Monday, April 30, 2012

The Undead Game

I had this sinking feeling that happened right around the time Todd Helton's monster of a grand slam left the park and tied the game in the 8th inning yesterday that this game wasn't going to end well. But instead of capitulating to the momentum of the Colorados, the Mets got off the mat, got out of a disastrous inning, took the lead, blew that, and then took the lead again for good in the 11th, winning a game that looked doomed and a series that looked a massacre only a couple of days ago. I'd seen games like this many times before, usually the Mets blow the lead and then the game ends, ultimately, in spectacular fashion, with the Mets left holding their jocks. I had visions of Dexter Fowler clanging a pitch off the foul pole with 2 outs in the 9th, and then backflipping around the bases. But that didn't happen. Just when it seemed they would blow their 3rd lead of the game, Marcos Scutaro's drive miraculously died at the warning track and landed in Scott Hairston's glove rather than in the seats, and the game was over, the Mets victorious. So much for momentum.

Momentum is a funny thing, particularly in Baseball, because sometimes the stink can be tough to get rid of. So far this season, the Mets have done a pretty good job of not being taken over by the stink. The past few years, once the stink hit the Mets, it usually ended up sinking them and their season. Not so much this year. After Friday night's disaster, the Mets ended up bouncing back with a pair of nice-looking victories that were predicated more on some timely offense from guys like Tejada, Duda and Nieuwenhuis, rather than just relying on great starting pitching, which they got from Gee and again from Santana on Sunday. It's the pitching, particularly the starters (and mostly Rauch, Byrdak and Parnell) that had been doing most of the heavy lifting in the early going, but over the past few games, the offense has begun to wake up a bit. But, bullpens are bullpens and as such will inevitably have their moments, such as Sunday's game, or any time Manny Acosta is summoned, so it's good to see the Mets offense wake up and come through with the necessary hits when they have to.

I suppose every team has a few games like this over the course of a season, and it's nice to win them, but not necessarily good to get in the habit of doing all the time. Nonetheless, the Mets have done this more than once already this season, which is, perhaps, a good sign for the fortitude of the team.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1965

Part 4 of our 50-year trip through the annals of time...
What is it: 1965 Topps #285, Ron Hunt.

What makes it interesting: Though the '65 team set features the final cards (as players) of such luminaries as Warren Spahn and Yogi Berra, and combo Rookie cards of Future Met stars like Cleon Jones (featured on a card with Tom Parsons), Ron Swoboda and Tug McGraw (featured on a 4-man card with Dan Napoleon and Jim Bethke), by this point Ron Hunt had established himself as the first real "Star" in Mets history.

Though originally signed as a Milwaukee Brave, his sale to the Mets in the winter of '62 opened the door for him to reach the Majors with the Mets in '63, where his scrappy style of play and his predilection for being hit by pitches endeared him to fans and earned him runner-up for the NL Rookie of the Year. He was even better in '64, hitting over .300 and being named the starting 2Bman for the National League in the All Star game, played in his home park of Shea Stadium. A shoulder injury in '65 undercut his season, but he returned as an All Star in '66 before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. His career took him through LA, San Francisco, Montreal and St. Louis before it ended in '74, and included leading the league in being hit by a pitch 7 times, including a mind-numbing 50 in 1971. Ouch.

Card Back:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cycle Out The Door

I know that hitting for the Cycle is a rare and hallowed occurrence, and that there have only been 10 times now that a Met has done it. And maybe it's the horrendous outcome of the game that dampens my spirits, but for the most part, outside of, say, Keith Hernandez, Jose Reyes, Tommie Agee and John Olerud, for the most part it's been some really fringe, lousy players who have accomplished it for the Mets, and Scott Hairston just added his name to this list.

Of those for above, John Olerud is probably the least likely to have a cycle, as his notorious lack of speed made him an unlikely candidate for a triple, but sure enough, he legged one out in September of 1997. Jose Reyes, the most recent, on the other hand was a triples machine in his heyday and so it seemed to make sense that he'd pull off the feat, as he did in 1996 (Worth noting that Olerud hit for the cycle again with the Seattle Mariners, I want to say in 2001).

But this list is also peppered with names that would make you think, "Really?" I mean, Alex Ochoa? Mike Phillips? Eric Valent is the most galling on this list. In his time with the Mets, Valent proved himself barely worthy of a Major League uniform, and since leaving the Mets hasn't even come close to sniffing the Majors since then, perhaps a hallmark of the lesser players employed on Art Howe-era Mets teams.

Then, there's Hairston. Many in our loyal audience will know that there are always 2 or 3 players on the Mets every season whose presence utterly bewilders me. This list has included (but not limited to) David Newhan, Scott Schoeneweis, Aaron Sele, Ricky Ledee, Mike DiFelice, Manny Acosta (I'll save the diatribe on him for another time) and Pat Misch. Scott Hairston is also on this list. The point has been made to me that he's a righty batter who hammers left-handed pitching, but that seems to be the only thing he does well. In his season plus with the Mets, he's barely distinguished himself as the kind of guy you'd like off the bench, his defense is porous at best, and more often than not I see him coming up to the plate and swinging like he's trying to hit the ball off the Whitestone Bridge. Of course, since he played like a house afire in Spring Training in 2011, management seemed to think he was a good guy to have around, and since nobody particularly better (or ready) has come along, he's still here, and he happened to run into History last night by hitting for the Cycle. This will, more than likely, be the first, last, and only noteworthy thing he does with the Mets. Perhaps I'll be proven wrong, and I'll have to backtrack on Hairston, but for some reason, I don't feel like I'll have to.

And if I do, you're next, Acosta.

Friday, April 27, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1964

Part 3 of our 50-year voyage through the Cosmos...
What Is It: 1964 Topps #155, Duke Snider

What Makes it Interesting: Like the Hodges' issue from 1963, it's Snider's last card, having returned to New York after bolting to Los Angeles with the Dodgers. The longtime, legendary Brooklyn Center Fielder had finally returned home, to close out his storied career. Snider's contributions to the Mets were minimal in on-field impact, but important in the formative years of the Mets. The presence of players like Snider and Hodges were a way to draw back the National League fans of New York that got the shaft when the Dodgers and Giants left in '57.

It's my selection from a rather large 1964 Mets team set that boasts a whopping 33 cards, most of them guys who were rather unremarkable (Duke Carmel, Amado Samuel, Al Moran, to name a few). A tough call to make, since this team set also features the first card of Ed Kranepool, among other Met Luminaries (among them Choo Choo Coleman, Rod Kanehl and Ron Hunt), but Snider wins this one based on his overall stature among this particular group. Snider was, in fact, gone from the Mets in '64, having gone on to play one final season with, of all teams, the Giants. With Snider in '63, the Mets mustered a 51-111 record. Without him in '64, as they moved into a beautiful new ballpark in Flushing, called Shea Stadium, they did improve, albeit by 2 games to 53-109.

Card Back:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Laughing at Them

The Marlins have drawn my ire so many times over the years, that the only way this sweep would have been better would have been if it had come in the Opening Series at their brand new ballpark in front of all 6 of their fans.

See, the Marlins have had this annoying habit, over the years, of beating the Mets in random games and acting as though they'd just won a pennant. This was particularly the case when the Mets were going well and the Marlins were, well, the Marlins. But, now, the shoe is on the other foot. It's the Marlins with the bloated payroll and the fancy new stadium and the high-priced free agents, one of whom was the poster child of "those arrogant Mets" that they loved to beat up on. Meanwhile, the Mets are the also-rans, boasting a lineup of mostly very young, inexperienced players who just want to make a little bit of noise.

Presumably, I would have been happy winning 2 of 3 in this series, but with the Mets having won both games, and the Marlins looking mostly tired and punchless in both games, I wanted the sweep. It's always nice to see your team kick a team you really don't like in the nuts. Today's game was yet another one of the working man's specials, which meant I was relegated to the office radio, and also meant I was sort of drifting in and out of paying attention to the game. I knew that the Mets had scored early, and I sort of perked up my ears when Gaby Sanchez hit his token HR, and at some point later on I knew the Marlins had taken the lead, although this seemed to have occurred when I had gone out to get lunch (my normal routine would not have had me doing so, but my plans were thwarted by a spoiled salad). But by the bottom of the 9th, I dialed myself back in and was on every pitch, despite several people coming into my office and asking me stupid questions. Unfortunately, unlike Don Draper, I can't just shut the door in people's faces. So at some point, Justin Turner was up, and someone came in to talk to me, and then left. Turner was still up. Someone else came in. I dealt with them, tersely, and they left. Amazingly, Turner was still up, fouling off pitches and waiting for Heath Bell to toss another one of his 55-foot curveballs. Sure enough, he did, and Turner walked, and the game was tied, and a few short minutes later, the game was over, thanks to Bell pretty much doing his best John Franco/Armando Benitez impression that we all knew and loved from his days when he was a lousy reliever that the Mets had no role for. And instead of the Marlins whooping it up in the Mets' faces,  faces, the Mets got to whoop it up in theirs. A fine way to finish off a sweep that started off with the Mets looking like they were the ones about to fall into the abyss. Instead, the Marlins are the ones with some explaining to do.

Have fun with that, guys. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people. Jerkoffs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ballpark Blather!

George and I were at tonight's game, a fine winning affair that left everybody feeling warm in spite of yet another frigid April night at Citi Field.We expected, and for most of the game received, a fast-paced pitchers duel between R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. I'd heard, while watching Tuesday night's game, that Dickey felt he could keep pace with the quick-rhythmed Buehrle, and for the most part, he did. By 9pm, the game was already in the 7th inning, with both pitchers for the most part humming along. I timed Buehrle early on, and he tended to take between 6 and 9 seconds between pitches. That's the kind of pace we needed at an April night game. Thanks to this, the game could be rather succinctly summed up in a series of bullet points.

To Boo or not Boo Jose: George and I did not. It felt like everyone else did. In spite of my misgivings toward Reyes, I didn't come to boo him, at least not for what I believe is the reason many people in attendance did. My assumption is that most feel he is a traitor for leaving. But is he a traitor if the Mets never bothered to make an offer? All he did was take what was there for him. My feeling was, boo him for being exciting, but at the same time enigmatic and unfulfilling of the promise he didn't show often enough. Or cheer him for what he gave the Mets while he was here. So, I clapped. The booing got worse throughout the game, to the point that when he singled in the 8th, he was caught shushing the crowd. I fully expected a steal attempt out of him, however he was thwarted twice, first by Emilio Bonifacio flying out, and then by Hanley Ramirez watching a 3rd strike (punctuated by Josh Thole firing the ball down to nobody in particular, since the inning was over)

"Giancarlo?": George had a bit of fun with this. It's fine if Giancarlo Stanton is his real first name, and if that's what he wants to go by, then more power to him. But it begs a few questions. His full name is Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton. So, then, what does that make him, ethincally? That's a quarter italian, a quarter Puerto Rican...and something else. The other question is, if his real name is Giancarlo, and most of the people that know him call him Giancarlo, then why was he known as Mike Stanton up to this point in his career? My answer was that he was probably just tired of having to be associated with a slop-throwing relief pitcher.

Marlins: They don't look very good to this point. I don't really know how most of their pitchers have fared, although Buehrle certainly looked good, their bullpen has been putrid. And guys like Reyes and Stanton aren't really hitting much at all (Reyes' hit in the 8th bumped his average all the way up to .217). Perhaps Giancarlo Stanton should have stuck with Mike, since he has no Home Runs to this point in the season and he looked silly on his 3 strikeouts.

David Wright: During Wright's AB in the 6th inning, I mentioned to George that Wright had tied the Mets' all-time RBI mark about a week ago, but was stuck there for several games. Wright then promptly hit a 2-run Home Run to give him the record by himself. This was followed by a discussion as to whether or not Wright was, in fact, the second-greatest player in Mets history, behind Tom Seaver. My feeling is that he presents a strong case, however it depends on whether or not he remains a Met beyond his current contract. If he does, he'll break every meaningful Mets offensive record before he's done, and there's going to be very little argument as to his standing among great Mets. Already, he's a top-10 player, and the argument could be made that he's top-5 (behind, say, Seaver, Strawberry, Gooden and Piazza). This was also followed by a discussion as to who the greatest player in Marlins history was. We started with Jeff Conine and Mike Lowell, and it sort of went downhill from there, culminating with Dontrelle Willis.

Zach Lutz: I saw him in Spring Training, I know he's an Outfielder...And I don't know anything else about him. George knows even less than that. But he appeared tonight in the 7th, pinch hitting for Dickey.

All-Star Ballots?: They're here already, because the best time to determine who the All-Stars are is 3 weeks into a season that lasts 6 months. We each grabbed a ballot, never bothered to fill it out and only remembered we had them on the subway home. Whoops.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Coming Home Again

There really isn't much to say about the departure of Jose Reyes. It happened and that's that. The Mickey Mouse Marlins gave him a contract that the Mets weren't going to go anywhere near matching, and in reality, they were right to not do so. That doesn't mean there's not a bit of a wistful feeling watching all the Reyes highlights on SNY juxtaposed against him in a Marlins uniform.

Because home-grown stars like Reyes have been few and far between in Mets History, it's easy to over-romanticize Reyes' time in New York, but from a nonobjective point of view, there was a lot to be desired. While Reyes was an undeniable sparkplug who came along at the depths of a dead era of Mets Baseball and was around while they returned to prominence, they never put it all together while he was here, and he never had that signature moment that most superstars tend to have. Nice accomplishments, yes, but overall a career that only showed tantalizing glimpses of true brilliance. Mostly, he left the fans feeling frustrated, questioning his desire at times, and ultimately wanting more.

But he's not our problem anymore. The Mets have a new Shortstop for us to rally around in Ruben Tejada. Jose Reyes plays for the Marlins now, so the 4 Marlins fans can enjoy watching him be great when he's great, and be frustrated when his hamstrings inevitably cramp up, or he decides to not run out a ground ball, or when he hits a Home Run and decides to start swinging for the fences for the next week. It's not sour grapes, it's fact. After 9 seasons of watching him, most Mets fans know what to expect out of Reyes. The lukewarm reception he received from the Citi Field crowd his first at bat tonight should tell you all you need to know. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sleeping With the Knishes

Sunday's rainout put me in a bit of a pickle. I have tickets to tonight's game, which I planned to go to as it was scheduled. But with yesterday's rainout, a wrench was thrown into my plans. It's not an unfamiliar situation for me. I actually was presented with a similar predicament last August, and again at an earlier date in 2010, and I'm sure there are other instances that I'm forgetting in my old age.

I've gone on record as saying how much I abhor the Day-Night doubleheader, because it's not a real doubleheader. What's going on today at Citi Field is a real doubleheader, two games for the price of one. I used to go to loads of them in my salad days, although nowadays my aptitude for two games has worn thin (and I assume it's freezing at Citi Field right now). Plus, my work schedule doesn't exactly allow me to kick off at 2:30 to make the 4:10 first pitch. So, here I am, on the 7 train, writing this as the first game plays on. But, I'll be there in plenty of time to contract frostbite at the nightcap.

Thats not to say that I don't have a few gripes about this. A few years ago, I might have complained that I hate getting to games late. I'll be arriving at Citi Field probably around the 7th or 8th inning of the 1st game. And based on what I'm seeing on ESPN ScoreCenter, I haven't missed much, save for the opportunity to see Tim Lincecum pitch. But my attraction to games usually isn't the opponent. My concern is what will happen if that first game runs long and the second game isn't underway until 8pm. I like to leave early about as much as I like to arrive late, but I also have to think logically. It takes me about 45 minutes to get home from Citi Field. If I leave early, that means no Express, so it's a longer trip. Nonetheless, I still have to be at work in the morning. You have to ask yourself what makes more sense sometimes. Oh, the dilemmas caused by rain.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1963

The second installation in our 50-year tour of the Mets History in Baseball Cards.

What Is It: 1963 Topps #245, Gil Hodges

What Makes it Interesting: I've always liked the '63s. They have a very classic 1960s look to them. The team set featured a whole slew of different color combinations on the name plate and the inset. It also features the first-ever Mets Team Leaders card (Card #473). It's Hodges' last appearance on a baseball card as a player, although he'd have several more as a manager.He retired after the '63 season, and returned to the Mets in '68 as Manager. The rest, as they say, is history, culminating with his uniform #14 resting on the outfield wall at Shea Stadium.

Hodges' contribution to the Mets is immeasurable. I cite one particular instance as an example of how revered he was by his players: Tom Seaver, before throwing the final pitch at the Shea Stadium closing ceremony, made a gesture with his hands, a 1 and a 4. He then pointed to the retired numbers and saluted Hodges' 14. He did it again at the Citi Field Opening. That should tell you all you need to know.

Card Back:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1962

It being the Mets 50th Anniversary season, I wanted to try something out  here. I've talked in the past about how I am an avid collector of Mets Baseball cards, so to commemorate 50 years of the Mets, I'm going to pick one card from every year of the Mets existence and post it here. It's going to be mostly an arbitrary selection, but I do have some guidelines. 1) This will only consist of Base issue Topps cards, since that's the only issue constant through all 50 years of the Mets. Perhaps, later on, I'll expand out into other brands. 2) Unless it's a particularly exceptional case, I'm not going to double up on players. So I won't throw up 5 different cards of Darryl Strawberry, etc. So, enjoy #1, from 1962.

What is it: 1962 Topps #29, Casey Stengel

What makes it Interesting: Well, it's Casey Stengel. That's pretty interesting in and of itself. The 1962 set featured 21 Mets cards, although Stengel is the most representative of the bunch. Because the Mets hadn't previously existed, most of the Mets cards from the '62 set don't actually show the players in Mets uniforms (the high number series, a staple of Topps' early years, were released later in the season and did feature Mets players in Mets uniforms, among them Al Jackson and Ed Bouchee). Rather, they're show in close headshots with no hat, or in the case of Stengel, it's most likely a Yankee uniform and cap with the logo airbrushed out.

The '62 Mets were bad on a legendary on a scale that doesn't need further explanation. Stengel and his unique personality were what made them so loveable.

Card Back:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Working Man's Special

It's no real secret around here that I a) prefer to attend Weekday Night games as opposed to Weekend games and b) prefer to listen to games on the radio than watch on TV (although now that I have cable, perhaps that has changed). But, as often happens during the course of the Baseball season, there are often games where I'm not home, and even more often, games that go on while I'm at work.

This can create some tricky situations. My office is, in general, a rather bizarre place where people tend to ask me questions rather than find their own answers, give me pieces of information that I either already knew or handled several hours or days ago, and just generally pile into my office without regard for the fact that I might actually be working and need quiet. I try to diffuse this by putting on the George Costanza "angry work face," streaming WFAN online and drowning people out.

When the Mets are on during the day, this is no different. Today is one such day. Annoyingly, MLB has had this prohibition on streaming games online, unless you pay for their subscriber service. I could do this, but instead, I've opted to go the old-fashioned route of keeping a pocket radio in my desk for these such occasions.

However, this doesn't seem to be a deterrent for most people The distractions, of course, are unavoidable, and often times I find I've lost track of who's up, or what the score is, but at least I'm aware of what's going on.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Score it "WW"

Sometime Monday afternoon, I was sitting in my office, and a colleague came in and asked me what the Mets record was. At the time, I knew it was 6-3, although I had to convince him it was 6-3 and not 5-4.

Following this, he asked me if the Mets were in first place. I said I didn't know. Incredulous, he responded, "But you're the author of "The Ballclub!" You're supposed to know these things!"

I suppose this is true. I was slacking on my civic duty, but then again, standings-watching in April is probably about as useful as, perhaps, predicting the Playoffs at the beginning of the season. So I wasn't totally on the ball, much as I wasn't on the ball last weekend, where the Mets existed primarily as some numbers on a phone app.

Last night, however, I was watching, in between my usual habit of making and eating dinner during the game, and I continue to like what I'm seeing. Behind Dillon Gee, who seems to have taken on the role of the Anti-Oliver Perez (guy with average stuff who knows how to pitch), wriggled in and out of a jam, kept the game tied early, got helped out by a sterling defensive performance from the somewhat-resurrected Jason Bay, and then emerged victorious when Ike Davis finally waited out Tommy Hanson's curveball diet and got one he could handle. All in all, a fine night for the Mets.

But, at 7-3, they're not in first place. I made sure to check this morning, in case I was called upon to know this. That mantle currently lies with the Washington Nationals. At 8-3, they are a half game in front. My co-worker noted this and wondered how you might explain this to a child, or a novice, how the Nats have played one more game than the Mets. His response?

"I'll tell you when you're older, kid."

Such is life during the Baseball season.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cheesesteak Celebration!

I'd mentioned on Friday that the Mets didn't seem to look all that impressive as they rolled into Philadelphia last weekend. So, of course, Jason Bay hit a 1st Inning Home Run on Friday night that served as the keynote for an overall positive weekend visit to our old friends 99 miles to the South.

27 innings later, the Mets left Philadelphia, more or less disproving one of my theories, and sort of proving another one.

Facing Cliff Lee without David Wright in the lineup, you would have thought the situation rife for Cliff Lee to throw a 2-hit shutout and make the Mets look foolish, while their fans laughed and threw cheesesteaks at us. Such was not the case. Then, Wright came back on Saturday after a few days of the old Mets' Medical Staff Is-He-Is-Or-Is-He-Ain't shuffle and looked like he'd never missed a beat, hitting his own 1st inning Home Run to spur the Mets on to a most impressive looking 5-0 victory, again thwarting the cheesesteak tossing and making Philly look, for the most part, slow and old.

Sunday, of course, was a different story, but some poor fielding from some expected (Duda) and unexpected (Tejada) sources thwarted the sweep, but, again, given the expectations, no Mets fan in their right mind would complain about going into Philadelphia and winning 2 of 3. I'd sign for that every time.

There was, however, one unfortunate circumstance to Sunday's loss. I was at a family gathering that afternoon, along with the Philadelphia contingent of my family. I may (or may not) have noted sometime in the past that I have a bit of family in Philadelphia, transplanted from many years growing up in Nassau County, whose allegiances have switched from Mets fans to, now, die-hard Phillies fans. The gathering was peppered with lots of phone-watching and score-announcing, and of course once the game got away from the Mets, the Philadelphia Family whooped it up.

But, with the Mets already having had two games in the bag in Philadelphia, I let them have their fun. Besides, they didn't come armed with cheesesteaks to throw at me. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

There Was a Time...

The Mets/Phillies matchup doesn't really carry quite the same panache it did a few years ago. There's the obvious reason; that the Mets just aren't very good now. Yes, they have the proverbial "young and hungry" team that could prove precocious, but without their anchor, David Wright, in the lineup, they look mostly punchless. Or at least they did against Washington earlier in the week.

On the other side, the Phillies have continued on these past few years, as they always have, as apparently the class of the division, perhaps the class of a mostly weak National League. I tend to not pay them much mind anymore, lest I get myself too worked up over their general annoyingness and douchebaggery (we Mets fans have enough of this much closer to home). Those guys (Rollins, Utley, Hamels, Victorino) are still there, and with Halladay and Lee, they're still tough to beat.

But as the last few year have proven it's difficult to maintain a budding dynasty, no matter how many times you're picked to finish first, or you make the playoffs. The Phillies success has certainly been enviable, but when we see the endgame, it's been the Phillies left holding the bag while someone else has celebrated on their field, leaving their annoying, mustachioed fans hanging their heads. Success tends to be fleeting, and after a while, you start to see the window start to close on it.

When we last saw the Phillies, their big slugger was crumpled in a heap on the first base line while the no-less-loathsome Cardinals partied in their faces. When I last saw the Phillies, Cole Hamels was staring blankly at the Great Wall of Flushing after allowing a Home Run to a guy who hadn't hit a Home Run in 8 years.

Point is, a galaxy of stars doesn't always guarantee success. The Mets saw it happen to themselves in '07 and '08, and maybe that worm has turned, and the Phillies are about to experience similar frustration. They're still the team to beat, that's not up for debate. And they will probably win, since there's no really viable competition to knock them off. But Howard and Utley remain hurt. Halladay and Lee, and even Victorino and Rollins are getting older. I wouldn't say they're done and I wouldn't say the Meta are about to roll into Philly and stick it in their ears. But maybe, just maybe, the gap isn't as wide as it was a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

R.A. Dickey, Unlikely Fan Favorite

I haven't had a chance to listen to this yet, but I'm going to post it sight-unseen (sound-unheard?) since there's really very little chance it won't be good. It's our own R.A. Dickey on NPR's Fresh Air talking about his book, the marvelously titled Wherever I Wind Up (see what he did there?).

Listen to the interview on the NPR site.

At this point, I think it's nearly impossible not to like Dickey. He's more than the classic "quirky" knuckleballer, though he's that too. He's more than the stereotypical Jesus-y athlete, though he's up front with his faith. I went to Opening Day with Jon, and I was warmed (briefly; it was freezing) during the pregame player introductions that the crowd's biggest cheer was for Dickey. After an offseason in which he — contra the team's request — climbed Kilimanjaro; published a tell-all memoir; and in general, while not doing anything wrong, behaved in a way that was wholly himself — not in the controlled, constricted way normally insisted upon by New York's media and fan culture — he was welcomed with heartfelt appreciation. Maybe it's only because he pitched well last year and the fans don't care about the other stuff, but I like to think that we're appreciated something else about him.

For some shorter-form Dickey (heh), here his is on a recent ESPN Baseball Today podcast with Eric Karabell and Mark Simon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

That Familiar Feeling

Last night was my 2nd trip to Citi Field of the 2012 season. Much like the Mets themselves, my record for the season is unblemished.

The game itself ultimately left little to complain about. Pelfrey was predictably Pelfrey-like, which basically means nobody knows what the hell to expect. Though I have to give him particular props for his new choice flof entrance music, "Lake of Fire," from Nirvana's "Unplugged in New York" album (it's usually the guys who perform the worst that have the best entrance music). For 6 innings he basically looked like he was one pitch away from unravelling into Eric Hillman-ness horror, only to rebound and escape, only having allowed 3 runs on a robust 10 hits. Encouraging, no. But not bad enough to sink the Mets, certainly not the way things have been going of late.

The game pressed on, tied, thanks to David Wright's seemingly daily RBI and a New Citi Field Fence-aided Home Run from the latest "wunderkind," Kirk Nieuwenhuis (whose presence on this team makes a hell of a lot more sense than Andres Torres). And as the latter innings approached, I was greeted by a most familiar feeling, sitting up in my usual perch in section 518.

It gets really fucking cold during these April night games.

You would think, after some 26 seasons of attending Mets games, that I would have learned my lesson and tried to dress a little warmer, and to some degree I have, but maybe I should just suck it up and bring a scarf and gloves too. But if I wear gloves, that makes it difficult to keep score. What a dilemma.

So, how cold was it? Well, I'd guess the temperature was probably no lower than 45, but with the wind whipping around, it may as well have been 20 Or Binghamton. Your pick. But as we went to the last of the 9th, I was seriously considering abandoning my post if the game stretched much later. In my younger, spryer days, I would never have dared to think such a thing, but I guess this daring behavior has abandoned me in my old age. Fortunately, the Washington Nationals defense and Daniel Murphy conspired to end things right then and there, and I was sent home, to the warmth of the 7 train, with the cheerful victory feeling.

That's a familiar feeling too. I like that feeling. And so far, it seems like the Mets do, as well.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Who's Got It Better Than Us?!

To refresh some memories, I should mention that, despite being a native New Yorker who has never been to the West Coast, I happen to root for the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL.

After about a decade's worth of general mediocrity, the 2011 49ers came out and won 13 games, taking their fans on a wild ride that took them within an Overtime game of the Super Bowl. Their head coach, Jim Harbaugh, himself known for many comebacks as an NFL player, was known to gather up the team following each game, win or lose, and lead them in the rallying cry, "WHO'S GOT IT BETTER THAN US!!!"

After 3 games, the Mets are 3-0. Who would have thought that? Jim Harbaugh's rallying cry seems to be just as apropos for the Mets and their fans right now.

Yes, there are still 159 games to go, and yes, odds are this won't last. But, hey, when you can open your season by sweeping a division rival and making them look hung over from their own miserable finish last season in the process, you can't help but enjoy it and maybe even feel a little cocky. It's sweetened even more by the 0-3 start by that other team in town.

The Mets haven't seemed this positive in quite a while. In fact, things seem to be so positive that I actually heard a caller on Mike Francesa's show this afternoon who was actually defending and--believe it or not--commending the Wilpons!

It was pretty important for the Mets to get off to a fast start to the season. Given everything that has gone on, it's easy to dismiss the Mets as irrelevant. They may still end up being irrelevant when all is said and done. But for now, these guys can do no wrong. Who cares about holes in the roster when Daniel Murphy is hitting close to .500 and Lucas Duda is hitting mammoth HRs all over the place, and Frank Francisco is untouchable? Right now, everything is nice and rosy pink, and if it keeps up, Citi Field isn't going to be dudsville. Every day will be like Opening Day at Keith's Grill, where the line for Mexburgers resembled the line at Shake Shack.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Welcome Back!

Sometime during this afternoon's Mets Victory on Opening Day, El Guapo turned to me and said:

"Any interest in bringing back The Ballclub? I'm in if you are."

Truth be told, I'd been thinking about it a lot for the past few months.

Truth be told, there was no particularly good reason why I stopped in the first place.

I'd never really lost the itch to write about the Mets, or write in general. There wasn't any one reason why I'd stopped, unannounced. I had sort of felt that if I was ever going to close up shop here, I would have said so. Perhaps that's why I never said anything.

I guess at some point I'd felt I was getting away from what writing The Ballclub really was, at least for me, an avenue to vent some things, share some viewpoints, talk about history, spew some general BS and put Baseball in its absurd place in a generally absurd world. And if I couldn't do it to a degree I was happy with, then I'd stop.

When the Mets were going well, or at least contending, this was pretty easy. It got pretty depressing when they weren't.

Of course, that didn't mean I'd stopped watching, or going to games. I just stopped writing.

But at some point I started kicking around the idea of getting this thing started again. I don't remember exactly when it was, but it was this past offseason. The Mets aren't a good team. We know this. It's not a secret. And everything that's gone on off the field has been hashed and rehashed more than the corned beef at Dinty Moore's. But it boils down to the fact that it's just a game. We love this game. We love watching this game, and going to this game and rooting for a bunch of sweaty guys in uniforms. And many of us love writing about this game.

So, today I went to Opening Day, my 8th consecutive Opener. Oddly enough, I've been to every Opening Day at Citi Field, which sounds impressive until you remember, oh yeah, it's only the 4th Opening Day there. It was chilly, as Opening Day tends to be, and the game was pretty far from what I'd consider memorable, but anytime the Mets win, I'm satisfied. And El Guapo and I had our discussion about getting things going around here once again, and I was all for it. It seems a good time to do so. It's Opening Day. Johan Santana is back on the mound, for the first time since, more or less, I stopped writing here. It's not going to be a winning season around here, but at least we can have some fun with it.

Welcome Back to The Ballclub.