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Crosstown Rivals

Jerry Manuel is an associate of Satan.

Updated: 2015-09-16T12:33:26.456-04:00


Wouldn't It Be Nice


It might have been Joe Morgan who said something about computers not playing baseball. (Apparently humans do.) Or maybe it was Tim McCarver. Could have been John Kruk. One could safely assume, in any event, that whoever said such a thing owned a David Eckstein jersey stained with blood and mud and grit and heart. And that owner has no plans to wash the jersey.[You are encouraged to hum, or sing along, as this graf progresses. Start here.] Wouldn't it be nice if Mike Pelfrey were a computer? If he were Mr. Clanky, from the old Backyard Baseball series? Then we wouldn't have to wait so long... for him to regress to the mean in a particularly ugly game last night. One-and-a-third innings, 74 pitches, seven hits, two walks, six runs. All of this you probably remember, if you were unable to successfully drink yourself asleep after Chris Young singled to start the game.These 9:40, air-conditioned-desert start times bring back fuzzy memories for most Met fans, memories of a day when Omar Minaya didn't have to do any paperwork to succeed, of a day when this Manuel fellow was just a goofy bespectacled Buddhism-spouting bench coach. The Mets were 11-1 in Arizona in 2005, 2006 and 2007 back when discrimination was just a glint in the eye of Maricopa County. [Aside: any chance they can round up this Mexican national? When he tries throwing his breaking pitch, it's probably tantamount to assault with a deadly weapon. And he's involved in an ongoing massive swindle, pocketing $12MM a year to... pull his socks up? Occasionally jump over the first base line? Be fairly surly? Not sure what it is. Must be some kind of money laundering.]But things have gone sour in the desert since then. 3-3 in 2008 and 2009. Sure, it's a small sample size, but we can assume the fun's over in Phoenix. (Perhaps due to this awful roster. But we can try to pretend otherwise.)Last year the Mets offered Cory Sullivan (he of the career 79 OPS+, he, cast off from the 38-55! Houston Astros this year) as their leadoff hitter and left fielder against the Diamondbacks. Oliver Perez allowed six hits and six walks in five and a third while facing Arizona last year. (He somehow only allowed one run. Call it the Pelfrey Problem. We know how it bites a team in the ass as time passes, cf. last night's debacle.) Jeremy Reed (he of another 79 career OPS+, he, also without a major league job anymore) had his share of plate appearances, too. And you'll remember Omir Santos and Daniel Murphy and Jeff Francoeur and Anderson Hernandez and Elmer Dessens and Alex Cora, those 2009 Metastases who earned their fair share of unwarranted praise (is there any other kind?) from Jerry. Thankfully, they're all no longer on the team. Wait, what? You're kidding. Oh no.All of this is to say, in a rather circumspect fashion, that Mike Pelfrey drives far too many of us crazy, with no good reason. Kevin Burkhardt tweets things like, "Mets have no shot of being a playoff team if Pelfrey can't find his old form. He needs to figure this out." Andy Martino, at the Daily Snooze, writes that Pelfrey's pitches aren't effective, or something.Um, yeah. That's the problem. Sure. His pitches aren't good enough. Specific as hell. Not a catch-all. Or we're supposed to believe some garbage about a fluky-good April/May/June Pelf needing to return to "his old form." One can't help but marvel when noting how Pelfrey's "old form" alternates between good and bad depending on who's writing.What we do know about Mike Pelfrey, aside from silly speculation, has nothing to do with phantom neck injuries suffered on planes or sports psychologists or teeth grinding. What we know is that his strikeout rate's slightly higher this year than it used to be (5.51/9 against a career 5.23/9.) His walk rate is a little higher too (3.46/9 versus a 3.41/9 career total, though that total is slightly inflated by his putrid control in 2006 and 2007). His home run rate is back down from last year's unexpected spike, to almost exactly what it was in 2008.And so, as you might expect, his performance this year contains no mystery, no enigma[...]

Smooth(ish) Sailing


So it may take an ersatz five-for-five night for Carlos Delgado to sweep the Braves at Shea, but it apparently takes more than that to put together a blog post, and I'm quite sorry.

But, hey, don't you already have enough to be happy about, what with the 9-1 record in the last ten and the incredible starting pitching? You don't need my whining about Nick Evans' inability to take a walk, Carlos Beltran's power slump, and Duaner Sanchez's drop in velocity.

When Anderson Hernandez and Lastings Milledge are putting the heat on Philly in Philly, while Jimmy "THE UNDISPUTED MVP" Rollins is putting the heat on himself in the very same, how can things get better?

How about two errors for the Holy Father of Shea Jones alongside a handful of balls he and fellow disliked Brave Kelly Johnson just couldn't quite reach?

Dayenu, it would have been enough, but the Yankees make it even sweeter! They lost 14-3 to the Blue Jays, they're double digits behind the division-leading Rays, and running six games back in the Wild Card.

Do things get any better right now for the Mets fan dabbling in schadenfreude?

Ryan Church comes back tonight, and Johan Santana is taking the hill. Now there's something to get excited about.

SNY, Knowing AL West Baseball Since... Never


Perhaps this doesn't fall under my purview, but from tonight's broadcast, your AFLAC Trivia Question:

What [sic] is the last team to have an infield with each player hitting 20+ HR in the same season?

The answer, which, admittedly, I did not know, is the 2005 Texas Rangers. If I recall correctly, they weren't much of a pitching ballclub, but they could hit.

In any event, Gary Cohen and Ron Darling attempted to guess those infielders with the sterling accolades:

Ron: Teixeira.
Gary: Teixeira. Young. Kinsler.
Ron: A-Rod.
Gary: He would be good.
Ron: Blalock.

Let's sort this out.

Mark Teixeira is correct - he is good at hitting home runs. He had 43 of them for the 2005 Rangers while playing first base.

Michael Young, the Texas shortstop not renowned for his power, would also be correct - he had 24 taters.

Hank Blalock, the recently injury-riddled third baseman, did hit 25 home runs for that team as well.

Now here's where it gets interesting:

Ian Kinsler, currently the Rangers' second baseman, made his major league debut in 2006, a full year after this powerful infield's prominence, and in that year he hit only 14 home runs. He hit 20 in 2007.

A-Rod is a great guess - after all, he won the MVP in 2005! Surely he must have hit 20 homers! In fact, he hit 48, playing for the New York Yankees, for his second year. Anyone who followed baseball might have remembered the 2004 ALCS, which happened to feature A-Rod. So, yeah, Ron, about two years late on that one. It's not like you're a baseball analyst for a New York team, or even make appearances as an analyst on national TV.

And, of course, you guys strangely agreed on an infield of five men, only three of whom played for the Texas Rangers in 2005 – you might have left out that homer-hungry former Hiroshima Carp legend Alfonso Soriano, who walloped 36 dingers in his second and final season in Texas.

Hey, it wasn't like Soriano was traded to a team in the Mets' division right before 2005 - and Ron Darling certainly wasn't the Nationals' analyst before becoming getting the SNY gig, or anything.

Keep up the good work, guys.

We're Moving Into The 21st Century!!


(image) We now have a mobile site:

for those of you who need a fix at all hours of the day.

(Though judging by the Mets lately, if you have a fix, I'd say rehab is a stop in your future.)

Move Along, Nothing to See Here


The Mets didn't do anything today. They did less than the Yankees, even, who after acquiring one beloved former Met (the X-Man), were hungry for another (last graph, obvs).Instead, the sellers had this club in a holding pattern, asking the Mets for hard-throwing lefty Jon Niese or human tool-shed Fernando Martinez in exchange for crummy used goods, like Raul Ibanez. The Mets couldn't acquire a difference-maker for the corner outfield spots or for the bullpen without surrendering serious talent, it seems. And, hell, they couldn't even acquire a non-difference maker without surrendering something substantial.Desperate times call for desperate measures: Omar even tried to grab Luis Ayala, in hopes of reassembling his Expos squad in Flushing.ASIDE: How has no one pointed this out yet? As Mets GM, Omar has acquired Brian Schneider, Ryan Church, Endy Chavez, El Duque, Fernando Tatis, Claudio Vargas, Tony Armas, Ron Calloway, Wil Cordero, and Val Pascucci, all of whom were his subjects at one point when he was master of the most useless domain in baseball?Today, he tried to acquire Luis Ayala! The same Luis Ayala of the 5.54 ERA and 1.49 WHIP! He is actually trying to recapture the glory of those Expos days, when Matt Loughlin would eat french fries with cheese curd (it's called poutine!; right) and Fran Healy and Ted Robinson would lull us to sleep telling us how sneaky-delicious those fries were, while Eric Valent hit for the cycle.Good times - who knew they were being reassembled beneath our nose at Shea? If it's any luck, Brad Wilkerson will soon be patrolling a corner outfield spot. Or maybe Peter Bergeron will. On second thought, Bergeron will probably be running the poutine stand at ShittyField. I'm sure there will be one.--END OF ASIDE--In any event, we Mets fans should be mildly pleased that the team made no moves.While Manny would have been a welcome addition, the Mets have no prospects, outside of Martinez, who would be capable of even carrying Andy LaRoche's jockstrap. And while LaRoche (and the heretofore unheralded Bryan Morris) may seem to be quite a mild price for a masher of Manny's caliber, there always exists the possibility that Jeff Kent will be dead at Ramirez's hand by the end of the season. I've already reserved to secure funds for his legal defense.* (Actually, this is not true. Please don't register this website. You will have stolen my idea - consider investing in any event, there really wasn't that much out there for the Mets. Considering that Griffey wouldn't have waived any clause to come here (and he's only a minimal upgrade anyway), and that the price for Bay was so high, it looks like the Mets did the right thing by standing pat.Placidity was a theme in the NL East today, as the Marlins acquired but Arthur Rhodes, while the Phillies only have that Blanton deal to go on. While both teams had previously been mentioned as potential homes for ManRam, his incurable psychosis (if he's on your team, this may be called "Manny Being Manny," or, alternatively, fun-loving attitude) may have scared them away.In fact, it makes sense that the Dodgers' Ned Colletti was the only GM in baseball ultimately able to swing a trade for Manny - Colletti's methodology for acquiring players involves a simple set of questions:1) Was he good five years ago?2) If you answered yes to the first question, acquire him. If no, could he be described as either "gritty" or "a gamer"?3) If you answered yes to the second question, acquire him. If no, did he ever play for the Devil Rays?4) If you answered yes to the third question, acquire him. If no, is he Ramon Martinez?The Dodgers have done everything possible to take at-bats away from James Loney, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp in that outfield – and by everything possible, I mean Andruw Jones' 218 PA of .167/.268/.250 and Juan Pierre's 311 PA of .279/.325/.316 baseball out of a corner outfield position. Angel Berroa is also logging time[...]

Playing With Fire


Sure, it was crushing.But this game, unfortunately, was lost on Saturday night.Sure, one might say that the Mets squandered the lead twice in this game – and that it's hard to lambaste the team when the starting pitcher went fewer than five innings because of an injury – but this one was really over Saturday night.You might remember Saturday night's - well, maybe Sunday morning's - Mets game, a 14-inning thriller chock full of comebacks, contributions from journeymen, and guys on base (even if the Mets couldn't drive them in.) They lost, 10-8, to the Cardinals, when a dog-tired Aaron Heilman served up a two-run shot in the top of the 14th to Albert Pujols. He's good.That game, in which the starter, Brandon Knight, only went five innings, really set the tone for tonight's matchup. For, you see, that game taxed the Mets' most effective reliever of late, oddly enough Aaron Heilman (in fact, this space hammered him for an almost identical incident last year).Heilman, with Duaner Sanchez's arm acting like it's in a Miami cab, Pedro Feliciano turning into a rancid pumpkin (in July, batters have been hitting .409 against him, and he's already served up more homers this year than he has in either of the past two), and Joe Smith and Scott Schoeneweis only ROOGY and LOOGY at their bests, and Carlos Muniz and Willie Collazo being Carlos Muniz and Willie Collazo is now this pen's non-Wagner ace, or N.W.A. (I am sure I am the only one who finds this joke funny.)Heilman, though, was treated on Saturday like Darren Oliver in 2006, or Aaron Sele of 2007 - he was the LONG MAN. And as the LONG MAN, one takes a pounding, knowing that he will not be called upon to pitch night after night. This individual may even have more than a week between appearances - which is not a bad thing, given that the infrequency of work for a long man means that starters are going deep into ballgames and that the Mets are taking care of things in regulation.It's not hard to notice, though, that this bullpen, under Jerry Manuel, has contained no such figure. There are two situational pitchers, a closer with an iffy shoulder who occasionally has trouble controlling his slider and his mouth, a righty who spent more than a year out of baseball and is trying to find his gas, a lefty who appears to have hit some sort of wall after two years of nonstop contributions, and the warm body who knows the MSY (N'Awlins Airport) to LGA flight quite well. There is no once-great (or, well, for Sele and Oliver, once-average) starter who occasionally will be asked to make a pseudo-start if the game goes into extras or a starter can't give the team much.Let me reiterate: this team has no long reliever.Now, I titled this missive "Playing With Fire" because I do not believe this has to be the case. Jerry Manuel could, quite easily, designate Carlos Muniz his long man. Muniz would not make brief appearances early in ballgames, as he has been doing of late, only to give back leads. I know it hurts, Carlos, but it's something vaguely resembling the truth.But would you believe me if I told you that Muniz, who has allegedly been the long man this season, has made no appearances of more than two innings? Not one.Jorge Sosa, who was supposed to fill that role - before being released, made only one such appearance, in the second game of the season! Tony Armas, who might have been that player, made two appearances of less than two innings before being placed on the DL. Claudio Vargas, who was something of a long man, made two appearances of more than two innings - including one of great success after Ollie Perez's meltdown in San Fran. He, along with Nelson Figueroa - another potential longman, currently toils at AAA. Maybe Willie Collazo, currently on the roster due to Pedro Martinez's bereavement leave, could even be a long man.Although not one of these men would likely contribute in the way that Oliver did while filling that role in 2006, any one of [...]



The Mets' acquisition of Johan Santana was largely symbolic.Sure, there was that whole acquiring arguably the best pitcher in baseball thing - but in looking at how the Santana trade was viewed by Mets fans and pressfolk - it was a symbolic trade.Johan going to the Mets, rather than the Red Sox or Yankees? Symbolic - there's a new sheriff in town.Omar Minaya nabbing Johan with dogged persistence, and doing so without giving up Fernando Martinez or Mike Pelfrey? Symbolic - in him we had lost confidence after fumbling away Brian Bannister and an entire relief corps; now, it was In Omar We Trust all over again.The Mets managing to get a negotiating window with Santana, and then signing him to that big deal? Symbolic - big-money signings since the Minaya regime came into power notwithstanding, there were still some who complained that the Wilpons were not willing to open up their checkbook, and there they were inking an elite pitcher to a big money, long term deal.So, why, then, is Johan still treated like a symbol?Sure, I know they won (handily), and everything, making them 15-4 in their last 19 and giving them some momentum heading into the Dolphin Tank, but there was something not to like about Johan today.He pitched great, having exceptional pitch economy while limiting hits for the first chunk of the ballgame. It looked, for a while, like he would have more hits than he gave up.But then Santana started to run out of gas in the seventh - the Mets were up by plenty, and he served up a near homer to Ryan Ludwick before serving up an actual homer to Phat Albert. It was fine, he set the Cardinals down in the eighth. His day should have been over.What is that, you say? Contrarianism? How dare you?Johan Santana went out and pitched the ninth inning. He finished it, gave up some hits in that inning, and gathered his final out on the 118th pitch of the day. He had retired 27 batters in one game, the highest total posted since Oliver Perez's immortal second-half of a doubleheader showing against Atlanta in September 2006. (Dave Williams had started the first game. He was better than Ollie then.)But he threw too many pitches doing it. It's one thing to ask someone to throw that many pitches in a playoff game, or even in a close game, where the gassed starter is a much better option than the reliever likely to get the call.It's quite another when the Mets have six and a half more years of Santana, at a steep price, and are up by seven runs on the Cardinals in bad weather. Willie Collazo, no matter how much he is Willie Collazo, easily could have pitched the ninth en route to a painless victory.This victory won't be painless, though. Johan's more likely to be injured now than he was before this start, and it doesn't help that his velocity dropped after a non-taxing season in Minnesota last year. Sure, his number of pitches per start is roughly the same as it has been for the last few years, but that, according to most research done on the topic, isn't the health risk.Johan has thrown or exceeded 110 pitches in a start eight times this season. In his previous full seasons as a starter, he has done the same this many times:2007: 62006: 42005: 62004: 7We're not even into August, and Santana has extended himself more in starts than ever before. Today, the reason for doing this was wholly symbolic. The game was won, and the taxed bullpen had relief, even if it happened to come in the form of Willie Collazo (though the bullpen would have preferred a suppository.)Baseball Prospectus found Johan Santana to be the 26th most-abused starter in baseball, measured by total Pitcher Abuse Points. Imagine what happens in the wake of this effort.The Mets aren't stupid - Santana, in fact, is the only Met pitcher in the top 30, while noted crusty ol' baseball men like Lou Piniella and Charlie Manuel each have two pitchers in the top 15 (is it any wonder Carlos Zambrano always seems to have [...]

Was There Any Doubt?


It's the bottom of the eighth inning in the All-Star Game. Home field advantage is at stake.

Was there any doubt who would give back the NL lead?

None whatsoever.

Billy "Big-Game" Wagner is your once and future culprit. Get used to this, if you weren't already.

"They Win the Fuckin' Thing!"


(image) In the words of Bob Murphy... wait, did I mishear him?



Pedro Martinez isn't the Mets' ace, anymore. That title, for the foreseeable future, belongs to Johan Santana, although an old friend is making waves across town.But he can pitch like it tonight.Pedro was really only the Mets' ace for that woefully underrated 2005 season, where he wowed stat folks (a ridiculous .949 WHIP) and goofy old traditionalists (4 complete games) in the way only he could. By 2006, his hip was cranky, and then his shoulder exploded - and we grew to love an aceless club.2007 was lost, for the most part, and 2008 has been Pedro's worst showing to date, with really very few mitigating factors. He's not striking anyone out, he's walking well more than usual, giving up more hits, and more home runs than ever before.Really, the only thing that could make us have any faith in Pedro is that he's been throwing hard - harder than last year, certainly, and harder than much of his brief 2006 work.And, well, that he's Pedro. Armed with freakishly long fingers, and at various times a (now deceased) pint-sized Dominican horror film actor, at left, a Jheri-curl, and roosters to cockfight with Juan Marichal - he has managed to be perhaps the most dominant pitcher in the history of baseball, leading everyone in ERA+ (a park-adjusted, league-adjusted figure).Now, tonight, he takes the hill for the Mets in what, regrettably, is a very serious game. We don't like playing serious games this early in the season, but when a team has been as disappointing as this club has, sometimes it's necessary.Pedro has a checkered past in these matches: one might remember his six no-hit relief innings to clinch the 1999 ALDS, or perhaps his start in early April 2005, with the Mets 0-5 and facing John Smoltz in Atlanta: 9 innings, 2 hits, 1 run, 9 strikeouts.But an anti-Pedro pundit might offer his eighth-inning meltdown against the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS - although it's primarily blamed on Grady Little, Pedro gave back a three-run lead with a chance to clinch a World Series spot for the Sox.And hell, Pedro is now physically nowhere near the pitcher he was in any of those games. His stuff has changed, too: more cutters, more sliders, fewer curveballs. And Pedro's cutter has recently appeared to be a special variety: the meatball cutter.But then again, he's Pedro. He still has the ability to power this team, due to his still quite good repertoire, and his fearlessness on the mound. Tonight will be his first test - as this game is far more important than a rainy affair against the Cardinals. The Cardinals don't matter. They won't be an obstacle to the Mets' postseason chances (though given their 2006 comeback and Joel Pineiro's 2007 stunner, maybe I'll eat my words), while the Phillies, moreso than any other club, ought to be.Tonight, Pedro, slayer of demons, faces Adam Eaton, slayer of Mets. Eaton is 5-0 career against the Mets, with an ERA against them a run and a half below his career average.The Mets won with Eaton on the hill in April, in a twelve-inning affair, but lost to him a few weeks later (despite his poor performance: 4 runs in 5 innings).It may appear to be just another early-July game against the Phillies, one that the Mets can lose and still split the series, but we all know it's far more pivotal than that. The Mets, with a win, can push themselves over .500. And, sure, momentum might be overrated, but who wouldn't want to be winners of three straight with the Rockies and Giants coming to town before the break? Those teams are a combined thirty games under .500.So here's to Pedro being Pedro. We all know what he can do - now it's time to see it.-------------Some Notes/Links:David Wright is trailing in the Final Vote for the All-Star Game. Trailing Corey Hart. I quit.Ryan Church has a headache. Uh-oh.Mike Lupica gets it about Jose Reyes and Captain Clutch. But guess whi[...]

The Players Can Suck It


(image) All-Star Voting really isn't meaningful. I know that. And the Mets have been the beneficiary of some generous fan voting in recent years.

But the most recent selections are a disgusting travesty. And the guys to the right are pissed off (or should be).

Not only are Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano starting outfielders (Soriano ranks ninth among NL left fielders! in VORP, and Fukudome ranks seventh among NL right fielders! in VORP), but Miguel Tejada (8th among all NL shortstops in VORP) is making an appearance on the team as a reserve over the much more deserving Jose Reyes, Rafael Furcal, and (DARE I SAY IT!) Jimmy Rollins.

Aramis Ramirez ranks third at third in the NL in VORP, but some Met who ranks second by a wide margin (both in front of Ramirez and behind Larry Jones) has to make the team via the fan vote.

Ryan Ludwick, who, as we recently saw him in St. Louis, is now in an outfield platoon, made the team over a much more deserving Pat Burrell, Jason Bay and Xavier Nady. (what's in that water in Pittsburgh?) And, yes, I could talk about Cristian Guzman making the team, but as the only National, we'll cut him some slack.

And onto the pitching staff, where more travesties abound.

Some fellow named Johan Santana ranks ninth among NL starting pitchers in VORP (better than Ryan Dempster, who's 13th, but still on the team, and the sixteenth-ranked Brandon Webb, who's been struggling mightily lately.) Non-pick Tim Hudson ranks seventh and also has a legitimate gripe.

In the relief pitcher selection, the Mets were unnecessarily rewarded - Wagner should not have been selected as the token Met. He ranks 26th among NL relievers in WXRL, a stat measuring how many wins a reliever is worth over a replacement level player, smack-dab between Tyler Walker and the equally overrated Jose Valverde.

EDIT (7:47 PM): He also really, really, really sucks. Like, a lot. He really sucks.

Brad Lidge ranks first, and made the team. San Fran's Brian Wilson ranks second, and also joined the club. Kerry Wood? Well, he ranks 22nd.

If one knows me at all, it's pretty easy to discern that I'm not a huge fan of the Cubs, how their players perpetually receive undue adulation. That's the case again this year. The team is good - but the individual players that comprise it really aren't all that great.

The Cubs win because the team lacks a great weakness - replacement level hacks are by and large no longer eating up plenty of innings (Ronny Cedeno, anyone?) – and not because of all their stellar individual contributors.

So the MLB players who voted for all of those Cubs? They can suck it. Clint Hurdle can suck it too. (Unless, of course, he brings some Mets onto the team as replacements.)

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow


This blog is mostly used for whining about the Mets. And it's July, and there's plenty to whine about. But allow me to say goodbye to Jaromir Jagr, easily one of the most important players in the history of the New York Rangers, an Original Six team lacking a recent dynasty or long list of elite players.More importantly for me, too young to be aware of the 1994 Cup, I rooted for the Rangers despite the fact that they were nearly the Yankees of hockey, minus the postseason success. Beginning with Gretzky's penultimate season, the team didn't make a playoff appearance for seven straight years, despite all of the great stars appearing on Broadway (limited run only!): John Muckler (behind the bench), Pat LaFontaine, Mike Knuble, Mathieu Schneider, Petr Nedved, Theo Fleury, Valeri Kamensky, Alexandre Daigle, Mark Messier (Part II), Eric Lindros, Vladimir Malakhov, Bryan Berard, Pavel Bure, Martin Rucinsky, Tom Poti, Bobby Holik, Alex Kovaley (Part II), Greg De Vries, Boris Mironov and Anson Carter.I list Carter last, because on January 24, 2004, the Rangers acquired Jaromir Jagr and cash from the Capitals in exchange for Carter, and that's where the Rangers' luck began to change. The acquisition of Jagr seemed somewhat predictable for the Rangers, a team that had tried to add as many talented players as possible, no matter the chemistry between them, no matter their disinclination to play defense, no matter their large salaries – and failed to attend to the pressing matters of defense and goaltending (Mike Dunham was the netminder for that '03-'04 team; Dale Purinton managed to log 40 games).But Jagr was different. All of the players the Rangers had previously acquired were a notch below elite, had some mitigating factor that made them so easy to acquire: Lindros' concussions, Fleury's love of drugs, Bure's knees. And there were, it seems, some knocks on Jagr - he was a bit of a diva, perhaps had some gambling problems, and had seemed to quit while Washington aggressively tried to trade him.But he came to the Rangers, soon to be coached by Tom Renney (after Glen Sather decided he didn't want the bench), and the fallen superstar seemed to find his way. Nearly the entire team was shipped off within a few months (save for Messier and Holik), but Jagr still managed some sort of success in that lost season: 15 goals and 14 assists in 31 games.And with that, the team took to the lockout, and Jagr became acquainted with a lovely little Siberian outlet named Avangard Omsk, after 17 games with the Czech team Kladno, owned by his father (Jaromir Sr.), where he posted 28 points in 17 games. Omsk GM Anatoly Bardin, who I imagine looks like this fellow on my right, would become a central figure in engineering Jagr's departure from New York, using a mixture of dogged pursuit, Alexei Cherepanov, and (I imagine) polonium to eventually lure the erstwhile superstar to the permafrost.But Jagr's departure is certainly not the most important element of his Rangers tenure.What was, though, was the post-lockout season. The Rangers had been reshaped, but at the same time, evidently decimated. They were heading into the season with Jagr as the lone star - flanked only by veterans Martin Straka and Michael Nylander, who had become the team's top pivot after Bobby Holik was bought out. The rest of the forward corps included Marian Hossa's little brother, Marcel, Steve Rucchin, Martin Rucinsky, Ville Nieminen, Jasons Ward and Strudwick, and the Hollweg-Moore-Ortmeyer unit.The team was to be backstopped by Kevin Weekes.I remember opening night 2005. Even though I was at school in Massachusetts, I tuned into the game - hoping to see what the new OLN coverage was like, and trying to see the first game of what would undoubtedly be an 0-82 season. Where were th[...]



The Mets had plenty of opportunities tonight, in what seemed to be an unfortunate redux of various parts of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons.You can take Willie Randolph out of the clubhouse, but it still doesn't mean the Mets can hit a rookie left-hander. J.A. Happ didn't pitch all that well tonight, but one would not have been surprised to see the name "Kuo" on the back of his jersey.But unlike previous clashes with the untested - and therefore, in Metland, dominant - rookie lefthanders, the Mets had Johan Santana on the mound, who this year has been a living testament to the irrelevance of wins and losses as a pitching statistic.Santana pitched well. He pitched like Johan Santana was supposed to pitch, cruising through the Phillies' lineup, save for an unfortunate sixth inning (it happens).The one gripe about Santana comes from the Mets' fifth - the big inning by the wayside. The Mets had the bases loaded, no one out, when Johan, he of the .200/.224/.308 career line (it's better than Marlon Anderson's 2008 campaign), came up to the plate. Johan's bat would be the Mets' secret weapon, allegedly, acquired in the trade with the Twins.And he looked pretty good - working a 2-0 count from Happ, with nowhere to be put. Then he swung at a bad pitch, probably a ball. Then he swung at another bad pitch. 2-2. Then he popped it up in foul ground.This was disappointing. While it came from a pitcher, the Mets ought to know that if the previous batter just walked, and the count is 2-0, one ought to take a pitch. Maybe even another. So up came Reyes, he of the first inning appearance at third base with less than two outs (but not scoring), and he grounded out, earning the team a solitary run. Then Endy walked, and then Wright walked, driving in a run.And then in came the scariest force of them all: Chad Durbin. No, not J.D. Durbin, who pitched for the Phillies last year (and beat Brian Lawrence in a fateful clash in August) but Chad Durbin, he of the 5.38 career ERA, and no relation to J.D.The Mets, as they did last year, forced us to durb our enthusiasm. Beltran whiffed, Santana gave the lead back in the sixth, after Durbin struck out the side in the top of the inning and then two of three in the next frame.Chad Durbin's line: 2.1 innings pitched, seven batters faced, six strikeouts, no hits or walks allowed.Santana held the Phillies down for the seventh and eighth, while Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge did the same to Mets hitters in the eighth and ninth (a five-pitch inning for Lidge!). And we all know what Duaner did.This game was not a crushing loss, as far as walk-offs go. The Mets lost with their set-up man on the hill, not Wagner. They weren't beaten by Rollins, Howard, or Burrell, but by Pedro Feliz and the Flyin' Hawaiian.More than crushing, it was frustrating. The Mets' big, scary bats (Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Delgado) were on base twice: Wright walked once, as did Reyes. Beltran and Delgado combined for nothing but five strikeouts. Who knows, maybe it was an act of silent protest for Puerto Rican independence while Americans in the fifty states set off enough explosives to carpetbomb Greenland.But this game was frustrating, as this team has been. Losing to the Cardinals with Carlos Muniz on the mound was frustrating, as was this. The Mets are playing seemingly sound baseball, and are winning almost every other game. But what's astonishing is that their wins lately have been romps, not nailbiters - while their two most recent losses have been via the walk-off.Save for Maine's dead-arm loss to the Cardinals on Monday, the Mets have lost every loss in the last week by one run. Maybe it's a small sample size, but it's indicative of this team's inability to cash in on their opportunities, however limited the[...]



(image) You know Troy Glaus and Rick Ankiel - at least one of whom is pictured to the right - used steroids, right?

I think that's all I have to say.

And, oh, wait a second - was CARLOS MUÑIZ pitching the ninth inning of a tie ballgame?

Yes, I believe he was, with a predictable result.

Now that's all I have to say.



I really wanted to write a wrap-up of last night's game. Something scathing.But, the Mets lost to a pitcher named Dickey (perhaps my relative), and started a team (with the highest payroll in the National League) that included Trot Nixon, Endy Chavez, Fernando Tatis and noted stiff in '08 Oliver Perez. This is the baseball equivalent of an NFL Europa team.And to be fair, I don't much care for that Castillo fellow. He really plays poor baseball. Maybe it's the injuries, but it seems like he's just surly, has the ego of a great player, and doesn't really play like one.Good thing he's gone at the end of the year – oh, wait, 2009 – no, sorry, 2010 – scratch that, he'll be off our hands come 2011.But I guess what possesses me today are the fires stoked by The Worst Beat Reporter in Town, Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post, and his fixation on Jerry Manuel's fertilizer comment.As a fan of metaphor, my instinct was to applaud Manuel. His point was that booing can be good for growth – makes sense – and, unfortunately, like fertilizer, it stinks. Fertilizer is not a pleasant thing - but it's ultimately essential in growth.That was his point.Hubbuch, though, takes a strange series of potshots on his blog today, and calls out Daily News counterpart Adam Rubin as well as bloggers.Normally, I enjoy the curmudgeonly Post-folk. The hockey fan in me finds all of Larry Brooks' stuff, despite his incredibly dour demeanor, must-read, while the same goes for Peter Vecsey's basketball work and Phil Mushnick's writing on sports media. All these guys do is bitch and moan – just look at their pictures, for the sake of a snap judgment –but their content is pretty good.Hubbuch, however, seems to have taken the Post's sports journalism, which, unlike its news content, had been palatable (bordering on informative!), to a new low. Perhaps the press would be right in cracking jokes about Manuel's fertilizer comment, reminding him of it every so often, making a few feces punch lines in the press.Instead, Hubbuch, perhaps full of sulfites, dumped a boatload of nitrates on his readership. Or, for those of you without doctorates in chemistry, a truckload of shit.So, I'll say this again, in the wake of last night's amusing ejection, I love Jerry Manuel. I'm not sure if this AAA team will be able to play well under him – my guess is they can, and probably will – but he's said more interesting things in his week here than Willie did in his entire tenure – though his comment about Shingo Takatsu bringing the funk to Miguel Cabrera (to the tune of Parliament's "A Three-Run Double) will always warm my heart.Hubbuch, on the other hand, should know his place – can we get him in touch with Jared Paul Stern and Ian Spiegelman? I imagine they could write some mean sports gossip together.Some other notes:I'm sure you all heard, but Claudio Vargas was demoted for Carlos Muniz after last night's game. That's funny – I was going to call him the Mets' worst long man since Aaron Sele.John Maine goes tonight against Miguel Batista, 7:10 p.m. your start, as usual. If we're taking odds on this one, Maine will throw 145 pitches in 5 innings, and Batista will throw 45 in a complete game shutout.[...]



It's been a while since I've written down my thoughts about this team. It's been a while, really, since I took the time to sit down and think about this team, for whatever reason. In between laughing about how Moises can't stay healthy for six innings straight and then laughing some more about how six innings is, oh, infinity times better than what El Duque has pitched this year, it's hard to really reflect on what has been plaguing the Mets. And in sitting and reflecting, wouldn't I be vindicating their effort this year (I know it's baseball, where intangibles and hustle are made-up terms to make David Eckstein an All-Star and Derek Jeter the best player ever, but come on) by proffering more time to their failures than they have?But that was until the renaissance. Maybe it's too early to dub the Jerry Manuel era the renaissance – after all, one could have called the Victor Zambrano era a great success by the second game of his Mets career (he went seven innings, didn't allow an earned run, and was buoyed by an offense that featured Ice Williams leading off, Joe McEwing in the two hole, and Todd Zeile batting third – laugh with me), but I'm going to do it anyway.Already, in two days, Manuel has endeared himself to me much more than Willie did in his two plus years here, what with his references to "cutting" Jose Reyes on the field, and his shouting match with home plate umpire Doug Eddings tonight. Willie was a product of the Yankee system (mostly Torre's tutelage), and was stoic, afraid to ruffle any feathers and often bordering on dour in his news conferences.Jerry Manuel, on the other hand, brings the renaissance. Sure, there was Tuesday night's game (I might call it Wednesday morning's, but Omar Minaya would, in broken phrase, tell me that that was just a matter of perception), which was an abomination of the highest degree, but the team was tired – probably spent the entire night partying because Willie was gone – and just didn't have it.Tonight, however, they were anything but exhausted. Reyes looked like the kid we remembered in 2006 – sprinting his way around the bases, scoring three of the Mets' five runs (and he simply couldn't have scored the others, because they were solo homers). Delgado woke up and crushed a ball for his tenth homer of the year – after the news broke that a veteran player, wonder who it could be, told Willie earlier this year that he would outlast the manager – maybe Manuel is capable of waking him up.And most importantly, they came back. Oliver Perez, as per usual, was bitten by a bad inning, but unlike the usual, pitched well enough to survive, and keep the Mets in the game. Before I finish – a tangent, if you would indulge me. Why is it that people, including our SNY broadcasters, consistently praise this Angels style of baseball? Sure, taking an extra base once in a while is all well and good, but they scored four runs in the inning before this doozy of a double play: 5-2-4-6-5. The play was relatively simple: there was one out, with men on the corners, and Robb Quinlan hit a bouncing ball to third. Making a play at second would have been difficult for Wright (with the moderately speedy Torii Hunter at first) and throwing to first, across the diamond and across his body, would have been similarly difficult.Instead, the now slow-footed Vladimir Guerrero breaks home, and Wright throws him out, and then Hunter, hoping to catch Castro napping (I know he's on the West Coast and has trouble with his time zones, but he won't often be napping during a night game) breaks for third, where he is forced out after a string of throws. So instead of possibly having the bases loaded [...]

Some Picks on Opening Day


Hi there.

While substantiation is being constantly thought up, I wanted to get my season picks on record, right here, right now.

NL East: Mets
NL Central: Reds
NL West: Diamondbacks

Wild Card: Phillies

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Mariners

Wild Card: Tigers

WORLD SERIES: Indians over Mets

AL MVP: Manny Ramirez
NL MVP: David Wright

AL Cy Young: Erik Bedard
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana

It's Back


I doubt anyone reads this thing anymore. Why would they? I haven't written since the Mitchell Report came out – and in that time, we watched, as expected, the vindication of Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds, all of whom have now been fully exonerated of any wrongdoing and have graced us extensively with their presence on the baseball diamond during Spring Training.For the record, Andy Pettitte's made three starts. That's it. Last we've heard of Clemens and Bonds was on Capitol Hill and the ongoing BALCO trial, respectively. But I'm not here to talk about the past – all the things I've missed, like the Mets' trade for Johan Santana or the rise of Angel Pagan (previously dubbed, in this space, Oxymoron-in-Chief).No, I don't want to talk about Brian Register and Steve Stokes, Jon Parnell and Bobby Niese, or Ivan Figueroa and Nelson Maldonaldo. Or is it the other way around?Yes, it's Spring, where those numbers we're used to seeing affixed to the backs of mediocre Jets make their way onto the baseball diamond, now on the backs of kids who live the glamorous lives of minor league pro athletes – taking buses from Binghamton to other cities in the Northeast and staying in motels there. Cities like Akron, Altoona, Harrisburg, New Britain, somebody stop me before I drop my computer and head for the most exciting road trip of my life.Even though we're not here to talk about the past, the past has somehow made an appearance on the Mets, as Omar Minaya's attempt to assemble a 1998 All-Star Team has broken down, thanks to your usual sports injuries, like hernias and bunions. Just kidding about the All-Star Team – 1998 was El Duque's rookie season, weirdly his best in the major leagues, though perhaps not weirdly, since he celebrated his 39th birthday on the raft to the Bronx. But hey, think about the Mets that were All-Stars during that season. Pedro Martinez, Moises Alou, Damion Easley. And had the Mets not so rudely cast them off after last season, Tom Glavine and Aaron Sele would be on that list!This team is pretty old. But not the good old, where you talk about all of the rings and whatnot they've amassed, where the elderly provide sagelike wisdom and key advice on the way to championships – all hail Luis Sojo – but rather these are the cranky veterans, who do things like pee on their hands, arbitrarily refuse to join the bullpen and bring years of a winning tradition to Flushing – think about Blue Jays stalwart Carlos Delgado, Tiger legend Easley, and career Expo/Nat Brian Schneider.Sure, maybe the Mets are on the hunt for talent blackballed because of the age of the body in which it resides, but when we hear that Moises Alou is out with a strained prostate come the pennant race, one would hope that strategy is reconsidered for future years.But there is something charmingly old and decrepit about this Mets club. They're playing the final season ever in Shea Stadium. This is especially significant for El Duque, whose son was one of the lead architects on the project during its construction in 1963.This is Shea's last chance, in a way. Two World Series have been won on its grounds, but it has seen far more playoff hearts broken by the likes of Yadier Molina, and, well, yes, Luis Sojo than it has great triumphs. This isn't just the last go-round for Shea, it's the last chance for folks like Moises, El Duque, Easley, Jose Valentin and maybe even Pedro Martinez and Carlos Delgado, both battle-worn and signed to contracts expiring after this year. Oliver Perez is a free agent after this year, and is represented by Scott Boras – thanks for your serv[...]

Which is "The Steroids Era" in a nutshell?





your call.



(image) What's this I hear?

The Mets acquired a living, breathing human being for Guillermo Mota?

That Guillermo Mota?

And even better?

The living, breathing thing is Johnny Estrada: a former All-Star catcher at age 31.

He may have only walked 12 times last year – but his 2.3 WARP3 easily bests Mota's .9.

More later.

A Return


It's been 48 days since I last spoke to you. Since that fateful day, there have been many tears shed, many culprits named, many pitchers who weren't devastated.But there have been no Mets wins.Sure, we saw some life out of favorite whipping boy Kaz Matsui – who has been offered a three-year deal by the Chicago Cubs – during the playoffs, en route to a surprising show from the Colorado Rockies.But it was all about the Red Sox: forget the Phillies, the Yankees, all the teams about whom, as Mets fans, we once cared.The season is long since over, and the offseason is kicking into gear. Sure, we won't have hours and hours to agonize about the fate of Alex Rodriguez – and whether David Wright will move to second base, first base or left field, and we most likely won't spend our time thinking about what will happen should the Mets sign A-Rod and send Jose Reyes to Minnesota for Johan Santana.We won't be thinking about obtaining hot trade commodities like Jake Peavy, who unanimously won a Cy Young Award earlier this week, Santana, or Miguel Cabrera, who, along with his apathy and exponentially growing waistline, is allegedly up for grabs.Jorge Posada is gone, having returned to the Yanks for top dollar, and the fate of Tom Glavine as a New York Met – who was referenced, not by name, but by a wretched image, in my last post – seems to be resolved. The Mets don't really have any tremendous needs. Right field is open, perhaps for Carlos Gomez, or Lastings Milledge, and for second base the Mets seem to be torn between David Eckstein and incumbent Luis Castillo – a combined 19 big-league seasons and 54 home runs.Hope springs eternal in Flushing, and there are some things to be excited about: David Wright won a Gold Glove, Pedro Martinez was sterling after coming back, and even Mike Pelfrey started to emerge anew as a potential member of the starting rotation. John Maine threw a near no-no to keep the season alive. What great news!We've heard the bad – save for that Brian Bannister, acquired for Ambiorix Burgos, who makes Armando Benitez look like is Armando Benitez, came in third in the voting for AL Rookie of the Year as the ace of the KC Royals. Good thing we had such a surplus of young and capable starting pitching, like Brian Lawrence.And we were perplexed this week to learn of the strange saga of Yorvit Torrealba.You may ask "Why?" or "Who?" or "Are there any peanuts in it?"We heard three years, $14 million. Then it was gone. His shoulder they suggest, but we can't tell for sure.Is Ramon Castro the future? Not unless the future includes half of its days lost to injury, solely for being out of shape.Now would be a nice time to have Jesus Flores, who will backstop Manny Acta's Washington Nationals to glory in the near future, while the Mets twiddle their thumbs trying to avoid calling Jason Phillips' agent.They can't. The catching situation is bad: maybe the Mets will go after Jason Kendall, whose 63 OPS+ would really buoy the team, or maybe they should sign Michael Barrett in hopes of nabbing a true clubhouse leader.Did you know Kris Benson is a free agent? Sign me up. When Carlos Silva (CARLOS SILVA?!) is slated to earn nearly $40 million in a contract, doesn't the prospect of Kris playing for damn near free sound appealing to you? That's a return – unlike mine – that we can all feel happy about.Enjoy your Thanksgiving.[...]



to quote radiohead,

You do it to yourself, you do
And that's what really hurts
Is that you do it to yourself
Just you and no-one else
You do it to yourself.

the stench of death is in the air



Scarred and Scared


Please ignore my last post.

The cruel joke appears to be over, but another win might help.

I'll be back writing regularly when I stop sweating.

Smooth Sailing


(image) You may have been wondering why I haven't joined you in this space of late. You're probably all the better for it, and I have ridden myself of nearly all anxiety regarding the Mets, except a nasty rash that breaks out when Guillermo Mota's "I Like to Move it Move it" song plays over the Shea sound system.

The team has entrenched themselves as increasingly infallible. I didn't think I'd be saying this after the sweep against the Phillies, after the Braves were the Mets' kryptonite this year, and after the entire starting pitching staff and bullpen looked to be on the brink of collapse.

But the Magic Number is 11... it's possible to count it on Antonio Alfonseca's fingers. That's always a good sign.

And I don't think a comeback for anyone is on the way: after three games against the hated "Team to Beat," the Mets play six against the Nationals and seven against the Marlins alongside one against the Cardinals to close out the season. That's a game every day, and you can bet the Mets will be sending out the big guns: Conine, Gotay, Endy, Carlos Gomez, and maybe even Anderson Hernandez will take the field for some meaningless games in September.

Once the Phillies are dead and gone (the Braves are practically there already), the Mets can relax and set the yacht to auto-pilot. Moises can lay on the beach, glove extended, provided he doesn't strain anything. Pedro can find a Dominican dwarf-horror film actor to carry around.

It's smooth sailing until October.