Random Thoughts for a Rainy Monday!

It was supposed to be The New York Mets vs. The Los Angeles Dodgers of Brooklyn at 7pm this evening, but alas, Mother Nature intervened. So a treat for a Tuesday afternoon instead. An old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness, and most importantly, single-admission DOUBLEHEADER! It’ll be Ollie P. (0-2, 3.71) v. Hiroki Kuroda (2-0, 2.18) preceded by The Johan (2-1, 2.59) v. Charlie Haeger (0-2, 6.46). Since I’m a faithful subscriber to MLB Extra Innings, I usually take in my fair share of late Dodger games featuring the Master, Vin Scully. However, this year, I’m slackin on my West Coast vibe so far and letting my East Coast Bias be slanted towards a good night sleep. Apparently the Dodgers have been having pitching issues, and one Manny Ramirez has been kept away from the New York circus by his Manager, Joe Torre (what does he know about the New York circus? Oh Yeah, I forgot…) Hopefully the Mets can keep their recent winning ways going before the weekend matchup in Philly v. the Phillies.

Mike Pelfrey has been lights out this year, fashioning a 4-0 record with a microscopic 0.69 ERA. However in last night’s rain shortened matchup, he showed something else… some gumption. One of the knocks on Pelfrey prior to this year has been an inability to be able to survive on nights when he doesn’t have his best stuff or command of his pitches. Well, last night was one of those nights and he was able to gut his way through 5 innings and 106 pitches. Of course it probably helped that the weekend’s opponent the Atlanta Braves couldn’t buy a clutch hit. Still maybe, just maybe, Big Pelf has turned a corner and can be that guy the Mets need to ride shotgun to Johan Santana in the rotation. Only time will tell, but the results so far are encouraging to say the least.

My new Facebook buddy is Jeff Mattingly. From my new Facebook buddy I’ve stolen, er, borrowed some very pertinent stats about the Mets pitching staff. Namely as of Saturday the Mets had the most strikeouts as a staff in the NL. and second most in the Majors. Unfortunately they’ve also surrendered the most walks as well which was supposed to be one of the things they were going to rectify as a staff in the spring. On the flipside, of course, is one Johan Santana, who has not surrendered a leadoff walk in nearly 70 innings since last year. What does this mean? Simple, Johan is great and I enjoy trying to sound like a stat guru! By the way Jeff’s website is www.thesportspy.com. Check it out! NOW!

See Ya! 

 

 

IT’S ONLY SEVEN FREAKIN’ GAMES- The Sequel

Last year, I wrote an entry telling everyone to relax. After all, 7 games in a baseball season was far too early to press panic buttons and sound alarms. I’m not saying that this year. While there’s a very large part of me that feels that this ballclub has too much ability to be a lousy team, the way they’re playing belies that sentiment. John Maine’s second straight lackluster performance, errors, lack of clutch hitting, too much like last year and for that matter the 2 previous Septembers. It’s hard to believe, almost, that this team was 1 game away from the World Series just 4 years ago. I blamed a lot of the debacle that was 2009 on the most obvious reason, the almost Biblical rash of injuries that occured. But if you watched the team before it was blatantly obvious even before that that there was something missing. This year feels a lot like the same thing.

 I’ve done my best not to fall prey to the rampant negativism that prevailed all winter long. I simply felt that there was nothing for the Mets to do other than Bay, Lackey, Halladay or Holliday that would have had any major impact. I still believe that and obviously Lackey, Halladay and Holliday weren’t coming to Flushing for a variety of reasons. Would Joel Piniero or Jason Marquis have been a serious upgrade over Maine or Ollie? Again only time will tell, but this team needs to do something NOW. Does that mean bringing up an Ike Davis or Fernando Martinez to provide a spark? Something more drastic in the way of personnel or management? I don’t have that answer. What I do know is that I really don’t want a repeat of last year when despair set in quickly. This week is a huge week for the Amazins’. I just hope that they can answer the bell, otherwise other bells may toll very soon.

A Case of the Willies

Can anyone puhleeeeeze tell me what the hell Wille Harris has against my team? For God`s sake, there are 14 other teams in the NL, I never hear about this guy. Against the Amazins he turns into Willie Harris Mays! Another year, another game saving catch against the Mets. He did it as a Brave and now several times as a National. Today’s robbery occurred in the 9th(when else?) The Mets, trailing 4-3, had the bases juiced, poised for a stirring comeback at beautiful Citi Field. The Igniter (Welcome Back Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose) singled off Nats closer Matt Capps to start it off. After a sacrifice by Alex Cora, and a walk to Mr. Wright, Capps struck out Jason Bay on three pitches( JayBay had never faced Capps before and it sure as hell looked like it!). Francouer steps up( Awesome pick up, Omar!) and…. WALKS! Yes,really! That brings up Rod Barajas, who not only can handle a pitching staff but seems like he hit as many homers Friday night as Brian Schneider hit in 2 yrs here( I might be exaggerating a bit ). 1st pitch liner to left sinking fast, up comes Willie Mays, er, Harris to snag it & steal defeat out of the jaws of victory. The other Willy of note, Willy Tavares drove in all 4 National runs off of starter Ollie Perez( not good Ollie or bad Ollie, more like so so Ollie). So after Friday’s 8-2 victory, Mr. Santana goes to the hill for the rubber match 1:00 Sunday.

Random Thoughts- The Monday Edition

  • You’ve gotta love(If you’re a Mets fan) the way this team is grinding out victories. 2 of 3 from an admittedly struggling, yet always dangerous Florida Marlin squad. The Marlins starting 5 pitchers are tall enough to be a starting NBA five(more about the NBA later). Yet, this injury depleted Mets team was able to score just enough while their pitching has been brilliant in the month of May. Now the calendar turns to June and after this week the competition gets a little stiffer with the Mets facing their arch rivals the Phillies and their interleague, intercity rivals….the Evil Emp..,er New York Yankees.
  • I know some of you feel the need to complain, it’s just part of the Mets fan’s DNA. Enough about Saturday’s lineup. Wright, Sheffield, and Castillo needed to be rested. Especially since they played 11 innings the night before, Sheffield is 40, Castillo has bad knees, and Wright had played EVERY INNING of the season. Beltran getting a stomach virus and leaving the game was bad luck, but face it, they’re 0-6 vs. Josh Johnson who started for the Marlins Saturday. The replace-Mets who started did ok-Tatis went 1-4 with an RBi and Fernando Martinez went 2-4. The problem Saturday is that they went to a gun fight with a knife named Tim Redding and his 9.20 ERA.
  • Memo to Lebron James: You’re honeymoon is now officially over! You’ve made almost zero missteps since arriving in the NBA. But the stunt pulled Saturday night by not congratulating the Magic and blowing off the media,is not gonna fly Big Boy. Word of advice, whether or not you’re contemplating coming to NY in 2010, you’re gonna have to man up. But if you’re definitely thinking about NY, that blowing off the media thing can’t ever happen again. As for shaking the hands of the opponent, if you can do when you beat them, you can do it when they beat you. It’s called good sportsmanship.

Tonight the Mets travel to beautiful(I know, I’ve been there) PNC Park to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s Livan Hernandez (4-1, 4.28 ERA) vs. Ian Snell (1-6, 5.43 ERA). The Mets have struggled at times in that ballpark( I know, I drove 7 hours to Pittsburgh to watch them lose in ’06) so even though the Pirates are not great, this 4-game series will not be a cakewalk.

 

5 Reviews + 5 RBI = 1st place

This whole replay thing is cool. The 4th review in the last 5 games and the 5th since April 29th went the Mets way again last night. Daniel Murphy was the recipient as his 6th inning blast off the Subway sign at the Pepsi Porch(How’s that for product placement) bailed out a dominant, yet shaky Johan Santana(6 IP, 11 K, 6 BB, 120 P). Santana inexplicably walked 4 in a 9 batter 4th inning that included a Ruthian blast from that Adam Dunn. Johan has been shaky his last three outings, but for a change his team seems to have his back. The two-run blast from Murphy capped off a 3-5, 5 RBi evening for the slumping Jacksonville, Fl native.

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The Mets complete a sweep against the hapless Washington Nationals(13-33) and enjoy an off day before taking on the Florida Marlins(22-26). The win coupled with a Phillie loss against those Marlins allow the Metsies to jump back into 1st by a half game.

Memo to Fernando Martinez: don’t be like some of your teammates. Take nothing for granted and run everything out. Getting booed your third big league game for lack of hustle is not the kind of impression you want to make on the Citi Field faithful.

 

A Complete Game? What a novel concept!

Since the baseball/injury gods don’t seemed to be satisfied til a team-wide plague occurs, the Mets have to find creative ways to win. So, on a night where three of their present performers went down(Reyes, Church to the DL, Beltran cortizone shot out til Saturday). On a night where the brought up what could be their future(Fernando Martinez, 0-3, 2k’s, 1 RBi), the Mets and Livan Hernandez dipped into baseball’s past to dig up a relic… a complete game.

 

sROjHE2k.jpgLivan Hernandez has been renowned in his career for his ability to go deep into games and to display a rubber arm. In reality, with a fastball that tops out in the mid to high 80’s and a 63 mph curve ball, there’s not a lot to tire out. Last night vs. the Nationals, Livan as usual gave up a few hits(9) and had baserunners to contend with, but kept Washington off-balance just enough with his sinker, throwing 3 Double play balls. Angel Pagan threw out Josh Bard at home to thwart a Washington opportunity. The only mistake Hernandez was an outside fastball that Adam Dunn pulverized to the opposite field in the seventh(Dunn makes any ballpark look tiny).

So, on a night where two more players disappear from their roster for 15 days, the Mets are able to rest their bullpen. I love it when a pitcher is able to go nine. The whole pitch count thing is so ridiculously overused now. I understand about young pitchers, and high bonus dollars, but I don’t understand the reliance on pitchers who clearly aren’t good enough to either start or finish games, but manage to get in every other game.Case in point, on Monday, The Yanks are up by TEN runs and Phil Hughes is pitching a gem, why on earth would Girardi take him out when as it is he overuses his bullpen. That was a perfect opportunity to build confidence in a budding star and to also REST HIS BULLPEN. Sorry for shouting.

F-Mart arrives. I guess there’s nothing to lose bringing him up now because with Church out, he will probably wind up playing most of the games which is the concern with a young player. He has mad skills, like the young people say, and if all goes well he can be a fixture on the Mets for a while. The problem that the Mets have had as an organization is that none of the great players associated with them finished their careers as Mets. Not Doc Gooden, Seaver, Koosman, Piazza, Harrelson, Staub, Strawberry, none except Ed Kranepool. The opportunity exists now with Reyes and Wright and possibly Beltran. The reason, among many, that Yankee tradition is so revered in NY is that they have so many players that started and finished as Yankees. Fernando Martinez, if he pans out, could be another in this post 2000 group who can do this.

It’s still early, but the Sheffield signing is looking like the steal of the year. Another 3-run dinger last night hit off his shoetops that got out in roughly .035 seconds. Sheff has his average up to .291, has played adequate defense, and has been a positive force in the Met locker roon by all accounts. All these factors were considered concerns when his signing was announced. Like I said it’s still early, but just his presence in the lineup has enabled the Mets to not miss that much of a beat while Delgado is gone.

The matchup tonight for the 7:10 game as the Mets go for the sweep is:

Jordan Zimmerman(2-1) vs. THE Johan (6-2)
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The Johan has not lost to the Nats in his last 4 times against and has taken quite nicely to his new digs going 3-1 with a 0.81 ERA at Citi Field.

 

 

Let’s Go To The Videotape

The Mets defeated the Nationals 5-2 last night, the key blow being a three run home run in the bottom of the Sixth by Gary Sheffield, who has been a godsend, especially in the absence of Carlos Delgado. For the third consecutive Mets game a disputed home run had to be viewed on replay by the umpire team and in all three cases the call has gone the Mets way.

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John Maine started and worked his obligatory six innings surrenduring 1 ER, 6 hits, 3 walks, and 4 punchouts. A typical workmanlike performance by Maine against a team whom he has had success. The bullpen took over and each pitcher (Bob Parnell, Pedro Feliciano, J.J.Putz and Francisco Rodriguez) worked through some form of trouble before securing the win. Franky notched his 13th Met save in his first 13 opportunities as a Met, tying a club record (with the immortal Anthony Young). Carlos Beltran and David Wright each reached base three times as they do seemingly every day in May.Beltran added an RBI. 

The Mets have a real good opportunity these two weeks because they are playing struggling teams. These next two games are followed by three vs. the Marlins, 4 early next week vs. the Pirates in Pittsburgh, and finally three more against these Nats in DC.While as we know, nothing’s guaranteed with the Mets or in baseball, you can reasonably expect them to at least win all these series which would be a 9-4 record, especially with Santana going three times in this stretch. 8-5 is probably more realistic.

Jose Reyes and Ryan Church were each out of the lineup again, but the Mets are doing what they have to do, which is tread water until their injured troops get back. I expect Omar to inquire about a shortstop or 1st baseman(Hey Omar, Nick Johnson’s in the house the next three days, see what you can do) and bringing up a Johnathon Malo or a Fernando Martinez is always a possibility.

Livan Hernandez goes tonight vs. rookie Craig Stammen who made his Major League debut his last start and pitched rather well giving up 4 earned in 6 1/3 innings. 

 

 

 

Welcome Home

The boys (23-20) are back home to Citi Field tonight on this Memorial Day to take on Long Beach, NY native John Lannan and his Washington Natinals( I’m sorry, i meant N-A-T-I-O-N-A-L-S, I gotta believe someone at the Majestic factory is an Orioles fan or just a real jerk). I would use the term “lowly Nationals” but that seems almost redundant. But, don’t be fooled, the Nats, along with being a royal pain the last two Septembers have a good bit of talent.

Ryan Zimmerman, boyhood friend/teammate/rival of Mr. Wright, had a 30 game hit streak this year and is a quality gold glove caliber 3rd baseman. Adam
Dunn, who can hit the ball out of the Grand Canyon, gives the Nats a power dimension they did not have the last few years. Christian Guzman, Austin Kearns, former Met farmhand Jesus Flores are just a few more good names this team has, so they are no offensive pushover. However, they’ve had definite pitching issues summed up by the fact that they had a streak of 10 consecutive games in which they scored at least 5 runs and won exactly 1 of those games. John Lannan is a crafty lefty though, and seems to rise to the challenge of facing the Metropolitans with family and friends in attendance. The Nats were in town April 24-26 and the Mets won 2 of the 3 losing the finale to Jordan Zimmerman(the Nats lead the league in Zimmermans).

While this series and the next one against the once red-hot, now struggling Florida Marlins over the weekend would appear to be breathers, we’ve seen this movie before Mets fans.


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 I think they’ll be OK though. The Mets seem to be getting a level of comfort at Citi Field and that the dimensions of the park are slowly turning into a distinct home-field advantage.

The matchups for the series are:

John Lannan(2-3) vs. John Maine (3-3)

Craig Stammen(0-0) vs. Livan Hernandez(3-1)

Jordan Zimmerman(2-1) vs. Johan Santana(6-2)

I forgot to mention former Yank, Nick Johnson who has recently been the subject of trade rumors. he’s been linked prominently to the Sox(for Manny DelCarmen), the Giants, and the Mets who, in case you haven’t heard, could use another 1st baseman. Nick would be a nice pickup, good glove, patient hitter that gets on base quite a bit. Smart, professional player who would add depth to any team.

Lots of story lines in this series, most prominently how the Mets respond to being home after the meat-grinder road trip they just had. Jose Reyes is expected back in the lineup, Carlos Beltran back in center after DH-ing the weekend in Boston due to a sore knee. Don’t expect Ryan Church back for a few more days, his hammy is still tight. Hopefully, they respond and don’t have a letdown vs. the 13-30 Nats.

  (more…)

Random thought

Seeing as the two New York clubs engaged in Interleague, Interrivalry matchups this weekend, it made for an unusual development… Detente’ among rivals, if only for a weekend. Lots of light-hearted banter back and forth. It was almost nice, but now fun’s over, back to hatred and animosity.
I mean check out this photo from the WBC: Wright, Jeter, Youkilis, and Victorino celebrating a huge US victory. (Although, it appears that Victorino is trying to punch David in the face on the sneak tip and Youkilis is kneeing him in the side while Jeter holds him, although I might just be a little paranoid)


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Whew!

The Mets rolled( limped ) into Fenway Park this weekend after:

1. Losing 4 straight thoroughly bizarre games including a game in which a pitcher balked 3 times, and another in which a major league ball player MISSED THIRD BASE.

2. Losing their first baseman,shortstop, #3 starter, and 1st string catcher to injury

3. Fielding a lineup that closely resembles the Buffalo Bisons or Crash Davis’s  Durham Bulls.

The only thing that they had going for them realistically is that their ace was pitching Friday night. If you look at it even remotely objectively, you would have signed up for 1 of 3 or a sweep in which they were competitive. Playing a ultra hot Boston squad who pound for pound is the best team in the AL if not in baseball. Really, is it necessary to have a Papelbon throwing 97 gas after Beckett throws 8 innings of 96 gas with a wicked curve. Playing a ultra hot Boston team who has manhandled the Yankees and Jays this year, who along with the Rays are the top teams in the AL East.

So having considered all these factors along with traveling 3000 miles cross country, no way these guys even win one game. Hell, the ’06 Mets came into Boston and got swept and that team hit in the clutch and played decent defense. Except for two very important things:

1. Baseball is friggin’ crazy

2. Johan Santana is the Best Pitcher In Baseball

A baseball team rarely takes it’s cues from a pitcher. Pitchers are generally considered to be outside the team, only considered on the days they are in the game. Even the greatest of aces are rarely thought of as leaders( Bob Gibson being a notable exception). Santana showed why on this road trip why he is, in my humble opinion, the leader of this team. He pitched Saturday in San Fran, didn’t have nearly the kind of dominant stuff he’s had since the season started, but competed and made big pitch after big pitch to get the Mets out of defense induced jams. ( Is it possible to sue a defense for non-support ) Same thing Friday night. Pitching in a place that is hell on lefties, against a lineup with no weak spots( Papi still scares me) that can grind even the best pitchers down or at the very least drive a pitch count up till he’s gone after 5 innings, Santana showed guile, grit and guts. He even showed a backbone, something his teammates need to be reminded to do. Youkilis is a marvelous player, and probably was joking around like he said after the game, he just happened to run into a fired-up, fed-up, ace who has gotten zero support from his seemingly awe struck cohorts. Final Score: Mets 5, Sox 3

So you get your one and hope to sneak out of Boston without getting anyone else hurt. Except your starting right fielder gets a tight hamstring, presumably from practicing running around the bases and touching all of them( You’re right Ryan Church, I’m not letting it go til you hit a walk-off) and you’re closer who is 12 for 12 gets rushed to the hospital with debilitating back spasms( You’re kidding me right, Franky). You have to try and beat Josh Beckett, he of the afore-mentioned 96 gas w/ wicked curve and once that’s over you get Jon Papelbon who throws 97. So what happens, just what you suspect. trailing 2-1 top 9. The only reason it’s 2-1 is your starter that had the yips the Sunday night prior, balked thrice, and had to call his psychologist, practically matches Beckett pitch for pitch( Thank You, Michael Pelfrey).

After walking Gary Sheffield, Papelbon cheddarizes Mr. Wright( who had about a 4 million OBP on the road trip) and Jeremy Reed. Two outs, up steps former Baltimore, former Yankee farmhand Omir Santos. He of the 73 career at bats and 1 major league home run. So of course he blasts the first Papelbon offering over the Monster, only we don’t know if it cleared the Monster or not except if you sat up in the seats behind or watching on HD at home( The guy in the Boston T-shirt, and the other guy draped in the Boston towel who helped the Mets fans point to the spot where the ball landed, should probably be banned from Fenway, for the sake of pure partisanship) After a 3 hour replay delay( slight exaggeration) the Umps get it right and the good guys are ahead. Except, the Sox have last licks with the 4-5-6 hitters due up. So, the replacement closer J.J. Putz, who was unavailable the previous night because of a stiff neck( you can’t make this stuff up) steps in and promptly walks Mr. Youkilis. Jason Bay( former Met farmhand, thanks Steve Phillips, by the way your tan looks great) rips a shot down the 3rd base line. Mr. Wright, who never guards the line in late innings, even though Keith Hernandez has told him to 1000 times, finally listens this time and makes a fantastic stop. But as we all know catching a grounder is never Mr. Wright’s issue, so of course he throws wide of the bag trying to get the force.Never fear, Luis Castillo, who last year would have torn his thigh up trying to stretch, stretches to get the force. J.D. Drew then hits a rocket right at Angel Pagan, 2 down. Mike Lowell, thorough professional, rips a shot in the hole wide of short, where plays Ramon Martinez-he of the 4 errors in three games. So of course he dives in the hole, snags the hop and fires a one hop throw to 1st to former left fielder who can’t catch a fly ball, now new 1st baseman who has played all of three games at 1st, who of course digs out the low throw like he’s Wes Parker( or Keith Hernandez) Final Score Mets 3, Sox 2. Did I get everything?

We got blown out today 12-5, a sweep would have been too much to expect, but all things considered a 5-5 road trip through pergatory(SF), Hell(LA) and Outer Darkness( Boston) is not too bad. So the team that depending on the day of the week, can’t pitch, play defense, hit in the clutch, play even accidental fundamental baseball, or even stay healthy, manage to come back home in decent shape. Who says baseball is boring.

 

 

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