Monday, July 31, 2006

Field of Nightmares No More

Thanks to Carlos Beltran. Yes, the same Carlos who was booed earlier this season. The same Carlos who was questioned when he sat out with a bad hammy. The same Carlos who still can't seem to hit well at Shea. The same Carlos who, when on the road, treat opposing ballparks like batting cages.

Coming into this seaosn, Turner Field was a Field of Nightmares for the Mets. It seemed like they could not buy a win. This season though, the worm has tuned. After taking 2 of 3 earlier this season, the Mets came in to face a streaking Braves team. The Braves were hot, and were making noise about overtaking the Mets to win the division for a 15th straight season. The Mets, to their credit, did not spout much. They decided to let the bats do their talking.

Friday, Pedro made his return from the DL. After a poor first inning, he wound up going 6 innings. The pen did the rest, scoreless innings from Pedro Part Duex, Filthy, and Country Time for the save. Wright and Reyes had HR's, and Beltran was 2 for 4 with 2 RBI and a walk. Nice start, as the Mets won 6-4.

Saturday was a thing of beauty. The wife and I took the kids to see both sets of Grandparents, so I missed most of the game. When we arrived at my folks house, the game was on, and I was please to see a score of 10-3 Mets. Dad of course said "shh" when I got a little excited, old habits die hard. The final was 11-3, El Duque pitching 8 innings, giving up 3 unearned runs. The Undertaker did his part, going 4-4 with 2 runs and a walk. Carlos Beltran went 2-5, 5 RBI's and 2 runs on 2 HR's. Carlos Delgado was hit in the knee with a Tim Hudson pitch, and Met fans were once again concerned. There was no reason.

Sunday was the final nail in the coffin. Delgado returned and went 4-5. Wright went 2-4, Reyes 3-5, and Beltran went 2-6, another 5 RBI's and two more HR's, including his third GS of July. A good day for all, save for Tom Glavine, who last 4 innings, giving up 6 runs. Might be time for Pedro to give Tom some of that chicken he had so Tom can have a few days off to work on his command. The starters are not deep on this team, and they need a right Tom Glavine for the Playoffs.

The Field of Nightmares is now Beltran's personal sandlot. The demons have been exorcised. Note to Marcus Giles, when you mouth off, make sure you back it up. Letting a playable groundball go through your glove is not going to make you fondest dreams come true, though it will help those of Met fans. Sorry to see Larry Jones go down with a bad oblique. He probably came back too fast. Now, I hate Larry, but I gotta give him props for playing this weekend. It was a big series for the Braves, and they needed all the help they could get. I don't want to hear another word from the Braves, with the exception of "No Mas" or "The Mets are our daddy's".

The beast is now slain. Even with the big lead, Met fans were concerned about this series. Thankfully, there was no reason to be. The Braves are now 15 back, with little to no hope of even the wild card at this point. As for the rest of the division, what little competition their was from the Phillies is now done, as they dumped Abreu and Lidle to the Yankees for a bag of bats and balls. It is amazing how Cashman is able to pull off these deals. Perhaps he has Darth Marc pull the old Jedi Mind Trick. The Marlins are young, see them in a couple of years when they age a bit. As for the Nationals, well, not much there once they dump Soriano today.

As for potential Met trades, so long as teams are asking for Milledge or Pelfrey, Omar better be hanging up the phone. El Duque righted himself, and is seemingly the #3 starter right now. Maine has been very good his last couple of starts, so he could potentially be the #4. Could Omar trade for a hopeful, such as Kip Wells, perhaps, but only so long as the cost is low. He, or a reasonable facsimile are not that much better than what he has. Aaron Heilman and lesser prospects for Barry Zito would be nice, but will probably not happen. There are 7 hours to go. If anything happens, check back here for my comments.

Friday, July 28, 2006

An Open Letter to Garth Snow

Islander GM Garth Snow recently sent an e-mail to Islander fans who have signed up on the teams web-site discussing the recent changes that have taken place within the team's management committee. The letter is also accessible through the team's website:

While I do not claim to speak on behalf of all fans, below is my response to Snow, which I will be sending in to him.

Dear Mr. Snow,

I want to thank you for taking the time to respond to the criticism which has been leveled at Charles Wang, yourself, and the rest of the organization in light of the recent changes that have taken place. As a long-time fan, it is nice to see you take the time to speak out and let the fans know your feelings.

As for the fan response, personally, I can understand where fans are coming from for the most part. We are a group that has supported this team for a number of years, most of them lean for the past decade plus. I myself can remember the glory days of the 80's, when the team was the best, or one of the best in the NHL. I remember the lean years, and am thankful that Mr. Wang bought the team, as I feel that had he not, there would no longer be an NHL team on Long Island.

The past several years were a time that saw an enormous amount of change. There were issues with ownership, coaches and players. Mike Milbury was forced to trade away a lot of talent to save money for some owners, trades that to this day haunt the team. Other trades were done in the hopes of a quick improvement. Alas, many did not work out for the Orange & Blue, while the players traded have in many cases gone on to long and prosperous careers. Recent trades for Michael Peca and Alexei Yashin were welcomed by most fans, as the team appeared to be heading away from the spendthrift days, and was trying to put a winning team on the ice. The trades have not worked out the way it was hoped, as you know. The team did make the playoffs, but did not do well once there, for many reasons. Then last season, the team took a step back, as Peca left, Yashin struggled, as did the team for the most part. The fact that the rival team in New York City made the playoffs after a long absence made it a hard season for Islander fans to swallow.

When it was announced that Milbury would be leaving the GM role, fans were happy. While he was a good evaluator of talent when it came to the draft, his trades left something to be desired in many respects. Fans were curious that he was going to still have a role with Mr. Wang, and were concerned he would still have input. When Ted Nolan was hired I would hazard to guess most fans were happy. When Neil Smith was hired, I do not think many shared the same reaction, given his ties to the Rangers. But I think fans were willing to give him a chance.

I for one liked the offseason moves he had made. Brendan Witt is a solid stay at home defenseman, something the team needs. Mike Sillinger is a good pick up as well. The news that Neil was being fired came as a complete shock. Given the past ownership turmoil, it was a matter of "here we go again". Firing a new GM within 40 days of hiring is not a positive sign. It makes it seem that perhaps Charles did not clearly delineate Neil's role when he hired him. I do not know for sure, and frankly, since I was not in the pro-Smith camp, I do not care. What I care about is that the team looks bad, again.

As for personal attacks on you, they are without a doubt wrong. There is no rule that states someone in a management role has to have experience. Personally, I feel that someone who has the education you have, and the experience as a goalie should have no problem as a manager. You know the players on the team, you know what the deficiencies are, and you know the game. I for one wish you luck. I also feel that despite fan's initial reaction, they want the same thing you, Ted, Bryan and Charles want, a winning team on the ice. I hope that is what we see soon.

As for the media reaction, what else is new. For years members of the local media have treated the team poorly. A certain writer for the NY Post in particular. They look on with glee as the team struggles, and are quick to pull out the knives. The same stories about the guys who have been traded away are written. Writers from other cities are taking this as an opportunity to deflect attention from their own problems. For a writer from Boston to write the BS he wrote in light of the issues on his hometown team is laughable. The best part is that most of the stories read the same way. All of them make the same point over and over. It is frankly quite tiring to read. They should try to be a little more original, and stop repeating the same stuff their brethren have already written.

My hope is that the players are reading these stories and taking them to heart. The best way to show these writers they are wrong is to win. I feel that with the young players already on the team like Campoli, Hunter, Di Pietro, Nilsson and others, there is a good nucleus. The veterans like Satan, Yashin, Zhitnik, Witt and Sillinger, and the youngsters pushing for jobs like O'Marra, Bergenheim, Gervais, Comeau and others give hope for a bright future. As for the fans, it is going to take time, but a winning team will win them back. Those of us who stick through it will be even happier.

Again, I wish you success in your new role. There is nothing better than a jam-packed Coliseum during the playoffs. I hope we return to the days where it was called "Fort Neverlose".

Let's Go Islanders.

Odds & Ends

Today being an off day for the Mets, time for some odds and ends

1. Kris Benson's elbow is bothering him. In other words, it is the end of July.

2. Scott Kazmir's shoulder is bothering him. No truth to the rumor that "The Jacket", Al Leiter and John Franco all said "I told you so".

3. Jets opened camp yesterday with all draft picks signed for the ninth year in a row. Wow, that streak is as impressive as, well, its not really that impressive, but if you are the Jets, you take what you can get.

4. Garth Snow sent an email to Islander fans stating he will not take it if people pick on the organization. Going foward, anyone who insults Garth or the team wil be beaten over their head with their own shoe by Mike Milbury.

5. Mike Mibury sat in for the Islanders during Mike York's arbitration hearing. At least this time "Shoes" did not make the player cry.

6. Jeff Francouer has joined the ranks for Braves who think they can win the division. I want to know when the playersoin that team are going to be tested for reality altering drugs.

7. Floyd Landis, who won the Tour de France tested positive for testosterone. A-Rod was heard asking if he could have some.

8. Lavar Arrington is annoyed with Meril Hoge, who apparently questioned his work ethic and intelligence. Of course, Lavar was more upset about the insult to his intelligence, since he has no work ethic.

9. The Jets opened camp yesterday without allowing players to talk to the media. Some members of the media are upset. Frankly, is there really anything interesting that is going to come out on the first day? What, I really need to hear about how Player X has a 120 GB iPod? Or how many pillows he brought with him?

10. Harold Reynolds was fired by ESPN, apparently for sexual harrassment. Isiah Thomas asked him to sent his resume, as he is looking for bench depth in the front office.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Time to send a message

I could post today about Maine and "'Stache". Both did quite well yesterday. Maine followed up his complete game shutout of the Astros on Friday with 7 shutout innings against the Cubs yesterday, including striking out the side in the 7th. He matched an extremely on Mark Prior pitch for pitch, as Prior no-hit the Mets. Maine's work sent a message to Mike Pelfrey that he is ready to settle into the #5 spot in the rotation if Pelfrey is not ready.

'Stache (aka Jose Valentin) had the first Met hit of the day yesterday, a gift of a dropped pop-up. But he saved his heroics for the 10th. Following an intentional walk to David Wright to load the bases (which make little sense, considering how 'Stache has 2 GS in the past couple of weeks), Glendon Rusch thanked the Mets for giving him his start in the majors by allowing 'Stache to hit the game winning single. Valentin has been a revelation. The guy was booed (my myself included) earlier this season, based on his abysmal showing as a pinch hitter. It looked like $925,000 was thrown out the window. There was even a blog in his "honor". No boos now for Jose. He has taken over 2nd base, quite well I might add, considering he had never played there full time coming into the season. All of us who bashed Omar for this signing are now saying mea culpa.

No, today's post is about sending a message to the Braves. I opined on this yesterday, but felt it worth reviewing again. The Mets are heading into Atlanta with at least an 11 game lead, depending on the result of today's Braves/Marlins game. The Braves are hot, and making noise about how they are still the team to beat. In a way, they are right. For some reason, the Mets have not been good against the Braves the past several seasons. There has been a little improvement, but as noted here yesterday, Turner Field is a Field of Nightmares for the Mets. This weekend is a good time to tell the Braves "you know what, you had your time in the sun, it's our turn."

The series opens with Pedro Martinez making his return from the DL. Anyone who does not think Pedro is hyped for this game is nuts. This is a man who has an enormous amount of pride, and he doubtlessly wants to make up for his last start, the debacle in Boston. In addition, Pedro knows he is "The Man", and the Mets need him to set the tone for the other games this weekend. Now, a couple of the Braves have been mouthing off as of late, Andruw Jones primarily. The hope here is that Pedro reminds Mr. Jones that he owns the inside of the plate, and backs him the hell up. Mind you, I am not calling for a beaning, I would never condone that, even in retaliation. I am calling for a simple inside 92 mph fastball, about elbow high. Back him up a bit and make him think.

Saturday sees another pitcher who has something to prove in El Duque. He pitched well his last time out after an awful first inning. But he knows that in order to hold off Maine or Pelfrey, he has to be consistently good, no more ups and downs. The crafty vet should do well against some of the free-swingers in the lineup.

Sunday sees Tom Glavine face his old team. After some really awful starts against the Braves his first couple of season in Orange & Blue, Tom has improved the past few outings against them. Again, he is in a similar position as Pedro, having been slumping of late. He knows this team needs him to turn it around to where he was from the break last year to May of this year. Also, he is still perturbed about the comments made by Schuerholz in his book, adding a bit more fuel to the FU fire.

This is a big series, even for July. A Braves win, or sweep, and they are right back in it. The calls for a trade will grow deafening. A Mets victory, and they keep Atlanta 12 back at least. Do not give the Braves a hint of first place. Send the message. Keep the foot on the throat, and push down harder. Give it 110%. It's your time now.

OK, I'm out of cliches, except for - Let's Get it On!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What, me Worry?

Well, the past three games have not exactly gone as planned. Facing two of the worst offenses in the league, the Mets have made the Astros and Cubs look like juggernauts, allowing 8 runs per game during the stretch. The starters, first Pelfrey, then Trachsel and Glavine, have all failed to hold leads, and have been lit up. Glavine allowed a HR to Carlos (the better) Zambrano. Panic is setting in a bit among the faithful, looking to Omar for guidance, or perhaps another starter.

Hope springs in the form of one Pedro Martinez. You remember Pedro right? When last seen, the Red Sox were being his daddy, smacking him around but good. Pedro then went on the DL with his bad hip (courtesy of the whiners in Florida who wanted him to cut his shirt sleeves, but did not see fit to mop up the wet freaking floor). He then ate some bad chicken, prolonging his stay on the DL. Pedro is apparently chomping at the bit to get back in there. As luck (?) would have it, his first start will be Friday in the Mets personal Field of Nightmares, Turner Field, against the surging Braves. This is a statement series. Even though the Braves are 11.5 games out, if the Mets were to lose 2 of 3, the questions would start about the Mets not being able to beat the Braves. The lead would be down a game, perhaps to under 10 games, depending on what happens this afternoon with the Mets and tonight with the Braves.

As for the Braves, they are 7-3 in their last 10, creeping to within 11.5 games of the Mets. They are still under 500 though, so not a big reason to worry in and amongst themselves. The addition of Bob Wickman is not exactly scaring anyone. Bob is a good closer, but not exactly a guy that scares you. The good news is that the rest of the Braves bullpen is made up of the guys who have been blowing games all year. The bad news is that the Braves are winning without the Jones boys, Andruw and Larry. (Note to Met fans who have an issue with the spelling of Andruw's name: he is from another country, they spell the name differently. Get over it.) Andruw noted this week that the Braves are still the team to beat. Now, perhaps Andruw thinks this is 2005 and the Braves are 11.5 games up. I suggest he read the paper and check out the standings. I understand he is a leader, and needs to talk tough, but choose your words wisely my friend.

The question is, should Omar make a trade for a starter. Glavine has regressed the past couple of months. Pedro is coming off an injury. Trachsel is, well, Trachsel is a #5 starter in a #3 role. Maine is basically a rookie, Pelfrey is, and El Duque is up and down. The hope here is that something can be done to obtain a solid #3 starter, without using Lastings Milledge in the trade. To paraphrase Rick Pitino - Dontrelle Willis is not waling through the door, Barry Zito is not walking through the door. The media needs to shut up about it, and fans need to accept it. I would love to have both of them, but odds are long that it is going to happen. Shoot for Gil Meche or Freddy Garcia. Avoid Rodrigo Lopez and Livan Hernandez, and Kip Wells. They are not significant improvements over what the team has.

Right now, the offense is seeing improvement from two guys who were slumping, in Delgado and Floyd. At the same time, two other important pieces, Reyes and Wright are slumping. The latter two need to turn it back on, soon. The offense runs through Reyes, and Wright is an important cog. Wright's slump, if long, is going to mean Delgado and Floyd are going to see fewer pitches to hit.

For only the second time this season, the Mets have lost 3 in a row. For the first time in July, the Mets lost a series. It is not time to panic. It is perhaps time to be concerned. I know I am. This weekend will go a long way towards turning down the level of concern, or turning it into outright panic.

Here's hoping John Maine can build on his last start, and that the offense can score some runs this afternoon.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Erring Heilman

Normally, the big story today would have been the loss and Mike Pelfrey looking worse than he did the last time out. This would of course lead to some fans calling for Omar to make a trade for a starter. Thankfully (sic) Erring Heilman has saved us from that with a brain-freeze worse than any I have ever seen, worse than Cone, worse than Lo Duca.

It should have been an easy play. A little pop dribbler between the mound and first. Erring fielded it cleanly, Delgado was on the bag waiting for the toss. For some reason known only to Erring, he decided to take it himself, and, running as fast as Timo Perez in the 2000 WS, was beaten to the bag by Chris Burke, allowing another run to score. Unacceptable, unbelievable, and pretty darn close to unforgivable IMHO.

Erring had seemingly gotten past his recent slump. He had pitched well as of late, getting out of jams and being dependable again. Now, this mistake did not cost the Mets the game, as they went down 8-4, rather, it speaks to the mindset of Heilman. This is a guy who wants to start. He possibly feels slighted by not being in the rotation to start the season, and by being passed over while such luminaries as Lima Time! and Jeremi Gonzalez were given starts. He slumped, possibly because he was upset, or probably because all pitcher do at some point. But by pitching better as of late he had accomplished a few things. First, he helped settle the bullpen. Second, he possibly put himself in position to be given a shot at the rotation next season. Third, he possibly increased his trade value, should the Mets decide to include him in a deal for a top level starter. Now, he has damaged all of that, and ruined whatever good will he had built up with the fans as of late.

The brain lock should not have happened. He at least should have tossed the ball to Delgado, or failing that, he should have run to the bag. What was going on in his head is something only he knows. He was apologetic after the game, and admitted it was stupid. The question now is, how will this impact how Willie looks upon him? Will he be called into a tight spot this week against either the Cubs or the Braves? Will he languish on the bench? Or, if he was impacted by being passed over for the rotation, leading to his slump, will this impact him even more?

For the sake of the team, I hope he is thrown back out there as soon as possible. For the sake of his psyche, I hope he pitches well. Because if he does react poorly to this, it is a bad situation for the pen. These guys are overworked, and can little afford being one guy short, whether by Willie's choice in light of the brain lock, or because Erring stinks up the joint when he does pitch again.

Well, at least Delgado is warming up. Should cause those fans who rue the Jacobs/Petit for Delgado deal to quiet down. Time to take 3 from the Cubbies boys, and get ready for Atlanta this weekend.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


The long running question this season has been the back end of the rotation. After Brian Bannister went down, and before and after Victor Zambrano went down, fans were wondering if it would hold up. Most feel confident in Pedro and Tom, and somewhat with Steve Trachsel, but the 4 and 5 slots have been a worry. Following the failed Lima Time experiment, Omar obtained Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez for Jorge Julio. Not a lot of tears were shed when Julio was traded, though he has since settled in as the closer for the Diamondbacks. El Duque has been hit or miss. He had a couple of fantastic starts, as well as a couple of flame-outs.

Yesterday appeared to be a rerun of a flameout, as El Duque gave up 3 runs in the first. He then however surprised all of us, and shut the Astros out for the next 6 innings. Filthy Sanchez pitched the 8th, and Billy Wagner closed it out. The offense didn't do much, but Xavier Nady provided a key HR, giving the Mets the lead for good. Nady has remembered how to hit with RISP as of late, which is a plus for the team. Carlos Delgado has also seemed to warm up of late, following a 2 month long slump.

Yesterday was the second game in a row where a hoped for answer to the 4 and 5 slot acquitted himself well. Friday, John Maine pitched a complete game shutout, throwing less than 100 pitches. He was of course helped by an anemic Houston offense, but in any event, he pitched well. The Mets finally benefited from a team swinging at the first pitch all night long, a reversal of sorts, as it is typically the Mets who do that. While Maine may not have had a shut out against a better offense, he did continue his improvement. The win was Maine's first in the majors, congrats to him.

Our old friend Mike Piazza had a milestone, collecting the 2,000 hit of his career. This comes on the heels of his 400th career homerun earlier this season. In limited action, Mike is doing quite well. It could not happen to a nicer guy. While his time in NY had passed, Mike brought class and respect to the team while he was here. Congratulations to him as well.

Today, another possible answer pitches for the Met, Mike Pelfrey. Mike improved his last item out, and the hope here is that he continues on that track. Little pressure today, as the Mets already have the series wrapped up. It would be nice to get a sweep though, and start to put some of the questions about the Astros being a wild card team to bed.

This week brings the struggling Cubs to Shea for a three game set Mon - Wed. Thursday is a travel day, as the Mets jet down to Atlanta for a weekend series against the Braves. The Braves have been hot as of late. This is a test of sorts for the Mets, because even though they have a 13 game lead, there are still the old demons against the Braves. Pedro comes back possibly. I have no doubt that he picked that series specifically. I feel that he wants to come back in the spotlight, when better than a Braves series, on the road. Time to put the hammer down boys, and end their little run at 500.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Getting Used to Change

As all Met fans know, it has been 6 years since the team has made the playoffs. The last appearance was in 2000, as the Wild Card. Bobby V took an underwhelming team to the WS, where they lost to the Yankees. Since then, the team fell on hard times, pretty much out of the running every season, save for 2001 when they made a late push but missed thanks to John Franco and Armando Benitez being the anti-closers.

Change started after the 2004 season. Jim Duquette was out, Omar Minaya was in. Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran soon followed. Willie Randolph was hired as manager. Expectations began to rise. There was even hope that Braden Looper could fill the gap as closer. Alas, there were too many holes in the pen last season (including Looper) and in the lineup. Omar set out last season to fix them, and he did, bringing in Billy Wagner (who has been improved as of late) and trading for Filthy Sanchez and Carlos Delgado. Hopes soared, but were still tempered. After all, the Braves were still considered the class of the division, and after Beltran's first season in NY, many were not sure he was cut out for NY.

This season has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic Met fan. I personally hoped for the division, but never imagined this type of domination. A 12 game lead on July 21? Why, the last time that happened was 20 years ago, during the magical 1986 season. Yet there are still games (Wednesday night) that provide angst, and moves (Lima Time!) that provide ammunition for fans to wonder about players and coaches. After the West Coast 9-1 trip, hopes were even higher than in 1986 in some quarters. People were talking about running away with the division. Of course, the swing through the AL East quelled that, an gave rise to fears that this team was not ready for the WS. Since then, the team has maintained their lead, won a few series, and received some hope for rotation stability in the form of Mike Pelfrey. Things are looking better.

Now, we have the Braves, winning frequently, and now trading to beef up their pen, obtaining Bob Wickman from the Indians. The addition of Wickman should help them, assuming of course that they can get him a lead, no guarantee with the rest of their pen, and starting rotation. Before we get concerned, the Braves are on a nice run, similar to one the Mets had. Fans need to remember that the Mets run did not last long. Odds are, the Braves will not either. Not only that, they need to make up 12 games on the Mets, and 5 in the WC race. Not an easy task for a team that still has issues.

Many have noted that there are rarely rumors about trades the Braves make prior to the announcement. This is true. If only it was so for the Mets. Yesterday saw a rumor printed about the Mets acquiring Bobby Abreu from the Phillies. The Mets would reportedly send Lastings Milledge to the Phillies in return. Now, there are a number of reasons why the acquisition of Abreu makes sense (high OBP, good hitter) and many why it does not (8 HR's in a bandbox this season, afraid of outfield walls). Of course, there is the added reason why not in Lastings Milledge. You do not trade a top flight prospect for a 32 year old outfielder making $16 m, with a $18 m option that will have to be picked up to get him to waive his no trade clause. It makes no sense. My hope is that this is creative writing on the part of Jayson Stark at ESPN, or that someone is floating this out there to maybe open the eyes of someone the Mets want to trade Milledge to for a pitcher, like Oakland (Zito) or Florida (Willis).

There was another NY/Philly rumor yesterday. The Yanks would receive Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu, Tom Gordon and David Bell. In return, the Phils would receive Melky Cabrera and A-Rod. Now, Bell of course would figure to replace A-Rod at third. He would do so quite well, as he is as much a butcher at third as A-Rod. The Yanks still have the barf bucket in the bullpen for Gordon to use prior to his entering games. Burrell and Abreu would fit in well, two overpaid guys on the far side of 30. Yankee payroll would actually go up by about $10 million. If this trade was actually true, it would take Pat Gillick about 10 seconds to say yes. He gets rid of a lot of salary, gets a good young player in Cabrera, can move A-Rod back to short where he belongs, and is able to be a player in the FA market. The Yanks hamstring their payroll again. A win win all around.

Nice game yesterday for the Mets. Floyd and Delgado had HR's, Glavine went 6.1 innings, Bradford shut the door again, and Country Time pitched a 1-2-3 10th. Edny Chavez once again had a big hit. For a player most fans did not think much of coming into the season, he has done a great job, at the plate and in the field. Every time fans worry about the "B" team lineup the Mets use in a day game after a night game, we wind up being pleasantly surprised. It is one of the ways Willie is doing a good job, keeping his bench working, and resting his vets. If only he could improve his handling of the bullpen, fans might be able to cut him a little more slack. For the manager of a team 12 games up, he takes an awful lot of heat. Some is justified, but some is left over from last season, when people thought he was a poor choice for the job, and Willie had some growing pains. He has improved, and will continue to do so.

Big weekend coming up. Houston is prepping for their annual 2nd half surge. At least the Mets don't face Roider Clemens.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Let it Rain

I missed most of last night's game, due to the 2 + hour rain delay. For the 5th time this season, Steve Trachsel had a start interrupted due to the weather. Unfortunately, he was not as lucky this time, as the Mets lost a game he started for the first time in 8 starts. Steve had won 7 starts in a row.

Jose Reyes seems to have picked up right where he left off. Another couple of RBI's last night. David Wright had a couple of RBI as well. Carlos Delgado even got a hit. However, after scoring 4 runs in the first two innings, the offense went to sleep for the rest of the game, allowing the Reds bullpen to shut them out for 7 innings. The Red bullpen is as effective as the Mets pen from last season.

The Mets pen apparently flipped mojo with the Reds pen last night. Darren Oliver gave up a game tying HR. After Aaron Heilman pitched 2 scoreless(!) innings, allowing no hits, "Filthy" Sanchez got cleaned, giving up 3 runs in the 8th.

I'm not one of these fans who goes nuts after every loss. I do make note of areas of concern. Carlos Delgado is one area. There are those who feel that he is done, and are regretting the trade, thinking Mike Jacobs would be doing a better job. I fail to see how Jacobs, a good hitter, would put fear into pitchers as Delgado, even while slumping does. What Delgado needs to do is take a few days off to heal his ribs, watching video. Ron Darling on the pre-game last night noted he is too open and not keeping his head down as he was earlier this season. Now, if Ron Darling can figure this out, what the hell is Rick Down being paid for?

Some fans are still asking for Aaron Heilman to be put in the rotation. I ask again, how can we expect a guy who has not been conditioned to throw more than two innings to suddenly start? Not only that, if he has been bad in the pen, what make these fans think he would do any better in the rotation? This is not a guy who had consistent success as a starter. He had a coupleof good starts last year, but also a few bad ones. He was excellent in the pen last year. The hope is that he will rebound. Making him a starter also opens a hole in the pen. Heath Bell is not the answer people. Perhaps Heilman can start next year, but he is not going to this year.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

And now for some good news...

Given the awful happenings surrounding the other Orange & Blue team I have given my allegiance to, needed the Mets to do something positive to lift me out of my malaise. They did not disappoint.

Mike Pelfrey made his second start. While not exactly lights out, with 7 hits and 3 walks, he was efficient, and made strides over his first outing, throwing fewer pitches and going 6 innings. He allowed only two fly balls. He showed some moxie when he faced Adam Dunn with 2 runners on in the 5th, and Ken Griffey Jr. waiting on deck. He fell behind 3-1, got Dunn to foul off a fastball, and followed that with a beautiful rising and tailing in fastball to strike Dunn out, ending the threat. Nice little fist pump, not only by Pelfrey, but by Paul Lo Duca as well. Maybe the hole in the rotation has been plugged. He at least deserves another couple of starts.

Jose Reyes returned to the lineup, making Met fans and fantasy team owners (like me) happy. He did not disappoint, scoring from first on a Lo Duca double. Nice to have you back Jose.

Carlos (Grand) Beltran followed his Sunday Grand Slam with another last night. What a bomb it was, an estimated 450 feet into the second deck in left. Carlos has tied David Wright for the RBI lead, in 52 fewer at bats. MVP talk was had last night on the broadcast, a stealth campaign it was called, under the radar. Unfortunately, if history is any guide, no Met will win. Beltran is deserving of consideration, as are Wright and Reyes. Of course, this means they will split the vote. There is precedence here, Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds split the vote in 1988, and Kirk Gibson won the award. I hope this does not happen again. It would be tough for me to pick among them, but I would have to tilt towards Beltran at this point. His play in the field has been great, he has been the offensive force the team (and fans) thought they were getting last season, and he has done it in fewer at-bats. Throw in the rebound from last season, and he makes a good case.

Of course a case can be made for the two youngsters as well. I do not mean to dismiss them, as I am a big fan of them both. Reyes is possibly going to break numerous team records, and Wright may come close as well. However, Wright’s play in the field is not a stellar (granted, at a particularly hard position), and Reyes had early season times where he was too quiet. Plus, they are both young, which may work against them.

I will be fun to watch them all this summer. Let’s see if one can pull away. I wonder, what happens if Delgado gets hot? Could he work his way into the picture as well. Nice problem to have.

Bad Times at Islander High

As if it was not bad enough that Neil (Noah) Smith was fired after 40 days and 40 nights as GM of the (not so) Good Ship NYI, late last night it was learned that Special Advisor to the owner Charles Wang, Pat LaFontaine, has resigned his position. Now, there were those (I’m talking to you Larry Brooks) who felt Pat was out of his depth in this role, given he had no previous experience. They are sure to be happy. As a fan, it is another nail in the coffin for the team. Having a past star like Pat involved had given many fans hope. For too long the organization had ignored the special history of this franchise. As of late, Wang had worked hard to change that, retiring Trottier’s jersey, having the night last season to celebrate the 1980 Stanley Cup Championship team, hiring Trottier and Pat.

Why Pat left is not exactly clear. Newsday reported that he was unhappy with the way yesterday’s debacle unfolded. He had apparently advised Wang to wait 48 hours to make the decision, and then to wait to announce a new GM. Wang ignored the advice. If my title is Special Advisor to the owner, and the owner is ignoring said advice, I would leave as well. It is too bad really. Pat was always a classy guy, the trade that sent him to Buffalo was one of the final mistakes made by the great Bill Torrey (although the return was not too bad, Pierre Turgeon). I and many fans had hoped that the page was turning. Apparently, it was turned back. Back to the bad old days of poor management.

Where do we go from here? Garth Snow is the new GM. Of course, no experienced GM was going to take this job at this point. His retirement leaves an opening at back-up goalie to Rick Di Pietro. His salary also still counts against the cap apparently (despite what I posted earlier, which was based on a couple of reports). DP is a restricted Free Agent, and enjoyed a good relationship with Snow (it was said that DP had a role in Snow getting his 3 year deal prior to last season). Now the two must work together on a new contract. There are many reservations about Snow. He has no front office experience. He has been involved with the Players Union, and has an MBA in Business, so he is bright. Being a player for a number of years gives him experience of how players work, which many GM’s who have not played the game lack. I hope that this gives him an edge.

Some have seen Ted Nolan’s hand in this, or Mike Milbury. Wang made a point yesterday of quelling those rumors. He flat out said Nolan had no role. As for Milbury, he apparently told Wang to give Smith more time. His advice was ignored by Wang, in what may be a first when involving Milbury. Perhaps Wang is starting to cut Milbury out, a hopeful sign for Islander fans.

One last point I would like to make. People are justifiably upset about what happened yesterday. The team looks bad. Again. However, we must remember that Wang has at least shown a willingness to spend money on this team. He has a lot invested, not only in the team, but in his deal to re-develop the Coliseum and surrounding area. Some feel he may be looking to move the team. Based on his investment, it does not appear that is his plan. Besides, where is he going to move it? What local is going to take on this team at this point? Not only is the team in disarray, the league itself is hurting after the strike. Despite the announced numbers for attendance and revenue, it is obvious to most the league is still struggling. No local is going to want to take the risk on a franchise and league in trouble.

Let’s hope this all works out fans. We have suffered long enough.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

RIP - New York Islanders - 1972-2006

The NY Islanders died today after a long illness. There had been hope for the past month that new life would be breathed into it, and that respectability would return. Alas, it was not meant to be. The franchise was 34 years old.

After a seemingly blessed early life, with 4 Stanley Cups from the years 1980-1983, and numerous playoff appearances, the franchise had fallen on hard times since the 1990’s. The first wound was the change from the famous original logo to the Fisherman logo, which looked like a cross between Stan Fischler and the Gorton’s fisherman, earning derisive laughter and taunts from Ranger fans.

During this time, Don Maloney was hired as GM. Maloney uttered the infamous “We got the better Lindros” after drafting Brett Lindros, the younger brother of NHL star Eric, with the #9 overall pick in 1994. Alas, Brett was prone to concussions from simply laying his head down on a pillow, and failed to become even a remotely talented hockey player.

The franchise went through a series of ownership groups in the late 1990’s, including John Spano, who had as much money as a 5 year old, yet was able to con the prior owner and the NHL into thinking he had as much money as Donald Trump. He was followed by Howard Milstein, who had the money to try to buy a baseball team and a football team, but not enough to run the Isles, leading to trades that haunt the franchise to this day.
It was Milstein who made the hire of Mike Milbury, who dealt away prospects for “talent” which only he saw, such as Oleg Kvasha. While the prospects he drafted and traded blossomed, the Isles languished. While Milbury tried to ingratiate himself to Isles fans when hired by loudly proclaiming $&^% the Rangers, he made poor deals, many in an attempt to dump payroll at the behest of ownership, but others due to his poor eye for mature talent.

In the early 2000’s, things picked up, as the team returned to the playoffs following the acquisitions of, among others, Michael Peca, Adrian Aucoin, and Alexi Yashin. Alas, Peca was traded after a couple of years, Aucoin left as a FA, and the Isles are stuck with Yashin, thanks to the ridiculous 10 year, $90 million contract new owner Charles Wang signed him to.

Hope picked up for the continued life of the franchise in early 2006, as the coach Steve “not so” Stirling was fired, and Mike Milbury announced he was to leave his GM job when a suitable replacement was found. In June, the team announced the hiring of two lost NHL souls, Neil Smith and Ted Nolan as GM and coach respectively. Smith had been out of the GM role since being fired by the Rangers several years prior. Nolan as well had been out of the NHL since a contract dispute 1998.

Today, it was announced that Smith would no longer be GM, sounding the death kneel for any hope the franchise would be respectable again. The hiring of Garth Snow as new GM does not give any sense of hope either.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that fans remember the good times, and try to forget the bad.

As a fan, I am quite upset. I was never thrilled with the hiring of Smith, but had accepted it. It is not the fact that he is gone that bugs me, it is the fact that once again, this franchise is a laughingstock. Of course, people will blame Nolan, who had a reputation as a GM killer. If anything, Charles Wang is to blame. His idea of a board to run the team has obviously failed. Someone needs to be the boss. Milbury should have been shown the door.
Garth Snow is a nice guy, and was a good goalie. He has NO GM experience. This is a panic move on their part. And one that is sure to piss off all fans. Shit.

Neil, we barely knew ya...

Apparently, Neil Smith is out as GM of the Isles. This is a stunning development. Nothing is on the Isles site, but Newsday, and others are reporting it.
I will have more on this as news becomes available.

Mid Season Review - SNY

Most bloggers by now (present company included) have done their mid-season review of the Mets. Now for something a little different, a mid-season review of the new Met network, SportsNet New York.

Well, after some fits (on the part of Met fans when it was not available when launched) and starts (technical issues), the channel was launched. As per usual, the Dolan’s tried their best to not air a competing channel to Fox Sports and MSG. Thankfully for Met fans; it did not take as long to get SNY carried as it did for YES.

There are of course both good things and bad things about SNY. Time to break it down.

The Good –

Encore telecasts of day games. This did not happen in Dolan land. If the Mets played in the afternoon during the week, and you were like me and stuck in the office, you had to get your highlights on Sportscenter or the news. On MSG you got to watch a scintillating WNBA game, or perhaps Canadian Football. Now, thanks to SNY, day games are repeated that same evening, in their entirety.

The lack of Fran Healy. This is possibly the biggest plus. No longer do we have to listen to old stupid clichés like “can of corn”. We instead have Gary Cohen, along with either Ron Darling or Keith Hernandez. There were concerns about Ron in the beginning, as he did not exactly set the world on fire last year while working for the Nationals. He has actually become quite good. As for Keith, well, Keith is honest, and tends to fall into clichés as well, but as an analyst, it is not as bad as with Healy. Occasionally, Howie Rose will sit in for Gary. While I personally hold “Matteau, Matteau, and Matteau” as one of the most hated phrases of all time, Howie does a good job. Plus, we get Ralph Kiner every once in a while, for old-times sake.

The fact that it is the Mets network. Look, I know it is not all Mets all the time, but the fact they own it allows them to put on wonderful specials, like the “Simply Amazin’” special. No chance the Dolan’s allow that on the air. Plus, we fans no longer have to go hunting for a Met game on MSG23, due to there being a Ranger, Knick, Liberty, and Soccer game that the Dolan’s wish to air on the main channel, meaning Met fans have to flip through 200+ channels to find their team. (In case you have not figured it out, I hold the Dolan’s in the same esteem I do Boss George.)

I actually like the TV Head guy commercials. They are funny. My favorite is the one where he is painting the nails of the female Yankee fan, and the female Met fan walks in. Is it just me, or is the Yankee fan just a tad bit more, how shall I put this, trashy than the Met fan? C’mon, you know you’ve noticed. If you haven’t, watch it more closely next time.

The Bad –

Well, Chris Cotter. The man annoys me. He brings nothing to the table, yet he must be on the air several times a game. He reported once from the upper reaches of a park they were visiting, with no one nearby. Better they should have left him there at the end of the game. About the only good thing he did was mention on the air once.

The commercials. I watch the pre-game show while exercising, and I have seen way too many Aqua-Velva commercials for my taste. They are cheesy. Same for the “Just for Men” commercials, though at least they are not airing those with Keith and Walt Frazier. Painful. Of course, for a while we had the anti-smoking ads. Now, I’m all in favor of getting people not to smoke, but the commercials were on every time there was a break. Trying to explain to a young child why a man has a hole in his throat is not an easy thing to do. Lastly, there were the myriad of Ford commercials starring Derek Jeter. Now, I know Derek is a good player, and he has a lot of endorsements, but did I need to see him touting Fords during a flipping Met game? Am I really supposed to think that Derek drives around picking up chicks in a Ford 500? The Mustang, yeah, he would have one of those, but not a Focus. I have tried to eradicate the commercial with Jeter and Spike Lee from my memory. Let’s pretend it never happened.

Gieco SportsNite. Since this is supposed to be the home of the Mets, it would be nice if they led off with the recap of the Met game. I know, they just finished the post-game, but if you missed that, why should you have to look at Yankee highlights to get to the Mets? They have their own damn network, show your team first. Then move on to the rest of the NL East. Then the Yankees.

Other News –
Rumor has it that the Mets may be about to make a trade. Jeff Keppinger may be moving on. Various reports have him going to KC, or to Pitt. If he is traded, I wish him luck. While he might not be a starting second-baseman, he never really got the chance last season due to injury, or this season, due to the Mets owing Kaz Matsui a salary that exceeded the value of many small countries. He fell off the radar. Good wishes to Kepp.

Philip Humber has been working at Port St. Lucie, pitching well for a guy coming back from Tommy John surgery. His control, which is usually one of the last things to come back, is apparently pretty good right now. I hope the Mets are able to catch a break here. They do not have a good history with young guys who blow out their arms. Maybe the worm is turning.

Until tomorrow….

Monday, July 17, 2006

11 Alive!

What could have been a demoralizing (at least for we fans) series loss to the Cubs instead became a record-setting late afternoon/early evening for the Mets on Sunday. 11 Alive indeed.

The weekend started pleasantly enough with a victory over long-time nemesis Greg Maddux on Friday. Uncle Cliff returned from the All-Star break and has seemed to have found his swing (as well as kept his defense, nice catch Cliff). Cliff also still has his baseball magnet, as he was hit once again. Jose Valentin did his Jose Reyes impression, with a double and two stolen bases. Steve Trachsel won his 7th(!) straight in the effort. After a minor blow up in the first, Steve settled in. The bullpen did the job as well, with Aaron Heilman tossing a scoreless inning, Filthy Sanchez doing the same (while giving up a hit and a walk. When was the last time Heilman looked better than Filthy?). Country Time pitched the ninth allowing a run on 2 hits.

Saturday saw Tom Glavine's first loss in quite a while. The curse of Zambrano continues, as the Mets lost to the better Zambrano, Carlos. The bullpen had its issues, allowing inherited runners to score, and Henry Owens gave up 4 runs. Henry was sent down after the game, with Heath Bell racking up more Norfolk to NYC frequent flier miles. Heath plans on using his miles to visit Costa Rica in the offseason, twice. The Mets totaled 5 hits in the effort. Glavine fell to 11-3, while the Mets are a ridiculous 16-4 in games he has started this season.

Last night started off poorly. El Duque lasted all of 1 2/3 innings, touched for 5 runs. The bullpen put on quite a show, 7 1/3 innings allowing only 2 runs (Aaron Heilman giving up a HR to Phil Nevin). Darren Oliver once again was strong in coming in for a starter who could not quite get going. Oliver has been a key this season, a key many thought at the start of the season was a bad fit.

Slowly, the offense began to awake. Chris Woodward, after being robbed of a home run Friday, left no doubt this time, with a HR in the 4th. Uncle Cliffy had a solo shot in the 5th (against a lefty mind you). Then came the sixth. Thanks to a couple of errors, the Mets had a few extra chances, and they made the most of them. Uncle Cliffy had another HR, a Grand Slam. Again, off of a lefty. Carlos Beltran had another GS. David Wright remembered his HR bat and had a 2 run shot. The Mets set a record with 11 runs in the frame, and 2 GS in the same game for the first time ever. Uncle Cliffy completed his fun in Chicago with 5 RBI Sunday. The average is now at 256. The numbers in July are healthy, at 355 avg 1.022 OPS and 548 SLG prior to last night. Methinks he may be warming up a bit. The Mets beat the rookie lefty who typically makes them look foolish again. I prefer this new way to the old way where the unheralded rookie beats them instead.

Cliff joked on Friday that he hopes to help the team in the second half and that people forget the first half. I hope Cliff's joke comes true, because they need him hitting to counteract the slump Delgado has been in. If this lineup can get everyone hitting, it will compensate for the back-end of the rotation, which continues to be a worry. El Duque has been OK for the most part, with a few great starts, but a couple of clunkers like yesterday thrown in. Pedro's health is a concern, and Glavine has not been as on as of late. Steve Tracshel is not going to continue winning at this pace. The Mets have to hope that Mike Pelfrey can step into the rotation, else Omar is going to be under pressure to make a deal for a top flight starter, which will of course mean dealing at least Lastings Milledge. Even with a healthy Pedro and solid Glavine, the Mets need 4 starters in the playoffs in a best of 7 series, as Pedro cannot go on short rest, nor can Glavine. Tracshel would be the 3 or 4. At this point, El Duque is not the answer.

A story this weekend had the Mets scouting Kris Benson. The Mets denied they were interested. Kris is having a nice season for the Orioles, but he is due for his annual bout with tired arm. Unless they can get him for a bag of balls, I would hope he is not coming back to Shea. For those wondertng if perhaps the Mets can obtain Escobar from the Angels, he is on the DL, as is Jared Weaver, reducing their depth. The Garcia and Vasquez rumors persist, though if the cost is Filthy Sanchez, I would hope Omar would say no. Heilman on the other hand I would not be against.

Off day today, on to Cincinnati for a 3 game set. Pelfrey makes his second ML start on Tuesday against Eric Milton.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Tis the season to be silly...

I get to the train station this morning, and buy my normal copies of the Post and the News. As there was no Met game last night, I'm not expecting much. However, I am surprised to see that both papers have been busy doing some research. Apparently, Omar is looking into deals. The deals that are written about however seem a bit much.

The Post (courtesy of my favorite writer of fiction Joel Sherman) has both the Mets and the Yankees interested in Bobby Abreu. Now, from the Yankee point of view, this makes sense. They are still missing Matsui and Sheffield, and do not know if they will be able to come back this season. The thought of going into a playoff race with Melky Cabrera as your leftfielder should be of concern. Of course, the Yankees have nothing of value (read, prospects they would deal) to give up in a trade, but that has never stopped Sherman before.
Sherman also writes that Omar has called Philly GM Pat Gillick to say he is interested. Now, this may not be that odd, considering the tough time Uncle Cliffy has had this season. However, there are two points Sherman should consider. First, the two teams are in the same division. In order for Philly to trade Abreu to the Mets, Omar would have to bowl them over with a big offer (Millidge plus others). I do not think Omar is going to do that deal. Second, Abreu is very overpaid with $23.5 million due by the end of next season, plus a 2008 option that would probably have to be picked up in order for Bobby to waive his No Trade Clause.
Not to mention the fact that while Abreu has very good stats, his power is gone since last season, and he is not exactly a fielding upgrade over Xavier Nady in right.

The News has a somewhat more intriguing deal, saying the the White Sox called Omar to say that Javier Vasquez and Freddy Garcia are available for bullpen help. The question is, who would that help be? Perhaps Heilman? Well, he would not be very happy, as there is little to no chance he would start in Chicago, given the depth of their rotation. I would not be against trading Aaron for a quality starter personally, but I wonder about Vasquez in NY. He did not do very well as a Yankee. Then again, the spotlight in Flushing would not be as bright as it is in the Bronx. Garcia is also interesting, though he is more of a finesse pitcher, something the Mets have enough of in their rotation at this point. Vasquez would be the better fit.

The problem with both of these "deals" is like I wrote previously, what do the Mets have to give up, and will the cost be too high. I know this is not exactly breaking news, Met fans know the state of the farm, but I still read and hear "trade proposals" that fail to take simple facts into consideration.

The silly season has started fans. Buckle up and get ready, it is going to be an interesting 16 days till the non-waiver deadline.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Let's Get It On!

Tomorrow, our Metsies (I taught my 18 month old to say that, Casey would be proud) kick off the second half of the season. Good news and some concerns. The good news is that of the remaining 73 games, there are a total of 19 against teams with winning records. Six of those are against Colorado, which is 44-43 at this point.

Other good news:
David Wright appears to have gotten past his little mid-point slump. He had one last year, and went on to have a nice second half. After his showing this week in Pittsburgh, those who have been lining in caves or on Mars are now aware of him. I missed last night's appearance on Letterman, due to a virus that has now run through the house, yesterday was quite awful thanks to the bug.
Pedro has had a couple of weeks to rest, which cannot be overstated. He will be needed in September, October, and dare I say November, so using this time to rest his hip was perfect. Should he need another week, do it, the lead is there to handle it.
Carlos Beltran has continued to rebound from an awful first season in NY. I don't know if it is the addition of Delgado, being more comfortable in NY, or his mole, but he has been an important piece of the team so far this season. No more boos for Beltran.
Jose Reyes has improved all facets of his game. He does get thrown out attempting to steal a bit too much for my taste, but he is walking more, he is hitting 300, and the OBS is much improved. Those who called for his removal from the leadoff spot are eating crow.

The Worries:
The 12 game lead. It could lead to complacency among the team. I personally feel that Willie will not allow this too happen, but he must remain vigilant.
The pen has had some leaks. Aaron Heilman has regressed from last year. I don't know if his head is off due to being passed over for a starting spot, or if teams have just figured out his pitches, but he needs to improve in the second half. Billy Wagner has not been lights out, though some of this may be lack of consistent work. When the team is winning big, the closer is not going to get many opportunities. While there were issues with his being brought into games with big leads, he needs work to maintain his mechanics. Bullpen sessions only do so much, a pitcher needs to face live hitters to stay in a groove.
The rotation needs to go deeper into games more often. The pen is overworked, which may explain some of Heilman's issues, and the lull that "Filthy" Sanchez had. Of course, with the age of Glavine and El Duque, the injuries to Pedro, and the usual from Steve Trachsel (funny, spell check here brings up "tragically" as an alternative), it will be hard to improve this area.
Cliff Floyd needs to find the fountain of youth, or at least his luck. Cliff is an important part of this team. A healthy and hitting Cliff is going to make the lineup even better. He is much more of a concern than "'Stache" Valentin.

Of course, we are entering silly season (the trade deadline). Many are calling for Omar to make a trade, whether for another starter (which I would love) or a second baseman (a possible need). The question is, what do you give up. The farm system is not deep at this point. Does he take a chance and trade a Milledge, or a Pelfrey (as a PTBNL) for a top of the line starter? There are not many other chips. Some have called for Floyd to be dealt, but what would the return be for a guy having a poor season in the last year of his deal. He is not going to get you a #3 starter, even in a package. Then you have the issue of who replaces him in left. Heilman could be bait, and actually may be attractive, since teams may feel he is better suited for the rotation.

I see Omar perhaps making a small deal, giving up some low level prospects for a #4 starter, who could be a #3 on this team. I do not see him being able to get D-Train, he does not have the goods to beat out Arizona or the Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles (yes, I know I stole that line). It is not going to happen Met fans (same goes for you Yankee fans). Zito is more than likely not coming. I do not want Livan Hernandez, who has a bad knee. Gil Meche is intriguing.

I look forward to the second half. Let's Get It On!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


I enjoyed the early part of the All Star Game last night. Brad Penny was dealing, throwing nothing but heat with three speeds, fast, faster and Holy Shit! Three up, three down, all K's, including Derek Jeter.
When Beltran came to bat, I was hoping for a line shot back up the box at Kenny Rogers (I hate Kenny Rogers). The hit was quite nice, as it went past the other NY third baseman. Alas, Carlos was left stranded.
After Penny tried to sneak a high hard one past Vlad, and failed (that was an impressive display of power by Vlad), it was the NL's turn again.
Later, David Wright (known in other places as "The Prince", "Derek Who" and "Sugar Pants") came to the plate, fresh off his impressive display last night. David decided to not mess around, and to show everyone that Monday was no fluke, driving the first pitch he saw from Rogers into the stands. That in my mind was better than a line shot up the box. I wish I could read lips, cause Kenny looked a might pissed. Given his past history, he probably was thinking, "I should have just walked him, heck, I've done that to the Mets before". Tie game. David comes through again.
The next time Beltran came to bat, a shot to center, with Soriano on 2nd. Had Sori remembered how to slide properly, we are talking about a 2-1 NL lead. However, he tried a lame sweep hand slide, and was out. Quite possibly, he would have been out anyway, but he did not make too much of an effort. Beltran proceeded to steal 3rd (with Pujols at the plate) and scored on a wild pitch. So far, Mets 2, AL 1. Awareness by Beltran of the situation helped.
It looked like the NL had it in the bag. Hoffman was pitching well, but a poor play by Miguel Cabrera (channeling Roger Dorn again) and a hitopened the door, and Michael Young stepped through with a 2-run triple. Mariano Rivera closed it out for the AL, which now has home field advantage in the WS.
So two of the Met reps put on a little show, and came to play, showing the league that they are serious in every game. Take note opponents, a 12 game lead is nice, but they ain't done yet.

I do have a concern however. The Mets will be on the cover of SI shortly. Wright, Reyes, LoDuca, Delgado and Beltran. Now, I know the SI Cover Curse is allegedly only for the preview issue, but did they really need to tempt the fates here? I do love the headline
"Welcome to Rip City" The Adventures of Captain Red Ass and the Intrepid Mets.
"Who is Captain Red Ass" could replace "Who is Keyzer Soze" as the hot question until this issue hits newsstands. Time to give Jobu some rum or kill some chickens to ward off the curse.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

We interrupt this baseball season....

Thanks to a nice little 4 days break granted by baseball for the ASG and the other festivities, I have an opportunity to post my thoughts on the Islanders.

First though, congrats to David Wright. He put an a nice show in the first round last night, and did his team proud. Uncle Cliffy better be ready for some shenanigans on Friday, as David was able to easily surpass the total of 2 HR that Cliffy called for. Congrats as well to the other Mets who made the team. For those who did not, rest up guys, there is a lot of time left, and that team in Atlanta is starting to play a little better while you have been slumping.

On to the topic at hand, the Isles. Now, one commenter asked me to start the "Dump Yashin" movement (howdy dd420!). I'll get into that a little more later. First, I want to break it down, unit by unit. I'll start at the goal line, and work my way up.

Goalies - Rick DiPietro and Garth Snow

Rick is stuck in the shadow of the man he replaced, Roberto Luongo. In essence, Luongo was traded so Mad Mike Milbury could take Rick. For the past couple of years, Rick has been compared to Luongo, and will be until he puts up better numbers. But there is one thing Rick has done that Luongo has not lately, and that is lead his team into the playoffs. Personally, I like DP. He has a lot of talent, and last season played behind a poor defense squad. What a lot of DP bashers forget is that he was the player most responsible for their run at a playoff spot, which did come up short, but he played very well from January on forward. I expect with a full season as the #1 under his belt, and a somewhat improved defense, DP will have a season that will help him emerge from Luongo's shadow.

Garth is a good backup. That is all he is at this stage. He can start 10 - 15 games a season. The issue I have with him is he is too expensive. Alas, there is nothing that can be done about that until his contract is up.

I sense improvement here after last season's utter disaster. Brent Sopel and Brad Lukowich were not even close to what was advertised. The only one of the 3 d-men added prior to the season who did well was Alexei Zhitnick, and he missed the end of the season with a broken ankle. Chris Campoli had a very good rookie season, though he did seem to tire towards the end. Bruno Gervais is another rookie who will look to stay on at training camp. Those three form a good core.
Added to the mix by new GM Neil Smith (I still have not gotten used to that. More later) is Brendan Witt. What this team sorely missed on the back-line last year was a thumper. John Erskine (obtained to Janne Niinima, another bust) provide some heft later in the season, but will not be back. Witt is a veteran, who keeps opponents from messing with his goalie. That is going to be a huge help for DP this season.
Joel Bouchard and Radek Martinek are back as well. Two dependable d-men.
Another addition is Tom Poti. Why he was signed, I do not know. Yes, this team needed a Power Play QB, but Poti is awful defensively. I only hope he is paired up with the steady Witt to cover up those deficiencies.

The young guns - Nilsson, Nokelainen, Hunter, Bergenheim and Tambellini all have a lot of potential. Noke had that bad knee injury after a promising start last year. The hope here is that he is healthy. The hope is also that Hunter rebounds from an awful sophomore season. He was runner up in ROY voting his first season. If he can match that again, the Isles have a good winger. Bergy deserves to stick this season, as does Nilsson. Tambellini needs a good camp to earn a job.
The Old Guard - Bates, Blake, Satan, York and Yashin. These are the guys that are going to make the difference. I like Bates, but he is overrated, as is Blake. Both are streaky, and get a lot of credit for playing hard, but there are too many times where they disappear. I hope that some of the young guys are able to replace Bates and Blake.
Satan was a revelation last season. It was hoped that he would be the wing that would finally get Yashin going, but alas, that was not the case. Satan still put up 35 goals and 31 assists.
York is in the shadow of Mike Peca, who frankly was not the same after the Tucker hit. Peca had a poor regular season, followed by a somewhat improved playoff, leading some fans to call for his return. I hope not. The last thing this team needs is him back in the locker room. York had a fine season, 13 goals, 39 assists, playing injured for a time. With Ted Nolan as coach, I expect him to improve this season.
Recent addition Mike Sillinger is interesting. He is a good face-off man, thereby (hopefully) removing the need for Peca Part Deux. I do not think he will score 30 plus goals again, but if he does, great.
Another recent addition (as of last night) is Chris Simon, who signed a 1 year deal. Simon is not a scorer, but he brings some needed size to the front line. A better fit than Eric Goddard. Or Arron Asham.

Last but not least is Alexei Yashin. The man has yet to live up to his big contract and big expectations. A lot was given up for him, but most fans were thrilled when Mad Mike obtained him. Zdeno Chara was still raw, and a draft pick is always an unknown. There have been calls for a buy-out, and at the end of the season, I agreed. However, the hiring of Ted Nolan has me thinking that this could be the year Alexei gets it in gear. If not, then Wang better buy him out. The catcalls will be deafening if there is a repeat of last season. I think part of the problem with Yashin is that he is such a fluid skater that it looks like he is not skating hard, when in fact, he does not have to, given his stride. He is not a pure goal scorer. He needs someone on his line that he can pass to. Milbury failed to find that person. Whether Smith can, or if anyone can is the $90 million question.

A Three Headed Monster as it were. Coach Ted Nolan returns from exile. Pat LaFontaine rejoins the organization. So does Neil Smith.
I love the Nolan hiring. This is a man who was a great head coach, and got a raw deal in Buffalo. I know there were rumors about his zipper, but I think that is so much BS. Outside of Hasek (who has proven to have his own issues the past couple of years), every player who played for him loves him. He is the type of guy who expects a lot out of his players, and most importantly, he has a lot to prove as he comes back. Finally, he has the resume to make players take note of what he says. The same could not be said of Steve (not so) Stirling and Peter Laviollette (at the time, also a rookie HC).

I am happy Patty L is back. Despite Larry Brooks' hatchet job, I think he is a guy that knows a lot about the game. He played for quite some time, under a number of good coaches and with other talented players. Mr. Brooks feels that he has no experience in management. This is the same Larry Brooks who feels Mark Messier (who I grant was a great player) could step into a GM role cold and excel. Why the difference Larry?

The third head is Neil Smith. I had my reservations about this hiring, even though he started as an Isle. Ever since the Don Maloney debacle, Islander fans have been leery of having anyone from the Rangers involved with the franchise. Smith is of course best known as the GM of the team that broke the curse, thereby depriving Isles fans of the "1940" chant. He is a good evaluator of talent (then again, so was Milbury when it came to the draft), so that is a positive.
However, I am concerned about the Poti signing. As I noted earlier, the team needed a PP QB. However, Poti is not a good defensive defenseman. I hope that Witt, or whomever his partner is, can cover for that deficiency.

I of course am also pleased that Bryan Trottier is back. He had good success as an assistant coach. He did not fair as well behind the bench as HC for the Rangers, but that was simply payback for Maloney :)

Alas, the spector of Mad Mike Milbury is lurking. IMHO, and man who beats up a Ranger fan with the guys' own shoe can't be all that bad. "Shoes" was an excellent drafter. He has picked some great players. Unfortunately, a lot of them have blossomed elsewhere, while the return on many of these deals has not been what was expected. I will not recite the lengthy list of bad trades. It is impossible to say that the players (like Bertuzzi) would have had similar success in Blue & Orange. It is easy to say that most would have. Some of the young guys who played well last year and the year before were drafted by Shoes. Others, like Ryan O'marra, Blake Comeau, Wes O'Neill and Dustin Kohn should help the team in the next couple of years. I hope one or more of them can help us get past the bad trades.

Charles Wang does not know hockey. That is evident, or else we would have been "Shoes"less much earlier. However, the fact remains that there is hockey on LI thanks to him. So long as he lets his hockey people run things, and Trots hip-checks Milbury if he gets to close to the hockey operations department, things will be fine.

I Hope.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Half Full?

I could do a clever mid-point awards/grades for each player post here, but frankly, I am not that clever, and know that many other Met bloggers will be doing the same on a player by player level. I will instead do a team wide report card, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Ugly - Jose Lima having started 4 games for the Mets. Even if he had only started 1 game, the simple fact that this retread had to start one game would have qualified for this spot. This is not an indictment of Lima Time! (though he does suck), rather, the situation that caused him to be relied upon to start is what is ugly.

Coming into the season, the staff of Pedro, Tom, Steve, Brian and Victor seemed OK. Yeah, Zambrano stunk, but he was not bad for a number 5 guy, based on numbers. Bannister had a good spring, and showed promise. Glavine had had a great second half, and Pedro was Pedro. Alas, the wheels started to come off, once Zambrano's arm came off and Bannister's hamstring popped. The lack of starting pitching depth was exposed. John Maine could not make it through one start without having an injury, and thus, we were afforded the (dis)pleasure of Lima Time! Thankfully, he did not last long, but once Pedro's hip acted up enough to cause him to be DL'd, and a makeup doubleheader was required, Lima Time! Was back. Thankfully, the last outing appears to be the last time, though he will no doubt clear waivers, and be in Norfolk again.

Also ugly - Kaz "Mothra" Matsui. Just freaking awful.

The Bad - Injuries. Beltran missed time earlier this year. Cliff Floyd has been hurt off and on all year. Pitchers with injuries. Nady lost an organ, and now has a fractured wrist. Reyes cut his finger (Jose, the next time you dive into first, I will personally smack you around). Delgado has been playing with a rib injury of some sort. All in all, a lot of injuries. Were it not for the good, this team could easily be far behind in this division, even given how bad it is.

The Good - For the first time in history, the Mets have 3 players with 20 HR's at the break. Now, this team has not always had a lot of power hitters, but that is still something to be surprised about. In addition, David Wright has 74 RBI at the break, the most ever. Now, that is shocking. There have been a lot of players on this team in the past who have driven in a lot of runs, yet no one has had this many at the break. Not Straw, not Gary, not Todd, nor Robin, not Mike. That my friends, is impressive. Carlos Beltran has been nearly the player we thought we were getting two winters ago. The fielding has been very good, the bat, as good as hoped. For a while it seemed the two Carlos' were playing "top this" for the HR lead. Delgado has been slumping, which (I hope) is due to his injury. Hopefully the 4 days will give him time to recover a tad. I do not want to think of this lineup without him there. He protects Beltran, and helps Wright. If Uncle Cliffy can get on track, this lineup can be truly dangerous.

The bench has been good. Say what you want about Willie not being the best manager, but he knows how to keep his bench active. Edny Chavez has done a good job pretty much each time he has been called upon. Woodward has filled in well, though he needs to get the average up a tad. Jose "Stache" Valentin has been a revelation at 2nd since the dismissal of Mothra. Julio Franco, in the clubhouse, dugout and field has been more than expected. The team is more than just the name guys, it is the bench, and this bench has done well.

The bullpen has been a revelation as well. Omar made up for last year's mess in a big way. Darren Oliver has been unbelievable. Taking over for Lima Time! The other night for 5 shutout innings was what the team needed with a double dip the next day. Chad Bradford has been as close to automatic with inherited runners as possible (the count is now 5 of 36 I believe). Duaner "Filthy" Sanchez is, well, Filthy. I loved how he plunked Cabrera the other day. For all his whining, Feliciano has been good for the most part. Aaron Heilman however is a concern. I hope he uses these 4 days to work on his mechanics. He will be needed in the 2nd half. Billy Wagner as well needs to improve. Yesterday, despite giving up a HR, he threw strikes. That is what he needs to do. No more messing around, throw the ball for strikes. What is needed now is the starters to go a bit deeper into games, allowing the pen some rest.

This group seems to get along real well. They pick each other up. Various players have played key roles in victories, whether stars or bench guys. The recipe has been mixed appropriately. I look forward to more good play in the second half.
I will feel better about good play in the playoffs with a new third starter.

One last thing, I read today where Joel Sherman had a little story in The Post about how the Mets should go after Willis, with some quotes from Billy Wagner. The way the story was written, Joel appeared to put some words in Billy's mouth about who should be traded. That bothered me a bit, but what really annoyed me was the fundamental error in the story. Joel feels that the Mets should trade whoever is necessary to get Willis now, including Milledge or Pelfrey. Now, if it took Milledge, I would not be too upset (though I think Lastings will be a good player), but Joel should know that Pelfrey CANNOT BE TRADED UNTIL JANUARY 2007. A drafted player cannot be traded until he has been under contract for a year, and Mike signed in January 2006. For pete's sake, this guy is a professional sports writer, covering baseball, and he advocates trading a guy who under MLB rules cannot be traded. The Post, once again, takes a credibility hit. Stuff like this annoys me to no end. Now, I'm not perfect, and I may mispost a stat or make an error from time to time (though I will try my best to avoid/minimize them), but I am a fan, not a professional. Joel is a pro, and should know better.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Timing is Everything

I did not get to see a lot of todays game. The reason is my oldest daughter turned 6 today, so we had people over and errands to run. I did listen to a little of the game on the radio in the car, and heard Chad Bradford allow an inherited runner to score. I was upset, but it was bound to happen. He had only allow 3 of 31 inherited runners to score before today. This was bad timing.

Later, I had the cahnce to turn on the game on TV for an update. I turned it on in the bottom of the 8th, two runners on, and David "The Prince" Wright at the plate. I saw one pitch, which David promptly deposited into the picnic bleachers for a 7-5 lead. Man, I have good timing.

As I mentioned earlier, my oldest daughter turned 6 today. She was born on 7/9/00. As all Met fans know, 7/8/00 was the night Roger Clemens went all roid rage on Mike Piazza, and hit him in the head. The wife and I were watching the game. Within a half an hour, her water broke, and the next moring, our first daughter was born. Timing, as the headline reads, is everything.

Alas, I did not get to see Mike Pelfrey's first start live, the wife and I had a night out. I did DVR it, and plan to watch and opine in the next few days. The All Star Break is a good time. Based on what I read, it appears he did OK for a first time out.

For the Islander fans who are interested, Monday or Tuesday will have a posting on what Neil Smith has done so far. I am NOT very happy about Tom Poti.

Note to David Wright, ask Jose Lima to be your HR Derby pitcher. He needs the work.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Well, that sucked

As we suspected, Lima Time! was the wrong time. 7 runs in 4 innings, including a Grand Slam to the D-Train. Pitiful. Thankfully, he was DFA'd after the game, making room for Pelfrey. May he never darken the thoughts of Met fans again. If he does, I will start the letter writing campaign to Omar. Lima is done, finished, kaput. Put him (and we fans) out of our respective misery.

The good news last night was, well, not too much. A couple of things spring to mind. For one, Darren Oliver with 5 shutout innings out of the pen. This guy has been fantastic in that role. He gives the team a chance to come back, which they tried last night.

Another bright spot, Xavier Nady with 2 doubles. Xavier has been warming up a tad. Interestingly, it follows a wrist injury. Perhaps the injury is doing for him what a hand/wrist injury did for Jose Reyes. When Reyes hurt his, Willie noted it would force him to shorten his swing. Jose heated up, raising his average 50 odd points, winning back to back POTW awards and having a 13 game hit streak. If Nady does half of that, we as fans would be lucky.

The other good news was the debut of Henry Owens. Wow. Talk about heat, or as Keith called it, "Cheddar Cheese". If he can get that slider over (he did not last night), he will be deadly out of the pen. Perhaps he will get some work the next couple of weeks, so that Omar can determine if he is a replacement for Heilman. Nice debut for the 27 year old "kid".

Speaking of El Rapido, Reyes received 7 stitches to close a cut in his pinky. He is out the rest of the weekend, and possibly the ASG. I feel for him having to miss the game (and feel for my fantasy team, which will miss him). The first one is the best they all say. At the same time, at least he can now rest up for the second half.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Pain before Pleasure

No, this is not a post about a modest three game winning streak against the Pirates. Yes, I am happy about it, especially the way the offense has begun to put some runs on the board again, and David Wright last night appeared to be back in form (though David needs to run at the crack of the bat. That double last night could have been an out, he barely made it.) Nice opposite field home run by The Prince.

No, Pain before Pleasure is about the pitching for this weekend, the next two days in particular. Now, I am quite happy with Pedro going on the DL, I called for this earlier this week. Why push it when the team has a nice double digit lead in a division that is frankly awful? Plus, with the All Star Game next week, there is already built in time off, plus Pedro does not have to listen to the usual BS about his not going to the game (though he claims he wanted to go, all who are fans know he is simply saving face. Pedro hates the ASG, and prefers to take a few days off).

I am on the other hand not looking forward to the Pain we are going to have to endure having Lima Time! on the mound this evening. He was quite atrocious the first time around. I do not care if he had thrown 3 no-hitters and 2 other shutouts in Norfolk since he was jettisoned (which he did not even come close to doing mind you), the man simply does not belong in a major league rotation. His best days (and they were quite few) have passed him by. To top it off, the team had the audacity to give him Keith Hernandez' # 17 the last time around. This is a number that shold be retired, but failing that, should be held for someone who can either realistically or potentially live up to the legacy. Lima Time! has not chance of doing this. I fully expect a shellacking this evening, even facing the AAAA team that is the Marlins. Miguel Cabrera is a very good hitter, and Mike Jacobs is bouncing back from a terrible first month and a half of the season. The potential is there for the Marlins to put up a high crooked number.

The Mets alas must face the D-Train. Willis is 3-0 at Shea in his career. The Mets did beat him earlier this season, and won one other start he made but did not factor in the decision. Willis had a strong June, going 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA. Considering the funk the Mets lineup has been in as of late, and the fact that he is a lefty, there could be trouble tonight. Pain aplenty.

The Pleasure will be seeing the debut of Mike Pelfrey tomorrow in one of the game of the double-header. The opener is on FOX TV, so it will be interesting to see if Willie decides to check out how Pelfrey reacts to the big stage in his first start. Scouts think that if he is able to spot his fastball, and get the calls on the black, he could do well, despite not having another Plus pitch. Personally, I say throw the kid out there now. While Omar is saying this is a test, it may well be that he is needed as the #3 starter in the playoffs. Now, a Saturday game on Fox against the Marlins in July is not the same as a playoff game, there is sure to be hype in the NY press. Let's see how he reacts. My hope, as I expressed earlier this week, is that expectations are not too high among the fans, and they do not expect the kid to be lights out the first time out.

Billy Wagner has spoken about the Phillies again, this time to Jon Heyman of SI (formerly Newsday), on the topic of the Phillies. Country Time feels that Gillick should break up the Phillies, saying that there is no leadership and little heart. He also stated that the team has a lot of talent. Now, Billy is an honest man, and not the type to "no comment" a question. I think part of the issue here is the reaction to his comments last year, where a couple of Phillies called him out, with a spillover to early this season prior to the Mets first visit to Shea South. However, Billy quite frankly should have told Heyman "They have a lot of talent, I'm not sure what is wrong. I am now a Met, and wish my former teammates well, so long as they are not playing us." End of story. Speaking up again is not going to win him any friends over there (not that he needs any) and is only going to pump up the hype for later this season, with 10 games against the Phils in August (6 home, 4 at home away from home). Hopefully, nothing in the way of a beaning occurs. Should it happen, well, I hope the Mets react appropriately.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Noble El Duque of New York

He struck out seven men
He confused them by changing speeds
And pitched real well again

Wow, when you have two little kids, the darndest songs stick in your head.
Pardon me while I jab a Q-Tip into each ear.

Anyway, El Duque pitched another gem last night. Retired 8 in a row after throwing 6 straight balls to open the game (Remember the Strike Zone!). Final line, 7 innings, 4 hits, 2 BB, 7 K's and 107 pitches. Chad Bradford and Duaner "Filthy" Sanchez finished it up.

Now of course, there will be those who say "It was only the Pirates" How quickly they forget that these same Pirates:
1. Knocked the snot out of Glavine and Heilman the day before
2. Had scored 6 runs in 6 straight games.

The man was on. Throwing that 56 MPH curve for strikes. Changing speeds at will, like having the ball on a string.

The lineup, after a hot start, fell asleep for 7 innings. No hits after the first guys? Not good. Cripes, Kip Wells' ERA actually dropped a run.

For all the Sturm und Drang after last weeks debacle in Boston and the losses in the Bronx and the ensuing loss to the Pirates Monday, the Mets are still 11.5 games ahead. Meanwhile, Boston has slumped a tad, and the Yankees lost two in a row to the Indians (including a 19-1 spanking on Tuesday, Happy Birthday Boss) .

I saw this morning where Larry Brooks of the Post is calling for Mike Pelfrey to make a start this weekend. Now, Larry knows hockey (though I can't stand his constant belittling of the Islanders and lap-dog obedience to the Rangers), but he made some valid points. Of course, he then did what I feared, raising expectations for the kid by calling him "Can't Miss Kid Pelfrey". Of course Larry only looked at Pelfrey's obvious numbers, Wins and Losses and ERA, and ignores his lack of a Plus pitch beyond his fastball. Basically, with the nickname, Larry has set the kid up to fail if he does not dominate right out of the box.

Steve "CY" Trachsel is on the mound tonight. The opponent, Tom Gorzelanny, making his second start this season. Gorzelanny went 5 innings last time out, 6 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks and 6 K's, and threw 100 pitches with a no decision. Of course, given that he is new, the Mets will swing at the first pitch all night. Game planning guys. Darling mentioned this last night in talking about the Pirates approach to Glavine on Tuesday. I hope Rick Down was listening.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Now NOT Starting for the Mets...

Well, the easy answer would be Lima Time! In no way shape or form should he be a part of the rotation, bullpen, or the batting practice squad. Well, maybe the latter, so the guys could get some experience actually hitting a piss poor pitcher.

No, the answer fans is Aaron Heilman. The drums are beating, saying he can be the answer to all that ails the rotation. Mind you, this is the same Heilman who has not been as automatic in the pen as of late as he was towards the end of last year. He is falling behind in the count (remember the strike zone), hitting batters, and generally not as effective against lefties as he was last season.

If we can all go back in time to last season, we can see why he was moved to the pen in the first place. He has a couple of nice starts, but for the most part, Aaron was able to go through the lineup twice, maybe three times before he started to falter. Teams were able to figure out his pitches, as he lacks a multiple of "Plus" weapons. Upon moving to the pen, where he rarely would face the same hitter twice, he excelled, as the opposition was not used to his stuff.

Now, in the offseason, there were reports that he wished to be traded if he was not going to start. Omar traded Seo for Duaner "Filthy" Sanchez, and Kris Benson and his hag for John Maine and Jorge Julio. The path to the rotation appeared clear. Until Brian Bannister had a most impressive spring, and Julio continued to be the same Jorge Julio as the past couple of years. The Mets decided Aaron was of more value to the TEAM in the pen.

We are now in July. Aaron has remained a part of the pen. As a result, his arm is now conditioned for short outings, not the 100 + pitches a starter is required to throw. Putting him in the rotation this coming weekend is a recipe for a bullpen by committee game, with every arm being used. Of course, having to play a double-header is only going to exacerbate the issue. Of course, using Heilman removes the option of using him late in the game for that game, as well as the games for a couple of days before, and the day after.

Having already gone on record as being against more Lima Time!, the options are limited. There are two holes to fill this weekend, Pedro's start on Friday, and the other game on Saturday. Darren Oliver could fill in the role, but at best we are looking at 5 innings. With Maine going in one game this weekend, and Trachsel pitching Thursday, the pen is sure to be taxed. The last thing needed is to pull another guy out of the pen, in addition to Oliver. Hence, Heilman should stay put.

The option for Friday is Pelfrey. Now, I am not thrilled with the prospect for two reasons. For one, he lacks another Plus pitch in addition to his fastball, a possible recipe for disaster in the bigs. But, my hope is that for once, the Mets can be the beneficiary of throwing a rookie against another team, rather than falling to one. My second concern is also that should he fail, fans will turn on him as many have turned on Lastings Milledge. We are a fickle group, we Met fans, and eat our young quite quickly if they are not instant stars.

Tonight, the Pirates again. El Duque vs. Kip Wells. Time to hit the ball boys. Wells has a 2.53 WHIP and a 15.19 ERA. Patience guys, patience. Wait him out, up his pitch count. Mr. Delgado, time to get hot, the lineup needs you.

Remember when...

The Mets used to get hits with RISP?

When runs came in bunches?

When walks were taken?

As of late, the lineup appears to have forgotten how to work a pitcher, and approaches at bats with RISP as if facing Nosferatu without benefit of holy water. Yes, there have been notable exceptions (the beating placed on The Big Eunuch the other night being oh so notable). For the most part, since returning from the 9-1 road trip, the lineup has struggled.

Now, they have faced a few top pitchers in that time, Halladay, Beckett, Schilling, Mussina. But they have also faced the likes of Joe Mays, Jaret Wright, Paul Maholm, and a myriad of bullpens that make last season’s Mets bullpen look quite good. The showings against the stars are to be somewhat expected. The showings against the likes of Mays are disturbing.

Now, earlier in the season, a similar stretch occurred. After starting out smoking hot (with the exception of Cliff Floyd), the boys began to wilt. David “The Prince of NY” Wright, and Jose Reyes have had their ups and downs. Wright, though he was Player of the Month for June, had an awful last week, particularly in the Boston and Yankee series’. Reyes had a 13 game hit streak come to an end in Boston, and saw his average dip below 300. Carlos Beltran has been consistent for the most part, helping to erase the memory of last season, and turning the boos off. Xavier Nady seems to freeze when faced with RISP, or a fly ball hit in his general direction.

Those who have read my comments on other boards know where I am going with this. In my opinion, the fault should be laid at the feet of Rick Down. The function of the batting coach is to formulate a game plan for the lineup, and to work with those who are slumping. IMHO, he is not doing a consistent job in either facet of his role.

Game planning has been non-existent. We all know that the Mets do poorly when faced with either a rookie, or someone they have not seen before. Now part of the fault for this can be laid on the scouts, who are not providing the information the players need. However, if you are not familiar with a pitcher, what the hell are you doing swinging at the first pitch? Where is the patience? My rant from yesterday bemoaned the high pitch counts the Met starters are putting up. The same however, cannot be said of the opposition. Bronson Arroyo threw a complete game with 110 pitches. Guys were swinging at the first or second pitch all game long. It seems to me that if you do not know what you are facing, take the time to learn what he is throwing, take a couple of pitches. It will not only help you, but the guys behind you as well. The hitting coach should be telling these guys to take pitches.

It is not only game planning that is lacking, it is in game awareness of a situation. A Met pitcher has a 10 pitch at bat, and either makes an out, or gets on base. This is inevitably followed by Jose Reyes swinging at the first pitch. He needs to learn that he needs to take a couple of pitches to allow HIS pitcher a rest. You never know, you might even earn a walk Jose.

Reading the papers this morning, I see Willie has noted the same annoyance with a lack of patience. That is good, and it is about time. My hope is that he tells Down to talk to these guys about the importance of waiting a pitcher out. Not only will you possibly get a better pitch to hit if he falls behind in the count, but you also allow his pitch count to grow, increasing the chance you can get to the bullpen that much sooner.

Ah, poor George had his birthday ruined yesterday, a 19-1 manhandling of the Yanks by the Indians. Darth Marc must be perturbed.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Tale of Two GM's...

There are two GM’s. One is new to his job. The other, has been around for a while. Both are faced with issues relating to deficient areas on their teams. These are important areas which will determine how their teams perform not only in the regular season, but in the playoffs as well. Both GM’s have their supporters and detractors.

GM #1, in order to firm up his deficient area, acquires a veteran player, who is very good at his position. The skeptics should be quite happy with this acquisition. The deficient area has been greatly improved.

The other GM decides to add to his deficient area a veteran, who is not only not very good at his position, but is hated by the fans. The player should have retired at the end of last season. His time as it were, is up.

GM #1 is Neil Smith, who acquired Brendan Witt. I am quite pleased with this signing. If Neil keeps this up, I may actually have to accept him as GM of the Islanders.

GM #2 is Omar Minaya. Now, I have no idea what the hell he is thinking bringing back Jose Lima. “Lima Time” is quite awful; he proved this earlier in the season in limited action. The action was mostly limited by the fact that he could not get guys out or throw strikes (see my post from earlier today).

Fans are quite upset about this. Some feel Lima’s antics are a distraction. Frankly, I do not think the players give a rat’s ass if he came into the clubhouse with his head shaved clean and wearing a nose ring. My worry is that any game he starts is basically a forfeit. Lima is not good, he is not even mediocre. He is, quite simply, awful.

I am annoyed about Lima for two main reasons. First, the man is wearing # 17. There is no way this embarrassment should be wearing #17. The number should be retired in my mind, or at the least given to someone with talent. Second, what does it say to the young guys on the farm, like McClane, who have pitched well, and yet are passed over in favor of this waste.

There are those who feel Heilman is the answer. I would not mind him, but he is not the answer, he is a # 4 at best. This team needs a # 3. Also, they are well past the time to have Heilman in the rotation. His arm needs to be stretched, and that takes time. Though I did notice he pitched 2 innings again today, throwing 60 odd pitches. However, I would prefer, and I am sure Omar and Willie are thinking the same way, not to mess up the pen unless absolutely necessary.

Omar, my hope is that you have something brewing which will help this team. The Pedro injury is worrisome. Please hold him out until the end of next week. However, something needs to be done about the rotation.

Remember the...

Strike Zone.

You thought I was going to say Maine, didn't you?

No, today's topic is the strike zone, and the inability of Met pitchers to find it, particularly of late. Of course, the biggest offender this season has been Billy Wagner. But this is an issue for all members of the staff.

On Sunday, we had Alay Soler, who for some reason known only to him refused to throw a strike with a 4 run lead. Of course, Heath Bell was able to find the strike zone, but the problem was, good hitters will hit straight pitches all the time, and Heath throws a very straight ball.

Last night, to my surprise, John Maine was remembered (there, I finally used the pun), and recalled from Norfolk, while Mr. Soler was bid a fond adios. For a few innings, he was fine, alas, the fifth was his undoing. He was followed by Mr. Oliver, who did his normal fine job. Alas, the same can not be said of MR. Bradford and MR. Feliciano.

Memo to Rick Petersen, time to talk to these guys about throwing strikes. Walks are killers, as are high pitch counts. Falling behind in the count is upping pitch counts, so starters are being pulled after 6 innings. The bullpen is being overworked. Plus, scouts from other teams are better able to pick up tendencies of the pen, allowing opponents an edge.

Tomorrow, a rant on the lineup, which is asleep right now.

Thanks to all who have commented on my posts thus far. I appreciate the support and hope to be able to keep it up.

Beezermess - I agree on JD, and look forward to your Ranger blog.

Darth Marc- thank you for the link and mention. I do hope you recall that in the end, the rebellion won.