Friday, April 30, 2010

Oh, It's You. Nice To See You Again.

So. Here we are again. Philadelphia and our dear friends, The Phillies.

There's not the same kind of talk going on between these two clubs. When one team has gone to the past two World Series and won one of them, while the other team just made a total ass of themselves, there's not too much to say, I suppose.

That doesn't make these games any more or less intense, at least from the fan's perspective.

These games don't particularly matter too much to the Phillies, I'd have to imagine, outside of the fact that they love to stick it to the Mets. They're the class of the league right now; by far and away the team to beat. That's not up for any debate, no matter who feels like talking.

On the Mets side, these games do mean something. The 9-1 homestand is nice, but now they can prove what they're made out of. Is this hot streak going to spur the Mets on through the Spring, or are they going to immediately come back to earth and play like a .500 team (or worse). These games will prove alot.

Philly pretty much wiped their shoes on the Mets last season, winning I believe 12 of 18. I stopped paying attention sometime after Raul Ibanez's HR landed in the Citi Field Bullpen last June 11th. Since then, Philly has basically just laughed at the Mets and their fans have laughed at our fans, overrun our ballpark, spat on our girlfriends and taken our lunch money, and well they should. We merited being laughed at.

I don't know that much has changed, really. The Mets are still pretty laughable, and it's going to be some time before they can buck that trend. But this weekend is a good way to start. There's a lot of fresh wounds and bad memories that come out of this tiny, tiny little ballpark. But if the Mets can come in and win some games, that's games, not game, say, 2 of 3, then maybe this will put them on the road back to being respectable. Beating the best does that a little bit.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

If Just For One Day...

How long this will last, I don't know, but for now it's pretty sweet.

When John Maine, he of the beleaguered looks and tenuous spot in the rotation, comes out and starts firing darts all over the place, then you know everything's clicking for your team. Where once it appeared as though it would be a struggle for the Mets to plate 7 runs in an entire series, they managed to do so in a few innings against the Dodgers, making them look rather silly in the process and finished off a 3-game sweep and a homestand that saw them go 9-1.

9-1! Last time we saw anything like that, the season turned out fairly well.

It's clear that the Mets aren't just going to lie down and let the 2010 season just happen, which was more or less everyone's fear. But the fear now is what's going to happen when all these guys come back to earth? What's going to happen when the breaks stop coming, the other team stops playing with their heads up their ass, and the pitching begins to falter? It's a pessimistic view, no doubt, but given recent history, Mets fans have good reason to be a little pessimistic. It's easy to enjoy what's going on right now, and I'm certainly hearing comments like "Your Mets are actually doing something," and "Gee, who woke up the Mets?" but the Mets fans I've spoken to are a bit more cautious. The Mets fan knows that it's good to be in first place, but also knows what the date is. If this were September 29th, there might be cause for excitement. On April 29th, 1st place is merely something pleasant.

Especially when you're about to play your closest and fiercest competitor for said 1st place spot over the weekend.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Something Completely Different

This wasn't quite in the plan for this year.

At least, not that anyone was willing to admit. I'm certain that nobody's complaining, but after flipping the Dodgers twice, the Mets have now won 6 in a row and as we wake up this Wednesday morning amazingly find themselves in 1st place in the NL East.

That's not to say that these wins have been perfect. What's been most impressive about this homestand, which now stands at 8-1 with one more to go this afternoon, is that the Mets are playing imperfect baseball, and still coming out on top. Against Chicago, it was waiting them out until they got into their awful bullpen. Against Atlanta, it was capitalizing on poor fundamentals and timely errors. Yesterday, the Mets just beat the crap out of the Dodgers. Twice.

Tuesday was my 4th game of the season, although I hadn't planned on it being a doubleheader. Unable to sneak out of work early, I instead showed up right on time for the nightcap, arriving at Citi Field just as the Mets were putting the finishing touches on a 4-0 victory that saw Santana throw too many pitches too early in the game. This wasn't exactly encouraging, but then again it didn't end up being much of a factor in the final outcome. So, having been cheated by the weather out of seeing Santana for the 3rd time in 4 games, I settled in to watch Ollie Perez, who had a typical Ollie Perez start: Walk, hit, get out of a jam, look good, settle down, sail the first pitch of the 4th inning behind the batter's head, walk 2 more, give up a hit, walk in a run and get pulled from the game and booed off the mound. Another stupid Perez inning pretty much submarined the good vibes and just made everyone feel cold. If nothing else, Manuel had the foresight to see that Perez was coming unglued and got Hisanori Takahashi up early and brought him in immediately, but it seemed that Perez left enough of his stink on the mound that even HE walked in a run to tie the game.

No matter. The Mets came to hit against the fluttering knuckleball of Charlie Haeger, and they did just that. In the 5th, the Mets started coming up with a string of timely, 2-out RBI hits, something that you wouldn't have thought them capable of a week ago, sandwiched around Torre glumly pacing to the mound to remove yet another reliever I've never heard of. Wright had 4 RBIs, Ike Davis continued to impress, inside-outing a rocket of a double the other way, and I believe for the first time this season, the Mets plated 10 runs in a game, and by the 6th, most of the crowd departed, because, let's face it, it was ridiculously cold, hellaciously windy, and the outcome of the game was not in any sort of doubt.

And with Philly losing on the west coast, the Mets now find themselves 1/2 a game in front in the NL East.

I don't know how the hell that happened. And, again, I'm not complaining. I hope it stays that way. This is starting to become kind of fun again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Back in the New York Groove

A week ago, I wouldn't have thought the Mets capable of being where they are right now, but it's happened, and here they are, 6-1 on the current homestand, a game over .500, and coming off a sweep of the Atlanta Braves.

And yet, I still don't think the Mets are really clicking much, if at all, offensively. It seems like they have been simply starting to catch some of those fabled breaks that eluded them so many times in the past couple of seasons. They're doing it with Wright not hitting, Bay not really hitting (though he's showing signs), Francoeur not hitting, and Reyes really looking like he's about 80-85% there.

So, what's it been? Pitching, mostly. Playing in their ballpark, the Mets have been able to win by getting outstanding starting pitching 4 out of every 5 days (even Perez was decent), and getting their runs on a timely hit or two and some bad fielding by their opponent. It started on Thursday night, a game I was at, and a game I glossed over following a hellacious trip home following the game (Note: The G train probably shouldn't be used in general, and definitely not after 11pm, when it turns into a pumpkin). Nonetheless, the game was fine, Santana got into jams, the Cubs had men on base in every inning, and Santana got them out each time. They waited out Tom Gorzelanny and finally scored some runs in the 6th aided by an egregious error by Mike Fontenot, and then survived a pair of Cub rallies in the 7th and 8th.

Friday, the recipe appeared to be much of the same. Maine basically did little more than not kill the Mets before departing with an injury, and the Mets bats remained quiet save for a moon rocket of a HR by Ike Davis that journeyed to a part of Citi Field reserved for people named Howard or Dunn, and tantalized us as far as the promise such a mammoth shot contained. Then the Mets waited out Kenshin Kawakami and capitalized on a pair of egregious errors by the Braves to pull out a 5-2 victory.
Saturday, well, you guessed it. Scoreless into the 6th, the Mets finally break through against Jair Jurrjens, aided by some key hits from Bay and Francoeur, and an egregious, first-class fuckup by Yunel Escobar on the basepaths that is worthy of stripping Escobar of his All-Ballclub Team status. This time it was Jonathon Niese providing the solid start.

Sunday brought The Biggest Game In The Galaxy on ESPN, and with it some lousy weather. The weather seemed to take its toll on Pelfrey, who really battled tooth and nail to simply get through his 5 innings. But, such as things have gone this week, he basically stoned up, got every single out when he needed to get it, induced a pair of key DPs, and allowed the Mets lone run, scored on an egregious throwing error by old friend LARRY on a ball he should have stuck in his back pocket, and the Mets waited out a rain delay that wasn't going to break and got themselves a sweep, albeit a rain-shortened one. Not that any of us are complaining.

The formula basically seems to repeat itself over and over again. Get good starting pitching, bank on the other team committing some form of vapor lock, wait out the other team's starter and then scrape across as many runs as they're able, and hope it holds up. It works, at least for now, and it's been enough to get the Mets above .500, something few thought possible a week ago. But can it last?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Background Noise

Last night was one of those nights where I was home and had the game on the radio all evening, but I really didn't pay much attention. Basically, I only paid halfhearted attention whenever I heard Howie Rose or Wayne Hagin raise their voices, so I heard something about Ike Davis making a great play, and Rod Barajas hit a long HR early in the game, but after that, not much yelling, so one could only assume that things basically went downhill from there. And, they did.

There's not much worth talking about when it comes to this game. The Cubs were due after putting up a pair of stinkers, the Mets still aren't hitting enough to keep up with the precarious nature of an Oliver Perez start, and the Bullpen couldn't keep the game within reach late. I suppose Oliver Perez should be somewhat lauded for only allowing 3 runs in his 5 innings, but when that's an accomplishment, you know you're really reaching.

The game was mere accompaniment to me making my dinner, a scintillating meal of pork chops, rice and asparagus. Given my thoroughly Jewish upbringing, this is probably a bit of a shock, but we were never anything resembling kosher. In fact, my best pork recipe comes from my Father. It goes a little something like this:

2-4 center-cut pork chops (I was working with 2 last night)
Kosher salt
Olive oil
Black pepper
Italian style bread crumbs
Mets game on Radio

Turn on radio. Preheat broiler. Coat pork chops with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Lightly dust with salt, pepper and paprika, then sprinkle on bread crumbs. There's no specific amount, just use prudent judgement. If you like them a little spicier, use more pepper. Broil for 10-16 minutes depending on thickness of the pork chops, turning when they are halfway cooked. Important: Make sure pan is not too close to the heating element, it will burn the bread crumbs. Turn attention to Mets game while pork chops are cooking. If, after 16 minutes, the pork chops are not fully cooked, I will usually put in a 400˚ oven for about 10-12 minutes. Serve with or over rice and steamed asparagus (and I don't think it's necessary to give directions on cooking rice or asparagus. If you can't figure that out, you've got other issues). Keep Mets game on radio throughout meal.

Back to Citi Field tonight since the Weekday plan games are all bunched together.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mr. Pitchy

I'm starting to like this whole "Mike Pelfrey pitching well" thing. I liked it when it happened in '08, too, but this start he's off to may be outdoing that.

Last night was just building on his first two starts, he came out, threw darts, kept the Cubs mostly off the bases and completely off the scoreboard, and ran his scoreless innings streak to 19. And the result was that while the Mets didn't hit much, they hit enough to back Pelfrey and give the Mets their first winning streak of the season.

It's always refreshing when one of the guys you point out as a key player comes through, and yes, it's just the early going, but Pelfrey has clearly established himself as a pitcher who can be depended on this season, the clear #2 guy in the rotation behind Santana, and right now, he's off to a better start than Santana. It's a far cry from last season, when he just seemed to be too much of a headcase to accomplish much, and an even farther cry from his fellow key Met pitchers. I wish John Maine would start taking some of whatever Pelfrey's been taking. It might help him out. I realize that Maine wants to do well just as much as anyone else, but the change in Pelfrey has just been startling. He basically just said "I want to be a real pitcher" and went out and did it.

It's not that I'm surprised that Pelfrey has done so well early on. I'm not. I figured he would bounce back and be better than he was last year. But I'm impressed at the way he has just come out this season and attacked everyone. Through 3 starts (and a relief outing), he's been light years better than he was even when he was going well in 2008. He's taking the step and pitching like an All Star. I hope he keeps it up.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We Like Ike!

I don't know why, but all the talk about Ike didn't make me think of President Eisenhower, it made me think of South Park. So, this is what I've come up with.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Whole New Rallying Cry

It was somewhat serendipitous that the 2nd game on my plan happened to be tonight, the night the Mets finally came to their senses and recalled Ike Davis to take over at 1st Base. Never mind that the fans were screaming for him and the media was screaming for him, the Mets just needed a new presence in the lineup.

Davis's Major League Debut didn't disappoint in the least, and his presence served to not only warm a somewhat sparse crowd on a rather cold night, but also to breathe some life into his teammates. The results pretty much speak for themselves: 2-for-4 with an RBI, solid defense and a 6-1 Mets victory. What's not to like?

That's not to say that he did it alone, certainly not. And that's also not to say that every day will be like this, because it won't. But Ike Davis seems to be somewhat out of the Jason Bay mold, that is, someone who just looks like a ballplayer. Someone who exudes professionalism and calm. Someone who will work a count and can make something happen. Something that this team needs a little more of. It was clear that they weren't going to get this sort of presence from Mike Jacobs, or Tatis, or even Daniel Murphy. I don't know what will happen from here on out, but, for one night, Ike Davis sure looked like he was equal to the hype placed upon him.

Lost in the shuffle of the game was the performance turned in by another young Met, Jonathon Niese. Niese had an outing that appeared to be part John Maine, part Mike Pelfrey. He was effective, if not pretty. Working with men on base in every inning, Niese buckled down and made his pitches whenever he needed them, and got every key out in his 5.2 innings, only allowing a run on a pair of dinky hits that probably should have been outs.

It's clear that if the Mets are going to make any sort of noise this season, it has to be with their youth. Guys like Tatis and Castillo aren't going to excite anyone. Guys like Davis and Niese are going to break their ass and make things interesting. The results tonight should be pretty self-explanatory.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Game Befitting Our Team

Yesterday's rather lengthy affair was the kind of game that, had it been played in New York, I likely would have been there. And had I been at a game like that, I likely would have torn out what remaining hair I have, cried a few times, and probably tried to eat my scorecard. A game such as yesterday's comes along but once a generation. Fortunately, the game was in St. Louis. I got to pay attention to the game on the radio like a normal person.

I was stuck in one of my fabled meetings for a good chunk of the afternoon, and didn't arrive home until about the 4th inning of a scoreless game.

By the 8th inning, I was cooking and eating dinner.

In the 12th inning, I fell asleep. Somehow listening with half an ear and lying in bed just put me out briefly. I woke up, probably about 15 minutes later, and the game was still going. A text from a friend revealed what I thought: I hadn't missed much.

In the 16th inning, I made a run to the store for dessert. By time I got home, the game was still going.

But once games get past 16 innings, you really start to feel like you're getting into epic territory. This was a game where the Mets couldn't even manage a hit until the 6th inning, and just didn't seem like they were capable of even getting two hits in a row on this day. Meanwhile, the Cardinals kept getting men on base and the Mets pitchers kept stranding them because Tony LaRussa, experimental genius that he is, kept letting his pitchers bat. Once the 17th inning started, I began thinking this could go on all night, and at some point someone was going to have to say "Enough!" and propose starting over tomorrow (which, I know, is not in the rule book, but at some point you had to think it logical).

By the 18th, LaRussa, who I guess had exhausted all the pitchers he could at the plate, started sending position players in to pitch. Fittingly, the Mets couldn't muster a run against Felipe Lopez, the first to the mound. In the 19th and 20th, it was Joe Mather, who did an excellent job of minimizing damage...or was it the fact that the Mets exhibited very little patience hitting against a pitcher who isn't a pitcher. Nonetheless, the Mets managed to muster two runs off Mather, and the only reason they had to muster the second run was because their real pitcher managed to spit the first run back in the last of the 19th. So, the Mets went out and did it again in the 20th, scoring a run the best way they know how: a sacrifice fly.

Mike Pelfrey came in for the Mets in the type of outing only Ron Darling could appreciate. He'd apparently gone into the clubhouse and demanded the ball from Dan Warthen, which is just another reason to like him right about now. Of course, he didn't make it easy either, putting two men on base and getting Pujols on deck before finally retiring Ludwick for the final out of the longest game I've ever seen the Mets play, the longest game the Mets have played since 1974, and, apparently, the longest game the Mets have ever won.
When you start getting into a game of this length, and it probably took until around the 14th inning for me to do that, it begins to feel more and more pressure-packed, as though this game meant everything. Right now, every win the Mets can muster is meaningful, but once you start getting into those rarefied innings, a loss begins to feel almost catastrophic. An already tortured and angry fan base would have likely revolted if the Mets had lost, or even if Jeff Francoeur had took the mound, which is what would have happened had Pelfrey not stepped up. The Mets basically were shut out over what is tantamount to two full games, and really didn't appear to mount a viable threat offensively, and once again managed to score the runs they did without the benefit of a key hit. Even the Cardinals, who appeared just as inept offensively as the Mets did, managed a key hit.

A 20-inning victory is always noteworthy and certainly worth celebrating. But, really, how much celebrating can you do when it took the Cardinals sending position players to the mound to score some runs? You like what you see out of the pitching staff, but overall, man, a game like this just leaves you shaking your head.

Friday, April 16, 2010

That's More Like It!

I know it's only been two starts, but I have to say it's really nice to see that a Mets pitcher not named Johan has been able to answer the bell this season.

The Mets offense didn't exactly put forth a sparkling effort yesterday, even though Jorge de la Rosa did his best to basically hand them the game. 5 runs is nice, although had the Mets actually been able to get some hits with men on base, the score could have easily been 8 or 9-0. But that's besides the point. On a day where the Mets offense basically performed like the Mets offense, it didn't matter because Mike Pelfrey came out throwing darts, looking like the Mike Pelfrey of 2008 and, hopefully, sending a message that last season is a distant memory for him.

Pelfrey has clearly come out with a bit of a chip on his shoulder this season, which might account for his strong start. And he needed a strong start (so did everyone else in the rotation, but so far he's the only one who has put up). Perhaps being demoted to what is basically the #4 starter had something to do with this. As surprising as it may seem, some guys on this team do have some pride, and do care about their performance and how it affects the team, and their careers. So to see Pelfrey take this "demotion" as a slight is a good thing, because now he's starting to become a real pitcher.

Pelfrey has had these sort of outings in the past, particularly in his excessively hot stretch in '08, but what he did yesterday was textbook for his success. He didn't walk anyone, which is good for any pitcher, but for Pelfrey it means he's hitting his mark. He gave up 5 singles, 3 of which were infield hits, which means his sinker and slider were on, and the Rockies hitters were just mashing it into the ground. He even struck out 6, which is encouraging because Pelfrey just isn't much of a strikeout pitcher, but he made hitters miss. All this adds up to Pelfrey getting the job done and masking the issues of his offense for a day. So, for once, we can smile a bit.

Now, if only these other jokers in the rotation can do the same thing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Not His Fault

If you were thinking I was going to blast off on Jennry Mejia after the way last night's game ended, well, you're wrong. It's not his fault. He shouldn't have been in that position in the first place.

It's very easy to point fingers in certain directions after yet another lackluster performance by the Mets. For once, they actually hung around and were in the game late despite the fact that their situational hitting yet again seems to abandon them at inopportune moments. The Mets put up 5 runs last night. If they'd managed to squeeze a key hit somewhere in the 8 they came up with, maybe that total would have been higher and the result different.

It wasn't until the 8th inning that the Mets managed to manufacture a run, this coming thanks to Rod Barajas' RBI single. In the 9th, the Mets miraculously tied the game, but it appeared to be more of an accident than due to any actual effort on the part of the Mets. Gary Matthews reached on what was generously scored a hit, and followed that by getting to 3rd when Chris Ianetta threw a 175-footer to 2nd base that bounced into the outfield. This, I thought, was the Mets first real break of the season. Maybe their first break in 2 years, or at least it feels that way sometimes. Jose Reyes predictably followed with a strikeout. Figures. They'll get the guy to 3rd with no outs and somehow manage to strand him there. This, of course, appears to be the primary team concept, going back as long as I've been writing this dopey blog.

But nooooo! Castillo came up and hit a Sac Fly to tie the game! I was floored. This was the sort of behavior the Mets rarely exhibit. Putting the ball in play with a man on 3rd and less than 2 outs to get the run home? What a novel idea! The Mets ought to try that more often.

Then, they had a chance to win it in the 10th, except that Mike Jacobs didn't exactly run hard on his long double that could have been a triple if Todd Zeile were running. Of course, the Mets didn't get him home, and almost like clockwork the Rockies won the game in the bottom of the inning against Mejia. If they score, or score more in any one of those instances, Mejia probably isn't even in the game to give up that HR.

David Wright called it "A frustrating loss." Captain Obvious strikes again. Right now, every loss is frustrating if you're watching this team (or listening in my case). There's a stink on this club and no real way to get rid of it. You know, unless you fire the upper management and bring in people who have a clue. That, however, appears to be beyond ownership's realm.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


At the rate the Mets are going, the house is going to have to be cleaned by time they come back from this Road Trip.

I don't really see any sign that the Mets are going to accomplish much of anything this season, except for playing listlessly in front of crowds of 10,000 hearty idiots (of which I include myself). It was bad enough that their Manager openly acknowledged a lack of preparedness for Sunday's game (or was it a lack of preparedness for the entire season?), but then they went out on Tuesday night and just flat out embarrassed themselves against a Colorado team that probably was going to beat them anyway, just on general principle.

John Maine seems to be at the centerpiece of this particular clusterfuck, and rightfully so. Right now, I'm not so sure Maine is even a viable Major League pitcher. He had a chance to minimize damage and get out of the 3rd inning, but somehow he tripped over his own feet, made a bad throw, and the end result was that, whether it was out of frustration, or loss of focus, or whatever, another 5 runs ended up crossing the plate before we blinked, and the game was basically in the toilet after that. Not that Maine was putting forth anything spectacular to that point. On the radio after the game (and in my new environs, without cable, the radio is basically all I have), some chucklehead mentioned that there were positive signs out of Maine, like him hitting 90mph.

Someone needs to mention that for Maine to be at all effective, he needs to hit 92-93 with regularity. You know, like he did in 2007.

A period of time that seems so very, very far away.

Niese tonight, who can hopefully right this ship. You know, if you can watch the game without covering your eyes. I'm not so sure anyone wants to take that risk right now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Same Stupid Team!

It's encouraging to see that, one week into the season, we can expect the same overmatched, lackluster play out of the Mets that we did last season, and it's even better to see that no matter how hard they try, they can't seem to avoid being ripped off by Willie Harris.

I mean, I know it's one week into the season and it's not worth going crazy just yet, but it's sort of unavoidable when you consider that it appears the Mets have come into this season only partially prepared to play ball. Jose Reyes is back, and that's a very good sign. But even if Jose gets on base every time up, and creates as much havoc for the other team as possible, it means very little if there's nobody behind him to drive him in.

I mean, it's not all bad. In fact, the weekend seemed to start out pretty good. Friday night, the Mets looked great. They looked inspiring. They looked like they were ready to go take out the Nationals for 3 straight games. Pelfrey pitched well, Francoeur and Barajas hit HRs, and all was nice and rosy pink. Here we go, we're gonna have a winning homestand!

But noooooooooooooo.

Not when Oliver Perez has a typical Oliver Perez start. Not when the Mets get guys on base and don't drive them in, and not when Willie Harris is on the field against the Mets. And if that wasn't bad enough, it looked like the Mets were still hung over on Sunday afternoon, when they looked mostly punchless against a guy who was on their own damn team last season and used to get routinely lit up like a Christmas tree! How's this for a reversal of fortune? Last season, it seemed like every time the Mets sent Livan Hernandez to the mound, he was down 4 runs before people had even sat down. Yesterday, this MFer had a 4-run LEAD!! And this against Santana! What the hell is going on with this team?

I know it's only one week and I should calm down, but, really, is anyone that encouraged?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fighting Chances

Games such as last night's are usually long forgotten by time the season ends, but it's interesting to note what happened.

After the strong showing on Opening Day, optimism had to be abound, but the Mets fell into what was pretty much a hopeless hole early when John Maine, one of those giant question marks, didn't pitch well. He did minimize his damage somewhat, but nonetheless, a deficit is a deficit. But the Mets came back, which is definitely the kind of thing you like to see. They clearly know how to take pitches, work counts, and make pitchers sweat, all things they did over the course of the late innings last night. And in coming back to tie the game in the 8th, they did something that they wouldn't have even sniffed doing last year. Once the Mets got out of a game last season, you could pretty much fold up your tents and go home, because they weren't coming back, and they weren't even going to make a run at it.

One can only hope that this is a sign of the way the Mets are going to go about things this season. It will be much more enjoyable to watch the team if they're constantly trying and making things interesting as opposed to just laying down like dogs. Still, there's only so many silver linings you can take from a loss, even if it's only the 2nd game of the year. It's frustrating, because they dragged us all back into it, but in the end still managed to find a way to lose the game. The pessimist's way of looking at this game is that while they showed fight, they still lost the game, and you can probably expect many more games like this as the season goes on.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Fixer

I'd say it's taken me exactly one game to warm to the Jason Bay era in New York. I don't need to see any more out of him, he can stay.

I hope he forgives me for the many years I spent considering him overrated, and that he reminded me of little more than an overglorified Gabe Kapler when he first came up with the Pirates late in 2003. He's certainly proven himself more than that, and now after one game with the Mets, I'm pretty glad he's on our side now. All it took was seeing him drill a ball in the gap in left-center, turn on his jets about halfway to 2nd base, and slide into 3rd base without any trouble. That was his "WELCOME TO NEW YORK!!!" moment.

It was easy to be skeptical about Bay when he signed here, particularly since he gave the impression that he'd be glad to sign anyplace but the Mets. Given the way the front office here likes to operate, can you blame him? But nonetheless, he signed here when no other offers materialized, and it seems like he's been an almost perfect fit on this team. How long he'll have to suffer hitting behind Mike Jacobs is beyond me, but as I mentioned yesterday, his presence here just seems to give the Mets a more professional look to them. The guy just looks like a ballplayer. He appears to be rather understated, but it seems he's become fast friends with Jeff Francoeur and the two have been organizing team events together.

It seems like, more than anything, this team needed an adjustment in attitude and outward appearance, more than just raw talent. The Mets have, in the past, done quite a bit without an abundance of talent. It's still not likely that they'll do the same with this group, but having someone like Jason Bay going to war for us every day if nothing else will ensure that the Mets aren't going to be as embarrassingly bad as they were last season. Or at least I hope he'll ensure that. It's still tough to get too optimistic around here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Something To Believe

I admit it. I wasn't very fired up at all for Opening Day yesterday. It took me until I got to 111th Street on the 7 train, and saw Citi Field rise up in the distance before I felt anything resembling the excitement and anticipation that comes with Opening Day. But once I got there, got off the train into the new Apple Garden, met El Guapo and made my way inside Citi Field, I was glad to be there, and glad to be back.

And, as it appears, the Mets were pretty glad to be back as well.

It didn't necessarily appear that way at the outset, when all the new that seemed to be promised appeared to me to be a whole lot of status quo. I wanted to see the new Hall of Fame, however that was thwarted by a lengthy line that neither the Guap or I wanted to navigate. So, upstairs we went, to be greeted by this:

A new lineup board, with a pretty paltry looking lineup. El Guapo didn't even realize that there were lineup boards last season, primarily because they were completely hidden from view. We walked around to the Outfield, where we saw a little more new:

This was the kind of new I could get behind. However, some things, like the lineup at Shake Shack, hadn't changed. Eager for a bite, I opted for my favorite post from last season, the Taqueria, where, to my dismay, I encountered problems that harkened back to the days of Shea. First, I stood around at a register for a few minutes while the cashier was unable to get the register to work. Then, after waiting a few minutes more, I was given a box of tacos that I would later discover did not include any sauce. I thought the support staff at Citi Field would be better prepared for a large crowd, but I see I was mistaken. Nonetheless, the tacos are still pretty damn good, sauce or no sauce. Thank you once again, Danny Meyer.

Upstairs we went, for some more new here:

The reconfigured bullpens, and, much to my delight here:
...where I noticed that Blue Smoke, another gem, was now available in the Promenade, conveniently close to my seats.

where, to my displeasure, I saw that the Mets had skimped on the Opening Day bunting, putting up the paltry 3-ring bunting as opposed to the much more exciting and traditional 5-ring bunting.

Nonetheless, Howie Rose came across the PA system and the Opening Day ceremonies were underway...
...beginning with the presentation of the Good Luck wreath to Jerry Manuel, prompting a slew of under-the-breath "you'll need all the luck you can get" remarks.

Then came the introductions. The Marlins, who everyone knows I'm no fan of, were roundly booed, the loudest jeers reserved for Hanley Ramirez, who became the first player I've ever seen start styling during the Opening Day handshakes. This MFer tipped his cap and then took about 5 minutes going down the line of teammates.

Then again, he wasn't as roundly booed as the Mets training staff was. Or Oliver Perez. Or, for that matter, Jerry Manuel and Luis Castillo. A few people were a little off-put by this, but even I joined in the booing, particularly of Perez and Manuel. There's a few ways to look at this. I choose to see it this way: The fans aren't booing and saying "We don't like you, go away." By booing, the fans are saying to these guys, "It's not acceptable that you have continued to perform as you have the past couple of seasons, and if you don't shape up, this is going to continue. So get your acts together." I even tried to start a "LEARN TO PITCH!!" chant for Perez, but it didn't materialize. But I digress.

Some video, as a bonus:

Unfortunately, my camera cuts off video after 3 minutes, which happened to coincide with the introduction of Johan Santana.

The flyover, which is almost akin to the blowing of the Shofar as far as Opening Day is concerned...

Darryl Strawberry throwing out the first pitch...

And, finally, the Mets take the field, accompanied to some new entrance music...

And Welcome to the 2010 Season!

And, really, I don't think the game could have gone much better for the Mets. Santana's pitching is enough to warm anyone's heart, but David Wright came up and smoked a HR in his first at bat, and that really set the tone for the game. It was as though Wright, by hitting that HR, basically said to everyone, "Look, chill out. We got this one." And they did.

Jason Bay, whose mere presence just appears to make this team look more professional, chipped in with a key triple, the Mets took advantage of the Marlins basically abandoning all aspects of fundamental baseball, and by the end, the outcome was never in much doubt. That was like 2009 as well. The only difference was that last year, the outcome never went in the Mets favor. But yesterday, it did. And on a picture perfect day, you couldn't have drawn up a better result for the Mets.

Other notes:
Bay's At Bat music was the same every time he came to the plate. I surmised that it might be Pearl Jam, and I was correct. However, Bay was not the winner of the Cool At-Bat Music award. Gary Matthews, Jr. was a strong contender with this choice, but the clear winner of the day was Frank Catalanotto, who appeared once as a pinch-hitter and his choice of entrance music was so popular, it had everyone singing along with it. So, by a landslide, Frank Catalanotto wins the Cool AB Music award for the season.

The award for Lamest AB music, by the way, did not go to Jeff Francoeur and his mishmash of country music, but to David Wright, for this particular atrocity.

161 to go. I know they're not all going to go like yesterday, but, man, it sure would be nice, wouldn't it?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chapter Two

Thusly, we return.

The last two offseasons were long for Mets fans, and sometimes they seemed to border on making us all just a little bit insane. This past offseason, there just wasn't anything to talk about.

We've gone from starting over to starting anew, but now this season, I'm sort of at a loss to figure out what the hell we're starting. There's not much to be optimistic about when it comes to the Mets, we all know that. But for one day, we're all on an even plane, with equal records, ready to embark on yet another 6-month journey.

Where that journey will take us remains to be seen.

As per usual, I'll be at Citi Field, having finished my relocation and hung up my shingle at what is now the Park Slope bureau of The Ballclub, it's a new path that will be taken for my first sojourn of the year to Flushing. I passed on the preseason workout yesterday. Today's the first trip of the year, as it should be. But the attitude isn't necessarily one of excitement or anticipation that something great is going to happen. I've never approached Opening Day with quite so much ambivalence before. We'll be there and it'll be fun. But after today, the anticipation isn't there so much.

Welcome to the 2010 Baseball season. Whatever.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Unpredictably Predictable (2010 American League Preview)

Last season, I was very daring and bold with my American League picks, brazenly dismissing the Yankees and predicting that the Minnesota Twins were the class of the American League. The Twins got part of the way there, but it was the Yankees who gelled in midseason and rode their cavalcade to another sickening World Series Championship.

If that wasn't bad enough, I feel now as though there's nobody in particular who can get in their way. Yankee fans seem to have this "woe is me" attitude, as though they're the diva who just wants to whine and get attention. I'm sick of them. I'm sure everyone who's a Mets fan, or a fan of any other team is sick of them. Unfortunately, we can't get away from them.

1) New York Yankees (111-53)
I called a lot of factors about the team into question last year, like the strength of their pitching staff and the durability of some of their players, and I was proven wrong on all fronts. So I give up. I can't bother fighting it anymore. There's always some issues, whether it's over Joba and Phil Hughes, or the fact that everyone still hates A-Rod, or whether guys like Teixeira, Swisher and Sabathia can repeat their strong showings, but does it really matter? People are up in arms over getting rid of Johnny Damon but nobody seems to realize that the guy they brought in to replace him is 10 times better. Believe me. Yankee fans just want more attention. Just shut up and enjoy watching your damn team run away with it again.

2) Tampa Bay Rays (94-68) (Wildcard)
Love this team and their young underdog spirit. And guys like Longoria, BJ Upton and Carlos Pena are just eminently likable and starting to enter their primes. And they definitely have the pitching behind James Shields and Matt Garza, and David Price is probably ready to emerge after a solid 2nd half. They came back to earth a bit last year after shocking everyone in 2008, but they'll be back, and they'll be tough to beat.

3) Boston Red Sox (92-70)
This team has pitching galore, but I have this odd feeling that they will scuffle a bit on offense. They're built around speed and guys who get on base alot in Ellsbury, Pedroia and Youkilis, but I'm dubious as to whether or not Ortiz will ever return to his 2004-07 form. Mike Cameron is a nice addition, but he won't provide the production lost in the Jason Bay deal. They'll certainly contend, but I think they'll come up a little bit short.

4) Toronto Blue Jays (80-82)
Too many bad contracts makes this team a bit of a sinking ship. They got some nice chips in the Halladay trade, but it's not going to make a difference playing in this division, where they seem to constantly be doomed from the start.

5) Baltimore Orioles (74-88)
Talented pieces are actually in place here, but they're still at least two years away from being taken seriously. Nonetheless, optimism, a word that hasn't existed in Orioles vernacular for several seasons, is actually creeping back into the fold.

1) Minnesota Twins (90-72)
In giving long term contracts to Morneau and Mauer, the Twins have shown that they are indeed willing to do whatever it takes to keep the nucleus of this team together. Many players get traded away, but it seems like their system, clearly one of the best-run in the Major Leagues, can keep churning out talented prospects wherever they are needed. They're going to have a big problem closing games with Nathan out, but this is a team that does not quit and I think that's going to be enough to give them another division title.

2) Chicago White Sox (88-74)
A full season with a healthy Jake Peavy ought to help out quite a bit, but the bats of Magglio Ordonez and Paul Konerko are starting to get up there in years. Based on where these two guys, perennially among the league leaders in power production, landed in my Fantasy league draft, it seems that most people have soured on them.

3) Detroit Tigers (87-75)
Also contenders but lack in depth in their pitching rotation behind Verlander and Porcello. Austin Jackson looks to be an interesting prospect to watch in Center Field taking over for Granderson, but the rest of the lineup seems to be a bit boom or bust.

4) Kansas City Royals (75-87)
The constant theme of two steps forward, two steps back will repeat itself in KC. Zack Greinke is all world, but there's just not enough talent behind him, pitching-wise, to think they're going to surprise anyone. If Greinke could go 7 innings and bridge right to Joakim Soria for 2 every day, they'd be golden, but Baseball doesn't seem to work that way.

5) Cleveland Indians (68-94)
I saw a game at Jacobs Field last season, and while it's a beautiful ballpark, it's emblematic of the City of Cleveland itself. On a beautiful, sun-soaked Sunday afternoon, the ballpark was at best 1/3 full, even in the best seats in the house. It's a failing, depressing team based in a depressing city, and Grady Sizemore is basically a one-man island surrounded by the dreck that is Luis Valbuena and Asdrubal Cabrera.

1) Anaheim Angels (93-69)
I keep picking the Mariners to knock them off and to this point it hasn't happened. They lost John Lackey and I'm not convinced Joel Pineiro is the answer to replace him, but this team is tough to beat no matter who goes to the mound for them.

2) Seattle Mariners (91-71)
This race will come right down to the wire but the Mariners will fade down the stretch. Cliff Lee makes their pitching rotation even more respectable after Felix Hernandez, but I don't think it's going to be enough.

3) Texas Rangers (85-77)
Another chic pick to win this division, they boast a boatload of offensive firepower (as usual) in guys like Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis, but now they finally have some solid pitching to back them up. Give them another year. If they continue to improve and add a couple more pieces, I'll give them serious consideration in 2011.

4) Oakland Athletics (73-89)
Yawn city.

AL MVP: Evan Longoria, TB
AL CY YOUNG: Felix Hernandez, SEA
AL ROY: Austin Jackson, DET

ALDS: New York over Minnesota, Tampa Bay over Anaheim
ALCS: New York over Tampa Bay

I'm ready and waiting for another season of clenched teeth and ear-covering. Bring it on.