Friday, August 31, 2012

The Reminder

Tonight's lightning fast (2 hours, 7 minutes) affair, a 5-hit Shutout performance from R.A. Dickey, reminded me of a couple of things that the Mets can certainly hang their hat on in another unfortunate lost season.

1) Dickey's still got it: Although R.A. Dickey is a knuckleballer, and at age 37, he's still got quite a bit of life left in his arm, and without an ulnar collateral ligament, he's in no real danger of doing damage to his elbow, he's not bottomless. And at times he's been hittable, particularly at times when the Mets were slumping around him. Sometimes, the runs he gave up were just enough to sink him. But he's managed to keep the damage to a minimum, and it appears, after his last couple of starts, that he may be preparing to finish with a flourish during his drive for a Cy Young Award. Tonight's performance, in front of a tepid crowd at Mickey Mouse Dome, looked like the Dickey of May and June, as he was able to locate every pitch like clockwork, keep an undisciplined Marlins lineup in check and, ultimately, off the scoreboard, and, most importantly, seal the deal. The Marlins appeared totally befuddled against Dickey, just as they did earlier in the season, and appeared to barely make a peep until the 8th inning, and even then, they couldn't muster a key hit. So, Dickey would trot back out for the 9th, retire the Fish 1-2-3, and wrap up his 17th win of the season, and remains on track to become the first Mets pitcher in a generation to win 20 games. It has, in fact, been so long since a Mets pitcher has won that many, that the last time a Mets pitcher even won 17 games was back in 1998 when Al Leiter did it. And now, it's Dickey. In spite of the hiccups, he's once again tied for the league lead in wins, leads the league in Complete Games, and is 2nd in the NL in ERA and Strikeouts.

2) At least we're not the Marlins: I've said this before. But it's true. After the Marlins went out and bought a whole slew of nice little Free Agents to go in their Green Glob of a new ballpark, the Marlins still couldn't get out of their own way. When they signed Heath Bell, then Reyes, and then Mark Buehrle, and even had enough in the coffers to land Carlos Zambrano, I mused that Mets fans shouldn't worry too much, because once the 4 Marlins fans stopped showing up to the new ballpark, they'd have to sell everyone off. Tongue in cheek, yes, since the Mets did no better on this front, but nonetheless, I figured it would be more than a season before the Marlins gave up. It lasted barely 4 months! Now, their whole team is Jose Reyes, Meat Mountain Giancarlo Stanton and a bunch of guys they appear to have co-opted from the Colorados. And there were about 4 people in the stands in Miami, most of whom left well before the game ended. They took the Miami Heat model of building a champion by buying everyone, only the formula that works in the NBA doesn't work quite as well in Major League Baseball, and despite everyone making them the romantic pick to win the NL East, they've unraveled into as big a disaster as, say, the 2002 Mets. And to make it even more hilarious, it's the same year they moved into a new stadium. At least the 2009 Mets had the entire team getting injured as an excuse. This is comedy at its finest. And after the way the Marlins and their fan have treated the Mets over the years, I think we can safely say it couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of people. Jerkoffs.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Do The Best You Can

Too bad the Mets didn't play Philadelphia more often during their recent slumber. If they'd played a little more like they have against them all season, maybe we wouldn't be in this mess.

I'm still not totally convinced that this isn't just an indicator of just how bad the Phillies have been this season, but the Mets certainly have made the most of it if this is the case. Either way, their win tonight was their 7th in 8 games in Philadelphia so far this season, and their 10th against Philly overall, easily their best showing against the Phillies in several seasons (and the first time they've won 7 games in Philly in one season since 1972).

Matt Harvey was the primary culprit for the Mets tonight, delivering his third straight solid outing, giving up a pair of runs on 6 hits over his 6 innings of work, mixing in a number of strikeouts and a number of key outs in instances where he might have been in trouble. One such instance saw him navigate through Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in succession with 2 men on base, refusing to give in to their strengths and continuing to do what's worked for him over the past few weeks. At the plate, the Mets didn't do too much to build on last night's showing, but they did enough, including Harvey continuing to help himself out with an RBI single (raising his career batting average to .500!) and Lucas Duda chimed in with a Home Run, something the Mets need him to do if he's going to prove his worth. Duda also chipped in with some solid defensive plays and even a Stolen Base later in the game. 

The prevailing thought around the team appears to be not that it's good enough to finish the season in 3rd place. This is true, and nobody ever wants to finish the season in 3rd place. But right now, the way things have played out, that's the best they can hope for, and as such, they would have to finish ahead of the Phillies. Maybe last week's nightmare was the low point and the Mets will rebound with a solid September, but it's too little, too late as far as saving the season. A push to .500 would be nice, but it wouldn't cover up the fact that for the 3rd year in a row, the Mets fell apart in July and August after an overachieving first half. Right now, the Mets need to keep doing what they need to do to win. Tonight, it was to ride Matt Harvey and generate what they could against Tyler Cloyd. It's a formula that worked for them when things were going good, and when they abandoned that, and abandoned smart, sound play, that's when things went south. Right now, on August 29th, the Mets should want to finish ahead of Philly, and finish somewhere close to .500. At 61-69, they need to go 20-12 to get there. That's not an impossible task on paper. But anything more than that is more than the Mets are probably able to muster. You have to keep your expectations realistic, because it could just as easily unravel into 8-24 and a tango with the Mickey Mouse Marlins for the cellar if you're not careful.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

That Good Old Time Feeling

I know that times have changed, and that these battles between the Mets and the Phillies have dissolved into a battle for 3rd place rather than a battle for 1st place, replete with Citizens' Bank Park actually being empty, and nobody waving their little hankies or throwing cheesesteaks at anyone, but that doesn't make beating the Phillies any less enjoyable. Particularly when you consider that the Mets scored a heart-stopping 9 runs in the process. This must be a testament to the Phillies' pitching, given that the 9 runs the Mets scored tonight were more than they'd scored in the last week combined. Or, perhaps, the Mets still get up for playing Philly, and after being shoved into a hole after Meat Mountain's nauseating Grand Slam in the 1st, they were inspired to play like it was June and fight their way back into the game.

Neither starter managed much in the way of success this evening. Chris Young was victimized by Howard, and then later on by Utley, and Vance Worley usually gets shelled by the Mets. This time, he was victimized by strings of hits, as was the case in the 1st and 5th, and also by Mike Baxter, who picked a fine time for his 1st HR of the season. So, the Mets fought back only to fall behind again in the 5th, and then turned the game over to the bullpen. By this point, if you were still watching, you figured that not only would the Mets not come back, since the 4 runs they'd scored already seemed too high a total, but the Bullpen would figure out a way to allow the Phillies another 4-5 runs at least. But noooooooo. 5 Mets pitchers successively allowed the Phillies to barely make a peep over the rest of the game. So let's give some credit to Robert Carson (Not Egbert), Josh Edgin (Not Elvin), Ramon Ramirez, Jon Rauch and Bobby Parnell for actually pitching well and keeping the score where it was. This proved important later on when Kelly Shoppach doubled home David Wright with 2 outs in the 8th, at a point in the game where most Mets fans were probably either not watching or listening with half an ear (or in the midst of a Fantasy Football draft, as I was).

Mets scoring runs! Mets bullpen getting outs! What the hell is going on here?! If the 5-5 score wasn't jarring enough, then by the time the 10th inning rolled around, you hopefully woke back up (or your Football draft finished) just in time to see Ike Davis drive home David Wright with the lead run, and then score on Lucas Duda's hit when he couldn't be bothered by Tim Teufel's conservative stop sign, and then Kelly Shoppach's HR broke the game wide open. The cheesesteaks were gone, the stadium had emptied out, and the Mets had themselves a nifty little victory against the Phillies.

So, this probably means one of two things. Either the Phillies pitching is just really, really awful, even worse than any of us had noticed since they've gutted their team since the last time the Mets and Phillies played in July, and the Mets took advantage of this, or, the Mets still get fired up seeing the Phillies. That may well be the case, given the pep-rally attitude exuding from the Mets dugout most of the night. It's easy, given that the Mets have been terrible for years, and the Phillies have sold off this season after an extended run of sickening success, to forget that this was a first-rate rivalry between two teams and two fan bases that don't care for each other very much. But it was, and in some ways it may still be, however muted the feeling may be with the specter of a pennant removed from the equation. The Mets aren't going anywhere this season, and neither are the Phillies. But, if the Mets can kick them in the nuts a little bit, just for old time's sake, that's going to have to suffice for now.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Horrible vs. The Miserable

The Mets set a new low for putrid play during their series last week against the Colorados, and they were dangerously close to surpassing that over the weekend against the even worse Houston Astros, the Mets Expansion Brethren making their last visit to New York as a National League team. That's how bad it's been for the Astros. Not only are they in the midst of a season to rival the 1985 Pittsburgh Pirates, they're suffering the indignity of being shipped to the A.L. in an asinine scheduling shift that only the diabolical mind of Bud Selig could have concocted.

But I digress. We're here to talk about the Mets, who managed 6 runs in 4 games against the worst pitching staff in Baseball, and followed that up by mustering all of 6 runs in 3 games against the worst team in Baseball, period. But, one of the fortuitous things about playing the worst team in baseball is that, inevitably, they'll manage to screw up even worse than the Mets. So, somehow, the Mets eked out 3 runs on Saturday and won, and then Ike Davis' 2 solo Home Runs on Sunday were amazingly enough to get the job done as well.

It did, of course, get worse before it got better. Friday night, Jonathon Niese pitched admirably well, only allowing 3 runs, but given that 3 runs has been a tall order for the Mets of late, he was screwed. I caught the tail end of the game, and as soon as I saw the 3-1 score, I knew that the Mets weren't going to win the game. I couldn't even tell you who drove in those Astros runs, or who might have been pitching for them (although I did catch a Fernando Martinez sighting, I see he's done very well for himself since being cut by the Mets). The audience appeared to be asleep, since I would have expected mass booing and jeering from the outset, although most of the people must have either left or didn't feel like wasting the energy. This loss dropped the Mets to 0-4 against the Astros (similarly, they struggled against the '85 Pirates, winning only 10 of 18 against a 104-loss team). Suffice it to say, there weren't any words worth writing then, although I bandied about writing a "Fire Terry" blog before sleep got the better of me.

Saturday, I didn't see any of the game, as I was out most of the day, and a Mets/Astros game at this point wasn't high on my list of priorities. R.A. Dickey was on the mound, once again looking for his 16th win of the season, and at the rate he was going, he would  have to go back to throwing 1-hitters every time out in order to get that 16th win. A decent crowd of 29,000 apparently showed up for this one, but I suspect the lure of Mike Piazza Bobbleheads was a greater attraction than having to watch the game. I got a buzz on my phone late in the day with the final score, a 3-1 Mets victory. I had to do a double take, because for one, I'd forgotten the Mets were even playing, and for two, they scored 3 runs! And not only that, two of them came via a Justin Turner Home Run, and a Jason Bay RBI. When things like that start happening, you'd  better win, because who wants to waste gems like that? And, win they did.

And, of course, I was out Sunday as well, and didn't see the Ike Davis show, who provided the necessary offense while the rest of the team apparently ran in circles like Electric Football players. And, again, amazingly, 2 runs was enough to win the Mets a game.

So, what does that mean? It means that now that the Mets are going back to playing a real team like Philly this week, they may have some problems. A weekend in Mickey Mouse Marlins land may mean fewer problems, but still, cause for concern. If you care anymore, that is.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1991

Part 30 of our 50 year Top Prospect list...
What is it: 1991 Topps #30, Gregg Jefferies

What makes it interesting: Aesthetically, not a great deal. After the multi-colored fiasco that was the 1990 issue, Topps went way too simple for their 40th anniversary issue of 1991. The right mixture lies somewhere in between 1990 and 1991 and neither really captured it. Some people, in certain circles, do like this set, though.

I used to love Gregg Jefferies. When the Mets called him up in late August of '88, and he responded by hitting .321 with 6 HRs, and twice came within a single of hitting for the cycle, how could you not root for him? He made an immediate impact that pulled the Mets out of a team slump and carried them into the playoffs in '88. He didn't disappoint in the postseason, either, batting .333 with 9 hits in the Mets series loss to Los Angeles. The Minor League player of the decade for the 1980s, Gregg Jefferies was anointed a savior in waiting for the Mets, and his start in '88 certainly didn't lessen the hype. The Mets traded away Wally Backman and installed the 21-year old Jefferies as the starting 2Bman in '89. His rookie cards were the hottest thing around. I'm pretty sure I even had a Gregg Jefferies puzzle at one point.

But amid the hype, Jefferies wilted. His defense, never known as a large part of his game, was often suspect no matter what position he played. He only hit sporadically, finishing the year with a middling .258 average, 12 Home Runs and a paltry .392 Slugging Pct. Nonetheless, in a weak year of voting (the award went to the memorable Cubs outfielder Jerome Walton), Jefferies finished 3rd in the NL Rookie of the Year voting (after managing to garner enough votes in 6 weeks' playing time to finish 6th in 1988). Nonetheless, Jefferies' star didn't dim much, and he did improve in 1990. Though his fielding was still lousy, and teammates often bickered with him over his attitude, justified as Jefferies often acted the part of a 22-year old, Jefferies raised his Batting Average to .283, with 15 Home Runs, 68 RBIs and a NL-Leading 40 Doubles (remember that?). Certainly, only a slight improvement would be necessary for Jefferies to develop into the All Star player everyone thought he would be.

Didn't happen. At least, not with the Mets. After a slow start in 1991, and continued bashing from his teammates and press, Jefferies responded with an open letter to WFAN pleading his case. This endeared him to no one and resulted in his being portrayed as a baby in a Daily News cartoon. Jefferies clearly couldn't win in New York, and his performance regressed in '91, as did the rest of the Mets, as they slid to 5th place in the NL East, and Jefferies slid to .272, with 9 HRs and 30XBH in total. Unable to get along with his teammates or the New York Media, Jefferies was dealt to Kansas City in the Bret Saberhagen deal prior to the '92 season. But, as trouble begets trouble, Saberhagen proved no better to the team chemistry or the team image, and the Mets spiraled out of control. Jefferies, meanwhile, found himself as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, hitting over .300 multiple times, and making the All Star Team in 1993 and 1994.

Jefferies' legacy with the Mets is often mixed. On the one hand, he was clearly immature and unable to stand up to the glare of playing in New York. But his teammates' behavior during that period of time was no better, and often he got singled out due to the hype placed on him. Jefferies clearly had the talent, and was probably not used to adversity nor the egos of his fellow Major Leaguers, and only when he matured, long after he was gone from the Mets, did he find success. But, for those 6 weeks in 1988, he certainly won over 9-year old me, and I was a fan of his for as long as he was on the team. It's easy to block out the New York Media when you're that age.

Card back:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bill of Goods

I don't want to piss on the Colin McHugh parade, but when you go up against the Triple A lineup that the Colorados put out this afternoon, it's not so difficult to have a historical Major League Debut. I wouldn't go crazy comparing McHugh to anybody spectacular. Let's see what he does after a couple of times around the league. There's a reason nobody had heard of McHugh until about 2 days ago, and it's because he's not Nolan Ryan. He's not Tom Seaver. I don't even think he's Matt Harvey right now. He had an excellent start today. I get it, I understand it. But I'm tired of being sold this bill of goods. There's probably only one team that McHugh might have pitched better against, and that's the team he was playing for. The team that managed 6 runs in 4 games against the worst pitching staff in the league, a staff so bad that they pull their starters after 3 innings and just let relievers try to figure it out. A team that came into Citi Field on Monday with a record of 46-73 and left 4 victories richer.

The Mets were flawed to begin with, and their solid first half was something that surprised and tantalized everyone, but it's ancient history now. It's safe to say that every ounce of good vibes the Mets had generated earlier this season has been erased. Right now, the Mets look about as miserable as they did in 2009, and maybe that's being kind, because they're generating the kind of results that look like something out of 1993 with a roster that's a little bit 1982, a little bit 2003, a lot miserable.

I'm being awfully cynical, but how can you not be when we keep getting told about the prospects and the pieces of the future that are here now? I said it yesterday and I'll say it again; who on this team would you want to have back next season? At this point, you could count them on one hand. Wright, Ike, Tejada, Dickey, Harvey, Niese...And who else exactly? The rest can be fed to the wolves. I can't even dump on the Jason Bays anymore because it's too easy. How about Josh Thole? Has he had 2 hits in the last month? I was skeptical about him last season because his defense had gotten sloppy and he spent the entire season hitting about .240 with no power. This season? Same thing. Not an everyday Catcher. Stop telling me he is. Jordany Valdespin? Infectious, Jose Reyes-like energy? Got a few long hits at opportune moments? Can't field any position adequately? Misplays routine fly balls? Runs into outs with frightening abandon? Swings for the fences every time up? Lacks a general sense of logic and basic Baseball discipline? Not an every day player. Barely passable as a reserve. Bobby Parnell? Electric Fastball? Consistency of Oliver Perez? Not a future closer.

More than half the team looks like it's going through the motions. Players like Torres, Murphy, Baxter and Hairston aren't every day players. Murphy's close, but he can't go through these 2-for-20 streaks that he's always going through. The stink that this team is generating isn't the same kind of stink we've endured in 2009, because that was because of injuries, or 2007, because that was complacency. This is the stink of suckitude, and it's gotten so bad that it's dragging down the good players on the team. David Wright was hitting everything in sight in the first half. Now, teams are just pitching around him, and when they're not, he's gotten back into that old habit of killing himself trying to carry the team on his back. He's just not the kind of player who can do that. But since nobody else around him seems to be able to hit, or in many cases pitch, here he is again, pressing. Can you blame him for grousing about being tired of losing? Aren't we all tired of losing?

Terry Collins is just as culpable for this mess as anyone. If we're all going to heap praise on him for the job he did keeping this team together, keep them fighting and scrapping for every win they got in the first half, then he deserves blame for letting it all crumble in the face of adversity. He mismanaged the bullpen because he couldn't trust anyone, and then he started getting stuck in situations where he had to go to the bullpen and it was damned if you do, damned if you don't. The personnel he's given isn't his fault, but when I routinely have to question removing the starting pitcher, and immediately being proven right because the bullpen immediately fucks it all up, something's wrong. Terry Collins said he wouldn't tolerate exactly the kind of play he's now tolerating out of his team. So...which is it? Or has he just lost the clubhouse? If that's the case, then, hey, we may as well have just kept Jerry Manuel around chortling in the locker room.

I've been told, and believe myself, that the only way to change a lousy team is if they are completely humiliated. That's beginning to happen to the Mets right now, in the midst of this 10-32 12-30, 2 wins at home since the All Star Break stretch. Everyone watching certainly knows this, and I certainly hope people in the organization get it as well. Sandy Alderson even said as much, but does he have the leeway he's supposed to have from the wonderful owners? The hot word is that the team payroll isn't expected to increase much, and most of it is still going to be tied up in 5 or 6 players. So, what sort of freedom do the Mets have to bring in someone who can make a difference? How can they bring in real, actual Major League talent to bolster this roster? There's not much tradeable in the Minors, I don't believe (still), so will the Wilpons actually let Alderson spend some money this offseason? How long do we have to keep asking this question? It's getting  a little tired. If the great owners don't have the money to field a competitive team, then do us all a favor and get lost. Go away. Sell the team to someone who, hopefully, cares about building a winner. Because there's only so many times you can sell the same rotten stew to a long-since disenchanted fan base.

Phew. This rant might not be quite as impactful as the one Mike Francesa unleashed on the Mets earlier today, but it comes from the same place. He's tired of watching this, and he's not even a Mets fan. How do you think the Mets fans feel?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

And Then?

So, basically, when you're playing the Mets, there's two things to remember:

1) Just bunt the ball and something good will probably happen.
2) If you can't hit their starting pitcher, just wait him out. Eventually, someone from the bullpen will come in.

Usually one or the other will work. Tonight, both happened to play into the favor of the Colorados as they won their 3rd game in a row from the Miserable Mets.

If Monday's game was disgusting, and Tuesday's game was embarrassing, then how do you describe this game tonight? Normal? Because I don't really see much difference between this game and the two prior. Except that maybe the lineups and pitchers were a little different. I noticed Jason Bay was starting tonight, that's lovely, really. I mean, he always deserves a good chance to go 0 for 3. Kelly Shoppach got the start at Catcher, just to break up the monotony of Josh Thole grounding out to 2nd base a bunch of times, he looked sharp, double clutched when a runner was stealing and then heaved the ball into Center Field.

The one thing, and lately it's rare that there's one good thing to take away from a Mets game, but the one thing to take away is that Matt Harvey once again pitched well, and if nothing else left the game with the Mets in position to win, you know, if they could score more than 2 runs a game. Harvey's only fault, really, was that he wasn't economical with his 102 pitches, scattering them over 6 innings, while allowing 1 run and striking out 9 Colorados. Had they been over 8 innings, perhaps things might have turned out differently, but he'll learn that as a necessity over time (unless Sandy Alderson decides to go out and get a real bullpen) it might be in his best interest to go a little deeper into his games.

But, no, Harvey was done after 6, and almost like clockwork, there was Ramon Ramirez allowing a Home Run to the first batter, and then giving up another run when Colorado did what they do best—bunted—causing Ramirez to crash into Shoppach and allow the clinching 3rd run to score.

This team right now lacks direction or a plan. They've got a bad case of the Dennis Greens right now, which has pretty much killed any good feelings that their surprising first half generated. They've now lost 3 starting pitchers, with Johan Santana shelved for the season, and that's clearly more than they're able to overcome, particularly considering they already had to overcome their lousy bullpen. They've managed to display that they have no Outfielder or Catcher of Major League quality on their roster. Their best player is beginning to grouse about the continued struggles and penny-pinching nature of ownership. There's a wealth of pitching talent in the Minors, but little offense to speak of. I mean, out of the players the Mets have run out there this season, how many of them would you really want to keep around? Enough to fill out a lineup? I think that's debatable. You keep Wright, Davis, Tejada, Murphy and who else, exactly? The idea that you can live and die on 2-out hits isn't a sustainable solution because these things tend to average out. The Mets weren't as good as they played in the first half, primarily because they caught a ton of breaks, and got everyone believing that this year was going to be different. But, now, things have evened out and we're seeing the team that everyone thought was going to be dead last. And right now, they look like a team destined to finish dead last, and I'm not sure when things are going to improve. It's getting a little depressing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's a Great Team

I guess I shouldn't have made that crack about Mets Turd Sandwich Night last night, because tonight, that's basically what I got for showing up to this crapfest.

The Ballclub was fully represented tonight, as George and I were at the game. Things certainly started out well enough. Chris Young got off to a flying start, striking out the side in the 1st inning and allowing the Colorados very little from there. Through 5, he hadn't allowed the Colorados a sniff of anything, retiring each of the first 15 men to the plate. But, Chris Young is Chris Young, and even though the Colorados are boasting a B-team lineup, nobody in the ballpark was fooled. Chris Young wasn't throwing a perfect game. Chris Young wasn't even going to throw a no hitter. In fact, with the way the Mets offense has been lighting things up, this 1-0 lead was dicey, at best.

Sometime around the 5th inning was, basically, the highlight of the night. I received a surprise visit from my Mets Ticket Rep, who came to give us a pair of field level tickets. Sweet! Free upgrade! So we hopped downstairs from 518 down to 109, and arrived just in time to see the massacre begin. Just as we settled in, Andres Torres was picked off 2nd base. Somehow, he was called safe after sneaking back in, but it seemed fairly obvious to me that he'd been tagged out. Jim Tracy came out to argue and the call was reversed. Terry Collins responded by storming out and going fairly batty, and getting himself ejected, but really, what was the point? The umpires convened and made the right call. So, fine. Back to the carnage.

It started out innocuously enough, with an infield single from Cheech LaNoseHair. Didn't seem like much, but it ended the perfect game (the ovation afforded to Young seemed more a courtesy than anything else), ended the no hitter, and more or less served as the turning point of the game because everything basically unraveled from there. Two batters later, there was Chris Young making a throw to first on a sacrifice bunt that only he or Jon Rauch might have been able to catch (whether or not Murphy alligator-armed it is irrelevant, the throw was terrible), and the lead was gone. Then, Charlie McCharlieman got a hit, the Colorados took the lead, and the game was essentially done from there. Once the Colorados pushed the lead to 3-1, you knew it was over because the Mets aren't hitting a damn thing. They couldn't hit Jhoulys (not Gustavo) Chacin, of the 7.07 ERA and just off the DL, what chance did they have to somehow catch up?

It only got worse from there, since once the Mets lost the lead, they basically decided to abandon all fundamentals. Jordany Valdespin neither caught, nor managed to field a fly ball in front of him. Wild pitches abound. Runners getting thrown out. Ike Davis makes a good play at first to start a rundown in the 9th, Thole runs D.J. Schmegeggie back towards Wright, throws to Wright...and then Wright is left to chase the runner home as Bobby Parnell is somewhere holding his jock rather than covering home. The end result? At least we had a nice view of this loss. See? There's always a silver lining. Even on Mets Turd Sandwich Night.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ho Hum

Saturday night, Terry Collins pulled Jonathon Niese from a 2-0 game with 1 out and nobody on base in the 8th inning. Niese, to that point, had been brilliant, allowing 5 hits and no walks along with 7 strikeouts. I questioned the move. Surely, even though he had thrown 109 pitches, Niese was able to finish the 8th without incident. He'd done an excellent job of baffling the Nationals all night. Fortunately for Collins, Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco were equally sharp, getting the final 5 outs of a rare Mets victory.

Tonight, Terry Collins pulled R.A. Dickey from a 1-1 game after 7 innings in which Dickey had allowed 1 run and 3 hits, along with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts against the Colorados, the only run coming on a Tyler Colvin Home Run on a knuckleball that didn't knuckle. Collins pinch hit for Dickey with Justin Turner, with 2 outs and Andres Torres on 1st. Torres, one of the few Mets capable of swiping a base, remained glued to 1st base, and Justin Turner flied out to center. Surely, having only thrown 99 pitches, Dickey was more than capable of coming back for the 8th inning. Perhaps Torres' walk was the worst thing that would happen to the Mets, as it meant Dickey's spot in the lineup was going to come up, as opposed to Torres doing what he usually does and popping out to the 2nd Baseman.

In the top of the 8th, Josh Edgin came in, promptly allowed a bunt single to Jonathan Herrera, who went to 2nd when Edgin wisely threw wildly to first, went to 3rd on the subsequent Sacrifice Bunt by Ratso Helton, and scored on the inevitable passed ball. The Mets did what they seem to do best in this miserable 2nd half and mount a rally to get the tying and lead runs on base and fail to get them home. The Colorados tacked on another run in the 9th, but that wouldn't have mattered. 2-1 may as well have been 10-1 the way things have been going lately.

I can understand the strategy of removing Dickey when he was removed. But if that's the case, why not just have Thole bunt Torres over to 2nd before sending up Turner, or throw him a signal to steal a damn base. Of course, in the 9th inning, Torres found himself on base and took off immediately, just in time for Shoppach to pop out to the Catcher. My contention is that if Torres was just going to take a nap while he was on 1st, then why not just let Dickey hit and go back out there for the 8th. If he gives up the lead run, I can live with it, and I'm sure he can too. But since there's nobody trustworthy in the bullpen, he clearly is the best option there is, so why isn't he still out there? It goes against conventional strategy, I suppose, but I'd rather be 1-1 in the 8th with Dickey on the mound. We saw the alternative in action and it wasn't very good.

The Ballclub will be in attendance on Tuesday night. I'm hopeful that the results will be better against the Colorados with Chris Young on the mound, but who knows. Maybe there will be another frivolous giveaway, something like Mets USB cable night, or Mets Turd Sandwich night...Oh, wait. That's every night. Or at least it is lately.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1990

Part 29 of our 50-year Kid...
What is it: 1990 Topps #790, Gary Carter

What makes it interesting: GACK! After a number of years of really great-looking designs, Topps vomited up this multi-colored monstrosity in 1990. I'm not sure what, exactly, brought this on, but my suspicion is that the heat from competing brands like Donruss and Upper Deck might have had something to do with it.

There's little I could say about Gary Carter that hasn't already been said. A fiery, charismatic leader, Carter was to the Mets, perhaps, what Dave DeBusschere was to the Knicks a generation earlier: The missing piece to the Championship puzzle. Carter was the premiere Catcher in the Majors through the early 1980s, and toiling away for a languishing Expos team, he longed for the opportunity to win a championship. The Mets were a team on the rise, full of young stars ready to break out and in need of an established Veteran leader to bring it all together. The resulting deal that would bring Carter to the Mets on December 10th 1984 was, perhaps, the perfect storm. Carter said in his introductory press conference that he was "saving the right ring finger for a World Series Ring."

In his first game with the Mets, on April 9th, 1985, Carter hit a Walkoff Home Run in the 10th inning. This pretty much set the tone for Carter in New York. The fans were immediately taken with their new star and never looked back. Carter was never one to back down from the adoration the fans heaped on him, answering their cheers with exuberant, fist pumping curtain calls after his Home Runs. Carter was a rock for the Mets, hitting a career-high 32 Home Runs, and driving in 100 runs in '85. Carter was just as solid in '86, driving home another 105 runs as the Mets romped to a Division Title. Though he did suffer a severe slump, the playoffs that season would provide several signature moments for Carter, among them his Game winning hit in Game 5 of the NLCS, and his 2 Home Runs in Game 4 of the World Series. He would catch every inning of every Postseason game that year. And, of course, he was the last man standing for the Mets on October 25th, 1986, with 2 out and nobody on in the Bottom of the 10th. And, of course, he flared that single in front of Jim Rice to start the rally. And he scored the first run that brought the Mets closer to their goal. And, two nights later, he caught the final strike of the season from Jesse Orosco, and his dream had finally come true. He'd finally won that World Series Championship that had eluded him for so many years.

Though age would catch up with Carter, as it would for many Catchers as their careers drew on, he remained a leader, an All Star and a Fan Favorite. He would hit his 300th career Home Run with the Mets on August 11th, 1988, after a HR drought that lasted nearly 3 months. But by 1989, injuries to his knees finally caught up with him. No longer able to be an everyday player, Carter would not be resigned by the Mets after his contract expired. The fans knew this, and afforded him with huge ovations every time he came to the plate late in the '89 season.

Gary Carter retired following the 1992 seasons as one of the greatest Catchers in Major League History. He would remain a beloved figure by all Mets fans, everywhere. He would remain active within the Mets Minor league system. In 2001, he would be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. And in 2003, he would receive the ultimate honor for his outstanding career when he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sadly, Gary Carter was felled by Brain Cancer in early 2012. Mets fans never forget, though, giving rousing cheers to the Gary Carter tribute video that would play at Citi Field throughout 2011, and welcoming Carter's widow and children with a huge ovation when they appeared to reveal Gary Carter's memorial patch on Opening Day in 2012. Gary Carter was a champion warrior, and will remain as one of the greatest heroes the Mets have known.

Card back:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1989

Part 28 of our 50-year Potrzebie...
What is it: 1989 Topps #105, Ron Darling

What makes it interesting: Another classic-looking '80s set from Topps. The '89s are generally under-appreciated in the grand scheme of things, but I've always been a fan of this set.

Currently, of course, Ron Darling is best known as one third of our fine play-by-play team on SNY, who has garnered a great deal of much-deserved respect and recognition for his work. In the history books, Ron Darling can sometimes be overlooked for the work he did on the field for the Mets. A mainstay in the starting rotation for 6 seasons, Ron Darling often found himself on the mound at times when the Mets needed a big outing out of him. And more often than not, he delivered. He may not have always racked up the Ws, but he always left the Mets with a chance to win the game.

Initially, Ron drew acclaim for being a rare Yale graduate to reach the Major Leagues (only two Yale grads have played in the Majors since). A cerebral finesse pitcher, Darling's repertoire was the perfect compliment to Dwight Gooden's heat. His rookie year of '84 started out strong, but fizzled with a number of poor outings and no-decisions in the latter half of the season. It was in '85 that Darling blossomed, making his only All Star appearance and finishing with a sterling 16-6 record, and a 2.90 ERA. It was in '85 that he also gained his reputation as a big game pitcher. But it was a start that he didn't win that he was best remembered for. With the Mets in St. Louis for a crucial pennant race game on October 1st, Darling found himself matched against Cardinals ace John Tudor. And Darling matched Tudor zero for zero all night long, keeping the game scoreless into extra innings before Darryl Strawberry's 11th inning Home Run won the game, 1-0.

Darling was equally solid in 1986, winning 15 games, finishing 3rd in the National League with a 2.81 ERA, and finishing 5th in the Cy Young Award voting. Darling saved a couple of his best outings that season for the postseason. Although he was hit hard by Houston in the NLCS, he was solid in his first World Series outing, pitching shutout ball into the 7th inning before losing on Tim Teufel's error. But if he was good in Game 1, he was great in Game 4, pitching 7 shutout innings as the Mets won that game to tie the series 2-2. His start in Game 7 was, by his own admission, not very good, but as he would note, his teammates bailed him out and won the World Series over Boston.

Darling would struggle to match his success of '85 and '86 in the years that followed. Injuries would take a toll on him, among other things. The thumb injury he suffered on that fateful September game vs. the Cardinals in '87 would end a season marked by a number of no-decisions and also rob him of his ability to throw his curveball, one of his out pitches. Nonetheless, Darling rebounded with an excellent season in 1988, winning a career high 17 games with a 3.25 ERA. His record included the incredible home/road split of 14-1 at Shea Stadium, and 3-8 elsewhere. That season would end with another Game 7 start for Darling, this time against the Dodgers in the NLCS, where he was done in by errors and poor luck, and failed to last the 2nd inning. 1989 brought more inconsistency. Although he would win 14 games, marking his 6th straight season of posting at least 12 victories, and a 3.52 ERA, he also lost 14 games, and his grip on a spot in a now-crowded starting rotation became more tenuous. By 1990, he would begin to drift in and out of the rotation, and, of course, he was traded to Montreal in 1991.

Darling's Mets career has to be considered a success overall. He finished with 99 wins and a 3.50 ERA, throwing 25 complete games and 10 shutouts in a Mets uniform. One of the more literary figures in Mets history, Darling's book, "The Complete Game," ranks up there as one of my favorite Baseball reads. He also earned acclaim, early in his career, for being one of the Mets more eligible bachelors, scoring dates with Madonna, most notably, before settling down with a Wilhelmina Model (just imagine if he played in the Twitter era!). Mostly, however, Darling should be remembered as a fierce competitor who could always be trusted to deliver a strong outing. He often delivered with performances equal to the magnitude of the game, and, of course, was a key member of the 1986 World Series Champions.

Card back:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Friend Harvey!

After the Mets looked so lifeless on Wednesday, to the point where I couldn't even be inspired to blog about the game, with no getaway day game for me to listen to on the radio this afternoon, I figured the Mets were probably sunk.

But, Matt Harvey took the mound tonight and provided not only a bit of salvation in Cincinnati, but also another tantalizing glimpse of the future of the Mets starting rotation.

Harvey's strong outing—4 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and 8 strikeouts in 7.2 innings and only 89 pitches—against a Cincinnati Reds lineup that has been mostly beating everyone's brains in (even with their best hitter, Joey Votto, on the shelf) was the kind of outing that everyone, even Harvey himself, should be well pleased with. After his sterling first start, Harvey had been good, if hittable, in his following three starts, which is to be expected out of a young pitcher. He's going to take his lumps, he's going to get lit up like a damn Christmas tree sometimes, but his demeanor—excellent for a young pitcher—has stayed the same. Go out there, make your pitches, get the outs, get the job done, get the victory. And anything less is a failure.

Sometimes, this sort of pressure, particularly when you play under the New York microscope, can wear down a pitcher early in his career (Pitchers such as Ian Kennedy, who would find succeess after leaving New York, come to mind). I don't see that happening to Harvey. He appears to be the kind of pitcher that would make Crash Davis proud. Harvey's mental makeup seems to be mostly unflappable on the mound, mixed with an impassioned aversion to losing that would rival the likes of, say, Keith Hernandez or Tom Seaver. Those are lofty comparisons over a career's standpoint, and of course Harvey is just getting started. But through 5 starts, you have to be pleased with what you've seen out of him, and even when the results haven't been in his favor, you certainly have to be impressed with the way he's handled himself off the field. He appeared to be mostly cheerful after the game, and with good reason. I have a feeling that we'll be seeing that Matt Harvey more often than not over the years to come.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Inevitable Meltdown

Sometimes, you can see these things coming well before they happen.

It wasn't so much that you knew the Mets were going to find a way to lose the game, but you knew that it was going to be that 3-run Homer that did it to them. The Reds, who have mostly played like the class of the NL Central to this point even if the standings might not necessarily agree, had every opportunity to wipe the Mets off the board tonight, but somehow the Mets managed to hang in there. The Reds probably had 2 runners on in every inning, I wasn't exactly paying full attention but it sure seemed that way (and a game that was 0-0 into the bottom of the 9th lasting well over 3 hours is indicative of such). With 2 men on all the time, and the tiny ballpark in Cincinnati, and a lineup full of mashers, well, you do the math.

Chris Young departed in the 6th after basically starting every inning with a runner on 1st. It didn't happen then, Ramon Ramirez got Stubbs to ground out.

Bobby Parnell didn't serve it up either, though he'd be as likely a candidate as anyone. He wormed out of a bases loaded jam in the 7th.

Manny Acosta took the loss, and deservedly so after walking Phillips and giving up a hit to Ludwick. It would have served him right if Terry had left him in to face Meatman Jay Bruce. But nooooo. It fell to Josh Edgin. Acosta, I suppose, would have made more sense, because he is terrible and inspires no hope, and at least Edgin is a rookie with some alleged upside to him, but no matter how you threw the pitch, somehow Jay Bruce was going to hit that 3-run Home Run. You could see it coming as soon as Acosta took the mound and heaved 4 pitches higher and higher over Phillips' head. That was how it was going to end. And yet, for some reason, I kept it on, like there was going to be some kind of perverse joy I'd get out of being right and calling the Mets demise. I don't know. It's not exactly pleasant knowing that there's going to be some your team will inevitably screw up a game, but I guess it softens the sting, somewhat. Somewhat.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lost Win

It's really sad that even a 6-1, 9th inning lead can't be a sure thing because of the Mets bullshit bullpen. I'm not saying anything new, but this group has basically ruined the good vibes and the progress of the season.

That's not to say that the Bullpen was the only culprit in what was basically a forgettable weekend for the Mets. I got home in around the 3rd inning on Saturday night, clicked the game on, saw it was 9-1, and immediately changed the channel. I was not only glad that I missed how it got to that point, but also that I'd missed the prior night's forgettable 4-0 washout at the hands of Paul Maholm, a guy whom the Mets routinely blasted in his Pirate days.

I'd say you probably can't call Johan Santana done, if only because his competitive spirit and his talent wouldn't allow it. But he is probably entering that late-era Pedro Martinez territory, where you're not quite sure what you're going to get every time out, but you've got to watch, because he might do something incredible. Or the sprinklers will come on. The same can't be said about the bullpen, because as I think I keep repeating, this group either doesn't have it, never had it, or never will have it.

So, after throwing Friday and Saturday night out the window, here comes Sunday, and a surprise appearance on The Biggest Game In The Galaxy on ESPN. I thought the Mets were done with these once they stopped being relevant. But, nonetheless, there they were, LIVE under the lights, and actually doing a reasonably good job of kicking the Braves in the nuts a little bit. I enjoyed watching that game. I enjoyed watching Jonathon Niese throw one of his good games, mixing his pitches, keeping out of jams and not letting things snowball to the point where he gets his John Maine face on. David Wright got some key hits, Ike Davis got some key hits, Jordany Valdespin hit a Home Run, and everything was just hunky dory.

Then came the 9th. How ominous it sounds.

After 105 pitches, there was probably no good reason why Jonathon Niese COULDN'T pitch the 9th inning, but you knew he was coming out anyway. I know conventional wisdom says let him leave feeling good and building on it next time out, and besides, even the Mets bullpen ought to get through the inning without blowing a 5-run lead. But then Josh Edgin was walking guys and hitting guys, and then Frank Francisco was walking in runs, and then Jon Rauch was in the game with the tying run on 3rd and the lead run on 2nd, and all of a sudden, I'm back in that bunker. The flashbacks were starting. There they were. Aaron Heilman. Luis Ayala. Scott Schoeneweis. Duaner Sanchez. The temptation to shut the TV off and run away screaming were creeping up on me.

But it didn't happen. Somehow, Rauch got Jason Heyward to wave at a 3rd strike. The ball lingered at Rob Johnson's feet, but he recovered in enough time to throw Heyward out at 1st. And the Mets had a victory. Probably the least inspiring victory they've had all season, but a victory nonetheless.

At least they're not doing this while contending for something. Everyone would be apoplectic by now.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1988

Part 27 of our 50-year Strikeout Hanky...
What is it: 1988 Topps #181, Dave Cone

What makes it interesting: The 1988s are another very pure effort from Topps during their Golden Era of the '80s. This design works so well, Topps would try to "replicate" it in later issues with miserable results. It's one of their more simpler designs, but generally, simple tends to work best when it comes to the composition of a baseball card.

Topps' issues are never without their screwups, however. One that was caught, and fixed, was the incorrect photo used on Al Leiter's Rookie Card from this issue. One that isn't so much an error is Topps' insistence on referring to David Cone as "Dave" on several of his early cards. I don't recall ever hearing anyone refer to him as "Dave." He was always David. In 1988, he evolved from a swing man, sometimes starting, sometimes relieving, never anything steady, to one of the best pitchers in the National League, and an emerging ace in a talent-laden Mets pitching staff. After the Mets basically heisted him from Kansas City in a trade involving Ed Hearn and Rick Anderson, Cone went 5-6 in 13 starts in an injury-interrupted 1987 season. Cone didn't make a start in 1988 until May 3rd, filling in for DL bound Rick Aguilera. Cone responded with a Complete Game Shutout against the Braves and didn't look back. He would make the first of two All Star Game appearances as a Met that season, and finished off his season winning all of his final 7 starts, mixing in 4 Complete Games and 2 Shutouts to cap off a sterling 20-3 season, with a 2.22 ERA and 213 strikeouts. Although an ill-advised and ill-timed article in the Daily News following Game 1 of that year's NLCS resulted in his getting bombed by a fired-up Dodgers team, Cone would rebound by pitching a season-saving Complete Game victory in Game 6 of that series.

From there, Cone became the #2 man in the Mets starting rotation behind Dwight Gooden. Though he would never match his lofty numbers of 1988, he would certainly acquit himself as an outstanding pitcher, topping 200 strikeouts 3 more times and never posting fewer than 13 victories. He would post three One-Hitters, and threw his finest game as a Met on the final day of the 1991 season, posting 19 Strikeouts in a shutout against Philadelphia.

Controversy would always seem to follow Cone, whether it was his attempt  at journalism, or some of his off-the-field exploits. Nonetheless, these things would never seem to affect him on the field, where he consistently presented a baffling array of pitches, which he would always throw at different arm angles, making him consistently one of the toughest pitchers to face in the Major Leagues. He was traded late in the 1992 season, in what could have been either a cost-cutting move, or a character-cutting move, but nonetheless, one of the best pitchers the Mets would have was gone. Success would follow him to other teams, with World Championships and a Cy Young Award, and when he returned to the Mets in 2003, it was a nice, nostalgic comeback story, as Cone returned to Shea wearing the uniform number of Dwight Gooden, but it didn't end in success and Cone ultimately retired in May. Nonetheless, Cone's contributions to the Mets and their success in the Late 80s cannot be overlooked, as he cut his teeth with the Mets and built the foundation of his outstanding career.

Card back:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1987

Part 26 of our 50-year Rally Cap...
What is it: 1987 Topps #460, Darryl Strawberry

What makes it interesting: Topps brought back the woodgrain borders for the '87s. The result was one of their more iconic and memorable sets, particularly for those of my generation, who grew up with this set being our initial exposure to the world of Baseball Cards. I put this set together by hand as an 8-year old and for many years, I had just about every card in the set memorized (for example, I could always tell you that Keith Hernandez was card #350 or Dwight Gooden was card #130). The design holds up, Topps keeps reviving it in throwback inserts and archive issues.

Darryl Strawberry's card was one such card that you always wanted to pull out of a pack, because he was great and the card was important. In '87, and for the several surrounding years, Darryl was pretty important himself. A mercurial player with undeniable talent, Strawberry was viewed as a savior from the moment he joined the Mets on May 6th, 1983. Rarely did he disappoint. Though he missed a month of the season, Strawberry became the 3rd Met to win Rookie of the Year honors, and he followed that up by being voted an All Star starter every year he remained a Met, until 1990.

Strawberry had the kind of power that comes along only so often. A perfect example of a Stawberry Home Run would be his iconic 8th inning blast in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. A skyrocket that hung in the air forever, Strawberry knew it was gone the moment he hit it, and his 2-minute trot around the bases was evidence. Strawberry's incredible strength produced awe-inducing, tape measure Home Runs on a regular basis and posited him as the kind of player who could carry the entire team on his back when he had to. In 1987, he broke Dave Kingman's single-season club record for Home Runs with 39 (one of which was hit in the first Mets game I ever attended on August 23rd), and he equaled that mark in 1988, surpassing Kingman's career club mark for HRs in the process.

By time he left for the Dodgers following the 1990 season (a move Strawberry regrets as one of his worst decisions), Strawberry's place in Mets history was secure. He remains the Mets all-time leader in Home Runs with 252, and formerly was the all time leader in RBIs, Slugging percentage, Runs scored, Bases on Balls and Extra Base hits. He also ranks 4th with 191 steals, another facet of his game often overlooked, although he did become the first of 3 Mets to make the 30-30 club in '87. Though illness and personal problems curtailed the latter half of his career, Strawberry remains a beloved and iconic figure in team history. In 2010, alongside his dear friend and teammate Dwight Gooden, and his Manager and General Manager from the '86 World Series Champions, Dave Johnson and Frank Cashen, Strawberry was elected to the Mets Hall of Fame.

Card back:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Radio Rescue

So, basically, the Mets have had two real bonafide solutions to whatever's ailed them this season.

1) Play a weekday afternoon game so I have to listen to it on the radio in my office.

2) Pitch R.A. Dickey.

If the Mets just switched exclusively to weekday afternoon games, maybe they'd win more often, since that seems to be the formula that works best for them. I'm not sure what their record is, but it seems like every time I click the radio on and listen while I work, the Mets come out victorious. And when they happen to throw R.A. Dickey in a weekday afternoon game, well, look out, because they seem to be just about unstoppable. Yesterday was one such example.

After a pair of games against the Neutered Mickey Mouse Marlins where the Mets basically looked like a defeated team playing out the string, Dickey went out yesterday and breathed some life back into everyone by doing what he does best: fluttering around the knuckleball, foul up the timing of the opposing batters, let his offense score whatever they can (the 6-run outburst seemed like manna from heaven, particularly considering most of it was generated by Andres Torres), and finish off the rest.

Aside from Justin Rugelach's Home Run in some early inning (I forget which), the Marlins really didn't seem to mount much of a threat the rest of the way. This is, of course, as far as I could tell, listening mostly with half an ear while immersing myself in assorted phone calls, e-mails and other paperwork that must be done. I've mentioned that Josh Lewin generally comes in handy on days like this; his inflections generally call attention to the important. Unfortunately, Lewin was off yesterday, leaving Howie Rose to rot alongside the vanilla voice of Jim Duquette, who appears to be about as competent a broadcaster as he was a General Manager. With Duquette, I'm left to sort of figure things out for myself, because he doesn't leave much in the way of notifying you of something interesting going on. After he did his innings, he threw it back to Howie. There was a long pause, much longer than usual, before Howie started speaking again. I was beginning to think he might have put Howie to sleep. He would have put me to sleep had I not had other things to do.

Nonetheless, even being bored by Jim Duquette couldn't put a damper on Dickey's sterling performance. With him pitching on a Thursday afternoon, how could you go wrong?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On the Other Hand

If I had to watch the Mets lose, better to have been there for the normal frustrating loss on Tuesday, where there was at least some excitement, than to have gone last night for the total bludgeoning.

Didn't matter if Chris Young had it or didn't  have it, because when you lose 13-0, nobody has it. If I had been at this game, I probably would have left in the 8th inning once it got to 10-0. As it was, I had it on TV at home, but I had mostly stopped paying attention, making Gary, Keith and Ron LIVE from the Pepsi Porch little more than background noise. But when the score hit 10-0, I said to myself, "Wait a second. Why the hell am I still watching this?" and immediately changed the channel. Why subject myself to any further misery.

It's gotten to the point where the Mickey Mouse Marlins, who bought high-priced Free Agents once again and this time didn't even wait a full season before blowing it up, are sticking it to us. We should be the ones kicking them in the nuts and laughing, not the other way around. Or maybe the juice is gone now that Hanley Ramirez has been traded to the Dodgers. Either way, they're still the Marlins and I still don't like them, and when their pitchers keep handing us hits and walks, we should probably try to do something with them. Just a thought.

Noon start today, which means a radio game in the office. Hopefully that will be the magic touch to turn things around.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tossed Aside

I'm 0 for 2 when I live blog from Citi Field, so maybe I should discontinue the experiment, no matter how much the lousy giveaways compel me to do so.

Then again, the I seem to have this every-other-game thing going this year. After winning the first two games I went to this season, the Mets have now alternated wins and losses in every game since. So, last  night, I was due for a loss, and I got it. It's better than, say, 2009, when they just lost every game.

It seems like every year there's a "forgotten late-season game" in August or September, usually a game the Mets lose, where nothing particularly interesting or noteworthy happens and after some time, I forget that I went to the game until I'm flipping through my album of scorecards and I discover that I was, indeed at this game. Given the way it played out, I see no reason why I'd want to remember being at this game.

It started out well enough, a nice pitching duel for the first 3 innings, until Jonathon Niese had an attack of whatever-the-hell-it-is-that-always-gets-him in the 4th. This time, it appears that he was undone by about 73 feet worth of singles from Justin Rugelach and Jose Reyes, the former of which David Wright just couldn't find the handle on, and the latter of which was probably an out. Nonetheless, the stage was set for the inevitable meltdown, and meltdown it did, replete with Andres Torres saving Niese from a 6-run bloodbath by running down Giancarlo's drive, and Josh Thole costing Niese a run by somehow managing to forget to tag Austin Kearns despite having the ball well before Kearns arrived at the plate. So, if, but, etc, etc, instead of 1 or 2 runs, it was 4, and it probably could have been worse. So let's count our blessings.

This didn't seem like an insurmountable deficit given that Wade LeBlanc had thrown about 103 pitches through the first 3 innings for the Marlins, and he was backed up by a bullpen that actually made the Mets bullpen look good by comparison. That's saying something.

Nonetheless, the Mets set about doing what they do best: Banging out single after single after single, and yet somehow never getting a long, key hit that would erase the deficit. Bases loaded in the 4th, Ruben Tejada grounds out. Bases loaded in the 5th, Terry Collins doesn't pinch hit for Niese (because giving Niese that extra inning was really important), Niese strikes out. 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, the Mets basically stood around with the bats up their asses. Ho hum, another boring 4-2 loss.

A performance as ridiculous as the license plate holders that were given out last night. Amazingly, I didn't notice anyone playing License Plate Frame Frisbee or anything, although I'm sure people were tempted to fling them at the field at any given moment during the game. I didn't even see any smashed License Plate Frame Pieces scattered around the Promenade level. But I did see plenty of sights like the above, where people deposited them under their seats and left them there, as if to say that they hold more utility being left at the place they were obtained, rather than being taken home.

That sounds an awful lot like the way most of us feel about the Mets nowadays.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Yet another indignant blog LIVE from Citi Field. It's my first game in over a month, with work getting in the way as usual. But now I'm back, in my regular perch in the Promenade.

I'm relatively used to going to games where nothing is given away, although I've made mention in the past of my attraction to certain kitschy items that are generally given out at weekend games I can't go to. But it seems tonight was one of those "surprise" promotions that they dropped in when nobody was paying attention. More often than not, these are the dates they save the real crap for.

Well, you want crap, you got it, because this is what was shoved in my face unceremoniously when I entered the ballpark. It's a license plate frame. Yes, all the lucky fans in attendance tonight are getting a dinky little plastic license plate frame.

I'm attracted to promotional kitsch, but this is ridiculous. It's also especially helpful for everyone here who DOESN'T OWN A CAR!

I really know how to pick 'em, I guess. Dunkin' Donuts cards, a Mr. Met Window Cling, and now this. A Mets license plate frame. Hopefully there's someone out there who will pay $3 for it on Ebay, because that's right where it's headed. Assuming I don't fling it at Jason Bay in disgust.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Midday Magic

Once again, the Mets played a midweek afternoon game, where I followed along on the radio in my office.

Once again, the Mets won big in this Radio Game.

It's become a bit of a pattern. As I keep mentioning, usually, when I have these games on the radio in my office, I'm listening with half an ear for one reason or another, or I have to step out of my office and I miss things completely. Thursday was no different. I put the radio on just as the game was about to start. Then I was called out of my office for about 10 or 15 minutes. When I came back, the first inning had ended, and the Mets had a 4-0 lead. That was a rather pleasant surprise.

Even more surprising was the source of much of the Mets offense. We don't have to talk about Jason Bay, because even though he drove in 2 runs, it's more than likely that this will send him into another 0-24 skid. Ronny Cedeno, like Bay, doesn't generate much offense, but then again he never did, so when he gets 5 RBIs in a game, it's like gravy because he's usually just in the lineup because a lefty was pitching or Tejada needed a burn.

Of course, since I was only partially paying attention, I didn't quite realize that Cedeno was having quite the day until Josh Lewin yelled something like "And it's a FIVE RBI day for Cedeno!" I probably wasn't even aware of the fact that Bay had done anything at all until I looked at the game recap much later on.

So, 3 of 4 in San Francisco, fine payback for them taking 3 of 4 here in April. All of a sudden, this West Coast swing hasn't gone too badly. Then again, now it's off to San Diego and Petco Park, where the Mets, I believe, have lost every game they've ever played there by a 2-1 score. Hopefully things will go better this time around.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Gleaning

I didn't see any part of last night's game, but based on what I heard about it afterward, this is basically what I figure happened:

1) The Mets made every good effort to try to hand the Giants the game, but the Giants just wouldn't take it.

2) Jonathon Niese made a very good rebound start after his putrid outing in Arizona.

3) Bobby Parnell actually pitched a reasonably calm, 1-2-3 9th inning, shocking everyone, and maybe even himself.

Ruben Tejada fired the keynote, hitting his first HR in nearly two years on Matt Cain's 2nd pitch of the game, and this started a pretty good slogfest for the Mets. They won, I'll give them that, and they're a win away from winning this 4-game series against a very good Giants team, but man, these have been some ugly, Ugly victories. Usually, when the Mets stranded 13 men on base, it was back in the days when they would also hit into about 6 double plays a game and lose games by the score of 4-2 or 3-1. Well, this time, they generated the 2, but the pitching, particularly Niese, was able to keep the Giants off the board.

Niese, who's emerged as a very solid pitcher recently, was great in an important start for him, coming off a lousy outing last weekend. Every start is important for Niese now, because two things he hasn't done in his career are 1) Finish off a season healthy, and 2) Finish off a season effectively. These are crucial things in the development process for Jonathon Niese, so each time he shakes off a 6-run outing and follows it up with a 1-run outing, it's an encouraging sign.

It's also an encouraging sign for the Mets in general when they can actually win a 1-run game. It's never going to feel secure, but at least it's possible. I still don't trust Parnell as closer (I barely trust him in general), but Francisco will be back soon I hear, so that will, hopefully, get things a little closer to normal. Maybe.

3:45 start time today, so it's going to be an afternoon in the office with Howie and Josh. This has generally been a good combination. Hopefully it holds true today.