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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Can't Find My Way Home 

This has nothing to do with the Mets (it might be related to those wild '86 Mets), but next week, Simon & Schuster releases the book Can't Find My Way Home. The book's written by Martin Torgoff, who is the uncle of one of my best friends, and reviews the American experience with illicit drug use throughout the last century to present. Click here for a link to Martin's website where you can find out more information about the book and how to purchase it on-line.

The Wright Stuff 

Apparently I'm not the only one with a man crush on Mets top position prospect David Wright. Baseball America's John Manuel features Wright in his Prospect Pulse. Check it out here.

Spending Spree 

Kaley from Flushing Local direct me to this Rob Neyer article featuring the headliners of the '05 free agent class. Kaley asks if we can get comfortable with the idea of Richie Sexson at first base next year. I definitely can. The only problem being that to acquire Sexson, the Mets would have to trade Mike Piazza. Perhaps it's all the hoopla surrounding Piazza's imminent destruction of Carlton Fisk's career HR record for catchers, but I'm wondering if trading Piazza is truly necessary for the long term (2005 through, say 2007) success of the Mets. This suggestion might seem blasphemous to those in favor of rebuilding, but if Piazza stays healthy this year and if his transition to first base goes smoothly, is it crazy to think that the Mets should keep him through his $15 million 2005 season and then re sign him to a short term deal? After all, this just may be the Mets thinking. Why else would the Mets be pushing Mike to first base "to extend his career" if it is only to extend his career for another team. Maybe I'm in denial. The consensus is that for the Mets to move forward it has to be without Mike Piazza. I realize I'm flip-flopping worse than Bob Klapisch on this, as I was open to trading Piazza when I discussed the Alan Schwarz article the other day, but I think it's at least worth exploring possibilities that would keep Piazza on board. If Piazza stays healthy this year, shows he can still be an offensive force at the plate, shows he can split time behind the dish and at first base, and if he accepts a reasonable one or two year contract, then what's the harm in bringing him back and instead of signing an expensive first basemen, go after a top right fielder and starting pitcher. A 2006 Mets team that features, Mike Piazza splitting time at catcher with Jason Phillips, Mike Jacobs or Justin Hubler, Reyes at 2B, Matsui at SS, Wright at 3B, and an outfield of Floyd, Cameron and Carlos Beltran or Maglio Ordonez would place a potential All Star at each position and, combined with a solid starting staff, might just propel the Mets into another World Series. At the same time, signing Piazza would insure that Mike finishes his career in NY where he belongs, thus eliminating the risk of us Met fans having to watch as another great Met catcher gets enshrined in the Hall of Fame with another team's cap on.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Has the Yankee's Well Run Dry? 

Not according to Yank's GM Brian Cashman, who insists the Yankees still have a few minor leaguers left to deal away this season. With a farm system that many perceive to be barren, it's a good thing the Major League Yankees are a healthy, young squad. I'm not the only one who sees comparables between the World Series deprived Yankees of the 1980s and the current crop of pin striped mercenaries who haven't won a World Series since the mega spending spree began, right?

Piazza's Defense: The Anti-Jeter? 

Jeremy Heit points me to a great article over at Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat about Mike Piazza. Rich crunches some numbers and concludes that Piazza is the best hitting catcher ever. However, due to "questionable defense," which "is an important component when it comes to judging catchers," Rich does not feel "comfortable anointing the 10-time All-Star as unequivocally the best ever." That's a fair point and a belief held by most. But how can so many people, sabermagicians included, look to all sorts of offensive numbers to formulate conclusions while at the same time simply rely on what I feel is a myth about Piazza's defense?

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Piazza's been robbed of Gold Glove awards all these years but it seems to me, using my concededly biased blue and orange eye, that Piazza does an adequate job behind the dish. If you have been reading my little blog I'm sure you know that I'm a far cry from a bona fide, certified stat geek. However, I did my obligatory Moneyball reading so I feel qualified to pull some numbers out of my ass every so often if they support my point (that's the lawyer in me coming out). I think my point is supported once you start looking at a few numbers. In 2002, his last full year catching and without missing significant amount of time due to injury, Piazza did a good job not allowing many passed balls (8, only two more than Pudge Rodriguez). As for game calling, in the last three years Piazza's catcher's ERA, how ever much stock you want to put in that, has been lower than the Mets' overall team pitching ERA. Mets manager Art Howe attributed the Mets pitching staff's strong finish to Piazza's return from injury last year. Again, put as much weight in that as you think it warrants. In 2001 Piazza had a .991 fielding percentage, which placed him just about in the middle of the pack in relation to other MLB catchers, although this takes quite a hit in 2002 when he finishes second to last.

Despite the fact that Piazza's fielding numbers are not that bad, he still gets a blanket label as a poor defensive catcher, or worse than he really is, because 1) a catcher's throwing arm on stolen base attempts is overly glorified in a catcher's defensive game; and 2) because Piazza's arm is not that good, people think that the rest of his defense and game calling ability is bad. If that's the case, is Piazza the anti-Jeter when it comes to defense? Jeter looks pretty good out there with our eyes but once you look at some of the more advanced stats we see our eyes are playing tricks on us. Piazza, on the other hand, looks bad out there when he's bouncing balls to second base trying to throw out runners but overall, is he really that bad?

So my question is, is Mike Piazza's defense such a detriment that he can't be given the title of the overall, unqualified, best catcher ever? My answer is no, it's not that bad but then again what do I know. Like I've said in the past I'm JSSTLHTUB (Just Some Schmuck That Learned How To Use Blogger).

Klapisch Flip-Flopping 

Shea Hot Corner Axis of Evil member Bob Klapisch is up to his old tricks. During the offseason Klapisch apparently came down with a rare disorder where the only words that he could speak were variations on, "person(s) familiar with the Met's thinking" and "Alfonso Soriano." Persons familiar with Klapisch reported that this sometimes created awkward social moments:

Waiter at restaurant: What would you like to order sir?
Klapisch: Sources familiar with the Met's thinking believe I should order the steak.
Waiter: Huh?
Klapisch: You heard me, an unnamed source within the Met hierarchy told me I should order the Alfonso Soriano, and make it rare please.
Waiter (to hostess): Call 911, we got another loon.

Luckily for Klapisch, and unluckily for Met fans, the disorder usually revealed itself in his work. For example, on March 18th Klapisch wrote,

One person familiar with the club's thinking says the organization is nearly unanimous in endorsing a trade for the former Yankee [Soriano], but executives have been overruled by owner Fred Wilpon. . . Wilpon [is] unwilling[] to trade lefty prospect Scott Kazmir for Soriano . . . .

That's funny, because appearing in an interview with MSG on Monday, Klapisch basically said the exact opposite. According to Klapisch this week, everyone within the Met organization except for Fred Wilpon thought that there was no chance for the Mets to compete this year. In other words, according to Klapisch, Wilpon was the only one in the Met organization that thought the Mets stood a chance to make the playoffs this year. So Bob, riddle me this: if Wilpon thought the team was ready to compete this year and the rest of the organization was looking more realistically to 2006, how is it that the organization was "nearly unanimous in endorsing a trade" to send Scott Kazmir, the cornerstone to any hopes of the Mets competing in 2006, to Texas for a quick fix in Alfonso Soriano but had to be overruled by Wilpon, the only one who was ready to make a run of it this year? Doesn't make sense. Unless of course the "sources familiar with Met thinking" are those little voices in your head. Call 911 - we got another loon in here.

Snapped! 

With a 9 to 5 win, the Mets snapped their 3 game losing streak. In scoring 9 runs with 13 hits, the Mets also snapped an awful collective hitting slump they found themselves in. Mike Piazza snapped his 63 at bat HR drought when he hit his 351st HR as a catcher, tying Calrton Fisk for first place on the all time HR list for catchers. This HR was also Piazza's 362nd overall, which places him 58th on the overall all time HR list just passed Joe DiMaggio and right behind Raph Kiner who has 369. Jason Phillips snapped a personal 0 for 28 hitless streak when he hit an RBI single in the 9th inning. When Phillips got to first base he stared up at the sky for a good long while as if to thank God, or maybe he was just cleaning his goggles? Then he asked for the baseball as a memento. Lastly, Kazuo Matsui snapped his stolen base drought when he swiped second base, advanced on Paul Lo Duca's overthrow and then scored on a Mike Cameron single .

I watched the game on the MLB Extra Innings package so I picked up the LA feed and what a treat it was to listen to Vin Scully call a game. If you haven't heard Scully call a Dodgers game, it's something else. Really. It's just him. Alone in the booth. No "color commentator" or "analyst" in the form of some crusty old player to inject useless cliches every at bat. Scully has seen enough games that he doesn't need Joe Morgan to tell him when the hit and run should be on. It's all Scully all the time. It drove the Smokin' Hot Corner nuts and she could not watch the game but I thought it was pretty cool. Instead of a play-by-play guy and a commentator bickering all game or going off on tangents, it was just me and Scully, sitting back, relaxing and watching a game. Scully's best line of the game came when Todd Zeile homered: "ya know what they say, Nomo tried to throw a lamb chop passed a wolf." Anyway, below are some of the little facts Scully hit me with during the game.

Karim Garcia's dad played professional baseball in Mexico until he pissed on a taco stand. Okay, just kidding (about the pissing part). However, Karim did not start playing baseball until he was 12 years old and played golf instead. Shane Spencer's dad was a career Navy man who spent most of his time on submarines. Todd Zeile's nick name used to be "ziplock" because he was so quiet. Tom Glavine was a 4th round pick of the LA Kings NHL team and had a multi day try-out as a goalie for the New York Rangers. Ricky Gutierrez's 14 year old son outweighs him by 10 pounds. Mike Cameron was not allowed to play baseball in junior high because he failed chemistry. Mike Piazza might have grown a beard to protect his face from being irritated by his catcher's face mask. Jason Phillips dad told him, "Your worst day in baseball is better than my best day at work. Stick to it until they rip that shirt off your back." Playing for the UCLA Bruins, Eric Valent broke Troy Glause's Pac 10 HR record. In 1986 while pitching for the Reds, John Franco sustained a right ankle injury and taped it up. He pitched well and continues to tape up his right ankle before each game even though he has no injury. David Weathers got hit in the face with a line drive in high school that broke his nose, which explains a lot. Also while in high school, Weathers pitched a no hitter and hit a grand slam in the same game.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Scary Stat of the Day 

This article points out that the Norfolk Tides, the Mets AAA club, have 7 players over 30 years old and 13 players over the age of 28. That's about half the team either at or nearing 30. Did Duquette not get the memo about "younger and more athletic"?

Week 3 Recap 

I usually do a little weekly recap but it's too depressing to re-hash last week's games. Instead, check out SaberMets, whose detailed, advanced sabermetric analysis is right on point.

Re-engineering the Mets 

I'm shocked. I just read an article in a New York tabloid about the Mets that 1) did not mention the Mets trading the farm for a quick fix named Alfonso Soriano (Bob Klapisch); 2) did not analogize the Mets to a back-alley hole in the wall bar and the Yankees to a hopping club with velvet ropes out front (Joel Sherman); 3) nor did the author attempt to make himself the central figure of the story (Jon Heyman). Hell, unlike some NY area sports commentators (cough, Mike Francessa, cough, cough), the author even knows who David Wright is! Instead, in Alan Schwarz's (from Baseball America and ESPN) Re-engineering the Mets, we are treated to good old fashioned baseball analysis that's not only well written and funny, but interesting and informative as well. The Shea Hot Corner Axis of Evil should read this article and take some notes.

Schwarz begins by laying out what the purpose of the article is. "No one outside the Mets can know the club's exact plans, but a highly educated guess, or at least what the team ought to be doing, looks like this." Schwarz goes on to set out a plan for the Mets to contend in 2006. This may be the Jim Duquette "plan" we have heard so much about or it may not. Either way the points are all thoughtful yet debatable. And in a move that put a smile on my face, Schwarz even takes a poke at the ol' flagship station when he calls them the "Raving yahoos on WFAN." It's not clear if he is referring to the "raving yahoos" that call in to the shows or the "raving yahoos" that take the calls?

What Schwarz proposes, in essence, is nothing ground breaking: to trade some of the aging, expensive veteran players, build a solid core of home grown kids, and bring in some free agents to fill holes. While none of the specific suggestions are awful, some are debatable. For example, Schwarz proposes that the Mets deal Mike Piazza and plug up first base via free agency this offseason by signing Carlos Delgado and then wait until 2006 to sign a right fielder in Preston Wilson. I would fill those holes this upcoming offseason at the same time and be done with it. I like the Delgado suggestion although Richie Sexson, who will be a year younger and probably come cheaper, might be a smarter move. The Mets should make a strong push this offseason to plug up the gaping hole in right field by signing Carlos Beltran and if that does not work out then go after Maglio Ordonez if he has not signed back with the White Sox. Beltran will likely resist moving from CF to RF but as they say, it's all about the Benjamins. Beltran is only 27 years old, plays a Gold Glove outfield and is a perfect fit for a team trying to get younger and more athletic. Just imagine the ground that can be covered by Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran. Cliff Floyd can rest his brittle legs in left field and pick dandelions with these two in the outfield. At the same time, young Met pitchers making their way into the bigs like Scott Kazmir and Matt Peterson will sleep well at night knowing Beltran and Cameron are shagging fly balls in Shea's vast outfield behind them. So instead of waiting until 2006 for Preston Wilson and Carlos Delgado, I would make a big splash this offseason by snagging Delgado or Sexson and Beltran or Ordonez. Our pitching will not be ready until 2006, but at least the Mets will have these holes plugged up.

Regardless of whether you agree with all of the suggestions or not, the article is a refreshing departure from what we usually see in the NY rags. Besides, with the Mets playing so poorly and hope being sucked out of this season so early, how do you not love an article that looks to a promising future and ends,

Tyler Yates could very easily be the new Jesse Orosco, heaving his glove into the air after getting the last out of the World Series. But either way, our playoff run will leave DELGADO 15 and KAZMIR 21 jerseys sprouting up all over New York. Shea Stadium will be rocking again. And the ghost of Roger Cedeno will have been exorcised forever.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Guarantee 

I guarantee that the Mets will not lose today. The Mets will not get shut out, one hit, no hit, embarrassed, run over, trounced, blown out, shalacked, or throttled. The Mets offense will not disappoint us with another 0 or 1 run effort today. The bullpen will not break our hearts today. A Met starting pitcher will not pitch his heart out only to be left with an "L." We will not see our "improved defense" cost us a game today. Ahh, you gotta love off days.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Panic Mode? 

Yours truly is seriously thinking about entering panic mode. I'm not there yet but I'm close. I'm trying hard to reserve judgment and panic until I see a few games with our entire line-up, but I don't know how Cliff Floyd will rejuvenate Ty Wigginton or how Jose Reyes will give a lift to Jason Phillips. In other words, while I want to agree with what many think - that the offense will get back on track once Floyd and Reyes (and now Wigginton) return - I just don't know.

With today's 3 to 0 loss to the Cubs, the Mets have dropped 7 of their last 9 (5 of those losses to the lowly Pirates and Expos) and have only scored 18 runs over that span. That's an average of only 2 runs per game for you kids scoring at home. The starting losing pitcher de jour was Tyler Yates, who entered the game 1 and 1 with a respectable 3.86 ERA (0.80 ERA not counting the rain soaked 4/14 game that should have never been played).

Yates got touched up early when he tried to sneak a 2/2 inside fastball passed Slamin' Sammy Sosa. Yates didn't get it inside enough, Sosa turned on it, and before we knew it there was a happy fan in the street beyond Wrigley's left field bleachers. Then in the second inning with 2 outs and Derek Lee on third, Yates got ahead of light hitting Ramon Martinez. With a 0/2 count and the pitcher on deck, Yates hung an 86 mph slider in the zone which Martinez pulled to left field scoring Lee. In the third inning Yates found himself in another 2/2 count against Sosa. Cognizant of the fastball that Sosa took him deep on in the first, Yates tried the slider this time. Sosa hung in there and slapped a single up the middle. Sosa moved to second on a Moises Alou ground out. That brought up Aramis Ramirez who hit a fly ball to left just out of reach of Shane Spencer who came charging in to make a play. While Spencer could not make the catch he did manage to keep the ball from skirting passed him and came up throwing to try to nail Sosa at the plate. Spencer's throw was strong and on-line. Vance Wilson, who had catching duties today, was in position to make a play. The throw beat Sosa by a few steps but Wilson must have heard those steps and took his eye off the ball long enough that when he came down with the tag, which beat Sosa, there was no ball in his glove. With that, the Cubs were up 3 to 0 which is how things remained despite the fact that Yates settled down to retire 8 of the next 10 batters he faced, the only base runners being Todd Walker who singled and Aramis Ramirez who reached on a Kazuo Matsui error.

This and That





Feeling "Comfortable" with Fran Healy  

Mets broadcaster and former MLB catcher Fran Healy will be providing his insight on MSG.com in a new section called "Going around the horn in Flushing." Healy, quite frankly, bugs me. But to be honest, after getting the MLB package and having a chance to hear other teams' broadcasters, relatively speaking Healy is not that bad. In fact, a lot of his sayings have gone from annoying to almost humorous. However, just because Healy is growing on me, like a fungus perhaps, that doesn't mean I can't have fun with his new MSG column where objective analysis is almost non existent but the usual cliches are plentiful. I'll leave the commentary to you all. Let me just provide a few quotes:

On Todd Zeile: "a true professional"; "a well-traveled veteran"; "He knows what it takes to win."

On Mike Piazza: "He's a true competitor"; "Piazza is obviously much more comfortable behind the plate than he is at first base."

On Ricky Gutierrez: "has looked pretty good"; "What he lacks in speed, he makes up in intelligence."

On Joe McEwing: "He can play a number of different positions and has been productive defensively at them all. A gritty hard-worker, the Mets are getting what they've expected from him in the early goings."

On Kazuo Matsui: "has a strong throwing arm."

On Ty Wigginton: "He's hitting bad luck right now and has just a .188 average."

On Karim Garcia: "He's the type of player anyone would love to have on their team, and it looks like he's found a permanent home here in Flushing."

On the starting pitching rotation: "Yes, they are a year older, but they're still as good or even better than before."

Predictable Mets 

It's getting to a point where it's simply a waste of time to watch Mets games since the outcomes seem preordained where the Mets 1) get good starting pitching; 2) fail to support said solid starting pitching; 3) Art Howe makes bone headed managerial decision; and 4) finish up game with awful bullpen en route to loss.

Today the Mets send out Tyler Yates against Kerry Wood and the Cubbies in hopes of breaking this vicious cycle.

Since talking about the Mets Major League squad depresses me, let's turn our attention to some good news. David Wright is proving the jump from A ball to AA is no problem, for him at least. And yes, if you click on the Wright link you will see that I sponsored Wright's NYFS player profile page. So I have what Jeremy Heit calls a "man crush" on Wright. You wanna make something of it?!? Anyway, Wright is in the process making a strong case for an AAA call up by mid season and, depending on how that goes, possibly even a late season Major League call up. In AA Binghamton, Wright is hitting .364/.485/.727 with 3 HRs and 11 RBI in 55 ABs. The numbers place him 6th in the Eastern League in BA, 1st in OBP, 2nd in SLG, tied for 3rd in HRs, and tied for 1st in RBI. Wright is also leading the Eastern League with 40 total bases. Perhaps Ty Wigginton got wind of these numbers, which caused his ulcer? (I kid, get better soon Ty!). Maybe Wigginton is paying off Eastern League pitchers because, unfortunately, Wright is also leading the league in getting hit by pitches with 5. While it is undeniable that Wright is currently obliterating AA pitching, his 55 ABs is a small sample size. However, as Ed Tsunoda points out, over Wright's last 350 ABs against AA, AAA and Major League pitching from spring training, Wright has hit roughly .340/.430/.600. With the Major League club struggling, it's nice to see there's hope for the future.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

HOWE HOWE HOWE COULD HE DO THAT AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!! 

Why the hell did Art Howe just take Mike Piazza out of another tight ball game for pinch runner Vance Wilson!!!! I'm just about ready to put my head through the computer screen!!!! This team is starving for offense and Art Howe continues to rip the teeth out of our already toothless offense. Damn it!

Galante's Gambles 

In an attempt to ignite an otherwise punchless offense, Mets third base coach Matt Galante has been sending runners home for plays at the plate with what some perceive to be reckless abandon. The Mets have had four runners gunned down at the plate so far, including Kazuo Matsui in San Juan against the Expos, Matsui again against the Pirates, and two last night when Mike Piazza and Karim Garcia were waved home where each met an out. Hindsight is always 20/20, but let's review each of these plays a bit closer.

Friday 4/9 vs. the Expos: In the top of the 9th inning in a tie 2 to 2 game, Matsui doubles with two outs followed by a Gutierrez walk so now runners on 1st and 2nd base. Shane Spencer digs in and hits a single to left field and Galante sends Matsui home. Juan Rivera fields the ball cleanly and makes a perfect throw to the plate to nail Matsui to end the inning. The Mets end up winning the game in the 11th. I like this call. The Mets just got a new toy in Matsui, who some say is faster than Ichiro, and Galante wants to see what he can do. It took a perfect throw from Rivera and as luck would have it, that's just what he delivered.

Sunday 4/18 vs. the Pirates: With the Mets down 1 to 0 in the bottom of the third Matsui doubles. Todd Zeile hits a one out single to right field and Galante sends Matsui around again. Raul Mondesi shows off his strong throwing arm in gunning Matsui down at the plate. Karim Garcia strikes out the next at bat to end the inning and the Mets fail to score. The Mets go on to lose the game 8 to 1. This is a closer call than the 4/9 game. The hit was to right field which is an easier throw to make than the throw from left to home since the fielder does not have to contend with trying to not hit the runner with his throw. Additionally, it's no secret that Mondesi has a cannon for an arm. Finally, the heart of the batting order is coming up in Garcia, Piazza, Cameron and Phillips. This all said, I still can't fault Galante for sending Matsui here. It seems the situation warranted Matsui being held up but there's something to be said for pitting our best against theirs, that is, our fastest runner versus their strongest arm. Sending Matsui puts the pressure on the Pirates defense to make a perfect play. They did. Matsui's out. All you can say it, "damn."

Wednesday 4/21 vs. the Expos: The score is tied 0 to 0 in the bottom of the 2nd inning and Mike Piazza doubles to deep left field to lead off the inning. Mike Cameron walks and Jason Phillips strikes out. That brings up Shane Spencer with one out and runners on first and second. Spencer singles to right center and Piazza comes lumbering down toward third base to see Galante waving him home. Piazza must have been shocked to see that he was being waived home and might have hesitated, thinking Galante was waving for a hot dog instead. Piazza rounds third while at the same time Juan Rivera charges the ball, bare hands it, and makes a strong throw to catcher Brian Schneider who, despite Piazza's valiant efforts to avoid the tag, gets nipped on the shoulder by Schneider's glove. Joe McEwing is up next and singles to score Cameron. Tom Glavine grounds out to end the inning. The next play at the plate occurs when Karim Garcia finds himself at 2nd base in the 8th inning down by one run after hitting a one out double. Mike Piazza singles to center field and Galante sends Garcia home while center fielder Brad Wilkerson came up throwing to nail Garcia at the plate despite Garcia's best efforts to take Schneider's head off. Mike Cameron strikes out to end the inning and the Mets go on to lose the game 2 to 1.

While I'm in Galante's corner for his 4/9 and 4/18 calls, I can't back him up here on the 2nd inning decision to send Piazza. Sure, you can say that with McEwing and Glavine next to bat you have to take your chances and I'm sure that is what was going through Galante's head but c'mon, this is Mike Piazza we're talking here. If Juan Rivera managed to throw out Kazuo Matsui only a week and a half earlier, what makes you think he'll have a harder time throwing out Mike Piazza? I'll take my chances with McEwing with the bases loaded and one out any day of the week and twice on Sundays over putting the game in the hands of Mike Piazza's legs. As for sending Garcia, sure, I can agree with that call. Garcia has shown good speed and tuffness so far this year and with a struggling offense I can agree with testing Wilkerson's arm.

Like I said, hindsight is 20/20 and even after sitting back and looking more closely at the situations I can back Galante on 3 of 4 decisions and I even admit that the one call I don't agree with was pretty close. It's also fair to point out that if the Mets offense wasn't struggling so mightily the Mets could afford to not send runners on close plays and trust that they will get a hit to score the run. That obviously isn't happening.

Glitch 

I would love to comment on tonight's game but my Tivo malfunctioned and it somehow recorded Tuesday's game. It's funny though because Al Leiter is looking more and more like Tom Glavine every day.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Link of the day 

Click here. Damn, we had Maglio and never even knew it! Thanks to the fine posters over at Amazinz.com for pointing this out.

Just What the Doctor Ordered (for the Expos) 

New Mets motto: "Got Slump? Will Cure."

With their 2 to 1 defeat at the hands of the Expos last night, the Mets have now dropped 4 of their last 5 games. The story remains the same. A great pitching performance from Al Leiter, who went 7 innings (102 pitches), gave up 5 hits and finally allowed an earned run. However, the Mets bullpen and offense let him down. The Mets only managed one run and David Weathers came into the game in the 8th inning and promptly gave up a Jose Vidro home run.

Check out Jeremy Heit's Blog, who talks about some interesting trade ideas involving Vance Wilson, Jeremy Griffiths, Steve Smitherman and Calvin Pickering. A new Mets blog, Mets Forever, has similar ideas.

Avkash over at the Raindrops breaks down Al Leiter. As usual, good stuff over there.

Things have been pretty crazy so a long entry isn't going to happen today but as always, feel free to discuss amongst yourselves and I'll chime in when I can.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Just What the Doctor Ordered 

New Expos slogan: "Got Slump? Will Cure."

The Mets stopped their three game slide with a 4 to 1 win over the Expos and Tyler Yates got his first big league win, going 5 2/3 inning, allowing 5 hits, 3 walks, 0 runs while striking out one. This was far from a dominating performance from the rookie right hander but he managed to pitch his way out of several jams and got out of innings that were prolonged due to shoddy defense. That's it for now.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Kazuo Matsui vs. Ricky Henderson 

A few weeks ago in the 2004 Mets Panel Discussions (linked at the left of the screen) I asked whether Kazuo Matsui will be closer to Rey Ordonez or Ricky Henderson offensively. At least one other insane person thinks Matsui and Henderson are worth comparing. Check this out.

Week 2 Recap 

This team is going to be the death of me. After finishing week one at .500 with a three and three record, the Mets began a 10 game home stand by taking two of three against the Braves but then got swept in a three game set by the Pirates. The Pirates! So at the end of week two the Mets are two games under .500 at five and seven and in second to last place above only the two and 10 Expos.

Mets starting pitching continues to get the job done and have pitched much better than their 3.94 ERA would indicate (3.17 before Jae Weong Seo's abysmal start yesterday). The bullpen, on the other hand, has conspired with the Eli Lilly Company in an effort to increase sales of Prozac to Mets fans (6.70 ERA). With the exception of Braden Looper (2/3 in save opps with a 0 ERA), the rest of the Mets pen has been awful. The piss poor performances of this motley crew prompted Mets brass to sign recently released Ricky Botallico to a minor league deal as insurance. Apparently no other major league team took Botallico up on his offer to "provide replacement level relief pitching for food."

In other recent hot stove news. Wait, the season started. So what do you call trade rumors during the season? Air conditioning news (awful joke I know)? Anyway, there are some rumors circling that the Mets might be thinking about trading 3rd catcher Vance Wilson. If the rumor is true, the reasoning behind it would be that with Mike Piazza and Jason Phillips there is no need to carry a third catcher, especially when Joe McEwing and/or Todd Zeile might be able to catch in an emergency situation. If the Mets can get a decent player with more offensive pop than Wilson offers, it sounds like a good idea.

However, I'm not sure such drastic measures like the ones involving Wilson and Bottalico are needed. I was in the middle of writing this week 2 recap, trying to figure out what happened to the bullpen and where the Mets offense went when it dawned on me. I think I figured it all out! Luckily I Tivo'd all the games last week so I was able to go back and confirm what had struck me. And sure enough if you look really close you can see that many of the Mets players weren't really out there on the field! Several Met players got impostors to play for them last week! It's amazing how easily we're fooled. Hey, don't trust me, see for yourselves:


















Sunday, April 18, 2004

Wasted  

The Mets are finding ways to waste solid pitching performances. Friday the Mets sorry excuse for a bullpen blew what was perhaps Tom Glavine's best outing as a Met. Yesterday, as Steve Trachsel was pitching his heart out going eight innings and only allowing two earned runs, the Mets batters were busy getting shut down by Oliver Perez and his stellar 4.67 career ERA. Perez picked up the win in the Pirates 2 to 1 victory over the Mets to go up 2 games to none in this three game series. If Perez wasn't whiffing Mets batters, they were looking foolish against the dominating arms of Brian Meadows (career 5.21 ERA), Mike Johnston (3.2 major league innings pitched), Saloman Torres (5.27 career ERA) and Jose Mesa (the walking embodiment of why the save is overrated). Over the last 20 1/3 innings, New York starters have allowed only two earned runs while the offense, which is obviously missing Cliff Floyd and Jose Reyes, has provided the starters with only five runs over that stretch.

The Mets send sophomore Jae Weong Seo out to the mound today to prevent a sweep. The Mets need Seo to check his 7.48 spring training ERA at the dugout steps and take his 2003 3.83 ERA out to the mound with him. The Mets hitters have to get their act in gear against Pirates RHP Kris Benson (1-0, 2.45). Benson has gotten off to a good start this year, much like he did last year when he started the season 3 and 0 and posted a 2.90 ERA in his first six starts. While Benson's ERA after his first two starts is solid, Mets hitters would serve themselves well to show off their new found patience at the plate as Benson walked 3 batters his first start and 4 batters his last outing.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Glavine On; Mets Bullpen Off 

For seven glorious innings last night, Mets fans saw "the plan" coming together perfectly as the Mets were beating the Pirates 2 to 0. Tom Glavine was tossing a masterpiece, allowing only one hit and no runs. Mets fans saw Glavine's confidence increase with every pitch and while he only struck out two, there were no worries because when balls were put in play Mets fielders caught them. In particular, Mike Cameron put on a show making several circus catches that last year would have fallen. However, the plan unraveled when Glavine complained of stiffness in his shoulder and was pinch hit for by Todd Zeile in the bottom of the seventh inning. Orber Moreno came out to start the eight and the floodgates opened. Moreno conspired with the Pirates to deny Glavine his third straight win when he gave up three runs. Art Howe pulled Moreno and inserted Mike Stanton who promptly gave up two runs of his own. The Mets were not through showcasing their shoddy bullpen though. David Weathers came in and gave up two more runs. At the end of the top of the eighth inning, a 2 to 0 lead vanished and the Mets found themselves trailing 7 to 2. The Mets launched an eighth inning rally sparked by lead off singles by Kazuo Matsui and Karim Garcia. Mike Cameron hit a double to bring the Mets within four runs and then an Eric Valent pinch hit home run made the score 7 to 6. Ty Wigginton grounded out to third to end the inning. Dan Wheeler came on in the 9th and pitched a scoreless inning but the Mets allowed Jose Mesa to shut them down in the bottom of the 9th. The Mets lost 7 to 6. After the game Mets manager Art Howe said, "We'll come back tomorrow . . . but this one doesn't taste too good right now."

Notes:




Thanks 

At some point early this morning I received my 10,000 visitor. Thanks to all of you that stop by.

Friday, April 16, 2004

TGIF 

This is going to be short and sweet (like me) as the bastards at work actually expect me to work today.

Jason Mastaitis is the new captain of the SS Always Amazin' Weblog at NJ.com. Check it out.

The Mets beat the Braves 4 to 0 last night to take the series 2 games to 3. Al Leiter, who has increased is consecutive scoreless streak to 10 and 1/3 innings (24 and 1/3 if we're counting last year), picked up his first win of the season. The Good Senator from Flushing was on a roll last night, getting on base twice; once via bases on balls and another by slapping a double into the gap. The way Leiter was hitting last night, I think I'd prefer to have him batting second than Ricky Guiterrez. The Mets square off against the Pirates in a three game series starting tonight. Tom Glavine (1.38 ERA) will be on the hunt for his third consecutive win and second at big Shea.

The Mets have hired John Ricco as their new assistant general manager. Ricco, who has worked in the commissioner's office for the past 12 years, is qualified I'm sure. However, I thought the Mets should have made a strong play for Kwame Jackson. Jackson, the runner up in NBC's hit reality series The Apprentice, would be a perfect fit in the Met organization. If it weren't for that evil Amarosa, Kwame would have beat out Bill easier than Tyler Yates beat out Jae Weong Seo.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Mets Lose 6 to 1 

A few random thoughts on last night's game, which will also give me the opportunity to show off my new found ability to add bullet points (thanks Vinny and Matt).

  • I agree with Kaley from Flushing Local that the game should have been cancelled. Why in God's earth would you send out a rookie pitcher recovering from Tommy John surgery in a 45 degree monsoon? There's nothing to be gained by it. Not to mention that this frail team can't afford to have someone else go down.

  • Tyler Yates, while giving up 5 ERs in 2 and 2/3 IP, wasn't hit that hard. Who knows what happens if Mike Piazza doesn't commit his first inning error, which contributed to Yates suffering through a miserable 25 pitch, rain-soaked first inning and if Ty Wigginton didn't play like cinder blocks are cemented on his feet.

  • Mike Piazza should have caught the game. Like I said yesterday, Piazza handled Yates brilliantly in San Juan and neither Jason Phillips nor Vance Wilson have the knowledge and experience of Piazza with respect to Braves hitters. Phillips and Yates did not appear to be on the same page last night with Yates shaking off several signs and Phillips having to go out to the mound for a few chit chats. Two of the Atlanta RBI came on 1 and 2 counts. You would have to think there is no way Piazza calls a pitch even close to the strike zone in such a pitcher's count with runners in scoring position. But then again, it might have been pitch execution not the pitch that was called but I'm on a roll here. If Piazza can't catch due to his hyperextended elbow, then that's just all the more reason to call the game.

  • The best part of the game was when Yates was being pulled in the third inning and the camera focused in on Yates' dad in the stands who is in the middle of picking his nose and wiping it on his jacket like the old disgusting man from the movie The Golden Child. Nice.

  • Yates would of had to pitch another shutout to even get the win in this game as the Mets hitters took the night off.

  • Grant Roberts finally made it through an inning without giving up a run. However, it was an ugly inning where Roberts walked two and at one point threw 8 straight balls all while laboring to throw any harder than 87 MPH. I hate to say it Roberts fans (and I'm one of them) but it's looking more and more like this kid's days are numbered with the Mets.
  • Wednesday, April 14, 2004

    '86 Mets vs. '98 Yanks 

    I'm on a Bronx Banter kick this week (which is a great blog, even if it is focused on the Yankees) and noticed that Alex mentions the Jeff Pearlman book The Bad Guys Won and quotes and interesting response Pearlman made to a question from Jeremy "Barbara Walters Aint Got Nuttin On Me" Heit in his recent interview.

    JH: The '86 team has been called one of the top 10 teams of all time by some... Do you agree? If not, in what range would you put them?
    JP: I agree. I've been saying for several years now that the '86 Mets were a much more complete team that the current Yankee dynasty. Their starting pitching was so deep, and they were very well balanced all the way around. I think they'd really give a lot of teams trouble at the top of the lineup. With the exception of the Marlins, who today has three guys like Dykstra, Backman and Mookie-guys who can get on and really mess with a pitcher's head.
    What hurts the Mets, dynasty-wise, is that they only really lasted one year. So it's a poor comparison to, say, the Big Red Machine or the A's of the 70s. But for one season, one game, you've gotta like that '86 team.


    This gets Alex thinking, "Were the 1986 Mets better than the 1998 Yankees" and even gets Rob Neyer's thoughts on the issue. My response was,

    What a great question. The '86 Mets vs. the '98 Yanks. Hmmm? We could go back and forth all day long comparing stats but the essence of that '86 team was magic. Yeah yeah yeah I know, you can't quantify it in MBP (Magic Base Percentage) but it was there for the Mets in 86 nonetheless. They just wouldn't lose. If the '86 Mets squared off against the '98 Yanks the ball would roll through Derek Jeter's legs instead of Buckner's and the Mets would win. It's just how things worked out for the Mets that year.

    Head over to Bronx Banter and give them your thoughts on this. And remember Mets fans to mind your manners and play nice.

    Yates to Make Shea Debut 

    Five days after blanking the Expos through six innings in San Juan, rookie RHP Tyler Yates is set to make his Shea debut tonight against John Thomson and the Atlanta Braves. Yates was impressive in his first major league start, flying under the radar in front of only 14,739 fans in San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium. Tonight Yates hits the big stage at big Shea. Yates will be looking for his first win in the cold and wet weather in front of 40 plus thousand fans, including several family members who have flown in from Yates' native Hawaii.

    If Yates is to have any success he's going to have to stay ahead of the hitters like he did in Puerto Rico where he threw first pitch strikes to 15 of the 22 batters he faced and seemed to be one step in front of the hitters all night long. Yates mainly threw fastballs which set up his hard slider and really only started mixing in a few change-ups the second and third time through the batting order. Yates' change-up is very effective, especially combined with his mid 90s fastball. The Mets might want to think about keeping Braves hitters on their heels early by showcasing the change in conjunction with the fastball early and using that nasty slider as a limited out pitch. Then the second and third time through the batting order mixing in the slider more. Due to a hyperextended elbow he suffered in a collision at first base in San Juan, Mike Piazza sat out Monday but should be back in action tonight and may start this game at first base. Piazza handled the rookie brilliantly five days ago and neither Jason Phillips nor Vance Wilson can even come close to the knowledge and experience Piazza bring to the table with respect to Braves hitters so hopefully he's able to catch tonight. Should be a fun game.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2004

    Home Opener Review 

    Shea's home opener gets the obligatory reader review over at Baseball Musings. I think it's safe to say the writer does not like Shea Stadium too much, as he bitches and whines about every aspect of going to a game, concluding "Shea Stadium may well be the ugliest and dirtiest open-air park in major league baseball." Shea aint that bad?

    Media Baseball Bias in NY? 

    Alex Belth over at Bronx Banter insinuates that there is a media baseball bias in New York. That's no surprise to Mets fans. What is surprising in that Belth seems to think the bias favors the METS! Ha ha ha!

    Off Day Ramblings 

    Mets starters have only allowed one earned run in their last 24 innings pitched. Although Shea Hot Corner Axis of Evil Grand Wizard Bob Klapisch feels compelled to tell us that "Mets' starters aren't really as dominant as they've appeared."

    The Phillies are 1 and 6.

    Why doesn't Blogger have f'ing bullets!

    Seven games into the season and the Mets are above .500 and in sole possession of second place.

    As Vinny from YMtR pointed out yesterday (who was at the game pictured here), the Mets are stuck between a rock and a hard place with respect to Grant Roberts. Roberts is out of options so the Mets can't send him to Norfolk without risking losing him, and as Ian commented yesterday, "Not even getting him work in a blowout seems like a safe option right now." I'm at a loss. To me, the kid has two strikes against him so far this season. If he has another on the mound implosion making it three strikes, I say we option him down to AAA and take our chances on losing him. The Mets can't afford to take up a precious roster spot with someone who can't get the job done.

    Joe McEwing's at bat yesterday was awesome. Bobby Cox showed Joe no respect in walking Ty Wigginton to load the bases for McEwing. McEwing proceeds to work a full count, foul a few pitches off, then after 8 pitches takes the RBI walk. You go Joe with yo bad self (snap, snap, snap).

    Kazuo Matsui is tied for first place in the NL with 5 doubles, tied for first with Barry Bonds in walks with 8, tied for 5th in OBP, and 7th in number of pitches seen.

    The Mets, as a team, are currently 5th in the NL in OBP, 4th in SLG, tied for 3rd in walks, 5th in runs scored, 4th in hits and tied for 3rd in doubles.

    Contrary to what was originally believed, an MRI revealed that Cliff Floyd has a small tear in his right quadriceps. This is Floyd's seventh stint on the DL in his career. Said Floyd, "I think the 15 days will do a lot for me. So hopefully I'll be out there two weeks from today."

    The New York Daily News has nine stories on the Mets today. Nine! The Yankees only have three. Hey, cut me some slack. As a Mets fan it's all about redefining victory.

    Bobby Cox insinuated that the Mets battering of Mike Hampton in yesterday's home opener was a simple product of luck. "Out of those nine hits," Cox said, "seven of them were ground balls." Um, okay Bobby, and if your pitchers didn't have their own special strike zone for the last ten years instead of only one World Series ring you would have none.

    Monday, April 12, 2004

    4/12/04 Game Recap 

    Summary
    Mets win their home opener 10 to 6 against the Braves after leading 10 to 1.
    WP: Trachel
    LP: Hampton
    S: Looper

    Analysis
    Mets starting pitching continues to sparkle, only giving up 1 ER in the previous 24 innings pitched.
    The offense, even the depleted offense that took the field today, continues to hit and hit often.
    The bullpen blows.

    2004 Home Opener 

    And now your 2004 New York Mets!

    K. Matsui SS
    R. Gutierrez 2B
    S. Spencer RF
    T. Zeile 1B
    M. Cameron CF
    J. Phillips C
    T. Wigginton 3B
    J. McEwing LF
    S. Trachsel P

    This is pathetic.

    Studes on Seo 

    Check out a good article by Studes at the THT on your favorite Korean pitcher and mine, Jae Weong Seo.

    Jeff Pearlman Interview 

    Go check out Jeremy Heit's Blog - he gets his interview on with Jeff Pearlman, author of The Bad Guys Won.

    Week 1: The Battle of the "ifs" 

    The first week and first two series have come and gone and the Mets find themselves tied for second place with the Braves, both at 3 and 3 and both trailing the first place 5 and 1 Marlins. After dropping 2 of 3 to the Mets in San Juan, the Expos are fourth at 2 and 4 and the Phillies, who many picked to win the division, have gotten off to a slow start at 1 and 5 (how long until Loco Larry Bowa is shown the door?). The first week was, in a word, strange. The Mets traveled down to Atlanta to one of the best pitchers' parks in the NL and promptly scored 25 runs in three games and still lost 2 of 3. Then the Mets hopped on a plane to Puerto Rico to play in perhaps the most hitter friendly park in baseball and found themselves in three straight pitchers' duels while taking 2 of 3. While the first week might have been odd, Mets fans may want to brace themselves because what we now see as odd will soon become common.

    Before the start of the season many people thought that if several "ifs" worked out in the Mets favor they might find themselves playing those coveted "meaningful games in September." What we saw in week one was some of the ifs working out in the Mets favor and others, well, not so much. This battle of the ifs creates great highs and equally drastic lows that, if week one is any indicator, will drive Mets fans batty all season long. Let's review some of these ifs:

    If Tom Glavine can rebound, the Mets might . . . .
    Two games started, 2 wins, 13 IP, 1.38 ERA. Yeah, I'd say this if is working out in the Mets favor so far.

    If Al Leiter can have another decent year, the Mets might . . . .
    One game started, 0 ERs, 4 Ks. Like Glavine, Leiter shut his critics up. For now at least.

    If the Mets can get solid production out of at least one of their young arms in the back of the rotation, they might . . . .
    Enter Tyler Yates. 1 game started, 0 ERs, 0 BB, 4 K.

    If Mike Piazza can stay healthy and productive, the Mets might . . . .
    26 ABs, 3 HR, 5 RBI while hitting .308/.333/.692. Piazza was hitting the cover off the ball in spring training and transferred that right into the regular season.

    If Kazuo Matsui can be a bona fide lead-off man, the Mets might . . . .
    24 ABs, 7 BBs, 1 HR, .333/.484/.624. Matsui's 7 walks ties him for first in the NL with Albert Pujols.

    If Mike Cameron can add to his defense, which is a given, with solid offense, the Mets might . . . .
    22 ABs, 5 runs, 2 HRs, 4 BB, 4 SB .318/.429/.591. While this is only 22 ABs, Cameron is showing that out of SafeCo, he is an elite offensive CF.

    If Cliff Floyd can just stay healthy, the Mets might . . . .
    Floyd was in the process of treating us to a glimpse of what he can do when healthy, going on a tear to the tune of a .350/.417/.600 hitting line. But then, you guessed it, he's now injured. Floyd is on his way to a stint on the DL when he came up lame while attempting to do something truly bizarre; run to first base. Initial reports are that there is no tear, but a strained right quadricep. Floyd will have an MRI today but things don't look good:
    Floyd: "I think it's a really bad strain"
    Howe: "We'll know more about his situation, but it doesn't look like he'll be able to play for a while."
    Mets Fans: Motha F*&#) Son of a *#(@ Glass *#*!

    If the bullpen can come together to bail out the aging starting pitching, the Mets might . . . .
    The Mets bullpen is already taxed only six games into the season, pitching 22 of 54 innings. Unsurprisingly, the overworked bullpen sports a bulky 7.77 ERA and has lost two games thus far.

    If Jose Reyes can just keep his legs healthy, the Mets might . . . .
    Reyes has played in 0 games so far and there is currently not even a timetable for his return. The always insightful Art Howe says, "He'll play when he's healthy." What's the over/under on Piazza, Floyd and Reyes playing in more that 10 games together this season?

    If Steve Trachel can even come close to his 2003 performance, the Mets might . . . .
    Last year's ERA: 3.78. This year's: 24.00

    If Art Howe can stay out of the team's way, the Mets might . . . .
    Howe gets a C+ so far. Howe gets some points for taking both Tom Glavine and Tyler Yates out of the game in their first starts but he also made some very questionable bullpen moves in the first week. Also, in the series opener against the Expos Howe found his team "battling" with a 2 to 0 lead in the 7th inning. So what did he do? He ripped the teeth out of an already toothless offense by taking out both Cliff Floyd AND Mike Piazza. Sure enough, the Expos rallied back, the game went into extra innings, and the Mets top two offensive forces were riding the pine. No thanks to Howe the Mets ended up winning the game so the miscue got swept under the carpet.

    If the Mets can just reclaim a little respectability in baseball, they might . . . .
    Brooklyn Cyclones manager Leon Lee, father of Cubs first basemen Derek Lee, resigned last week after turning himself in on two misdemeanor counts of exposure when he allegedly . . . . You know, I don't even feel like getting into this.

    This is just a sampling of the ifs that have and have not worked out for the Mets. Only six games into the season and we have seen what great things this team is capable of when the ifs work out in their favor and also how miserable things can get when they don't. This week might have illuminated a reality; the battle of the ifs might produce a stalemate where the Mets don't fall into oblivion but at the same time will suffer enough frustrating setbacks that will keep them from reaching their potential. A skeptic might say that the result at the end of the year will be what we see right now only six games into the season; an unlucky .500 ball club. However, here at The Shea Hot Corner we practice hopeless optimism. Part of this religion is to always look on the bright side. The primary bright side of week one is that the biggest question mark and most critical factor of the Mets success is their starting pitching. Aside from one poor aberration of a start, the Mets starting pitching has a 1.61 ERA and has not given up an earned run in 18 innings. The key to any successful season is starting pitching and the Mets have shown that their starting staff can hang in there against division rivlals. If this if continues to pan out positively, the other ifs will work themselves out. Who knows, maybe those meaningful September games are not such a long shot.

    Sunday, April 11, 2004

    Happy Easter 

    Happy Easter. The Mets offense took the day off yesterday so I'll do the same today. Go check out Max at Mets Forever, a new Mets blog. This is pretty cool. I just got my blog up and running a few months ago and I'm already a league veteran. Let's see if Tom Glavine can string together two consecutive decent outings.

    Saturday, April 10, 2004

    Yates is Brilliant in Debut 

    4/9/04 NY Mets vs. Montreal Expos (Suan Juan, PR): Mets win 3 to 2 in 11th inning.

    Mets rookie RHP Tyler Yates got his first big league start last night against the Puerto Rico/Montreal Expos and proceeded to turn in the best pitching performance of the Mets young season. Yates tossed six scoreless innings while striking out four and walking none featuring a fastball clocked as high as 96 MPH, a deadly accurate hard slider, an off speed pitch with funky movement, and he even threw a hooking curve or two to keep hitters guessing. When all was said and done Yates had thrown 84 pitches in his six innings of work and 58 of them were for strikes. Unfortunately, the Mets bullpen continued to struggle and blew Yates' lead and win. However, the Mets ended up winning the game in the 11th with a final 3 to 2 score thanks to a Todd Zeile RBI double. Below is a game log of innings 1 through 6:

    Top First
    Zach Day tossing for the Spos
    Kaz-Mat: Ks on 3 pitches. Not a great start for our lead-off hitter.
    Gutierrez: Falls behind 1/2 but fouls some pitches off, takes a ball before grounding out to SS. Why is he batting 2nd? I can't wait for Reyes to get back.
    Floyd: Lifts a 1/1 sinker over the CF wall, which Frrrrrran Healey tells me were moved back. I guess I can now forgive Floyd for letting that runner tag from first the other night in Atlanta. Wait, no I can't - that still really bugs me. I'll have to talk to my therapist about that.
    Piazza: Ks. Perhaps Day's best pitches. He first sets up Piazza with low and away for a swinging strike then comes high and tight for swinging strike three. Piazza, one HR shy of tying Fisk, seems like he's pressing a bit. Piazza's dad and brother are in the crowd to watch the record get tied and/or broken so I'm sure that doesn't help.
    Mets 1 Expos 0

    Bottom First
    Tyler Yates pitching for the Mets
    Bergeron: takes a 2/2 pitch the other way passed Wigginton.
    Vidro: Yates has Vidro in a 1/2 count and throws a perfectly placed inside slider which Vidro swings at but has no chance. K1.
    Cabrera: First pitch swinging Cabrera goes up the middle with a ground ball single. Runners and 1st and 2nd with one out and Salty Carl Everett coming up. Yates has not been hit hard but finds himself in a bit of trouble already.
    Everett: Yates gets ahead 0/2. On the 3rd pitch, Everett taps a weak grounder back to the pitcher. Yates turns the 1-6-3 inning ending DP. Crisis averted.
    Mets 1 Expos 0

    Top Second
    Cameron: BB.
    Phillips: Grounds into fielders choice. Cammy comes in hard at second to disrupt the DP. I love it. It's the little things like this than win close games.
    Garcia: Grounds into DP. Is it just me, or does Garcia look like Anthony Jr. from The Sopranos?

    Mets 1 Expos 0

    Bottom Second
    Wilkerson: Fouls out. Yates is starting to get loose as his last fastball is clocked at 95.
    Batista: Yates screams, "hey jackass why do you bat like that!!" Just kidding. Yates ahead again 0/2 before Batista grounds out to third. Wigginton makes a poor throw to first but Phillips makes a nice play coming off the bag and tagging Batista.
    Sledge: If this guy had a sister we could call her Sista Sledge. Yates goes ahead in the count 0/1 and Brotha Sledge grounds out to 1st.
    Mets 1 Expos 0

    Top Third
    Wigginton: Lined out to LF. Wiggy has been hitting the ball hard.
    Yates: K.
    Matsui: Walks on four straight pitches. Despite all the talk about Matsui's Ks etc... he has shown pretty good patience at the plate.
    Gutierrez: K to end the inning. Ugh, I'm starting to have flashbacks of the season opener when Gutierrez made the last out of about 39 innings and left 98734768 men on board.
    Mets 1 Expos 0

    Bottom Third
    Schneider: Remember Schneider from One Day at a Time? I loved the pack of cigarettes rolled up in his t-shirt sleeve. Anyway, just so you're not confused this is not that Schneider. Ground out.

    Day: Ks on a nasty slider. K2
    Bergeron: Scores a hat trick. Oh sorry - this name sounds more like hockey name than a baseball name? Hits a soft liner to 2B. Out.
    Mets 1 Expos 0

    Top Fourth
    Floyd: Hit in the leg by the pitch.
    Piazza: Hit by the pitch.
    Cameron: Hits a hard liner to left - too hard as there's no way Floyd, now limping, is going to score. Bases loaded with no outs for goggle boy.
    Phillips: Strikes out swinging. Ugh.
    Garcia Soprano: Grounds into fielder's choice but Floyd scores and thanks to some hustle out of the box, Garcia stays out of the DP. Where did this speed, hustle and athleticism come from? First the triple the other night, then some nice plays in RF and now this? Don't look now but Garcia is slowly but surely creeping out of The Hot Corner Dog House. Okay, runners on 1st and 3rd with one out. We cashed in on the bases loaded 0 outs to the tune of one run so far but we need to give this rookie pitcher more of a cushion.
    Wigginton: K. Bases loaded with 0 outs and we only walk away with 1 run. This was a golden opportunity to brake the game open.
    Mets 2 Expos 0

    Bottom Fourth
    Yates enters this inning throwing 35 pitches and 27 of them for strikes but he's about to make his way through this line-up for the second time.
    Vidro: Pops out to first.
    Cabrera: Lines a single to LF. This is really the first hard hit ball by the Expos.
    Everett: Another liner, this one to right. However, Garcia, who has taken a chainsaw to the dog house I had him in, charges the ball, comes up with it cleanly and gets it back into the infield preventing Cabrera from getting beyond second base. Oh crap. Runners on first and second with one out.
    Wilkerson: Ball one. Crap. Ball two. Shit. Swing - foul out. Nice! The defense repositions with two outs.
    Batista: Grounds into a FC.
    Throughout this mini-crisis Yates was calm, cool and collected. He just pounded the strike zone and trusted his stuff.
    Mets 2 Expos 0

    Top Fifth
    Yates: K
    Matsui: BB then caught stealing. This was a good time to run and Matsui took advantage of the opportunity. Schneider just had a great, quick release and a money throw.
    Gutierrez: BB. Should have been two men on with no outs but Kaz got nailed stealing. I can't complain though because I was hoping he was going to go.
    Floyd: Pulls a single down the line.
    Piazza: Grounds out.
    Mets 2 Expos 0

    Bottom Fifth
    Sledge: Grounds out to Gutierrez who ranges to his left, scoops the ball, spins around and throws out Sledge at first. Nice play. Still doesn't make up for the gazillion men he's left on base but I'll take that up with my therapist as well.
    Schneider: Grounds out to the pitcher. Yates throws a sweet change up in this at bat as well as what I think is his first curveball of the game.
    Fox (PH for Day): Yates goes up 0/2. It seems like Yates has been ahead of the batters all night long. While Yates used his slider as his out pitch for his previous two Ks, here Yates blows a 94 MPH fastball by Fox for the swinging K. K3.
    Mets 2 Expos 0

    Top Sixth
    New pitcher Sunny Kim in for the Expos
    Cameron: Flies out to CF
    Phillips: grounds out to SS
    Garcia: K
    Mets 2 Expos 0

    Bottom Sixth
    Burgeron: Bloop single to CF. Here we are in the 6th inning and there have only been like one or two hard hit balls off Yates.
    Vidro: This is Vidro's 3rd time and works a full count off Yates before grounding out to 1B - Bergeron moves to 2nd.
    Cabrera: Yates starts showcasing his change-up. Cabrera is treated to an 84 MPH change-up with some funky movement, a 92 MPH heater, then strikes out swinging on another 84 MPH change-up (or maybe a curve) in the dirt. K4
    Everett: Pops out to RF. Inning over.
    Mets 2 Expos 0

    Howe pinch hits for Yates in the top of the 7th ending his day and making the Mets coaches and brass look like geniuses for selecting him as the team's 4th starter. I can't say I disagree with taking Yates out at this point. It was his first start of the season and he was approaching 90 pitches. Yates had done his job, to say the least, shutting out the Expos through six. It's too bad Stanton and Looper couldn't hold the lead for him.

    Friday, April 09, 2004

    The Flushing Flash 

    How appropriate that this morning I was e-mailed The Flushing Flash, The Official Online Newsletter of the New York Mets. The lead story:

    METS ADD YOUTH, SPEED AND DEFENSE FOR 2004

    The Mets took the first steps toward becoming a younger, quicker
    and more defensive-minded team this winter. General manager Jim
    Duquette began molding his team to fit Shea Stadium, building
    around better pitching and a stronger middle of the field.


    Riiiiight.

    Erickson to the DL 

    Any hopes the Mets had of trading Scott Erickson are now gone, as the 36 year old pitcher looking to make a comeback has already found himself on the DL. At least David Cone made it through a few starts. Erickson could not even make it to his first scheduled start when he strained his left hamstring warming up before the game. The Mets should of dealt him at the end of spring training when his value was at its height. Now they're stuck with him. One positive, or negative depending on your outlook, is that Jae Seo has been recalled from Norfolk to serve as a long man coming out of the bullpen.

    Mets Expose Themselves 

    While the Braves exposed the Mets defense for what it is last night, Mets A Brooklyn Cyclones Manager was busted for making an exposure of his own. Leon Lee resigned from the team yesterday, which, coincidentally, was the same day he was arrested for two counts of exposure of a sexual organ in Port St. Lucie. What do they put in the water down there that makes Mets personnel want to whip their wankers out in public?

    Howe "Battle" Tally 

    Number 1 of the season (that I've heard anyway): "We're battling all the way to the end."

    Flashbacks 

    Who was out on the field last night; the 2003 bumbling Mets that could not catch a ball or the new and improved 2004 Mets who Art Howe, before a single regular season game was even played, anointed as the best defensive team in baseball? While you could chalk up Wednesday nights debacle up as being a fluke and try your hardest to forget about it, last night's 10 to 8 loss was different. Thursday night's game was different because the team made mental and execution mistakes that were the hallmark of the 2003 Mets that finished last in fielding percentage in the NL. Errors were charged to Mike Cameron, Kaz Matsui and Karim Garcia. Using The Hot Corner error system, additional errors would have been charged to Kaz Matsui for not turning a routine DP (I'm thoroughly unimpressed with his arm at this point), Mike Cameron for having a fly ball bounce off his glove (if you can get a glove on it, you should catch it) and Cliff Floyd for lackadaisically catching a fly ball in left and allowing a runner to tag from first base. This team is supposed to be built around solid defense. If the defensive stars like Cameron and Matsui can't make the routine plays, combined with the always less than stellar play of Wigginton, Floyd and whatever is playing first, then we can expect many more games like last night.

    Thursday, April 08, 2004

    Mets Defense Defenseless? 

    David Pinto over at Baseball Musings blames the 18 runs scored against the Mets on poor defense:

    There were any number of balls hit that better fielders would have at least kept on the infield. Wigginton looked particularly bad to me; I kept seeing balls go by him that good third basemen would have dove. Ty seemed frozen on his feet.

    I was also more impressed with Kaz Matsui's offense than his defense. He was selective at the plate and looks like a very good hitter. But I expected him to be a wizard with the glove, and last night he looked more like Derek Jeter than Ozzie Smith.

    Scoring ten runs was great, but they are going to need to do that quite often if they are going to win regularly with that defense.


    I didn't see the game (thank God) so I can't quibble with Pinto's assessment. Anyone see the game and agree or disagree?

    This and That 

    I'm going to take Avkash's advice and pretend last night's game never happened.

    Head over to Amazinz.com to check out an interview with Mike Cameron. The interview links to Cameron's personal website, which I can't get enough of. In his latest journal entry we learn that,

    Port St. Lucie is great for baseball and the new facility here is excellent, but there's not a lot to do away from the field. I've been hanging out with Cliff Floyd. Our exciting time is chilllin' at Chillies.

    Speaking of interview, Jeremy Heit is going to conduct an interview with Jeff Pearlman. You may know Pearlman as the Sports Illustrated reporter who brought us the colorful John Rocker interview. He now writes for Newsday and is about to release a book called The Bad Guys Won, about the 1986 World Champion New York Mets. Jeff has set up a website to promote the book.

    I noticed there are two new Mets blogs out there: Gogs is the Greek God of Geeks and The All-Star Mets Blog. Check em out.

    Wednesday, April 07, 2004

    Falcons vs. Jets 

    The Atlanta Falcons took it to the New York Jets tonight with an 18 to 10 win.

    Glav-Mat 

    En rout to a season opener 7 to 2 win on the road against the Braves, the Mets found out a few things about themselves. First, Kazuo Matsui is indeed a Major League ball player. Second, and more importantly, the Mets found out that Tom Glavine is still a front of the rotation starting pitcher.

    Mets fans could not have scripted a better debut for our new shortstop. Just as Mets fans and brass were worrying about Matsui's poor, injury plagued spring training performance, even questioning whether he should be batting lead-off, Matsui shut the skeptics up. Leading off in the top of the first, Russ Ortiz tried to sneak a fastball by the little Japanese star. Not so fast Russ (no pun intended). Batting from the left side, Matsui drove the ball, Ortiz's first pitch, over the Turner Field center field wall an estimated 429 feet. Matsui was just getting warmed up. In the 2nd inning Matsui was up again this time with Glavine on 3rd base when he turned on a 2/1 pitch driving it down the first base line to deep right field. Glavine trotted home and we are treated to a glimpse of that blazing speed we have heard so much about as Matsui glided into second base with a stand up RBI double. Matsui was up again in the third inning with the bases juiced. Actually, in this BALCO era let's just say the bases were loaded. Anyway, Matsui is facing Juan Cruz who, despite a lack of results, was throwing some nasty stuff. Matsui hung in there to work a full count. He then fouled a pitch off and then took the seventh pitch of the at bat for an RBI walk. Bobby Cox was freaking out in the Atlanta dugout at this point because his pitchers, to him at least,weren't getting the called strikes he thinks they should have. I loved it. With this at bat Matsui showed that he can be aggressive when he needs to and patient when the situation warrants it. No need to swing at junk when the bases are loaded and the meat of the order is backing him up. I don't know if I was more impressed with his 429 foot blast over the center field wall or this at bat. In the fifth, Matsui digs in against Cruz again. He takes two pitches for called strikes but jumps on the third pitch driving the ball to right center for his second double of the night. Our hero is up again in the 7th with runners on third and second. With first base vacant, Bobby Cox (who has regained his composure) isn't going to take any chances with Matsui and puts him on board. So ended The Kaz Matsui Show as he finished going 3 for 3 with 2 BBs (1 IBB) a run, a home run and a pair of doubles.

    As good as Matsui was, it's Tom Glavine who gets the nod as The Hot Corner MVP of the Game. No, Glavine did not rack up a ton of strike outs. No, he didn't pitch a complete game shutout. What he did was more important. Glavine picked up his first win against his former team the Atlanta Braves. Glavine came out in the first to face Furcal and threw three straight outside balls. Finding out quickly that the ump was not going to give him the outside part of the plate, Glavine threw a meatball down the pipe that Furcal drives to center. The next pitch to Marcus Giles is another meatball and Giles got all of it for a two run homer to take the lead. Glavine begins to unravel as he walks Chipper Jones on four straight pitches. If there is such a thing as productive non outs for a pitcher, these were them. Two years ago wearing a Braves uni, at least two of those three balls thrown to Furcal are called strikes. Not now. Not in a Mets uni. Not in this Questec era of shrinking strike zones. Last year Glavine would have continued to unravel. Not now. Not this opening day. Not this time. Instead of having flashbacks of last season, collapsing on the mound into the fetal position and rocking back and forth like Leo Mizzone, Glavine quickly regrouped and adjusted. Andruw Jones grounded into a double play and Glavine struck out J.D. Drew to end the inning. From the second inning on, Glavine only gave up a pair of singles to Giles and Chipper Jones and a walk to Andrew Jones. When all was said and done, Glavine went six innings, giving up two earned runs, four hits, two walks and two strike outs.


    Miscellaneous
    Matsui had a stellar night. I know this has been said before but this was the first time I have gotten to see Matsui play and his swing is so similar to Ichiro's. He's already thinking first base half way through his swing. However, Matsui is not the slap hitter I envisioned. He swings through the ball with power. I'm not saying he's a bona fide slugger, but he's definitely more than some scrappy slap hitter with wheels. He also got a hair cut and seemed to tone down the orange in his hair. I don't care if he shaves the Mets symbol in his hair and dyes it purple so long as he keeps it up.

    Ricky Guiterrez: 1 for 5
    You'll have to excuse my memory of Guiterrez's first Met at bat as I was still on my coffee table doing the cabbage patch celebrating Matsui's home run when I noticed he was batting. I think the first pitch was a called strike. I began doing the running man while chanting, "go Kaz-Mat, go Kaz-Mat, go go go Kaz-Mat" when I noticed Guiterrez hit a single to center. That was the highlight of his night, as he proceeded to make the last outs in the second inning (ground out with Matsui on 2nd), the third inning (ground out with the bases loaded), fifth inning (lined out to SS with Matsui on 2nd) and then in the seventh my man stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded again. He looks at four straight pitches to find himself in a 3/1 count. Then looks at the fifth pitch of the at bat for a strike to fill the count 3 and 2. Then stares at a meatball down the pipe for strike three. Guiterrez never took the bat off his shoulder.

    Cliff Floyd: 0 for 5 with a K.
    This wasn't Cliff's best game. Floyd stepped up in the first inning and drove a 1/0 pitch deep to right field but it was caught. I thought this ball was gone but somehow gravity reclaimed it before it made its way over the fence. In the third, Floyd hits a comebacker to the pitcher and is thrown out at first. Floyd runs hard down the line and appears to be moving well. Floyd also grounded out in the fourth. Floyd's sixth inning at bat was interesting. He got caught in between getting jammed and trying to check his swing. The result was that the ball hit off the bat into the field and he was thrown out but Floyd was in such an awkward position that he was actually falling toward the dugout. I can't even do justice to how silly the whole thing looked. Floyd struck out in the eighth on three swinging strikes - each cut he looked like he was trying to make up for the last at bat but the results were the same; an out.

    Mike Piazza:
    Deserves as much credit as Glavine for the well pitched game. Realizing Glavine was not getting the outside call, Piazza adjusted his pitch calling and Glavine executed. Nice job.

    Mike Cameron
    How cool would it have been if Cameron was able to rob Giles of his HR. Oh well, I get the feeling we will be seeing a lot of nice plays. Cammy did not strike out once. He took a walk got a hit, swiped a bag and scored two runs. A great first game as a Met.

    Jason Phillips
    No sophomore slump for goggle boy. Two doubles and two walks.

    Ty Wigginton
    Not a good night for Ty at the plate. He seems late on fastballs - instead of driving them he's fouling them off.

    David Weathers
    Despite looking like Eugene Tackleberry from Police Academy, Weathers pitched well. Two scoreless innings. "You're ready now mister!"

    Braden Looper
    With a five run lead this was not a save opportunity, but it was a perfect low pressure opportunity to get Looper out there to make his debut. He let up two hits, but they were only cheap broken bat singles.
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