fortunate that he was able to get 44 of his 98 pitches over for strikes on a day like this. How many of us woke up, felt that cold permeating through our apartments and didn't even want to get out of bed? Let's give Ollie some credit for his stick-to-it-iveness and his guts and guile in taking the ball and giving us his all.

Let's blame David Wright, who struck out 4 times, and then petulantly whined and screamed to the umpire after his last strikeout. I mean, who does he think he is? How dare you question the umpire's judgment. He's had a tough enough day standing around while poor Ollie struggled to find the plate.

For that matter, let's blame the rest of the Mets offense for fighting back from the hole that Ollie had put them in after his courageous performance. I mean, if Ollie gave it his best and walked 10 guys in 3+ innings, how can the Mets offense then show him up by getting some hits and scoring some runs to take him off the hook, and deprive him of that loss that he so richly deserved. I mean, he worked particularly hard for that loss, and now all he has to show for it is a measly no decision.

Perhaps, in the future, we'll take it easier on Oliver Perez. I mean, it's a tough game, and he's a tough guy. It's hard to throw strikes.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Catch The Excitement!

I love our Catchers! Always did!

So if it's not Rod Barajas stepping up to save the Mets from imminent peril, we can always look to Henry Blanco to follow suit.

Since I was stuck in my legendary meeting all afternoon on Saturday, I missed the game completely, only being able to have any clue what was going on via periodic text messages from my friend, who is fortunate enough in his life to actually have his Saturdays free more often than not, something that appears to be beyond my realm.

What I missed, it seems, was Johan Santana following in the shoes of Mike Pelfrey and rebounding from a patently awful start in Philadelphia to pitch tolerably well into the 8th inning, the Mets bullpen coughing up the lead, and a Catcher coming up and hitting a walkoff HR, followed by the Mets jumping around like idiots for the second day in a row.

I mentioned it the other day, but Blanco, like Barajas, has really been an unsung hero for the Mets thus far this season. Blanco hasn't done it with the bat quite as often as Barajas, but nonetheless, he's been great behind the plate, particularly with his handling of Mike Pelfrey during his renaissance, and also with his stellar work throwing out would-be basestealers. It's nice to see, particularly considering that Barajas and Blanco seemed to be a step down from Santos and Thole, or even from Schneider and Castro when we looked at them about a month ago. But sometimes, these moves have a way of working out, even if Omar Minaya is somehow prominently involved. Barajas and Blanco, to this point, have made Omir Santos virtually obsolete and have stuck Josh Thole in the minor leagues for the foreseeable future. Nobody could have figured it, nobody could have banked on it, nobody knows how long this is going to last. Right now, who cares? If they're getting the job done and the Mets are winning some games, that's all that matters, right?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Our Turn Now!

I'm starting to like this Barajas fellow.

In spite of the fact that I shortchanged his career-high HR total (seems I missed him hitting 21 with the Rangers in 2005), Barajas just went out and hit a couple more last night, including the Walk-off shot that pulled our asses out of the fire and saved us from another extra-inning affair that could have gotten ugly. You know, like the other two the Mets played this week.

But Barajas stopped the game from getting that far, aided by his multiple-HR compatriot, Ike Davis, who picked a fine evening for his first career Multi-HR game. In fact, for most of the evening, Davis was the story of the night. His first HR, a shot that Howie Rose referred to as "Strawberry-like," scraped off the front of the Pepsi Porch. The second one went to dead center, a part of Citi Field where most Mets haven't been able to hit the ball in the past year plus. Behind Mike Pelfrey, who seemed perfectly fine following his shoulder scare of earlier in the week, the Mets looked to be cruising right along to a victory over the Giants.

Until John Bowker (you know, the great John Bowker) came up against Rodriguez and hit a tying HR that was reminiscent of one of Ike's shots. That sort of took the wind out of everyone's sails. But, fortunately, it was only temporary, thanks to our new savior Rod Barajas in the last of the 9th, who hit a towering shot into that part of Citi Field where it looks like it's going to go out off the bat, but then there's that moment of abject horror where the ball looks like it just hangs there for a little bit, and it's going to end up either clanging off the top of the wall, or worse, falling short and being caught. Even Howie Rose wasn't quite sure where it was going to end up, but it managed to make its way into the seats, ending the game and re-igniting everyone's spirits. Nice to finally have a Walkoff HR in Citi Field, nice to see the Mets jumping around like idiots, nice to finally do the walking off and the idiot jumping than having it done against us.

I hope to see it a few more times this season. Maybe even when I'm present.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

2-4 Forever

Didn't we just see this garbage?

At least on Wednesday afternoon, I didn't actually think that some ridiculous Reds retread would come up and hit the Game Winning HR. Which is probably why that's exactly what ended up happening.

These weekday afternoon games are always sort of strange, because instead of sitting in the comfort of my own home, listening to the game in my underwear*, I'm listening to the radio in my office. Usually, this means I've got people calling me, or talking to me, or my boss is yelling for something, or someone needs a cookie, or whatever. Point is, there's usually some kind of distraction going on, so I can't pay the kind of attention I'd like to pay to the matter at hand. Even if there's someone in my office who happens to be a Baseball fan, it usually ends up with some sort of baseball-related discussion that ends up distracting me from the game.

That's not to say that I'm 100% locked in to games when I'm listening at home, but at least when I'm at home, my distractions are caused by my own volition, and not by someone asking me to turn a printer on.

Point is, usually, when the Mets have games like this, and I'm listening in my office, it's sometimes difficult for me to grok what's going on in the game, so things tend to get lost. I knew that Johnny Cueto sort of lost the plate in the 3rd inning, when the Mets scored, and I also knew that Jon Niese was dancing in and out of trouble as per usual. From what I could gather, Niese seemed to be a bit more hittable than usual, but I didn't really notice until he started giving up HRs. I didn't realize until later that he'd given up a whopping 12 hits in his 6 innings of work. Niese has been very good at getting the key outs when he needs them most, but that's bordering ridiculous. 4 runs isn't great, but it seems like he was pretty fortunate to have escaped only allowing the 4.

But, the Mets fought back.

But, as usual, the Mets couldn't get that key hit when one could have tilted the game in their favor.

But, Hisanori Takahashi (the Anti-Ken) pitched magnificently once again, keeping the game tied.

But, Feliciano came in in the 10th, and gave up the leadoff HR to Cabrera, and that was the end of that.

Fittingly, I had no idea who was up, only that I heard "And a high drive..." and some cheers, which is pretty self-explanatory, you don't need to know who hit it, only that it went out in a situation like that.

So, the Mets come back home after yet another 2-4 road trip that seems to have undone a lot of the good will generated by the 9-1 homestand. Is this how the season is going to go?

*Note: I don't always listen to the game in my underwear. It's just good to say that for dramatic effect.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Iron Rod

I was out last night and given a rare opportunity to actually watch the Mets game, and apparently I picked the right night to do so.

I didn't see any of the early part of the game, and when I finally found myself in front of a TV, things seemed to go from bad to worse for the Mets. It started out with Fernando Nieve getting two quick outs, and then giving up two long HRs to Votto and Rolen (who I thought died 4 years ago).

I really know how to pick my spots.

Nonetheless, I stuck around and drifted in and out of attention as the game moved to the 9th. I figured another extra-inning game was imminent until Rod Barajas stepped up and hit one out against Francisco Cordero. A night that had seemed to take a rather frustrating turn had unexpectedly become more palatable, and looked even better when Rodriguez locked up the win shortly thereafter.

Rod Barajas! Who knew? On Opening Day, I didn't even realize he was on the team. I figured it made sense, he seemed to fit in with the slew of Fat Hispanic Catchers the Mets seem to be so fond of (though Barajas is from California, he appears to be of Mexican descent). To that point, I'd only known Barajas as a seldom used backup catcher on the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks that Bob Brenly took a gamble on one night in the World Series and responded with a HR off Mike Mussina. A 34-year old retread, when I mentioned his age to El Guapo, he muttered some words about the Mets that I wouldn't consider family friendly. Then again, this blog isn't family friendly, so let's just paraphrase it to "What the fuck is the matter with this fucking team?" But Barajas came through with a pair of hits, and though he doesn't and hasn't ever hit for an average, he's made his hits count, to this point. Consider this: It's May 5th, and right now, Rod Barajas leads the Mets with his 7 HRs.

I don't know that anyone would have figured Rod Barajas would be leading the Mets in anything this season. But, here he is, and not only that, he's getting some HRs in key spots. Who knows if he'll keep this up; there's also a very good chance that he'll just regress to his usual lousy self, but last year, he did beef up his numbers to a career-high 19 HRs and 71 RBIs, which is perfectly respectable for a Catcher, and certainly more than respectable for Rod Barajas. Numbers like that from him this year would help quite a bit, and make the Mets catching situation, something that was probably more of a joke than a real threat at the outset, one of this season's more pleasant surprises.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Predictable

In the 8th inning of last night's game, Angel Pagan led off by popping out. With one out, Luis Castillo slapped a single up the middle. Jose Reyes followed by grounding into a 6-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Right then and there, I knew how the game was going to end. I mentioned it to a friend of mine. I didn't know when, but I just knew it was going to come down to some scrub off the back of the Reds bench coming up and popping a HR to win the game. The scrub of choice I used, in fact, was Joe Randa, who we all know well from Met Screwups of the past. It makes no difference that Randa isn't even in the Major Leagues anymore, it would just be someone like him. Initially, I thought it would be right then and there, in the bottom of the 8th. But Fernando Nieve came in throwing smoke, and Feliciano got out of a jam in the 10th. Nonetheless, the Mets couldn't plate anyone either, so as the game moved later and later into the night, I just hoped it would be over quick. At some point, I think I must have tuned out entirely, because all of a sudden I heard Howie Rose's voice growing excited, but it was a rather despondent excitement, if such a thing is possible. When Howie gets loud and sort of exasperated, you pretty much know all you need to know. I didn't need to know who hit it, I knew it was probably the last person on the Reds I'd expect, and I was right. I didn't even know Laynce Nix was even on the Reds, but there he was, going that little extra mile to beat the Mets, who, I hope, have not fallen into a Philadelphia-induced slumber now that they've lost 3 in a row.

It's interesting how these little ebbs and flows can affect an entire nation of fans. Friday night, Mets fans were walking around with their chests puffed out, ready to take on anyone. Today, we're feeling a little humble and searching for a solution. Tomorrow, who knows? But with Maine pitching, optimism isn't quite abound, even after his strong performance the last time out. This has the makings of one of those stupid 9-6 games, I think...