Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Everything Is Terrible

I haven't read or heard any reaction to last night's debacle in Miami, but I would suppose that the prevailing thought across the board is that when Matt Harvey pitches and the Mets still can't win a game, then things are probably worse than we thought.

To his credit, Harvey hasn't ever actually pitched poorly this season. Last night he again minimized damage, but his one mistake, which was surprisingly enough not that he gave up, but that he wasn't economical enough with his 6 innings of work. It's something he's alternately good and bad with, but that's the travails of a young pitcher. But for his efforts, he deserved a win. In fact, he always deserves a win.

But the remainder of the game still had to be played, and the Mets, who only managed to score on a John Buck Home Run, just couldn't be bothered to squeeze an insurance run across. That's not to say that multiple opportunities didn't present themselves. It appears to me that pretty much every Mets inning that the Mets came to bat from the 7th on played out something like this:
  1. Single to Right
  2. Sacrifice Bunt, runner moves to 2nd
  3. Ground out to the right side, runner moves to 3rd
  4. Line out to the Shortstop. Runner stranded.

And so on, and so forth.

Nonetheless, the Mets were in position to beat the miserable Marlins, who appeared to be just as offensively challenged. I didn't like the Mets inability to build on their lead, but surely, the bullpen ought to have been able to hold the lead. Come the 9th inning, my other half, who was waiting to watch a program that was recording on the DVR, asked when the game was ending. I said it was the 9th inning. She said, "Oh good, so it'll be over soon." I replied, "Yes, unless some unforeseen disaster happens. Of course, this is the Mets we're talking about, so who knows..."

Of course. I seemed prophetic a few minutes later when Bobby Parnell blew the lead. It wasn't entirely Parnell's fault. He probably should have gotten Rob Brantly out, but for Collin Cowgill making the True Met play and breaking back on a fly ball when he should have broken in, allowing the ball to fall in for a hit and giving the Marlins the opportunity to scrape the tying run across.

The 10th inning began, and my other half came back into the room. "What!? 10th Inning!?" she yelled.

"Well, the Mets turned back into the Mets," was the only reply I could muster.

The game continued. A stream of Mets continued to either strike out or ground out to the second baseman with runners on base, while Met relievers continued to plow through punchless Marlin bats.  My other half came back in the room some time later.

"12th inning!?" she yelled, "That doesn't happen!"

I had no good answer. For all I could tell, this game could go on for weeks, or until someone ran out of pitchers.

Finally, in the 13th, I relented. The game appeared both endless and hopeless, and I'd basically lost patience. "This game isn't ever going to end," I said to my now-weary other half. "You may as well watch your show now."

So, she did. I figured someone ought to have figured out how to get a hit with a runner in scoring position in the meantime. But by time she watched her show and put the game back on, the score remained 2-2, now in the 15th inning. This prompted her to ask a question about the longest game ever. On cue, Ruben Tejada singled home a run. Miracle of miracles, the Mets actually scored another run after striking out 33 times and going 0-for-27 with men in scoring position. Surely, Shaun Marcum, voluntarily pressed into an emergency relief outing, could navigate his way through 3 more outs.

Unfortunately, surely appears to be a dicey proposition for the Mets these days. Marcum managed one of those 3 outs before the Marlins tied the game, and then one batter later won the game, leaving Marcum to walk off the field with a well-deserved puss on his face.

Fortunately, the Marlins don't have notorious Met-haters like Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla on the team anymore, so their walk-off celebrations against the Mets don't have quite the same oomph they once did. With this incarnation of the Marlins, they appear to simply be happy to have won a game, opponent be damned. That doesn't, however, make the situation any more palatable.

This ended up not being the longest game of the night, but that's pretty much immaterial. Everything about the Mets is terrible right now, and the fact that they're now losing games when Matt Harvey pitches and pitches well is a pretty good example of this. Nobody hits except for John Buck and David Wright (and occasionally Daniel Murphy). The Outfield is so bad that Lucas Duda's middling start is greeted with joy because he's drawing a lot of walks. The bullpen is completely schizophrenic. Usually, the Mets seem to play competitive ball in the first half before they fall apart, but the way things look right now, they stand a very good chance of being irrelevant by Memorial Day. If it wasn't for Harvey and Buck, they could very well be 5-18 right now. Surely a shakeup is needed, but who goes, and how much is it really going to help this bunch?

Monday, April 29, 2013


Friday night was my 5th game of the season at Citi Field and my second that week. My first, on Tuesday, was a miserably cold affair with an equally miserable result.

At least the weather was nicer on Friday.

I probably should have known things weren't going to go the Mets way. I attended the game with my other half, who I met at the Apple, and we went inside and more or less made a beeline to the Pat LaFreida stand in the Promenade Level. We first had this sandwich at my final game of the year last year, and it was a bit of a talking point when we discussed going to games together this season. Suffice it to say, she might have been looking forward to the sandwich more than the game itself, so in a display of loyalty, I promised I wouldn't have one until we went to a game together this season. Of course, I nearly broke that promise on Opening Day, but the long lines and poor service that day were, perhaps, a sign that I should wait. So Friday, we had our first game of the year together and our first Pat LaFreida of the season. That being said, the stand appeared to be about as ill-prepared on Friday as it was on Opening Day, since they appeared to not have any sandwiches ready despite the game being about to start and people on line waiting.

Long story short, we got our sandwiches, but we missed the top of the first inning, and had there not been a bizarre, extended umpire illness delay, we might have missed more of the game. However, the delay did give us a chance to enjoy our meal.

This, then, was the highlight of the evening. Though Dillon Gee was gamely, Kyle Kendrick, who has been perfectly middling for years, was gamelier, and when the Phillies broke through for 4 runs in the 6th inning, the game may as well have ended right there because the Mets appeared to have forgotten the times they fed Kyle Kendrick his own Pat LaFreida sandwich. My other half also wasn't pleased; though she liked the sandwich, she complained that it was too cold out.

Saturday, we were on the road and neither heard nor saw any of the game. I had actually been operating under the assumption that the game was starting at 3:15, but when I checked my phone around 3:30, I saw that the game was already in the 7th inning, carnage complete. The Mets and Phillies no longer carries the gravitas worthy of National TV coverage, it seems. Shaun Marcum, I can't say much about, since I didn't actually see him pitch, but based on the numbers it appears he wasn't especially good, but Robert Carson, who pitched so well in emergency on Tuesday, was even worse, thus sealing another sound defeat.

Sunday was no better. I once again engrossed myself cleaning my apartment with the game in the background. Jonathon Niese appeared up to the task of matching everyone's favorite D-Bag Cole Hamels. I had some laundry running, and when I went down to put it in the dryer, the score was 1-1, with 2 out in the 7th. When I got back upstairs, Niese was gone and the score was 4-1 Phillies. That was my cue to switch over to the Knicks game. That didn't end well, either.

So, things appear to be dissolving nicely for the Mets, who now sit on a 4-game losing streak, 5 out of 6. Matt Harvey started the game they won, except that the Mets had to hit to get that win. Fortunately, Harvey is starting tomorrow when the Mets pay their first visit to Mickey Mouse Stadium. Unfortunately, the Mets still have to start everyone else before he can go again.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Got Your Back!

Matt Harvey for once proved he was mortal earlier tonight, although even his worst outing of the season only left the Mets down 3-1 after his 6 innings. Harvey wasn't his usual unhittable self, but then again, the law of averages was bound to catch up with him at some point. And even then, this supposedly bad outing still yielded only 4 hits, 3 runs and 7 strikeouts. But, considering those 3 runs ballooned his ERA to 1.54, that's just a testament to how well he's pitched this far. The Dodgers also didn't exactly knock him around; they scored a run in the 1st on a fielder's choice, and Matt Kemp's 6th inning Home Run was an opposite field flick job that was simply a great hitter hitting a great pitch in the right spot. Aside from that, Harvey was basically doing what he usually does: mow down the opposition with a quickness.

The only real downside to all this was that the Mets offense didn't back him up the way they usually do. Wimpy Ted Lilly pretty much stifled the Mets through the early part of the game, only bending slightly when Harvey himself made a strong bid for his first career Home Run, instead just clanging the ball off the wall for a double. Ruben Tejada followed with a double of his own, scoring Harvey and, at that point, tying the game 1-1.

But down 3-1 and looking rather anemic offensively, things appeared somewhat grim for the Mets. That's not to say they didn't have opportunities against the Dodgers bullpen. Jay J.P. Howell did his best to hand the Mets some runs by walking the first two batters he faced, but Antonio Alfonseca Ronald Bellisario came in to bail him out, allowing only a Sacrifice Fly to Justin Turner before stopping the Mets cold for the remainder of his 1.2 innings. So Harvey still found himself on the short end of the stick, looking at having his 4-0 record blemished by the slimmest of margins unless the offense could scrape across another run.

It took them until the 9th inning, but they finally managed to scrape that run across. Mike Baxter got it started with a flare hit to left that Carl Crawford neither caught nor managed to pick up in a timely fashion, allowing Baxter to hustle out a leadoff double that more or less changed the scope of the game. Tejada sacrificed Bax to 3rd, leaving Daniel Murphy in prime position to tie the game. And perhaps he would have, but for a brilliant catch by Jerry Hairston, Jr, who basically showed little regard for his body in smashing into a dugout railing. Buzzkill. That was going to seal the Mets fate. Except that David Wright nailed the game-tying hit on the next pitch. Game tied, Harvey off the hook, joy in Metville.

This, of course, all would have been moot had the Mets had one of those games where they immediately melt down in the 10th inning, but behind Bobby Parnell, who's pitched rather well even if he hasn't exactly had save opportunities, the Dodgers were turned aside (this after fine jobs from Scott Rice, Scott Atchison and the rejuvenated LaTroy Hawkins), so the Mets had a chance to do some damage of their own in the 10th against this Josh Wall fellow who I guess is the Dodgers answer to Kevin McGlinchy since he came in and immediately started giving up hits and walks and sacrifice bunts, and then Don Mattingly was holding court on the mound, but it was really delaying the inevitable. The only thing left to chance with Jordany Valdespin up was whether he was going to keep control of himself with the bases loaded, or was he going to try to hit the 6-run Homer and ground out to first. The answer, fortunately, was the former; Valdespin put a nice, level, controlled swing on a 2-1 fastball and, oddly enough, ended up being the Home Run Hero because his fly ball that would have won the game regardless ended up sailing over the wall in Right, ensuring that Jordany could back-flip his way around the bases with his first career Grand Slam, sealing a hair-raising 7-3 victory.

So, yes, Matt Harvey has in fact proved himself to be human, just like every other pitcher in the Major Leagues, and sometimes he has to rely on his teammates to pull a game out of the fire for him. Tonight, his teammates, particularly Baxter, Wright and Valdespin, all had his back.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Out In The Cold

I left early.

I'm not proud of this fact, and I don't like admitting that I did it, but I left tonight's game early.

Josh Edgin had just surrendered a 2-run double to A.J. Ellis. Mark Ellis had already done his best Mark McGwire impression. The game, which had been moving at a snail's pace even without the Jonathon Niese injury delay, had stretched past 3 hours. The Mets had, to this point, mustered 2 runs and 3 hits in spite of the fact that they cajoled Clayton Kershaw into a sweaty 110-pitch effort over 5 innings, but had surprisingly little to show for it.

The temperature, cold for the standards of any game, was starting to make my legs stiff. For the second time this season, I was wearing a winter coat at Citi Field, which I already said shouldn't be done. The Weather Channel app on my phone said it was 51º, which was absolute, unadulterated bullshit. I've been out in January in Binghamton and it might have felt warmer than it did tonight at Citi Field.

There were no more than 10,000 people at the game, and they were abandoning in droves.

I just couldn't do it anymore. I didn't see a miracle comeback on the horizon and I was fucking freezing. Neither my colleague nor I could deal with another pitching change. So, we left. I realize this is a blow to my Mets fan street cred, but I can't say I particularly care. I wasn't really itching to sit out at Citi Field until close to 11pm, then spend another hour on the subway getting home. 

Up until the Ellises struck, this was actually shaping up like a marginally decent game. Jonathon Niese didn't particularly have his best stuff, and had an Oliver Perez-like 2nd inning where he walked the ballpark before Kershaw bailed him out by hitting into a DP. Then, of course, he took the Mark Ellis comebacker off his leg and was out of the game, day-to-day just like the rest of us. He was fortunate to only be down 1-0.

But Kershaw, who appears to be right out of the Tim Lincecum school of unorthodox pitching mechanics, didn't have his best stuff either. Known for his great control, Kershaw nonetheless ran the count full on pretty much every Met that came to bat against him. Hell, Kershaw managed to walk Robert Carson of all people, who came to bat for the first time in the 3rd and looked like he was ready to pull a Dae Sung Koo act had Kershaw simply been able to find the plate (and as an aside, after walking Carson, Kershaw then made a pickoff attempt on him, which I assume he did just to be a dick). Somehow, that innocuous 2-out walk to the emergency relief pitcher keyed a 2-run rally that put the Mets ahead, and when Carson acquitted himself splendidly over 2 innings, I was beginning to write a blog post in my head anointing Robert Carson as the unsung hero of a steely victory...

...Then Mark Ellis tied the game.

...Then the rest of the Mets bullpen struck.

The bullpen was going to have to do some heavy lifting if the Mets were going to win this game, and after Carson's 2.1 solid innings, Atchison held as well. Brandon Lyon, who has pitched reasonably well to this point, came next, and of course that's when the game started to get as frigid as the temperature. I'm willing to give Lyon one of those "somedays, the bear gets you" passes, even though just about every Mets reliever ever has been on thin ice with me. But Josh Edgin has just been putrid lately, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who seems to think he's just about pitched himself off the team. A 5-2 deficit, the way the Mets have been known to strike, wasn't necessarily insurmountable. All Edgin had to do was get through the inning without doing any damage, but it appears he's incapable of doing that. He killed the last game in Colorado, he gave up the HR to Harper on Saturday, and tonight, he basically drove me to leave the game an inning and a half early. That, right there, ought to be a serious indictment of Josh Edgin's travails this season.

Although if it were June or July, I might have felt more inclined to stick around, even if I knew how the ending was going to turn out.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Owner Of The Moment

The Mets played a game earlier today of lesser note and less fortunate outcome than the one they played on Friday night, and since I barely saw any of Saturday's game and was in attendance at Citi Field on Friday, that makes for a much more interesting blog, even if it's a day late. In a pitching matchup that earned all the hype of a prize fight or a line of video games, Matt Harvey outdueled Stephen Strasburg and the Mets emerged with a resounding 7-1 victory.

It's safe to say at this point that if you're a Mets fan who isn't excited about what Matt Harvey has done so far this season, you either need to check your pulse or root for another team because it's clear that he's not only arrived, he's arrived with authority. Harvey's 4th start of this season basically mirrored his first three, and against a powerful Nationals lineup, that's a pretty clear sign that on most nights, this is how it's going to be. Harvey will come out, hit his spots, strike guys out, maybe struggle through an inning or two but eventually work out of it, and leave with the Mets in position to win. Or he'll start to economize more and begin finishing off games. It's not simply a hot streak, it's the norm. And everyone is starting to take notice.

By no means was Citi Field full on Friday Night; the attendance of 26,675 certainly felt accurate as far as the ratio of fans to empty seats. But the demeanor of the crowd felt different. Somehow, the 26,675 generated the energy of 55,777 at Shea Stadium in the midst of a pennant race or a Playoff game, and it's been a long time since I've felt that kind of a vibe from the crowd at a Mets game.

Usually, most attendees at Mets games who aren't me and don't sit there obsessively keeping score or running through whatever obsessive/compulsive machinations that we go through in the course of a game are up and milling around, or standing on line at Shake Shack or whatever concession stand of their choice rather than paying attention to the game. This wasn't the case on Friday. For the majority of the game, fans seemed glued to their seats, eyes on the field. This was can't miss Baseball, a rarity for an April 19th game.

Case in point: Security at the stadium was heightened, which was to be expected after the events in Boston earlier in the week, and it took me much longer to get inside. So long, in fact, that I had to forego my usual pregame meal. I figured, at some point, I'd be able to steal away long enough to grab a bite on the promenade. But, when I did try to get something to eat, I found the lines far too slow-moving (I was later to find out that the concessionaire purposely short-staffed the Promenade on Vendors because it was an April game, not anticipating a larger-than-normal crowd). There wasn't an especially large amount of people waiting on concession lines, but when there's one cashier working it can create a backup. And when the inning break ends and Matt Harvey gives up a hit to the leadoff batter, I don't feel like standing around watching on a screen, I want to be back in my seat. So, I ended up not eating anything, which might not have been the brightest idea in the world, although it certainly saved money.

Who could blame anyone from not wanting to go anywhere during the game? For a good chunk of the night, it appeared that the anticipated pitcher's duel had unfolded as expected. Strasburg gave up 2 in the 1st, but both were unearned; the result of an error, a Wild Pitch and a 2-out single, and after that, he'd settled in, but he wasn't matching Harvey. Not on this night. Harvey appeared too determined to let this moment get the better of him. Strasburg wasn't off his game, but the Mets sort of nickel-and-dimed him to death, working deep counts and making him throw more pitches than he probably would have liked. Harvey stepped on the Nationals' throats all night; though he's had sharper games—his 3 Walks a season-high—he worked out of every jam the Nationals threw at him, culminating with a Houdini act of the highest order to escape a Bases Loaded, 0 out situation in the 7th inning. By that point, Strasburg had already melted down and allowed a pair of truly monstrous Home Runs to Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, and the fans, whipped into a veritable frenzy by these longballs, began catcalling him with chants of "OVERRATED!!!" and "HARVEY'S BETTER!!!"

For this night, at least, the fans were right. Harvey was simply better. He was better than Strasburg last night, and so far, he's been better than just about everyone else in the league.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Video Game Matchup

Part of the reason I like my 15-game plan with the Mets is that, for the past couple of years, it has given me the freedom to pick my own games. Usually, I opt for the classic Weekday Night game, because for me, there's nothing more pure than a sweltering Tuesday Night game in June, July or August, no matter what the opponent or the state of the team. Every once in a while, I find that I've lucked into some really good pitching matchup (like, say, Johan Santana vs. Chris Carpenter), but often, I also end up with matchups like John Maine vs. Alex Sanabia. I've never been much for the weekend games; in addition to them being much more crowded, they are also more expensive.

For the 2013 season, I noticed that the Mets had more "Value" dates on Friday nights, so for whatever reason, I picked more Friday night games than I usually go to. One of them, which I probably picked at the last second just to fill out my 15 games, happened to be tonight's game against the Washington Nationals. There was no particular logic or reasoning behind that choice, I just saw it, saw it was cheap and figured I'd go.

Only last week did I realize I'd have the hottest ticket in town, at least in this early part of the season, when the pitching matchup of Matt Harvey vs. Stephen Strasburg was announced.

Harvey's allure to the Mets fans probably mirrors that of Strasburg, although they may have taken different paths to this point. Strasburg was a can't miss phenom from the day he arrived in 2010, and that promise hasn't dimmed even after losing a year to Tommy John surgery and an innings limit in 2012. This year, with multiple seasons of experience under his belt, he's expected to lead this loaded Nationals team to October and beyond.

Harvey's not quite at that level yet, but I don't think anybody in their wildest dreams could have thought he'd be off to this good a start this season. But his unflappable demeanor and desire to succeed has made it clear that this isn't simply a hot start—this is the real deal. The comparisons to other pitchers already among the game's elite—Strasburg among them—have been flying around all season, and to this point they're not so far-fetched.

But the real allure behind this Harvey vs. Strasburg matchup is that both of them are 24 and just getting their careers going. This stands a very good chance of developing into one of those Marquee Matchups that everyone takes note of, sort of like when you would have a Pedro Martinez vs. Randy Johnson or a Chris Carpenter vs. Roy Halladay matchup. The Mets and Nationals meet constantly throughout the season, and this could develop into a big-time match for the next 10-15 years. It seems like it's not just hype. But I'll be there tonight to see if the event lives up to the billing.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Can't Get Out Of This Town Fast Enough

I already said yesterday that nothing good has ever happened to the Mets in Denver, and this week has more or less summed up the past 20 years of the Mets relationship with Colorado.

Bad Weather, Bad Pitching, Bad Results.

After 12 feet of snow on Monday led to 7 hours of losing on Tuesday, more snow came and wiped out the game on Wednesday. Thursday was just more of the same and the fact that they only played one game today was kind of a double-edged sword. It didn't snow, from what I heard on the radio, so I don't have actual visual evidence of that, but what Howie and Josh did remind us of, multiple times, was that the game time temperature was 27º. Or maybe it was 29º. Whatever it was, the Mets spent most of the day looking like they couldn't wait to get out of Coors Field. I didn't need to see any of the game to know it; the performance came through on the radio. I didn't bother to watch any of the "highlights (a game like today's has no highlights from the Mets point of view)" either, so it's not really worth hashing things over to see where everything went wrong (though another lousy performance from the bullpen is probably the culprit). I know the Mets were still trying hard to win, just like they do on any given day (no matter how hard that may be to believe at times), but after so many days playing in ridiculous freezing weather, I can't say I blame them for having had enough of this shit. So the good side of all this was that they only had to lose one game miserably to the Colorados today.

The bad side of this is, of course, they still have to come back to Denver and make up the stupid game they didn't play yesterday.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Not Worth Remembering

On a night where the Mets started out their day facing a field covered in snow, it seemed somewhat fitting that they would finish it by bumbling through a game dressed in the throwback uniforms of one of their worst years ever.

The circumstances that put the Mets in this particular fix were bizarre enough. After a pair of consecutive snow-outs spanning two different cities, the Mets hoped to get a day-night Doubleheader in against the Colorados on Tuesday. The first game was scheduled for 3pm in New York. But removing the more than half a foot of snow from a city that is routinely buried in snow was apparently a much taller task than anticipated, leaving WFAN to only update us with "We'll have an hour's notice as to whether or not they'll play." So, fair enough.

After some waiting around, and after hearing that the separate admission doubleheader was melded into a single-admission doubleheader, they finally announced a 5pm start time. This game started out well enough, with David Wright getting off his Home Run schneid and Dillon Gee pitching reasonably well. At 6pm, I shut off the radio and left to go home, where I figured I'd be able to catch the last few innings at home.

By time I got home, I was greeted with a now 5-4 Colorado lead, so I missed Gee's 5th inning meltdown. Nonetheless, I wasn't too concerned, since Colorado is a place where no lead is safe. This thinking would bite me in the ass later in the evening. I also overlooked the fact that very few good things have ever happened to the Mets in Coors Field, dating back to its first game.

Though the Colorados have rather poor starting pitching, their bullpen looks rather good. I don't know whether this is actually the case, but they certainly shut the Mets down the rest of the way while the Mets bullpen allowed the Colorados to keep tacking on runs. The final, 8-4, was just about as ugly as it looked.

So, a quick meal, a change of uniforms and hopefully a regroup before the second game. Until I noticed that the Mets were wearing these horrible uniforms with a tail under the team name. I should have known right then and there that the Mets were screwed. Nothing good happened to the Mets in 1993. I lived through it, and so did many of us. The horrible karma that the sight of those uniforms generated should have spelled it out clearly right there. And that's why I can't say I felt especially good even after Aaron Laffey—or was it Jason Jacome?—got through his start in reasonably good shape. Despite giving up 13 hits in 4 innings, the Mets backed him up with some offense and ran out to an 8-2 lead.

But, just like in the first game, the bullpen told the story. The Colorados stopped the Mets cold, and the Mets let the Colorados back in it. Before the paint dried, 8-2 was 8-6 thanks to Josh Edgin. And the combination of the cold, the inconsistency from not having played for three days, and the end of an excruciatingly long game combined with the stink of those 1993 jerseys combined to do the Mets in. Brandon Lyon—not Mike Maddux—kicked away an inning ending grounder in the 8th, John Buck—not Charlie O'Brien—didn't pay enough attention to Carlos Gonzalez and finally Ruben Tejada—not Tony Fernandez—threw away a routine grounder allowing the Colorados to tie the game.

From where I was sitting, the Mets were dead in this game. They looked about as cold and miserable as the some 300 hearty souls in Coors Field (as an aside, my other half was wondering why there were so many "Lets Go Mets!" chants in Colorado. My explanation was that they were either Mets fans transplanted to Denver who only had so many opportunities to see their team, or they were traveling fans who were stuck in Denver with nothing particularly better to do), and they probably would have been better served just letting someone hit the walk-off Home Run and getting out of there, but nooooo. Dante Bichette was nowhere to be found. With more snow beginning to fall, they just HAD to go to Extra Innings. On the other hand, since the Mets were stuck in a horrible 1993 time warp, I suppose it was fitting that they had to go to the last man in the bullpen, Greg Burke—not Mike Draper—as the sacrificial lamb for the inevitable ending. This, I suppose, is somewhat fortunate, because if they really wanted to stick it to everyone, they would have let the game go 14 innings before losing. So that was considerate on their part. Plus it was 1am in New York and I needed to get to bed. It was so late, in fact, that I couldn't be bothered to write anything until now.

So, if Tuesday wasn't ridiculous enough, now it's snowing again in Denver, throwing tonight's proposed affair, scheduled despite a low temperature of 9º, is now in doubt. So, we may just have to do this again tomorrow. I'd think, at this point, the Mets are just trying to survive at this point until they can get home for Friday, where the game time temperature is allegedly going to be 68º. Perish the thought.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

No Game Today

Issues elsewhere in the world certainly took precedence Monday on a much heavier scale, but Baseball remained on as a pleasant diversion.

The only problem was that the Mets left the snow in Minnesota only to be greeted with more snow in Colorado. The game time forecast of a balmy 21 degrees with light snow appears to have been an understatement, because judging from the above photo (and others circulating), this wasn't a "light snow." Fortunately, the game was postponed, giving the Mets into their second consecutive Snowout and forcing a Doubleheader situation with the Colorados on Tuesday that already appears dicey because of more snow. Wednesday, it will reportedly not snow in Colorado, but the nighttime forecast calls for a low of 9 degrees.

I know the Mets have played the Colorados in Denver in April in prior years, but this is sort of ridiculous. Someone mentioned to me on Monday morning that there was a possibilty of the rarely-seen Tripleheader if things got bad enough, but I think there's a union restriction against those sorts of things. The reality was that it was merely a hoax from the devious mind of Jay Horowitz. The hope, I guess, is that somehow they get a couple of these games in and maybe try to come back later in the season. But the Mets have already lost an off day in August after a west coast trip because they have to go back to Minnesoter to pick up the lost game from Sunday. A more palatable option might be having a Doubleheader when the Colorados come to New York and have the Colorados as the home team, but that will probably go over about as well as playing in an April Snowstorm from the Colorados point of view.

Meantime, it complicates my job as a loyal blogger, because it's difficult to find things to write about when the Mets aren't playing any games. This ought to change at some point. I think...

Monday, April 15, 2013

Harvey's Creed

It didn't snow in Minnesota on Saturday, although I suppose if it had, it probably wouldn't have been anything more than a minor irritant for Matt Harvey, who seems to be able to perform at a very high level in any set of circumstances. His first start came in a frigid wind tunnel at Citi Field, and although the weather was nicer in Philadelphia, he was once again facing some harsh elements in his 3rd start. Doesn't matter. The result has been pretty much the same every time out.

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays this breakaway talent from the swift dispatching of his opponent. Thus may be the creed of Matt Harvey, every time he takes the mound.

Whatever barely noticeable loss of command Harvey suffered in his second start, when he gave up 1 run on 3 hits was clearly back on Saturday, since he made the Twins lineup look pretty much hopeless instead of the mere cluelessness he inflicted on the Phillies. For a while there, it looked like he had a pretty solid shot at throwing a No Hitter before Justin Morneau took a whac-a-mole swing at a slider and somehow just barely clanged it off the foul pole. Harvey did give up another hit in the 8th to Brian Dozier, but that was a single of little consequence. Pretty much everyone else the Twins sent up against Harvey met the same fate. No, Harvey didn't get his No Hitter, although if his first three starts this season are any indication, he certainly has as good a chance as any to throw one at some point (and it's a lot easier to make a comment like that after June 1st, 2012).

With the temperature in Minneapolis hovering around the freezing mark, I suppose Harvey took a page from the Crash Davis "Strikeouts are Facist" book and decided to try to pitch to contact a bit more. The line reads 8 innings, a career-best, 2 hits, 1 run, 2 walks and an economical 6 strikeouts over his 100 pitches. For the season, he's pitched what amounts to a pretty good game for any pitcher, 6 hits, 2 runs, except that he's spread it out over 3 games and 22 innings, and mixed in 25 strikeouts for good measure. And he's also emerged among the league leaders in gushing Tweets, earning the praise of Tampa Bay's David Price, and drawing several gushing raves from Dwight Gooden.

There was a rest of the game around Harvey, though not that you'd notice, but after their 16-run salute on Friday, the Mets were held in check by fellow Binghamton University alum Scott Diamond (currently the only Bearcat to ever pitch in the Major Leagues—Binghamton is not known for its Baseball team...) before he unraveled in the 5th and the Mets scored 4 runs on 7 consecutive hits. In his first save opportunity of the season, Bobby Parnell made things somewhat hairy, allowing a run and the tying run to the plate, but he eventually got out of the inning and the Mets were primed to go for a sweep on Sunday. Until the Minnesota Weather reared its ugly head once again and dumped what I'm told was the dreaded "wintry mix" on the region. The subsequent postponement means the Mets have earned themselves a second trip to Minneapolis in August, when the weather should most certainly be better. At least I hope that's the case.

Friday, April 12, 2013


One of the more asinine set of circumstances for a Mets game was brought about by the unceremonious switch of the Astros from the National League Central to the American League West. The Mets, now playing in a balanced league, would now have to play interleague series at random, arbitrary times, rather than a bunch in June like we're used to. The scheduling geniuses, then, thought it best for the Mets to take a road trip to play the Minnesota Twins in their lovely new open-air Stadium, Target Field, in the middle of April.

One day after a major snowstorm dumped 5 inches of snow in Minneapolis.;

On a night where the temperature was forecast at a brisk 34 degrees.

In a city where they'd never won a game.

These weird Interleague trips to bizarre places they rarely go (Minnesota is among a select group that includes places like Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle) tend not to go well for the Mets. In addition to being swept in Minnesota in 2004, I seem to remember an Interleague road trip in 2005 that saw the Mets lose every game in excruciating fashion. As far as I could tell, although the Minnesota Twins have seen themselves fall on some hard times over the past couple of years, the situation seemed to dictate that the Mets probably would struggle, except for Saturday when Matt Harvey was scheduled to pitch.

So the Mets go out and score 5 runs in the top of the first, beating up Vance Worley with a flurry of hits in between a flurry of snow. You remember Vance Worley, right? He used to pitch for the Phillies. The Mets gave him the ol' what for a couple of times last year. And they did it again tonight. True, Worley wasn't helped by an egregious error by Trevor Plouffe, but by that point he'd already made his own bed. 2 runs were in before Worley ever got an out and instead of stopping the bleeding, Worley instead just gave up more hits.

The second inning was no better, and by time Worley departed, he'd given up 6 runs and conveniently left the bases loaded so that the guy who followed him to the mound could give up a Grand Slam to John Buck, closing his line with 9 runs allowed in 1+ innings.

The rout, as they say, was then on, as the Mets hit parade cruised the rest of the way to a resounding 16-5 victory. Jonathon Niese was mostly adequate; given a large lead, he didn't really look comfortable in the elements and the result was too many pitches too early on and a struggle to simply get through 5 innings. I'd expect better out of him against a bad lineup, but then again, I suppose you can only expect so much from a finesse pitcher in 34 degree weather. Offensively, pretty much everyone joined the hit parade. Jordany Valdespin, who has managed to parlay a few good games into a platoon situation with Collin Cowgill, set the stage in each of the first two innings. Daniel Murphy continued his hot start and continues to make me think that the best thing that could have possibly happened to him was getting hurt and missing most of Spring Training. David Wright looks like he's starting to heat up. And John Buck continues to hit everything in sight. All this added up to a resounding victory, rather than a bizarre loss in a weird American League town.

Ultimately, though the 16-run outburst is a great sign, tonight's win is an indictment of both their own offensive inconsistencies and the general ineptitude of their opponent (As I'd mentioned prior to the season, the Twins business model dictates they operate in some bizarre cycle theory where they're really good for 2-3 seasons and then really bad for 2-3 seasons as they replenish their system. Help is on the way for them, but like the Mets, it's still a year off). But, as inept as your opponent may be, you still have to be able to take advantage of it. Tonight, the Mets did that, but remember they struggled to win a series from Florida last weekend. Then again, Matt Harvey is scheduled for Saturday's game. If 39 degrees and the San Diego Padres in New York didn't bother him, why should the Twins in 34 degrees? I'd guess he could go out in a blizzard and strike out 10 batters in 7 innings.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I Stand Corrected

So, the Phillies once again shut me up. After thinking maybe they were finished, I realize now that it's not so much the Phillies as it was Matt Harvey just being that much better than every other pitcher the Mets can throw at them.

After relatively solid starts in losses their first time out, both Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee made us suffer through a pair of 3-inning outings in Philadelphia that were probably just as brutal for us to watch as it was for them to endure it. Gee's outing was so putrid that it wasn't even worth writing very much about, and for that matter, Hefner on Wednesday isn't worthy of the ink either. But the two combined are kind of alarming because it reveals just how fragile this Mets starting rotation is. I didn't think it would be this bad, but then again I thought that before Johan Santana went down and Shaun Marcum proved unable to answer the bell for the season. Now, all of a sudden, Dillon Gee, a perfectly inconsistent 5th starter, is pressed into the role of a #3 that needs to eat innings, and Jeremy Hefner, who should be filling out some AAA roster, is in the #4 spot and somehow has a stranglehold on this role. This means that the #5 starter is likely to be enough to make you want to cover your eyes, and if you watched Aaron Laffey last Sunday, that's probably how you felt.

With only two really serviceable starters available for the Mets right now, things aren't looking very good. The starting pitching was supposed to be the strength here. Perhaps Dillon Gee will eventually get his act together, but for that to happen, he needs to turn these bludgeonings into simple bad outings. Tuesday night, he had a bad 2nd inning, and then let it turn into an absolute massacre, giving up 3 Home Runs in 5 Pitches. I mean, I know that the Phillies have a good lineup but come on, who does that at the Major League level? And this has been Gee's problem. He's got enough to tantalize you but that's about it. For every good outing  like the one he had against San Diego, there's one like the one in Philadelphia, and that's fine, if  you're expecting him to be a 5th starter, but if he's going to be anything more, he's got to at least try to minimize damage and keep the Mets in the game.

Jeremy Hefner, on the other hand, appears to be beyond hope. He has good outings and bad, too. Just so happens that his good outings are against awful teams like the Marlins, or the Pirates or a neutered, Howard and Utley-less Philly team. Every time he's faced a good team, his opponent has fed him his lunch several times over. Last year, Philly pasted him so badly he couldn't even escape the 1st inning (a game so far beyond reproach that I couldn't even be bothered to blog about it, so there's nothing to backlink to) and they appeared well on their way to doing it again last night but for a heads-up tag from Ruben Tejada and a nice catch from Jordany Valdespin. And yet Gary, Keith and Ron were somehow bandying his name around as making 30+ starts this season! If Jeremy Hefner is going to make 30 starts in 2013, then this is going to be a far worse season than I'm giving it credit for. In the words of Mike Francesa, "NNNEY STINKS!!!"

I realize there's some kind of plan here to not rush Zack Wheeler, and let him take his time, but the urgency to bring him here may come sooner rather than later. We all know he's ready, and we all know that even if he's terrible, he won't be as bad as Aaron Laffey. Or Jeremy Hefner. Or Collin McHugh. Or anyone else they think they can trot out there instead of him. If May 1st is that magic clock date, I'd have to imagine he's going to be up not long after that date. You know, if things haven't completely spiraled out of control before then.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Your Turn

My other half works a different schedule than I do. Most nights, she will arrive home a couple of hours after I'm home. During Baseball season, this usually means she gets home around the 4th or 5th inning, the 6th if it's a brisk game.

My other half has a battery of TV shows that she likes to watch. Many of them are bunched on the same night. She DVRs all of them, so she can watch them when she gets home. Now, we only have one TV in the house, so as you might imagine, conflicts often occur when I want to watch the Mets game and she wants to watch "Smash."

Most nights, she leaves me alone to watch the game, because she's a nice person. She also will make dinner for herself and look at makeup websites in the interim period. But once she tires of that, she will ask me if the game is over. Monday night, she asked me if the game was over approximately 10 minutes after the game had finished. I told her it was and she mused as to why I didn't come and get her when the game had ended. My assumption was that she could hear Gary Cohen loudly exclaim "And the Ballgame is OVER!" in the next room, but it appears I was mistaken. She may also have not been paying attention. The hypnotic powers of makeup, I suppose.

At this point, I guess you're wondering where the hell I'm going with all this. Well, the point of all this is that on Tuesday Night, she called me as she was leaving work. I told her "I think you can watch your shows early tonight." Thusly, I was not subjected to the final, futile few innings of a debacle of a game. Unfortunately, I'd already witnessed the early part of the game, in which the Phillies beat Dillon Gee like a pinata before he was mercifully removed from the game. I'm often loath to give up the end of a game like that, just in case of a miracle comeback, but ultimately, I see I missed nothing.

(Author's Note: I should mention, in defense of my other half, that I have successfully turned a Philadelphia area gal into a Mets fan in the course of our relationship. That's not to say she was ever a big Phillies fan to begin with, but she has gone from barely being interested in Baseball to following games and even coming with me to Citi Field multiple times over the past two seasons.)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Past And Future

The Ballclub has been in existence since 2007. Except for a gap in continuity, that's more or less been the lifespan of this current incarnation of the Mets/Phillies rivalry. Mostly, it's been one-sided in the Phillies favor. Since this blog began, the Phillies have won 5 consecutive Division Championships, 2 NL Pennants and one World Series Championship. The Mets have gone from a choke to a massacre to a laughingstock. The Phillies put together a Superteam built around some of the game's marquee talent and played in front of packed houses for multiple seasons. The Mets broke themselves down and played in front of houses that might rival those at a second-run Movie Theater in Binghamton, NY. Even last season, when the Phillies finally began to falter, they still managed to keep competitive into September. Even though the Phillies may no longer be thought of as the class of the division, the rivalry hasn't dimmed, especially when you consider how the Phillies basically symbolize everything that has just stomped on the Mets and laughed at them over these past few seasons. Perhaps it's not as close to home as the jeers coming from that other team in town, but considering the Mets and Phillies play 19 times a year, it's close enough.

On Monday night, a salvo was fired by the Mets that could, perhaps, be a sign that the tide is beginning to turn. Facing Roy Halladay, who hadn't lost to the Mets since his days as a Toronto Blue Jay, Matt Harvey turned in his second solid outing of the season, opening even more eyes and providing further proof as to why he is going to be one of the leaders of the Mets resurgence.

Though Halladay had a poor year in 2012, most of it was due to some injuries to both him and many of the key pieces around him. Nonetheless, one would have to wonder whether age and the boatloads of innings he always pitched were beginning to get the better of him. In the early going in 2013, it appears that those concerns are well-justified. A pitcher who used to complete games within 90 pitches, making hitters pound pitches into the dirt had all of a sudden began getting nicked to death, barely making it through 4 innings on those 90 pitches, many of which went for long, loud hits. The Mets jumped on Halladay, frustrating him in the process, and hung 7 runs on him, saddling him with an 0-2 record and a very un-Halladay like 14.73 ERA.

But as quick as Halladay's star seems to be fading is how quick Matt Harvey's is on the rise. Harvey's first outing was scintillating. His second outing on Monday night wasn't quite as good, but that's OK. Not as good for Harvey meant that instead of pitching 7 innings of 1-hit, 0-run, 10 strikeout baseball, he just pitched 7 innings of 3-hit, 1-run, 9 strikeout baseball. Harvey looked a little closer to Roy Halladay in stature than a 24-year old making his 12th Major League start. But from the moment he arrived in the Majors, he's given the impression that he's a bit ahead of the curve mentally, and that counts for a lot. This kind of attitude is obvious when he's on the mound. The result is that while Harvey has benefited from two very good offensive nights from the Mets, those efforts (particularly those of John Buck, who's homered in both of Harvey's starts) have mostly been ignored. Harvey is beginning to garner National attention, and if this keeps up, his starts are going to be met with the kind of excitement reserved for, say, Dwight Gooden in 1985 or Pedro Martinez in 2005. After his first two starts, Matt Harvey is 2-0, with 19 strikeouts and 4 hits allowed in 14 innings, with an ERA of 0.64.

The Mets have beaten the Phillies plenty of times during their down period, and it's always a good feeling when it happens. But watching Matt Harvey go out and shut them down, and realizing that he wasn't at his best really sends a message about where the future of this rivalry lies. Maybe I'm being presumptuous, and it's certainly not going to happen immediately, but the worm may finally be turning in the Mets favor.

Monday, April 8, 2013

To The Rescue!

I was feeling rather frustrated with 1 out in the 9th on Sunday. I didn't go to the game, and at that point I was pretty glad I didn't, because to that point, the Mets had more or less slogged through a game with the miserable Marlins that did nothing to inspire anyone, and had also lasted well over 3 hours and 30 minutes despite only 5 runs being scored. The game itself was far from notable, outside of the fact that the stories were sure to read that the Mets were just the first to fall victim to future White Sox Phenom Jose Fernandez. In fact, it was really one of those games that was just sort of "on TV" for me, much like the games I have "On the radio" in my office. It's sort of background noise while I'm doing something else; in this instance it was cleaning the bathroom. Then the kitchen. Then the living room floors. And so forth. Finally, I'd finished my cleaning and I figured I'd wait until the end of the game to go grocery shopping.

I didn't realize that it was already 4pm and the game was only in the 7th inning.

Jose Fernandez was long gone by this point, which I suppose was fortunate for the Mets. Given the hype and the incessant Dwight Gooden comparisons, I suppose I expected a little more flash from the 20-year old, but when you rack up 1 run, 3 hits and 8 strikeouts in 5 innings, that's all the flash you need. Fernandez was staked to a 3-run lead courtesy of Aaron Laffey, who I believe was about the 8th man down on the depth chart as far as Starting Pitching options go, but with Santana out and Marcum out and the other options being Chris Schwinden and Collin McHugh, I suppose, Laffeyable as it may be, that Laffey was the best available option to take the ball on this day. That speaks volumes. The best thing I can say about Aaron Laffey is that he is a Pitcher who has pitched in the Major Leagues. Against the Marlins, Laffey managed to allow the first 2 runners on base in every inning (and if he didn't, he made it seem like he did), and only managed to escape down by 3 runs because he was pitching against the Marlins. Against a better team, the 10 hits he allowed likely would have led to more runs. I can't say I feel especially inspired by that performance.

So, all that being said, when I finally sat down and really started paying attention, the Marlins, behind Adeiny Hechaverria, Chris Tumbalalaika, Donovan Solano and Greg Dobbs (who, I believe, reached base every time he came to the plate this weekend) appeared primed to come away with a head-scratching series victory against the Mets. Sure, the Mets bullpen kept the game close (even LaTroy Hawkins), and sure, a nice bit of clutch hitting from Anthony Recker and another Home Run from Daniel Murphy made the game close, but it seemed to be somewhat cosmetic. This just seemed like a dead ballgame. Steve Cishek was going to come in, sling his sidearmed slider around and make the Mets look foolish in front of what appeared to be a Late September-sized crowd on a reasonably pleasant April Sunday.

Which is why the winning comeback seemed so jarring. It really came out of nowhere. Marlon Byrd can take the credit for the winning hit, but Ruben Tejada set everything up. With 1 out, Tejada came up and did what he usually does: work the count and foul off pitches, and finally reached base thanks to a Cishek pitch just grazing his jersey. Sometimes, that's all it takes. Tejada had already tried to jump-start a rally 2 innings earlier, stealing a base that ultimately went nowhere. In the 9th, he used his head and his legs again, going from 1st to 3rd when Kirk Nieuwenhuis' flare hit dropped in front of Cool Papa Pierre. The Mets had been taking advantage of Pierre's pop-gun arm all weekend, and Tejada played this to perfection, forcing Pierre into a lousy, off-line throw that not only wasn't close to getting Tejada, but also allowed Kirk to move up to 2nd base. With the dirty work done, Marlon Byrd was then able to ping a shot down the 3rd base line, past Tumbalalaika to easily score both runs and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in every sense of the phrase. This really seemed like a game that the Mets had no business winning, because the Marlins were just getting men on base and threatening incessantly. They just couldn't put it out of reach, which is telling of the quality of their team, and ultimately, the Mets made them pay for it.

More importantly, however, Tejada, Nieuwenhuis and Byrd saved the Mets from what would certainly be the embarrassing indignity of losing a series to the Miserable Marlins. It's bad enough that they had to lose one game altogether, giving the Marlins their lone win of the season, but I suppose the Marlins weren't going to go 0-162, no matter how much they deserve it.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ah Yes

I can't say I'm terribly surprised that the Mets have crashed back to Earth these past two games, because I figured it was going to be a challenge, on most days, for the Mets to generate offense. Unless they were facing teams that were just as bad, if not worse, than they may be. In spite of the fact that the Mets seem to not have much trouble getting men on base, their age-old problem of not being able to do anything with said men on base reared its ugly head, and the end result, of course, is a pair of losses that have brought the team to 2-2.

It's a pair of real luminaries that did it to the Mets too, in Eric Stults and Alex Sanabia, off whom the Mets couldn't muster a run even though the opportunities were certainly there. The only real offense appears to have been some cosmetic runs off the opposing bullpen, primarily via the Home Run ball. This isn't where the Mets are going to butter their bread. If they sort of sit back and wait for Daniel Murphy to hit a 3-run Homer, they're going to find themselves even worse off than they figured to be. There needs to be that key hit; the sort of hit that will not only bring home runs, but also set up more runs in the process. They did that multiple times on Opening Day, so it's not as though they're incapable of accomplishing this, but so far David Wright has started kind of sluggish, and so have Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada, placed just far enough apart in the lineup that any little bit of a rally ends up getting squashed because they're not going well.

Of course, it's only 4 games into the season, and things change multiple times in the course of a season. But it's always better to try to stop these bad habits before they get really out of control. Their starting pitching has done admirably well as we run towards the back end of the rotation. Dillon Gee had a fine game yesterday but for a few hits that were bunched together by the Padres, and tonight, Jeremy Hefner pitched well enough to deserve a better fate, giving up only 1 run over his 6 innings. Plus Hef's one run came on a Home Run by Greg Dobbs, who may be one of the worst ballplayers I've ever seen, except that against the Mets he somehow consistently turns into Mel Ott, so we'll excuse Hef for that one. He's just another hapless victim on that end.

The bullpen, however, hasn't helped the cause. If the sputtering offense was bad, the bullpen made things worse by allowing some crucial, lead-stretching runs. Friday, the general ineptitude of Greg Burke and LaTroy Hawkins basically put the game out of reach. True, Burke wasn't helped by a Ruben Tejada error, and Scott Rice let in some of his baserunners, but a better pitcher can work around these things. (Plus I'm just leery about submarine pitchers that aren't Terry Leach. I suppose you could call it Jeff Innis Syndrome or some shit). Hawkins basically looks like he doesn't have anything left. I noticed it on Wednesday night when it took him 29 pitches to get through 2 batters. Tonight, the Marlins were just teeing off on him. The one run he gave up was windowdressing, but he's fortunate it wasn't 4 runs the way he was getting knocked around. I usually have one or two real good flogs each season, and so far it looks like Burke and Hawkins are the early favorites. Hopefully they'll prove ineffective enough that they won't stick around too long.

So, yeah. Games like the last two are going to be the story of the season, and we knew this. I suppose the key for the fans is to not get too sucked in by the periodic offensive outbursts, because they will happen from time to time, and then immediately be followed by a string of games where they get 10 hits, go 1-for-14 with runners on base, and lose 2-1. It's a slight step up from the days when they would get 10 hits, hit into 5 double plays and lose 2-1. But those could happen too!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Accidental Attendance

I was home on Tuesday night puttering around when I received a text from a colleague. He'd randomly come into free Field Level seats for last night's game (courtesy of some random do-gooder who apparently left a large number of tickets at a Brooklyn supermarket) and asked if I wanted to go. My initial inclination was to go, primarily because of the lure of Matt Harvey making his 2013 debut, but after checking the weather forecast, I had to give it some pause. A game time forecast of 39 degrees and windy might not have stopped me a few years ago, but in my old age, I've become less and less fond of sitting in the wind tunnel that is Citi Field during these April night games. I'd have to wear my winter coat. When I have to wear my winter coat to a Baseball game, that's probably a sign that I might be better off sitting in the comfort of my well-heated apartment. But in the end, I let Matt Harvey get the better of me and said I would go. Besides, it's usually slightly warmer in the 100 level than it is in the 500s. So, I eschewed the new Game Hat in favor of a Mets ski cap, layered up and trekked off to Flushing after work.

Neither the weather nor Matt Harvey disappointed. It was cold enough in the Field Level that I shudder to think what it must have been like in the Promenade. But I suppose it could have been Greenland in January and that wouldn't have bothered Matt Harvey, who picked up in 2013 right where he left off in 2012, allowing 1 hit and striking out 10 over a 7 inning effort in which the Padres looked completely overmatched. Not to belabor the point, but in a year for the Mets where the development of Harvey and his contemporaries is a major factor for the Mets going forward, it's easy to pay particular attention to when he's on the mound. What it boils down to is you get the feeling that this season is really more about players like Harvey than it is about how the team does as a whole. So, Harvey's performances will be magnified. Once Zack Wheeler ascends, he'll be under the same scrutiny. But Harvey, in particular, seems to be impervious to pressure. He just goes out and pitches his game, whether the conditions are Arctic or not (And as proof, you need look no further than Harvey's 2nd inning single. Once Harvey reached base, my colleague wondered when they would bring him his jacket. I noticed someone hop out of the dugout holding a jacket, but he then immediately turned around and went back. Apparently, cold weather doesn't bother Harvey at all, since he spent the entire night running around in short sleeves). And with all eyes on him, Harvey went out and pitched like an ace.

The rest of the team looked pretty good, too. John Buck, who appears to be the perfect placeholder for the Catching position, continued his hot start with a Home Run and 3 RBI, Lucas Duda and Ike Davis both launched monster Home Runs, and by time Harvey departed, the Mets had an 8-0 lead and the Padres looked as if they were ready to hop on the first flight back to San Diego. By this point, the game had moved at a brisk pace, to nobody's dismay, since the quicker things finished up, the quicker we could get out of the cold. But a succession of Mets relievers were alternately horrible (Burke, Hawkins) or able to quickly mop up a mess (Edgin, Parnell), and a game that could have been over in about 2 hours, 10 minutes was suddenly dragging past 2 hours, 30 minutes, or, more appropriately, 20 minutes longer than the total effectiveness of my layers of clothes and winter coat. Usually, there's one or two guys in the bullpen who has a fit of shittiness early in the season and is generally cut not long thereafter. It appears Greg Burke and La Troy Hawkins have emerged as the early favorites. Burke may have been victimized by some ground balls with eyes, but Hawkins seems to be suffering from severe Leiteritis (the inability to put a hitter away with 2 strikes), because he seemed to have used up his gas tank throwing pitches that were fouled off before the Padres started getting to him and Collins was forced to make a pitching change just to get the game over with.

That annoyance aside, I suppose I'm glad these tickets somehow fell into my colleague's lap and I was able to go. I'm also glad I never lost feeling in any of my extremities. And I'm glad that today, Matt Harvey will be the new Toast of the Town. For someone with his "I can do better" attitude, this is a pretty tantalizing start to his season.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Lost in the shuffle of Monday's good vibes and Collin Cowgill becoming the new Toast of the Town were some problems at Citi Field that might be long forgotten were they not so glaring.

I mentioned, in passing, about the scorecard golf pencil fiasco that I encountered when I arrived at the game, which is one thing in and of itself. It's an annoyance, but who's going to go nuts over a golf pencil (although since I'm on the topic, yesterday's experience was not as bad as getting an unevenly sharpened pencil that will only write when held at a specific angle—something I've experienced more times than I care to remember)?

The larger problem came later, when I was upstairs trying to get something to eat. I initially thought I'd splurge on the Pat LaFrieda steak sandwich as an Opening Day treat, but apparently I wasn't the only one who felt that way, because the line at the new stand in the Promenade was about 5 people away from dissolving into Shake Shack madness. I thought this was OK, because it was new and it was Opening Day, and I figured once we got back to the normal games, the line wouldn't be so jammed up. So, my next attempt was at the new "Nathan's Hot Dogs and Chicken" counter, which replaced Blue Smoke and appears to be no different than any other of the Hot Dog and Burger counters that are dotted all over the Stadium (except they have some wings or other such nonsense). The line wasn't so bad, so I figured I'd give it a shot. I stood there for about 2-3 minutes and noted that there were plenty of people standing at the counter who hadn't moved, while the cashiers were empty. Finally, some indignant gentleman with his son started piping up and yelling for a manager, saying things like, "This shouldn't be happening!" and "You people should be more prepared!"

I realized that this wasn't going to end well, so I abandoned that plan and went to the Sausage Sandwich guy. The line wasn't too long and there certainly appeared to be action going on, so it seemed safe. But even here, things were off. There were about 5 people behind the grill, but only 1 person working a register, and she had to keep calling people down for them to pay, and then stand there waiting for their food. Meanwhile, another woman came around yelling "Cash Only! Cash Only!" which caused a slight culling. But only slight. Because I still ended up standing there for over 5 minutes while everyone fumphered around before I finally got my sausage sandwich, complete with undercooked onions and peppers.

Normally, I chalk up the foibles of the concession staff on Opening Day to "Hey, it's Spring Training for the Concession Stand guys too!" I recall one opener at Shea Stadium where I waited about 4 innings for a Hot Dog vendor to come around. But this was kind of ridiculous. Usually, there's plenty of vendors flying around. But yesterday, there were hardly any. Aside from the above gentleman who stood around blocking my view of home plate in the 5th inning, I don't think I saw many other vendors. A Cracker Jack guy, this Hot Dog guy, that was it. No beer, no souvenirs, no Cotton Candy, no Dippin' Dots, nothing. George went down for a beer at the beginning of the top of the 3rd inning and didn't return until the top of the 4th. Incredulous, he told me his tale of waiting on an endless line because there was only 1 person working the register at the Beers of the World stand. Apparently some of the other people he was on the line with began poking fun at the one guy working the counter, because he was particularly slow. Until they arrived at the counter and noticed that his name tag read "MANAGER."

That about summed it up. It was Opening Day at Citi Field, and, sure, the Mets were aware of that and certainly came prepared to do their job, but the support staff didn't seem to realize that. I know that the Mets are going to be bad, and most nights there won't be much of a crowd. But one day that's guaranteed to be well-attended is Opening Day. Yet the staff seemed barely cognizant of the fact that there were going to be a lot of people at the game. I'm just glad I didn't get hungry later on in the game, because I can't imagine what sort of an experience I would have had trying to find something to eat around the 7th inning. I suspect I might have been limited to peanuts or popcorn. Or, worse...Subway.

My theory, and it may be true, is that the concession workers, which I'm pretty sure are unionized, work at both Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. This is fine, because it's pretty rare that they both play at home, and usually when they do, it's in instances where neither game will sell out or attract an especially large crowd. But this year, both teams had their Opening Day games at the same time, which meant that both stadiums would need a full complement of concession workers, and maybe there just weren't enough to go around (and, of course, the Mets always get the short end of the stick, because everyone likes to put down the Mets).

This theory is sound on paper, but one particular thing blows it up, and it may be the one thing that bothers me the most: Pocket schedules are, perhaps, the most important promotional tool the Mets have. They're small, convenient and can be placed anywhere. Over the course of the season, I usually keep one in just about any place I spend any significant amount of time, including my office, coat pockets, wallets and the like. So, then, why are there NO POCKET SCHEDULES available ANYWHERE IN THE STADIUM on Opening Day? This one is beyond baffling. I used to get multiple pocket schedules every time I would get my tickets in the mail. Not anymore. On the final homestand of the season, they'll be loaded with more pocket schedules than they know what to do with. Who the hell needs a pocket schedule on the last day of the season? But on the one day when it makes the most sense to have tons of them, there's not a one to be found. Why more people don't complain, I don't know. Why heads haven't been rolled over this, I have no clue. Mets Police, consider yourselves alerted about this mockery. The schedule magnet is nice, but it ain't portable (and given everything else that went on, it's a minor miracle that the promotional staff didn't manage to screw that up). Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I want a damn pocket schedule. I can't possibly be the only one who's indignant about this.

Maybe this is just another one of my idiotic ramblings, but I suppose, in some strange way, it's my duty to report on things good and bad. The Mets didn't do much bad on the field on Monday (if just for one day). But everything else at Citi Field needed some work. If only Collin Cowgill could serve food and print schedules, then he'd really be the toast of the town.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I Feel Much Better Now

After Jonathon Niese butcher-boyed an RBI single over the head of Cody Ransom in the 2nd inning of Monday's Opener, I suddenly found an odd sense of calm come over me. It had little to do with the Mets sterling record on Opening Day, and even less to do with the fact that 161 games remained in this long Baseball season. With the Mets up 2-0, it somehow seemed like, on this day, everything was going to be OK. I turned to George and said, "I feel better now. We've broken the ice."

I guess a couple of early runs plated by the 8th and 9th place hitters with 2 outs can generate all sorts of good feelings. It appeared to work for the Mets, because they went from a 2-run lead to a 6-run lead by the 4th inning, and by time Collin Cowgill had his "WELCOME TO NEW YORK!!" moment in the 7th inning, the lead had opened up to 9 as the Mets cruised to a 11-2 Opening Day victory over the hapless Padres. A perfect opening to a so far spotless 2013 campaign.

The day started out more or less like any other of the Opening Days I've attended prior to this one. I was far too cranked up to get a good night's sleep. Fortunately, I was far too cranked up to feel tired and groggy in the morning. I woke up, got my Opening Day attire picked out (David Wright jersey over a Colin Kaepernick T-shirt) and left for the game about 30 minutes earlier than I probably needed to because, hey, who can sit around on Opening Day? So rather than getting to Citi Field at 11:30, which was when I told George I'd meet him, I was there around 11, so I had some time to soak in the Opening Day vibes and watch Bobby Valentine smile and wave and get fitted for a headset in front of the SNY stage. George arrived shortly thereafter, and in we went, picking up our traditional Opening Day magnet, and the traditional Opening Day scorecard and yearbook purchase. As I usually do, I grabbed two golf pencils from the Program stand (they are sometimes not so lenient about this, because golf pencils are a real hot commodity) and started upstairs, only to find that one of the pencils I took was split in half and had no lead. Apparently, it was still Spring Training for the concessionaires (the full brunt of this requires its own post, which shall come tomorrow, but if need be I will alert the Mets Police of just how ill-prepared the concession stands were for business).

Meanwhile, there was still a game to be played, and here's some bonus Opening Day video of the introduction of the Mets, just after the presentation of the ceremonial wreath from the Shea family, and slightly before the blowing of the Shofar.

Rusty Staub threw out the first pitch, from approximately 35 feet from home plate (I don't think he was ever known for having a great arm, and on Orange's 69th birthday, it's probably less than what it was), and then, very randomly, the Mets took the field. Usually, there's some sort of video or introduction before they run out, but no sooner had Rusty thrown his pitch but there they were, running onto the field, and there was the Season Ticket holder of the game with his nose-picking child signaling the beginning of the game, and there was Chris Denorfia slapping the first pitch of the season into Left Field (and yes, that's me on the video yelling "That's it, I'm going home!"). Usually, when the first pitch of the game goes for any kind of a hit, it tends not to end well. But Jonathon Niese proved himself more than capable of rising to the Opening Day occasion, getting out of the 1st inning and pretty much every other inning that he pitched the rest of the day, only getting touched for 2 runs and 4 hits in his 6.2 innings. His performance was just what every Mets fan wanted to see: a sign that he was ready to step forward as one of the Mets' leading starting pitchers. His performance late last year was nice, but now it's time to build on that, and if he pitches like he did today, he's headed in the right direction.

Other nice signs today included a pair of hits each from Marlon Byrd and John Buck, both of whom were in and around multiple rallies (and earned a pair of "WELCOME TO NEW YORKs!!!"), David Wright, who was greeted like a hero and performed like a captain, stealing two bases and getting on base 3 times, Ruben Tejada, who continues to play like the second coming of Edgardo Alfonzo, doubled home the first run of the season and extended the 7th inning rally with an opposite field hit, and, of course Collin Cowgill, who hustled out a double in the 4th inning and stole the show with his Grand Slam that he clearly wasn't aware was a Grand Slam until he madly dashed all the way to 3rd and stopped, assuming he'd hit a bases clearing triple. Then, the umpire waved him home. Replays in the stadium were sparse, probably because they didn't want Bud Black to challenge the call, but seeing a replay later, it was clearly a Grand Slam. And, of course, given the assumption that the Mets were going to be a severely challenged club on the offensive side, being able to run up 11 runs on 13 hits is always a nice thing, even if it's against the Padres, whose pitching just looked terrible from start to finish, except for that Charles Bass fellow who relieved Volquez after he'd thrown 80 pitches in 3+ innings.

So, all in all, a wonderful Opening Day, which will of course spur Collin Cowgill onto a 648 RBI season and the Mets to a perfect 162-0. Or, at least, we'd like to hope that it would. In reality, it's probably only just a matter of time before I get tired of hearing "MORE COWGILL!" For now, though, it's all good.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Well, here we go once again, just a few hours from Howie Rose welcoming us to Citi Field and the blowing of the shofar to raise the curtain on the 2013 National League Baseball Season in New York. The calendar may just show the benign date of April 1st, but it's really a holiday for me and approximately 40,000 other people who will be making our first pilgrimage of the year to Citi Field. It's tradition. This will be my 9th consecutive Opening Day and 12th overall. How can I possibly miss Opening Day? It never gets old, because it's always the start of something new. I put in for the Day Off from work 2 months ago and even my boss knew exactly why I was requesting off for April 1st. "IT'S METS DAY, ISN'T IT?!" is what she told me.

A few bits of housekeeping to discuss here before game time, though.

We've already been through this in short form and longer form, but this is a transitional year for the Mets. It's going to be a lot of throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks (I read this somewhere about some team, but I don't recall where. It applies well to the Mets, though, so I'm stealing it), and seeing what the givens do. I expect that the Mets will win somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-76 games. I said that last year and they finished with 74, but I think the Mets this year can be better, or at least more interesting down the stretch. If, by some chance, they have a hot start at the beginning of the season like they did last year, I don't think anyone is going to buy into it, though. They have to prove they can finish strong. Individually, I look for impactful things from the following players (take "impactful" to mean whatever you want)
1) David Wright
2) Ike Davis
3) Ruben Tejada
4) Jonathon Niese
5) Matt Harvey
6) Lucas Duda
7) Bobby Parnell

I look for meaningful contributions from the following players (meaningful contributions is not "impactful"):
1) Marlon Byrd
2) Colin Cowgill
3) Shaun Marcum
4) Zach Wheeler*
5) Travis d'Arnaud*

*I assume they'll be called up around May 1st, or whenever that mythical service time clock resets itself. That might not be enough time to impact the season in the larger picture, but enough to do something worthwhile.

Everyone else, just do the best you can and don't screw up too badly. You know what I mean.

They didn't make any more major improvements to the field, so I've heard, but one thing I did notice is that some of the concession stands have been moved around. I've talked plenty about eschewing the Shake Shack Zone for the concession stands near my seats in the Promenade, because the lines are always short and the food is just as good. I was a fan of the Blue Smoke outpost up there, but apparently it's been moved out in favor of "Nathan's Hot Dogs and Chicken," which appears to be the same thing as regular old Nathan's, except that they offer a larger array of Chicken-involved food. I suppose I'll find out what they mean by this chicanery tomorrow, but if it's not as good as the Blue Smoke chicken sandwich, I will be very upset. Of note is that Blue Smoke downstairs is now Blue Smoke "On The Go," and doesn't offer the chicken sandwich either, so Citi Field may well be lacking in a good chicken sandwich. What it will not be lacking in, however, is the absurdly good Pat LaFrieda Filet Mignon sandwich. This sandwich debuted midway through last season and took Citi Field by storm, proving itself so popular that the single location on the Field Level is no longer enough, so popular that it's successfully managed to boot Keith's Grill out of the Promenade level and take over the stand for itself. So, maybe I'll be eating a lot of steak sandwiches this year. Until I run out of money.

For the first time since 2009, I'll be debuting a new Game Hat. And not a moment too soon, since that hat has brought me no luck as far as team success is concerned. The new model for 2013 is not so dissimilar from the old one, Blue on Blue, with the classic orange NY and orange button on top, and the 50th Anniversary logo on the back. Yes, it's from last year, but I bought it at the end of the season (when the Mets kindly discounted all 50th Anniversary merchandise) and it's been sitting in the plastic bag I bought it in in my drawer for the entire offseason, so it's properly marinated for today's maiden voyage. Hopefully a new hat will bring some new success to the team.

It's just not Opening Day without a good Car Fire. But I haven't seen one out there in a few years. Anyone else out there know what I mean? It seems like every time there's a good Opening Day Car Fire, the Mets have a good year...

I think that about covers it. Now on to the more official matters. Opening Ceremonies at 12:40, First pitch at 1:10!