Monday, March 31, 2008


The Major League Baseball schedule maker has been put on this earth to satisfy God's sense of humor. Why else would Opening Monday feature the same two games that ended last season? The Mets opening their season against the Marlins didn't really hold any significance to me until across the television screen came the Nationals in Philadelphia. Just like last season.

The one thing different was the lefty on the mound for the Mets. Last season, it was Tom Glavine. We know how that turned out. This time, a slight upgrade. Johan Santana ... who threw as many innings today as last season's lefty allowed runs ... made today seem like a Disney movie as opposed to last season's slasher flick (where everyone died.)

For as much as has changed since last October, some things remained the same. The David Wright All-Star jersey and the Pedro Martinez spring jersey that I wore last September 30th in case one jersey wasn't working remained in a pile on my chair since then. Takin' Care of Business remained unclicked on my iPod, as well as Juelz Santana's The Second Coming, the song the Mets hit the field to last season. All unchanged ... a shrine to the disappointment of last season's results.

Today, the Petey jersey left the chair, and my iPod wasn't afraid to visit a couple of old favorites. It's opening day, and the results were more desirable. Boy, we could have used today's results last year, eh? Especially since today's results are a mere first step towards the healing process, of which the Mets have one and only shot at. Win this season, and '07 is a blip on the radar. Disappoint your fans again in '08, and '07 becomes that much worse. Today was a great start.

For as much as Mark Hendrickson's fastballs magically found their way towards the middle of the plate, it was the job of the Mets to hit them. In the fourth inning, they did. Beltran hit one hard for a double. Angel Pagan hit one hard for a double. Ryan Church hit one hard for an RBI single. Even Brian Schneider hit one hard for a loud out. Those and a couple of walks set up David Wright, who spent less of his time doing endorsements to be more prepared for a spot like this: bases loaded, up 3-0 with an opportunity to "stomp on their throats" as it were. And guess what? He crushed a Hendrickson fastball for a double to double the lead.

Outside of the fourth inning, which came after a long Met rally which surely made him rusty, Johan Santana was every bit as advertised. It wasn't one of those "Nervous jitters/five runs and five walks in five innings" debuts, but it was a game that showed you what you should be able to expect from Santana on an every fifth day in, every fifth day out basis. Sure, it was the Marlins. But he blew eight Marlins away in seven innings to go along with three hits, two walks, and lots of good feelings to make a difference and start to wash away what happened in 2007.

And away we go.

Your 2008 N.L. East Preview: Part Two

Today I attempt to answer the question: Who exactly is the team to beat?

When the Mets made the very un-Met-like move of acquiring Johan Santana for what many thought was less than market value, admit it ... you wanted to strip down to your underwear and run down the highway, right?

Well I lived that dream, my friend! (Which explains that week in late February that I wasn't blogging ... community service!)

But once the euphoria (and the drugs) wore off, I thought for a second. I mean, sure ... the Mets swung themselves an upgrade at the top of the rotation, one they so desperately needed. So one would think that that would make up the one game that the Mets lost the division by and then some, right? One would hope.

As you probably have figured out, I've got the Mets and the Phillies battling for the N.L. East in a two horse race (hell, the Braves are already in last place.) While the Mets seem to have the upper hand by a good margin, remember:
  • Pedro Martinez still has to show that he can stay healthy again for a full season, which he really hasn't done since '05.
  • Jose Reyes has to bounce back and become the Jose Reyes we all know and sing for.
  • Ryan Church is a disaster waiting to happen.
And that last one worries me, because what made the Mets so special in 2006 has a chance of totally evaporating for the 2008 season, and that's their lineup. In '06 they set records for having an A.L. type lineup. Now, they start the season with The Artist Formerly Known As Carlos Delgado hitting fifth, Angel Pagan hitting sixth, and Brian Schneider hitting eighth. This means that Church is going to have to live up to the expectations that Omar Minaya has set for him by trading what was once a major part of the Mets future for him and Schneider. And it also means that there's no room for error for the top of the lineup. Reyes, Luis Castillo, Carlos Beltran and David Wright have to deliver with runners on base, every single time!

The Phillies have no such problems with their lineup, as Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Pat Burrell, Geoff Jenkins, and maybe even Pedro Feliz and Carlos Ruiz are going to be murder on opposing pitching staffs ... especially in their Shoebox of a stadium.

But with Santana, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Martinez, and now Mike Pelfrey, the Mets potentially have a starting pitching staff that can be murder on opposing lineups ... and Santana is just the guy to neutralize big lefties like Howard and Utley. And dare I say it, their bullpen looked good in spring training (I know, spring training doesn't count, but the Mets did lead all teams in spring training ERA.) More importantly, Johan will supply the bullpen with some extra rest every fifth day, as he's sure to go seven innings in at least half his starts ... a foreign concept last season.

While the Mets' upgrade involves more of a sure thing, the Phillies' upgrade involves trading for closer Brad Lidge. Lidge is high risk, high reward. If he's healthy, and if he remains relatively implosion-free, the Phillies will be in good shape. But not only are those big ifs ... but if Lidge is a disaster, the Phillies will wind up depending on Flash Gordon to close. It's a scenario any Mets fan would find most appealing.

So as you can see, the Mets are in good shape. But considering the Mets haven't beaten the Phillies since World War II, the East is going to be a struggle. The Mets may be in a bad position in September, say ... seven games out with seventeen to play. But then ...

Mets: 94-68
Phillies: 93-69

But it solves nothing, as the Mets and the Phillies will meet in the 2008 NLCS (but I'm not ready to handicap that yet.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Your 2008 N.L. East Preview: Part One

Today, we begin our preview of the National League East by looking at what should constitute the bottom half of the division.

It's easy to dismiss the Florida Marlins as 2008's permanent resident of the N.L. East cellar. After all, their best two players are in Detroit gearing up for a World Series run, while the average age of the Marlins roster is the lowest in the league at 12 (it would have been 7, except for Luis Gonzalez.) But remember that we all had the Nationals as 120 game losers last year (not me ... I had them at a much more reasonable number, although it was still well off). And on paper, the Marlins have a better starting staff coming into '08 than the Nationals had going into '07, with former New Jersey Net Mark Hendrickson (who was once posterized by Michael Jordan), Scott Olsen (who was once posterized by the Miami Police), and super-phenom Andrew Miller leading the way.

The Marlins strength this season might be in the bullpen, where Kevin Gregg was a pleasant surprise as their closer last season after Jorge Julio took another step towards oblivion. The combination of Gregg, Matt Lindstrom (who will continue his assault of the Mets while Jason Vargas is on the shelf for four months), Taylor Tankerseley and Justin Miller had 272 K's in 260 innings pitched. And don't forget Logan Kensing, who was injured for much of '07.

And the Fish will be able to hit some too. They finished a respectable sixth in the N.L. with 790 runs scored, and making their returns will be guys like Hanley Ramirez (who as far as I can fathom, still hates the Mets and everything about them), Dan Uggla, and Josh Willingham. The problem is who's not returning: Miguel Cabrera and his 119 RBI last season. His replacement will be Jorge Cantu, who's going to have to close his eyes really hard and pretend it's 2005 when he drove in 117 runs for the Devil Rays. And as we all know, it's hard to hit a baseball with your eyes closed.

What's going to sink the Marlins to the bottom of the standings is the fact that the top three in their rotation just isn't going to be able to give the bullpen enough quality starts to try and finish off. And the fourth and fifth starters are going to wind up being Rick VandenHurk and Ricky Nolasco. Uh-oh.

While I'm not ready to peg the Marlins for 120 losses, I am ready to buy a housewarming gift for their permanent '08 residence in the cellar. I hear lava lamps are making a comeback.

Marlins: 64-98


The Mets this offseason have become the Ronald Reagan of baseball ... supplying weapons to the enemy. Between Paul Lo Duca and Lastings Milledge, the Washington Nationals scare the ever loving life out of me. (Did you know that Milledge already has a fan club in DC?)

Besides motivation, the Nats have all the ingredients for a surprise season. New ballpark. Solid manager. And most importantly, they have one of the budding young superstars in the game in Ryan Zimmerman. The Washington Nationals could contend into September. But there are some questions for me concerning the Nats:

  • There are some divergent personalities in that clubhouse ... and as Bobcat Goldthwait once said: "Either this is really going to work or this is really gonna suck." Will they come together and have slumber parties where they break out their fuzzy pajamas, roast marshmallows and sing campfire songs? Can Elijah Dukes, Paul Lo Duca, Dmitri Young, Lastings Milledge, and Ronnie Belliard et al share a clubhouse without driving each other crazy?

  • And speaking of Lo Duca, you had Brian Schneider guiding a very patchwork starting pitching staff towards a respectable season in 2007. So what will a change in catchers do? Is Lo Duca's fiery style what guys like Matt Chico, Jason Bergmann, and Tim Redding need to take the next step towards respectability? Or will this pitching staff prove to have a need for Schneider's easy hand and fall apart under Lo Duca?

  • How are the Nationals going to turn their extra first baseman (and as of right now it's Dmitri Young) into some parts that will improve the club like, say, starting pitching? And can they even do it? Young hovered close to 300 pounds this spring, and Nick Johnson outplayed him in the spring by a large margin. Can Dmitri even bring back anything in a trade? Or will he just be put on waivers so that the Braves can pick him up?
Nationals: 80-82


Speaking of the Braves picking guys up on waivers, I have to be really careful here to not assume that Atlanta snaring Ruben Gotay is going to shift the balance of power in the National League East, or change what I'm about to write. My pessimistic self is tempted to do it, but I'll refrain. Here's why:

I think the Atlanta Braves are overrated.

(Blesses self and makes sure lightning doesn't strike him)

There's no reason to cry and whine about how everybody and their mother is picking the Braves to win the N.L. East this season. It only seems that way. The fact of the matter is that there are are plenty of people out there picking the Mets. But there are an awful lot of pundits that are picking the Atlanta Braves. I understand why ... it's because there are a lot of people who look at the names on the jerseys and want to believe that it's 1995.

And yes, Mark Teixeira is damn good. Anyone who's in his prime and shows an ability to go .300/.400/.500 more than once is deserving of your praise and your awe. And Tim Hudson is back to being a legitimate number one starter. Players like Chipper Jones and John Smoltz have hit those kinds of numbers often. And that's the problem. The Braves are a team that collectively have hit their ceiling. There aren't a lot of guys that are primed to improve by a significant amount, while with all of the old/injury prone guys that the Braves are counting a large amount on, there's potential for disaster. Let me ask you this: If the Mets were headed into this season with the core of their team all over 35 years old, how many people do you think would be picking the Mets to win?

I'll go one step further: If the Mets were headed into this season with a third baseman who has consistently missed a good amount of games in the last four seasons, a pitcher who has missed the last two seasons in full, a 40-year-old pitcher who has had nagging injuries during the spring, and a 42-year-old pitcher last seen giving up seven runs in a third of an inning, how many people do you think would be picking the Mets to win? Certainly not as many as are picking the Braves right now, I'll tell you that.

I think the Braves are a third place team. But put a gun to my head and ask me to predict whether the Braves will break into the top two or the bottom two, then believe it or not I'm guessing lower. Outside of Hudson and Teixeira, the major components to the Braves are old, brittle, or both. And unlike seasons past, Andruw Jones ain't walkin' through that door. (Some might say that these days, Andruw Jones needs margarine to merely fit through the door.)

Braves: 82-80

Part two comin' soon! (Considering the season starts Monday, it would have to come real soon, wouldn't it?)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

How Chan Ho Park Still Hurts The Mets

Only in Flushing can a guy who had a stat line of .295/.351/.421 in 190 at bats, along with getting some big hits (specifically against Ryan Dempster) can be put on waivers and allowed to be picked up by the Braves to make room for a guy who gets to spring training late because of visa problems, and then when he gets here, goes 7-for-33. But he can play more positions, so in he goes, and out goes the baby with the bath water.

No wait, think of the hypocrisy of this, if you will. This is an organization that has no problem taking a guy and putting him in positions he doesn't normally play. But they don't think about putting Gotay in the outfield? And why would they need to, with Marlon Anderson and Damion Easley on the team to play first base? Someone has gotta tell me how Fernando Tatis makes sense? Because on a random April day in 1999, Tatis hit two grand slams in an inning? Don't even try telling me that has nothing to do with it ... because this guy wouldn't have been invited to spring training if that wasn't on his resume.

And by the way, do you know who those two grand slams came off of? Chan Ho Park. Chan Ho Flippin' Park! That's why Ruben Gotay is an Atlanta Brave: because Chan Ho Park gave up two grand slams in an inning in 1999! Chan Ho Park hasn't been on the Mets in months, and he's still retroactively killing us (albeit in a Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey kind of way).

Two days before opening day, and I'm already sobbing myself to sleep. Maybe this is the season I finally get that ulcer I've been cultivating. (The 2008 Mets: Your Ulcer Has Come).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Everybody Limbo With Ruben!!!

Ruben Gotay suffers through waivers, presumably so that retread Fernando Tatis can get a chance make the team. This blogger is surprised to learn that Tatis is only 33, and not 43. And if this blogger hears the phrase "veteran presence" from Willie Randolph he will, in fact, puke.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Slammed In Alabama

Holy crap, the season starts today!

Six o'clock in the morning, and baseball starts halfway around the world. On March 25th!

I'm confused. March 25th? While everyone is asleep? Hey, didn't the Mets kick off the 2000 season while everyone was asleep too?

This baseball season has snuck up on all of us ... especially myself, who spent the past week away on some business. But you'll be happy to know that I did find some down time to visit the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

Now when you think Alabama, you think football country. You think Bear Bryant. You think Joe Willie Namath. A true connoisseur of football would also think of Bart Starr and Derrick Thomas. Perhaps you know Alabama as the state which roundballers like Charles Barkley and Chuck "The Rifleman" Person called home.

But the list of hardball legends that got their start in Alabama isn't too shabby either. Willie McCovey and Ozzie Smith came from Mobile. Virgil Trucks and Bob Veale came from Birmingham (along with Willie Mays, who I don't understand how I blanked on last night ... thank you whozgotnext). And while we all associate Hank Aaron with Milwaukee and Atlanta, he got his start in Alabama.

But we have Alabama to thank for two thirds of the outfield of the Miracle Mets of 1969. Cleon Jones is from Mobile, and lives there today.

The late Tommie Agee, who once personalized an autographed 8X10 for yours truly, is also a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Of course, Agee really had no choice but to patronize me after I made a fool of myself re-enacting Agee's World Series catches with Agee not 20 feet away when a classmate of mine had the gall to ask "Who's Tommie Agee".

Who's Tommie Agee??!?! The nerve.

And here's your bonus Met connection to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame: from Tuscaloosa, number 15 in your program, and number ... 452 in your hearts, George Foster!

Hey, at least he's in a Hall of Fame. The only way I get in a Hall of Fame is if they had one for idiots (Uh, they do. It's called jail.)

Leave it to me to find baseball in SEC football country in the middle of a basketball tournament. But not only did I find a little pocket of horsehide in pigskin heaven, I overheard a conversation on the way to the airport about a Yankee fan at Comerica Park who was so galled that he was sitting 20 rows up from the Yankee dugout, he went to the Tiger ticket office to complain that it wasn't row two.

That made me smile.

Then, at LaGuardia Airport, I found a store selling Derek Jeter shirts ... at 25% off. At that moment I thought that now, truly, I'm ready for baseball season.

Just not at six in the morning.

Monday, March 17, 2008

In An Alternate Universe

In an alternate universe, if Pedro Martinez was a Yankee, Joe Girardi would be complaining that it's not good baseball etiquette to work so many high counts on his pitcher during spring training ... breaks some sort of unwritten rule or something.

In an alternate universe, the flying bat shard that gave Carlos Delgado four stitches (and the equipment manager some nasty blood stains to practice on) would have been thrown by Roger Clemens, providing the smoking gun that would put him in jail for something once and for all (attempted murder).

In an alternate universe, a Molina brother (or non-brother like Gustavo) could get a green light from first to third without people screaming "Noooooooooooooooo!"

In an alternate universe, Fluff Castro would be durable, and there would be no chance of a Molina surname on the Mets.

In an alternate universe, Brian Stokes would be getting everybody out ... but nobody else in the bullpen could strike out their grandmother. So sometimes, the grass is greener in our own universe (kind of like the green on this blog today ... hey, if the Mets can wear green uniforms and throw off my retinas every March 17th, I figure I can do the same thing.)


Hey, have you ever had a completely off the chain spring training trip much like the one I had a couple of weeks ago? Better still, have you had a spring training trip that made mine look like a walk around the block? Perhaps you shared a beer with Bruce Berenyi, or you rode the Tower of Terror with Eric Valent in Disneyworld. Maybe when you were a kid Charlie Puleo showed you how to throw a change-up at Al Lang Field, leading you to take up baseball in high school and get lit up for four years (maybe you should have learned a split fingered fastball from Mike Scott instead, eh?)

You get the picture. If you've got a story like that, then Kathy would like to hear from you. E-mail her at with your story, which will be included in her next project if it's wild enough. (One caveat: if your story involves Dave Kingman blowing you off for an autograph, don't bother. Dave Kingman has blown off everybody for an autograph. Kathy's looking for happy stories involving autographs, pictures, and perhaps a game of catch with Gary Rajsich.)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Trade Libs

I'm thinking this is how the Angel Pagan rumor got started. See how you do with it:

According to sources, the Mets are close to a deal that would send proper name to the team in exchange for proper name along with minor leaguer and cash. Mets front office employee had no comment, but an anonymous Mets source said that the trade is being made to create noun in their noun and that it would also provide first proper name with a change of noun.

Second proper name is thought to be extremely adjective and will help the Mets stat line in the short term. His adjective contract is very adjective for the Mets in the long term, and many fans are expected to verb the deal, which makes Mets front office types very emotion. Mets brass thinks that this trade is a better option than signing free agent.

In other news, Orlando Hernandez has been diagnosed with a strained muscle, a fractured bone, and has come down with rare affliction, yet still hopes to be ready by date due to his new, less strenuous delivery.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

No, We Don't Play The Blue Jays This Season

Dear Armando,

Congratulations on finding work with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Just so you know, the Canadian dollar is worth just as much as the American dollar these days. This stringent exchange rate means that you will not suck any less than you did south of the International Boundary.

Oh, and you can no longer get good deals at the Big and Tall shop.



P.S. Baaaaaaaaalk, balk balk balk balk balk, baaaaaaaaaaaaalk!

I hold grudges. What of it?

Slow Pitch

Has there seriously been talk of Barry Bonds being signed by the Mets?


All right, let's put aside the fact that after a full night of rooting for a Mets team with Barry Bonds as a member would dictate that you take a full scrub bath with iodine after leaving Shea Stadium at night. Put aside your moral qualms for just a second here: At this point what's left of his career, Barry Bonds is a softball player. He plays seven innings, he jogs around the bases, and defense is an afterthought. This is the best the Mets can do to replace Moises Alou?

I advocate a deal for Xavier Nady if that's what it comes down to. But ... if it's a softball player the Mets are after, they have other options. Let's look at some as we do our part to spare the Mets the P.R. nightmare and media coverage bloodsucker known as Barry Bonds:

Jennie Finch, USA: The conversation starts and ends here when it comes to softball players. Finch went 32-0 in 2002 for the University of Arizona, and 15-0 for the U.S. National team in 2004. She would immediately slide into the role of 5th starter for the Mets. And she solves the age issue as she's young enough to be Orlando Hernandez's grand-daughter.

Kaitlin Cochran, Arizona State: She's only a sophomore, but she's already demolished the record books in the Pac 10, with a slugging percentage of .838 and 35 HR's in 377 career AB's. In a sport dominated by pitching, this is an accomplishment. Two problems here though: She's a lefty, and her favorite team is the Dodgers ... which tells me that she'd want to play for a west coast team anyway.

Dusty Diamond, Nintendo: I'm still trying to figure out whether Dusty Diamond is real, or just an old Nintendo video game, but it's addicting nonetheless.

Les Nessman, WKRP in Cincinnati: The guy I really want is the guy from that softball episode who caught line drives at third base with a beer can in his throwing hand. But since we have David Wright (and since Bailey Quarters isn't available ... I asked), we'll take Nessman who made a spectacular catch to end the episode in right field.

Metstradamus, Hoffman Park: Admittedly, I'm way past my prime, which lasted about two days. But I'm right-handed, I once hit .400 in a season, and spent most of my time playing first base ... although I can spell Luis Castillo and David Wright once in a while. I even had a walk-off hit robbed from me as a speedy runner was inexplicably held at third on a single to center field.

And, I'm young enough to be Julio Franco's grandson.

Please submit your suggestions here.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Those Flashbacks Haven't Completely Gone Away

As I turned on the Mets game in the bottom of the fifth (it took an inning for me to remember that the Mets are actually aired on WPIX too), the score read as such:

Marlins 7
Mets 1

And it begged the question: Did by any chance those seven runs come in the first inning?

The answer: no. Mike Pelfrey gave up seven runs in three and 1/3 innings, which is three runs longer than it took Tom Glavine last September (and you thought progress was something you could only read about in books ... hah!) Pelfrey had his first spring clunker after two good outings. And while spring training is spring training, I actually acquired a thought about this (okay, I stole it from someone else). Could Pelfrey's step back have anything to do with working with Brian Schneider for the first time? No, I'm not suggesting that the two will fail to mesh this season, but is Pelfrey going to go through a few bad outings in the spring while getting used to the way Schneider calls a game? And is there a learning curve in the other direction?

More importantly, why ... if the Mets are getting shellacked on WPIX, can't I flip on SNY and see the game they're winning? You know, the one where Jorge Sosa threw three shutout innings against the Orioles and upped his trade value for a right handed hitting outfielder? Yeah, I missed that one.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

World Still Spins On Its Axis As John Kruk Picks Mets To Finish Third

I guess the season can start now that John Kruk has become this season's Steve Phillips and has picked the Mets to finish third in the N.L. East during Friday's win against the Indians.

Will somebody tell baseball's Travelocity Gnome that the Braves have two starters over 40, and one starter who just had his 213th injury in the last two years?

And will someone tell him that Mike Pelfrey's astrological chart is foretelling a big season from him? Sheesh.

And ... AND! Somebody tell Krukkie that the Mets are feverishly trying to re-acquire Xavier Nady, or go get Marcus Thames at the low low price of Jorge Sosa and some Planters Sweet N' Crunchy Peanuts? Because forget Santana ... If the Mets get X-Man back, it's over. Do you hear me Kruk? Kruk! KRUUUUUUUUUK!!!


Oh never mind. I'm sick of arguing. Have another beer.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Never Forget The Ice Cream

This one was one for the annals.

This past trip was so jam packed that I needed more than a day to process everything and put the words down on paper. The three day spring training trip that we just embarked on was truly a Johnny Cash song.

Sunday started with a two-hour drive from the Disney Complex to Vero Beach. How do you know you're leaving Disney? When you see billboards that read " It's Easier Than You Think!" or other gems that advertise an "Lunch Buffet/Adult Cabaret". See, Florida can be fun even outside of Disneyworld!

We got to Dodgertown at about 11AM and immediately pulled over to take pictures by the sign (like the one you see above) on the way in ... all the while thinking our rent-a-car was going to get plowed by somebody on the side of the road. Luckily, the closest thing to a catastrophe occurred when the zipper on my bag ripped apart my finger and caused me to bleed all over my Todd Zeile jersey.

Yes, you heard me, I own a Todd Zeile jersey. But more on that later.

After two days of mingling amongst Braves and Dodgers and Tigers and Indians, it was nice to be surrounded by my own kind, and that included incomparable Mets bloggers such as Matt Cerrone, Zoe Rice, and "The Coop" who I was fortunate to run into just in front of the walkway into Dodgertown, along with Stefi Kaplan later in the game. The four of them were on their own spring training odysseys, and you can read all about their adventures here and here.

Here's the thing about Dodgertown: It's freakin' awesome. Disney and Tigertown both provided unique experiences in terms of watching a ballgame. Disney provided, well ... Disney, along with the opportunity to heckle Larry Jones (yes, that loud voice you heard during the bottom of the fifth with a 1-2 count on "Chipper" was, in fact, yours truly). Tigertown provided the oldest spring training home in the majors, and the opportunity to sit on a hill of grass with about 1,000 other people. Dodgertown didn't fail in providing yet another unique experience in terms of fan enjoyment. For example, how many people can say they were almost run over by a golf cart being driven by Mariano Duncan, with Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa riding shotgun? Not many.

I, am one of those people.

But such is the experience of Dodgertown, where players walk right past you and give you high fives if you ask nicely. And if you go to the practice fields, you never know who you're going to run into. And that brings me to the story of the weekend:

It actually started on Friday, when my buddy was wearing the hat you see to the right, a St. Andrews Old Course hat, while trying to get Tommy "Come Down From The Tree" Lasorda's autograph. Lasorda was in the stands that day, willing to sign autographs but only between innings. At the end of the game, he failed in getting Tommy to sign his ball, but asked Lasorda's handler if he'd be around on Sunday when we got to Vero. The guy basically told him that if he wore that hat on Sunday, he would be recognized and given an autograph.

Fast forward to Sunday on that Vero Beach practice field, where Tommy was about to be driven away by the handler when my friend starts waving his hat yelling "Old Course! Old Course! Old Course!" True to his word, Tommy's handler stops the golf cart, takes my buddy's ball and gets it signed by Lasorda (and afterwards, drives Lasorda away, making everybody who had failed to get an autograph before even more angry that the guy who just shows up in a golf hat gets a signature at their expense.)

But fear not, there were plenty of autographs to be had ... as for one day only, fans got to go on to the field and get autographs from basically every single Dodger on the team (except Jeff Kent, who was nowhere to be found when I got there. Gee, what a surprise! Oh, and Nomar Garciaparra left early too.) I told Andruw Jones that I was happy that he wouldn't be killing the Mets nearly as much from the N.L. West. Everyone else got a laugh out of it, but I couldn't wipe the smirk-like smile off Andruw's face.

Andre Ethier even remembered it was a sinker that he hit off of Ryan Dempster to win a game in Wrigley last September. Weird.

After the scrum, I have to admit that I was too exhausted to make my way to right field to see if any Mets were doing some signing ... and considering that pretty much every big player either stayed in Port St. Lucie or was injured, there weren't a lot of players available to autograph (but one guy who my buddy was able to get was Fernando Martinez, which was pretty cool.)

Then the game started, and it started with a whimper as Martinez, Ruben Gotay, and Angel Pagan played "I got it you take it" on a pop fly which should have ended the inning but instead put two runs on Ollie Perez's spring ERA. But I couldn't be too upset over that, because I'm sure those players all saw what could happen when you pursue a pop fly too hard in spring training ... you get knocked out with a concussion.

I'll say this: I hope that Carlos Delgado's injury isn't serious ... because I could swear I saw Michel Abreu swing at everything thrown to him, including a hot dog wrapper that was thrown across home plate. In fact, when I got home, I threw an empty cup at a garbage can, and I could swear I felt the breeze of Abreu's bat swinging at it. Here's a sampling of Abreu's greatest whiffs from Sunday:

But speaking of hot dog wrappers, Dodgertown provided me with the fulfillment of a lifelong dream: I ate a Dodger Dog. I'm still not sure that it was the authentic Dodger Dog that's sold at Chavez Ravine, but as I told the vendors: If you're not sure, just tell me it is and don't destroy the dream.

And while on line for that dog, a guy who was with ESPN ... no, I don't know who ... gave me props for being the only guy he's ever seen with a Todd Zeile Mets jersey. I don't know if that means I'm special or insane. Probably the latter ... but I got a warm feeling inside much the same.

Update: Lest you thought I was kidding about the Zeile jersey, it looks like the lens of justice caught me for Straight Cash Homey, a website dedicated to finding unsuspecting folk sporting obscure jerseys, or as they put it: "an international ridiculous jersey scavenger hunt". The funny thing is, I have about 10-15 jerseys that would qualify for this website, and always thought that one day I might make this site. Alas, this is the one that gets me on the site. To whoever snapped the shot, great catch. And thanks to the anonymous tipster that found me on the site. I hope the jersey doesn't make my butt look big.

By the way, did I mention the other oddity about Holman Stadium in Vero Beach? Stadiums like Wrigley Field have pillars to obstruct your view. But Holman obstructs your view while going green at the same time: with trees right in the middle of the stands!

There was a guy at the game behind the stands who could have used a tree as took a foul ball to the head ... it hit him with such ferocity that it bounced back towards the stands and rolled under the seat next to me. It was pretty bad, but he wound up getting the ball as a souvenir.

The game ended with three Met runs in the ninth, capped by Pagan's two -out two-run single (captured below). Before the game, I wasn't convinced that there was a roster spot for Pagan. After the game, I started to come around. And now with the various injuries to Ruben Gotay, Ryan Church, Marlon Anderson, Moises Alou (especially Moises Alou), Joel Youngblood, George Theodore, and Amos Otis, Pagan may be as big a lock for a roster spot out of camp as Jose Reyes is.

But Sunday, like the rest of the weekend, really wasn't about who won or lost. It was about drinking beer, throwing down hot dogs, and experiencing baseball in an entirely new way ... not necessarily in that order. It was about getting a tan in February. It was about chatting with major leaguers. It was about acquiring a whole new appreciation for games that don't count in the standings. It was about appreciating the fact that some people go through their whole year living off the money they make for six weeks out of the year. Unfortunately, that money runs out as the Dodgers move their spring operations out of Vero Beach for good as of the 17th. It runs out for the people that served my ice cream in a plastic helmet, imploring me to think of them, root for them to get a new team so they could make a living, and never forget the ice cream.

Not anytime soon, I promise.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Postcard From Florida: Blasts From The Past

Two interesting happenings at Lakeland on Saturday from the Tigers 3-3 tie with the Indians at the oldest spring training facility in the country. The first one involved old friend Vance Wilson:

As he was signing autographs (and taking pictures with the likes of yours truly), we had this exchange of loose quotes:

MD: Hey Vance, we miss you back up in New York.

VW: Hey thanks man, I had some great memories up in New York ... if not the greatest years.

MD: We enjoyed having you much the same, hope you come back one day.

VW: Thanks a lot.

Nice to know Vance thinks fondly of his experience with us, yet was realistic at the same time. Wilson was ... easily ... the nicest of the autograph signing Tigers.

The second happening was during the eighth inning, when one of the multitude of Tigers fans in attendance spotted the two of us wearing our Mets gear and pointed and said:

"Hey, Mets and Tigers in the series this year!"
From your mouth to the ears of whatever deity you pray to.

Off to Vero Beach for today's Met game ... the next time you hear from me I'll be back at home base in the NYC. Enjoy the game.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Postcard From Florida: Behind Enemy Lines

Hope you're enjoying the snow back home in New York City.

Here, it reached a high of 78 in Sunny Florida ... a stark contrast from the 19 degrees we dealt with on Thursday night back at White Plains airport. That walk from the gate to the plane outdoors almost froze us before we got on the plane. I'll take 78, thanks.

I was excited when there was a good handful of Mets fans at the airport, thinking they were all coming to Orlando with me. I had thoughts of leading a chorus of "Meet the Mets" on the plane. But all the Met fans got on the plane to West Palm while we took the last flight out to Orlando for leg one of "Metstrapalooza: The Spring Training Tour".

Game one was spent behind enemy lines: Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex (at the newly christened Champions Field) for the Dodgers and the Braves. You probably missed the Braves taking advantage of the Dodgers' porous middle relief for a 10-3 victory. You also missed Dodger third baseman Andy LaRoche being the nicest guy in the world. He gave autographs to anyone and everyone. If LaRoche wasn't a third baseman I would demand that we trade for this guy right now! There were two Dodgers that were nice enough to sign baseballs for the crowd. Would you believe the other one was Rafael Furcal?

You also missed me chanting "Laaaaaaaa-rryyyyyyyyyy" at every opportunity (including the two ground balls he bobbled). I was texting people back home telling them to put on the ESPN game to try to hear me yell at him. Did any of you hear me by chance? (I think Larry himself might have heard me, right before his base hit in the fifth which signaled to me that I should probably knock it off before he gets madder).

And you just missed a conversation in the hotel room regarding Hank Steinbrenner's bitching and moaning about this being a Yankee World, to which I replied: "If this is a Yankee World, where's my spaceship to Mars?" (And now at this point, the Yankee fan in the room is talking about guest blogging for me. I'm not stupid enough to do that a second time.)

Well, it's a long drive to Lakeland tomorrow for leg two: Indians/Tigers at Lakeland, so I should probably get some sleep. It's all leading up to a reunion between me and the Mets at Vero Beach on Sunday. Hopefully, whichever star pitcher is on the hill will refrain from giving up a three run dinger to an 84-year-old man. I hate Juan Gonzalez.

In the meantime, enjoy more photos from Day One, and stop shoveling so much snow: