Tuesday, November 29, 2005

From The Desk Of Metstradamus

Dear Omar,

Thank you for your kind note regarding Billy Wagner. I am appreciative of the fact that you take the time to drop me a note regardless of the fact that the good news reaches me through many television and print outlets. The personal touch impresses me greatly.

Omar, many media outlets and fans have been wondering and asking you "what's next?" I'm sure that it gets old after a while, and takes valuable time away from your twelve month a year job as Mets GM. Besides, I'm not even sure you know what's next...I mean with all that's been going on, and all the meals you've missed (including Thanksgiving), your bearings might not be about you at this point.

Well don't despair. Because as I am the great soothsayer of all things Met baseball, I am here to point you in the right direction and give you guidance.

As familiar as you are with Mets history I'm sure I don't need to remind you that pitching wins championships. Pitching has certainly won the championships that the Mets have. But for quick reference:

In 1969, a twenty-six year old left-hander went 17-9 with a 2.28 ERA in 241 innings. He also went 2-0 in the World Series, which the Mets won. He won 222 games in his major league career.

In 1973, a twenty-six year old left hander went 12-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 148 innings after pitching for the Atlanta Braves the year before. He also went 2-0 in the World Series that season.

In 1986, a twenty-eight year old left hander went 18-5 with a 2.57 ERA in 217 innings after having an average season the year before in the American League. This pitcher went 2-0 during postseason play, both wins coming with the Mets in a series hole.

In 2000, a twenty-seven year old left hander went 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA in 217 innings after being acquired the season before from Houston. This pitcher went 2-0 in the NLCS to help the Mets get to the World Series before he decided that the school system was better somewhere else.

Of course, I don't need to remind you of the exploits of Jerry Koosman, George Stone, Bob Ojeda, and Mike Hampton. And I don't need to remind you that those seasons featured World Series appearances. That's why I know you'll agree that there's really only one option for you to pursue to help make possible another World Series appearance.

He'll be 28 next season. He's hovered around .500 the last three seasons after winning a Cy Young award in the American League. Acquiring him will reunite him with the pitching coach that helped win him that award. And although you may say that you have enough starting pitching, I say that you can never have enough starting pitching. Nineteen Eighty Six was a romp in the regular season because of starting pitching...because even though the Mets lineup was vastly improved gradually throughout the previous seasons, they took the next step and built a pitching staff superior to every staff in the majors.

And I understand your infatuation with one Manny Ramirez. I mean, who wouldn't be? He's the big bat of all big bats, and he would make the Mets lineup lethal. Not to mention, he would single handedly sell more advertising on that brand spanking new network of yours. I see the temptation.

But if you have learned anything from your 1993 and your 2002 predecessors, you've most assuredly learned that the sexiest baseball decisions aren't always the soundest baseball decisions. And the soundest baseball decision is built for 2006...and the future. And while the team is more than equipped to win the division as is, with the two biggest holes filled, if you feel you must take that next step to bring a world title to Shea Stadium, if you feel that it's time to use that chip named Lastings (although I would explore every option that does not include that chip), well then it's time to go for the gusto.

It's time to get Barry Zito.

Again, thank you for the productive week, and many thanks to you and the organization for continuing to work hard to field a championship-caliber team in 2006.


Executive Director and Creative Enforcer
"The Musings and Prophecies of Metstradamus"

Metsography: The Lost Blogs of 2004 Part One

The first blog on this here site came on April 27th, 2005.

But it wasn't my first blog.

I thought it would be fun to give you some deep insight into my psyche (and hopefully you won't need too much therapy afterwards) after rummaging through some old e-mails and finding some of the musings that I shared only with those in the inner circle back in 2004.

These e-mails would have made great blogs if this site had existed back then, and it would be a shame if these went to waste. So consider these the equivalent of the lost "Honeymooners" episode, or the special edition of 20/20 when Geraldo Rivera opened up Al Capone's vault and found nothing...which is about what Willie Randolph found in the Mets bullpen last season. A bunch of these in a row may make it seem like it's in book form, so we're splitting them up into two parts (which buys me another week before I have to come up with something new!) You're going to need some time to get through all of these.

As you read these, be prerared for anger beyond anything you've ever read. And it's funny that today is the day that these come out...a day which started with Carlos Delgado putting on a jersey that says "Mets" on it, and ended with Billy Wagner getting ready for his first Flushing physical. My Mets state of mind at this very moment is 180 degrees from what it was when I wrote these "blogs". Even when I re-read these I am astonished by the serious issues I had with humanity. I still have them, but thanks to Omar Minaya, they're just in remission. So get ready to re-live the anger and the hate from your own lives through the lost blogs:

First, we go all the way back to October 17th, 2003, after the Aaron Boone home run, in an e-mail entitled "The White Flag":

"I wanted to write a long note about how much my life as a sports fan resembles that of a man who gets locked in a room and beaten and whipped every 20 minutes, and every time he sees a ray of light or an escape route out of that room, somebody thwarts his escape attempt and steps up the beatings.

I wanted to write about such things as Chad Pennington breaking his hand in a preseason game, Eric Lindros knocking the Rangers out of the playoffs in 1997, then joining the Rangers and knocking them out of the playoffs every year since. The Devils winning 3 Cups and being present for the last one. Being present for the Yankees beating the Mets at Shea in 2000. The Giants going to the Super Bowl and costing me money.

But tonight took the cake. Aaron Boone, who went 0 for the ALCS, takes the Yankees to the World Series and as much as it was a great game and allegedly great for baseball, I can't suppress my overwhelming desire to puke.

Tonight convinced me that there is just no hope. Ever. I will never, ever, see a team that I like win a championship ever again. I will never, ever see a curse broken. I'll see lots of teams I HATE win. I'll hear lots of people tell me that they'll root for the enemy because "We'll, they're a New York area team", as if I am going to look at them and say "You know, you're absolutely right!"

The Yankees will beat the Marlins. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees became the first team ever to go down 0-3 and win. There's something they haven't done yet. (Editor's note: Obviously, my prophet skills were starting to take shape at this point, but the visions were a bit fuzzy...I saw the Yankees, and a comeback from 0-3 down. What I didn't see was the Red Sox, or 2004.)

There will be a Giants/Dolphins Super Bowl in my lifetime. Maybe this year. The Dolphins will win.

NHL players will be locked out forever as the league re-forms in Europe. The Paris Devils will then form a dynasty by winning 7 straight Chirac Cups. One year they will beat the Siberia Rangers for the Chirac Cup on an overtime goal by Bobby Holik, who will be traded back to the Devils for a draft pick in the year 2745.

The Jets will go 15-1 one year only to lose in the first round of the playoffs after everybody on the team breaks their leg in seperate car accidents...except for the quarterback who will cut off a finger hedgeclipping with Bobby Ojeda. (Editor's note: I say losing four quarterbacks in one season is close enough, don't you?)

The Mets will move to Portland, Oregon and, only after I disavow them forever, beat Boston to win the World Series. There will be something about a ground ball going through Nomar's legs.

My two future sons, Eric and Lyle, will be Yankees fans. They will see their team win 27 more World Championships. Unfortunately for them, they will eventually be involved in an infamous trial for murder. They will have shot their father in the head with a shotgun after he tells them that Hall of Famer Derek Jeter was overrated.

They'll be acquitted.

I'll be dead.

But until then you will find me in the bathroom. Puking and clogging the toilet.

I'll never learn."
July 3rd, 2004...just two days after the July 1st Yankee/Red Sock game which included the Derek Jeter slip and fall into the stands after making a routine running catch entitled "Why I Hate FOX Sports":

"It's not enough that all day Friday I had to hear non-stop from ESPN what a great and exciting game that Red Sox/Yankees game was on Thursday. I heard that Derek Jeter is the greatest baseball player ever, a living legend, and the greatest American ever to walk the face of the earth. Fine. You would think a Met victory on Friday would stem the Yankee-tide a wee little bit.

That was before I witnessed the birth of a brand new Yankee network.

It was formerly FOX Sports. Today, it re-debuted as WDJN...the Derek Jeter Network. The DJN pregame show with Jeannie Zelasko and Kevin Kennedy (you remember them from when they took turns orally satisfying Jeter after Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS when he flipped a ball 25 feet to the catcher and Jeremy Giambi forgot to slide) giving us a five minute recap of Thursday's game, by this point 36 hours old. And, true to form, Jeannie and Kevin provided us with a "blow by blow" of why Jeter should be president, prime minister, and special ambassador to the U.N. Why? Because Thursday night, Jeter forgot to dive on a pop up, and instead caught it running, took seven steps before hitting his head on the seat like a moron, and messing up his pretty face. It was then, and only then, that this game became an "Instant Classic" (Why? because Michael Kay said so).

So, when Jeannie and Kevin were done, and after we recapped every great play Derek Jeter ever made in the majors, minors, and T-ball league, it was finally time to see highlights from Friday night's games...a perfect opportunity to show us Kaz Matsui's 2 HR's against the mighty Sterlings from the Bronx, right? WRONG!!! Instead, we got White Sox/Cubs and Athletics/Giants highlights. Never would the fine people at WDJN show highlights of, or even REFER TO, a Yankee loss!!!

Then back from break, I sat through a 3 minute reminder of how the Yankees have beaten the Mets 700 times out of 712 in interleague play (at least those were the numbers WDJN presented), and of course the 2000 World Series. Still no mention of Friday's game. Then, to punctuate my hell, into the last commercial, the last picture I see? Derek Jeter's face over fireworks. How utterly American.

So then the game, and in between a poll question asking who the greatest leader EVER is (Derek Jeter, Rudy Guiliani, or Don Corleone), and promos for Tony Clark's upcoming Yankeeography, the Mets won perhaps another instant classic against the Bronx infidels. Too bad if you missed it though. You see, because the Mighty Jeters lost the game, highlights of it will be buried by all the sports networks so that they can present a feature on Derek Jeter's new cookbook entitled "Derek Jeter's Chicken Kiev for Winners" followed by a rebroadcast of the Yankee win over the Red Sox on Thursday.

See, I've learned my lesson. Even if the Mets sweep the Yankees, it doesn't matter. Because they have two networks (YES, and the network formerly known as FOX), and will soon have Randy Johnson to make up for any hurt feelings George will have after losing two or three games to the Mets. Us? We'll trade for Ramon Ortiz and raise the price of water at Shea to $4.50 a pop to pay for his contract. They'll play in the World Series again, we'll listen to Art "I'll fool the Yankees by warming up the right hander, and then bringing in the lefty to force Joe Torre to pinch hit for A SWITCH HITTER" Howe tell us how the Mets battled, and how the ball just didn't bounce their way. They'll air Howe's comments on WDJN.

Thankfully I can change the channel. I think tonight I'll try out the Lakers' new network, ESPN, which now stands for the Earvin, Shaquille, and Phil Network (although Jerry Buss has made a promise to rename it KOBE sports). They are currently in the middle of a riveting 25 part series which tours potential summer homes that Kobe can buy for his wife...just to say "I'm sorry." Jim Gray reports..."
July 31st, after Jim Duquette's deadline deals, entitled "Way to go Kris Benson":

"You cost us half of the farm and you can't even make it to the sixth inning. But hey, at least your wife can now start her modeling career in New York because that's all that really counts anyway (www.annabenson.net).

I can't wait until Victor Zambrano blows out his elbow on his third pitch as a Met and Scott Kazmir becomes the left-handed Nolan Ryan. What happened Mr. Duquette? Jim Fregosi wasn't available? Or does he make too much money?
Here's an idea...perhaps you can trade David Wright for Benson from the hit ABC series of the early 80's. His character obviously worked cheap, and I think you can lock him up for a few years before he DIES!

Speaking of dying, Fred Wilpon you lying sack of s**t, just move the team to Oregon and get it over with you small market psycho...and take your son Paris Hilton with you. Not only is your team old, you're taking years off of MY life. So move to the small market you so desperately crave and give me my freakin' summers back so I can channel my energy into something positive instead of wishing that a big chunk of concrete from Wrigley Field falls on your head!!!!!!

Then maybe we can turn Shea Stadium into something constructive, like an Arby's."

August 12th, after a week-long dispute between Time Warner and Cablevision over Mets games:

"Dear Time Warner,

I am writing to you as a concerned baseball fan about the recent confict between your organization and Cablevision regarding MSG Network, FOX Sports, and Metro Sports.

As you know, for the past week, Mets fans have been shut out of watching their favorite team play baseball in favor of a gray screen telling us that you "went to bat for us". I understand that Cablevision prevented you from legally carring those stations that air Mets baseball, but I also understand that you were making money by offering less money to us as a rebate ($2.00 per month) than Cablevision was asking ($2.90 per month per customer).

It was a pleasant surprise tonight when I flipped on MSG to check on the status of negotiations when Mets baseball graced my screen. I couldn't tell you how happy I was. However, what I saw offended my senses. What I saw made me want to put my head through a wall.

What I saw, was Mets baseball.I saw Matt Ginter give up 3,000 runs in the first inning. I saw Mike Piazza go on the DL with more styles of facial hair in the past month than he has hits. I saw Joe McEwing and Jason Phillips stealing at bats from more deserving 5th graders. I saw Art "Don't Know" Howe manage another game like Enron once managed their books.

This past week, for the first time in a while, I suffered no heart palpitations, had no arguments with my family, and I went a full week without kicking my cat across the room. Then, after my first four innings reunited with Mets baseball, I was cut out of the will, I called 9-1-1 seventeen times, and Fluffy traveled further than a Vance Wilson pop up.

So Time Warner, I ask you, as a concerned citizen, as a cable television consumer, to bring back the blank screen and give us our rebates back.

Cable television has long been accused of being crooks and shysters, only worried about the bottom line. I implore of you as a consumer, to change that perception and give back to the community. Give back $2.00 a month, and give us back our sanity."
Next Week: More "Lost Blogs"

Monday, November 28, 2005

It's Country Time!

Merry Christmas.

Get ready for Country Time (not to be confused with Lima Time) out of the bullpen this season, as the Mets have signed Billy "Country Time" Wagner for 4 years at $43 million, with an $8 million club option.

For those of you who don't think the country boy can pitch in New York, forget it. His interview with Chris Russo and Mike Francesa, where he basically said "F-Larry Bowa" debunks that theory.

No matter what, Omar has done his job. For the first time in years, Mets fans can't argue with the execution of the general manager because he has brought the pieces into place. Now those pieces might fall apart, but at least they're in place to fall apart. He has the power hitter in Carlos Delgado...an acquisition that I have to admit I feel just a little bit better about with each passing day, and now the elite closer in Country Time.

This makes for a potentially interesting e-mail "from the desk of Omar Minaya":
Dear Metstradamus,

The Mets have signed reliever Billy Wagner today to a four year deal.

Take that, N.L. East bitches!

And that's Omar's biggest victory...because not only are the Mets better, but the Phillies and Marlins are screwed!

I knew deep down there was a reason why a friend of mine (Darth Marc) brought back from Citizens Bank Park for me as a souvenier...a Billy Wagner t-shirt. What this means is that if Billy Wagner breaks his ankle walking down the steps in his new Westchester mansion, or perhaps pitches the year with a severe sinus infection after breathing in large amounts of upstate pollen, I know who to blame.

What's scary is that for most teams, Wagner and Delgado would be enough in terms of big ticket items...where the rest of the acquisitions would be of the cheapo "fill a hole" variety. And although the Mets do need to fill holes, the names that still loom as potential Mets are intriguing:

Ramon Hernandez?

Manny Ramirez?

Barry Zito???

But what a great way to kick off Christmas. It's Country Time.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Plan B is a J.

If this is true, then Billy Wagner had better choose Flushing.

If Wagner goes back to Philadelphia, then you could add all the Carlos Delgados and Alfonso Sorianos and Mannys and Zitos and Bengies (oh my!) that you would like. The Mets are not winning the N.L. East without a dominant closer.

Because now, Plan B is shacking up north of the border. And the Mets are perilously close to being up the creek.

Metstradamus Endorses Ramon Hernandez

Has Omar Minaya eaten yet?

Today it is revealed that the very busy Mets GM has offered free agent contracts to both Ramon Hernandez and Bengie Molina, where I assume that whoever signs first wins. Seems like Omar Minaya thinks that the two catchers are equals.

Not quite.

The big question about the catchers is their defense...with Mike Piazza's swinging gate baserunner policy such a hot button issue, this is going to be the biggest question regarding whoever replaces him. Molina holds the clear edge over Hernandez here. In 2005, Molina threw out baserunners at a .313 clip (20 for 64) while Hernandez is .257 (18 for 70) in that category. Hernandez has also been crucified for using the sweep tag instead of blocking home plate in multiple instances during the playoffs in October. But in fairness, he does call a good game, and contribues defensively in ways other than throwing out baserunners, just as Mike Piazza did without receiving enough credit for it.

When it comes to hitting, there's no contest. And that's not because Hernandez's numbers are that much better than Molina, but because Hernandez's numbers fit better with the Mets. Let's assume that Ramon Castro, and his .290 average in 31 AB's against lefties last season remains as the backup. Should your starter also have better numbers against lefties as Bengie Molina does (.393/.430/.648 in 122 AB's vs. lefties in 2005, .253/.294/.361 in 288 ab's vs. righties last season?) or should he be able to hit righties as does Ramon Hernandez (.238/.284/.400 in 80 AB's vs. lefties in 2005, .304/.333/.464 in 289 AB's vs righties last season?)

Then the intangibles. Molina has more big game experience, but also more weight and more years on this earth. To me, that's an edge for Ramon Hernandez.

So the question for you to answer for yourselves is this: Is the ability to throw out baserunners worth having two similar catchers on the roster? To me, Hernandez fits the Mets new slant towards offense, while fitting better with Ramon Castro. Castro will see more time as a defensive replacement and a spot starter against lefthanders with Hernandez in a Mets uniform. With Bengie Molina, there's never a reason to put Castro in the lineup.

Not to say I wouldn't be happy with either/or...but if it's a question between the two, and there's no surprise up Omar's sleeve via a trade, then the endorsement from this website goes to Ramon Hernandez for being a better fit.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Mets, Marlins Trade Again

The Mets, who seized the opportunity to upgrade at first base in response to the Marlins' newest financially related problems, have upgraded again courtesy of Florida for the second time in twenty four hours.

Omar Minaya has bolstered the on field entertainment by acquiring mascot Billy the Marlin. In return the Marlins receive Isiah Kroetz, a backup member of the Pepsi Party Patrol, and Leif Engleby, their top peanut vendor in the left field corner. The Mets will also receive some cash to help pay Billy's salary. The amount must be approved by a joint commission which includes Bud Selig and the San Diego Chicken.

"We are pleased to be able to add a mascot of Billy's calibre to the New York Mets" said Omar Minaya via conference call, "Billy brings endless enthusiasm and and many tools to the table, including a rocket for a water launcher, and one of the longest appendages in the league. We think Billy will be an excellent addition to the Mets organization."

The Mets plan to use Billy the Marlin as the amphibious half of a lethal mascot platoon with long time standout Mr. Met. On paper, it's the strongest mascot tandem in the league. But these with two top flight mascots will be fighting for face time, and there will be questions as to whether the two can work together after their infamous t-shirt launching incident back in 1995.

""Let me make this clear, Mr. Met is still our primary mascot" said Mets C.O.O. Jeff Wilpon "but we have to be careful not to overuse him and diminish his effectiveness. We've actually been looking at mascots around the league as pure backups, but when Florida made their whole team available, acquiring a mascot with the success of Billy the Marlin was an opportunity that frankly, we would have been silly to pass up."

The Marlins, who will immediately make Engleby their main hot dog vendor behind home plate, believe they got as much as they can considering the circumstances.

"We certainly appreciate all of Billy's service to the ball club and we wish him nothing but the best" said Marlins president David Samson, "but in this time of market correction, we can no longer have a payroll higher than our revenues. To that end, we felt that Billy the Marlin was too rich for our blood. For us, Engleby provides some stability behind the plate, and we feel he can make a smooth adjustment from peanuts to hot dogs. As for Kroetz, we liked his versatility and feel that with the smaller crowds in our stadium, he would have a good chance to launch t-shirts to every fan in the house on a given night."

Billy the Marlin, who will be expected to learn the art of the water balloon in the Argentinian mascot winter league to help him negotiate the left field wall at Shea Stadium, expressed mixed emotions at the trade from his beach house in Fort Lauderdale.

Certainly over the last few days I've come to expect this" said Billy, who will legally change his name to Billy the Met over the winter "but it doesn't make it any easier. I spent some great years in South Florida, and a trade can't wipe that out. But I'm looking forward to the challenge of being a mascot in the biggest and best city in the world. I'm looking forward to the different bullpen fung shui as a challenge to develop different methods of soaking opposing relief pitchers. And I feel I could learn a lot backing up Mr. Met. He's a giant in the industry and I'm looking forward to working with him."

The question now is, can Mr. Met work with Billy? Mr. Met couldn't be reached for comment, but team sources expect him to be present during the winter caravan, where he will most likely hold a news conference regarding the acquisition.

Peter Gammons on the deal: "The Marlins originally asked for Cow Bell Man back before the trade deadline in July but Omar Minaya declined. The rumors of a Billy the Marlin-to-New York deal heated up again during the World Series, as Billy had a face to face with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. Billy was upset about the firing of Jack McKeon, but rumors of Billy demanding a trade were untrue. Finally, as the Marlins' decided to cut payroll, Omar Minaya made a midnight phone call to the Marlins, and the deal got done. Chemistry with Mr. Met, and the ability to soak the visitors bullpen over the left field wall will be issues BUT...under as long as Mr. Met understands that he is the primary mascot on this team, then this is going to be a tandem that's going to dominate for a long long time."

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Disclaimer: Any similarities to actual trades, hot dog vendors, Pepsi Party Patrol members, or ESPN Baseball Insiders are purely coincidental...kind of.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Fresh View

All right, so now I'm going to write about the Carlos Delgado trade with a decent amount of sleep, and with a bite or two of food in my stomach. And in response to all of the feedback try to put a neat little bow on this whole thing.

Let's look at the numbers...because that is the bottom line here, right? Here's what Carlos Delgado brings you...his .284 career average would have been second in the Mets everyday lineup in 2005. His .393 career OBP would have led the Mets. A slugging percentage of .559 would have blown any Met regular out of the water, and that's Delgado's career slugging. Carlos in 2005 went .301/.399/.582, besting his career averages, and except for David Wright's .306 average, blows any Met regular out of the water. Although repeating his 2005 numbers would be great, a season which is closer to his career numbers would still be a nice addition to this lineup.

The key of course, as it is with any player starting out with the Mets, is a fast start. His April numbers were good from and avg. (.300) and OBP (.394) standpoint. But he only hit 2 HR's and drove in 10 runs in April. Is that going to be enough to appease Mets fans? Carlos Beltran got a pass from the Shea faithful to start with because of two major factors: Beltran chose to be a Met, and didn't cost the organization young players. Delgado not only cost the Mets their best pitching prospect and their organizational player of the year for 2003, but we all know he didn't want to be here when he had the choice. Combine that with the numbers he's expected to put up, he's going to be on the hot seat from day one. And whatever your beliefs are regarding Delgado's "God Bless America" stand, you have to acknowledge that it's going to be blown out of proportion by the New York media to start...and if Delgado gets off the hop slow, get worse.

Can you fault Omar Minaya for making this deal? In my estimation, absolutely not. My major problem with the deal is with the $7 million. If no money had changed hands, and it was Jacobs and Petit for Delgado, then you can make the case that you're trading two question marks for a sure fire thing and it's what had to be done. But with the Mets extracting $7 million from a team that basically put out the cardboard sign and the tin cup outside of Dolphins Stadium yesterday, it tells me that you could have gotten away with keeping one of the prospects and telling Jeffrey "Angel of Death" Loria to keep his money. And with there being no room for Mike Jacobs with the presence of Delgado anyway (Jake could have caught but it's obvious in the Mets' pursuit of Ramon Hernandez or Bengie Molina that they though of Jacobs as a first baseman exclusively), it tells me that this deal could have been done without parting with Petit. That's important for a team whose youngest starter in their current rotation is 28 (Jae Seo), and who's other two big time pitching prospects are a guy who just had Tommy John surgery (Phil Humber) and a guy who isn't even signed yet (Mike Pelfrey).

But Michael Oliver of The Metropolitans does bring up a good point: The Marlins wouldn't have traded Delgado to a division rival if they were only receiving one prospect. You think those Marlins get roasted now, think how they would be killed if Carlos Delgado only brought back Mike Jacobs. If the Mets were say, the Portland Mets, maybe they could have gotten away with it. But not as the National League Eastern Division New York Mets.

Yes, I would have preferred a younger power hitter like Paul Konerko for first base. I said so here. And here comes the double edged sword: To the best of my recollection, Minaya did talk to Konerko's agent briefly. Minaya had to make a judgment on whether there was a real chance to sign him. Hopefully, Minaya gave Konerko a serious look before deciding that he wasn't going to sign here, as is Konerko's choice, before exploring the Delgado option. Minaya has had to do the same thing with Billy Wagner. If there was no chance that Country Time was going to come to the big city, B.J. Ryan would probably be signed, sealed and delivered by now. If Konerko was interested in the Mets, he would probably be wined and dined just as Wagner is now. But Paul Konerko never gave any indication that he would be interested in playing for New York. And since this offseason represents Konerko's choice, then it behooved Minaya to move on.

But if Yusmeiro Petit is gone because Minaya never gave Konerko a serious look, and only assumed that he would never play here, then that was the wrong play. At this point, we'll never know.

We do know that the Mets lineup is better today than it was yesterday. Minaya had two options: Delgado, or Manny Ramirez. Manny would have cost Lastings Milledge...a chip more valuable than Petit or Jacobs, and maybe both of them combined. The numbers between Delgado and Manny are comparable. So score one for Omar.

We also must acknowledge that cynics like myself have ample reason to feel the way we feel. The Mets have been burned time and time again by seemingly slam dunk acquisitions that have gone awry...George Foster is one. Robby Alomar is another. Bobby Bonilla too. The list goes on and on. People are already putting Carlos Beltran on that list, although Delgado and Beltran could wind up helping each other in 2006. And now, a player who had a chance to come here last season and didn't, and has talked a bit of smack about the organization in the process (Editor's note: for those who haven't seen it yet, Bob Klapisch sheds some light on the problem between Delgado and the Mets, which actually turns out to be a problem between Delgado and Tony Bernazard), threatens entry onto that list.

But the good thing is that once the season starts, Mets fans will never take what a player has done in the past at face value whether it be good or bad. Produce for the Mets, and it's a good trade. Win a championship, and there will be no pining for Mike Jacobs or Yusmeiro Petit. Make the Mets better, and past transgressions regarding Tony Bernazard, "God Bless America", and Omar Minaya's Latin heritage pitches will mean nothing. For example, you hear no complaining from Ranger fans about the fact that Tony Amonte is still enjoying a productive hockey career, while the inferior players he was traded for (Stephane Matteau and Brian Noonan) are long retired. Why? Because Matteau and Noonan came to New York and not only won, but contributed significantly in 1994. Nobody will care in the year 2015 when Carlos Delgado is attending reunion ceremonies while Petit is in the middle of a Cy Young season if the Mets win a title in 2006.

So that's the gauntlet: win. Produce, and win. That's it. And that's what the trade is all about: winning. You can't fault Omar Minaya for that.

Lost In Translation

Carlos Delgado, during last year's contentious free agent negotiations, called Mets' special assistant Tony Bernazard "the highest-paid translator on the planet".

Well now that the Mets have worked out an agreement to trade for Delgado (pending physicals), maybe Bernazard can translate this one for me.

OK, so you have the Florida Marlins, who can't get a new stadium deal, and can't pay for Delgado's or anybody else's contract for that matter, so they make a decision to unload everybody that's expensive.

Now along come the Mets, who not only give up two highly touted prospects (First baseman Mike Jacobs and pitcher Yusmeiro Petit) for him, but they get the Marlins to fork over $7 million to help pay for the contract.

So let's count the things that make no sense, shall we? The Marlins, who are hemorraging money, and have driven down the price of everybody on their team with their "we're looking at other cities because we have no money" announcement, give up a boat load of cash in order to rid themselves of Delgado's contract. The Mets, who have already been skewered in the past by trading a top flight pitching prospect to get a washed up middle reliever, choose the $7 million dollars over keeping either Jacobs or Petit to get a guy who didn't choose the Mets when he had the chance.

And that's key here...because the Mets have had a history of bringing in players, be it through trade or free agency, that have been horrible fits for New York. Bobby Bonilla was one. Robby Alomar was another. I remember thinking what a great deal the Mets pulled off for Alomar when I heard quotes from him on WFAN. Not once during Alomar's initial comments after becoming a Met included one statement about playing for the Mets, or what he was looking forward to. Every single thing out of Alomar's mouth was about Cleveland...how they lied to him...how he wanted to stay...and so on. That was the first sign that Robby Alomar wasn't going to work. This is going to be key as the first quotes eminates from Delgado's mouth about this whole thing...about last year's negotiations, about everything.

Now it's not all bad. After all, Delgado is the big stick that the Mets lineup so desperately needs. And if Mike Jacobs turns out to be Kevin Maas, and Petit turns out to be Floyd Youmans, then the deal is a steal. Not to mention that the acquisition of Delgado might be the clincher in convincing Billy Wagner that New York is indeed the place to sign. But there is a disastrous scenario. Delgado, in light of his initial trepidation about New York, his anthem flap of a few years ago, combined with the fact that the expectations now will be nothing less than a World Championship make him a higher than normal risk for a mental meltdown. You thought Beltran heard boos when he didn't get off to a hot start? That will seem like yodels in a canyon compare to what Delgado will hear if he starts off hitting .250 with 2 HR's in April. And if you combine a Delgado slow start with production from Jacobs and Petit, not to mention Billy Wagner in Philadelphia, Shea could be one difficult place to play (not to mention a difficult place for Mets fans to watch a game),

And here is the key: if it is a difficult season for Delgado, here is one fact that will loom:

Because he is a veteran player traded during a multiyear contract, Delgado would have the right to file a trade demand during the 15 days following next year's World Series.
Think of the ramifications if Delgado bombs, leaves, and Yusmeiro Petit leads the Las Vegas Marlins to a third World Series title before the Mets win their third.

Then again, perish that thought.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Metsography: The Magic Is Back, And Makes Me Disappear!

Opening Day.

No two words evoke more wonderful memories in a man than "Opening Day"...not "free food", not "happy hour", heck not even "Elle MacPherson".

For "Opening Day" is the day when all is right with the world...everyone's got a chance. The weather is always perfect (at least at game time), the hot dogs are fresh, the house is rockin', and the home team is invincible.

I've made it to my share of Opening Days...and considering that the Mets had one of the most kick-ass streak of opening day wins ever, I've had my share of great Opening Day moments.

There was 1983...the return of Tom Seaver, which I faked a dental appointment to get out of the last half of my day at school (that will be a theme as you read on).

1987...My first game as a partial season ticket holder, beating the Pirates to begin their world title defense.

1993...Sure, the rest of the season was putrid, but being in the house for the first ever Colorado Rockie game was pretty damn sweet.

2000...Beating the Padres on a Derek Bell dinger in the 8th, and changing the lyrics of John Fogarty's "Centerfield" during the car ride home...

Look at meeeeeeeee
I could beeeeeeeeee
Derek Be-ell!

Of course, it wasn't all good...for example, 2003 might have been the worst Opening Day ever. The Mets lost to the Cubs by a score of 2,381-2, it was 31 degrees with a wind chill of -66, and we sat near a pack of drunken college frat boy punks...who felt it necessary to yell out jokes about Mike Piazza's alleged sexual orientation...every...two...minutes!

The choice was simple:

  • Leave, or
  • Go to jail for beating the living daylights out of all of them.

I should have chosen the latter. But they outnumbered me, and it was cold...so I was gone in the sixth inning. For someone who never leaves games early, that shows you how bad that opener was.

But I wouldn't give that up in exchange for missing out on all of the great Opening Day memories I've had. I've nailed my favorites down to two...

1988: Senior year of high school (the same high school that one Omar Minaya attended and was an all-star catcher for just ten years earlier). That's an important fact because I was in the school play that year. I'm not telling you what the play was...but I can tell you that my part was never rehearsed, at least early in the semester, until at least two hours into the rehearsal session. So I wasn't even going to ask for the day off. My plan was to sneak out of school, make the 1:30 start, and get back to rehearsal by 5PM which should be plently of time to rehearse my part without anyone ever noticing I was gone.

So I sneak out of school after bribing some substitutes with sandwiches (teachers make paltry salaries, so they took tips, you know?) And I get to the game in the bottom of the second inning...but here's the kicker: I was booed. BOOED! My section, who booed everyone who came late and couldn't find their seat in 1987, now turned their attention to me to kick off 1988. No matter that there were extenuating circumstances involving a school play...I was BOOED! The hurt lasted all of ten seconds, for the first pitch that I'm in my seat for? Darryl takes Pascual Perez to the bullpen for a 1-0 Mets lead. The boos turned to cheers and I was a hero once again.

The game was going quick but I couldn't take a chance getting caught back at school, so I had to leave somewhere around the eighth inning...yes I was booed again...but the Mets wound up winning 3-0 so I wasn't going to get blamed during the next game (or banned from my seat). So I take the train ride back to school where I'm motoring around without really knowing what time it was, but figuring I was safe.

I get to the back door of my (and Omar's) alma mater and plan to sneak my way backstage...locked! Damn! Here I go 'round the block to the front door...and the 5 or 6 people that were in on the plan were nervously waiting outside. Apparently, the director was looking for me! Those guys, bless their hearts, came up with every story in the book:

  • He's in the bathroom...
  • He's across the street getting his lucky chicken sandwich...
  • He ran upstairs to get his sheet music...
  • He lost his keys...
  • He went to find his Social Studies extra credit assignment...he'll be right down...
  • He's backstage trying on his costume...
  • He's throwing up...
Now, for the climactic end to our Ocean's Eleven scam, I have to sneak my way in past the director (who if this really was Ocean's Eleven, she would have been Terry Benedict), who was sitting in the audience, and get backstage without her knowing I'm gone. How do I do this?

Why, with a Platoon style elbow crawl from the back of the auditorium all the way back stage of course!

My elbows hurt, but my role required a lot of stunt work crashing into a hard floor so I was used to it. It was no sweat in the end...I made it, and was ready with my lines memorized by the time my scene was being rehearsed. I have to tell you, I was proud of myself. We pulled it off.

But then, caught up in my hubris and my newfound feeling of absolute invincibility, I tried to have my cake and eat it too. After rehearsal I asked the director how she thought my performance was, and she generally had no problems...but did have one question for me:
How did the Mets do today?
Yup, she knew...and I come to find out later that she was quite pissed. But to her credit, she never let me have it. Why not you ask? Well, probably because it was Opening Day. And who else but a director of the theatre could understand how important Opening Day is?

1980: My first ever Mets game at Shea, to the best of my recollection (and to the recollection of Retrosheet), happened sometime in May of 1976...it was a 5-4 victory, and oddly enough Tom Seaver pitched eight innings against the Cincinnati Reds...the very team he would join one season later.

I didn't go back to Shea until 1979 to watch the first Met team I was completely familiar with. I went to nine games that season. The Mets lost all nine. Naturally, I thought it was me.

So when 1980 came, the Mets made it a point to tell me that "The Magic Is Back". Oh really? Well hey, where do I sign up? Even at the tender age of nine I was ready to shed some bad karma...and when better to do it but right off the bat...Opening Day, April 10th 1980!

Now I have to give my mom credit...whenever I was held back from the second half of the school day after spending lunch at home (talk about working on the honor system for the old days, eh?), Mom always covered for me. And it was usually with a note that said something like: "Please excuse my son for missing school, his stomach hurt." It's what mothers did. Opening Day 1980 was no different, as I just absolutely had to witness the magic return...and exorcise my demons!

And exorcise they did. Craig Swan went seven innings...drove in a run, and Jerry Morales (of all people) drove in two runs for a 5-2 Met win over the Cubs. All was well.

The only hurdle now to climb was "the note"...you know, the note that would get me free and clear. My mom was good at "the note", for there were plenty of instances where I would have to bag the last half of school days for purposes other than illness (ballgames usually), but "the note" always bailed me out.

So I gear up for school on April 11th, and mom gives me "the note". Confidently, I put the note in my pocket without ever reading it (this was old hat for me so why bother?), and I snicker knowing that we were putting another one over on the establishment...me and Mom. I get to school, and the actor in me starts playing it up as I walk in...holding my stomach, coughing a bit, you know...selling it.

As my teacher, who was generally regarded by us kids as "the mean one", was taking attendance, I took a peek at the note to see which excuse Mom used this time. What I saw scarred me for life:

Please excuse my son for missing the last half of class on April 10th...he went to see the Mets play opening day at Shea.

P.S. The Mets won 5-2
What could I do? I couldn't eat the note, I'd get marked for a cut, or something similar. I had to turn this note in to the meanest teacher in school. I was sabotaged by my own mother.

So as I sheepishly hand in the note and slink back to class hoping nothing would be said, I hear: "Excuse me!"

I'm done.

"You missed class to go to a baseball game?"

Yup, that's me.

"Well...as long as the Mets won...now go have a seat."

I was looked upon by my classmates for the rest of the school year as a conquering hero...I went head to head with the meanest teacher in elementary school...and found her soft spot: The New York Mets. I went to school that day a boy. I left as...


All thanks to Opening Day.

Next week: Geraldo Rivera opens a vault in a Manhattan alley and finds "The Lost Blogs"...

Monday, November 21, 2005

It's All Just A Little Bit Of History Repeating

Between 1995 and 2000, 308,000 people made the move from New York to Florida, creating the largest state to state flow in the United States.

In return for our generosity, New York is guaranteed to receive any stragglers from a Florida Marlin fire sale.

It happened in 1997 after Wayne Huizenga oversaw the fire sale of all fire sales after his Marlins won the World Series. The Mets acquired Al Leiter (for some lad named A.J. Burnett) and Dennis Cook in seperate deals in the offseason, and in another offshoot of the garage sale, acquired Mike Piazza from Florida for Preston Wilson during the 1998 season. This all came out of an inability to land a stadium deal.

Well it's 2005, and you can insert your own proverb about history repeating itself here. First, it was rumors about Carlos Delgado. Then unthinkably, the talk turned to Josh Beckett. Now, it looks like the Marlins, again, are going to blow the whole thing up. And once again, the Mets are willing to play main vulture...as they are talking about Luis Castillo.

Now if you care to recall the writings of the prophet that is me, my thoughts on second base are the ones that I seem to be all over. The first name I mentioned is Castillo, but I didn't think the Marlins would be silly enough to talk about wheeling him. And I was right...they're not being silly. They're just hemorraging money. They still can't get funding for a stadium (a task now made next to impossible after repeated hurricanes). And the Mets are doing what all big market teams should do...take advantage.

In fairness to the Marlins, they're in a tough spot. They were stuck in a football town, made to play in a stadium that if you ever sit in it, it looks less like a diamond, and more like a pentagon from hell. In fact, it would be a perfect five sided geometrical "masterpiece" if not for the forced attempt at a "V" shaped quirk in center field which is their sad attempt at a nook...or is it a cranny? They're a teal and black team that plays in a stadium that features two of the loudest colors ever discovered: aquamarine and neon orange. It's almost as displaced a situation as the Jets playing in Giants Stadium, where there's green bunting that tries to make you forget you're sitting in blue and red seats. But the Marlins don't even make that much of an effort. The greatest effort they made to give you a "Marlin feel" was to sew a small Marlin Logo on the chests of the Dolphin cheerleader outfits, featuring the aforementioned aquamarine and orange. You had to use a magnifying glass to find them (luckily, I just happened to have one with me expressly for the purpose of inspecting the cheerleaders' outfits). It wasn't even an antiseptic experience to see a game at Joe Player Stadium...it was impersonal. As baseball works more in a personal matter, the atmosphere just doesn't work.

Luckily, that's not my problem.

Funny how Carlos Delgado isn't enough to stir my pot enough to place me in front of the laptop to pen my thoughts, but Luis Castillo is. That's because Luis Castillo is the cure for what ails this lineup. I love power hitters as much as the next guy, but there was a reason I thought Doug Mientkiewicz was a better fit for the Mets than Carlos Delgado...it's because Shea Stadium will knock down a good power hitter, but it's paradise for hitters like Mookie, Lenny, One Dog and now Jose Reyes. To me, Juan Pierre and Castillo were the modern day Dykstra and Wally Backman, and the fact that one of them (the right one) might very well be on his way to Shea is a spectacular concept. Reyes and Castillo at the top of the lineup is the perfect was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1986 World Champs...Lenny and Wally redux...with Xavier Nady playing the part of Danny Heep.

(And if we're lucky, playing the part of Bobby Ojeda in "1986: The Motion Picture" will be Barry Zito.)

Of course, something will blow those dreams to bits...whether it be Florida's insistance on a top flight prospect for a player with injury problems (which is nonsense), or Omar's infatuation with Manny Ramirez which will drag him away from the player he should be going head long after...or perhaps the trade does happen, but instead of becoming Wally Backman, Castillo becomes Robby Alomar (as Xavier Nady becomes the second coming of Rich Becker).

But in this confusing and hectic rumor mill known as the hot stove, I have found my number one reason to be pumped up.

And my number one reason to complain if it doesn't happen.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Hate List: Special Roosevelt Ave. Remixes

Top five places to take Country Boy Billy on the "Wagnerpalooza" Tour:

  1. ACME restaurant, 9 Great Jones st.
  2. Corona Ice King
  3. Douglaston driving range
  4. Spanky's BBQ, Times Square
  5. Jackson Hole restaurant, 35th and second

Top five candidates to become Cliff Floyd's new best friend:

  1. Jose Reyes
  2. Chris Woodward
  3. Xavier Nady
  4. Pedro Martinez
  5. Mayor Bloomberg

Top 5 games on the 2006 schedule that have the potential to be horribly played games due to the new ban on amphetamines:

  1. April 26th at San Francisco
  2. June 5th at Los Angeles
  3. September 13th at Florida
  4. September 29th at Washington
  5. Any game against Atlanta

Top 5 ways Mo Vaughn likes his cheeseburgers:

  1. Well done
  2. With onions, lettuce, and tomatoes
  3. Big
  4. Lifted to his mouth with the help of a forklift
  5. With a roasted pig with an apple in it's mouth on the side (with duck sauce)

Top 5 players we wish would follow Kenji Jojima's lead, and cancel all future visits to New York:

  1. Tom Gordon
  2. Jose Offerman
  3. Kaz Matsui
  4. Chipper Jones
  5. Dae Sung Koo

Top 5 successive disasters the Mets may incur this off-season:

  1. Wagner uses the Mets as leverage to get more money from the Phillies
  2. After Wagner re-signs with Philly, closer B.J. Ryan signs with the Yankees to become their set up man
  3. Panicking, the Mets then make the Petit/Seo/Heilman for Huff/Baez trade with Tampa Bay.
  4. Danys Baez then breaks his kneecap in a freak fly-fishing accident.
  5. Plan D is Braden Looper

Top 5 athletes that give me that warm fuzzy feeling that will take me through Opening Day:

  1. Henrik Lundqvist
  2. LaDanian Tomlinson
  3. Dominic Moore
  4. Ricky Davis
  5. Jaromir Jagr

Top 5 athletes that make me think that April can't get here soon enough:

  1. The Jets offensive line

Top 5 signs Carlos Beltran can show us that 2006 will be different than 2005:

  1. Steals, steals, steals
  2. A dinger on the first pitch he sees next season
  3. A hit with the bases loaded
  4. A hit against the Phillies (only .211 in oh-five)
  5. Did I mention steals?

Top 5 signs that 2006 will be the same as 2005 for Carlos Beltran:

  1. Continues his Shawn Green impression by grounding to first base in every clutch situation
  2. Coached by Juan Samuel in off-season
  3. Cotton balls in his ears to drown out boos
  4. Argues with official scorers about errors
  5. Takes up poker

Top 5 destinations for Mike Piazza:

  1. Angels
  2. White Sox
  3. Twins
  4. Orioles
  5. Blue Jays

Top 5 players that Bobby Valentine will take off the Mets scrap heap and turn them into Japanese League champions as he did with Benny Agbayani, Matt Franco, and Satoru Komiyama...just to rub it in:

  1. Dae Sung Koo
  2. Kaz Ishii
  3. Felix Heredia
  4. Danny Graves
  5. Manny Aybar

Thursday, November 17, 2005

If You Believe In A Higher Power...

...then he or she must have a sick sense of humor. Why else would Mike Cameron be traded so that he could play 81 games in the same stadium where he broke 7,103 bones in his face?

Mental scars indeed.

But with talk of Cameron being traded for Akinori Otsuka, Mark Loretta, or even being part of a bigger deal for Manny Ramirez, is Xavier Nady the ultimate punchline? Would the Mets have been better off trading Mike Cameron's lookalike?

Perhaps not.

Here's what the Mets gain in this trade: about 5 years and $6 million. Here's what they lose: Cliff Floyd's best friend, and constant questions about where Mike Cameron is being traded to, questions that started when Cammy came back from his wrist injury in May of '05. Those are questions that did neither the Mets, nor Mike Cameron any good. And as you know, Cammy didn't prove to be the coolest under pressure, and let it get to him when the trade talk intensified near the deadline. While it never got ugly, there always seemed to be a simmering disappointment that came with Cameron, between losing his natural position and all of the injuries he suffered. And if that's true, it's hard to blame him. The more laid back atmosphere of California combined with the chance to return to his old position will do wonders for Cameron, who I think is a more complete hitter now than he was when he first came to Flushing. He goes to right field more often and gives you a more level stroke at the plate which will help in Petco. He still strikes out a ton...always will. But if put in the right slot in the lineup by Bruce Bochy, the Pods will be happy with him. I wish him luck, glad tidings, and slow corner outfielders to play with next season.

On the surface, it may seem silly to trade an everyday player for a spare part, but if Cameron has a dog-like spring caused by lingering effects of his injury, then you couldn't get Xavier Cugat for him, let alone Xavier Nady. And the extra payroll will give them more flexibility to get a major cog (Wagner? Giles? Konerko?) In Nady, you have a player who can platoon with Mike Jacobs, and spell Cliff Floyd and whomever your right fielder is without losing much power in the lineup. The play now is, along with Country Boy Billy Wagner, to get Giles to play right field and get your high OBP man to set up Carlos Beltran for more RBI opportunities.

Or at least trade for a new best friend for Cliff Floyd.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Metsography: Baltimore And The Inner Harboring Of Some Serious Angst

Ah yes, interleague play. It started out so promisingly for the New York Mets; Mark Clark hitting a HR off of Tim Wakefield; Dave Mlicki's complete game against the Yankees; of course, the Mets went 2-4 in their first six interleague games, but there was a glimmer of hope that the Mets could hang with the best of the American League...and what better excuse for a road trip!

Now road trips are great but they can sometimes backfire. For example, I was "thumb and forefinger" close to being in Charlotte this past Sunday to see the Jets. For those keeping score, that would have been 644 miles to witness a field goal. That's a horrible mileage to point ratio. But the Mets road trip that I took years ago was a bit more fruitful...and one to remember.

August 30th, 1997. It was the first New York Mets game I had ever witnessed in person that wasn't in Shea Stadium. Mets vs. Orioles in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. To me, Oriole Park is the standard by which all new ballparks should be held to...I'll never pass up an opportunity to take in a game at this gem, and neither should you. The inner harbor, a scaled down version of New York's South Street Seaport, is nearby...and if you're ever there, take a ferry to Fells Point and have some chicken wings at a place called "The Greene Turtle". These might very well be the best chicken wings on the face of the earth. And Metstradamus is someone that knows his chicken wings.

Back to the game...like I said, this is the only time I've ever seen the Mets outside of Shea. It was also the first time I've ever worn hometown colors in enemy territory (I've since gone on to have some legendary experiences wearing Jet colors as the visitor in Foxboro and Indianapolis...even survived a night in Philadelphia while wearing a Gretzky jersey.) So I wasn't quite sure what to expect. So we get there early hoping to assimilate and make friends with the hometown faithful so we don't get our throats slit...and up until just about game time the three of us are making it through pretty well (it's myself, a fellow Met fan, and believe it or not, a Yankee fan buddy...you'll find out that his presence might have saved my life). But at right about 12:55 PM a group of regulars strolled up to find their seats, sat two rows behind us, and then announced their presence at the top of their lungs:

"Alllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight! Where are the nearest stinkin' Met faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaans???????"
That's it, we're dead. We're all dead.

Now it's important to note that I'm wearing a Todd Hundley t-shirt to the game...and this was around the time that Hundley was involved in a mini-controversy involving Met manager Bobby Valentine, who told the press that Hundley wasn't getting enough sleep. Needless to say, as far as our heckling friends were concerned, for nine innings my name was Todd.

Hey Tooooooooooooooodd! How ya doin' Toooooooooooodd!!! Are you getting enough sleep there Toooooooooooooooodd???!??!?!?!?!??
Now the dilemma...do I respond? And if so, how?

At least through the early innings, my responses were kept to the occasional look behind me, while sporting my classic New York smirk...you know, the one that makes people all over the country hate our freakin' guts? That one. But make no mistake...I had my own personal heckler for five innings!

Then by about the fifth inning, the Mets were down 5-2 and the heckling was non stop. But then the immortal Orioles starter Rick Krivda ran out of gas after giving up 5 in four and a third. And then Terry Mathews threw gasoline on the fire, Bernard Gilkey, Todd Pratt (Hundley didn't even play due to injury) and Luis Lopez were inflicting some serious damage and all of a sudden the Mets were up 8-5.

What followed next, well, let's just say that wars were started over less...it was the opening salvo to what could have escalated into the second civil war, since Baltimore is south of the Donna Dixon line. I, Metstradamus, turned into the ugly New Yorker...the inhospitable guest...as I stand up and do my 180, turning toward my own personal heckler:

Nice bullpen! Way to throw gasoline on that fire!!!
You see, heckling is an art which is all about timing...the worse mistake that hecklers, or any fan with a gimmick for that matter, can make is they come in and think they're gonna be a superstar for nine innings. You have to pick your spot, be patient, then unleash with a fury that's going to catch your subject off guard, and leave all spectators wanting more. The sixth inning of this game, August 30th 1997, was that spot. It was time to even the score.

Well with one line, the spigot was open. For an inning, all bets were off. Jokes about 1969...zings about the Orioles bullpen...even Robert E. Lee references (their side lost the civil war, remember). My own personal heckler never knew what hit him. I was in his head.

At this point, my Met fan friend was trying his best to bury his head and not get involved. Little did he know that later in the game, he would have no choice but to be involved.

Now all good hecklers have something else up their sleeve...and our southern friend decided that if he can't beat 'em (and he couldn't), beat someone else. And that's when I found out he wasn't so bad after all.

He attacked my Yankee fan friend.

This was about the seventh inning after the Mets helped my cause by extending their lead to 10-5 as Bernard Gilkey was in the midst of having one of his best days in a Mets uniform, and also one of his last. Now came the assault on the Yankees:

"Billy Martin was a druuuuuuuuuuunk!
Mickey Mantle was a druuuuuuuuuuuuuuunk!
Joe DiMaggio beat his wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiife!
Babe Ruth was a druuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunk!
Lou Gehrig..."
Not even a Yankee hater would go there.

Oh the Yankee fan had a comeback...this was 1997, and his evil team were the defending champs. So he stood up, turned around, and came back with:

"World Champions...until FURTHER NOTICE!"
He was right. He's a stinkin' Yankee fan but he was right. Now what else could an Oriole fan do but cry for help. And who better to turn to?

Hey Toooooooooooooooooooodd? What's that about???? Come on Todd, do something about your friend!
Now what do I do? Help my friend even though he's a Yankee fan? Or help the anti-Yankee fan even though he's a total stranger who torched me for five innings?

As far as I was concerned, they were both on their own.

Now this is the time where these Oriole fans are, in addition to being nice and full of beer to the point where these guys had blood levels in their alcohol, are hacked off at the fact that they're team is losing by a barrel of runs. There was unusual chatter between them...too quiet for drunks, yet too loud for people who want to keep a secret. And all of a sudden, one of them takes a tumble...rolling down three rows like a barrel...and steamrolls over my Met fan friend along the way. Now this guy is in great shape, but he's more along the lines of triathlon shape, not middle linebacker shape...so he could have snapped like a twig. Luckily, he was no worse for wear, but I thought that this was the point where we're going to have to throw down.

Turns out it was an accident and all was well.

Gilkey hits a home run in the ninth and the Mets went on to a 13-5 victory in Baltimore, where my record away from home stood at 1-0. I shook the Oriole fan's hand for a valiant heckling effort, but he wouldn't shake the hand of the Yankee fan. I knew he had some good in him.

The Met fans at the game, of which there were many, were in a dancing mood...one of them even gave me a hug (another one with a blood level in their alcohol). Another Met fan told us that none other than the injured Todd Hundley himself was hanging out in the inner harbor. Tried as we might, we couldn't find him.

But all in all, the conquering of Baltimore and their goblins was complete. It was time for the Yankee fan to leave us while the two Met fans in the group continued their baseball odyssey to Reading, PA to take in a Reading Phillies game the next day before returning home. People may say now that the novelty of interleague play has worn off. I tend to agree. But for one day, interleague play was the most spectacular idea ever thought of by anyone.

As for Bernard Gilkey who hit a home run and drove in four that day, he was never the same after that fly ball hit him in the head while he was distracted by the spaceship.

Hundley? He got some sleep, but had his own adventures in left field after the arrival of Mike Piazza, and started his journey to Chicago, Los Angeles, back to Chicago, and then...the abyss.

As for me, It took seven seasons but I did finally catch the Mets on the road one more time...in Miami on July 9th, 2004. It was 6-3 Mets victory punctuated by Ty Wigginton and Mike Cameron dingers to run my stellar road record to 2-0. It's worth noting that that date marked the Mets high water mark for the 2004 season. Since then, the Mets went into a spectacular 27-50 tailspin to mercifully end Art Howe's reign as Met manager. A note to all about Miami: if you're staying in Fort Lauderdale, Dolphins Stadium is a very expensive taxi ride away...don't let anyone tell you differently. And if you can get past the fact that the Marlins play baseball in a rectangular field and not a diamond, and have cheerleaders that wear Dolphins-colored outfits with small Marlins logos hastily sewed on them, then it's a great place to watch a game.

It may be time for the third road trip.

Next week: How the Mets almost sabotaged my education...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

There's Something About Manny

First, Manny wanted to come here.

Then, Manny wanted no part of Flushing.

But suddenly, a glimmer of hope: Manny may be interested.

However, Omar isn't going to keep the Volvo parked in front of Fenway waiting for Manny and his luggage.

Because Manny might go to Anaheim anyway...

...or maybe not.

Which all leads to the realization that Manny might have no choice but to stay in Boston anyway.

All right. Does everyone have all of that?

Good. Now can you explain it to me?

Yup, this is what the hot stove is all about. It's also quite exhausting. There's a part of me that wants to drive up to the Wilpons' door and leave a reminder note for a wake up call when Manny has found his destination for 2006.

Or at least wake us when he fires his agent and hires Drew Rosenhaus.

But then again, Manny Ramirez...personality wise, is the Reggie of his time, as goofy as Reggie was brash. And since you can't be brash these days as an athlete without being the subject of an MSNBC investigative report, goofy is the way to go. Sure, Reggie begged for attention while Manny claims to want to shun hit (hence his trade request), but Manny has captured the attention of a baseball nation in the way Reggie did close to 30 years ago. There is a perverse sort of way that we want to know Manny's every move, every minute, of every day...just like Reggie.

And the Mets are in the thick of the discussion, whether you like it or not. So it's time to test the theory that sleep is overrated...because this can keep you up at night.

So ask me if I think Manny's coming to the Mets. You know what my answer will be...

"Next question."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Moon Over My Hammy

This is rich.

A Chinese company claiming to be "Lunar Embassy" has had it's license suspended for trying to sell real estate on the Moon. Each owner of lunar soil was issued a "certificate" that ensured property ownership including rights to use the land and minerals up to three km underground. The best part is: thirty four people actually paid money (about $37 each) for real estate on the moon!

In an unrelated story, Mets owner Fred Wilpon has announced that plans to build his new stadium has been suspended due to land ownership issues. Who knew?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Metsography: Terry Pendleton Causes A Seat Malfunction

1987 was the first season that I was involved in a Mets ticket plan. Obviously, 1986 had something to do with that...but it was more. It was the guy in my orchestra class who was parading around his two World Series tickets while swearing up and down that he had two more that he would sell me. But as the day of the game came, he told me that he "lost" the tickets.

I never went to the 1986 World Series.

And the game that this kid had tickets for? Yes, it was Game 6.

I decided that I would never let that happen again...so I bought a Mets ticket plan...and on a February day in 1987, I took a tour to see where I would be sitting on Tuesday and Friday nights. There was snow on the field...snow covering the spot where Billy Bucks did his imitation of the St Louis Arch during the game I never went to. Got to sit in the old Jets lockerroom as well that day...but what I remembered most was the snow. Can you imagine snow on a major league baseball field?

Now after 1986, most scribes warned of inactivity during the offseason..."look what happened to the 1985 Royals" they said...they stood pat and look what happened. So the Mets were proactive that season and traded for Kevin McReynolds...the perfect big bat to compliment Straw, Keith, and the Kid. Now there was no doubt in my mind that 1987 was going to be bigger and better than 1986...and that I would be there for the repeat.

For a while, all of us were severely disappointed as the Mets stumbled out of the gate...thanks in part to Dwight Gooden's stint at the Betty Ford Clinic for overindulgence of all sorts...and the Mets were behind the division leading Cardinals by a good 6 or 7 games at the first of August.

But with August came the Mets...as a 22-12 run thrust them to a game and a half back of the Cards, and a big series coming up at Shea starting on a Friday night. This game, was the very reason I bought season tickets. And the atmosphere was well worth the price for the entire season. Every regular was there, the crowd was jumpin' off the hop...like a playoff game. You can't tell me that there was still a 1986 hangover in the crowd that night.

The start was not indicative of how this one would finish. After a Keith Hernandez RBI double, Darryl Strawberry homered in the first inning to give the Mets a quick 3-0 lead. Ron Darling started, and had a no-hitter through six innings even though he gave up a run in the second (typical Cardinals...scoring a run without a hit). Darling was cruising. Mookie Wilson made it a 4-1 game with a homer in the second.

Then came the seventh inning. Now unwritten rules say you don't bunt to break up a no-hitter...but these were the damn Cardinals...that's all they knew how to do was bunt. So in a bit of cruel foreshadowing, Vince Coleman (future hall of hated member) drag bunted his way on base as Darling made a valiant dive to try to keep Coleman off the bases. This accomplished two things...it ended the no-no, and it helped knock Darling out of the game because he sprained his finger on the dive. Coleman, however, was picked off second and didn't score.

It was still 4-1 in the ninth as Roger McDowell entered his second inning of work...an era when closers were closers, men were men, and sheep were scared. He walked Ozzie Smith to lead off the inning, but got two quick outs after that. And at this point, Shea Stadium was going absolutely insane. Insane! The Mets were one out away from moving to within a half game of the Cardinals, and being on the verge of taking what was rightfully ours. Remember, this wasn't just a rivalry, this was speed vs. power...this was little things vs. Earl Weaver baseball. This was baseball blood war.

Willie McGee singled home Ozzie in the ninth to bring up the tying run, which was Terry Pendleton. McDowell went to his bread and butter, the sinker, to get two strikes on Pendleton. You couldn't blame McDowell for sticking with the sinker...much like you can't blame Terry Pendleton for moving up in the box to get a hold of hit...and boy did Terry Pendleton get a hold of it. He got a hold of it to center field to tie the game.

After the shot heard 'round Queens, came the shot heard 'round Shea Stadium. As Pendleton rounded the bases and a Shea crowd was stunned, the guy in front of me, who I had gotten to know that season and over the next few seasons, raised his hand angrily and thrust it down with such force on the seat next to him that the seat lowered farther than it was supposed to go...the edge of the seat was touching the floor! That's how bad that Pendleton home run was...for as bad as the Mets losing game 5 of the Subway Series was, at no other time did I see a seat bite the dust as this one did.

Now all was not lost mind you. The game was only tied, and the Mets had a crack to win it in the 9th. When Bill Almon of all people got a hit with one out and was on second with two outs I thought that the gods were just angling to make the victory sweeter for us. I mean, Keith Hernandez was at bat. Now to me, Keith Hernandez, he of the more game winning RBI's than anyone in the history of the game (well, more than anyone since they kept track of that statistic), was like Larry Bird...money in the bank. Surely, Hernandez would knock home Almon with a sweet stroke to left field and bedlam would once again wash over big Shea.

Well, you know how that ended...Hernandez grounded out to first, the Cards scored two runs in the tenth and won the game 6-4.

The Mets never recovered, as Dwight Gooden started the next day and got beat in a cold, rainy Shea as St. Louis took the series and went on to the World Series.

As for the seat? Well, at least through 1988 and 1989, every single person who sat in that seat would take an unsuspecting fall to the ground somewhere around the fifth inning. Now imagine about ten people giggling uncontrollably as the guy next to the seat helped the victim du jour up to their feet, telling them that it's a shame that seat never got fixed, and that he can't imagine why that seat keeps doing that...

The same guy who broke the seat in the first place.

Now I'm not 100% sure that seat was ever fixed. I'm almost sure though. But you know legend has it that there's a strange aura surrounding that seat...perhaps that of a ghost...that haunts that very seat to this day. So if you're in section 29 and something out of the ordinary happens, and all of a sudden you find yourself sitting on the floor with the popcorn kernels and the spilt beer, and someone comes up to you and tells you they don't know how that could have happened...

Well just remember the legend of Terry Pendleton.

Next week: Why a road trip to Baltimore almost sparked Civil War II...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Whoa, Big Fella

This was going to be the season that the Jets were supposed to make some serious noise in the AFC East. Heck, with new acquisitions Ty Law and Doug Jolley, maybe even Super Bowl XL in Detroit. How about that? A Super Bowl's roman numeral is the acronym for extra large, and that's the season the Jets make their grand return to the biggest football game of the year.

There have been many seasons like this for the Jets lately, a concept thought impossible back in the days when Rich Kotite was aimlessly roaming the sidelines. Many seasons where the expectations were extrememly high during the dog days of August training camp. Unfortunately, all of them have ended with spectacular collapse. Leon Johnson's halfback option from hell. Vinny Testaverde's exploding achilles. Al Groh's collapse and escape. Chad Pennington's broken hand. Chad Pennington's rotator cuff. Doug Brien. And now, on the latest Sunday of discontent, 2005's hope ends with this quote from Dick Enberg after the Chargers sacked the Jets throwback quarterback:

Well, to Testaverde's credit, he didn't fumble the ball.
When progress is a 42 year old quarterback holding on to the football as he's being pummeled behind an offensive line seemingly drawn out of a hat, well that's when you know it's time to start preparing for the NFL Draft, because your season is toast. No Shedd's Spread, no Country Crock, no Polaner's All Fruit, just toast. Dry...burnt...toast. (Apologies to Elvis Patterson.)

I mention this because when I flash forward to Port St. Lucie in February of 2006, I sense that expectations are going to be similarly high for the New York Mets. And with the team on the field currently, and the acquisitions that Omar Minaya is sure to make, that's the way it should be. Expectations should be high. Yeah, there were 2001's expectations coming off a World Series appearance. And there was also 2002 with Robby Alomar on board. But depending on the way the free agent market shakes out, the expectations coming into 2006 might match the expectations going into a season 20 years earlier. And you know what happened then.

But you know good and well that if anything can happen in a sixteen game season, think of what can happen in an extra large season...ten times sixteen with two more thrown in. A squeeze play from the same hell as the halfback option in the red zone...a Jose Reyes exploding achilles...a Willie Randolph late season collapse, and an exodus back to the Yankees perhaps...a broken hand here, a rotator cuff there...Billy Wagner becomes Doug Brien...perhaps Rick Reed will be watching the Mets from his couch in West Virginia as five Met pitchers go down with arm injuries during the same game, and he decides to call Herm Edw...er, uh, Willie Randolph and tell him that he's available for whatever the team needs...and there's Rick Reed on the mound five days later throwing batting practice to the St. Louis Cardinals during a nationally televised game.

And before you know it Fran Healy is on the Mets network with his own lowered expectations:
Well to Reed's credit, he kept that ball in the ballpark as three runs scored instead of four.
So if I were you all, I'd keep those expectations in the shoe box until at least the preseason physicals are passed.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Hot Stove Cooks Old Leather

It's important for the mental health of all of us to not go half-cocked and ready to jump off the nearest tall building at the mere mention of every rumor, half truth, and speculation. None of us will make it to Opening Day if that is the case.

But if I read right today, it's time to scout the block for office buildings.

The first thing I read is that the Mets may pursue Kenji Jojima, a 30 year old catcher looking to make the jump from the Japanese leagues to the majors. Now I'm not going to be too concerned over this because today's read is in direct conflict with this from weeks ago, written by the same columnist.

I thought at this point that people would stop raving about scouting reports out of the Japanese league without qualifying that these are the same scouts that promised us Kaz Matsui was a sure thing. For every Ichiro, there's an Ichi-no...otherwise known as Satoru Komiyama...so please stop with the hype machine. The fact is, nobody truly knows how any player's skills translate from the Japanese league or the Korean league or any other league to the majors.

And if Omar Minaya is silly enough to be seduced by the potential of a 30 year old catcher from the Japan leagues at the expense of not only signing a player who is proven in the majors at the strongest position in terms of 2006 free agents outside of reliever, but signing a player who has expressed interest in the Mets as Ramon Hernandez and Bengie Molina have done, then I can't help him.

But the kicker today is that the Mets are mulling a pursuit of Julio Franco to platoon with Mike Jacobs, who is hitting about .240 with one homer in the Venezuelan winter leagues, at first base.

What, Minnie Minoso turned them down?

Carl Yasztremski made other arrangements?

Gerald Williams, Wil Cordero, and Roberto Hernandez need a fourth for horseshoes?

We've all just aged a few years.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

More Of The Same

You can't say that the Mets aren't steeped in tradition.

Of course that tradition is giving up players with their best seasons ahead of them...and bringing them back with their best seasons behind them. Not only are the Mets thinking of pulling off the decade double with Octavio Dotel by bringing him back as a set up man...but they're thinking of doing so with a player who has had ligament replacement surgery. In medical terms, that means the ligament in his throwing elbow was replaced with a combination of rubber cement, and an old sock.

In a related story, Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson is hopeful that Chad Pennington and Jay Fielder will be ready to contribute out of the bullpen by spring training.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Conspiracy Theory

Ok kids, let's review:

Matt Cerrone of Metsblog and The Hot Stove Report breaks the story that an Americal League playoff outfielder has tested positive for steroids about a week ago.

Then yesterday, it's announced that senators Jim Bunning and John McCain say it's time to introduce leglisation to create a tougher steroid policy for all sports.

Coincidentally, just one day later, MLB announces that they have nabbed former Met Matt Lawton for steroids.

Is it a wonder that nobody trusts Bud Selig?


N.L. gold gloves announced today...and even though Mike Lowell won the award for third base, Tim Kurkjian says on ESPNEWS that you could have made a case for David Wright.

Correct, Tim.

But can you really win a gold glove on the strength of a barehanded catch?

Time To Turn On The Stove

Turn up to high, cook for twenty minutes, turn over halfway through, and voila! One closer.

The Mets are on the move, calling the agent for Billy Wagner to make clear their intentions to sign him to a free agent deal.

It was scary to see that the Mets were interested in guys like Trevor Hoffman (old and brittle) and Tom Gordon (old, brittle, and a former Yankee) instead of going for the gusto. But the Mets, for the second year in a row, are indeed aiming high. Wagner is the elite closer in the market, and would win an additional five games for the Mets by himself.

The article also says that the Mets are monitoring the Rafael Furcal situation very closely. I hate to say this...seeing as if Furcal is a former Brave who has killed the Mets in the past...but Furcal is just what the Mets need. A second baseman (okay, a shortstop who would be willing to switch to second base to play for the Mets...finally a player willing to switch positions to play in Queens and not in the Bronx), and he would also provide the two hole hitter that the Mets need desperately...whether it's himself, or Jose Reyes.

But don't get your hopes up fans...Rafael Furcal isn't coming to Shea Stadium.

Consider that the Cubs will offer things that the Mets can't offer...the position of shortstop, along with a boatload of money that the Cubs are going to offer to anyone and everyone, as they now face the challenge of their first season in 89 where the World Champions play mere blocks away. The Cubs are going to open the bank for everyone and everyone, and you can bet that Furcal will be number one on their hit parade. Whether that's a mistake or not is up for discussion (the 1993 Mets), but that's the situation the Chicago Cubs find themselves in.

But fear not, because the Mets are also looking at the second coming of Bill Buckner: Tony Graffanino, to be a "super utility player".

Wait, the Mets have already signed Graffanino...his name is Chris Woodward.

I guess not everything the Mets do has to make sense. What fun would that be?