Tuesday, May 31, 2005

By The Numbers

Memorial Day. It's supposedly a great baseball holiday. Yet on Memorial Day 2005, there was no baseball in New York for either the Yankees or the Mets. That meant that fans of both teams were bored, and you know what that means...


Today's argument with my Yankee fan "friend" revolved around numbers. His issue was with the lack of uniform numbers retired by the Mets in their 43+ season history, and the fact that the Mets have a problem with acknowledging their past. Retiring uniform numbers is tricky. Obviously, the Mets only have one hall of fame player wear their cap in Cooperstown, (Seaver) so if you are going to go simply by that criteria, then there's no need to save room on the outfield wall. And while you do want to acknowledge your history, you don't want to make a dopey move along the lines of, say, the White Sox retiring Harold Baines' number 3 after trading him to Texas because the move turned out to be unpopular...only to have Baines play 12 more seasons and come back to the White Sox TWICE.

So here is my $0.02 about who should make the wall, and who should fall just short...

Jerry Koosman's 36: Being a dominant part of the '69 champs and lasting 12 seasons with the Mets work for him. Not being a hall of famer and a Met record of only 140-137 work against him. But if you throw out his last two seasons pitching for terrible teams his Met record becomes 129-102. And he also had seasons like 1973, where he had a 2.84 ERA but only a 14-15 record. And his record in the playoffs: 4-0. To me, 36 belongs.

Tug McGraw's 45: A sentimental choice, as his rallying cry of "Ya Gotta Believe" was the symbol of an amazin' run to the 1973 World Series. Spent 9 seasons with the Mets for 86 saves, along with 10 for the Phillies for 94 saves. Was as much a symbol of the 1980 Phillies champs as he was for the '73 team, and of course he was an important cog in 1969. A shame that he wasn't a Met for his entire career. If that were the case, 45 would have been retired a long time ago. As it is, 45 should be under at least some consideration, and certainly should be mentioned here on this list. Unfortunately, the fact that only two of his Met seasons resulted in over 20 saves keep him off the wall. And if the Mets didn't retire his number after his untimely death last year, they never will.

Gary Carter's 8: His hall of fame status and his being an integral part of the '86 champs are pros. Only 5 seasons with the Mets hurt him, and the last three Met seasons were awful. "Kid" to me personified what was right with the Mets, and to many, what was wrong with the Mets (excessive curtain calls). There was no more important player on that championship team than Carter with his clutch hitting and his handling of the pitching staff. But his lack of production from 1987-1989 was a big reason why those Mets teams didn't win more than one. If it were up to me, 8 would be on the wall. But just 2 productive seasons is going to keep 8 in circulation, and I can understand that.

Keith Hernandez's 17: Was also an integral part of the 86 team. Spent 6 and 1/2 seasons in blue and orange so that's a bit better than Carter but not by much. From '83 to '87 Mex was one of the best clutch hitters in baseball, the best fielding first baseman in baseball (yes Yankee fans, a bit better than Mattingly), and a big part of the clubhouse with his take no garbage attitude. In '88 and '89 he battled injuries and was let go with Carter at the end of the 1989 season. No hall of fame status hurts him a bit, but I think you could probably make a slightly better case for Keith's 17 than for Gary's 8. I think two things ultimately keep Hernandez off the wall. First is that if the Mets don't retire 8, they would not retire 17. The two numbers should go hand in hand at Shea. And second, to a much lesser degree, is the fact that he works for the club as an announcer and he has butted heads in the past with Piazza over his infamous "they quit" comments a few seasons back. The fact that Hernandez caved from his comments after some pressure from his employers and apologized knocked him down a peg in my eyes, because I agreed with his original analysis. I think it helps keep 17 in the clubhouse.

Darryl Strawberry's 18: The way Straw's career was going, 18 should have been a slam dunk. His name and his persona gave him a recognition factor in the 80's that rivaled Reggie Jackson's noteriety in the late 70's. He spent 8 seasons in Queens and put up big numbers. He also had issues on the field and off. He was on track for Cooperstown until he left the Mets after the 1990 season, where his career and his life fell apart. To me, even though he blew his shot at Cooperstown, 18 would have been a cinch to be retired except for one thing...his public obsession with playing for the Dodgers with Eric Davis which started during the 1988 playoffs. To Darryl's credit, he recently admitted in a television interview that leaving New York was the biggest mistake of his professional career. And I'm glad he's turned his life around. But he can't undo the past, and that's why Marlon Anderson wears number 18.

Dwight Gooden's 16: Similar to Strawberry in that he should have made the hall. Spent 11 seasons at Shea, and from '84-'86, was the brightest star in New York baseball, bar none. But Gooden also had substance abuse problems...first in 1987 when he missed the first two months while rehabbing at Betty Ford clinic (and may have cost the Mets the division that season as they started slow and wound up finishing 3 games behind St. Louis), and twice more in 1994, which ultimately led to his suspension from the major leagues in 1995. Number 16 being raised for Gooden, in a way, sets a bad example. A number retirement would be a mighty high honor for someone who, while dealing with his own demons and meaning no ill will towards anyone, let down his organization and his teammates. You could say it would also be a bad example in Strawberry's case, but Gooden's drug abuse kept him off the field for the Mets, which never happened in Strawberry's Met tenure.

Mookie Wilson's 1: This is interesting. Although Wilson's Met career wasn't statistically spectacular, he was the embodiment of class and played the game the right way. His at bat against Bob Stanley was the most important at bat in franchise history, and if you tell me that he got lucky because of Buckner's colossal blunder, I will respond by telling you that Mookie would have beat it out anyway. The lack of big-time statistics will keep number 1 around, but I have to tell you that if the Mets ever decide to retire Mookie's number, it would be one of the classiest moves in franchise history.

Mike Piazza's 31: Piazza is in his 8th season with the Mets, and is a lock for the hall of fame. Not only was he an intregal part of the 2000 N.L. champions, in many ways he WAS the team. Unfortunately, his lasting legacy in a Met uniform will be tied to Roger Clemens, but I can't think of a good reason why 31 won't make it's way to the Shea wall. Piazza has played more games for the Mets than with Los Angeles, and he should be wearing a Mets cap in Cooperstown...so to me this seems like the most obvious lock.

The Mets obviously take seriously the prospect of retiring a number. This is why there is a Mets hall of fame in the Diamond Club at Shea, so that all of these players can be honored without having wrangle with the decision to pack their number away. It's the way it should be. But do they take it too seriously? Should the Mets to a better job of honoring their past? They could always do better. And to me, Koosman's 36, along with Piazza's 31, belong on the shelf forever, and there should be at least some consideration for the rest. But ultimately, retiring a number should be sacred and extremely special...not the result of extreme sentimentality, wasted potential, an untimely death, or in the case of Baines, a stupid trade. If that were the case, Scott Kazmir's 57 would never be worn again.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Ode To Tony Clark

Compassion. Consistency. Connection. Just some of the words to describe one of the most important players in New York Mets history, Anthony Christopher Clark. You know him simply, as Tony.

What can you say about Tony? The tallest first baseman in Mets history, Clark was more than just a baseball player...a lot more. Midway through the 2003 season, Tony changed his uniform number from 00 to 52. While on the surface that might not seem like a major move, with one uniform number change Tony made history. Not only did he become the first player in Mets history to wear two numbers for the first time, but he's the first player ever to give up a number to a team mascot with a big baseball for a head. You see, Mr. Met also wears 00. Children and Mr. Met fans everywhere were confused throughout the first half of the 2003 season, wondering if the true identity of Mr. Met was revealed (Clark and Met are about the same height), and if the aura of Mr. Met was compromised forever. Clark, not wanting to give kids the impression that there really was no Mr. Met, switched to 52, and children everywhere rejoiced as Mr Met was able to keep 00 all to himself.

You see, Tony Clark is all about the children...that's what made Tony special. Who was there to pick up the pieces from Mo Vaughn's .190 batting average in 2003? Yes, Tony Clark. Who was there to set the right example for the rest of the Met bench by caring enough to give up his uniform number to a mascot? Tony Clark. And who did a solid for Met fans everywhere by NOT hitting a home run off of Keith Foulke in the ninth inning of game 6 of the historic 2004 ALCS for the Yankees? You guessed it! Tony Clark!!!

Seriously, Clark is having a good year off the bench for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season, .321 with 5 HR's and 22 RBI's and an OPS of 1.005 in 78 at bats. The Snakes visit Shea starting Tuesday...

Tuesday: Brad Halsey (3-2, 3.34) vs. Kris Benson (3-1, 3.86)

Willie Randolph used today's off day to flip flop Benson and Victor Zambrano to keep Benson on his regular rotation. Good idea, considering Benson has had three straight lights out starts including the last two against the Yankees and the Marlins. Luis E. Gonzalez has 8 hits in 15 at bats including 3 doubles and a homer lifetime against Benson. Craig Counsell is 5 for 9 lifetime. Halsey, the former Yankee involved in the Randy Johnson trade, outpitched Roger Clemens on May 19th.

Wednesday: Brandon Webb (6-1, 3.39) vs. Victor Zambrano (2-5, 4.74)

Of course, the downside of flip flopping Benson and Zambrano is that you have this matchup. Webb has been amazing this season, and is as much a reason for the Diamondbacks resurgence as anyone. Former Angel World Series hero Troy Glaus is the other big reason, but he only has 2 hits in 11 AB's vs. Zambrano. Zambrano hasn't been horrid lately, only giving up 9 earned runs in his last 23 innings for a 3.52 ERA. But again, expectations have been so low for Zambrano, to say he hasn't been horrid is equivalent to saying a normal pitcher has been pitching like Walter Johnson lately.

Thursday: Shawn Estes (4-3, 3.79) vs. Pedro Martinez (5-1, 2.79)

Funny how I immediately thought to wax poetic about Tony Clark but completely forgot about another former Met and current D'Back Shawn Estes. That's probably because the best thing Estes ever did for the Mets was bring back Brady Clark in the trade to the Reds. But as is the Mets way, they couldn't even take advantage of that as they went and released Clark after he hit .417 for the Mets. And now Clark is hitting .335 for the Brewers. And don't get me started about the attempted beaning of Roger Clemens as he missed him by three feet as Clemens stood there and smirked that arrogant Yankee smirk of his. Nice job Estes, thanks for nothing.

Wouldn't it be typical if Estes turned around and beaned Piazza on Thursday? Wouldn't that be kind of like Hulk Hogan turning on Macho Man Savage and teaming with Kevin Nash and the NWO?

Dae Sung Hai-Koo

Three-oh to Carlos
Koo is polite, grooves fastball...
Sweep leaves, why Koo why?

(Note: Concept shamelessly stolen from the Phreakin Phils blog feature: Phreakin Haiku)

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Tom Teriffic (For Now)

If Tom Glavine wasn't a mortal N.L. East enemy for nine seasons, I could forgive his transgressions.

If Tom Glavine didn't carry himself like the Kevin McReynolds of pitchers, then maybe I wouldn't be so hard on him.

(And if Woody had gone to the police, this would never have happened.)

Tom Glavine will perpetually be in a position where no matter how well he's going, he's always one start away from falling back into the bad graces of Met fans everywhere. After all, he was a Brave...a very good Brave...and considering his record against them some would stay he still is a Brave. And after a rough start, there are many who would have hailed him a cab out of town...with no seatbelt.

But it would be unfair not to acknowledge his turnaround. Today's loss against Florida marked Glavine's 4th straight strong start, and I gotta say it makes me mad in a way. It gets boring hammering on Victor Zambrano all the time, Glavine provided a great alternative outlet. Great as a Brave, horrid as a Met, an excuse for every loss...not only was it easy to complain about Tom Glavine, it was fun too!

But now he's straightened out. And he straightened out right after I said he was done.

Damn you Tom Glavine. Keep it up.

Hold That Parade

So it winds up being 3 out of 4 from the Marlins with today's 6-3 loss in Miami. I'll certainly take it after the massacre in Atlanta, but after having a 2-1 lead in the seventh there is certainly a bitter taste. The bullpen blew up in the seventh as Heath Bell took the loss and Dae Sung Koo gave up a monster home run to Carlos "Plan A" Delgado to salt it away. David Wright left seven men on base today, including double plays in the fourth and sixth, and striking out with two runners on in the 8th as the tying run.

But lots of good things came out of this series:
  • The Mets starters: Pedro Martinez, Kaz Ishii, and Tom Glavine went inning for inning with the best the Marlins have to offer. I have to say that even after taking three of four, I'm impressed as heck with the Florida Marlins. Brian Moehler is pitching lights out; Dontrelle Willis was impressive in defeat when he didn't have his best stuff, and Josh Beckett is a horse. With his temper (which came out against Kenny Lofton the other night and against Victor Diaz earlier in the season when he felt each was showing them up), I think there will be some Clemens-type moments between himself and the Mets in the future. The Mets rotation matched them zero for zero, and if not for an ill-timed blow up by Heath Bell and Mr. Koo in the seventh, this is a sweep.
  • Mike Piazza: Hopefully, his first RBI since May 9th on Saturday gets him going. He needed it.
  • Doug Mientkiewicz: Two hits in 3 AB's today moved his average up to .216, and there will be no "I suck" quotes today. But is that a good thing? (See "The Doug Mientkiewicz Quotebook" at right.)
  • Jose Reyes: Not one, but TWO walks today. That makes three in the series. I think I'm going to faint.


Go figure.

Kaz Ishii hadn't won since August 29th of last season (against the Mets). Dontrelle Willis was 8-1 in his last nine, undefeated at home, and undefeated against the Mets in his career. That's why you can't make predictions when it comes to baseball (but you can make prophecies and give yourself a monacre like Metstradamus and get away with it).

The bats also woke up in the Mets 6-1 victory. Fourteen hits (three each by Miguel Cairo and Mike Piazza), and eight off Willis, who wasn't particularly bad but wasn't quite Dontrelle, combined with a nice performance by Ishii all bring the Mets to within 2 games of the first place Marlins and Braves who also lost.

A win on Sunday and it's time for the lawn jockey parade.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Food For Thought

Item: Mets first base coach Jerry Manuel to interview for the Royals head coaching job this weekend.

Why? I hope he watches Friday's Royals highlights from SportsCenter before he interviews. The Royals scored four in the top of the ninth against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim County in California, USA...only to have the Royals blow it in the bottom of the frame, giving up five runs...three of them on a throwing error by Angel "Don't call me Geronimo" Berroa on a sure double play ball. I hope Manuel knows what he's getting involved with. The Royals might be better off just hiring Lou Brown from the "Major League" trilogy. I hear Rick Vaughn tearing up the California Penal League.

Item: Rickey Henderson goes two for three with a steal and two walks in his debut with the San Diego Surf Dawgs of the Golden Baseball League.

The Golden Baseball League? Is that where Rick Vaughn is playing? Two walks in one game is 1/3 of the walks that Jose Reyes has in two months. Any chance the Mets will bring back Henderson to be their designated leadoff hitter to draw a walk and then have Reyes pinch run for him and play the rest of the game?

Item: Controversial Danny Almonte now pitching for the Florida Bombers, an 18 and under Connie Mack League team.

I just wish that Almonte would be show contrition and admit that the Derek Jeter home run that he reached over the right field wall to catch should have been an out and that the Yanks should have never won that series against the Orioles in 1996.

Item: Mark Prior's elbow suffers a slight fracture courtesy of a Brad Hawpe line drive during the Cubs' 10-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

Is it true that Hawpe's nickname is "Billy Goat"?

For Those Calling for Eric Valent's Head, There's This...

Eric Valent's double tonight could not save his job, and could not prevent the return of Victor Diaz. Valent was designated for assignment following Friday's night's 1-0 victory over the Marlins, and Victor Diaz will make his return to the bigs as the Mets will call him up to take Valent's place on the roster. Valent was hitting .186 with no home runs and one RBI in 28 games. Diaz batted .294 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 28 games with the Mets before being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on May 16.

Pedro Es Tan Anuncio

Funny how there's a big series going on in the Bronx, yet the one person who really belongs there over anybody was pitching in Miami tonight. And pitch he did. Pedro showed once again why Omar Minaya traveled all the way to the Dominican Republic to woo him, as he defeated the first place Marlins 1-0, throwing 8 innings of blanks in the process.

It not often that you hear the phrase "you have to pitch shutout ball to beat Brian Moehler", but the way he's been pitching, and the way he threw tonight, that's exactly what Pedro had to do and he did it. And in the process he saved another round of headlines wondering why the Mets can't hit. The one run, scored in the fourth via back to back doubles by Cameron and Floyd, was all Pedro needed.

The seminal moment in the game came in the seventh...with Carlos Delgado on second and one out, Juan Encarnacion strode to the plate looking to tie the game. Pitch one: Martinez stays sets at the belt for what seemed like forever. The moment Encarnacion tried to call time, Pedro went into his delivery and fired a strike. Encarnacion beefed with home plate ump Mark Wegner, and at that moment the at bat was over. Pitch two: Encarnacion fouls an inside fastball back. Pitch three: Who says Martinez and Mike Piazza don't work well together? Piazza set up outside for what seemingly was a waste pitch outside. Instead, Martinez throws a back-up slider over the heart of the plate which was dropped by Piazza, which could have meant he was fooled but he didn't look crossed up. Translation: Juan Encarnacion got Punk'd! At-bat over...Encarnacion got himself ejected by Wegner so his night was over...and at that moment you could have called the ball game over.

Pedro fanned 10 Marlins and Braden Looper came in for (gasp!) a 1-2-3 ninth. The road trip just may be saved, but don't forget that the Mets draw Dontrelle Willis and Josh Beckett over the weekend. One win out of the two would be gravy for the series. A sweep? I think you have a better chance of seeing a lawn jockey parade down Roosevelt Avenue with underwear on their heads. But hey, I'm still willing to dream in late May.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Safe For Now

Tonight was a must win for the New York Mets...not because it's late in the season or anything like that, but if the Mets had lost a game started by a 36 year old with a career record of 82-103 coming into the season, and relieved by a major league baseball virgin, then there was no hope. The season for all intensive purposes would have ended on May 26th.

It didn't look good for a while tonight, as the Marlins actually scored the first run of the game and had the game tied 3-3 in the top of the 5th (this after a violent rain delay that threatened to jeopardize the Mets chance at facing a pitcher they had no business losing to.) And it isn't as though the Mets used their cunning and skill to take the lead in that inning. They used David Wright's base hit sandwiched by three walks and a Damion Easley error on a sure double play ball by Doug Mientkiewicz (yes, another one) to score three runs and help blow the game open.

Once that happened, it seemed as if the pressure was off and the laugher was on. Jose Reyes started tripling the Marlins to death. Cliff Floyd got a hit with a runner in scoring position. Everyone, with the exception of maybe Mientkiewicz and Mike Piazza, relaxed and played their game and the Mets won 12-4 at Mammal Stadium to gain a game on the Fish. And with Pedro on the hill tomorrow, the Mets have an opportunity to gain no worse than a split from this four game set, which is what they should get as they have no business beating Dontrelle or Josh Beckett over the weekend.

And the Mets also saved themselves a tongue lashing from Metstradamus. Trust me, it was coming.

Reality Bites

When am I going to learn?

When am I going to get it through my thick skull that the Mets are never going to win again in Atlanta...EVER?

Three days rest each for two pitchers in one bad ballpark. It counts down to ZERO runs for the New York Mets in 18 innings.

Where to begin? Victor Zambrano was pretty gosh darn good tonight. Six innings, 4 hits, 3 walks, two runs, and one earned run tells us that he was able to find the plate tonight. But in his obligitory one bad inning, he had a little trouble finding third base. After a walk by Johnny Estrada and a single by Ryan Langerhans, Zambrano fielded a Pete Orr bunt and fired to second base. Problem: David Wright wasn't quite at the base, and the ball made it's way to left field and the runners scored. Furcal added an RBI single and that was your ball game.

Jose Reyes grounded into two double plays, once to end the third with runners on first and second, and once to end the seventh with the bases loaded. Cliff Floyd continued his streak of un-clutch hitting, and Mike Piazza continued the magic show tonight (you know, where he waves his magic wand at outside sliders and makes rallies disappear).

So the Mets are 4 and 1/2 games back and have four games with the Marlins. A.J. Burnett is injured so the Mets get to face Frank Castillo while they have Kris Benson on the hill. Here is my latest prophecy...if the Mets can't hit Frank Freakin' Castillo, the venom comes out. That's a promise.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Deal That Keeps On Giving

Tonight at approximately 7:12 after Kyle Davies sets the Mets down 1-2-3 in the top of the first, Victor Zambrano will take the hill for the Mets with the purpose of helping to save them from a dreadful road trip.

Say it with me: The Mets' hopes ride on Victor Zambrano.

Not to make you all feel worse, but tonight's Mets starter could have been Tim Hudson.

Instead, Tim Hudson is shutting the Mets out.

Last night's 4-0 Braves victory, their 3,000,000th vs. the Mets at Turner Field, provided yet another reminder of how badly the Mets handled trade deadline day 2004, and how incredible John Schuerholz is at doing his job. Wouldn't it have been great for all the Mets (and for Billy Beane) had the Wilpons realized that 2004 was down the tubes and they had kept Kazmir, and used him to, oh I don't know, acquire Tim Hudson from the Athletics? Pedro, Hudson, Glavine as your third starter, Benson, and Heilman? And Billy Beane goes into the season with Zito, Harden, Haren, Blanton, and Kazmir?

Nope. The Mets trade Kazmir for a project, and Moneyball trades Hudson to the Mets chief rivals for Charles Thomas (who is hitting .103), Juan Cruz (who has an ERA of 7.94) and Dan Meyer (who has an ERA of 6.62 for the Sacramento River Cats).

Now make no mistake, I said Zambrano could win tonight and I stand by it. But the way the Mets' bats are going it could be another game like last Friday's where Zambrano falls victim to a lack of run support (and suspect defense). Cliff Floyd hasn't had a big hit in three weeks, Mike Piazza is an anvil, we all know about Mientkiewicz, and as long as Willie Randolph insists on batting David Wright and his .300 average behind Marlon Anderson the Mets won't see a baserunner until at least the third inning tonight.

And long term, the Kazmir for Zambrano deal will be won decisively by...the Braves (Especially if the Braves wind up signing Kazmir as a free agent down the line)!

Life just isn't fair, is it?

Monday, May 23, 2005

House Of Horrors

It was the correct call.

It does always seem to be against the Mets when the umpires decide to call things by the book, and it's no surprise that the latest rule debacle happened at Turner Field, and in Atlanta, where Mets go to die as they dropped another one in Atlanta, 8-6. But it was right to call David Wright out because he was a good foot away from second base trying to break up the double play grounder by Doug Mientkiewicz. The relay was thrown away and the Mets briefly tied the game at 7-7, But ump Jeff Nelson made the interference call and the Mets were denied the two runs.

Kaz Ishii killed the Mets by walking Horacio Ramirez with the bases loaded in the second inning, and Rafael Furcal cleared the bases with a triple to give the Braves a 4-1 lead. Ishii only had 3 walks (one intentional), but was hit hard, giving up 7 runs in his 4 innings. All 8 runs scored by the Braves tonight were with two outs. 49% of their runs on the year have been scored with two outs.

The calls for Mientkiewicz's head are growing. The slick fielder is carrying an anemic stick, grounding into two double plays tonight and hitting .197 on the season. Cliff Floyd was o for 4 and the MVP chants have ceased. He popped up with the sacks full and no one out in the 8th, where eventually Mientkiewicz would ground into the umpire assisted double play. David Wright had a big game, going 3 for 3 with a HR and three RBI's before his meltdown in the 8th inning.

Even when you look hard enough at the field which should have been named after Hank Aaron, you can't tell the difference between Ishii and Kenny Rogers. Was that Andruw Jones walking home the winning run in the 1999 NLCS? Or was that pitcher Horacio Ramirez walking with the bases loaded?

Was that David Wright flipping out and tossing his helmet across the diamond? Or was that David Cone letting two runs score while arguing with the umpire?

Was that Mike Piazza throwing a ball into center field to let Otis Nixon go to third and score the tying run? Or was that Jose Reyes letting a ball go through his legs to give the Braves an insurance run?

Was that Brian Jordan hitting a grannie off of John Franco? Or was that Brian Jordan, oh wait that was Brian Jordan.

The names change. The faces change. The heartache remains the same.


From Ed Coleman's appearance on the FAN today:

Scott Strickland: Took his toys and went home. He wouldn't accept another extension from the Mets and is now a free agent.

Carlos Beltran: Strained quad will keep him out of tonight's game, and maybe the entire Braves series.

Kaz Matsui: Injured his trapezius (?) muscle while sleeping and will not play tonight.

Hell Week

As the Calgary Flames made their run towards the playoffs in 2004, coach Darryl Sutter implemented a strategy that many in the hockey world regarded as revolutionary, and key to developing the playoff toughness necessary to reach the Stanley Cup finals, where the underdog but game tough Flames lost in 7 to the Lightning. Sutter grouped the final 28 games into four series of 7 games each, and treated them as playoff series. The Flames pointed to that as a big part of their Cinderella run.

While the baseball season may be too long and the games down the stretch too important to for that strategy, if there was a time to try it for Willie Randolph, the time would be now. These 7 on the road against Atlanta and Florida will be as close to a seven game series as the Mets may get, against playoff caliber opponents. Four wins out of seven would be a good sign that the Mets are in it for the long haul this time, and I don't think four out of seven is too much to ask of this group. Anything more would be gravy. Anything less...

Monday: Kaz Ishii (0-2, 3.96) vs. Horacio Ramirez (2-3, 4.69)

Ramirez is coming off a terrible outing against San Diego which followed a great outing against the Dodgers. He has only 15 K's to go along with 15 walks in 40 and 1/3 innings this season, and lefties are hitting .313 against the lefty hurler. Look for Doug Mientkiewicz, who has a better approach against lefties this season, to have a big game as the Mets take the opener.

Tuesday: Tom Glavine (3-4, 5.44) vs. Tim Hudson (4-3, 3.47)

Hudson is coming off a brutal start against the Red Sox. But against the Mets, who aren't familiar with him, he should bounce back. Glavine has been better lately, but his numbers against the Braves tell me that the Mets drop this one.

Wednesday: Victor Zambrano (2-4, 5.19) vs. Kyle Davies (1-0, 0.00)

Davies won his major league debut against the Red Sox on Saturday. He, like Tim Hudson, will be going on short rest as a necessity due to the injuries to John Thomson and Mike Hampton. This is obviously the unknown game. The Mets should be able to hit the rookie his second time out, but the Mets have historically made unknowns look like stars, and Davies comes highly regarded. Zambrano? Yeah we know he walks the park, but the Braves hitters are in the middle of the pack in the NL in taking walks, and are 4th in the league in strikeouts, so this is a game Zambrano could win...OK maybe not win, but at least get it to the bullpen which has been more solid than Atlanta's pen lately. And don't forget, there's always a chance that Heilman could take Zambrano's spot in the rotation on Wednesday. This one is a tossup, but with either Zambrano or Heilman, I'll go with a Mets win here to take the series.

Thursday: Kris Benson (2-1, 3.70) vs. A.J. Burnett (3-4, 3.19)

There has been something made of Kris Benson's Yankee start being pushed back a day which wound up costing him a start against the Braves, who Benson had some success with last year. But his numbers against the Marlins make this a blessing a disguise. Benson won his 2 starts against Florida last season, giving up only 2 runs in 14 and 1/3. Burnett isn't going to be a picnic, as evidenced by his complete game victory at Shea earlier this year. But the Mets have beaten Burnett three times before this season, and if they are going to win this 7 game "series", the Mets' bats are going to have to solve him. This one is another toss-up, but I have a vision of Benson getting it done and the Mets taking the opener against Florida.

Friday: Pedro Martinez (4-1, 3.14) vs. Brian Moehler (2-1, 2.13)

Mets fans heaved a sigh of relief after Pedro's nice outing today. Although he's not going to get the extra rest this time, it was apparent the extra couple of days during the last turn recharged Petey's batteries. Moehler is having a nice season and is not to be taken lightly. But he gave up 8 hits in his 5 innings of work on Sunday, and every batter he faced made contact. He has 10 walks and 22 K's in 37 and 1/3 innings so much like Horacio Ramirez, he's always around the plate. As long as the Mets are aggressive, they'll take this one for their fourth win of the road trip.

Saturday: Kaz Ishii vs. Dontrelle Willis (7-1, 1.45)

See that 1.45 ERA? His last start, which was his first loss of the season, brought his ERA up from 1.08. Scared yet? NO? Well check out his career numbers against the Mets: in 7 starts he's 5-0 with a 2.31 ERA, 40 K's in 46.2 innings, and a batting average against of .238. I don't think I need to go on...the Mets drop this one.

Sunday: Tom Glavine vs. Josh Beckett (6-3, 2.47)

If Glavine brings his "A" game and the Mets get into the bullpen, this is a winnable game, as they all are against the Marlins "if" the Mets get in to the pen. But Beckett has been a beast against the Mets in his career, going 3-1 (including 1-1 this season) with a 2.46 ERA, and a .210 average against. This one is the other toss up on the board to me, but I'm going with a Mets loss to bring them to 4-3 on the trip.

To me, 4 wins against these two teams is a successful trip. If it happens exactly the way I think it will, then there will probably be disappointment because the trip will end with two straight losses, and they'll gain no ground on the Marlins. But if the Mets just tread water on the road, that will be fine, since they're tied for the most home wins in the NL with 16 (they're 16-9, while the Padres are 16-4) and if they continue to win their games at home, then there will be plenty of time to reel in the fish.

Upon Further Review

Now that we've all come down from the sugar high from another Yankee/Met series, the baseball season's version of a chocolate chip cookie in the middle of a steady diet of wheat toast and vegetables, let's take a step back and find out what we've learned...
  • We learned that we're just going to have to take the bad with the good concerning Jose Reyes until he developes the savvy of a veteran...and that's not only his free swinging at the plate, but the chances he takes in the field. The dropped pivot play in the 8th was out of his insistence on all or nothing. The smart golfer lays up, and the smart shortstop makes sure of one out. The daring golfer goes for the green, and Jose Reyes went for the big pay off. Didn't work this time, but you really can't fault someone for being aggressive. Reyes, over time, will make more of those plays than he'll miss. When you sprinkle in the wisdom of years, Reyes will be all right.
  • We learned that David Wright is cool as a cucumber. He went 5 for 11 in the series and made a great play in the first inning of Sunday's game with the bases loaded. But his error in the eighth was a loss of concentration. In other words, he was almost too cool. Again, the wisdom of years will make Wright more polished than he is now. It's a long season, but you have to keep your concentration and not give plays away like that. The series he had makes it hard to get on him, just like it's hard to get on Reyes.
  • We've learned once again, that the Mets need a lefty for the pen. Yeah, Mr. Koo became a cult hero on Saturday. But after he was already used today, wouldn't it have been nice to have another lefty ready to come into the game to face Godzilla instead of Aaron Heilman (who got the job done anyway)? Here's hoping the Cubs collapse so that former Met Mike Remlinger would be made available via trade down the line (so long as they don't give up the next Jason Bay or Brady Clark for him.)
  • We learned that Mets and Yankees fans alike came away a bit dissatisfied with what happened. Mets fans are feeling like they could have swept the series had a few key ground balls were handled clean. They got the pitching and the hitting, but defense is something that has let them down so often in the past few seasons, but rarely in 2005 thanks in part to Willie Randolph (they're in the middle of the pack in the NL). Hopefully this series is chalked up to nerves and they get back to business. Meanwhile, Yankee fans feel they could have swept the series if they had only Randy Johnson pitched like Randy Johnson and not like Randy Lerch. And even in the two games won by the Yankees, they kicked around the ball almost as bad as the Mets did, with two Jeter errors on Friday and a key Alex Rodriguez error on Sunday. Yankee fans feel like they escaped, the same way Met fans would have felt had they won on Sunday.
  • We learned that, on both sides, there are bigger fish (or Marlins) to fry. The Yanks still have Boston and Baltimore to worry about, and the Mets have the Braves and Marlins this week. The cookie has been polished off. Now comes the main course.

Sunday, May 22, 2005


You don't give teams extra outs...especially good teams. The Mets gave the Yankees extra outs in the 8th and the Yankees took advantage of them to take the rubber game of the weekend series, 5-3.

The ugly 8th wasted a great performance by Pedro Martinez, putting to rest the "Father Knows Best" discussion once and for all. Pedro went 7 innings, and gave up 4 hits, one walk, one run and 6 K's in 99 pitches. Martinez was also an integral part of the Mets rally in the second, when he tapped to Alex Rodriguez with two outs and runners on first and third. It should have ended the inning, but "The Cooler" booted it and the first run of the game scored. Then Jose Reyes drove in the second run of the game with a single to give the Mets a 2-0 lead. Cliff Floyd made it 3-0 in the third with a mammoth homer to right center off of Carl Pavano.

But the 8th inning was the downfall. David Wright, who made a spectacular catch in the stands with 2 outs and the bases loaded in the first, booted an easy Tony Womack grounder with one out. Then Ruben Sierra hit a tailor made 4-6-3 DP to Miguel Cairo, but Reyes booted the turn in his zest to turn two instead of just worrying about one and everyone was safe. Then after a double steal, A-Rod fouled out and the Mets were almost able to pull the Houdini-style escape. But Hideki Matsui, who is becoming as big a Met-killer as anybody out there, lined a good Roberto Hernandez pitch to left to tie the game, and Bernie Williams followed with a long double to right field to give the Yanks the lead for good. Should the Mets have walked Godzilla? I think so. But in the long run it didn't matter.

It's hard to fault Wright and Reyes, who have been great this series, but theirs were blunders that should never happen. Luckily they're young enough to learn.

Why this hurts: This hurts because the Marlins (who are now clearly the favorites to win the division over Atlanta in my mind), have just swept the Tampa Bay Never Rays, and gained two games from the Mets in the process, and are now 3 full games up on New York, including 5 in the loss column. Just another reason why the 7 games against the Braves and Marlins this week are bigger than the three that just passed.

The pig strikes again: Once again, Mike "Pig" Stanton rememberd once again that his purpose in life is to destroy the Mets, whether he's wearing their uniform or not. For the second time in three days, Stanton retired Cliff Floyd on a hard hit ball, getting out the big lefty hitter he gets paid to get out. Of course, the Mets sent along close to a million dollars to the Yankees in the Felix Heredia trade, so it's the METS that are paying him to get Mets out. Nobody makes the word "puke" a noun more than Mike Stanton.

Who's rump was saved? None other than Rodriguez. Can you imagine the wrath that "The Cooler" would have felt had the Mets not had an implosion of their own? Between booting Pedro's grounder and popping up in the 8th for what should have been the final out, A-Rod would have been the biggest Bronx zero since, well, since Randy Johnson on Saturday. Yankee fans, admittedly, don't have much to brag about, since the two games they won really were like the episode of South Park where little league teams tried to lose on purpose so that they wouldn't spend their whole summer playing baseball. No such luck for the Mets.

Dispatch From The Dark Side

In an attempt at equal time, I wanted to get a perspective from the world of evil, and certainly got one. I sat down with the Yankee fan known as "Darth Marc". Darth Marc has been sitting in the upper deck behind home plate at Yankee Stadium since 2001. I've hit him with a mail tub repeatedly after Game 4 of the 2000 Subway Series, I've wallpapered his office with Rally Monkeys after the Angels eliminated them in 2002, and he's fired back with general acts of violence too numerous to mention (probably why I have a bad back). I finally injected enough elephant tranquilizer in him to sit him down long enough for a quick interview, which he so graciously granted me at 4:03 Sunday morning, after a wild (no doubt) birthday celebration (Darth Marc moved up a digit on Friday). These were his thoughts:

MD: Welcome Darth Marc to the lair of Metstradamus. Let's get right to it...Who are the real Yankees, the team that started 11-19, or the team that just won ten straight?

DM: This is the team that will destroy the rebel infidels. Not the 11-19 version. Despite Randy Johnson's burp (yesterday). The Yankees have only won 2 less games than last year. And that team won 100 games with serious pitching questions. This team has the potential to be just as good if not better. There are 5 1/2 games that separate first and fourth in the AL East. Even the most ardent Yankee-hater infidel wouldn't so stupid to count us out so early in the race.

MD: Tino Martinez is on fire. When do his steroid rumors start?

DM: A imperial death squad is surrounding your apartment as we speak. Care to ask the question again?

MD: Is the Giambi issue a media creation?

DM: Unfortunately, Giambi brought this on himself. He's a good guy but not exactly the brightest bulb in the office.

MD: The Yanks got Felix Rodriguez and Mike Stanton to help an overworked bullpen. Rodriguez is hurt and Stanton is ineffective (as he should be because he was a spy for the Yankees all along). Is the bullpen an issue down the road?

DM: Stanton will be fine. He did his job well infiltrating and undermining the Mets cause and now he will rewarded richly for his service to the Empire. Jury is still out for Felix but I don't think we'll be needing him.

MD: Kevin Brown: useful, or useless?

DM: Useful so long as his back holds up. At this point in his career, he's a 100 pitch pitcher. But he can useful down the stretch for us so long as his psyche and back don't fold.

MD: Do you think the Yankee/Met battles hold as much luster for you as when the series first started, or even as much luster as where it was in 2000 and 2001? Or are Mets games just the h'or devours for Red Sox games at this point?

DM: It's still a big deal. The five fights in the stands today showed me that. As long as the two teams are competitive it will remain a big deal...as big as the Red Sox in some ways. This is family fighting. I went to a tailgate before and after the game and there were Met fans and Yankee fans from the same family laughing and drinking together. During the game, we were giving each other (expletive deleted)-loads of grief but after the game, we were laughing and drinking again. You live with the enemy, sleep with the enemy. Hope that they don't slit your throat in your sleep after your latest Keith Hernandez crack. Red Sox-Yanks is a blood feud between two regions. I can't imagine drinking with Sox fans after game 7 last year. Or vice versa. So to answer your question...Yes, it's still a great rivalry, but different from Sox-Yankees.

MD: Is the whole Pedro/Who's your daddy thing over?

DM: Pedro was frustrated and let them get into his head. He's a competitor. He'll be fine (today). He'll lose, but he'll pitch well.

MD: Why do Yankee fans take pleasure in the fact that Roger Clemens gave Mike Piazza a concussion, then threw splintered wood at him?

DM: Because at the time, Mets fans were in a pennant race vs the Braves and we were struggling to hold on to the very weak AL East. Mets fans were starting to feel their oats a bit and sense that the tide was turning. Whenever you won, you blew us out and when we won, we'd barely squeak by. In 1999, you did the unthinkable and beat Mo Rivera to win your first series at Shea. You split the season series that year. Clemens, at the time, was busy trying to fit in and stopped being the fire breathing dragon that he is. After Piazza lit him up the week before, he decided to say enough was enough and the Sith Lord in him came out. As horrified as many Yankee fans were when it happened and as unconvinced as many were of his conversion to the Dark Side. The enlightened of us knew exactly what this meant. It meant that the natural order of things was about to be restored and that the destruction of the rebel scum was at hand. After we destroyed Seattle in the ALCS, Clemens decided to give Piazza a reminder of who was boss. The rest of the series was merely a formality. Clemens reminded us of who we were and why we were on top. Sometimes it takes a former enemy to remind you of what you are and what it takes to stay there.

MD: Your prediction. On August first, what uniform is Clemens wearing?

DM: He won't be returning to the Empire

MD: Prediction for the rubber game?

DM: We'll beat Pedro (today) and win the series.

MD: Thank you Darth Marc.

DM: My pleasure, infidel.

Good Lovin': Epilogue

I had hoped yesterday that whatever Anna Benson is doing for hubby Kris, she should continue ten-fold the rest of the season. Well, Anna let us know the exact routine in today's New York Post. (And by the way, check out the picture accompanying the article, Anna is looking very Angelina Jolie-ish these days.) Among the nuggets from Mrs. Benson:

I want to look good for Kris after the game. Yesterday I wore a long silk
skirt and white coat, and Dolce and Gabbana heels. My kids dressed up my French
Bulldog, Petunia, in a Mets jersey, and we're ready to root Daddy on.

After the game, he ices down and does some interviews while I head to the
locker room. After the game, that's when the real fun starts!

But win or lose, we leave what happens there at Shea Stadium, and we go
home and love on each other. They happened to lose Friday, but all I had to do
is take my clothes off and Kris felt all better. After I put on my prettiest
teddy, he's stopped crying about losing a game.

Better than a personal catcher, eh?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Good Lovin'

Whatever Anna Benson is cooking for Kris, make sure he keeps eating it. In fact whatever else Anna is doing for Kris, keep it up. If behind every great pitcher is a great wife, then Kris better make sure he never gives Anna that excuse to sleep with the rest of the team (no matter what the rest of the team hopes for).

Benson was outstanding today in the biggest start of his career thus far as the Mets took the second of three against the Yankees 7-1. Kris gave up 3 hits, no runs, struck out 3 and walked 3 in 6 innings, and badly outpitched Randy Johnson in the process. Johnson gave up 5 runs and 12 hits in 6 and 2/3 innings, including 2 to opposing pitchers, in today's loss.

Both teams lost superstars to injury. Derek Jeter was hit in the left elbow with a Benson pitch in the sixth and left the game after it swelled up. Carlos Beltran, meanwhile, strained his right quad and left the game after the 5th. Both Beltran and Jeter are day to day.

Besides a garbage run off of Looper, the bullpen was outstanding, as Dae Sung Koo, pitching AND hitting star today, struck out three of the four Yankees he faced today, and Roberto Hernandez took another swig out of the Ponce de Leon fountain today, pitching a perfect two thirds of an inning.

Heroes and Zeroes:

All heroes today. Miguel Cairo continued his hot hitting off of Randy Johnson with a HR in the 7th after Dae Sung Koo's adventure on the basepaths. Jose Reyes had three hits, including a triple, and the big sacrifice hit that scored Koo preceding Cairo's homer, and had 4 RBI's. David Wright was 2 for 4 with a couple of RBI's, and of course Kris Benson qualifies with his performance.

Bird Killer Jumps Shark

Randy Johnson, it's time to hang 'em up.

Dae Sung Koo is a middle relief pitcher who rarely (if at all) batted in Japan with the Orix Blue Wave because the Pacific League has the DH. He had the biggest "give up" at bat, ever, on Monday against the Reds' Todd Coffey, letting 4 pitches go by without even getting near the ball or striding. So today, when the left handed batter strode to the plate against Randy Johnson (you know, the Randy Johnson that killed a pigeon, scared John Kruk half to death, and won a World Series title single-handedly in 2001) Koo didn't have a prayer.

Well, 1 one-hop double off the wall later, Randy Johnson officially jumped the shark. And you knew that the hit stuck with him because when Koo scored on Jose Reyes' bunt from second, it was because Johnson failed to cover home for Posada who fielded the ball. But Johnson vapor locked, probably because he was too busy planning his retirement news conference after the shame of Koo's double. (Koo was out at the plate, but when you hit a double off Johnson, and have the guts to score all the way from second on a bunt, you deserve to get the call.)

Hey, I hear Kruk saw the game today and wants a do-over against Johnson.

Friday, May 20, 2005


I was tempted to run off WPIX after tonight's coverage of game one, but I was writing, and didn't want to get up to get the remote. So as I watch WPIX's newscast, I see a piece on Mets and Yankees fans which discusses: BLOGS! And among the prominently featured were Metsblog and Metsgeek. And Mets fans should be happy to know that according to sportsblogs.org there are 34% more Mets bloggers than Yankees bloggers.

So congrats to you all, and especially to Metsblog and Metsgeek. You are what we all aspire to be, one day.


Any game you get Derek Jeter to strike out three times and witness him committ two errors is a game you have to win. The Mets though, were victimized by key strikeouts and errors their own selves in a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the crosstown rival Yankees.

Victor Zambrano wasn't the best he could have been, but when stacked up against our low expectations he was Cy Young. He walked 6 batters in 5 and 1/3 innings, but should have escaped without giving up more than one run. With the bases loaded and one out, Zambrano got Robinson Crusoe Cano to ground to Kaz Matsu-E. But he bobbled the belt high double play hop and the go-ahead run trotted home to give the Yanks a 2-1 lead. WPIX's Tom Seaver said that the Cano grounder took a funny hop, to which I respond "on what planet?" Matsu-E blew it, plain and simple. Then Doug Mientkiewicz, who had an AWFUL night, butchered a grounder by pinch hitter Ruben Sierra to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead.

The ultimate indignity came in the seventh inning, after Carlos Beltran cut the Yank lead to 3-2 with an RBI base hit. Joe Torre brought in Mike Stanton, who did absolutely nothing but polish off clubhouse spread leftovers in his two seasons as a Met, to face Cliff Floyd. Floyd, with Beltran on first, lined out hard to Tino Martinez to end the threat, which means Stanton did his job. Mike Stanton threw batting practice fastballs that 99 lb. lefthanded batters hit 500 feet when he was a Met, but now he's motivated. Nice. He hasn't had the kind of accuracy he had tonight since the 2000 World Series, when he hit the clubhouse television with champagne at the sight of Bobby Valentine. If there is a symbol for the 2005 rivalry for me, it's Stanton.

Roberto Hernandez then got old before our eyes in the ninth, getting knocked around to put the game out of reach. Sure, the Mets looked great sweeping Chico's Bail Bonds...er, I mean the Cincinnati Reds, but the Yankees are great at being the magnifying glass that exposes all of warts and ugliness in Queens.

Heroes and Zeroes:

Heath Bell cleaned up the mess caused by the Flushing "D" in the 6th, striking out Jeter and Tony Womack swinging to stop the bleeding. Heath Bell is a hero.

Doug Mientkiewicz struck out with the bases loaded in the first, made the key error in the sixth, and lost his concentration after a close play at first allowing Tony Womack to go to third base where he would eventually score. From Olympic hero to interleague zero.

Kaz Matsui drove in the Mets first run with a triple, but butchered the double play and struck out in the 8th with two runners on and down by a run. Tonight, he's Kaz Mat-zero.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Primer For Yankee-Hating

As much as I want to believe that the next three games with the hated Yankees are just three more steps towards October, as much as I could prepare an unrefutable gaggle of logic to conclude that the 7 games against the Braves and Marlins are more important to the Mets than the three games against the Yankees, as much as I can wax poetic about the 2000 Subway Series and how it was the longest trip home in my many days at Shea Stadium as I thought about jumping off the bridge I crossed to get to the Main Street train stop, I have to say that I'm jazzed for the next three games. I'm generally overflowing with hate when it comes to baseball, and it's time I share it with the world at large. What better time than now to start.

Reasons to be excited:
  • Pedro Martinez: The Yankees, and Yankee fans are hypocrites when it comes to Pedro. All we hear is whining and crying from the Bronx when Pedro plunks one of their stars and has the nerve not to genuflect at the foot of the monuments at center field before doing so. But these are the same Yankee fans that will brag about the fact that Roger Clemens jeopardized Mike Piazza's career. For too long the Mets have been passive when it comes to the agressive, and when it comes to throwing high and tight. Martinez changes that, and he becomes the embodiment of having no fear of, and no respect for, the Yankees. I can't wait to see what Pedro does on Sunday, and more than that, I can't wait to see the response of the Yankee fans.
  • Steroids: For too long the Yankees have been painted as the knights in shining armor compared to the Mets...think Darth Vader as good guy. They've had the ghosts, they've had the heroes, they've had the luck. It's always been the Mets with the drunks and the pot smokers and the mob supporters etc. Now it's 2005, and the Yankees have the alleged steroid boys (Giambi and Sheffield), the trouble makers (Sheffield in Boston), and the bad luck charms (A-Rod). The only trouble makers on the 2005 Mets so far are in the groundscrew. (And can you really blame a guy for getting into trouble when all he has to do all day is watch the grass grow?)
  • Contenders: Last year, even during the sweep at Shea, the Mets were pretenders...and deep down we all knew it. This season, there's a real belief that the Mets are for real. And while I do still believe the 7 games against Atlanta and Florida are more important long term than the Yankee games, these three are a chance to prove to the world that the Mets are no longer a joke. This is as close to a playoff atmosphere as the Mets are going to get until September or later. These three will test the mettle of these new Mets as well as any other games during the regular season can.

What I'm Not Looking Forward To:

  • Saturday: What makes Saturday different than the other two games? Simple, it's the debut of Major League Baseball on FOX. That means Jeanne Zelasko. That means Kevin Kennedy. That means endless and unneccesary gushing at the feet of Derek Jeter. That means, no doubt, a five minute recap of the July 1st game from 2004 against the Red Sox while conveniently forgetting to report the Yanks/Mets score from the previous evening, as was the case last July 3rd when the Mets won on the second of July. That means a ten minute highlight clip of Clemens beaning Piazza from seventeen different angles, and a fireside reading by Frank DeFord on why Alex Rodriguez is misunderstood. That means all large rocks need to be kept away from me before they are put through the television screen.
  • Yankee fans: If the Yanks win the series, they'll never shut up. If the Mets win the series, they'll point to all their world titles, and they'll never shut up. If Pedro beans someone, they'll be angry and never shut up. If Randy Johnson beans somebody, they'll be proud and never shut up.

Are We Missing Anything?

  • Roger Clemens: with Pedro pitching. None of this Shawn Estes jazz...

Warm up your Metrocards

When the Yankees were swept by the Mets at Shea for the first time ever, that should have been the first clue to Yankee fans that the 2004 season wasn't going to end any better than the 2001-2003 seasons. No one knew it would be a collapse of epic proportions, but when you think about it, that sweep wound up saying more about the Yankees than about the Mets.

And thus sets up the first of two annual clashes between the Evil Empire, and the team that aspires to be the 2005 Jedi Knights. Let's take a quick look at the pitching matchups:

Friday: Kevin Brown (2-4, 6.08) vs. Victor Zambrano (2-3, 5.45)

At first glance, this matchup would seem like the recent episode of South Park, where all the little league teams try purposely to lose so they wouldn't have to spend their whole summer playing baseball. But a quick look at the matchups show that Zambrano has had a level of past success against the Yankees. Oddly enough, the most successful Yankee vs. Zambrano is Jason Giambi, with a .296 lifetime average (8 for 27) with 3 HR's. Most likely, there will be no room for Giambi in the order with National League rules prohibiting the DH. Derek Jeter is hitting .226 (7 for 31), Hideki Matsui: .231 (6 for 26), Gary Sheffield: .250 (4 for 16), Bernie Williams: .130 (3 for 23), and Jorge Posada: .115 (3 for 26). With Zambrano's wildness this season, look for the Yankees to be patient and take their free passes. The Mets hope that the big stage will excite Zambrano and not scare him to death.

Brown is a different story. Only Cliff Floyd (.346) and Mike Piazza (.200), and pinch hitter Marlon Anderson (.154) have seen Brown for double digit at-bats, and Anderson will most likely not see Brown. Opposing batters are hitting .338 against him in 2005, so the Mets should be swinging from their heels.

Saturday: Randy Johnson (4-2, 3.77) vs. Kris Benson (1-1, 4.91):

This is the series the Mets need Joe McEwing. Little Mac wore Johnson out when Randy was with the Diamondbacks Alas, McEwing is a Royal now, but in the role of middle infielder who kills Johnson for the Mets now belongs to Miguel Cairo, who is 8 for 19 lifetime. Johnson is 6-3 with a 2.3 lifetime ERA against the Mets, with 85 K's in 66 innings.

Benson will make his first ever start against the Yankees on Saturday, but Tino Martinez is 5 for 10 lifetime off of him from his days with St. Louis. After the great start against Cincinnati on Monday for Benson, we'll see what the big stage does to him.

Sunday: Carl Pavano (3-2, 4.00) vs. Pedro Martinez (4-1, 3.38):

We've seen what Pedro can do on the big stage. But the question is, how healthy is Pedro? His start was pushed back to Sunday because of inflammation in his hip, and the Mets community is holding their breath because this is what most feared with Martinez...injuries. Lifetime, he's only 10-10 against the Yankees with a 3.24 ERA, but his numbers against the individuals are solid. Jeter: .234 (18 for 77 with 2 HR's), Rodriguez: .209 (9 for 43 with a HR), Tino Martinez: .236 (13 for 55), Hideki Matsui: .136 (3 for 22), Giambi: .167 (7 for 42), Bernie Williams: .197 (14 for 71 with 3 HR's). Gary Sheffield has hit Pedro well, .281 with 3 HR's in 32 AB's.

Pavano has seen the Mets plenty of times, lifetime 6-7 with a 3.75 ERA from his days with Montreal and Florida. Floyd and Piazza have the most at bats against him, and they are both doing well. Floyd is hitting .435 off Pavano with a HR in 23 at bats, and Piazza is hitting .368 with a HR in 38 at bats.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Without a Red Leg to Stand On

Now we can all take a breath before the Yankees come to town.

The Mets exorcised the curse of Joe Randa forever by completing their sweep of the Cincinnati Reds with a 10-6 win today at Shea. Tom Glavine had his second great start in a row, Mike Piazza had 4 hits (to make up for a bonehead play on the basepaths), and Jose Reyes, while not walking, had two triples. Chris Woodward, who played right field so Carlos Beltran could get a day off, had his first home run of the season to kick off the scoring. The Reds, led by Tanner and Lucas from "The Bad News Bears", were dreadful in the field today with four errors which did not help Reds starter Eric Milton.

Glavine worked in and out of trouble, giving up 9 hits, 2 walks and 2 strikeouts in 6 innings today. He was saved by a 1-2-3 double play in the 5th (which by all rights and purposes Ryan Freel beat out at first, but was called out and caused the ejection of Reds manager Dave Miley), and Cliff Floyd cutting down a runner at the plate in the 6th.

The bats were humming today. Woodward, Mike Cameron (4th), and David Wright (7th) all had home runs to go along with the good days by Piazza and Reyes.

The Mets are now 22-19 and 1 and 1/2 games out of first as the Braves were swept by San Diego. Guess who comes to town on Friday?

The Mayor is Loved: They call Sean Casey "The Mayor" in Cincinnati, and judging by his followers at Shea he could probably be elected mayor here in New York. Casey had fans everywhere, including a guy wearing a Mets hat who claimed to know him and was cheering for him. But when Casey flipped a baseball into the stands during the game, it wasn't to his fan sitting behind me. Suspicious? You be the judge. Casey was 5 for 5 today and was a triple short of the cycle.

More lame "Reds fans": Today I swear I heard the lamest words of encouragement at a baseball game ever. As Ken Griffey strode to the plate in the 7th, he was met by a barrage of taunts and insults. A supporter of his, wearing an Astros cap no less, decided to come to his defense with this gem: "Come on Ken, show 'em there's no Iffy in Griffey". Needless to say this fan left early. Which means he rooted for the Reds, while wearing an Astros hat, and leaving early with the rest of the Dodger fans. True confusion.

Manny Sad Returns: Manny Aybar gave up three runs in garbage time in the ninth, including a timely 2 run HR by Iffy while the Reds were down by six. Paging Scott Strickland...Scott Strickland, please use the white courtesy phone.

Digging Graves: Anyone who thinks the Mets bullpen is bad should thank their lucky stars that they don't have other teams' problems. LaTroy Hawkins can't get anyone out, Danny Kolb is forcing the Braves to go with the dreaded "closer by committee", and how about Danny Graves. He was not only bad, he was a mental disaster today. After giving up 4 runs, Graves got Marlon Anderson on a comeback with two outs. Except that Graves, after strolling off the mound like he was picking daisies, threw the ball to right field. That's when you know a closer is mentally drained and frustrated. Folks, the grass isn't always greener in Cincinnati.

Mets Grades at the Quarter Pole

Sure, no one will remember where anyone was 40 games into the season, just like no one will remember that Spanish Chestnut was leading at the quarter pole in the 2005 Derby. But nevertheless, here are this semester's grades, courtesy of Professor Metstradamus:


Mike Piazza: One stretch of damage saved him from a disastrous grade, but still looks more and more like the 1989 version of Gary Carter. Opposing runners: 29 for 33 in steals. C-

Ramon Castro: Good defensively, but besides the game winner against his former Marlin teammates, is a liability at the plate. Good for what he is. C-


Doug Mientkiewicz: Not as many hits as we’d like, but the hits have been timely. Defense is as advertised. B-

Kaz Matsui: Went without an extra base hit for about a month. Defense only recently became an issue at second base. C-

Jose Reyes: Farmers and Reyes like to swing at fertilizer in the dirt (translation: he needs to walk more). C+

David Wright: Has some timely hits. Moving along nicely in his first full season but has been invisible in the last few games. Needs to cut down on the strikeouts. B-

Chris Woodward: Has given the Mets much needed versatility. Has shown a decent stick to boot. B

Miguel Cairo: Solid and steady. For Mets fans to be calling for an ex-Yankee to start is an accomplishment. B+


Cliff Floyd: Had a mini-slump but is still hitting with fury. Stay healthy, pleeeeeease! A

Carlos Beltran: We haven’t seen the best of him yet. But the hits have been timely and he hasn’t disappointed at all. B+

Victor Diaz: Almost made it impossible for Willie Randolph to send him down to the minors. If he cuts down on the K’s he’ll deserve to start. A-

Mike Cameron: Swinging a scorching hot bat. Adjustment to right field has been seamless for the small sample we have. A-

Marlon Anderson
: Pinch-hitting like he wants to be the next Rusty Staub. A

Eric Valent
: Pinch-hitting like he wants to be the next Bruce Boisclair. C-


Pedro Martinez
: So far, best case scenario. A

Tom Glavine
: So far, worst case scenario. His gem against the Cards saved him from a failing grade, but still not out of the woods. D-

Kris Benson
: Great start against the Reds, but it is the Reds. I still don’t have enough to give him a grade…yet. INC

Kaz Ishii: See Kris Benson. INC

Jae Seo
: For the amount he’s been juggled, to have gotten anything from him is a major plus. B+

Aaron Heilman
: The surprise of the year for me. Rick Peterson made Heilman’s arm angle more like Don Drysdale. Hopefully Heilman will have a season to match. A

Victor Zambrano
: Perhaps too much is put on this guy’s shoulders because of who he was traded for. Has improved as the season has worn on, but is that really saying a whole lot? Has a problem with the big inning. D


Roberto Hernandez
: Fountain of youth? Botox? Anti-aging cream? Whatever it is, keep drinking it. A

Braden Looper
: Shaky start after a nice 2004. Starting to come around a bit. Needs to concentrate with the bases empty. And he should feel free to get mad. B-

Manny Aybar
: 18 K’s and 3 walks through last weekend aren’t bad. I still cringe when he enters the game. C-

Dae Sung Koo
: Wants to be called Mr. Koo. I call him the lefty Satoru Komiyama. Remember him? I want to give him an F for his useless at bat in the 8th on Monday night, but for now, D-

Mike DeJean:
Has had a string of nausea inducing outings. Was supposed to be the 8th inning guy. Now that’s Hernandez. C

Heath Bell
: Like his moxie. He should use his slider a bit more often. But the situations he’s been put in have been getting more and more important, and he’s been getting it done. B


Willie Randolph: Deserves an A simply because he’s not Art Howe. But has earned the A on his own merit. Handles situations 1000% better than Howe, has gotten the Mets to play better defense, and has purged the team of the “inmates running the asylum” mentality. So far, I’m sold. A-

Kaz To The Second Power

The Mets lead the league in at least one category...guys named Kaz. Kaz Ishii was terrific in 6 and 1/3 innings, and The Beleaguered Kaz Matsui (I believed that is his official full name) provided the offense with a 2 run HR in the seventh, and the Mets took care of business against the Reds, 2-1.

It looked bleak as the Mets couldn't get anything going against the immortal Ramon Ortiz through the first six innings. But Ishii, who made his return to the lineup tonight was stellar. He's known for walking in the ballpark, but only had two tonight in his 6 and 1/3 innings. This was an important performance, because not only did it give the Mets a legitimate shot at victory tonight, but it made Chris Russo look like a moron. The "Mad Dog" was unbearable today on WFAN's "Mike and the Mad Dog" program about Ishii, and it was like nails on a freakin chalkboard for two hours: "Why is Ishii in the rotation? Why are the Mets so insistent on getting Ishii in the rotation? Ishii's not that good! Why? Why? WHY?" Gee, because maybe he's been a double digit winner in the big leagues two of the last three seasons? And perhaps because the Mets' other options don't have the star power of say, Noah Lowry, Brett Tomko, and Brad Hennessey? Sure, Ishii gives more free passes to batters than Dick Chaney gives to Haliburton, but Chris Russo's Giants could sure use him right about now. So the list of reasons to hate the San Francisco Giants now reads:
  1. Armando Benitez
  2. Barry Bonds
  3. Chris Russo

As for The Beleaguered Kaz, where the heck have you been? Stay a while this time, eh?

Why the Mets need a real lefthander in the bullpen; exhibit A: Dae Sung Koo was brought in to start the ninth against the Reds lefty trio of Sean Casey, Ken Griffey, and Adam Dunn. Griffey singled and was pinch run for by William Bergolla (no truth to the rumor that Griffey's hamstring exploded on the way back to the dugout), and Adam Dunn walked before Braden Looper was brought in to get two outs and his 10th save. I give Willie Randolph credit for not sticking to the "bring the closer to start the ninth no matter what" formula (Looper's OBA against lefties was .360 compared to a .216 OBA against righties going in), but when your only lefty option is Mr. Koo, you have scores of problems. The Mets' bullpen is actually 5th in the league in ERA, but it's Koo's gold. Mr. Minaya, please put lefty relief specialist on your grocery list...right below the eggs and the pizza rolls.

And if Looper was throwing 97 MPH because he was angry at not starting the ninth inning, good. Stay angry. If you have to grow a fu-manchu and go Al Hrbosky on the rest of the National League, go for it big boy!

Fran Healy Complaint Number One: I realize it's weird to have only complained about Fran Healy once the entire season, but don't forget I haven't had MSG for the first month or so of the season. Ryan Freel stole third without a throw to set up the Reds only run in the 6th on a Sean Casey ground out. While Ted Robinson and Ralph Kiner were wondering why Ishii delivered to the plate while Jose Reyes was covering second for the pickoff throw, Healy went into "defend my buddy Mike Piazza" mode, saying "Oh, you've gotta know how hard you can throw and sometimes you have to just hold the ball if you're Mike Piazza."

Fran, there was nobody else on base! Why in the world would you hold the ball unless you thought you were going to throw it to the left field stands and let the run score? Why would you give the runner third base without a throw with less than two outs? Perhaps because you've got a pie thrower behind the plate? Fran, have another beer so you can sound completely like Barney from "The Simpsons".

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Benson Burner

On the heels of McClendon-gate (I know, that doesn't particularly roll off the tongue now, does it?) Kris Benson had his best outing of his short season as the Mets torched the Reds by a score of 9-2.

I will say this...and this is obvious...if the Mets are going to be major contenders this year, they should beat teams like the Reds. For heaven's sake, they're the REDS! No disrespect intended, but the Reds are, well, the REDS! The Mets should not only be beating pitchers like Paul Wilson, they should be pummeling them. Every Cincinnati Red loss this season makes that opening 0-3 against them so freakin' bizarre! I mean, I just got an internet pop-up that said "Congratulations, you are the 1,000,000th visitor to home plate off of Paul Wilson! Click here for your prize!" The new Mets should be crushing teams like the Reds. And if you've been a Met fan as long as I've been, you know how they have a habit of making a AA pitcher look like Bob Gibson. So tonight was good to see.

Anyway back to Benson, 7 and 2/3 innings, 4 hits, two walks, 8 K's. Good job for someone who reportedly has no heart. I think with this start we can stop worring about any injury residue with Benson, and let the expectations reach the sky, which will probably be too high...but with the state of the Mets rotation, someone else needs to live up to lofty expectations. Mind as well be Benson, and mind as well be now.

The Final Verdict (for now): Victor Diaz was sent to Norfolk to make room for Kaz Ishii's return from the DL. And it looks increasingly as if it will be Aaron Heilman to the pen while Victor Zambrano stays in the starting rotation. Wasn't I just referring to pitchers that should be pummeled and crushed? Ugh.

Koo-less: Dae Sung Koo was impressive in garbage time, getting the final four outs while striking out three. But in the bottom of the 8th, Mr. Koo had probably the most bizarre at-bat I've ever seen in my life. He stood on the very outer edge of the batters' box and never even strode to the plate as Reds' Todd Coffey delievered his pitches. Coffey struck out Koo on 4 pitches (heck, I could have struck out Koo with a beach ball!) The Mets bench absolutely loved it, and it looked afterwards like Koo was asking the coaches if he was standing the right way. (Let me guess, they use the designated hitter in Japan...riiiiiiiight?) If Coffey would have done the unthinkable and walked Koo, he would have never faced another batter ever...EVER!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Backstop News

Ramon "Fluff" Castro has been put on the 15 day disabled list with a strained right quadriceps. Mike DiFelice, signed as catching insurance during the spring, is up with the big club.

DiFelice hit .276 with 8 homers and 25 RBIs in 98 at-bats at Norfolk.

The First Test

Now we'll find out how new these Mets really are.

With the return of Kaz Ishii to the Mets rotation on Tuesday, there is speculation on who will ultimately be banished from the rotation. And not only is the choice down to two players, it's down to two ideas and two philosphies.

On one hand, you have Aaron Heilman, the can't-miss prospect turned reclamation project turned renaissance man. Heilman's 3-3 record, 4.37 ERA, OBA of .239, 39 K's and 14 walks are good enough for a spot in the back end of the rotation. On the other hand, you have Victor Zambrano, the can't miss prospect turned reclamation project turned...Zambrano's 2-3 record, 5.45 ERA, OBA of .293, 31 K's and 25 walks are good enough for a spot in the back of an IHOP flipping pancakes. So it would make perfect baseball sense that Heilman stays, Zambrano goes, right?

Well that would be if the decisions were solely based on baseball. Zambrano represents the old way of Mets thinking, which was to trade your best project for a pitcher because the pitcher is cheap, locked up, and someone that your pitching coach claims he can "fix in ten minutes". It's a move that Omar Minaya would never make, because his decisions have been based on baseball...on cleaning up a mess created by the Wilpon family via their puppet, Jim Duquette.

You often see players stay in the lineup longer than deserved because management tries to justify a large contract. The problem is that while Zambrano's contract may be minimal in monetary value, the price to acquire him was high. Demoting Zambrano to the bullpen would be an admission of failure on the deadline day deal that brought him here. But the failure certainly doesn't lie with Willie Randolph or Omar Minaya, who weren't here last season. The failure does lie with the Wilpons, who are still here. And that's what's troublesome.

One would hope that the Mets, who have been making baseball decisions and not monetary decisions since Minaya was brought back, would make one more baseball decision on Willie Randolph's watch. One of the smartest things the Wilpons ever did was not only to bring Minaya back, but to actually hand him the reigns and let him use his judgement, which they never, ever did with Duquette. Now, the Wilpons need to let new manager Randolph use his judgment as well, and make the right move.

The move here is to demote Zambrano to the bullpen for the good of the team on the field. If Heilman is demoted, then you know things really haven't changed all that much...that the New Mets are the Old Mets in sheep's clothing...that the Mets are still run by the same type of corporate pinstriped suits which have choked the life and the spirit out of most big corporations of America, making decisions about money and ego and about saving face rather than the product. The product wears the only pinstripes that Met fans care about, and the product is wallowing around the .500 mark as the Braves start their rampage towards a division title, which they last lost during the 13th century or so it seems.

We'll see if this product is as new and improved as promised.

New Mets vs. Old Generations

The last pitch the Mets saw on Sunday was from Jason Isringhausen, a castoff from Generation K (which is short for Kouldn't Stay Healthy Because Dallas Green Blew Out Our Arms). The next pitch they see will be from another K-astoff, Paul Wilson. Wilson was torched in his last two starts, giving up 12 hits in 5 innings against San Diego, and before that, gave up 8 runs without getting anyone out against the Dodgers. This obviously means he's due to look like Christy Mathewson against the Mets on Monday night. The Reds are 11-23 against teams not named Mets in 2005, and 3-0 against Flushing. Please don't wake up Joe Randa while we go through the matchups:

Monday night: Paul Wilson (1-4, 7.46) vs. Kris Benson (0-1, 6.75)

Ken Griffey Jr. is hitting .500 (7 for 14) against Benson lifetime.
Carlos Beltran is hitting .200 (4 for 20) against Wilson, but is 2 for 3 this season.
Cliff Floyd is hitting .409 (9 for 22) with a HR against Wilson.

Tuesday night: Ramon Ortiz (1-1, 6.75) vs. Victor Zambrano (2-3, 5.45) OR Kaz Ishii (0-2, 4.82)

Carlos Beltran is hitting .235 (4 for 17) with a HR lifetime off Ortiz.
Doug Mientkiewicz is hitting .200 (4 for 20) lifetime off Ortiz.

Wednesday afternoon: Eric Milton (2-4, 7.21) vs. Tom Glavine (2-4, 5.77)

Carlos Beltran is hitting .250 (11 for 44) with 3 HR's off Milton.
Miguel Cairo is hitting .294 (5 for 17) off Milton.
Mike Cameron is hitting .209 (6 for 29) off Milton.
Sean Casey is hitting .286 (6 for 21) with a HR off Glavine.
Adam Dunn is hitting .429 (6 for 14) with a HR off Glavine.
Ken Griffey Jr. is hitting .316 (6 for 19) with a HR off Glavine.
Jason LaRue is hitting .333 (5 for 15) off Glavine.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Skin Deep Sixed

Matt Morris made the Mets bats look listless today as the Cardinals took the weekend series today by a score of 4-2.

Morris, who with his new beard is looking a lot like the late actor John Ritter from the movie "Skin Deep", ran his record to 3-0 today by pitching 7 and 2/3 innings while giving up 6 hits, 2 walks and 2 earned runs. It never seemed as if Morris was in any serious trouble today. And when he was, the Mets killed themselves with the double play. Floyd drove in the first Met run of the game with a 3-6 double play, and Jose Reyes' first pitch (!) double play in the 8th was a killer because it came just ahead of hot hitting Mike Cameron's third HR of the season. Reyes is an exciting player, but not a leadoff hitter. Reyes' four at bats were two pitches, four pitches, two pitches, and one pitch long. For some leadoff hitters, 9 pitches is an entire at bat. Unfortunately for the Mets, Reyes is the closest thing they have to a leadoff hitter.

Aaron Heilman (3-3), was impressive with his K to BB ratio (7:1 in 5 and 2/3 innings) but was victimzed by the long ball. John Mabry's 2nd in the second was a two run shot, and Reggie Sanders' 10th of the year was a solo shot in the fourth. The issue that is bothersome for the Mets was not so much that they only took one from the Cardinals, because that was the expected result against the defending N.L. champs anyway. What's bothersome is that they lost 2 of 3 to the Cardinals who rested Jim Edmonds one game, rested Albert Pujols one game, didn't have Scott Rolen the whole series, and couldn't get anything going off a recently activated Jason Isringhausen for two games. The Mets are going to have to do some serious healing against the Reds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the Yankees come to town. If not, this season will fast turn uglier than the ANSKY guys in speedos.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Down On The Farm

This today from CBS Sportsline's fanasy writer Eric Mack:

New York Mets: SP Brian Bannister, 24

We have to dip down into Double-A for this one, because the Mets have a lot of
young prospects already on their big-league roster: Jose Reyes, 21, David
Wright, 22, Victor Diaz, 23, and Aaron Heilman, 26 -- all of whom are really
Triple-A age right now. If Bannister's name sounds familiar, it should. He is
the son of former Royals two-time 16-game winner Floyd Bannister. Brian, an
advanced former Division I-A college pitcher, has outdone top prospect Yusmeiro
Petit thus far on the Double-A Binghamton staff. Bannister is 5-0 with a 1.60
ERA, a .196 batting average against, 36 strikeouts and just 11 walks 39 1/3
innings pitched. Petit (0-2, 3.29 with 29 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings) was far
more heralded coming into the year. Either Bannister or Petit could compete for
a rotation spot by 2006.

Who needs to go down?
The Mets' winning percentage. They are highly unlikely to trust any more
prospects this season at the big-league level -- unless, of course, they hit
rock bottom once again. Also, Jae Seo has pitched well as a spot starter, and
Steve Trachsel is on track (no pun intended) to return to the Mets in

Of course, no sooner is this written than Bannister loses his first game, and doesn't even get out of the fifth inning in a 7-3 loss to Norwich tonight. Errors hurt Binghamtom, but Bannister gave up 4 earned runs in 4 and 2/3 innings to balloon his ERA to 2.25. And thus, the curse of CBS Sportsline is born.

Pocketed Aces

Today's battle of transplanted aces was supposed to go a little bit differently than it did. And the heart of the Mets batting order couldn't take advantage of Jose Reyes' 5th walk of the season and the Cardinals held on for a 7-6 victory at Shea today.

Reyes worked out a 6 pitch walk without swinging at a single pitch against closer and former Met Jason Isringhausen, who made his first appearance after a stint on the disabled list. After Miguel Cairo's sac bunt, Carlos Beltran just missed a hanging breaking ball as he flew out to left for the second out. And after an intentional pass to Cliff Floyd, Mike Cameron struck out on high cheese to end it.

Even with the extra rest due to a flip flop in the rotation, Pedro Martinez had his shakiest outing of the season, giving up 5 hits and 5 runs in 6 innings while walking two and striking out an un-Pedro like 4 batters. But the Mets' rally in the 6th took him off the hook for the loss.

Pedro would have got the win except for a rare shaky outing by Roberto Hernandez, who took the loss. A leadoff walk in the 8th to Abraham Nunez was his waterloo, as Hernandez then gave up a bloop single to Albert Pujols (who practically hit it off the ground) and a looping RBI double to Jim Edmonds, who Hernandez struck out last night. A walk to Mark Grudzielanek and a sac fly to Larry Walker gave the Cardinals the lead for good.

Kaz Matsui, who was almost the big goat last night with 2 errors, started healing the open wounds with the Mets fans in a big 6th inning with his bases clearing triple to tie the game and knock out Cardinals' ace Mark Mulder. Mulder's pitch count was driven up by three great at-bats by, of all people, Ramon Castro. Castro worked at bats of 6, 8, and 10 pitches for two singles, one for an RBI, and a ten pitch walk which set up Matsui's big hit. Mike Cameron and David "Winky" Wright started the inning with singles off of Mulder. Victor Diaz gave the Mets the lead by driving in Matsui with a single.

Met killer: Bidding to be the new Pat Burrell is Cardinals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek. Grudzielanek, in addition to being as hard to spell as Mientkiewicz, has had a history of success against the Mets; a lifetime .329 hitter against the Amazins coming in. Today, it didn't matter if it was Pedro Martinez on the hill, the script "Mets" on the front of the uniform was enough. Grudzielanek drove in 4 of the 5 Cardinal runs today, with a two run HR in the second, an RBI single in the fourth, and a sac fly in the 6th. Abraham Nunez touched up Pedro for the other run, a first pitch solo HR in the 6th to give the Cards a 4-2 lead.

Who says right field is tough?: Mike Cameron had the defensive gem of the day in his new position, making a headlong diving catch on Einar Diaz's check swing pop up to shallow right field. So far, a seamless transition for Cameron, and the way he's going it looks increasingly likely that he's not going to San Diego, Baltimore, or anywhere else for that matter.

Fluff: Ramon "Fluff" Castro is back to being the caddy for Pedro Martinez, although you can throw out the theory that Pedro is a significantly better pitcher while pitching to Castro. Yes, day game after a night game is a legitimate explanation, but you know the wolves will be back at the Mets door on the matter. For those interested, this makes the count 5 Castro-Pedro batteries to 3 Piazza-Pedro batteries on the season.

Chalupas for everyone: Heath "Taco" Bell is starting to earn Willie Randolph's trust in big situations. Bell worked a scoreless 7th inning while holding a tenous 6-5 lead. If this keeps up, Bell will earn Chalupa status in the Mets' pen.

Seismic shift: Kaz Ishii is reportedly close to returning from his injury, and he may start Tuesday against the Reds in Victor Zambrano's slot. For those calling for Victor Zambrano's head this is good news. But Ishii has been known to walk in the ballpark as well.


I noted yesterday that Kaz Matsui's error in the 8th inning was his third of the season. I gave him too much credit. Matsui had 2 errors last night for a total of 4 on the season. So give Matsui, and myself, one more error in 2005.

Let this be a lesson to the children of America about the dangers of performance enhancing drugs. Sports and steroids are bad, kids. Just because they work for Wilson Delgado doesn't make it right. Beyond that, my lawyer has advised me not to talk about the past.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Scoreboard Hunting

Crank up those MVP chants again.

Cliff Floyd put not one, but two dents in the right field scoreboard tonight, and more impressively it was on a night where runs were hard to come by on a teriffic pitching duel, as the Mets took the first game of the series from the N.L. Champion Cardinals, 2-0.

Let's start, however, with Tom Glavine. Yes, I said he was done. I stand by it. But tonight, when the Mets really needed it, Glavine was awesome. He hurled 7+ scoreless innings, and it would have been more had it not been for the lurking weed known as the Kaz Matsui error on a sure double play ball. You could tell the Shea crowd was antsy before Glavine's first pitch, ready to erupt with a Mount St. Helens type fury at the first Glavine run given up. But it never came. He was back to painting corners like Picasso and not like Jackson Pollack on acid. (OK, I stole that line...you think I like art?) Sure, it was a Card lineup without Scott Rolen (out 3-6 weeks with a sprained shoulder), and Jim Edmonds (day off), but tonight we saw Tom Glavine vintage 1990's, and not the Braves spy we've come to know and love. The rest of Glavine's line: four hits, and get this, NO WALKS in seven innings plus. Now it's time for him to come up with a couple of good starts in a row (which would be good for Metstradamus because I will be present at Wednesday's tilt against the Reds). But hopefully, one good start will turn into a few.

Of course, Glavine had help. After Matsui's error, the ageless wonder known as Roberto Hernandez came in with two runners on and saved Kaz's hide. He struck out pinch hitter Jim Edmonds, induced a John Mabry groundout, and then got David Eckstein to tap out back to the mound to end the inning. Braden Looper then shut down the Cards in the ninth, save for an Albert Pujols one out single, for his 9th save.

Cliff Floyd is an all-star. And if there was any doubt about that, Floyd ended it tonight. Two bombs off the scoreboard against Jason Marquis (who was equally brilliant tonight) in the second and seventh, a curtain call, and some major hustle in the outfield on the leadoff hit in the 8th inning holding Abraham Nunez to a single instead of a double. Floyd is now tied for the league lead in homers with 10, and in my mind, is the N.L. MVP this side of Derrek Lee.

The most important aspect of the victory, is the victory itself against the Cards. With Pedro Martinez on the hill on Saturday, prospects for a series win, which seemed improbable just 3 hours ago, now look very, VERY good.

Matsu-E: Kaz Matsui's error on So Taguchi's double play ball in the 8th was his third of the season. It had the chance to derail Glavine and the Mets had it not been for Hernandez's relief work. Matsui was booed heartily when he came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth.

Wrap Yourself Around THIS Horn!

So I don't know how many of you watch ESPN's "Around The Horn", with the smarmy, unabashed Yankee supporter Tony Reali (also known as "stat boy") as host. There was a goofy moment in today's edition while talking about Malcolm Glazer's purchase of Manchester United. The question put forth by Reali to the newspaper oriented panalists: "What sports franchise would you spend your wordly riches on?" Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said that he would buy none other than the New York Mets. His reasoning: better pitching, better young lineup, he would buy a new stadium that Mets fans would want to go to, and to beat the powerhouse sloth Yankee franchise. But the biggest reason he picked the Mets was probably to get under the skin of Yankee fan Reali. Cowlishaw learned that it's a bad idea to annoy the host, as Reali eliminated Cowlishaw from Friday's show because of that answer.

My only wish for Cowlishaw, perhaps the sanest newspaper columnist to star on "Horn", is that the salary he makes as a scribe would enable him to buy the Mets and release them from the clutches of the Wilpons. He may not turn a profit but he has the right idea. Perhaps Mets fans can start a fund to help Tim to his ultimate goal...although I don't know if he could handle a shareholders meeting with 50,000 contributors. But it's nice to dream...

Maximizing Value

Interesting talk from FOX Sports.com's Ken Rosenthal, about a potential Mike Cameron trade. Seems as if the Padres has emerged as the latest interested party in Cameron's services.

As with most trades, a trade of Cameron is tricky. He's on fire in his first few weeks back from injury, but he's also known as a streaky hitter, and he may be better served to be flipped for some much needed help in the bullpen. The Padres are looking for a thoroughbred to roam the vast acres of Petco Park. So, since I'm all about predicting the future, here are some possible scenarios involving Cameron and the Padres...

Mike Cameron for Scott Linebrink: Linebrink had a fantastic 2004, with a 7-3 record, a 2.14 ERA, 83 K's in 84 innings pitched. He's slipped a little in 2005, but would immediately become the 8th inning set-up guy. The one problem with this deal is that the Padres would have too many outfielders, and they would never take on the extra salary. So, if the Mets aren't willing to eat Cameron's salary, it's on to scenario number two:

Mike Cameron for Brian Giles and Dennys Reyes: This makes the salaries a bit more even, and Giles immediately becomes the Mets' right fielder, with Victor Diaz remaining the fourth outfielder. The Padres will have to trade an outfielder anyway, and Giles would be the obvious choice with Ryan Klesko playing well and Xavier Nady moving into the regular right fielder role. The only concern with Giles would be his ability to hit lefties. Reyes immediately replaces Koo as the go to lefty out of the bullpen. It works for the Padres salary wise and they don't lose a main cog out of the pen...although would the Pods be comfortable with Chris Hammond as their go to left-hander? Well Hammond has an ERA of 1.89 this season, a WHIP of 0.63, and opponents are batting .156 against him in 19 innings this year, so they might. But would the Padres be comfortable with Nady as their everyday right fielder? If that's the main concern, then we'll move to scenario number three:

Mike Cameron and Jae Seo for Xavier Nady, Linebrink and Reyes: Another scenario that requires the Mets to pick up salary. The Mets have rotation depth, especially with Kaz Ishii and even Steve Trachsel coming back at certain points. The Pods are thin right now in the rotation with Woody Williams and Tim Redding on the DL. It's unknown when Williams is coming back, and the Padres may not be completely trusting of Redding's abilities. Seo could probably pitch out of the rotation or out of the 'pen. Nady would be the fourth outfielder to preserve depth in that position, but a lot would of pressure falls on Diaz's shoulders.

Mike Cameron for...nobody: Nobody says that Mike Cameron has to go anywhere. Would his value be maximized if he were traded for middle reliever(s)? It's the same mistake that the last regime made with Scott Kazmir, and it's a road the Mets don't want to go down again. Omar Minaya could choose to go with what he has, and use the farm for bullpen help (Royce Ring). For the first time in years, the Mets lineup on the field is matching the expectations provided on paper. Why mess with it? Any of the three above scenarios or a combination of any or all of them would leave a hole somewhere, whether it be in the lineup, or your outfield defense. So if you're Omar, why not roll with what you have for now, and if you must trade Cameron, wait until the last minute of the deadline before you do so?

However one would think that where there's smoke there's fire, and a trade will eventually happen since there is a lot of interest to drive the price up. There may be a deal out there that surpasses all of the ones listed above. That's for Minaya and his staff to ponder. If a trade were to happen with the Padres, the one for Giles, with maybe Jae Seo thrown in, would make the most sense for both sides.