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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Kazmir for Soriano: Fact and Fiction 

From David Waldstein in today's Star Ledger:

Fiction: The Mets "are still undecided about whether they would include Kazmir" in a trade for Soriano.

Fact: "There are only 29 other clubs interested in him. . . But he's not going anywhere." -Mets owner Fred Wilpon on rumors that the Mets might be thinking about trading phenom pitching prospect Scott Kazmir for an established bat.

Fiction: "there is some feeling in the Mets organization that he [Kazmir] is a bit of a free talker and a renegade, all of which would indicate they might be willing to part with him in a big enough deal."

Fact: Please someone direct me to one negative quote from a teammate about Kazmir's make up or bad attitude. Other than what you might find floating around Waldstein head in the form of magical Mets inside sources, you will not find one. Not to mention that "free talkers" with a bit of a "renegade" streak are the type of players that thrive in NY.

Courtesy of Bob Kaplisch in today's Bergen Record:

Fiction: "Soriano would fit well in Met uniform"

Fact: No, they don't make his size.

Fiction: "certain elements of the hierarchy say they're now open to dealing Kazmir."

Fact: Really? What elements are those? The Shea custodial staff? Because Duquette has not even spoken with anyone from the Rangers in two weeks! From MLB.com: "And that [Soriano] rumor has taken on a life of its own and I haven't even talked to the guy [Texas general manager John Hart] in two weeks."

Fiction: "the organization is stocked with other prospects - Matt Peterson, Bob Keppel, and Tyler Yates, all right-handers - who, some officials privately believe, could compensate for Kazmir's absence."

Fact: Hhhhmmm, the last I checked Kazmir was, now brace yourself Kaplisch, you ready, okay, here comes, A FU@*ING LEFTY!

Fiction: "Wilpon had assured Kazmir in a face-to-face conversation he'd remain with the Mets."

Fact: No, Wilpon had a face to face with Reyes when he told Jose that he would not be traded but simply told reporters during a Kazmir throwing session that Kazmir is not going anywhere. But why let facts get in the way. Just listen to the free talking, crazy renegade that the Mets are chompin at the bit to get rid of: "I got a phone call from my dad about it [Kazmir said about the trade rumors]. . . But at least he's not worried because of what Wilpon said. He never came up to me and said it but I don't worry anyway. I'll take whatever he says."

Fiction: "If there's a compelling reason for Wilpon to say no, we're waiting to hear it."

Fact: No, you're "waiting to hear" the compelling reason because any Mets fan with a scintilla of intelligence already knows the reasons. We may not all agree 100%, but we at least know and understand the reasons. Which is a few steps ahead of you.

The Secret Is Out 

The Journal News ran a story on bloggers who focus on baseball and the New York Mets and Yankees in particular. In A Growing Sports Voice, Peter Abraham details a little of the history and current state of the NY baseball blogging community. Bloggers were contacted a few weeks ago and asked to participate in the creation of the article through either an e-mail or phone interview. I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive. Many bloggers, yours truly included, sometimes use our blogs as a forum to voice our frustration with the mainsteam NY sports media, including radio and print media. Perhaps I was being a little paranoid but I thought there might be a chance that the article would take the opportunity to slam us. Well, I have to hand it to Abraham, who wrote a well balanced and thoughtful article and at one point even stated that "a surprisingly high percentage [of NY baseball blogs] have well-written articles and opinions worthy of any newspaper, magazine or professional Web site." I would like to take this opportunity to thank Peter Abraham for his objectivity and for directing a few readers our way.

If you have found this site through The Journal News article, welcome. Whether it's this blog or another, I think you will find that the NY baseball blogs offer a more cutting edge version of what you will find in the traditional sports media, be it print or e-media outlets. Whether it's biting humor or brain frying statistical analysis, there's something for everyone. Something else that many blogs offer that traditional media does not, is the ability to easily interact with writers. If you think I'm insane for concluding that Jose Reyes and Kaz Matsui will be more productive 1 and 2 hitters this season than the Braves' Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles (see The First Annual Shea Hot Corner NL East Table Setter Showdown, from Monday Feb. 16th), or if you think there is a more metrosexual team than the 2004 Yankees (see Yankees to Feature Most Devastating Line-up of Metrosexuals in MLB History, from Sunday Feb. 22), don't just sit there and pout like you would if listening on the radio or reading in a newspaper. Instead, step up to the plate and dig in by using the comments sections and tell me I'm insane! So come on in; relax; take a load off; have a look around; leave a comment or e-mail me; but don't steal anything!

Seeing Glavine's Opening Day Start Through Orange & Blue Lenses 

Let's face it, watching Tom Glavine pitch against the Braves last year wasn't pretty. Okay, let's really face it; it was flat out ugly. Rosie O'Donnell ugly. Glavine went 0 and 4 against his old club with a 10.35 ERA. At Turner Field it got even uglier. Ellen Degeneres ugly. In Atlanta Glavine was 0 and 2 with a super sized 15.26 ERA. So why in the world would Art Howe send the lamb to the slaughter again by naming Glavine the opening day starter against the Braves? Well, for starters (no pun intended), whether he pitches first, second or third he's going to face Atlanta in Atlanta in this opening series anyway so why not get him right out there to face his tomahawk chopping demons. Whether we like it or not Glavine is taking the mound in Atlanta come April 6th so I for one am going to pull the orange and blue wool over my eyes and try to convince myself, and maybe one or two of you, that Glavine will lead the Mets to a win. Bear with me.

Glavine took a shellacking last year but if you look deep, really deep, you might find a few positives. First, Glavine was not actually all that bad out of Shea and out from under the watchful eye of old man Questec. On the road, Glavine had a respectable 3.82 ERA. Hell, Glavine's buddy Greg Maddux won 16 games last year with a higher ERA than that. Feeling better about opening day yet? And while his overall ERA and record were bad, Glavine showed flashes of his former brilliant self, going 3 and 1 with a 2.59 ERA in April and went 3 and 1 again in August, this time with a virtually unhittable 1.95 ERA. Convinced? Despite getting violated in Atlanta last year, Glavine has had huge success over his career there, with a lifetime 3.27 ERA while going 48 and 24. So now you must be convinced that Glavine is going to pick up his first W against Atlanta on opening day, right?

Glavine, and Mets fans, should also sleep better at night knowing that the main culprits behind his 2003 Braves mugging have left Atlanta for greener pastures. Gone is Gary Sheffield who creamed Glavine last year going 4 for 8 with a home run and 3 free passes to first. Gone is Javy Lopez who tagged him for 4 hits in 6 at bats including a home run. Gone is Vinny Castilla who went 4 for 10 against Glavine. Julio Franco, who tattoo'd Glavine with 2 home runs while going 5 for 7 with 2 walks, might be on the bench opening day so that the Braves can showcase hot shot rookie first basemen Adam LaRoche. What's left of the Braves line-up is not that scary. Convinced? Newly acquired catcher, outfielder and/or first basemen Eli Marrero is only a .214 lifetime hitter off of Glavine. Johnny Estrada went 0 for 4 against Glavine last year. Marcus Giles was equally unimpressive against Glavine in failing to get a hit in 5 at bats. Rafael Furcal managed only 2 hits in 11 at bats. And new third basemen Mark DeRosa is a lifetime .167 hitter against Glavine. That leaves only Larry (3/7 1 HR) and Andruw Jones (5/10 2 HR) and J.D. Drew (3/8) as potential problems. Taking away Larry, Andruw and Drew, Glavine will be facing a potential line-up that is only 6 for 40 against him lifetime, amounting to a poultry .150 batting average. Not convinced yet? What if I told you that Glavine gained 20 MPH on his fastball this offseason? Okay, I guess I can't tell you that.

So there you have it. Convinced yet? If not don't worry, I wrote this damn artilce and I don't think I managed to convince myself. Oh well, let's go Mets. Rah rah. Ugh.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Quotes of the Day 

"When MIKE CAMERON arrived for workouts Saturday, he said to KAZUO MATSUI, 'What's up, dog?' Matsui, who speaks about five words of English, replied, 'Chilling.'" -From the NY Times.

The Hot Corner: Classic.

Piazza's Cocktail 

In a Star-Ledger article we learn that Mike Piazza's personal yoga instructor, who has accompanied him to spring training, has been packing his lunch for him. Well, packing his drinks at least. Found in Piazza's water bottle is a cocktail made up of Grade B maple syrup, distilled apple vinegar, cayenne pepper, flax seed and water. In related news, Piazza has been seen sprinting to the club house men's room in upwards of 43 times per day with a green tint to his skin and reemerging with his skin color normalized and an ear to ear smile.

Superscouts or Super-out-of-touch? 

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Anyone know how to get to the Elks Club?

The NY Times ran an interesting article on Al Goldis and Bill Livesey, the Mets new Special Assistants to the General Manager, or "superscouts." The article might make the sabermagician Mets fans cringe, because "[a]t a time when baseball is filled with young general managers who crunch statistics, a pair of pot-bellied baseball men are helping the Mets into a new era." However, whether you have a traditional baseball mind or subscribe to the new sabermetrics brand of thinking, having 80 years of baseball experience to assist a young, first year GM can only be a good thing. Also, it is refreshing that the Mets seem to be taking a balanced approach to player evaluation. The Mets have a young GM in Jim Duquette but have surrounded him with these two old timer superscouts along with their very own in-house stats geek in Ben Baumer. Hopefully when player related decisions are being made, all three individuals are given an opportunity to advise Duquette so he can look at a decision from every angle.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Quote of the Day. Hell, Quote of the Year! 

"There are only 29 other clubs interested in him. . . But he's not going anywhere." -Mets owner Fred Wilpon on rumors that the Mets might be thinking about trading phenom pitching prospect Scott Kazmir for an established bat.

The Hot Corner: Thank you Fred, now I can enjoy my weekend.

TGIF This & That 

Kazuo Matsui: Reverse Engineering? Apparently Kazuo Matsui is an avid Shea Hot Corner reader and read yesterday's entry about Glavine's ineffective inside fast ball. In MLB.com's Matsui Heats Up In Batting Practice we learn that in his first time taking live batting practice, Matsui turned on an inside fast ball from Glavine, ripping it into the gap and to the outfield fence. The Post gives us a little more detail, explaining that Matsui was batting from the right side and hit this laser to deep left center into a strong wind. Obviously Mets fans should not look too deeply into this one batting practice session from either a negative perspective regarding Glavine or a positive perspective regarding Matsui. However, one thing that was very nice to hear from Matsui was that he apparently fully recognizes that his 30+ HR numbers from Japan will not translate to MLB: "Since Shea Stadium is such a large outfield I think my doubles and triples are going to increase . . . I want to hit the ball into the gaps." At the same time, Matsui indicated that while he may intend to change his approach at the plate, he said "I want to keep my own swing." Will Matsui be able to adjust his approach at the plate to become the effective lead off hitter he once was before he was dropped in the batting order for the Seibu Lions and asked to hit for more power? Dayton Spade writing for Amazinz.com tells us that the last year Matsui batted lead off for the Seibu Lions was in 1999, where he hit .330, had a .389 OBP, only struck out 75 times and swiped 32 bases. Matsui was able to adjust his approach at the plate to hit for more power from 2000-2003 so we'll have to see if he can reverse engineer his approach to become the prolific lead off hitter for the Mets that he was in Japan.

Smile! You're On Kazmir Camera: A few weeks ago I was critical of NYFansites' Ed Tsunoda's article that claimed ESPN's Peter Gammons was racially insensitive (or a flat out racist) when he called Shea Stadium a rice paddy (see Rice Paddy Ruckus from Tuesday, February 10th). However, if I'm going to call the guy out when I think he slips, I should also praise him when he doesn't. And in his most recent article featuring Mets phenom Scott Kazmir, Tsunoda has got his spikes on and doesn't slip one bit. Check it out here.

Mets on ESPN: First, ESPN's Baseball Tonight was on last night and Peter Gammons gave us his list of the 10 most significant off season moves. Number 10 was none other than the Mets' acquisition of Kazuo Matsui. Gammons actually spoke highly of Jim Duquette and the Mets new direction of focusing on pitching and defense. Harold Reynolds, who I think generally does a good job on the show, brain farted and said that he was surprised the Mets did not trade Jose Reyes for pitching once Matsui was acquired. Gammons shot back saying "I would never trade Jose Reyes." You and me both Gammons. Second, as just sort of an FYI - set your Tivo, VCR or whatever to catch a one hour special on the 1969 World Series on ESPN Classic next week. I believe the first showing will be on Tuesday March 2nd from 2:00-3:00 p.m. and will be re-aired a few times thereafter. Here is the listing. Lastly, and I'm sure everyone knows this already, but don't miss the Mets first spring training game against the Dodgers, which will be aired on ESPN on Wednesday March 3rd at 1:00 p.m.

Some Good Stuff: Some of the other Mets blogs have some really good recent additions. Shea Daily breaks down and adds a cliche in the subject line then breaks down Jae Weong Seo (and thanks for the kind words Shea Daily). Jeremy Heit points us to a great new feature on MLB.com where Mets third base prospect David Wright will be keeping a minor league on-line journal. Avkash at The Raindrops and Steve over at The Eddie Kranepool Society informs us that the Mets have dropped Italian Night from the International Week schedule. How could my paisanos John Franco and Mike Piazza let this happen? Very disturbing. Eric at SaberMets bitch slaps John Heyman. The guys over at East Coast Agony are setting up the Glavine opening day bomb, while Adam at Ducks on the Pond informs us that Grant Roberts will be playing a bigger role on the team than expected. Over at Betty's NGCCSPH, we see that all the screaming that Reyes' ceiling will never match Soriano's might just be a misconception. Also, if you want to read about some of the reasons why a Soriano for Reyes deal is all wrong for the Mets, check out Yankees, Mets and the Rest's entry on Tuesday called Letters, We Get Your Letters... All great stuff.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Tom Glavine: Excuses Are Like bleep Holes, Everybody's Got One 

The NY Times ran the obligatory pre-season Tom Glavine story: Glavine Plans to Feel More at Home Away From Home. The article was good for one thing: it capsulized almost every excuse we have heard as to why Noodle Arm Glavine imploded last year. Let's review the excuses:

1. He missed his wife;
2. He missed his children;
3. He missed being at home in Atlanta;
4. The NY sports media was aggressive;
5. Bad defense backing him up;
6. Bad offense with no run support;
7. He was forced to battle an ever changing strike zone;
8. He was forced to battle injuries;
9. Lofty expectations taking away from his focus leading to lack of control on the mound; and
10. Felt every pitch had to be perfect due to excuses 1-9.

There's no doubt that these excuses are legitimate. But as the cliche' goes, excuses are like you know whats and everybody's got one. Glavine's arsenal of pre-packaged excuses is most troubling, however, because it leaves out the one excuse that trumps them all. Glavine would serve himself and his team well to admit to himself that he suffered last season for two primary reasons: first because he lost some zip on his fast ball, which he used to keep hitters honest to set up his outside junk; and second, because he did not get the call on the outside part of the plate when throwing said outside junk that he probably should never have gotten for the past 15 years anyway. In a perfect world, this is the interview I would like to hear from Noodle Arm:

Hot Corner: So, what the hell happened last year?
Noodle Arm: Well, I missed my wife, kids, home, the media was rough on me, bad defense, no offense, Questec, injuries, lofty expectations, which all made me feel like every pitch had to be perfect.
Hot Corner: Um, okay, what really happened last year?
Noodle Arm: Damn Hot Corner, you're a pit bull of an interviewer (sweating). Okay, fine, you got me. Here's the deal. I aged quickly. I lost about 2 MPH off my fast ball. So now when I went inside with the heat it was a little less effective. This affected me in two ways. First, hitters were more likely to turn on my inside fast ball and hit it hard. But second and more troubling was that hitters were able to take the inside ball and hang out over the plate and sit on my outside breaking stuff. (Glavine starts weeping openly).
Hot Corner: Can I get you a tissue?
Noodle Arm: No, I can do this.
Hot Corner: Go on.
Noodle Arm: Okay, I've collected myself. Well, not only did I lose some zip on my fast ball, which was never overpowering, but umpires stopped giving me the outside part of the plate. Whether because of that damn Questec or maybe I just lost the "Braves pitcher" mystique I don't know. But they just stopped giving me the call. So between my inside fast ball not being as effective and not getting that outside call, I was basically a sitting duck. It was ugly.
Hot Corner: You're right, it was ugly. Okay Tom, now that you have finally admitted what the real problem was, what do you plan to do about it?
Noodle Arm: Well I don't want to let my teammates down and especially the NY Mets fans, who are the best baseball fans in the world, so I embarked upon a strenuous off season strength, conditioning and flexibility program to either halt any further decline in my pitch speed and maybe even to get a little zip back. I also recaptured the control I lost. While I can't control what the umps will and will not call on the outside part of the plate, I can control my heat. By getting an effective fast ball back, I'll have a little more wiggle room to dangle my off speed stuff on the outside part of the plate.
Hot Corner: Really? I heard you spent all off season whining and begging Mets' brass to get new fielders?
Noodle Arm: I did that too.
Hot Corner: What's your favorite baseball blog?
Noodle Arm: The Shea Hot Corner of course.
Hot Corner: That's all I have for you, thanks.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Glavine Named Mets' Opening Day Starter 

Mark Your calendars! Hide the women and children! Tommy "Noodle Arm" Glavine has been given the nod to start opening day for the Mets against the Atlanta Braves on April 6th. Last year's opening day against the Cubs was a bloodbath, as Glavine got tagged up for five runs in 2 2/3 innings before Howe showed some mercy and pulled him. Glavine was signed by the Mets last off season in hopes that he would be the ace pitcher the Mets lost when Mike Hampton fell in love with the Denver school system. Riiiight. The whole ace thing never really panned out for Glavine. He went 9 and 14 last season with a 4.52 ERA. Against the Braves Glavine was even worse, failing to come up with even a single win en route to an 0 and 4 record with a 10.35 ERA. No, that is not a typo. Glavine was so bad against the Braves last year that Art Howe was forced to juggle the rotation several times to avoid even starting Glavine against them. This prompted Braves manager Bobby Cox to shave a Mohawk haircut into his dome and call Glavine "a paper champ."

Well, Glavine's got no excuses this year. He's had a full year to adjust to Questec. He will have what many believe to be the most dominating defensive player in the game patrolling center field and he'll have what should be one of the best double play combos in baseball. This is actually a pretty good first start for Glavine. Hopefully the Mets' revamped defense will both help him out in the field and in his head by giving him some confidence. Glavine is 48-24 with a 3.27 ERA lifetime at Teddy Turner Field. The Braves line-up is but a skeleton of it's 2003 self. And Glavine will be out of the watchful eye of Questec in Atlanta. This opening day game has the potential to either be a spring board or a brick wall. It's time to put up or shut up for Mr. Glavine.

Hump Day Round Up 

Ty Wigginton. The Journal News has a great feature on Ty Wigginton. We learn that Ty came into spring training last year with only four bucks on him and could not afford to go out to eat at McDonald's with his teammates. If Wigginton knew just how good the new McGriddle was, however, I'm sure he would have found some extra cash. Damn they're good. Not to mention, why can't Piazza hook the guy up with a five spot to get some food? Wigginton also confirms that he sustained a shoulder injury in the Brewers series in May of last season that required him to stop lifting weights. Wigginton thinks this year, healthy and able to maintain his weight lifting regimen, he should be able to hit 40 doubles and 20 HRs. Some of the statistics support Wigginton's claims that his numbers suffered as a result of his injury. The Brewers series ended on May 4th, at which point Wigginton had a .286 AVG, .377 OBP, .457 SLG and .834 OPS. Wigginton never eclipsed those numbers from that point forward, finishing the year at .255/.318/.396/.714.

Leiter Changes His Tune. In the aftermath of A-Rodgate, Al Leiter did not mince words when he said "I don't think salt in the wound describes it enough. It's more like rubbing salt, and then pouring hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol and rust in there at the same time." Apparently the open wound with rubbing salt, hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol has healed. Yesterday Leiter said "So we didn't get A-Rod. Big deal. Maybe the organization, the marketing people have to worry about whatever, but as a player, for me, what will create happiness for me is for me to do my job and guys around me as well to do their part to win a baseball game."

Glavine to Rebound? Andruw Jones Thinks So. Yesterday the Mets revealed that the new statistics guru Ben Baumer had "produced data to support the signing [of Cameron] that said nearly 70 balls that fell in during 2003 would have been caught had Cameron been patrolling center." Art Howe concurred, stating that the acquisition of Cameron will help Glavine as much as any Mets pitcher because "Tommy is a fly ball pitcher. He was probably hurt more than any of our other starters on those marginal-type balls." (note: check out Jeremy Heit's rebuttal to the Glavine fly ball pitcher assumption). It's somewhat confusing that Baumer could have conducted research "to support the signing" of Cameron because Baumer came aboard the SS Metropolitans in mid to late January while Cameron was signed about a month earlier. Nevertheless, Glavine's old center fielder Andruw Jones thinks Cameron will help Glavine rebound, stating Glavine went from the Braves "to a team that had like five different center fielders. That's not comfortable. ... If you have a good defense behind him, he's going to win games." Whether Glavine is the fly ball pitcher Howe says he is or not, Cameron should help Glavine and all other Mets pitchers both in the field, and in their heads by boosting their confidence. Can you imagine the dread of pitching knowing that Roger Cedeno is playing center field?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The NY Post: Three's Company 

Last Tuesday I mentioned that Joel Sherman of the Post urged the Mets to trade Scott Kazmir for Alfonso Soriano and "throw in" Royce Ring and Aaron Heilman. To me, this is an awful trade for the Mets for countless reasons, but what really bugged me about the article was the reason why Sherman thought the Mets should make such a trade; for the sole purpose of stealing back page press from the Yankees in the aftermath of the A-Rod trade. A day later another Post reporter, Mark Hale, backed his boy Sherman up, citing "a source familiar with the Mets' thinking" in reporting that the Mets indeed had inquired about Soriano. I speculated that Hale's "source familiar with the Mets' thinking" was probably none other than Sherman. Anyway, whether I'm wrong or right about that is another story. I don't want to beat a dead horse, but today a third Post reporter has gotten into the act in covering for the ineptitude of his cohort Sherman. Kevin Kernan could not pass up the opportunity to support Sherman's truly absurd trade proposal when he wrote: "Last Tuesday, the Post's Joel Sherman made the suggestion that the Mets put together a package of young pitchers to mound-challenged Texas for Soriano, a deal that made complete sense." While Kernan did not specifically mention Kazmir, one has to assume that by referring to Sherman's article, the "package of young pitchers" he is thinking about features Kazmir. I don't have the energy to list all the reasons why this trade proposal is utter garbage, but my point is not the substance of the proposed trade. Rather, my point is to simply highlight the Post's modus operandi of attempting to elevate the credibility of its outlandish reporting through use of itself. This circular reporting that tries to lift itself up with its own bootstraps is just flat out laughable.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Yankees to Feature Most Devastating Line-up of Metrosexuals in MLB History 

The Yankees' acquisition of Alex Rodriguez created a whirlwind of information, analysis and commentary. From the redundant, obvious reporting embarked upon in the mainstream media to the more cutting edge commentary found in the blogging community, within days we knew everything that could possibly be known about A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano and the Yankees. Much of the commentary focused on the new-look Yankee line-up. Some speculated that the 2004 Yankees might challenge the 1931 Yankee record of 1,067 runs scored in a season. We are on A-Rod O-verload at this point. Everything that could be said about this historic trade has been. Or has it? Today the Hot Corner dives into the most critical, overlooked aspect of this trade. In all the hoopla, no one noticed that the acquisition of Alex Rodriguez establishes the New York Yankees as the most metrosexual team in the history of Major League Baseball.

If you have been living in a bubble the last year or so, let me clue you in on what a metrosexual is. A metrosexual is a straight, narcissistic man preoccupied with self grooming, style and culture. Basically, metrosexuals are straight men who appear gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Perhaps you're a metrosexual and do not know it. When you step up to a bar are you tempted to order a glass of Merlot instead of a beer? Do you find yourself applying copious amounts of hair product in the morning? Now that we are squared away with what a metrosexual is, let's introduce the new look, A-Rodolicious, New York Metroyankuals.

The most unassuming metrosexual on the Yankees is their rough and tumble catcher, Jorge Posada. Posada came up with the Yankees in 1995 and has been fighting the organizational metrosexual philosophy ever since. While teammates say Posada is making great strides in coming out of the closet, he has not fully embraced the metrosexual lifestyle. However, Posada plans on supporting his teammates in an upcoming metrosexual pride parade.

Perhaps the next Yankee one would think is not a candidate for metrosexuality is Japanese import Hideki Matsui. Despite an initial confusion of "metro-cool" with "pimp-funk," Matsui has made solid progress since joining the Yankees last year. In fact, sources close to the team say that Matsui has ditched his old nick-name "Godzilla" and now prefers to go by "Metrozilla."



Yankees' brass was said to have reservations about acquiring right fielding slugger Gary Sheffield over fears that he would not adapt to "the Yankee way." In fact, an unnamed source familiar with the Sheffield contract negotiations states that the major stumbling block in the months long Steinbrenner/Sheffield negotiation this winter was the degree of metrosexuality Sheffield would exhibit while playing for the Yankees. An impasse was avoided when the two camps finally agreed first, that Sheffield's "ice" would count toward his metrosexuality quota and second, an incentive clause in the contract was agreed upon whereby Sheffield would be required to have his legs waxed every 25 strike outs. Yankee brass was said to be pleased with Sheffield's attire at his signing press conference.



Bernie Williams is said to be the spiritual backbone of the Metroyankuals. Williams was named one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in 2002. "When I was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People" Williams said, "I knew I had really made it. . . The World Series rings are nice, but this recognized all the hard work I put into my appearance." Williams' accomplishment is said to have created a good deal of clubhouse friction, as Derek Jeter is a past two time winner and according to sources familiar with the Yankees, was extremely jealous. Williams detailed his long hard struggle with metrosexuality: "As a kid growing up I was really into heavy metal and took up the guitar." Williams continued, "when I got to the Yankees, I knew that just wouldn't fly here, so I converted to classical guitar because that's much more in sync with 'the Yankee way.'" Williams concluded, "speaking of NSYNC, you guys hear JT's new album - it's off the chain!"



The transformation the Yankees are most proud of, however, is that of first basemen Jason Giambi. Giambi began his career in Oakland where the metrosexual lifestyle takes a back seat to the gay lifestyle. "I just couldn't express my metrosexuality without someone saying I was trying to be gay," said Giambi. So like many Bay Area men, Giambi rebelled and went with the tree hugger, scrub look. But once in NY Giambi embraced the metrosexual lifestyle and is now a leader in the clubhouse when it comes to metro matters.



The Yankees offseason acquisition that they believe launches them into the metrosexual stratosphere is the trade that brought them Alex Rodriguez. The acquisition of Alex Rodriguez makes the Yankees' metrosexual line-up truly devastating. However, the A-Rod trade comes with some controversy. A-Rod, a perennial inclusion on ESPN's list of sexiest athletes, is the only baseball player on the plant that could challenge Derek Jeter's degree of metrosexuality. A-Rod attempted to preempt any conflict, saying, "This is Derek's metrosexual team." George Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, and Joe Torre are said to have spoken with Jeter before the trade to quell any fears he might of had about anyone challenging his metrosexuality. "Jete's" our metro" Torre said. Responding to claims that when looking at some of the more advanced statistics, A-Rod is actually the better metrosexual, Torre said "I don't care what the stats show, Jeter is our metrosexual leader. He brings a certain intangible . . . a certain, how do you say, j'nicest quo." While A-Rod publicly concedes that the Yankees are Jeter's team, some say A-Rod is secretly planning a metrosexual coup d'etat. Upstaging Jeter at his unveiling press conference with a stunning silk pinstriped tie, which matched perfectly with the Yankee uniform, many say was a subtle shot across Jeter's metrosexual bow.



The Clydesdale of the Yankees stable of metrosexuals is none other than the Captain of Cool, Derek Jeter. Jeter is the metrosexual glue that binds this merry band of metrosexuals together. "This is the year we reclaim our title as the Masters of Metrosexuality" said Jeter. "Last year we felt the Marlins, with their cute teal unis and all that pitching and catching kissing really tried to upstage us." Responding to claims that A-Rod is the better metrosexual and that he should step down as metro captain for the good of the team, Jeter said, "Listen, I'll take my two People's 50 Most Beautiful People awards to his MVPs and Gold Gloves any day - I'm the metro captain of this team."

While the Yankees have indeed put together an impressive collection of metrosexuals, questions still remain, namely, what metrosexual will they get to play second base? In a recent and shocking development, the Yankees have taken a page out of the NY Mets play book and invited five players to spring training to compete for the second base position. Which of these Fab Five ends up with the job is anyone's guess.


Saturday, February 21, 2004

Stop the Presses! Piazza Takes Grounders At First! 

Mike Piazza took some ground balls at first base yesterday at spring training, which stirred the NY sports media into a frenzy. Piazza's first base drills prompted at least one full back page color spread, and at least seven stories in area news outlets dedicated to this groundbreaking story. One article even broke down Piazza's first base exploits in painful detail, stating that the drills lasted for exactly 12 minutes, consisted of approximately 45 balls hit to him, comprised about 20 balls hit to his glove side and 20 more to his backhand side. Of the 45 balls, Piazza only bobbled one before quickly recovering the ball. This story also revealed a "revelation" that Piazza took grounders in the offseason about two to three times a week! Wow, what a revelation! I sure hope the media got this out of their system today because if we have to see one back page and seven stories for each time Piazza practices his fielding at first base, I don't know if I'll make it through February.

In other shocking news, Roger Cedeno had a dentist appointment on Thursday and will go back on Wednesday to have his wisdom teeth pulled. Cedeno was supposed to have the teeth pulled Thursday but his gums were inflamed and infected. Early reports are that reporters from all area newspapers will accompany Cedeno to the dentist to detail exactly how the procedure goes, clocking the time, how many times Cedeno needs to spit in a cup, and how many cotton balls are needed to stop the bleeding. In related news, doctors at the Mayo Clinic have found a link between blunt objects hitting one's head, like baseballs, and gum disease.


Friday, February 20, 2004

Mets Invite One Last Non-Roster Player to Spring Training 

Meet Jeff Wilpon, who will be simultaneously competing for the Mets fifth starting spot and the right field job. Said Junior, "Well, I'm just not content making believe I know what I'm doing in the front office, so I figured I'd play grown up baseball player too."

The Untouchables? Mets' Brass Give Some Fans Hope, Scare the $#!% Out of Others 

Mets GM Jim Duquette has said in the past that if the Mets find themselves contending for a playoff birth this season, the team would not be hesitant to pull the trigger on a trade. Duquette reiterated these sentiments yesterday when he, according to MLB.com, "stressed that he certainly has the resources to improve the club further as the season progresses should the situation warrant making a move." Duquette said that should the team be in contention this year, they might make as many as three in-season trades: "Whether that will translate into one player, two players or three additional players, I don't know. . . We're anticipating that because we'll be playing meaningful games, we're going to be more active on the trade market."

What does this all mean? By shedding about $35 million off the payroll, Duquette seems to be saying that the team has a cash reserve that can be used to take on contracts of players in their walk years whose teams are out of contention. While this thought gives Mets fans hope for this season, it also scares the $#!% out of others. Should the Mets make a trade they would most likely do so in an effort to upgrade in right field and/or to add a front of the rotation starting pitcher. However, solid starting pitching and power hitting corner outfielders don't come cheap. The Mets would not be willing to risk the future of the franchise by trading top prospects simply because the team played well for a few months, right? Mets top pitching prospects such as Scott Kazmir, Matt Peterson, and Rob Keppel would be off limits, right? Top position player prospects like David Wright, Victor Diaz, Craig Brazell and Justin Huber are untouchable, right?

Skimming the 2004/2005 free agent class, two names jump off the page as potential players the Mets might look into as the trade deadline approaches if they find themselves in contention: Cardinals starting pitcher Matt Morris and White Sox right fielder Maglio Ordonez. But what would the Mets be willing to give up to get them? Would the Mets try to trade for them then attempt to immediately sign them to longer term deals that go beyond the current season? If so, will the Mets be willing to break from their new found free agent rule of only guaranteeing three years, which they would most likely need to in order to sign either of these two players? The Mets have been uncompromising in their new plan of getting younger and more athletic. Strengthening the farm system has been a major component of this. If the Mets are contending by the trading deadline, the pressure to make a big move will be stronger than ever. Let's just hope the Mets don't sell their soul to the devil in exchange for a three month rental.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The NY Post: All the News That's Fit to Line the Bottom of a Bird Cage 

This week Joel Sherman of the NY Post treated us to one of the most irrational, mindless, knee-jerk reaction articles I have seen come out of that rag in a while. In HEY, METS: CHASE SORI!, Sherman states that "Met GM Jim Duquette needs to be on the phone with counterpart John Hart today to say native Texan Scott Kazmir is available. . . Throw in Aaron Heilman and Royce Ring and it is darn attractive." Let's recap: Scott Kazmir, Aaron Heilman and Royce Ring for 49 year old Alfonso Soriano. The reasons why this brain vomit of a proposed trade is all wrong for the Mets are endless and one has to think that even Sherman's colleagues must be thinking "where did we get this guy?" But the Post has Sherman's back. The next day Mark Hale, also of the Post, reported that the Mets indeed inquired with Texas about Soriano before being rebuffed. Hale cited "a source familiar with the Mets' thinking" in vindicating his colleague Sherman. I'm not the biggest conspiracy buff, but considering what a foolish article Sherman wrote, considering that the same paper tried to vindicate him the next day, and considering that no other news outlet has reported on this story (as far as I can tell), I'm going to go out on a limb (not too far a limb, this is the Post after all) and say that Hale's "source familiar with the Mets' thinking" is Sherman.

Hot Corner Quotes of the Day 

"He's off the charts, that's my initial impression. He's pretty exciting. It's like being in a showroom with a fancy sports car. It's just a question when we turn him loose." - Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson on Scott Kazmir, from Peter Abraham's column in The Journal News.

The Hot Corner: I have an image in my head of Peterson on Kazmir's back as Kazmir trots around the infield while Peterson screams, "Vrrooom, vrrrooommm, vvvrrrooooommm!!" That's actually pretty disturbing. Out mental picture, out!

************************************

"It motivates you. I'm looking forward to playing them. It makes you want to shove their payroll right up their rear." -Mets third basemen Ty Wigginton on the Yankees, from the Star Ledger.

The Hot Corner: That makes two of us Wiggy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Quote of the Day 

"There must be a way to cap what a team can spend . . . ." - Boston Redsox owner John Henry one day after the Yankees finalize their trade for Alex Rodriguez.

The Hot Corner: Funny, I don't remember Henry calling for a salary cap while the Redsox engaged in their own little spending spree this winter that almost culminated with the acquisition of Pay-Rod?

MLB Realignment? 

Jim Bouton appeared on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike show this morning and proposed something interesting. I was in the process of getting cut off in my car during the interview, but Bouton said something along the lines that MLB should realign itself to create leagues according to the size of the market in which teams play or team worth. His theory is that why place the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the same division as the Yankees and Redsox when the discrepancy between team market size, team worth and resulting payroll virtually assures that they will not win the division. Obviously this is a unique proposal and one that has just as much chance of being implemented as the Devil Rays taking the AL East (which is ironic), but you can't deny it has some beneficial aspects to it. Using Forbe's 2001 franchise values as a guide (it seems dated regarding several teams, such as the Phillies), here is what the divisions might look like:

The Mo Money Divisions

Yankees
Mets
Braves
Dodgers
Indians

Rangers
Redsox
Orioles
Rockies
Giants

The Middle Class Divisions

Mariners
Astros
Tigers
Cubs
Diamondbacks

Cardinals
Whitesox
Pirates
Brewers
Angels

The "Please Sir Can I Have Some More" Divisions

Reds
Padres
Blue Jays
Phillies
Devil Rays

A's
Royals
Marlins
Twins
Expos

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Hhhhmmmm: Stark Continues to Drive Me Mad 

Last week I criticized Jason Stark for his conclusion that Todd Helton is the "least-ballyhooed great hitter alive" (Stark Rumbles and Grumbles His Way Into Insanity). Basically, I looked at Helton's home/road splits and saw that good old Todd's numbers drop off a mile high cliff (every and all pun intended) when he leaves Denver to the tune of some 84 points off his batting average. However, it's interesting that in less than a week Stark can go from completely ignoring where a player plays half his games to embracing it. In providing reasons why the Yankees still might not win it all, Stark states: "His [Pay-Rod's] stats will not be helped any by his departure from hospitable Arlington, Texas, where he has batted .332 and slugged .660 lifetime." Stark is taking into account the fact that many believe that the Ballpark at Arlington or whatever it's called, is the AL's answer to Coors Field. Hooray for Stark! But Stark doesn't stop there, his epiphany continues: "Soriano has more road homers (45 to 44), many more runs scored (133 to 108) and a much higher batting average (.311 to .279) than A-Rod over the last two seasons. Hmmmm." Hmmm is right Stark - how can you "hhmmmmm" this but not "hhhmmmmm" Helton! Anyway, I was like hhhmmmm and looked at A-Rod's and Soriano's home/road splits over the last couple of years (uh ho).

Soriano's Road Numbers:
2003: .306/.350/.567/.917 (AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS)
2002: .319/.352/.582/.933

A-Rod's Road Numbers:
2003: .282/.384/.577/.961
2002: .277/.381/.547/.927

Do I dare say that when taking away A-Rod's home field advantage, the fact that Soriano is younger and monumentally cheaper, and the fact that he is a loyal home grown player, that the Rangers got, um, get ready, well, do you think it's possible that the Rangers got the better hit - - - ooo this is hard, let me try it again. Hmmmmmm. Okay, here goes: do you think it's possible that when taking these things into consideration the Rangers got the better hitter? There I asked it. I feel better now. Hhhmmmm?

Defensive Metrics 

Check out The Raindrops. Avkash Patel has a great entry regarding defensive metrics, basically adding up and averaging four of the more recent, advanced defensive metrics, such as Rate2, UZR, Winsahres, and David Pinto's defensive metric. However, the analysis has a major flaw. Along with the Rate2, UZR, Winshares, and Pinto numbers, Avkash should really include the most critical of all defensive metrics: BBoH. What's "BBoH" you ask? Balls Bounced off Head. When you add in this critical defensive metric, we see that Roger Cedeno is indeed as bad as he looks out there.

The Hot Corner Quotes of the Day 

"[W]e have arguably the best left side of the infield in the history of baseball." - Yankees GM Brian Cashman on the Yankees infield from today's news conference.

The Hot Corner: I sure hope Cashman is talkinig offensively. If he's not, the only accurate word in this quote is "arguably." The only way you can conclude that the Yankees have the best defensive left side of the infield is if you consider "left" to be anything to Derek "Just Passed a Diving" Jeter's right.

*************************************

"Met GM Jim Duquette needs to be on the phone with counterpart John Hart today to say native Texan Scott Kazmir is available. . . Throw in Aaron Heilman and Royce Ring and it is darn attractive." -NY Post columnist Joel Sherman on how the Mets should proceed in a trade with Texas for newly acquired Alfonso Soriano.

The Hot Corner: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

*************************************

"I don't think salt in the wound describes it enough. It's more like rubbing salt, and then pouring hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol and rust in there at the same time." -Al Leiter regarding what the A-Rod to Yankee deal means to the Mets, who missed out on signing Rodriguez as a free agent in 2000. Quoted in the Star Ledger.

The Hot Corner: Gee Al, why don't you tell us how you really feel?

Monday, February 16, 2004

The First Annual Shea Hot Corner NL East Table Setter Showdown 



The NY Mets have had some great duos in their day: Seaver and Koosman, Doc and Straw, Lenny and Wally, John Franco and his tomato patch. With the release of the first images of the Mets new international double play combo in action coming out of Port St. Lucie recently, the Shea faithful stole a glimpse into the future. Kazuo Matsui and Jose Reyes are two slick fielding middle infielders, both are speedy switch hitters with pop in their bats, and will also be manning the one and two spot in the batting order this year. Fans are hoping that a new Mets dynamic duo has been born.



However, along with the huge expectations swirling around the two there is also a myriad of questions, both offensively and defensively. On the defensive side, will Matsui adjust to playing on natural grass after years of playing on artificial turf in Japanese domed stadiums? How will Reyes' transition to second base go? Will Shea Stadium serve Met-sushi? Mets fans are hoping that the old saying "defense doesn't slump," holds true. In the batters box there is no such encouraging cliche to cling to. Offense does slump. Half a season of rookie success can translate into a full sophomore season slump. The competitive hurdle from the Pacific League in Japan to the Major Leagues can be enough to quiet even the most thunderous bat. Just ask the Japanese home run king Hideki Matsui who grounded into more double plays than he hit home runs his first year in MLB. Today the Hot Corner takes a stab at answering some of the questions Reyes and Matsui will face in the batter's box. The fun part, however, will be to see how the orange and blue table setters stack up against the one and two batters from the rest of the National League East in the First Annual Shea Hot Corner Table Setter Showdown.

Disclaimer: The Hot Corner is far from being a bona fide sabermagician. However, I did my best playing one here today and I hope the numbers and analysis, while not Jamesean, are fun to think about and critique.

Having two effective hitters occupying the first and second spots in the batting order can create a trickle down effect whereby the rest of the hitters benefit. Getting your lead off and second place hitters on base, especially if they are stolen base threats, puts the entire defense on their heels. The pitcher goes into the stretch where they feel less comfortable. A pitch-out or two might be called. The catcher gets antsy. The pitcher might balk. More fastballs are thrown. More fastballs leads to more contact. The middle infielders start communicating about who is going to cover second in the event of a steal. This causes confusion. The middle infielders start cheating toward second to cover a steal. The first basemen stays glued to the bag to cover a pick-off attempt. A gaping hole is created in the infield. The outfielders start moving in a bit to better their chances at throwing the runner out at third or home. Can the Mets table setters be the catalysts that set this chain reaction in motion?



Turning first to Reyes. Not since Generation K, which fizzled into Generation DL, has Shea Stadium felt such a buzz about a prospect. Last year when a dark cloud hovered above Shea as the Mets fell out of contention, Mets fans were treated to a silver lining. Jose Reyes was brought up and lived up to the hype. In 69 games and 274 at bats Reyes had a .307 batting average ("AVG"), a .334 on base percentage ("OBP") and a slugging percentage ("SLG") of .434. Along the way Reyes exhibited a quick bat, slapping 5 HRs and at 20 years old, became the youngest player in Major League history to hit a home run from both sides of the plate in a single game. Reyes kept opposing defenses on their heels as well, stealing 13 bases and using that blazing speed to sprint for four triples. Reyes also excelled at home, unfazed by Shea Stadium's reputation as a severe pitchers' park Reyes hit .336/.355/.450 at home. Looking at the numbers Reyes put up last season, along with the fact that he has apparently bulked up 15 pounds this off season, it is not unreasonable to expect the following out of Reyes: .305/.340/.450.



Matsui is a tougher nut to crack. What can we expect from Matsui as he makes the transition from the Pacific League to the Major Leagues? Let's first take a look at what he's done before we try to figure out what he might do. It's been said that Kazuo Matsui, 28 years old, was the best Japanese player not playing in MLB, has been compared to Ricky Henderson, is said to have more talent than Hideki Matsui, and some say he's a half a step faster than Ichiro. In case you missed that, he's faster than Ichiro! Matsui is a seven time All Star, former MVP and he has won four Gold Glove awards. Now to the numbers. Exhibiting obscene power for a player his size (he's only listed as 5'9 at a whopping buck eighty-three), Matsui jacked 33 and 36 home runs the last two seasons. While this power is impressive, the domed stadiums and shallow outfield walls in Japan are not. No one is expecting Matsui to match those home run totals. Additionally, with the industrial strength Hoover vacuum that is the Shea warning track, Matsui's place in the batting order, and his speed (did I mention he's faster than Ichiro?), the Mets better have Matsui in a barbed wire reeducation camp teaching him the finer points of groundball to flyball ratio.

Aside from the home runs, in nine seasons Matsui has a lifetime .309 AVG with a .368 OBP and a SLG of .486. Taking away Matsui's rookie and second season where he did not manage to accumulate at least 500 at bats, we're looking at .317/.374/.511. Finally and perhaps most encouraging is that Matsui has shown no signs of slowing down, as his most recent three year statistical averages are higher than his lifetime averages: .315/.373/.554. Matsui can get it done on the base paths as well, swiping 306 bases in his nine seasons in Japan. Did I mention he's faster than Ichiro?

Some say Major League pitchers will mow this little guy down. Not so fast. Players like the Angel's 5'6 David Eckstein and 160 pound Ichiro have proven sometimes big things come in small packages. In Matsui's first crack at major league pitching against the Major League All Stars in 2002, Matsui put on a show. Doing his best Jose Reyes impersonation, Matsui homered from both sides of the plate in one game and overall he hit the cover off the ball the entire series. In fact, "Little" Matsui overshadowed the national hero Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui during this exhibition series. With limited at bats however, this is hardly an accurate measure of how Matsui will fare in his first season in the Major Leagues. Nevertheless, it is still encouraging to see Matsui turn on a Bartolo Colon fastball and fly around the bases faster than Ichiro. I mentioned Matsui is faster than Ichiro, right?

In an attempt to get a more accurate picture of how Matsui may do in MLB, baseball author Richard Lally, appearing in Rob Neyer's column on ESPN.com, weighed in on the issue. Lally noted that in his first year in MLB, Hideki Matsui suffered a 6% loss off his lifetime AVG, 15% off his lifetime OBP and 26% off his lifetime SLG. Similarly, in Ichiro's MLB rookie season he lost 10%, 15% and 16% off his lifetime AVG, OBP and SLG respectively. Lally averaged those percentages and skimmed about 8% off Kazuo Matsui's lifetime AVG, 15% off his lifetime OBP and about 20% off his lifetime SLG and gave the doom and gloom prediction that Matsui will only post .275/.326/.390. Lally concluded that "I think teams should be leery of overpaying for this guy." Neyer agreed, stating that all MLB teams "should be leery" of Matsui and that the Mets were "taking a big chance" on him.

Lally's analysis has more holes in it than the Mets 2003 defense. First, concluding that Kazuo Matsui is destined to suffer the same diminished numbers as his two countrymen is, quite frankly, unnecessarily pessimistic. Two players do not tell the entire story. Some have said that Japanese baseball is on a competitive level as American AAA ball. If that is accurate, then it would be just as reasonable to take two players who happened to hit better in the majors than they did in the minors and conclude that Matsui will hit better in MLB than he did in Japan. Using statistical formulas that make my brain throb, it's also noteworthy that some analysts have concluded that "the present-day Central and Pacific Leagues are fully deserving of the 'major league' label."

Regardless of where you think Japanese baseball ranks on the competitive scale, it is admittedly useful to look at the Japanese players that have made the trek to play in MLB. However, we should use the largest possible sample size. This leads to a separate yet related problem. Lally asserts, and Neyer assents by silence, that Hideki Matsui and Ichiro are "the only two Japanese League hitters we have to compare him [Kazuo Matsui] to." Attention Mets fans - think orange hair with matching huge orange wrist bands? Anyone come to mind. Tsuyoshi Shinjyo come on down, you're the next contestant on Lally is wrong! Shinjyo played 10 seasons in Japan before coming to play in MLB where he accumulated 400 at bats his first year with the Mets. There is simply no reason not to include Shinjyo into the analysis and I'm surprised Neyer, a top disciple in the Bill James Church of Latter Day Stat Geeks, didn't point this out. Shinjyo came to MLB and hit at a .268 clip, had a .320 OBP and a .405 SLG. Not exactly Ruthian numbers, but in comparison to his lifetime statistics from Japan Shinjyo hit 8% above his career AVG, 4% above his career OBP, and lost only 4% off of his SLG. I'm tempted to give him extra points for flare, but I'll keep it simple for now. Adding these percentages to Hideki Matsui's and Ichiro's numbers, we see that for the three Japanese position players that have left Japan to play in MLB, there has only been a 3% loss in AVG, a 9% loss in OBP, and a 13% loss in SLG. Applying these numbers to Kazuo Matsui's latest three year statistical average (.315/.373/.554), we can expect the following: .306/.340/.482.



Now that we have what I think are fairly reasonable 2004 predictions for Reyes (.305/.340/.450) and Matsui (.306/.340/.482), if we are to group them together into one table setting offensive unit, they combine for .306/.340/.466. For reference, in 1986 two of the most prolific table setters in Mets history, Lenny Dykstra and Wally Backman, together put up .308/.377/.415. However, this is a new era and the Mets are more concerned with competing with their rivals in the NL East than with the ghosts of the past.

Let's take a look at the NL East's one and two spot hitters' three year statistical averages combined into one offensive unit:

Marlins
Pierre and Castillo: .301/.361/.372

Braves
Furcal and Giles: 286/.348/.441

Phillies
*Note: while the Phillies played around with the batting order last year, Loco Larry Bowa has recently said that Bryd will be his lead off man and told WFAN that Rollins will be batting second.
Byrd and Rollins: .280/.338/.406

Expos
*Note: reports out of Montreal have been less than concrete, but I'm assuming that with the loss of Guerrero, Frank Robinson will keep Vidro batting third where the majority of his at bats were last year, and keep Endy Chavez in the lead off spot while Orlando Cabrera will hit second where he had the majority of his at bats last year.
Chavez and Cabrera: .267/.312/.393

Comparing these five offensive units, The Mets table setters (.306/.340/.466) have the first ranked AVG, the third ranked OBP and the first ranked SLG. Adding these totals together yields an NL East low five points, which propels the Mets' Reyes and Matsui to first place in the First Annual Shea Hot Corner Table Setter Showdown. The Braves finish second with seven points with a third ranked AVG and the second ranked OBP and SLG. The Marlins duo comes in third with eight points comprised of the second ranked AVG, first ranked OBP and fifth ranked SLG. With 11 points, the Phillies end up in fourth place with the fourth ranked AVG and OBP and the third ranked SLG. The Expos round out the bottom of the list with a league high 14 points, made up of a fifth place AVG and OBP and a fourth place SLG. The standing do not change when instead of using Matsui's most recent three year statistical average, we use his lifetime average minus his first two years where he accumulated less than 500 at bats.

We have seen in the past that a team's table setters can electrify their team and lead them to wins in the regular season, launch their team into the playoffs and give their team a better chance to take a short series once there. The most recent and obvious example occurred last year when the Marlins' Pierre and Castillo frustrated opposing teams all year long, including the Yankees in the World Series who had no answer for their aggressive play. There is no reason to think that the Mets table setters can't do the same. Mets fans will be treated to quite a show this year as Kazuo Matsui and Jose Reyes establish themselves as the most exciting and prolific 1 - 2 punch the Mets have ever seen. But more importantly, Matsui and Reyes will show that they are the best 2004 table setters in the NL East.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Schilling Speaks Out Regarding A-Rod To Yanks Trade 

Curt Schilling has provided his views on what seems to be the imminent trade of Alex Rodriguez to the New York Yankees. Schilling has sounded off on the Sons of Sam Horn ("SOSH") Redsox fan-bases message board. In what seems like an attempt to lift the spirits of a Boston fan base that must be shell shocked, Schilling gave a prediction that would make Broadway Joe Nameth proud: "it'll be more fun this way. This way, when we do win it all, and you all are out there flipping birds back and forth with Yankee fans, you'll be smiling a whole lot wider." Hey Curt, Mets fans will be joining in with the Sox fans flipping birds like a nine year old whose parents aren't watching. Reading Schilling's comments brings chills to this Mets' fan spine. Damn, doesn't every teams' fans wish they had a player that would connect with the fans this way? Continuing with his pep rally, Schilling said "after 85 years did any of you think that getting over this final hurdle and winning it all was gonna be a cake walk?" Schilling hits the nail right on the head. Yankee fans just don't understand what it's like to be a real sports fan. Real sport fans suffer. It's a right of passage. It's what brings fans together. It's what makes winning so special. Maybe, every so often if you're lucky, your team will stop driving an annual stake through your heart long enough for you to take a breath and take a sigh of relief. Yankee fans, however, know no such feeling. Yankee fans say they're "die hard." Yeah, okay Vinny, how long and hard did you have to die between World Series championships - 16 years tops? Boo f'ing hoo! The Hot Corner applaudes Curt Schilling for stepping to the plate and showing some balls. Go get em Redsox!

Schilling's post can be found here under the handle "Gehrig 38." And by the way, I very much hope that the folks over at SOSH have reevaluated their position regarding bloggers use of Schilling's words from their message board. As you can see, every one of Schilling's words are quoted and attributed to the appropriate source. That is all that should be expected of us. However, if anyone has a problem with my quoting Schilling; Bring It.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Blaaaahhhh!!! 

Oh, excuse me, that's just the Hot Corner throwing up all over the computer screen over this A-Rod business. I'm going to take my wife, the Smoking Hot Corner, out for a nice Valentine's Day dinner and hope that by the time I get back home later tonight, Peter Gammons is reporting that Rodriguez got his arm chopped off trying to cut the nice new "C" off his Rangers uni. Blaaahhhh. Sorry, just hurled again.

Thanks Neighbors 

Thanks to Adam from Ducks on the Pond, Avkash from The Raindrops, and Steve from The Eddie Kranepool Society for stopping by and welcoming me to the neighborhood. Don't hesitate to ask if you guys ever need to borrow some sugar, a lawn mower, whatever.

A-Rod to the Yankees? 

In direct response to my post from yesterday (see Alex Rodriguez is Evil below), Alex Rodriguez apparently confirmed that he is indeed evil. Both Newsday and the NY Post are reporting that the Yankees and Rangers "have held serious discussions" about a trade that would send Alfonso Soriano to the Rangers in exchange for the Ranger's recently named captain, Sir Alex Rodriguez. Yankees' GM Brian Cashman all but confirmed the rumor, stating "I won't comment on trade rumors, but it should come as no surprise that I am constantly floating weather balloons to my counterparts. Ninety-nine of them get popped and fall to the ground." In the article Rodriguez is quoted as saying, "well I saw what the Shea Hot Corner said about me yesterday and I thought it would be fun to mess with him a little." Thanks Alex, wanna kick me again?

Friday, February 13, 2004

Alex Rodriguez is Evil 

Click here.

Yeah, thanks Alex. We know you have more money than the GNP of most developing nations. We know you are the most complete, best baseball player since Ty Cobb. We know you're smart. We know you're good looking. But do you gotta rub it in our face that along with all this, your wife is hot as hell too? Why don't you just kick me in the cajones and pour battery acid in my eyes all while chanting "I'm better than you" over and over again. Thanks Alex.

Stark Has Rumbled and Grumbled His Way Into Insanity 

ESPN's new clean shaven Jason Stark might finally have lost it. In his most recent column, Useless 2000 Info: Best, Worst Hitters, Stark states that Todd Helton is the "least-ballyhooed great hitter alive." What did Stark roll up his mustache shavings and smoke them? Todd Helton is not a great hitter and he is not under-hyped. To the contrary, Todd Helton is the most over-ballyhooed better than average hitter in baseball. Sure, Helton has a career .337 average, which places him first among active hitters with at least 3,000 plate appearances, but c'mon Stark, the guy plays in a stadium that Gary Coleman could launch a few home runs out of. Let's get real. Todd Helton is a good hitter, but his .337 lifetime batting average is more inflated than Pamela Anderson's chest.

Let's brake it down, shall we:

Lifetime at Home: .378
Lifetime Away: .293

Like I said, Helton has nice numbers, but take away the Coors factor and you are left with a player that can't even match Jeff Cirillo's lifetime batting average. It's amazing to me that mainstream baseball journalists still rarely take into account the stadium the player plays half his games in before crushing them or championing them. If Stark is really looking for an underrated hitter, look no further than the Mets Mike Piazza. Yes, Piazza get his share of ink as the best hitting catcher. However, considering the fact Piazza has spent his entire career in two of the best pitchers parks in baseball, Piazza should get much more attention as one of the best hitters of his generation regardless of position. Despite the parks where he's played (Shea and Dodger Stadium) and despite the punishment he takes behind the plate, Piazza has somehow managed to position himself in 4th place in career batting average among active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances. This 4th place puts him behind Todd Helton, Nomar Garciaparra and Vladamir Guerrero, all of whom get to play their home games at some of the friendliest hitters parks in baseball. Up the threshold to at least 4,000 at bats, and Piazza is first in active career batting average with players such as Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Nomar Gariaparra, Derek Jeter and Edgar Martinez all lagging behind.

So Jason Stark, if you are looking for a player to champion as underhyped, stear clear of Denver and head over to Flushing.


Bonds' Personal Trainer and Others Charged With Pushing Steroids 

Various news outlets reported yesterday (for examples, see 1, 2, and 3) that a federal grand jury sitting in San Francisco has handed up a 42 count indictment against Greg F. Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer and boyhood friend, along with top executives of BALCO Labs. The indictment alleges a scheme to provided steroids, human growth hormones, EPO, and other drugs to MLB and NFL players, as well as track and field stars. No athletes were named or mentioned in the indictment. Regarding his relationship with BALCO, Bonds told Muscle and Fitness Magazine:

"I visit BALCO every three to six months. They check my blood to make sure my levels are where they should be. Maybe I need to eat more broccoli than I normally do. Maybe my zinc and magnesium intakes need to increase."

The Hot Corner: This is going to get uglier before it gets better. Athletes' names WILL surface. Depending on the strength of its case, the governemnt might try to cut Anderson a deal in exchange for his testimony. If this happens, boyhood friends or not, Bonds better hope the only thing that these quacks told him to take more of was broccoli.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Random Thursday Thoughts 

1. The "Revolution" continues. Moneyball vixen Paul DePodesta, current Oakland assistant GM under Billy Bean, is expected to be named the next Dodgers GM. The Stat Geeks, and I say that lovingly, are really making headway. They have even infiltrated my beloved Mets organization with the acquisition of sabermagician Ben Baumer. Once the revolution is finally complete and they occupy every front office position in baseball, I half expect them to rip their skin off to reveal their true lizard-like identity and commence feeding on us humanoids, starting with Grady Little. However, they don't fool the Hot Corner. Victory!

2. Is it just me, or is Fox's show 24 the best show in the history of television? It's like visual crack. Jack Bauer is the coolest man alive. I swear I think the Mets could invite him to spring training to "compete for the fifth starting spot" and he would find a way to win it. Seriously, the guy is part Rambo, part MacGyver, and part 007.

3. Why does it still bug me that both my childhood heroes, Doc and Straw, were lured to the dark side of the force? No, I don't mean to a life of drugs and crime, but their affiliation with the Yankees. It still really, really gets to me. I need help.

4. Is it wrong that I'm rooting for Scott Erickson to make the team so that I get a chance to see Lisa Guerrrrero at Shea? Don't get me wrong, the 300 pound, Bon Bon eating Long Island house wives in blue and orange with chick mullets that are the staple of the female component of Shea are nice, but I want a Guerrrrero sighting.

5. I want Mookie back as our first base coach. Let's face it, good things happen when Mook's hovering around the bag.

6. Subway cuddlers, stop it! You know who you are. If you find yourself on a crowded subway car with your significant other, stop the public displays of affection (PDA). PDA is normally acceptable. But in a crowded subway car groping and lip smacking, with strangers pushed up against you, is just disgusting. It makes everyone else feel as if you are dragging them into some kind of sick commuting orgy. Get a damn room.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Good Things Happening At The Left Of The Hot Corner 

Mets fans were treated to the first glimpse of the future double play combo and 1 -2 punch in the batting order yesterday with the release of the first picture of Jose Reyes and Kaz Matsui practicing turning a double play. Matsui does not speak Spanish and Reyes does not speak Japanese, and neither speaks much English (along with adding 15 pounds this offseason, Reyes seems to have made great strides with his English this offseason as well), but Mets fans are hoping they get on the same page nonetheless. The Hot Corner is currently putting together an article featuring the Mets new dynamic duo and it should be posted on the weekend. Stay tuned.

Rice Paddy Roundup 

Mets fans responded to yesterday's Tsunoda article regarding Gammons (see the Hot Corner response below) on the official Mets.com message board and in other Mets fan sites' message boards. Responses varied. Here are a few examples:

Tomorrow's headline:
Tsunoda runs out of things to complain about
I don't see Gammons meaning any disrespect to anyone. You flood a rice paddy. Shea floods. Big deal.


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I don't think that he was referring to the flooding problem the stadium had
for a while. because that is basically gone. I believe that he did say that because Shea Stadium will be filled with alot of people of Japanese decent to see Kazuo Matsui play.


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Gammons was writing about the NL East and the teams and players contained therein. Given this context, there seems no reason at all why he would refer to Shea stadium's previous drainage problems. Does Shea's propensity to flood affect the outcome of the NL East next year? I think not. I can only conclude therefore that the remark was a reference to Matsui's signing. This makes the comment insensitive as it reinforces racial stereotyping. I don't think it was overtly racist but Gammons should certainly clarify his point and justify why the analogy was included in an article about the division and not an article about groundskeeping.

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Responding to Tsunoda's rice paddy/cotton field analogy:

Are you insane? Because people were of a certain race they were stolen form their homes and enslaved for the purpose of working a cotton plantation. How in any way does that compare to rice paddy's? rice paddy's are merely a geographic distinction of asia they are not a symbol of hatred, enslavement and death not to mention the r ape of a continent.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Rice Paddy Ruckus 

In an earlier edition of The Shea Hot Corner, I mentioned that Peter Gammons broke down the NL East last week, predicting that the Mets would finish dead last. However, that prediction is not what offended one person. In the article, Gammons stated "Just because they are headed in the right direction in terms of going back to pitching and defense in that rice paddy known as Shea Stadium doesn't mean there aren't questions." This prompted NYFS's Ed Tsunoda to demand an apology from Gammons because he thought the reference was either a) an intentionally racist remark, or b) "out of ignorant insensitivity."

Tsunoda is exhibiting political correctness run amok. Referring to a sports playing field as a rice paddy when that field is either wet or has a reputation for being wet is common parlance in our sports culture, is not intended to offend, and shouldn't offend anyone because it's a simple analogy (Tsunoda even concedes that Shea had a reputation for flooding). Here are just a few examples:

>>"After two days of heavy rain, the Orange Bowl field resembled a rice paddy because it had not been protected by a tarpaulin." Dave Anderson of The New York Times, January 14, 2001.

>>"Whether the alterations ordered by Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson and designed by Tom Fazio protected the course so well that they changed it is impossible to know until The Masters can be played on something other than a rice paddy surrounded by azaleas." Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com

>>"A first-half penalty from Mark van Bommel gave PSV the $2 million prize against French champions Olympique Lyon in a match that looked as if it was being played in a rice paddy." Reuters, on Sportsillustrated.com

Are all these writers being racist? No, of course not. Referring to a wet or soggy playing field as a rice paddy is in common parlance in our sporting culture. The phrase did not take hold due to some ignorant assumption but is simply an accurate way to describe what a wet and soggy field looks like. The definition of rice paddy is "an irrigated or flooded field where rice is grown." Saying a wet field looks like a rice paddy is the same as saying a dry field looks like a desert. No, both analogies aren't 100% accurate, but they are meant simply to highlight and exaggerate the characteristics of the field.

Tsunoda seems to think that simply because the Mets have an Asian player on their team that this somehow magically transforms an innocuous statement into something evil. Under this skewed logic, so long as the target of a racist statement is not present then it's okay to use the statement. But the last I checked, saying the "N word" is just as disgusting out of the presence of an African American as it is in their presence.

I admit that Tsunoda may have a point in that it is possible that an Asian person not familiar with American sports culture might not be familiar with the accepted, innocent usage of this term rice paddy to describe a wet field. That person might hear the term used, realize that the Mets have an Asian person playing for them, and conclude that Gammons either intended to or somehow negligently insulted Asian people. However, none of us should be held to that high a standard. There is no way Gammons could or should be able to foresee that using a generally accepted sports term might somehow, in some attenuated way, offend someone somewhere. If Tsunoda is going to hold Gammons to that high standard, he better be aware that if he held himself to the same standard, he too would be exactly what he unjustly accuses Gammons of. In appointing himself Political Correctness Czar, Tsunoda states, "Just because Asian-Americans as a whole aren't particularly public or verbal in expressing their outrage, shouldn't mean that insensitive slurs should be allowed to happen uncontested." I spoke with several Asian Americans about this and each of them told me they had absolutely no problem whatsoever with Gammons referring to Shea as a rice paddy, but they all had a problem with Tsunoda stereotyping an entire race as submissive and in need of HIS protection.

I enjoy reading Tsunoda website and I think he does a great job covering the Mets. However, he should stick to what he knows best.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Week In Review  

Updating this blog on a daily basis might not be possible (the Hot Corner actually has a day job), but at the very least I should be able to write one story a week, and perhaps a summary of the week's news related to the Mets, along with a comment or two.

1. Jim Duquette and Brian Cashman participated in The First Annual Hot Stove Report, an event to raise awareness and research funds for prostate cancer as part of Ed Randall's Bat For The Cure. For $50, the public could show up and ask questions of the two GMs.

Hot Corner: Sounds like a carnival event where, for a cool fiddy spot, you can line-up and try to dunk Duquette in a tank of cold water with a high heater. The only question is, why didn't the Hot Corner get an invite!

2. On Monday the Mets released their Spring Training Fan Guide.

Hot Corner: Oooo, goody. Now I know where to position myself if I'm "among the many who will be seeking to score . . . Braden Looper's autograph." The Hot Corner doesn't need a Fan Guide to know where I can find Looper: roaming around Port St. Lucie looking for the closer job he lost in Miami. The Fan Guide says that the Mets Spring Training facility is located along "Florida's quiet Treasure Coast." Emphasis on "quiet." When talking about Port St. Lucie on an interview with WFAN's Mike and the Mad Dog last month, the only redeeming thing John Franco could say about Port St. Lucie was that "there's a new Friendly's in town." Great, I'll stop into the Friendly's for a Big Beef Burger, fries and a Fribble, after getting Looper's autograph of course.

3. Clifford Floyd reports that he is on schedule to be 100% by Spring Training.

Hot Corner: The Hot Corner's got nothing bad to say about Floyd. The guy's a warrior and all Mets fans should be excited to see him at full capacity this year. When speaking about the new Mets CF, Floyd said, "He's an Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter type of guy who will ease our pitchers' mentality, too." Don't let Cameron hear you say that because according to Billy Bean and several other stat geeks, Hunter and Jones can't hold Cameron's jock strap defensively (see 7 below).

4. The Mets sign 36 year old Scott Erickson, aka Mr. Lisa Guerrrrrrero to "compete for the fifth starter spot."

The Hot Corner: Damn, the Hot Corner would like to get into Lisa Guerrero's hot corner. Okay seriously, I don't know what I'm more tired of hearing, that our goal is to be "playing meaningful games in September" or that we've invited yet another pitcher to "compete for the fifth starter job." Do the Mets have absolutely no confidence whatsoever in our young guys like Heilman and Griffiths? How many more pitchers are we going to bring in to compete for this spot? And how are they going to be evaluated in Spring Training. In other news, the Mets just hired Jeff Probst, host of the CBS show Survivor to assist in the selection process. From what I hear, Probst will split the team into two tribes. The Saboga Tribe will consist of the pitchers vying for the coveted fifth starter spot and the Mogo Mogo Tribe, consisting of the myriad of right fielders the Mets have acquired or retained who are in search of a starting job. After an intense immunity challenge, consisting of Rick Peterson strapping all the players up to some sort of painful, invasive diagnostic machine, the losing team will convene at the Tribal Council (at the Port St. Lucie Friendly's of course) and vote a tribe member out of Spring Training.

5. Tom Glavine gave an insightful interview to the Star Ledger last week titled Glavine won't fret .

Hot Corner: Well that's nice that Glavine won't fret, because we're fretting enough for him.

6. Peter Gammons broke down the NL East last week, predicting that our Mets would finish dead last.

Hot Corner: That's fine, I actually like that there are no high expectations for the Mets this year. This way, we can only be pleasently surprised if they do well and not heart broken again if they don't. In the article, Gammons stated "Just because they are headed in the right direction in terms of going back to pitching and defense in that rice paddy known as Shea Stadium doesn't mean there aren't questions." This prompted NYFS's Ed Tsunoda to demand an apology from Gammons because he thought the reference was racially insensitive to Asians. This makes the Hot Corner hotter than usual and I'll be commenting on this more later in the week. As for now, let's just say this criticism of Gammons disgusts me.

7. The NY Post ran a great feature on Mike Cameron, concluding that Cameron is the best defensive player in the game.

The Hot Corner: The Post not only quoted a source or two, which is exceeding the usual standards of that rag, but even cited UZR, an advanced statistic used to measure defensive ability. Amazing.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Will the Mets Spring Ahead and Yankees Fall Back?  

The Mets may be primed to unseat the Yankees as New York's top baseball team at some point in the next few years. However, don't rule out the possibility that the dethroning may occur as early as THIS SEASON. Everyone speaks about MLB as if the standings are set in stone before the season even starts due to, among other reasons, payroll disparity among teams. But why is opening day so fun and exciting? Because every team's got a shot that's why. Opening day is one of the most exciting days of the year, aside from my wedding anniversary of course (cut me some slack here, my wife, the "smokin hot corner," reads this). The hot stove cools with the reporting of pitchers and catcher. The air warms as the smell of freshly cut grass chases away the chill in the air. Soon after spring training ends the season commences. What other day of the season can the Devil Rays say they are tied for first with the Yankees!

Some say that opening day in baseball should not breed such hopeless optimism, as the rich teams will undoubtedly thrash the poor ones. But as ESPN pointed out recently, the playing field in baseball is more even than we think and in fact, MLB is not that far behind the NFL; the self professed Princes of Parity. The NL East is especially wide open. In only the last few years, consider the following:

*In one year, the Royals went from 62-100 in 2002 to 83-79 in 2003 and battled for a playoff birth most of the year.

*In one year, the Angels went from finishing 12 games below .500 to come back the next year to win 99 games. Oh, and by the way, they did okay in the post season as well.

*The Marlins went from two straight 80 plus losing seasons to win over 90 regular season games last year, take the wild card, win the NL Pennant and seal the deal in the World Series.

*The Cubbies lost 95 games in 2002 to take their division last year, winning 88 regular season games. If not for an overzealous fan with a nose for foul balls, there's a good chance they're in the World Series.

*The Expos lost 94 games in 2001 and then combined for two 80 plus win seasons in 2002 and 2003, never far out of wild card contention. And this is a team who plays their home games where English is the second language with a payroll the size of Alex Rodriguez's fake tanning bill.

But "we're the Mets" you say, "we don't have that kind of luck." What short memories we have. They don't call us the Miracle Mets for nothing! Making quick miraculous turnarounds is in our organizational blood! (along with throwing fire crackers at helpless children but that's a different story)

*From 1962 to 1968 the Mets never finished higher than 9th place. In 1968 we lost almost 90 games. We all know what happened only one season later in 1969.

*In 1982 and 1983 the Mets had consecutive 90 plus loss seasons, but took an about face thereafter. From 1984 through 1990 we missed winning over 90 games only once, and collected a World Series Championship along the way and an NL East Division title for good measure.

The Yankees have made quite a run of it the last several years. But news flash folks, their so called dynasty is done. No one remembers who lost the World Series and the Yanks have not drowned themselves in champagne in October in over 40 months. Well, I heard Derek Jeter spilled a cosmopolitan on himself at Spybar but that doesn't count. This Yankee team will suffer the same fate as the Yankees of the late 70s and early 80s, who, after finishing in first place in 1976, 77 and 78, found themselves in fourth place in 1979 and did not win another World Series until 16 years later. This drought, many say, was due to the fact that (warning: the Hot Corner expect you to sing the next line) Georgie Porgie Pudding Pie, started making baseball related decisions for the team and made Yankee fans cry. Just like he's doing now as evidenced by his month long courtship of Gary Scheffield. And by the way, anyone see Steinbrenner on the new TV show The Apprentice this week, drooling over the attractive female cast member-job applicants? It almost made me sick. Anyway, onward and upward.

Both the Mets and Yankees find themselves at a crossroads, with the Yankees heading due south and the Mets north. The Yankees are clinging to something that no longer exists while the Mets are pouring a foundation to build the dynasty the Yankees have lost. The only question is how soon will it take for the Mets to get to the promised land and for the Yankees dethroning to be complete. History shows that you don't have to take your Wheaties with Jack Daniel's, although it doesn't hurt, to think it can happen sooner rather than later. Ya gotta believe this year is as good as any for the Mets to have a better season than the Yankees and to once again, paint this town blue and orange.


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