Thursday, May 31, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1972

Part 11 of our 50-year dinner in the Diamond Club...
What is it: 1972 Topps #163, Tug McGraw

What makes it interesting: The '72s are another one of my favorites. The art-deco bordering is great. This set is sort of the continuation of a golden era for Topps, running pretty much from '69 through '75. It's also one of the more massive Topps sets, checking in at 787 cards. The Mets team set alone contains 43 cards, although it's important to note that Topps crammed a whole bunch of "In Action" cards of many players (several Mets, including Seaver, Koosman, Harrelson, McGraw, Ken Boswell and Danny Frisella), and other subsets that include "Boyhood Photos of the Stars," featuring childhood photos of players, including Seaver, Harrelson and Jim Fregosi. No one Mets card in this set is especially notable, although the '72 set does have Gil Hodges' final card as Mets Manager. Tug McGraw gets the call here, particularly because he must be represented somewhere on this list, and also because he was in the midst of a Golden Era of his own.

McGraw began his career as a starter, although he was moved to the Bullpen after a few years of him not pitching especially well. This proved to be where he would make his living for the next 15+ seasons, primarily with the Mets and another team in their division. By '69, McGraw had cemented himself as the Mets best reliever, and this continued well into the 1970s, peaking in '71 and '72, when he was selected to his first All Star team. '73,. however, saw him struggle most of the season. But his rallying cry of "YA GOTTA BELIEVE!!!" spurred both himself and his team on to an incredible pennant drive that saw McGraw go 3-0 with a 0.57 ERA and 10 saves in the month of September. The Mets rode the energy generated by McGraw past the Reds in the NLCS and all the way down to the 7th game of the World Series against Oakland before falling a few runs short. McGraw departed the Mets following the '73 season, but his legacy with the Mets continues to live on.

McGraw will always be remembered as perhaps the most colorful personality in Mets history, or at least he's right up there with a select few. In addition to the innumerable quotes he gave during his playing days (a favorite is, of course, his response to being asked whether he preferred natural grass to AstroTurf, "I don't know, I never smoked AstroTurf"), and his staunch dislike of American League Baseball ("Commie Baseball," he called it). But he's most remembered for making all of us Believe. "YA GOTTA BELIEVE!" and its variations seem to have become a mantra for Mets fans throughout their history, whenever the chips have been down.

Card back:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

This Won't End Well...

Although the Mets Bullpen had pitched rather well as of late, with the exception of a lousy day or two here and there, and had begun to look better, particularly with the much-needed purging of the mostly worthless Manny Acosta (although Acosta's departure only meant the return of the mostly talentless Chris Schwinden), I felt a bit of an eerie premonition when Terry Collins removed Dillon Gee from the game following Brian Schneider's 7th inning double (as an aside, has anyone else noticed that Schneider came in to Citi Field playing in F-you mode?). It could have been the fact that I was sleepy; I'd pretty much slept through the 4th through 6th innings, and was only rousted by Duda's Homer. But for some reason, I felt like removing Gee from the game was the wrong move at that point. In spite of his high pitch count, Gee had been pitching rather well, and I felt like he probably could have gotten through Carlos Ruiz or whoever Philly would have sent up to hit for Lee there. But, nooooo, Collins came and pulled Gee for Bobby Parnell, Parnell confirmed my bad feeling by promptly smacking a game-tying Home Run, and things pretty much fell apart from there. Rauch gave up the lead run in the 8th, Ramon Ramirez struggled in the 9th, and Chris Schwinden was left in and shockingly took a Mule's beating at the end. Game, set, match.

The bullpen formula that Collins has been sticking to of late has yielded rather predictably unpredictable results. The predictable part, however, has begun to get downright annoying because Collins won't deviate from it at all. It's the same pattern because the reliable depth isn't there, or at least it's not yet in the Majors. But you can set your watch to Parnell in the 7th, Rauch in the 8th and Francisco in the 9th, assuming there's a save to be had. Aside from tonight, Parnell has pitched rather well and Rauch is somewhat inconsistent. So why not Parnell in the 8th? Why not Ramon Ramirez in the 7th? Why even have guys like Robert Carson or this Egbert fellow around if they're not going to get used? It's an age old problem that seems to have followed the Mets around for years now, this lack of a completely reliable bullpen. The primary reason is, of course, that relief pitchers are all idiots, and can't ever string together consistent performances, unless someone happens to catch lightning in a bottle for a season. This is why they're relief pitchers. If they were good, they'd be starting.

I realize that in a close game against a division rival, Collins wants to go with what he can trust. I get it. To this point, Collins has had a brilliant touch with this team, and that's the main reason that they're sitting at 28-23 at the end of May, and have put together a winning April and May for the first time since 2007. But at some point, Collins and Alderson are going to have to begin to mix things up in the bullpen a bit more. It's become a bit too easy to figure out how the Mets are going to go through late in games, and better teams aren't going to be quite so fooled.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sitting In The Rain...

A busy weekend precluded me from having much to say about the Mets taking out the Padres over the weekend, although suffice it to say, those two pitchers that have basically been the saviors for the Mets did what they do best and smash a lesser opponent with authority. Things now less busy, I was back at Citi Field tonight for yet another solid performance from a Mets starter. This, however, was a less likely source in the name of Jeremy Hefner.

Hefner's start last week against San Diego yielded less than desirable results following an hour rain delay early in the evening. Tonight, however, the rain waited until after Hefner had departed the game, following a performance that I'd have to say was pretty damn good.

Not that things started especially well for Hefner, since the Phillies reached him for single runs in the 1st and 2nd innings. But the Mets were game enough to match Philly off of Joe Blanton. After Brian Schneider did something that he rarely did while he was a Met and blast a HR into the Pepsi Porch, the game had all the looks of a 10-8 slugfest that would stretch late into the evening. 

But, Hefner settled down. Given a 3-2 lead to work with, Hefner pretty much stopped the Phillies in their tracks over the next few innings. The only other run he allowed to Philly happened more by accident, following a 2B by Juan Pierre (whom I'm surprised is still in the league) and a hit by lurching Hunter Pence that slipped by Mike Baxter and allowed Pierre to score. But with Pence on 3rd and none out, and disaster looming, it was Hefner who proved up to the challenge, getting the next 3 batters quietly and leaving that tying run on 3rd, and departing the game on a high note. 

Hefner, of course, also helped his own cause in the 4th, by hitting one of those out-of-nowhere Home Runs that sort of took everyone by surprise, partly because it's the pitcher batting, partly because nothing was going on and it was really hot out. I mean, 2 outs, nobody on and the pitcher up in his 3rd Major League AB, the last thing anyone was expecting was to see the ball flying down the left field line and into the seats. But, Holy, Crap, that's exactly what happened. 

Then, the rains came. You knew it was coming, because that black cloud of doom had been creeping over Citi Field pretty much since the 2nd inning. Fortunately, it came much later in the game, with the Mets comfortably ahead and the game having moved along at a very brisk pace. Nonetheless, a 64-minute rain delay is a 64-minute rain delay and it's a drag to sit through. The rain delay is always a weird thing because you've got to find something to do with yourself to pass the time. Back in the Shea Stadium days, I would walk around the ramps to other levels. This, however, was my first Citi Field rain delay, something I'd managed to avoid over the past few seasons. My date for the evening and I found ourselves engaged in a discussion with a couple from Canada whose flight had been cancelled and only found themselves at the game because the hotel they were put in had given them free tickets. It was a fine time-killer, enough so that the 17 minutes of game that followed the rain delay went by quickly, and off to home we went. Another fine night for the Mets, Jeremy Hefner, and everyone in attendance who stuck around 64 minutes longer than necessary.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Attention Must Be Paid...

Not that Hockey is a huge drawing point in Baseball-Centric New York, but I don't know that there's a fan base in New York City that's quite as passionate about their team than Rangers Fans. I know this from having grown up a short walk from Madison Square Garden, and from having seen the City rally behind them like nothing else during their Stanley Cup Championship in 1994.

Hockey had, for many years, been given a back seat, in general, particularly following their 2004-05 lockout that killed an entire season. The fact that prior to the strike, the Rangers were pretty lousy didn't help their standing in New York, but since then, they have had some success, although you wouldn't really have noticed it unless you followed the team. This year, however, the Rangers clearly separated themselves as a powerhouse in their conference, led by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and Free-Agent center Brad Richards, who stood out amongst a cast of mostly good players who have banded together and been another one of those teams that is, perhaps, greater as a whole than the sum of their parts. They seem to have the identity of their coach, the foul-tempered John Tortorella, whose disdain for the media is so great that his press conferences have reached legendary status for terse responses.

But as the #1 seed entering the Eastern Conference playoffs, the real test began. After falling behind 3-2 to an opportunistic Ottawa Senators team, the Rangers rallied and won game 6 on the road, and game 7 by one goal to advance. Their second round series against the Washington Capitals followed a similar path, alternating wins and losses, and featuring a triple-overtime marathon in game 3, a miracle finish in game 5, and another tense 1-goal victory in game 7.

It all seemed a prelude to the real drama that's unfolding now in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils. These teams already didn't like each other, and it's now reached a fever pitch as they  prepare for a game 6 tonight. The series has unfolded in a way reminiscent to this same matchup in this same series back in 1994. 18 years ago today, the Rangers headed to New Jersey down 3 games to 2. Back then, the Rangers were led by Mark Messier, who cemented his place not just in New York sports lore, but as, perhaps, one of the greatest leaders in sports history by guaranteeing victory and then going out and netting a 3rd period Hat Trick.

Two nights later, the Rangers would erase the Devils on another legendary overtime goal by Stephane Matteau.

The point here is simply that it's not an impossible situation for the Rangers right now. But this Rangers team is not the 1994 team. There's no Mark Messier to pull their asses out of the fire. This is a Rangers team built mostly around defense, and their offense can sputter out worse than the Mets when things aren't going well. They're heading out to New Jersey once again with their entire season on the line. A victory would send them to a 7th game on Sunday, on home ice, with a crowd that will be ready to blow the roof off of Madison Square Garden. Failure means, of course, going home for the Summer, and back to the relative anonymity that Hockey tends to hold.

Most may not find much importance in this, particularly when Baseball is in full swing. But it's worth taking a moment to stop, find the NBC Sports Network, where playoff Hockey has been unceremoniously dropped, way down on your TV dial, and see how this all plays out. No team, to the best of my knowledge, has had to take to the ice as many times as the Rangers have in order to win the Stanley Cup. They've already played 19 playoff games under intensity of the highest order, and if they're going to play on, they'll have to go the distance in a 3rd consecutive series. They've come this far without breaking. But to go further, they'll need Lundqvist to channel his inner Mike Richter, and someone to step up and deliver that needed offense. Opportunities like this don't come along very often and ultimately failing just means this was another nice season. But teams shouldn't come this far and simply be ignored. The Rangers are there. It's time to give them some acknowledgment.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reinforcements Needed

A busy week this week in Ballclubland, where events of a different kind have precluded me from watching, and in many cases even following, most of the games this week. I did, however, listen (halfheartedly) to Wednesday's game in Pittsburgh on the radio, but work things mostly ruled the day, and it appeared that the game was finished in a brisk 43 minutes, a Mets victory that featured a lot of good Jon Niese and not much of anything else. I missed the other games in Pittsburgh completely, but I gathered that they went, more or less, the same way for the Mets as Wednesday. Monday, they didn't generate much offense, and Santana had a couple of bad innings, and then the bullpen gagged in the 8th. Tuesday, more of the same. Little offense, but instead, R.A. Dickey didn't let the Pirates back into the game.

So, basically, the Mets won a series in spite of the fact that nobody hit very much, including David Wright, who appeared to fall into a 2-day slump that knocked his average all the way down to .403. Shameful, indeed.

Tonight, I know, involved rain, and a rain delay, the Mets' first such happening of the season. I only know this because I was buzzed by ESPN's ScoreCenter. It's that black hole in the rotation, so Jeremy Hefner was the latest in the shuffle to get the call, and, again, I didn't see it, but it appears he didn't pitch very well after having to sit for an hour. Against a team with no offense like the Padres, that isn't good, and it's doubly not good when the Mets aren't hitting against a team with no pitching, like the Padres. Somehow, the Mets generated 5 runs tonight, but it seems that by time that happened, the game was well out of reach and even the Padres couldn't spit it up.

So, OK. I missed a week, basically, and I still think I have a firm grip on what's going on. The Mike Pelfrey rotation spot is just turning into a disaster area, and I think the calls for Matt Harvey (continued solid in AAA) are going to get louder and louder as time passes. Without Thole and Tejada, the Mets continue to scuffle. Andres Torres is slumping. Jerry Hairston is Jerry Hairston. Ike Davis continues to scuffle, even if he's not going to the minors. Ronny Cedeno is playing more than Ronny Cedeno should be playing. And the lower part of the lineup appears to be hitting a combined .158. But, such is what happens in a Baseball season. Fortunately, the Mets have managed to tread water with these guys out to this point. But looking bad against bad teams doesn't help morale.

At least I didn't have to see most of it.

Monday, May 21, 2012


The Mets loss in Pittsburgh tonight was bad enough, considering that they managed to fritter away a 4-0 lead with Santana on the mound against the Pirates. But in reality, it shouldn't be a great surprise, seeing as how games like this always seem to happen to the Mets against Pittsburgh, and yet nobody seems to react with the alarm they should. Maybe this year, it's not necessary. The Mets will, in general, run hot and cold and just skirt the edges between respectability and mediocrity. Given that several key pieces in the lineup are injured, it's a little too hard to be too up in arms. Ruben Tejada still seems to be a way off. Jason Bay and Josh Thole are close. And the vacated Mike Pelfrey spot in the rotation still appears to be a mystery, with Jeremy Hefner set to fill the role next.

The real troubling thing with the Mets this season hasn't been the play as a whole. They get guys stepping up every night and doing something. What's troubling is the play of specific individuals who were counted on to produce. Specifically, I mean Ike Davis.

Ike didn't start tonight in Pittsburgh, against a tough lefty in Erik Bedard. At the beginning of this season, a move like that would have seemed unfathomable. After a solid Rookie season, Davis started off the 2011 season gangbusters before an unfortunate collision in Colorado derailed him. But there was no reason to think he wouldn't rebound strongly. He played well in Spring Training this season, despite the Valley Fever diagnosis, and left no reason to believe he wouldn't live up to the expectations placed on him as the slugging First Baseman who hits cleanup.

But the whistle blew and Ike never got it going. At first, it just seemed like a slow start and we figured he'd get it together. He showed some flashes of power. He played well during the first road trip. But he couldn't keep it going consistently. Now, it's almost 2 months into the season and Ike is hitting .161. He leads the team in Home Runs, but with a measly 5, and that's not really saying much since the Mets don't really hit Home Runs. He's been dropped in the lineup. Now, he's being benched against left-handed pitchers. His swing has become miles long and loopy, and his timing seems completely off. Pitches he was hammering last season are now being rolled toward the second baseman or lazy flies. The hope was that, like most hitters, he'd right himself, but that hasn't happened.

It's now gotten to the point where if he doesn't snap out of this soon, Ike may find himself shipped off to the Minors when Jason Bay returns. And who would have thought  Jason Bay would have ever been the better option than Ike Davis? But with Ike at 3 for his last 31 and flailing away at everything, he appears to be the odd man out. Jason Bay hasn't exactly endeared himself to anyone in his first 2+ seasons, but before he got hurt, he at least looked like he was coming around. Kirk Nieuwenhuis has played far too well to be sent down. Lucas Duda hasn't been gangbusters, but he's hit more than Ike, and could also be a likely candidate to play 1st if Ike is demoted.

The longer this continues, with Ike being the head of a gaping black hole at the bottom of the Mets lineup, the more they're going to suffer. Something's got to give at some point. It's unfortunate, because Ike has held his head high through all of this. He's remained a fan favorite despite his failures (and of course meets with The Ballclub's approval as a fellow Landsman). But the Mets can't afford to wait too much longer for him to come around.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1971

Part 10 of our 50-year stroll down Broadway (one in each of the 5 Boroughs!)...
What is it: 1971 Topps #513, Nolan Ryan

What makes it interesting: The '71s are awesome. It's in my opinion the quintessential 70s set, although maybe the '75s might give them a run for their money. Also a rare year in which Topps went with a black border for their set. 

Ryan's '71 card is by far and away the most interesting of his 4 Mets cards. It's the only one that doesn't show Ryan in some sort of odd pitchers pose, opting instead for a great action shot, replete with a classic RC Cola ad on the Shea Stadium scoreboard. Ryan's cards, particularly his early ones, don't come cheap. Each of his Mets cards is easily the priciest in each of the years he was with the Mets.

This is Nolan Ryan's final Mets card, back when he was a young righty who threw really hard with little control. The Mets would deal him to the Angels after the '71 season for Jim Fregosi, in a deal that yielded disastrous results on the Mets side. Ryan didn't distinguish himself a great deal over his Mets tenure; though he showed promise, he eventually became expendable, and the Fregosi deal was, supposedly, going to fill a need for the Mets. So, off Ryan went, where he would go on to pitch another 22 seasons, throwing 7 No-Hitters, and retiring as Baseball's all-time leader in Strikeouts and Walks. But, for all his accomplishments, Ryan only won one World Series Championship. That was as a member of the '69 Mets.

Card back:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1970

Part 9 of our 50-year Sail down the Hudson...

What is it: 1970 Topps #1, New York Mets Team Card

What makes it interesting: "Greatness comes from having people come together for a common cause."
-Ronnie Lott

For a number of years, Card #1 of the Topps set was the team card of the prior years' World Series Champions. And, of course, the 1969 World Series Champions were our own New York Mets.

It was a Miracle. A Baseball Miracle, but a Miracle nonetheless. The 73 games the Mets won in 1968 were the best in team history, not enough to merit better than a 9th place finish. In 1969, they bettered that by 27 games, and followed that up by sweeping the Braves in the first ever NLCS and then beating the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

The '69 Mets were the ultimate upstarts, a group of young players with emerging, but to that point no breakaway stars. But they had heart, insatiable heart and a Manager who never let them lie back at any point. Under Hodges' leadership and the stellar pitching of Seaver, Koosman and others, the Mets hung around the fringes of the pennant race. The acquisition of Donn Clendenon was, perhaps, the missing piece to the puzzle. Following that deal, the Mets took off and locked themselves in a fierce battle for 1st place with the Cubs. The Mets and Cubs would lock in several battles throughout the Summer that continue to live on in Met Lore, most notably a game on July 9th, Tom Seaver's "Imperfect" Game, that established him as a Star and established the Mets as for real. One night after sweeping another pair of games from the Cubs in early September, the Mets forged into 1st place for the first time in team history. From there, they never looked back.

From that point forward, every time a team came from out of nowhere, after years of losing and obscurity and rose to the top of their game, they would forever be compared to the '69 Mets. They weren't a superteam that was built to win, but they were built to play together. Few teams have ever won a Championship built like the '69 Mets. And few Champions have ever had the magnitude and legacy of the '69 Mets.

The '70 Topps Mets Team set includes individual cards of every Postseason game from '69. But the Mets won their Championship as a team, and naturally, the choice for the '70 team set has to be the Team itself.

Card back:

Friday, May 18, 2012

In Favor Of...

Thursday Night, SNY ran their "50 Greatest Mets" program, naturally, counting down the 50 greatest Mets players through their first 50 years. It was, for the most part, standard fare, meaning there wasn't anything surprising about it. No glaring omissions (the only notable name I thought wasn't there was Pedro Martinez, and it's really debatable as to whether or not he should even qualify), and the obvious choice at #1.

The Top 10, however, seemed to be in a rather odd order. Not that I have any real argument with who was there, because they all deserved to be there, but, for example, perhaps Edgardo Alfonzo should be in the top 10. But who, then, doesn't belong? Mike Piazza at #6 was also puzzling to me. Although he never brought a World Series Championship home, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who was as important to the Mets, particularly at the time he arrived, than Piazza (and really only Keith Hernandez comes close, and he wasn't the hitter Piazza was).

At #8 was David Wright. Behind Carlos Beltran, among others. George and I had discussed this at a game earlier this season, and earlier this week, he noted to me once again that Wright is probably deserving of being up among the Doc/Darryl level of Met Royalty, and assuming he remains a Met, will probably end up doing so whether he is a champion or not. David Wright's hit early in Friday Night's forgettable game was the 1300th of his career, placing him a mere 150 or so hits off Ed Kranepool's team record. Of course, Kranepool holds many team offensive records by virtue of being a compiler, and not necessarily an actual star, which David Wright is.

It's funny how many people have crapped on Wright over the past few years, even going so far as to say that the Mets should have let him go instead of Reyes. Although he'd had a couple of middling seasons the past couple of years, those were partially caused by injuries and the fact that he just didn't have anyone around to protect him. And he had this habit of putting too much on his shoulders. This season, he looks like the David Wright of 05-06-07. It's as though all the talk made him mad and mean, and he's come out this season ready to give his critics a giant middle finger. 

I suppose it's tough to find Wright's proper place in Mets history because his story is still being written, whereas everyone else in the top 10 has either left the Mets or is retired. But outside of the rare instances of a Darryl Strawberry or a Jose Reyes, the Mets really haven't had a great, landmark offensive player in their history. It's a team that has always built around a tradition of great pitching. This is one particular reason why I think it's important that Wright stays with the team. If he plays a 15-year career out with the Mets, he'll be the one to hold all these offensive records, and he'd be richly deserving of it. He already passed Strawberry's team RBI record this season, and he's a few years off from catching Straw's Home Run mark of 252. Kranepool's hits mark will probably fall early next season, although should he continue at his current clip, this season certainly is a possibility. He also stands to pass Jose Reyes' team Runs scored record. And I'm sure there are other marks he's well within reach of.

To this point, a World Series Championship has eluded Wright, which may hurt his overall standing. Everyone in SNY's top 5 won a Championship. But, such a standing can't solely be based on Championships. Players like Ernie Banks and Ted Williams are All-Time greats, and they spent most of their careers slogging away on lousy teams. Being probably the best offensive player in team history should count for something, and probably place him higher on this list. George believes Wright is already worthy of being on the level of Doc/Darryl, and I'm inclined to agree. By time he's done, assuming he sticks around, he could well be worthy of a Hernandez/Piazza level, and should he bring home a Championship or two, well, he could very well be in the discussion with Tom Seaver himself. Time, as always, will tell.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Beating the Rush

Things started out so beautifully this evening at Citi Field, my 7th game of the season and my 2nd time this season taking in the mastery of Johan Santana. It was a nice, warm May night, with the pollen count at a tolerable level for my allergies and the chicken sandwich from Blue Smoke its normal tasty self. Lucas Duda hit and Ike Davis hit and the Mets were ahead, and Johan Santana was cruising along.

Then, SPLAT.

That would be the bullpen imploding in the 8th inning, following a string of questionable moves by Terry Collins. Collins has, in general, had the right touch with the bullpen this season, and given that the parts he has are limited to begin with, there's only so many moves that can be made. But in this particular moment, you'd have to question why remove Parnell at all after the 7th, and bring in Jon Rauch, who just didn't have it at all, and then, following the Byrdak Shuffle, go to D.J. Carrasco, who never had it and was already in the doghouse with the rest of his team after his petulant display on Tuesday night.

You could see the beginning trickle of fans starting to leave once Carrasco came in the game, as though imminent doom was approaching. Nonetheless, given the way the Mets have performed of late, a 1-run deficit was hardly insurmountable. Carrasco, of course, made sure that such late-game theatrics wouldn't be necessary by incinerating things entirely. At least he had the good sense not to drill Devin Mesoraco after Todd Frazier's second bomb of a Home Run. Mercifully, Carrasco's been DFA'd, so we won't have to be subjected to him and his inability to get hitters out on a consistent basis anymore. I wish Manny Acosta were on similar thin ice.

So, at this point, the trickle of fans leaving had turned into a steady stream, and Citi Field was taken over by a patter of Reds Fans (there's always a few), at which point I figured I may as well get myself ready for a quick departure. Lately, I seem to be getting hung up in a crowd on the staircase for one reason or another, and I end up missing the first Express train back to Manhattan. This is a drag, because the Express has a tendency to sit around for 10 minutes at the station before it goes. Therefore, if you're on the first one, and you're fortunate enough to get a seat, you'll sit there while the train gets crowded and then leaves, but if you miss it, you're stuck there waiting, and then the train pulls in and you're sitting there another 10 minutes with the stadium staff, some of the guys from the Pepsi Patrol and a few stragglers.

It's not often that I give up on a game like this, but you could tell that the Mets weren't coming back. Aroldis Chapman came in and zapped through the 8th, and Sean Marshall, who for some reason is closing for the Reds, got through a relatively uneventful 9th, replete with me slipping down the stairs of 518 and hovering around for a few minutes before the game ended and I made my mad dash. If I ran anyone over, I apologize, but, hey, there was no good reason to stick around.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Monday Night's game was my 6th of the season at Citi Field, and I'm glad I eventually decided I was going to go. Being that it was a mostly gloomy, dreary day with on-and-off rain predicted, I figured the game was surely going to be delayed or, worse, postponed. And I was tired. But, come 5pm, the rain subsided, and when I left work at 6pm, the rain hadn't come back, and I already had the tickets, so off to Citi Field I went. Given that Miguel Batista was going for the Mets against the Brewers Hairy Ace, Yovani Gallardo, the prospect of a Mets victory didn't appear likely. Many people, if they had tickets or not, must have agreed, or at the very least weren't as hearty as I am, because at game time, it appeared as though I was the only one in the Stadium, along with the gentleman who likes to do an extended strikeout chant (you all know who I'm talking about). Even Cow Bell Man wasn't there. To make matters worse, half the concession stands in the Promenade were shut. Unless you wanted Blue Smoke, you were pretty much shit outta luck. Good thing I wanted Blue Smoke! So, there we were, all 10 of us, basically, sitting there and hoping that Miguel Batista wouldn't implode completely and the Mets wouldn't have to spend the night playing catch-up.

Of course, as has been the case most of the time this season, the Mets had other ideas. Most of them involved standing around while Gallardo walked 6 guys, but did not involve getting many, or sometimes any, hits. Unless, of course, your name was Daniel Murphy. Then, you were supplying most of the offense that was necessary, while Miguel Batista crossed everybody up, throwing 7 shutout innings that nobody expected him to throw.

Staked to a 1-0 lead that was manufactured on a pair of walks by Gallardo and a seeing-eye single from Murphy, Batista basically went out and spent his evening crossing the Brewers up and keeping them from mounting any viable threats, outside of the 2nd inning. Lucas Duda's misadventure on a Tyler Green hit landed Green on 3rd, and had it been a faster runner, he probably would have scored. This, however, didn't seem to bother Batista, who set about striking out Brooks Conrad before Cesar Izturis' 2-foot bunt short-circuited a suicide squeeze attempt.

Some innings later, it was the Mets in a similar situation. Daniel Murphy led off the 6th with a double, which was the first hit the Mets had had since his single back in the 1st. Since that point, they'd managed a number of walks, and managed to drive up Gallardo's pitch count, but hadn't done anything productive. However, on a night like this, the Mets even managed to make their outs count. Following a Davis Sac Fly, Ronny Cedeno came up and squared to bunt. Given the way the game had progressed, the squeeze seemed like The first pitch was a ball. Given that he squared, you would think that the already pinched-in Brewers infield would try to charge the bunt. But noooooo. Cedeno laid down a perfect bunt on the next pitch, and Murphy was across the plate before anyone had even picked the ball up.

Murphy had a hand in the final Met run, which was also of a fundamentally sound variety. In the 8th, the Brewers brought in old friend Francisco Rodriguez, who got the nice warm welcome you would expect, and was rudely greeted by a double from David Wright. If you're counting, this is the 3rd Mets hit I've mentioned. It's not as though there were other hits not worth mentioning, this just happened to be all the hits they could muster. But, the fundamentals came out once again, as Duda grounded out and moved Wright over, and then Murphy hit a grounder to 2nd, which appeared destined for certain disaster when Conrad threw home in plenty of time to get Wright. But, Wright seems to have a little rundown mojo working lately, so he naturally got himself in a pickle. Murphy sped around the bases while the Brewers made several futile attempts to tag out Wright, and then eventually lost the play completely when Aramis Ramirez just totally gagged and dropped the ball, allowing Wright to score.

Then, there was some other stuff that happened in the 9th, but we don't need to go into that, because it was the turd in the punchbowl of what was otherwise a fine evening at Citi Field. All that matters is that the last ball hit landed in Duda's glove, and everyone was sent home cheerful and happy, and the ride home on the 7 train was mirthful and full of people shouting updates on the Rangers game. Another fine night for the Mets, Yo Ho, Yo Ho!

Monday, May 14, 2012

One Too Many Times

Well, sometimes a streak of good luck runs out at an inopportune time. That seems to be what happened this past weekend in Mickey Mouse Ballpark, where the Mets, by all right, should have swept the Mickey Mouse Marlins just like they did in New York.

But, the Mets were undone by the unit that has alternately been their strength and their weakness through the early going this season. Yes, it's our old friend, the Bullpen. The unit that was a boon in '06, caused several heart episodes in '07 and took 10 years off my life in '08. Well, they're up to their old tricks again.

Friday, the Mets fell behind 3-0 in the 1st inning. Lately, this appears to be the best thing an opponent can do to the Mets. Not that it's the best idea to make a habit of this, but if this is what the Mets need, well, why not. So, the Mets chip away and chip away, and they take the lead thanks to the efforts of David Wright, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter, and here we are again, taking the lead late. An Ike Davis error in the 8th led to an unearned run, which didn't help, but in the 9th, it was Frank Francisco who ultimately spit the game up in a finish reminiscent of about 723 other games the Mets have played against the Marlins.

Saturday, the Mets scored early and often enough that the Bullpen didn't ever have a chance to screw things up.

Sunday, however, was another story. Staked to a 4-2 lead in the 9th, again Frank Francisco couldn't hold it, and Manny Acosta eventually tossed it into the fire completely, in the kind of 9th inning meltdown that would have made Armando Benitez proud.

Now, Frank Francisco as closer wasn't exactly an iron clad lock to begin with.For the most part, he's performed adequately well, but when he doesn't have it, he really doesn't have it, and it's been multiple times this season that Collins has had to come out and rescue his ass before things got out of hand. Sunday was one such game, and Collins got Francisco before the game was lost, or even tied, but his choice to replace Francisco was the human gas can, Manny Acosta. Now, I've made no secret of the fact that I don't like Acosta to begin with. He's been around for what, 3 years now, and he's done very little good. Ostensibly, Acosta is Oliver Perez from the right side. He's a rubbery-looking thing with a gangly arms-and-legs windup who throws great stuff that he has no concept of how to control. He displays no semblance of consistency or ability to harness his talent. You have no idea whether he'll retire the side in order or give up a string of long hits, and sometimes this happens within the same outing. They even crammed him into Perez's old #46 jersey, just so we wouldn't get confused. But Collins mysteriously seems to keep running him out there in key situations, despite the fact that better pitchers (not good pitchers, per se, just better pitchers than Acosta) such as Bobby Parnell were still available.

I could support bringing in Francisco and trying him out as closer, I can support keeping guys with upside like Bobby Parnell, and even Tim Byrdak and Jon Rauch, just because they're fresh faces. I couldn't support keeping Acosta around. There was no good reason to keep him on the roster when there are several other pitchers who are probably better situational pitchers on a day-to-day basis. For fuck's sake, Dillon Gee has managed to craft himself a role on this club despite having only average stuff because he KNOWS HOW TO PITCH! It's not such a novel idea. Surely, there's a right-handed relief pitcher somewhere in the organization who knows how and when to throw the pitches necessary to get good hitters out, not just rear back and heave a fastball so Giancarlo Stanton can hit it 500 feet the other way. I'm not totally crazy with this thought, am I?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1969

Part 8 of our 50-year Twirl of the Unisphere...

What is it: 1969 Topps #90, Jerry Koosman

What makes it Interesting: As much as I dislike the '68s, that's as much as I love the Pop-Art simplicity of the '69s. Undeniably a classic set, this just screams 60s at you. The '69s offer a slightly smaller-than-usual Mets team set, checking in at 26 cards (many other issues go well over 30), and offer the usual smattering of Seaver, Hodges, Agee, McGraw, Ed Charles and other lesser knowns like Kevin Collins. Koosman's card here is his first solo card, replete with the rather ornate All-Star Rookie trophy and a rather unfamiliar number 47 on his jersey (Koosman is, of course, better known as #36 in your programs. This looks like a job for MBTN!). It's debatable, but Koosman may or may not have been rooked out of the '68 NL Rookie of the Year award. His numbers in '68 bettered his teammate Tom Seaver's rookie stats in '67, but Koosman had to settle for runner up to some fellow who played Catcher for Cincinnati.

Although the majority of Koosman's Mets career was spent playing second fiddle to Tom Seaver, Koosman was quite the money pitcher in his own right. An All Star in his first two seasons, Koosman's lefty finesse stuff proved the perfect complement to Seaver's heat, and the pair served as an anchor for the Mets Miracle run to a World Series Championship in '69. In that World Series, Koosman delivered a pair of signature outings for the Mets. After losing the first game, Koosman came out in Game 2 and no-hit the Orioles into the 7th. Koosman would pitch 8.2 innings, allowing a run on just two hits, picking up a crucial victory. In the 5th game, with the Mets looking to clinch the series at home, Koosman came out and fired a complete game at the Orioles, faltering only when he allowed a pair of Home Runs in the 3rd inning. His effort kept the Orioles at bay long enough for his teammates to come back, take the lead, and allow him to lay down the hammer in the decisive 5-3 victory. Koosman's penchant for the big game came up again in 1973, when he pitched a strong 6.1 innings in the Mets Game 5 victory. Koosman remains The Standard for lefty pitchers in the Mets organization, and ranks within the top 10 in Mets History in several major pitching categories, including standing only second to Seaver in Innings pitched, Complete Games and Shutouts, and sits 3rd all time in Strikeouts.

Card Back:

Friday, May 11, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1968

Part 7 of our 50-year Subway Ride...

What is it: 1968 Topps #45, Tom Seaver

What makes it Interesting: In case "He's Tom Fucking Seaver" wasn't a good enough reason...

I find the '68s to be rather dreary, whatever this design on the front of the card is supposed to be isn't quite clear and just looks dumb. But, the set includes a few rather important Mets cards, among them the Rookie Card of Jerry Koosman (I don't have this one—it's shared with another guy with two first names who's rather famous), and the return of Gil Hodges as Mets Manager. And Seaver's first solo card. 

Seaver, at a rather boyish 24, had already established himself as an emerging star in '68. Voted National League Rookie of the Year in '67 (one of only four Mets to win this award), he only went up from there. Over the next decade, he would establish himself as the Mets first true Superstar, the face of a franchise that would reach the World Series a pair of times, winning, of course, in '69. Other notable exploits include 3 Cy Young Awards (one of only two Mets to win this award), 4 20+ win seasons, 3 ERA titles, 5 times leading the league in strikeouts, 10 times an All-Star, and today remains the Mets all-time leader in Wins, Strikeouts, ERA, Innings pitched, Games started, Complete Games and Shutouts. 

AND...the only player in team history to have his number retired.

AND...the only player in the Hall of Fame in a Mets cap.

Interesting enough?

Card Back:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Even Better Vibes!

Well, if you were feeling good on Wednesday morning, you probably had to be feeling even better on Thursday, particularly if you were a Mets fan.

Once again, the Mets fell behind in last night's game, and once again, I didn't seem bothered by it. Dillon Gee unraveled in the 6th inning and the Phillies went ahead for the 3rd time in the game. But after the way the last two games had gone, my thought process was something like, "Well, I guess we have them right where we want them."

And, of course, the Mets went out and lit Philly's bullpen on fire several times over. It's truly bizarre, the way these things work sometimes. The Phillies are still probably the best team in the division, and it probably shouldn't matter if Howard and Utley are out. There are still guys in their lineup that pack a punch. And with Halladay and Lee, they're still going to throw a starter who can shut their opponent down more often than not. The problem, however, is that once that starter is done, they have to rely on a bullpen that appears to rival the quality of the 2008 Mets. Every time they trotted out a reliever this week, the Mets blasted him. But without Utley and Howard in the lineup being annoying, this problem seems to be masked. It's too easy an excuse to say that the Phillies are 14-18 because they don't have those two players. Granted, it doesn't help, but this as an excuse is basically a mask for the fact that the Phillies just don't have much in the bullpen.

But, of course, you still have to take advantage of the other teams bad bullpen. Fortunately, the Mets were able to do this; a primary reason they were able to sweep this series. Ike Davis woke up, Andres Torres and Justin Turner got big hits, and everyone else filled in from there. Even Manny Acosta pitched well this series.

They could be overachieving, and this hot streak could simply be a mirage when everything shakes out. But for now, this has been a fun season for the Mets.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Good Vibes

Sometime around the 4th inning of last night's game, another sweaty affair that included me tuning out early as the Phillies took the lead, making dinner in my underwear in the middle innings and then drifting back into things around the 7th inning, I looked at the score and saw that it was 4-1 Phillies. Daniel Murphy had just driven home a run, or maybe he had made one of the several fine defensive plays he'd been making all evening. I thought to myself something that I don't think Mets fans have been thinking very much over the past few years. I thought, "Well, the Phillies better not let us hang around like this too much longer. We're liable to rally and come back."

Sure enough, they did.

So that's twice in a row now that the Mets have come into Philadelphia and kicked the Phillies in the Mike Schmidt Moustache, winning games that on paper, they had no business winning. Monday night, they won in spite of having to face Roy Halladay. Tuesday, they won again, in spite of having to start Miguel Batista in the now-infamous Mike Pelfrey vacant spot in the rotation. Early, it looked like a pretty easy game to stop paying attention to. Batista got bombed in the 1st, bombed some more in the 2nd, but then mysteriously settled down. Or maybe Philly's bats just went quiet. Either way, Philly didn't score the rest of the game, so whatever the Mets pitching was doing, they were doing it right, and it allowed the offense to very quietly string a few hits together, score a couple of runs, and then tie the game on the kind of play that seemed like something the Mets themselves would have done in, say, 2009. Or maybe the whole play would have backfired and Wright would have just run into the tag for the 3rd out. But instead Wright did the smart thing and kept the rundown going just long enough for Nieuwenhuis to distract the entire Phillies infield, which by this point had managed to convene in the neighborhood of 1st base. Pete Orr (a sign of Philly's problems in the early going—No Utley, No Howard, means guys like Pete Orr and Juan Pierre are starting games) then turned and chucked the ball down the left field line, allowing Nieuwenhuis to score and Wright to scamper all the way to 3rd.

Doesn't that sound like the kind of thing the Mets usually do?

Well, apparently the culture around here has changed, since the Mets not only didn't screw it up, they also took the lead one batter later and then watched as their bullpen locked the game down and the bats put it away in the 9th inning. Well, shit. I guess that thought I had in the 4th inning wasn't so crazy after all. There have been other seasons recently where the Mets have had some gritty wins and it makes everyone feel good, but this season it feels a little different. Maybe because nobody expects it to happen and yet they keep on doing it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sit and Valdespin

It really doesn't seem to matter who or how anymore, but some way, the Mets seem to find a way to win these games.

Last night, the Mets newest hero surfaced, in the name of the sparkplug that is Jordany Valdespin. Many in the casual Mets audience might not have heard of Valdespin, short of his 0-for-6 stint in his first cup of coffee, but those in the know have known he's been around. I first saw Valdespin last year in Spring Training, where he hit the ball all over the place and played with the kind of abandon generally reserved for Jose Reyes. There was talk of some character issues. But attention was paid, and by time this Spring rolled around, Valdespin was probably worth a serious look, which he received, although nonetheless he was sent to AAA. But you could see the energy and the attitude he played with, and you knew it wouldn't be long before he'd be back in the Majors.

Even when he was going 0 for his first 6 in the Majors, you saw a little bit of that energy out of Valdespin. He often looks like he's ready to just jump out of his shoes and fly around the field. The arrogance is there as well. Before his pinch-hitting appearance, he was standing in the on deck circle, casually flipping the bat back and forth in his hands. Perhaps he's the perfect type to be interjected into the Mets/Phillies rivalry, which seems to include all sorts of posturing and attitude.

He certainly showed his flair for the dramatic last night. In the perfect storm of a situation, Valdespin's first Major League hit was also his first Major League Home Run, and also a game-winner in a game where the odds seemed completely stacked against the Mets.

With the Mets going up against Roy Halladay, this was basically a one-ear game. I had it on TV from the outset, but once the Phillies took the lead on Niese, you figured that was probably that. Halladay would cruise, and at some point I'd just flip over to the Rangers game. But then Wright doubled and the game was tied, and then Shane Victorino was getting called out for interference (a sure sign—a few years ago, this kind of call always went against the Mets, particularly when it involved Victorino), and then I was cooking dinner, and then Ty Wigginton was flattening Josh Thole at home—but still being tagged out, and then it was still tied, and it was the 9th inning.

But, again, this game's funny. Instead of holding to form, and the Phillies winning on 2 walks and 73 feet worth of singles, Valdespin came up and gave everyone in Philly a nice big Shitsteak, short circuiting any potential Philly rally before it could even start and giving the Mets one more surprise victory in what seems to have been a season of surprise victories.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wild and Mild

I sat through Friday night's rather frustrating loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks with my free cup and couldn't help but think to myself that this had been fun while it lasted. After a nice quick start that kept optimism and hope alive, the bottom was finally falling out. Following a 3-game sweep at the hands of the miserable Astros, the Mets had come home and had their bullpen blow a tenuous lead, with an assist by some key moments where the Mets bats just couldn't come through and get those tack-on runs. So, one would have had to figure that with a team of reasonable quality in town, the Mets would just fold their tents and fade off into the obscurity that we'd figured they were destined for.

Then, Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey took the mound over the weekend, and things were OK again.

Mets history has been dotted with several "dynamic duos" of starting pitchers who you could count on to go out there and always give a quality start. Seaver and Koosman were the norm in the 60s and 70s. In the 80s, there was Gooden and Darling, or Gooden and Cone, or Gooden and Fernandez. 2000 had Mike Hampton and Al Leiter. '05 and '06 had Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine, and you could even say that John Maine and Oliver Perez in '07 were such a pair. Now, it's the somewhat incongruous duo of Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey who are filling this role.

That's not to say that they've been great every time out. Every pitcher has a stinker from time to time, and this has to be expected from a pitcher like Santana who's fresh off major shoulder surgery, and R.A. Dickey, a pitcher who relies on the bizarre and elusive knuckleball. But somehow, they've made it work. Though Santana can't be relied upon to blow people away anymore, what he can do is just go out there and throw whatever pitch he wants and make it work, perhaps the hallmark trait of any truly great pitcher. Though it's only been 6 starts, you'd have to consider his comeback a resounding success; except for his one bad outing in Atlanta, he's looked nothing less than the Johan Santana we've come to expect great things out of. Until Saturday, he didn't have a win to show for it, but of course it's not his fault if his team doesn't get him any runs (and he can't always do it himself). But, Saturday, he did his thing, and his teammates helped him out for a change and he got that elusive win, and stopped the bleeding in the process.

Sunday, it was R.A. Dickey going out and doing what it seems like he's done just about every time out this season: go out there, flutter his knuckleball around and make the other team look mostly foolish. By all rights, he should have finished the game, but for a walk and a double to start off the 9th inning, Arizona didn't seem to have much of a clue against him. For that matter, nobody's really had much of a clue against him, and this has gone back to the middle of last season. Strange as it may sound, this ragamuffin has become the steadiest pitcher in the rotation, and given the shelf life of knuckleball pitchers, he's probably got a lot of life left in him.

It's good to have a pair of dependable arms like these guys. It's going to keep the season afloat for the immediate future. If only the same could be said about the rest of the pitching staff.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1967

Part 6 of our 50-year Walk in the Park...
What is it: 1967 Topps #413, Jerry Grote

What makes it interesting: The '67s are another nice looking set of cards with a tough-to-find High-Number series. The most notable Mets card in this set is, of course, card #581, the Rookie Card of Tom Seaver (who incongruously shares his card with the unmemorable Bill Denehy, whose claim to fame was being sent to the Washington Senators as compensation for Gil Hodges becoming Mets Manager). However, I don't own this card, so I had to pick something else.

Jerry Grote was the embodiment of the grizzled veteran catcher over his 12-years with the Mets. He was still in his formative years in '67, though, which might explain why this is one of the most cheerful-looking photos of Grote that exists (a kind and charitable man off the field, Grote was notorious for his grouchy demeanor on the field, constantly chewing out his pitchers, and sometimes managers and coaches as well). After coming over in a trade with Houston, Grote would eventually coax a series of talented young pitchers through to a World Series Championship in '69, and a National League pennant in '73, while making the All-Star team twice, in '68 and '74. In addition to catching every inning of the Mets postseason run in '69, the fearsome Baltimore Orioles lineup hit a paltry .146 with him calling the pitches during the World Series. Never a great hitter, Grote traded on his stock as easily the best defensive Catcher the Mets have ever seen, and probably the best in the league during the bulk of his career. Traded to the Dodgers during the 1977 season, Grote's 1,176 games played at Catcher continue to stand as a club record.

Card Back:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pour Me Another One, My Good Man!

Blogging at you Live, from Citi Field tonight as the Mets are wooing the Baseball Muse before starting their series with the Diamondbacks. It's a rare Friday night appearance for me, and even rarer still that I'm present when they're giving something away. Tonight is Collector Cup Night, where all the hearty fans are treated to this little plastic cup.

Back in those Halcyon days known as the 1990s, and even through the 2000s, up until Shea Stadium closed, the Collector Cup used to be rather prevalent at Mets games. Every time you bought a souvenir soda, you got a cup. I liked the cups. I have a reasonable collection of them at home. They used to have the season schedule on them, and on special games, like the Subway Series, they even had extra special collector cups.

When the Mets moved into Citi Field in '09, the collector cups were still around. But they had changed. They were smaller, and made of a harder plastic. There was supposedly a series of three collector cups for '09, but for some reason, I've only ever seen one of them. Even worse, when I ran them in the dishwasher, the color on the cups faded out into a disgusting yellowy mess. Nonetheless, a collector cup is a collector cup.

But something disturbing happened beginning in 2010. The cups vanished! No more collector cups were to be had at Citi Field. Nobody seemed to notice, or at least nobody seemed to be up in arms about it that I could tell. But I noticed. It made me less likely to buy a soda, since now it just came in a dopey paper cup that fell apart. This trend has continued ever since, with the only plastic cups around being for beer, mostly useless and not collectible. All we have now are these promotion dates for our Mets cups. It's just not the same.

Hasn't someone written a letter to someone important about this? Where have the cups gone?!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1966

Part 5 of our 50-year look at the History Books...
What is it: 1966 Topps #561, Choo Choo Coleman

What makes it interesting: The '66s have a nice, clean design that I've always liked. The '66 Mets team set is another sprawling effort, 31 cards in all, and among them, some notables like Ron Swoboda's and Tug McGraw's first solo cards, and Jerry Grote's first Mets card (Not his rookie, however), Choo Choo Coleman gets the call here based on a couple of reasons.

First, it's hard to ignore Coleman's impact on the Mets, not so much as a player, but as a character. Choo Choo Coleman the player was a fringe Major Leaguer at best, the fact that he hadn't played in the Major Leagues since 1963 and boasted a career batting average of .197 should tell you all you need to know. It's Coleman's noted personality that made him a unique part of Mets lore. His interactions with both media and teammates have proven to be the stuff of legend.

Second, the card itself. I'd mentioned in a prior post how Topps would release their cards in six separate series throughout the Baseball Season. The final series, generally known as the High Numbers, were often produced in lesser quantities, as they usually came out towards the end of Baseball season and the beginning of Football season. This has, over time, created a higher demand for many of these high-numbered cards. Additionally, due to the number of cards that Topps had on their print sheets, some cards were printed in even lesser quantities than others. Choo Choo Coleman's 1966 card appears to have been one such card, as it outvalues every other card in the Mets team set from '66, and by a fairly wide margin.

Card Back:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pitchers Wanted

So, it's taken two starts from Chris Schwinden (plus however many forgettable outings he had last September) for me to decide I've had enough of him. I realize that his line today was pretty much the same as Jonathon Niese's was last night, but I'm willing to give Niese a mulligan, primarily because he a) has talent and b) has a stinker every once in a while, but for the most part, he's pitched well. Schwinden, on the other hand, inspires a Wayne's World catchphrase moreso than he inspires confidence. It was bad enough in his first start when the Mets handed him a 4-run lead and he handed it right back to the Rockies. Today, with the Mets already reeling and in need of a solid outing, Schwinden stepped up and basically gave the Mets a mostly noncompetitive effort. After the Mets had to empty their bullpen behind Niese last night, Schwinden did the Mets no favors in his 4 innings.After his 4 innings, the Mets found themselves down 5-1. Not an insurmountable deficit, particularly in the hitter's haven that is Houston's Park of Many Names, but the problem is that Schwinden was followed to the mound by the equally talentless Manny Acosta, whom the Astros promptly torched for another 3 runs to finish off the Mets and send them back to Queens, hopefully feeling quite humbled over their performance.

I hadn't said much about the recent Mike Pelfrey injury and the resulting fallout from his injury. Though Pelfrey has been often inconsistent and often maligned for a lack of mound smarts and sometimes pitching like an idiot, one thing you could say is that Pelfrey was always a likeable player. Though he was never good for entire seasons, when he was good,  he was often very good, and could also always be counted on to eat innings and keep games competitive. But, with him now out for the season, and potentially gone from the Mets for good, it's created a bit of a void in the rotation that the Mets only seem marginally equipped to fill. Schwinden isn't the answer. Hopefully he won't start again, but then, the Mets don't really have any other solid options that are ready to step in. Jeremy Hefner seems the most likely candidate to get the call next. I don't know much about him, other than I suppose he can't be much worse than Schwinden. Chris Young is apparently about a month away. I like C.Y. quite a bit, but he simply hasn't proven himself able to stay healthy for any period of time over the past few seasons, so he may be a stopgap, at best. Jenrry Mejia (remember him?) is also kicking around, having come back from his own Tommy John surgery last year, and it remains to be seen if the Mets haven't totally screwed him up after wasting a year of his development by sticking him in the bullpen. The real studs, Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler and Jeurys Familia aren't ready yet, and it appears that the Mets are in no rush to promote them, which is fine. None of them are really ready to be promoted yet, and Sandy Alderson in particular has shown a propensity to not rush prospects who aren't quite there yet. I won't argue. Unfortunately, this means more Schwinden, more Miguel Batista, more of the rotating pu-pu platter every 5th day until someone proves themselves capable of holding down a job on a regular basis. Something, eventually, has to work.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The 50-50 Club

The Mets lost last night, in an eminently forgettable game to the eminently forgettable Houston Astros. This appeared to be a game that the Astros won in spite of themselves. While the Mets on paper look bad but have played well, the Astros actually are as bad as they look. Their basic lack of improvement following a 104-loss season should indicate as much. This makes their victory last night slightly more galling, considering that their bullpen is so awful that Astros manager Brad Mills actually used 7 different pitchers to get through 7 consecutive batters in the late innings. But somehow, they managed to scrape out the winning run when Terry Collins' non-move, to remove Manny Acosta, blew up in his inexcusable second inning of work. I'm known to blast off on certain players, and, rest assured, a full-scale diatribe against Manny Acosta is indeed percolating, but it's not quite ready yet.

The Astros, of course, are the 1962 brethren of the Mets, and their paths have crossed in some fairly memorable battles over the past 50 years. And, of course, their share of clunkers. What seems odd, however, is that this apparently is going to be the Mets last trip to Houston as a National League team. In a rather innocuous move which I don't think anyone is going to really start complaining about until they see how ridiculous it is, the Astros are going to be incongruously moved to the AL West next season, giving Major League Baseball two 15-team leagues. This also means that there will be interleague play going on all season long. Which means that the AL Fatboys are going to start clamoring for the NL to adopt the DH. And so on, and so forth.

I'm fairly certain little good will come of this. I, and most NL fans, tend to be purists. We like our quick, moderately low-scoring, strategy-filled affairs, replete with pitchers having to take their hacks. The Fatboy argument, of course, is that the NL is the only league in professional baseball where the pitcher bats, and they even employ a DH in Spring Training games. A fair argument, but the NL ultimately requires thinking and strategy in their games, something that has always appealed to me. The NL is the Thinking Man's league, whereas the AL basically just requires you to put on your shades, tilt back your head and wait for someone to hit a 3-run Home Run. And yet somehow, some NL team is going to have to be forced to be subjected to this on any given day, even in the thick of a pennant race. I mean, really. The AL? The DH? The DH is a position that has kept guys like Bob Hamelin, Rob Deer and Adam Dunn employed. The Designated Fatboy, the 3-run HR and 4-hour games. Gotta love that American League ball.

My sincere hope is that this is just an experiment, and maybe they'll go back, or maybe someone in Bud Selig's office will wake him up, wipe the drool off his chin and smack him across the face, but, unfortunately, this is probably going to be here to stay. So, Houston, farewell, at least for the next few seasons, until our paths cross again. May we always remember your storied National League tradition.