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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Mr. Methattan 

It's 60 degrees out in Manhattan today. The sun is shining, finally. The sky is blue. Opening Day right around the corner. How could things get any better? This is how!
The original Mr. Met, the one with the swollen head even before his namesake team reloaded during the offseason, will hit the streets of Manhattan on Wednesday to trumpet the coming start of the 2005 season. Standing at the top of a double-decker bus decked out in Mets colors and balloons, Mr. Met will expose fans to Opening Day fever by handing out schedules and T-shirts with the club's motto: "Next Year is Now."
Now that is just flat-out cool. Mr. Met doing his best Michael J. Fox impersonation from Teen Wolf bus surfing through the streets of Manhattan giving away free Mets stuff. Okay, maybe a little corny, but cool nonetheless. I'll see you guys later, I'm heading out to go find my favorite swollen headed baseball figure (no, not Barry Bonds).

Update: The original Mets.com article was a bit vague so I shot them an e-mail. Mr. Met should be at Bryant Park at around 1:15 then at the Plaza Hotel around 2:00. Hope that helps.

Update #2: Just got back from my Mr. Met pilgrimage. Here's a quick report.

The Metmobile, a double decker bus with no roof on the top, pulled up at the Plaza Hotel a little after 2:00. The bus was adorned with blue and orange balloons and other Mets paraphernalia. About 25 members of the Mets PR staff was on top and inside the bus, tossing pocket schedules to the cheering people on the sidewalk and screaming "Let's go Mets" as it rumbled down the road like Mo Vaughn would rumble around the bases. The Metmobile parked on 5th Avenue directly in front of the Plaza and the crew of Mets PR folks got out of the bus and descended into the crowd, giving away pocket schedules and Mets t-shirts to anyone that would admit, er, I mean tell them they were Mets fans. Cool t-shirts too - black with "NEXT YEAR IS NOW" printed in white letters with an orange border across the front and "The New Mets" across the back.

I finished up my dirty water dog and pretzel I bought on the street, which was damn good by the way, wiped the mustard off my lip, and headed for the Metmobile, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Man of the Hour - Mr. Met himself. As I approached, a cheery Mets PR girl asks, "Hey, are you a Mets fan?" I think to myself, "you don't know the half of it." But instead simply say, "um, yeah." So she hooked me up with a t-shirt. Sweet! As I get closer I notice the head. That big, white, beautiful head! While living in New York City I've had my share of celebrity sighting but nothing could prepare me for this. There he is, it's Mr. Met! The crowd engulfed him like he was Justin Timberlake on set of MTV's TRL! Everyone is screaming, "Mr. Met Mr. Met!"

I made my way through the crowd and there he was, right in front of me. I saw nothing but head. I heard nothing but the wind bouncing off the head. For the love of God look at that head! I froze. The head put me in a trance. "What do I do now" I thought to myself. I'm just standing there staring at him and he's just looking back at me. I'm choking worse than the 2004 Yankees. Then, out of nowhere, Mr. Met puts up his hand and instinct took over. I turned on it like a 3-2 hanging curve - "SMACK!" - I connected with the sweet part of the palm to give Mr. Met a towering high five. As my high five follow through took me past Mr. Met, in my mind I saw the Shea home run apple come out of of the hat, light up and fireworks exploding over beutiful Flushing Bay.

That's it. Got my pocket schedule. Got my t-shirt. Got to high five the coolest sports mascot in the history of sports mascots. I can now die a happy man.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Bit Busy Today . . . 

. . . but will leave you with this. Lipstick on a pig?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Super Joe Finds a Home 

The Kansas City Royals signed Joe McEwing to a minor league contract and have invited him to spring training camp. McEwing will be competing for job as a reserve infielder/cook/bat boy/trainer/mascot. Good luck Joe.

Bonds May Be Out For Season 

@^%!@damn!!!6%!!!!

Sorry, that was me banging my head against the keyboard. It's looking like Bonds will be missing a significant portion of the season, and maybe even the entire season, due to his knee problems. My fantasy team is done before the first pitch of the season is even thrown. Ugh.

NL East EWSL Report 

The Baseball Crank has posted his NL East EWSL (Established Win Shares Levels) Report, which combines Win Shares (WS) and Established Performance Levels (EPLs). The good news, the Mets, under this system, finally top the Braves in the standings. The bad news, the Mets still find themselves in the bottom half of the Division in the standings.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Ishii Official 

Done. The Dodgers kicked in some cash (The Fourth Outfielder breaks down), which should make this deal a little easier to swallow. This is one of those funny trades where there does not seem to be a consensus as to whether this was a good or bad trade. Let your thoughts be known in the comments. Love it/hate it/cried yourself to sleep thinking of Jason Phillips in a Dodgers uniform?

On a more interesting topic, anyone catch Spring Break Shark Attack last night on CBS? Wow, I don't remember the last time I saw such a good, bad made for TV movie. I found myself really into watching hot, young, well-endowed spring break chicks getting eaten by giant sharks. I know, I need therapy.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Ishii Madness 

I woke up this morning to hear about the Jason Phillips for Kaz Ishii rumors. I figured what the hell, let me brain vomit my two cents into the ole' blog but before doing so I stumbled around the Mets blogosphere to see that just about everything that could be said about this proposal has been. Damn these bloggers are fast. Having my thunder stolen, perhaps I'll just try to summarize where everyone seems to stand.

Always Amazin: "All in all, I'm kinda bummed about this deal. I don't think it will tremendously hurt the Mets, at least initially, but it really doesn't seem like it will help either."

Chuck n' Duck: "Ishii just seems like, to me, the right move right now."

East Coast Agony: "Ishii doesn't really have to be 'successful' or 'able to get batters out' to be a good fifth starter. Ideally what the Mets are looking for is an innings eater, and if nothing else he fits that bill."

The Eddie Kranepool Society: "the Mets are on the verge of sending Jason Phillips to the Dodger for LHP Kaz Ishii. If this happens it's a fucking catastrophe!"

Flushing Local: "But these are the New Mets and Next Year is Now, right? It could be a wild, wild year in Flushing. Extremely wild. Historically wild. "

Gogs is the Greek God of Geeks: Matt simply posts some numbers for our craniums to marinate in, which I think is his way of saying that Matt Ginter is better than Ishii.

The Metropolitans: "With him and Victor on back to back days, a seven man bullpen becomes utterly necessary and Ginter should be in it. The move, while not a bad one, only gives depth, but not an upgrade over the current options besides being more of a known quantity. However, the trigger needs to get pulled."

Metsblog: "While Ishii has not proven to be more effective that Ginter, he can get to the sixth inning, which, given the Mets bullpen issues, is most important."

No Joy in Metsville: "It's a no brainer, really"

Simply Amazin: "I'm not opposed to a trade that helps the Mets replace Trachsel's output, but I just don't think that Ishii would provide a significant upgrade from where the Mets are now."

By my unofficial tally, it seems that the Mets bloggers who have weighed in on the issue appear to be tied, with 5 either indifferent or for the trade, and five being against the trade. Well, shit, maybe I can do something useful around here, I'll provide the 11th and deciding vote! Yippee!!! Yeah, I know, it doesn't take a lot to get me excited (which is what my wife the Smokin' Hot Corner tells me). Well, here goes.

The Mets just traded a marginal back up catcher for a Major League starting pitcher. Let me repeat that, a Major League starting pitcher. Yes, this is the same Jason Phillips who slugged .326 last year. No, that's not a typo and no, that's not his on base percentage. I know, I know, Gogs had a nice 2003 season where he hit .298, showed he can take a walk in ending up with a .373 OBP and managed to get his slugging percentage into the 4s, posting a .442 SLG. But the fact is, these are most likely career numbers for Phillips and his true value is probably somewhere between his solid 2003 season and his piss poor 2004 season, which is basically his career .262/.337/.389 line. And please, don't tell me he was "unlucky" last year and please don't point to his spring training numbers to try and argue Phillips is more than what he is. He's a nice back up catcher, provides a good quote now and then, wears cool goggles, but he's completely replaceable.

Enter Kaz Ishii, who is the second coming of Sandy Koufax. Ishii will eat 230 innings this year, while striking out 250 batters and will post an ERA in the ones. Ha ha ha just making sure you're still paying attention. Ishii isn't very good. But average and even below average starting pitchers are valuable these days. Check out some of the insane contracts handed out this offseason. Decent starting pitchers are a hell of a lot more valuable than back up catchers with career .389 slugging percentages. As for Matt Ginter, if the Mets goal is to replace Trachsell's innings, and you are choosing between a pitcher who has 176 career innings pitched or a pitcher who nearly matched that last season alone, then, well, to steal a quote from one of my fellow Mets bloggers, "it's a no brainer."

My eleventh and deciding vote goes to the "for the trade" camp. We win!!! We win!!!! We win!!! Like I said, it doesn't take much to get me going.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Feelin' Cranky 

The Baseball Crank has his calculator out and is doing all sorts of cool stuff with EWSL. EWSL is short for "Established Win Shares Levels," which combines two statistical measurements originated by Bill James: Win Shares (WS) and Established Performance Levels (EPLs). I'm not really sure what it all means but it looks like the Crank put a lot of time into this work so I feel obligated to direct all four of my readers over there. Maybe when I get some time I'll put on a pot of coffee and try to come to an understanding of what it all means.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Yates Career May Be Over 

Peter Abraham pointed out the other day that "the once-promising career of Tyler Yates may be over." Abraham reports what was initially diagnosed as tendinitis proved to be a 70% tear in his labrum that required extensive repair. I can't help but to think the Mets prior medical staff combined with poor handling led to or at least partly contributed to this. I spoke of my concerns over Yates' handling last season here, when I wrote,
The Mets are toying around with the idea of sending Tyler Yates back to the bullpen. So, a full year of effective starting work with an 8.5 K/9 IP, a dominating spring training against a mix of minor and major league hitters, and 6 major league starts with ups and downs, and Yates is staring at the possibility of ending up back in the pen? Yates' surgically repaired arm had this to say, "Quit messing with me!!!"
I was a big Yates fan and was not only troubled by his handling from a medical standpoint but from a development standpoint as well. It seems the kid was set up to fail from the beginning, which I spoke about in depth here, including,
After taking the loss against the Brewers yesterday, Tyler Yates was optioned to AAA and James Baldwin (no relation to these guys) was brought up to take his spot in the rotation. Simply put, the Mets gave up on a talented, hard throwing rookie who will be a key cog in the future of this team after only 6 starts in favor of a washed up 33 year old scrub with a career 5.02 ERA who will be a key cog in AARP soon. But hey, the scrub had a decent 33 innings in Norflok. Can someone please get me something, I think I'm going to be sick.
Here's wishing Yates all the luck in the world in getting back. And let's hope the Mets learned something from this.

Monday, March 07, 2005

A Bridge to Nowhere? 

Despite an offseason that some say was "the best offseason of any team, not just this year, but in recent memory," Mets detractors are still out in force. This year the sour grape brigade points to the middle relief as the weakness that will sink the Mets. They may be right. Although, quite frankly, if all your detractors can point to is middle relief as your weakness, you should take it as a compliment. In fact, pointing to a team's middle relief as a weakness is tantamount to a good momma joke when you were little. You always have it in your back pocket if all else fails. "You're ugly." "No, you're ugly!" "Oh yeah, well yo momma so ugly her momma had to be drunk to breast feed her." (the crowd of kids on the playground goes, "oooooooo"). The commentators usually say, "the Mets have no bridge to Braden Looper." However, I'm more concerned - or just as concerned - not with the bridge, i.e. the middle relief, than I am with the bridge's destination, i.e. Looper.

Looper was a decent pick up when he was signed by the Mets before the 2004 season. The Mets had just come off another horrible season and seemed to be in some sort of quasi rebuilding mode. Jim Duquette was handed the reigns and spoke of "youth" and "athleticism," Fed Wilpon spoke of certain top prospects in the Mets system as "untouchable," and the team was even holding tryouts among young farm hands in camp to fill out the back end of the starting rotation. The Mets' goal was simply to be playing "meaningful games in September." God I'm so sick of that ill fated phrase. The rumor had it that until Art Howe objected, the Mets weren't even going to sign a closer. So, in that context, signing Braden Looper to a reasonable two year contract for about $3 million each year was a decent move.

Looper came to the Mets after five seasons with the Marlins, where he had a harder time keeping his closer job than Jack Bauer does trying to find time to go to the men's room. While exhibiting good stuff, overall he was inconsistent at best. In return for being handed another closer job, at 29 years old Looper responded with his best season in the bigs. While opponents batting average and slugging percentage against him was relatively stable, Looper posted, by far, his best ERA of his career (2.70) thanks to his ability to maintain his strike out rate (6.48 K/9IP) while drastically reducing the amount of free passes he issued. Thus, for a pitcher whose previously best strike out to walk ratio was 1.96, Looper posted a 2004 rate of 3.75. While I would love for Looper to continue this trend, I'm not optimistic.

Looper's decent 2004 numbers stemmed mostly from an extremely good first half of the season but the second half of the season he struggled. Before the All Star break Looper shut down opponents to the tune of a 1.88 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP while fanning 42 and only walking 6 in 48 inning pitched. In the second half, perhaps, gassed after already having throw seven multi inning games, Looper's numbers inflated to a 3.82 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP and he only struck out 18 while walking 10 in 35 inning pitched. These horrid numbers can be traced directly to an August 21st outing, when the Mets were out of the race - 9 and 1/2 games behind the Braves - yet Art Howe thought it prudent to leave Looper in the game for three innings. The result, Looper collapsed in September.

But that was then and this is now. After Black Friday and an offseason where the Mets brought in a new GM who embarked upon a spending spree that would make Paris Hilton (PG-13) blush, the Mets moved up their time frame to win to right now. No longer is this a team hoping for "meaningful games," this is a team expecting to, at the very least, snag a playoff spot. So while Looper may have been a decent gamble for the 2004 Mets, he's not such a perfect fit for The New Mets of 2005. I hope he can get back to his first half form of 2004 because how frustrating will it be if the Mets bullpen pulls together to create a stable bridge leading to nowhere.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Mets DP Dynamic Duo 

The read of the day is brought to you buy Bob Klapisch, whose Jose Reyes/Kazuo Matsui article graces the frontpage of ESPN.com. What's more, out of the seven featured articles on the front page of ESPN.com's baseball page, this Mets-focused article is one of only two you don't have to pay for. Doesn't it seem odd that the more great free baseball writing there is on the net, the more ESPN hides their content in pay-only Insider? Oh well, they must be making money or else they wouldn't be doing it. That said, I ain't payin. Anyway, check out Klap's article on our DP Dynamic Duo. By the way, my copying and pasting function seems to be a bit jacked today so I can't provide links - but I have a feeling you all know where to find the World Wide Leader in Sports on the web.

Lastly, I hear MSG or FSNY will be airing a Mets Spring Training game tomorrow at 1:00.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Mets drop their ST opener to the Nattys 

The Mets played in their first Spring Training game yesterday, losing to the Washington Nationals 5 to 3.

Hitting

Tony Armas started the game for the Nattys and faced what will undoubtedly (barring injury of course) be the Mets opening day 1-3 hitters in Jose Reyes, Kazuo Matsui and Carlos Beltran. While the trio went down in order, both Reyes and Matsui displayed uncharacteristic patience at the plate, with Reyes not even swinging at the first four or so pitches. Reyes finished the day 1 for 3 and Kaz went 0 for 3 with a run. Beltran (1 for 3 with a run) got his first hit in a Mets uni when he scorched a single up the middle, almost decapitating the pitcher. Willie Randolph slotted new first basemen Doug Mientkiewicz and his career .404 SLG in the cleanup slot, who walked twice and scored a run. Jason Phillips was the Mets money hitter de jour, going 2 for 3 with a double and two RBI. For all of you who think he should hit higher in ther order, even in a depleted Spring Training line-up Randolph would not put David Wright higher than sixth in the batting order. Despite putting good wood on the ball in virtually all of his at bats, he went hitless on the day. Victor Diaz and Eric Valent rounded out the starting lineup and combined for an 0 for 5.

Fielding

All-in-all, the starting defense that took the field looked pretty good throughout the game. Reyes and Matsui turned a nice 4-6-3 DP, with Kaz making a quick toss to Reyes who winged the ball toward first base, forcing Mientkiewicz to dig the ball out of the dirt to record the out. Last year, there was about a 50/50 chance the ball ended up some place other than the first basemen's glove and about a 25% chance that if Mike Piazza was playing first, he would have hurt himself. Matsui flashed some more leather, or should I say flesh, in the third, when he charged a dribbler, bare handed it and quickly threw across his body to Mientkiewicz (yes, I'm cutting and pasting his name). It seemed like the Nattys were trying to test Matsui, as later that same inning a high chopper headed toward Kaz, who again charged it, this time taking the short hop in his glove and making the throw to first. Part of Matsui's problems last year at SS, probably due to his years of playing on fast turf in Japan, was staying back on balls he should have been charging, forcing him to make harder and more accurate throws than necessary. This, combined with a a bunch of converted catchers at first base, contributed to his error total. It was good to see Matsui charging balls, knowing the speed of the runners, and making good, aggressive plays on balls. I read a few days ago that Mets coaches quiz Matsui on certain players and how fast they are. It seems Matsui is the Ken Jennings of this little game and it showed yesterday. The only middle infield mis-q occurred on yet another dribbler that rolled across the infield grass on the second base side. Reyes glided across the infield toward the ball, Matsui took a few steps forward and neither of them took charge. Reyes will have to reestablish himself as the leader of the infield and make those plays, which I'm confident he can and will. Despite the feel good story occurring in the middle infield, it was a misplay at third that did the Mets in when Miguel Cairo, filling in in the later innings, committed an error that allowed the go ahead and eventual winning run to score.

Pitching

Tom Glavine looked relatively sharp, tossing two scoreless innings and fanning two. I held my breath when Glavine plunked the volatile Jose Guillen, thinking Guillen was going to take Tom's head off, or worse. Guillen kept his trap shut, took his base, and proceeded to get caught stealing when Glavine threw over to first after Guillen already decided to try and swipe second base. Braden Looper had a relatively uneventful inning of work, allowing no hits and striking out one. The wheels started coming off when Aaron Heilman took the mound in the fourth. In two innings pitched, Heilman allowed three earned runs, including two HRs. It seems no matter how many chances this kid gets, he's never able to capitalize. Felix Heredia came in to pitch an inning, giving up a run and taking the official "L." Heath Bell, who looks like he dropped about 50 pounds from last year, looked sharp, pitching a hitless inning and striking out a batter. Mike Mathews finished the day for the Mets, getting knocked around for three hits and a run.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Are You Ready for Some Foot, um, I mean Baseball!!! 

The Mets open up the Grapefruit League today with a game against the newly minted Washington Nationals. The Nattys play at the Great Space Coaster Stadium . . . or is it the Space Coast Stadium? Either way, there will be live baseball today and that's what really matters. And as a cherry on top, the game will be nationally televised on ESPN at 1:00, although you will have to endure Mr. Ax Grinder, former Mets GM Steve Phillips providing color commentary. MLB.com will also be providing free coverage. Tom Glavine will make the start and most of the regulars will make the trip, although the odd couple of Mike Piazza and Pedro Martinez will stay behind in Port St. Lucie. Nattys GM Jim Bowden indicated the Mets will be facing Frank Robinson's opening day line-up, at least for the first few innings: "Frank told me how he wasn't going to start his regulars for the first few days, but, boy, they're all in there tomorrow, at least for the first couple of innings. . . And I think that's good, because it allows the fans in Washington as well as America to see some of our players. A lot of these players are not very well known. They will be in six months." Tony Armas Jr. will oppose Glavine. Let's go Mets!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Bloggin' Aint Easy: The New Shea Hot Corner 

Just like Carlos Beltran rejuvenated the Mets at his unveiling press conference referring to his new team as The New Mets, I'm going to be making another effort to rejuvenate this sorry ass blog. I'm sure you have all heard the term, "pimpin' ain't easy," well, neither is bloggin' sometimes. Between real life responsibilites (boo boo boo), doses of writer's bloc, and what seems like a massive flood of new (and in many cases improved) baseball writing on the net, it's sometimes difficult to maintain a blog. That said, I'll see what I can do. So if you're a SHC faithful, keep checking in.

For now, let me just get my feet wet with a little linkorama. Go check out Yankeessuck.com. Then, go say wassup to Eric from SaberMets who has started a new blog as part of the SportsBlogs family of blogs called Amzin' Avenue. Also part of the Sports Blogs family of sites is former ESPN writer John Sickel's Minor League Ball blog. There are also two new Mets websites out there: Mets Daily and Flushing Futures. If you know of any other sites that I have missed that I should add to my sidebar, drop me an e-mail. And along with the new blood out in the net, don't forget all of the the old staples still on the sidebar.
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