Thursday, March 30, 2006

An Open Letter To Anna Benson, From The Desk Of Metstradamus

Dear Yoko,

You probably don't know who I am, which means that you're not familiar with my blog. But to fill you in, there has been much discussion about the Mets starting rotation, and the wisdom of trading your husband for bullpen help. There are many Mets fans that are in a panic over the starting rotation. And I blame you.

You attached yourself to Kris Benson's hip...helped engineer a trade to New York to further your own career (which worked, because for better or worse, every sexually frustrated Met fan knows who you are), you weaseled yourself on talk shows, magazine covers, and gossip columns, and in a Paris Hilton-esque way, you're kind of a household name. And you did it all because you were married to a major league ballplayer.

But I see that now the gravy train is over, now that your constant chirping about the Mets free agent moves, your NC-17 rated outfit at a children's party, and your incessant pleading to not trade "us" to Baltimore has gotten your husband traded to Baltimore, you've decided to ditch your husband. Now that you've caused my readership unnecessary agita with your fragrant eau de whore, you've jumped ship. You got your husband traded to the worst team in the universe, and you bailed.

You should know that your husband would still be a Met today...would still be a division title contender...had it not been for you and your stench of wench.

But he's now in baseball hell. And it's your fault.

Half of my readership is in hell. And it's your fault.

And if the Mets starting rotation is in shambles in 2006 because you had to go and get your husband traded before you abandoned him, then all of my readership will be in hell. It will be your fault.

Maybe you can volunteer to sleep with them (that's if you yourself can sleep at night). You know, ease their collective pain.

But you're not going to. Why would you? There's no publicity in it for you. And that's what you crave...the publicity. And now that you rode your husband's back to stardom, you've kicked him to the curb. Great. Now maybe without your constant demands of physical relations in stadium parking lots, he'll finally have the energy to pitch 250 innings in a season...good for him. But because of you, he'll do it in Baltimore. He'll pitch 250 innings while Jorge Julio gives up home runs after home run...and it's your fault.

You claim that your marriage to Kris was "irretrievably broken". I claim that you...are irretrievably broken.

Anyway, I hope Kris sleeps with all of your friends.



Yours truly,


P.S. Don't even think about hitting on Pedro.

P.P.S. Though I hear some guy named Derek in the Bronx is available.

Requiem Part 2: Pedigree

There's another side to the whole Aaron Heilman to the bullpen debate, and that's your fifth starter, Brian Bannister.

Pedigree is very tricky. Although I haven't heard anyone say it, it would be easy to say that a guy like Bannister is getting the benefit of the doubt (there's that phrase again) because his father was a major leaguer, and a good one at that in Floyd Bannister. In the past, there has been validity to an argument like that. Dale Berra lasted in the majors much longer than he should have. And for every Ken Griffey Jr., there's a Ron Hodges (so someone did catch that there's no passed the test). That's when pedigree crosses that line and becomes an unintentional version of what we know as nepotism.

But as in life, not all fathers and sons are created equal. And here's the advantage of having a father who's played in the majors. Rick Peterson tells young Brian in September that he needs to work on a changeup (as Brian told Sal Marchiano on WPIX in an interview that aired in the last few days). Brian goes home in the offseason and works on a changeup, which has helped him to a great spring. Now I put this to you: if Brian Bannister's father was an air traffic controller, do you think Brian would have had the same results? Nope. But Brian did nothing but work on that changeup this offseason with his highly experienced father. And that is the advantage of pedigree. It's not something that just appears, yet pedigree is something that is cultivated. It's not automatic...If it was, then John Henry Williams would have been a star. And when it's all said and done, Brian Bannister might not be a star either. But as for now, he seems to be taking advantage of the experience that's at his disposal.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Aaron's Requiem In The Key Of Ski

Aaron Heilman is starting to remind me of that guy in all of your typical 80's ski lodge movies who tries like hell to get the ski bunny to like him but she only has eyes for the obnoxious son of the lodge owner.

Of course in the movies, the protagonist always gets the girl. I can't help thinking that Heilman will get the girl in the end as well, except that his movie is taking a lot longer than 94 minutes.

I don't really know how else to feel about this past week's announcement that it will be indeed Brian Bannister and Victor Zambrano who fill out the Mets rotation, with Heilman returning to the bullpen. On the one hand, Heilman was fairly stellar out of the pen last season...and more importantly, many scouts see Heilman as a pitcher who is much better in his first time through the lineup than later in the game (Heilman, by the way, is 3-0/2.13 as a reliever in his career as opposed to 5-13/5.93 as a starter). But on the other hand, you want to see a guy who's worked hard to be the best starter he could be get his shot. Heilman has had decent success in winter ball and in spring training as a starter and let's face it: his name is not Victor Zambrano which is a plus, fairly or not.

Zambrano meanwhile, probably clinched his spot in the rotation with six innings of shutout ball against the Cardinals in Pedro's first start. My guess as to what bothers Met fans about Zambrano's inclusion in the rotation goes something like this: There seems to be certain guys like Heilman, who always seem to have to perform above and beyond repeatedly to get rewarded. While a pitcher like Zambrano, who's only crime is being the short end of a horrific trade, pretty much only has to shine once or twice and gets the benefit of the doubt. Now nobody knows what goes on behind the scenes, and I'm certainly not about to pretend that I do. But from an outsider's point of view, there still seems to be something attached to Zambrano...whether there's still an effort to keep him in a starting role to either justify the Kazmir trade, or because he's a waste out of the bullpen (I understand if it's the latter). But whatever the case, it's Heilman on the outside of the ski lodge looking in.

But like I said, Heilman will eventually get the girl. The starting rotation, from 1-5, is tenuous. And Aaron Heilman realized that eventually, one of those spots will be his. Whether it be because of Pedro's toe, Glavine's tree rings, Trachsel's back, Bannister's inexperience, or Victor's inability to hit the broadside of a Home Depot, something is bound to happen. It always does. And at that point, Aaron Heilman will get his ski bunny.

Monday, March 27, 2006

N.L. East Preview: Your New York Mets

For a man of my cynical nature and stature to come out and predict a division title shakes me to my very core. Because every time I've tried the optimism thing in recent memory, it hasn't worked out. In an extreme case, I've ended up taking a mail tub and bashing it over a Yankee fan's head (yes, this actually happened).

This prediction, of course, comes with qualifiers:

  1. Pedro Martinez must stay healthy.
  2. See number one.

When Petey basically pulled himself from his opening day start, it was the "uh-oh, here we go" moment that we all dread. Because while it could be an isolated incident, it could also be a hint of what everybody was warned about Pedro from the beginning. "Injury Prone". But from what I understand about "the toe", it can't really get any worse physically than what it's just freakin' uncomfortable. So once "the shoe" is made that can adequately protect "the toe", then all should be well. And from the looks of Martinez's three innings of one-hit ball today, all might be well sooner than we expected.

The rest of the rotation is an interesting case. You have Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel as the workhorses at the head of the rotation. Kris Benson and Jae Seo are the back of the rotation becomes Aaron Heilman and everybody's favorite trade disaster, Victor Zambrano. Now, how obvious is it to say that the rotation the way it is now will not end the season as it starts? Either one of two things is going to happen. Either Omar Minaya is going to make a trade, or Brian Bannister is going to step up and catch fire at the back of that rotation. Undoubtedly, Omar would prefer it to be the former, yet he would be wise to wait until the price comes down on guys like Barry Zito, or Jason Schmidt.

Run support will not be a problem for the starters, as the Mets have added none other than Carlos Delgado to play "big bat" in the middle of the lineup. The question with the lineup, as it was last year will be...the lineup. It seems that Willie Randolph will bat Paul Lo Duca second and David Wright fifth, much to the chagrin of the viewing public. But if it doesn't work, Randolph has shown a willingness to be flexible, and may change it up in the middle of the season, as he did in flip-flopping Wright and Piazza after the all star break in 2005.

Also: How will Anderson Hernandez adjust to being the everyday second baseman, and will Kaz Matsui be with the Mets forever and ever (or at least this season)? You know what has impressed me about Hernandez...during the Mets spring training rout of the Cardinals on Friday, Victor Diaz overthrew the cutoff man as Yadier Molina was trying to score on a double. But on the left side of the field backing up Jose Reyes was none other than Hernandez, who threw Molina out at the plate. Making smart, under the radar plays like that will wash away the dirt and the grime which is the memory of Matsui's fielding, which was so bad it made Doug Flynn prematurely climb into his grave so he could roll over.

But here is why I finally decided to pull a Johnny Chan and go all in with the 2006 Mets: This is quite possibly the best bullpen overall that the Mets have had in a long time. And on this point, I'm going to have to take slight umbridge (I know the spelling police is going to be all over me on that one) with Sporting News columnist Ken Rosenthal. In his blog, Rosenthal takes a shot at the Mets off-season moves:

The way to win isn't by combining breathtaking slugging and questionable pitching, a formula that again will make the Yankees formidable in the regular season but vulnerable in the playoffs. It isn't by making a series of moves at the expense of your rotation -- the way the Mets did this offseason. It isn't by spending a ton of money but still fielding a defensively flawed club, an approach that figures to doom the Blue Jays. Why are teams such as the Braves, Cardinals and Angels successful year after year? Not because they score the most runs, although their offenses usually are strong. No, they succeed because they play the game properly and rarely beat themselves.
What Rosenthal has conveniently left out in his zest to prove that teams that play small ball are the teams that win, however, is that the teams he mentioned as being successful year after year also did it with strong bullpens. And all those moves that the Mets made at the expense of their rotation were made to help their bullpen. Now, here's where I go all MetsGeek on you...

In 2002, when the Angels won the World Series, their bullpen was third in all of baseball in ERA. The Braves were first, and the Cardinals were fourth. In terms of WHIP for that season, the Angels bullpen was first...Cardinals and Braves: third and fourth respectively. In 2004, the Cards were first in bullpen ERA, with the Angels and Braves fourth and fifth. The Cards were first in bullpen WHIP that season, with the Angels fourth and the Braves thirteenth. The World Champion Red Sox that season was sixth in bullpen WHIP.

The Angels were fourth in bullpen WHIP in 2005, with the Cardinals seventh. The White Sox, meanwhile, were ninth in bullpen WHIP, and fourth in bullpen ERA in their World Championship campaign. The Braves, meanwhile, plummeted in both categories with the early presence of Dan Kolb. The Mets, meanwhile, were 24th, 18th, and 20th in bullpen WHIP in the last three seasons. No coincidence that the bullpens in Anaheim and St. Louis remained for the most part stable on all counts, while the Mets bullpen was turned over frequently with rejects, has beens and never weres. Hence, this season, the Mets went and strengthened their bullpen with players in their prime such as Filthy Sanchez (who was strong as a closer in the World Baseball Tournament) Blueback Bradford, Armando Junior, and of course, Country Time Billy Wagner.

I remember the last time there was an uproar over sacrificing a part of the rotation for a bullpen piece. It happened when the Mets traded Mark Clark. In his Met tenure, Clark (22-18) had very similar stats to Kris Benson (14-12)...and actually had a lower ERA and more strikeouts in his time with the Mets. I remember that when Clark was named as one of the players to be named later in his deal, there was outrage. WFAN callers were talking about Mark Clark as if he was Walter Johnson. I mean, Clark was serviceable...but for heaven's sake he's Mark Clark! His greatest accomplishment (caution: South Park reference) was having a planet named after him...sort of.

The real outrage should have been that Mel Rojas came back in the deal.

But that Clark deal also netted the Mets a key N.L. pennant cog, one Turk Wendell, a man who was trashed for his interesting dental hygiene antics. But he was also a heck of a reliever and a clubhouse leader who stood up to the likes of Vladimir Guerrero by pitching inside.

I would say that that Clark deal was a chance worth taking, much like the Kris Benson and Jae Seo deals are chances worth taking, whether they work out or not. (Besides, if Jorge Julio doesn't work out, we can always blame Anna.)

So there it is. The Mets are the pick. And don't think the fact that my Final Four picks have been officially shot to hell doesn't scare me as being a notion that I shouldn't make predictions like this anymore...but I can't very well go to Shea Stadium on Opening Day...can't look on as Jesse Orosco throws the first pitch of the season to Gary Carter...and know that I picked the mortal enemy to win the division. Maybe if this wasn't the 20th anniversary, I can live with myself.

But not this year. Prediction: first place.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

N.L. East Preview: Atlanta Braves


All right, now that that's out of the way...

Seriously, I've been agonizing over this for days now. You know, every season I want to pick against these guys...much in the same way I thought there was no way the Yankees could win out in the playoffs such as 1996, 1999, and of course 2000. And everytime I do pick against them I wind up with egg on my face...and rotten egg at that. You know the old saying: "They're the champs until somebody beats them." Combine that with the fact that the Braves seem to live on borrowed time every season, getting by with kids fresh out of Richmond, with the best closer they've had in the past 15 seasons a converted starter, who's back to starting. And there's also the case of that very same converted starter playing more mind games with my head, proclaiming that the Mets are the favorites to win the division on paper.

And I swore I wouldn't fall victim to John Smoltz's evil Jedi mind tricks, as Smoltz tries to be a modern day Whitey Herzog...waving the white flag in March. I swore at that moment, that I was going to automatically pick the Braves to win the east and fall in the first round of the playoffs like they always do.

But darn it, I'm breaking my promise to myself. And I'm going to regret it.

Make no mistake about it, the Braves are a damn fine team (ugh!) And they are the champs until somebody beats them (double ugh!) Smoltz along with Tim Hudson are the best 1-2 punch in the division. Edgar Renteria is primed for a huge bounce back season in his return to the National League, and the rest of the lineup which includes Andruw Jones, Brian McCann, Ryan Langerhans, Jeff Francoeur, Adam Laroche, Brian Giles, and yes that guy who plays third base and names his kid "Shea", make up a pretty good lineup.

But there are two vital questions that the Braves must answer this season:
  1. Who is the Braves leadoff hitter?
  2. How large will the departure of Leo Mazzone loom?

Rafael Furcal was the prototypical leadoff hitter for many years in Atlanta. And in 2005, he was easily their leader in stolen bases with 46. Second? Marcus Giles with 16. Renteria had 9 for the Red Sox last season, but with Papi and Manny batting behind him, there was never a real reason for Renteria to take his total will move up a bit. But Renteria will most likely bat second, with perhaps Giles and his career .366 OBP to lead off. That's not to say it isn't going to work, the Yankees lineup has been successful for years with their cyborg of a shortstop leading off instead of his more natural two spot. But the Braves aren't going to have the wealth of steroid, natural big boppers in the middle of their order as the Yankees do. The Jones boys may very well be good enough though.

In terms of Mazzone, pitchers like Tim Hudson were fine without Mazzone before, and will be again. But what of a pitcher like Jorge Sosa? Sure, a pitcher from Tampa Bay is bound to get better not only leaving Tampa, but leaving the A.L. East. But from 4-7, 5.53 in 2004 to 13-3, 2.55 in 2005 has a little more to it than merely discovering Wheaties. And what of a bullpen that will not only start the season on the disabled list, but is also extremely young? Closer Chris Reitsma isn't even widely assumed to end the season in that role. Blaine Boyer, Lance Cormier, Joey Devine, Macay McBride are inexperienced to the point that the Braves are currently looking into wheeling John Thomson to get bullpen help. If Thomson, another pitcher who has had his greatest statistical success under Mazzone, is the chip to get help in the bullpen, there is a problem.

So this may be the year that the Atlanta magical fun ride comes to an end, much in the way that the New England Patriots struggled after the loss of coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. It will still be an uphill battle for anybody to overtake this team, but I've decided that I couldn't let that John Smoltz Kool-Aid sit idly by on the table without someone taking a sip...damn you, John Smoltz. Prediction: Second place/Wild Card.

Tomorrow: Guess who!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

N.L. East Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

Last we checked, Phillies pitcher Randy Wolf still has not found that chick on the subway that he fell in love with a couple of seasons ago. But he'll have plenty of time to search for her as an elbow injury will keep him out until mid-July.

Other than that, the Phillies are a solid team who could easily contend for the N.L. East title in 2006. Their lineup, which includes mortal Met enemies Pat Burrell and Chase Utley, along with Bobby Abreu, Jimmy Rollins, and budding superstar Ryan Howard, is going to score a ton of runs in Citizens Bank Shoebox this season. And when you add in Aaron Rowand, this lineup has the potential of being quite lethal. Their pitching, however, might give that ton of runs right back to the opposition.

Brett Myers (13-8, 3.72), Jon Leiber (17-13, 4.20), and Cory Lidle (13-11, 4.53) are a solid if not spectacular top three. Then it gets slightly dicey. Ryan Madson will be called upon to convert from reliever to starter, and Ryan Franklin (the Phillies obviously lead the league in Ryans...not a good omen) will take his 5.10 ERA from 2005 and move from a pitchers park to a pitchers nightmare. Gavin Floyd and Robinson Tejeda (another Met killer) lurk in the weeds.

The 'pen, of which Billy Wagner was a huge part last season, is left with a big hole now that Wagner is gone. He's replaced as closer by Flash Gordon, the former Yankee set up man whose shoulder is probably about as strong as silly string after being run into the ground by Joe Torre. Flash+Citizens Bank=Disaster in 2006. There are plenty of lefties playing set-up men, but Arthur Rhodes is a fireman that sprays gasoline, Rheal Cormier is also old, and Aaron Fultz is most famous for giving up a game winning dinger to Benny Agbayani in the playoffs. Those three will however loom large in those big at bats against lefties Carlos Delgado and Cliff in limited use, they can be useful.

If the Phillies bullpen doesn't hurt them all that much, the Phils will contend. If Tom Gordon completely implodes however (which I think is likely), they'll struggle to stay above .500 for the season. What helps them, along with the Mets and the Braves, is that unlike last season, there will be a definite solid line between the haves and the have nots, with Florida and Washington sinking down low into the second division, and the Phils, Mets and Braves solidly in the hunt. But that Phillies bullpen will wind up being their downfall, as Philadelphia's hunt for a division title will prove to be as fruitless as Randy Wolf's search for a blonde on the 7 train (although Anna Benson has reportedly offered to sleep with Wolf if Kris Benson gives up more home runs than Jorge Julio this season). Prediction: third place.

Tomorrow: the second place team (ooh, the tension!)

Friday, March 24, 2006

N.L. East Preview: Washington Nationals

All previews of the Washington Nationals must start with this: For a team that's only been around for one season, the Nats have some of the best blogs in the division (other than Mets blogs of course...but I'm biased). Go and see for yourself at blogs like Ball Wonk, Nasty Nats, Capitol Punishment, and Federal Baseball. I guess when you wait 34 years to have a baseball team all your own, there's a lot of pent up creativity waiting to be penned onto the information super-highway.

I expect great things from these blogs this season, because writing can only become more entertaining when the baseball team being written about becomes more and more of a mess. And make no mistake about it. This franchise is, through almost no fault of their own, an absolute mess. They traded for a pitcher who is out for the season, they lost one of their important relievers to an-all important World Baseball Tournament pitch, their top of the line pitcher goes back and forth between threatening to quit and coming close to collapsing in a heap of body parts, their shortstop makes Rey Ordonez look like Tony Gwynn, and their right fielder has the potential to not only hit 40 home runs, but also the potential to set Mike Scioscia on fire (considering what he did to the Mets in 1988, Scioscia probably has it coming anyway).

And I haven't even mentioned a certain ex-Yankee who's ex-Yankee sense of entitlement kept him from moving to a position in the field where he would do less damage than he normally does.

(Speaking of Yankee sense of entitlement, I hear where they blamed the Red Sox for Jorge Posada getting hit in the nose. I think, that while you have all this talk about Giambi and Sheffield, what about the part in "Book of Shadows" that talks about Posada's ears shrinking since the new steroid rules went into effect?)

But I'm not going to completely trash the Nats here. Here's what's right with Washington:
  • Chad Cordero, even though he wears his hat funny, is a closing stud.
  • Ryan Zimmerman is the best third base prospect south of David Wright, and east of Andy Marte.
  • Livan Hernandez will still give you 700 innings. He's Tim Keefe re-incarnate.
  • John Patterson is a solid "2" starter, and might be the best pitcher on the Nats in 2006 (thanks to Jaap for the reminder)
  • Frank Robinson takes garbage from no one...NO ONE! (Except when it comes to Nick Johnson and his Adam Morrison mustache. Can't he fine him or something?)

But poor Frank is going to have to do his best managing job to keep this ship afloat. Because you can give them sharp new uniforms, you can give them a brand new ballpark, you can even give them Alfonso Soriano. But when it comes right down to it, they're still the Expos. Prediction: fourth place.

Tomorrow: the third place team.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

N.L. East Preview: Florida Marlins

This week, I attempt to preview the National League East, going from bottom to top. Today, we start with the Florida Marlins.

Before the Marlins embarked on Fire Sale II (Back To The Minors), Marlins brass announced that they would keep Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera.

The question is: was that supposed to be a reward or a punishment?

The writing has been on the wall for this franchise since I was able to buy a ticket to a Mets/Marlins game in Florida during the top of the first inning and sit 22 rows away from the field. And now, all the talent acquired in exchange for the 1997 World Champion Marlins is now a distant memory...wheeled for players who the Marlins hope will be part of the third World Championship in Marlins history. Odds are though, it will be for the Las Vegas Marlins.

Other than Cabrera and Willis, the Marlins will be basically made up of prospects received from other teams. The most impressive might be right fielder Jeremy Hermida, who is a good enough prospect to send Cabrera to third base. Why will Hermida torture the Mets? Simple...he was born in Atlanta.

Then of course there's Mike Jacobs, who was everybody's favorite feel-good story of the 2005 Mets, at first base. Jacobs, acquired by the Marlins in the Carlos Delgado trade, will no doubt waste little time sticking it to the Mets with every at bat.

Actually, between Hermida, Jacobs, Josh Willingham behind the plate, and Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, the Marlins may not half bad at the plate in 2006. But past Dontrelle, the pitching is very suspect. Sergio Mitre, Brian Moehler, Jason Vargas, and Josh Johnson round out the rotation, and not for nothing, but can they have any more washed up closers in the bullpen? Joe Borowski? Kerry Ligtenberg? Matt Herges? For the love of all that is holy, Matt Herges???!?!??!?!? What, Braden Looper wasn't available?

The bottom line is, this is going to be one of those teams who have no business beating a team like the Mets on paper...but you know they will probably win the season series. And every time they beat the Mets, there will be lots of fans banging their heads against the wall. But all the victories the Marlins will accrue at the Mets expense will not keep them out of the cellar. It probably isn't going to keep them out of San Antonio either. Prediction: Fifth place.

Tomorrow, the fourth place team.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Ranting And Raving

All right, so now that I've gotten a preliminary report on the state of all things Metropolitan from my crack staff (which consists of my cat and...well, my cat) I'm not pleased.

First off, and I mentioned this in brief just hours ago, what's with the syrupy retirement of Al Leiter? Instead of bowing out after the World Baseball Tournament like everyone thought he would do, he's gotta waste everyone's time and don the Yankee pinstripes (well, more like the Yankee batting practice uniform), to induce an Eduardo Perez groundout in a meaningless spring training game so he could go out on his terms.

So how exactly does John Sterling start off Al Leiter's Yankee-o-graphy? "Although he only pitched 169 innings in a Yankee uniform, Al Leiter embodies the term 'True Yankee'". Spare me.

Oh, and speaking of Yankee-o-graphy, one thing I missed while I was away was the birth of the new Mets Network. Or what I was once led to believe was the new Mets network. So when I put on channel 26 to see what I was in store for. I got pro lacrosse.

And later tonight, it's Arena Football. But not just arena football boys and girls, tape delayed Arena Football.

Wait a minute, what time does the Dan Schatzeder Met-o-graphy start?

Now my practical side tells me that ESPN once started in much the same way. In fact, pro lacrosse would have been a boon for ESPN in the early 80's. But the kid in me tells me that there weren't 85 sports networks around when ESPN started (along with telling me that the frosted side of the damn mini-wheat cereal is the only reason to eat the cereal).

The Mets can't even get their own network right. Lacrosse? Is Wally Whitehurst coaching one of these lacrosse teams that it belongs on this supposed Mets network?

A boating show was on at 4:00.

Boating. Apparently, the network is actually called OLM (Outdoor Life Mets).

And now, I see a commercial where the "television head" is painting a woman's toes while whispering sweet nothings in her ear, promising Yankee be fair...before the jilted Mets fan walks into the room catching what was supposed to be her network with a Yankee trollop.

So have the Mets become the Jennifer Aniston of major league baseball? (Yeah we love you, but Angelina's hot too!) Great. Just replay Dwight Gooden's no hitter from 1996 while you're at know, as long as we're being fair!

Mets network. If I want to be lied to, I'll subpoena Rafael Palmeiro.

Speaking of roid rage, it's disheartening to realize that the city I spent the last five days inhabiting is also the birthplace of one Roger Clemens...but it is heartening that his career might end with a loss to Mexico in the World Baseball Tournament. But of course, we'll all have to wait another three months until Roger graces us with his decision. (I've waited less for a Sopranos season premiere).

I've heard from my sources that Roger wants to hang around so that he can brush back some more of his kids.


It's good to be home.

That's not to say that my first business trip was a disaster. In fact, I call it an unmitigated success (unmitigated is a fancy word for "I didn't screw up".) But it's still good to be home. A long nap is in order.

Some observations from the fine city of Dayton:

I wish there was a way to play all 64 games of the NCAA tournament at the University of Dayton Arena. When you walk inside, you get an even blend of modern amenities, and old school basketball barn. To me, college basketball belongs in barns like the UD Arena, or Allen Field House, or the WVU Coliseum...barns that are more Hoosiers than Sponsors. I mean, doesn't it make sense that the most important college basketball games are played in college basketball campuses?

And now for something completely different:

Ever see the episode of South Park where the kids go to a Hooters restaurant...but it's a Hooters where young kids work there so it's called "Raisins"? Well while in Dayton, we've found the "Hooters" that came closest to being a "Raisins" out of all of them in the town of Vandalia. The servers there were practically kids...seniors in high school for crying out loud. Is this legal? I mean, this has to break some child labor law or something. Are they getting younger...or am I just getting older?

By the way, Dayton makes Queens look like Manhattan.

Trust me, that's not a knock. But the locals get nosebleeds on the fifth floor. Sixth floor? I don't think there's a sixth floor in the entire town.

Even while immersed in a completely different sport for a few days, I still cannot get away from the Braves and the Patriots.

Bracketology note: Which grand soothsayer picked Wichita State AND Georgetown to make the Sweet sixteen? That's right, the same soothsayer who's musings you're reading right now. But also the same soothsayer who picked Kansas and UNC to go to the elite eight (genius). But with my final four still alive, I'm looking to be a dual-sport soothsayer (for the record: Duke, Connecticut, Boston College, and Gonzaga, with...believe it or not, BC defeating Gonzaga to win it all!)

But now it's all over, it's back to New York with Metstradamus. There's no place like home, and there's no worry quite like worrying about Pedro's toe.

But wait...I leave for six days and what happens? Mike Jacobs commences with his ownership of the Mets? Kaz Matsui finds a way to drop his trade value below zero? Al Leiter guns for his own Yankee-o-graphy???

I've been away much too long. Guess that nap will have to wait.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Star Power

This is how you know it's spring training:

When you check the boxscore and you see "A Hathaway" in the catcher slot, and you immediately think of the star of "The Princess Diaries".

Then you think: "Who the heck is A Hathaway, anyway?"
Then you think: "Well this is a good excuse to put a picture of Anne Hathaway on my blog."

Then you think: "Can they custom make a chest protector?"

But when you start thinking where Anne Hathaway would bat in the Mets lineup, how the rigors of catching would cost her some meaty movie roles after the surgery scars form on both knees, whether Omar has anything left in the budget to build a separate shower at Shea Stadium (although he probably already built one in anticipation of Manny Ramirez coming to town), and who would protect her in the lineup, then your next thought should be "man, when do these games start already?!?"

By the way, his name is Aaron Hathaway. He's a non-roster invitee, there's no link to a bio on the Mets website, and he wears number 93. This means that Anne Hathaway probably has a slightly better chance of making the Mets roster. Is this good news?


I use to worry about Omar Minaya's aversion to young players. But after Adam Loewen's masterpiece against the United States in the World Baseball Tournament, I don't worry anymore.

You see, Loewen is the pitcher that Minaya wanted the Orioles to give up along with Jorge Julio in the Kris Benson trade. Instead, Omar settled for John Maine. After seeing Loewen mow down the Yankees (which is basically who Team USA is to me), I thought not only how nice it would have been to have Loewen in the fold, but how ironic it would have been to dupe Jim Duquette into giving up two prize lefties in his general managerial career. Of course, Duquette picked a great time to realize that you don't give up on young pitching...after he leaves!

I'll just have to settle for the security in knowing that a steady hand is at the helm...Captain Omar.


A question for you:

If one leg is longer than the other, and you need to add small padding to even yourself out, would you add it to the shoe of the shorter leg, or the longer leg?

Seems like a simple question to me, and I don't have a medical degree. But Mike Venafro saw a doctor that actually screwed that question up and came up with the wrong answer!

So if Mets reliever Mike Venafro had come to me, instead of the doctor that he went to, he wouldn't have back problems today.

I love this quote from Venafro:
"I was furious, but what can you do?"
Here's an idea Mike: Sue for medical malpractice!!!

Then again, I can't expect that someone who's been hobbling around like Captain Ahab for years on end without realizing that something might be amiss with his legs to figure it out. So consider that piece of advice free.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Can I Get A Sandis For My Workbench?

The NHL trade deadline is my excuse to mention Sandis Ozolinsh.

It's just a great name.

Say it with me: Sandis Ozolinsh.

What does Sandis Ozolinsh have to do with the New York Mets?

Well, they thought that Kaz Matsui would be their Sandis know, an offensive defenseman at second base...a terror with the bat and a whiz with the glove. But the only whiz that caused any trouble was the one that put Ozolinsh in a substance abuse program earlier in the season.

But the subject of trade deadlines will be an interesting one for New York's baseball it was for New York's hockey team (in my world, there's only one of each). Because with all the off-season moves the Mets made for 2006, you wonder if they have anything left for the July 31st deadline. Save for the courtship of Manny Ramirez's services, there wasn't anyone left to add at the deadline. Will there be any more salary available for the trade deadline? Will there be any holes to fill?

Of course, the NHL is now different from MLB in that hockey has a salary all deals are made with salary ramifications in mind. But the Mets are on a self imposed budget that they are close to maxing out on now. That, combined with the fact that most positions are filled with top-flight talents and salaries, means that it's probably going to be a quiet July in Flushing.

If they are to trade for a second baseman (which isn't likely as long as Kaz continues to be the albatross that ate the 7 train), it will probably happen in spring training with Tony Graffanino and Todd Walker being shopped now rather than later. Outfield will only become an issue if heaven forbid Cliff Floyd's kidneys are in worse shape than we think. Starting pitcher? At this point, the only way the Mets go after a starter is if it's a top flight starter...and the only way the Mets get a top flight starter is if they include one Lastings Milledge in the deal. And after seeing Milledge play, the only way they include one Lastings Milledge in any deal is over my cold hard body.

(Some wish that could be arranged.)

So what does that leave? A lefty middle reliever perhaps? While perhaps necessary, it would hardly break the bank and get anybody's blood boiling.

So there you have it. The Met trade deadline will be uneventful. And that's the first prediction of 2006. The second prediction of 2006 is that somewhere on a Denver blackboard during major league baseball's trade deadline, Pierre Lacroix will be writing "I will not trade my number one goalie for a physical and mental wreck" 5,000 times.

But he'll probably be writing it in French... in which case, it's: "Je ne commercerai pas mon gardien de but du numéro un pour une épave physique et mentale."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

No Small Market Feat

It's been a couple of days since we lost Kirby Puckett. In that time, there have been many things written and eulogized about Minnesota's fire hydrant that there really is no need for me to weigh in. But I didn't want to let it pass without saying at least a few words.

Kirby Puckett's legacy has reverberated throughout the Twins organization up until this very minute, and will continue to do so. And I'm not talking about the impressive feats performed during the 1991 World Series (feats so impressive that "Game Six" means something totally different in Minneapolis than it does in New York City.)

No, I'm talking more about the hold that the Minnesota Twins have on baseball players. Players like Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield, who spent many more seasons with other clubs...and more successful seasons elsewhere, talk about their time in Minnesota as if they had spent their whole career there. Guys who came up in the Twins system such as Doug Mientkiewicz (remember him?) Jacque Jones, and Torii Hunter stayed with the Twins much longer than anybody would have thought a player of their calibre would have stayed in a market like Minnesota, and a ballpark like the Homerdome.

The same could be said about guys like Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek. Certainly, Puckett could have gotten bigger bucks after his contract was up in 1992. Instead, he stayed with the Twins, setting a precedent for hometown loyalty that while not applicable to everyone who wears a Twins uniform, certainly seems more prevalent there than it should be. Guys like Torii Hunter don't stay Twins had it not been for Kirby Puckett, and his understanding that the astroturf isn't always greener on the other side. Think about it: Puckett's raise from close to three million to $5.3 million to re-sign with Minnesota would be considered modest by today's standards...although 1992 isn't that far removed from today.

And that's why Puckett's death is so sad. This isn't someone from my childhood. This is someone I watched play baseball after I was already in the work force. The video of Puckett using the bag that passes for a wall in center field to rob many an unsuspecting hitter of a home run is still fresh in my mind...not black and white, not at all grainy. It's still there. Still fresh in my mind. Still clear.

I remember Wally Backman sometime after the Mets won in 1986 said: "I can't wait until 2006 when we can all come back and celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this victory." Sure enough (and way too fast), 2006 is here, and the Mets have planned that celebration, August 19th. There are other things, other celebrations planned for that very special team. I hope after Puckett's untimely passing that we realize how lucky we are to have everybody come back for that 20th anniversary. Because the following season, Minnesota will have a 20th anniversary of their own. And the biggest and brightest star from the 1987 World Champions will be out. He isn't going to be there in 2011 either...the 20th anniversary of the '91 champs, and of that Game Six. And those celebrations will never be what they should be.

Live From The Clinic

A Yankee fan made this comment to me yesterday, so you'll understand that the metaphor involves hard drugs. But he told me: "you know, I can't get into spring training baseball. Don't get me wrong, I love's my crack cocaine. But spring training is like methadone. I mean, it's okay...but it's not crack."

Now the hardest powder I've ever ingested are those lik-a-stix that you had as a kid, and the only thing I ever smoked was a Frosted Mini-Wheat (don't ask), so I was going to have to take his word for it. But I kept the comment in mind as I flipped on the television today for a little Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela world baseball. It's not quite regular season baseball, yet a little stronger than pure methadone. It's like methadone cut with angel dust...I guess.

The first thing I noticed was Big Papi's face, which I thought was involved in some sort of accident, or maybe a high stick from Jeremy Roenick. But apparently, it's a design. Not a tattoo, more like one of those temporary deals you get in the cracker jack boxes. Which begs the question: how strong is the methadone David Ortiz must be taking to put that on his face?

I guess it's just Papi being Manny.

All right all right, Papi merely acts as a bridge for me. And this is how you know it's March. The pride of Venezuela and the skeleton in the closet of the Mets rotation, Victor Zambrano struck out Ortiz on a pitch three feet inside and two feet in the dirt. Yeah, the pitch had stuff...but in July, Ortiz lets it go by for ball four.

A few pitches later, Zambrano throws one that goes a foot over Moises Alou's head and to the backstop. Unlike Papi, our own Victor Zambrano is in mid-season form. Later on, I get a load of new Met Jorge Julio throwing a beach ball to Adrian Beltre that at this moment is orbiting Mars. And then it occurs to me: If this is spring training, and spring training is methadone...I need detox.


Between Pedro's toe, Delgado's tendonitis, Zambrano continuing to play the elephant in the punch bowl, and Julio doing his Armando Benitez impression, I'm at the front door of the Meth clinic with more shakes than Dairy Queen. And all I want to do now is shoot up with something that will take away the pain of wild pitches and gopher balls.

Or maybe a simple dose of Winstrol will do it.

Speaking of drugs (silly blogger, segways are for kids)...

Sure, we all pretty much knew that Barry Bonds was juicin'. Although the evidence is largely circumstantial, where there's smoke there's fire...and there's enough smoke here to make Cheech and Chong jealous. But as it becomes increasingly clear that we've all been duped with these home run records, it leaves a sinking feeling. Think about it. You grew up revering the home run record of Roger Maris. It seemed untouchable didn't it? Then you think you've witnessed something special not once, but twice! And the first time you saw the single season home run record broken, it merely brought the sport all the way back from the oblivion it plunged itself into when a players strike killed the 1994 season...which should have been the first time Maris' record was broken by Matt Williams. But now, you find out it was all a farce. It wasn't real.

It's kind of like you go to an all-boys school for four years...and then you graduate, and the first thing you do is scout for women. And you walk up on someone with the finest female form you've seen in your life...and you walk behind her for a few blocks before you get up the nerve to say hello to her. And right before you the very moment you are reaching to tap her shoulder, she turns around...

and it's a guy.

And that's the home run era in a nutshell. Lipstick on a pig.

The worst part is that baseball let this happen. It's their lack of rules, their undersized ballparks, their propensity to look the other way, their refusal to kill the golden goose which was genetically engineered to lay big golden eggs that busted many home run records...including one and and eventually maybe two of the most hallowed home run records that exist.

Get me to the clinic...immediately.

But get me out in time to see Bonds pass Hank a Jorge Julio fastball.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Taking Stock

Here's what I know:

I know my reason for hating this World Baseball Uniform Sale/Tournament. It trumps everything I said before.

Bernie Williams, playing for Puerto Rico, with Mets surrounding him...on his own team and the the Mets spring training facility...getting a "Let's Go Bernie" chant from the crowd (obviously not screened at the gate for pinstripes) in the fifth inning as he batted against Billy Wagner in the 5th inning of Puerto Rico's 6-1 exhibition win over the split twice squad Mets.

This is what happens when you mess with the natural order of the universe with a dopey tournament. You get Bernie Williams chants at Tradition Field.

Bud Selig, the blood is on your hands.

This wasn't Puerto Rican pride happening either, so don't give me that jazz. There were no "Let's Go Carlos" chants for Mr. Beltran. No chants for Javy Lopez, or Alex Cintron. No, these were Yankee fans starting trouble. These are undercover operatives torching religious establishments trying to start demonstrations and violent rallies and civil wars when all anybody ever wanted was to watch baseball in peace.


Here's what else I know:

Juan Padilla, after pitching today against the Mets for Puerto Rico (and while we're at it, where were the chants for The Fly in Port St. Lucie?), bowed out of the tournament because his arm didn't feel 100%. I hope that meant "my arm isn't up to full strength yet and I need to compete for a spot in an already crowded Met bullpen", and not "my arm suddenly has a twinge after trying to throw hard in a Puerto Rican uniform and I need to bow out before my shoulder falls out of its socket".

I'm guessing the former. But if it's the latter, that's more blood on your hands Bud.


Here is what I learned so far this spring:

Many Met fans have seen Lastings Milledge play at one point or another. Today was my first opportunity to see him. I saw two balls hit hard, and I saw a hustling diving catch in the ninth inning of a meaningless game.

Needless to say, I was impressed.

If Milledge is wearing a Red Sox uniform in April (or any other uniform other than a Mets organization uni), I'll find a way to blame Selig for that too. After all, he does have to sign off on the deal, no?


At least one of Steve Schmoll's pitches has yet to cross the plate. I've seen less fluttering in moths.


Everyone tuned in to the ESPN Puerto Rico/Mets tournament missed the Mets other game today, a 16-2 loss to Los Angeles. I for one, didn't miss it one bit. The Dodgers hit a franchise record 57 home runs today as Met pitchers made a star out of Andy LaRoche (just like they did with Adam last year).


Steve Phillips, working for ESPN, interviewed former assistant (and current head honcho) Omar Minaya in the booth during today's game. He told heart warming stories about how Omar was the "idea man", coming to Phillips with ideas after ideas, getting them all shot down. Then Phillips came up with an idea that of course Minaya agreed with (as you would all do with your bosses to keep your job). Gee, maybe Steve would still have a job if he had listened to his assistant every now and again.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Wrong Answer

I don't quite know how to feel about this, so I'm not going to come out with both barrels blazing on this one (It's spring training for me too, you know.) But just when I thought that the Wilpon's had abandoned their small market penny-pinching thinking, comes this. David Wright, only the team leader in RBI's a season ago, was taken advantage of by his lack of leverage and pigeon-holed into a 2006 salary of $374,000. (Wright got a raise of $9,000 on cost of living expenses alone...why isn't that in my contract?)

Management is no doubt thinking that if Wright gets special treatment in this case, then future players at the same point in their career will ask for the same special treatment, and the Mets want to be able to claim that nobody gets special treatment. And that's fair...sort of.


If that is the case, and notice I'm trying to be true to my zodiac sign and attempt to see both sides of the issue here, then the Mets should not let this linger too much longer. They can still say they stuck to their guns on the issue, and that might be valuable to them down the road with another player. But when you send a message that you're held to the same standard and measured with the same slide rule as Butch Huskey, Bill Pulsipher and Alex Ochoa, well let's just say that Art Howe made more sense...sort of.

The smart move here is to sit Wright down in July if he starts off on a similar pace to 2005, and get a deal done...even if it's a million...generous for what he's making now yet a mere carrot compared to what he could be making in the future. The Wilpons seem content to stick their heads in the sand and not answer the door when it knocks. But they're going to have to pay for David Wright's services (not to mention the revenue he brings in via ticket and merchandise sales). If not now, then later. And if they wait until later, then some other team or teams are going to have a crack at the player that ESPN called a "franchise player". Paying now gets you that "hometown discount" later on.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More World Baseball Hater-Ade

So what, exactly is Bud Selig thinking at this moment?

After all, Billy Wagner opting out of the World Baseball Uniform Sale/Tournament has our fearless leader figuring out a marketing strategy to either sell Gary Majewski USA jerseys (not quite the star power Selig had in mind) or convince Jennie Finch to pitch for Buck Martinez's Team USA (you want ratings in the United States? That'll do it!)

But the way Selig runs things, pitchers are secondary to the process anyway. You can be sure that Bud wants 12-11 games out of this W.B.U.S.T. They mind as well "self-hit" like we did in the playground.

In any event, the departures of Country Time and Pedro The Toe from the tournament are a welcome relief to Met fans (now if Juan "The Fly" Padilla can be convinced that this is a horrible idea). Because nobody wants to see an important cog in the 2006 season have their arm fall off in a tournament so hokey, one of it's logos looks mysteriously looks like an upside down WHA logo. How can anyone take this tournament seriously?

Jennie Finch, please pick up a white courtesy phone...Ms. Finch, white courtesy phone.