Friday, September 29, 2006

It's Over (NOT!)

"It ain't over till it's over" - the beloved Yogi

"Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! " - John "Bluto" Blutarsky

"You Gotta Believe" - the late, great Tug.

"Fuck it, I have faith in this team" - Ed

So now the fears have been confirmed, Pedro is out, not just for the NLDS, but the entire postseason. It appears that he tore a tendon in his left calf, the one that was not hurt recently. So now, the schadenfreude can begin amongst fans of the other NL teams, and certain AL teams I am sure. Met fans of course are upset, some taking it in stride, while others will call for an end to Pedro as a Met (trust me, there were posts to this effect on certain other blogs).

As for me, I look at this is the continuation of how this team has played since July. Pedro has started a handful of games since then, a few good, but the last few, poor. His leg gave out, not his arm, so all the talk about how the contract was too long (and you know that is coming) is stupid. Most Met fans hoped that they would get 3 years at the most out of him. Guess what, there are still 2 years left on the deal. As one guy on Metsgeek put it last night, while it hurts for the postseason, this will allow Pedro to rest and begin his normal offseason routine on time. Remember, he entered this season without having done so, due to the toe injury.

El Duque has done well for this team. Glavine has pitched well since his clot scare. Trax has the ability to pitch a good game, as he did in the clincher. John Maine has heat, and he has shown good potential. The bullpen has gotten the job done all year. The loss of Pedro does not impact any of this. Does it hurt, sure, but he has no impact on the lineup. If those guys start hitting again (and there were signs last night of awakening), they can put enough runs on the board to cover for a poor start by a pitcher.

This is still the same team that ran roughshod over the teams that they could potentially face in the first round, doing so without Pedro. This is the same team that has a great pitching coach in The Jacket. Willie is still the manager. The young guys, Reyes and Wright, are hungry. They want to do well. Beltran shone the last time he was in the playoffs. You think Delgado is not loving the fact he will be in the playoffs for the first time? Same for PLD. As for the pitchers, you think they are not going to have a chip on their shoulders with everyone writing the Mets off without Pedro? I'm sure it's pissing off Glavine a bit. Duque as well. Trax knows he is pitching for a contract, and Maine for a slot next season. This team was built as a unit, it is not Pedro only.

Call me optimistic. Say I am wearing rose colored glasses. That's fine. I am a Met fan. This team has been through worse. Look at 86. Who was the best starter in the playoffs? It wasn't Doc, the ace of the staff. It was Bobby Ojeda, the #3 guy. One or more of the other starters is going to step up, I know this. The MVP was Ray Knight, not exactly the star on the team that year. Sometimes it is an unlikely guy that take the reigns and leads the charge.

So jump off the bandwagon if you must. Fine by me, leaves more room for those who Believe.

"And it ain't over now. 'Cause when the goin' gets tough... the tough get goin'! Who's with me? Let's go!" - Bluto

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Maine Man

I've got good news for some, bad news for some others, and awful news for all of us.

The awful news as you might expect is that Pedro was shelled last night. It appears that he is not going to be able to go in the first round at the least. Unless something changes in the short term, he may not be available at all in the playoffs.

The bad news is that Steve Trachsel is guaranteed a spot in the rotation for the playoffs, as Willie stated prior to last nights game. This is bad news for only the portion of Met fans who hoped he would be left off of the roster.

The good news is also for a portion of the fan base. At this point, it appears that John Maine is poised to get a start in the first round, assuming the series goes at least 4 games.

What can I say about last night? I can't gloss over how awful Pedro looked. He was struggling. While he hit the mid 80's with his fastball, his breaking stuff was up and hanging. I had hoped that last night would see further progress in his rehab, but we did not. At this point, there appears to be very little chance of Pedro pitching in the first round. He cannot be counted on to get the job done. Pedro has made fools out of people who counted him out in the past, and I hope that will be the case here, but his own words cast doubt on that being possible. Willie said after the game that Pedro said he could not get the calf loose. We all know that a pitcher needs to be able to use his legs, especially a slight guy like Pedro, who does not have bulk to help compensate for an inability to push off.

So the rotation for the first round appears to be this
Game 1 - El Duque
Game 2 - Glavine
Game 3 - Trax
Game 4 - Maine

Really, what other option is there besides Maine? Dave Williams did a nice job, but he is too similar to the other starters, in other words, a junk-ball pitcher. Mike Pelfrey is not ready. Oliver Perez, no chance in hell. So that leaves Maine.

Maine can now prove all those who doubted the trade of this guy for him and Jorge Julio wrong. He has had his ups and downs, but now is his time to shine. He had a few good starts, and I think he has the skills to get the job done again. Mr. Maine, sit down with The Jacket. Sit down with the other starters who have been to the playoffs before. Find out what it will be like. This is your chance to not only remove the trade from people's memories, but to solidify your spot in the rotation next year. Not only that, you have the chance to go down in Met lore as a winning playoff pitcher.

Other notes from last night - nice to see Delgado take the ball the other way against the shift. He may not have done it on purpose, but he did it. Do it a couple of more times, and teams may rethink the overshift, making your life easier. Humber and Bannister pitched well in an inning apiece.

As for the rest of the lineup, they should be embarressed. The whole team should be. Giving up 25 runs to the Braves is unacceptable. This is a team that had a poor year, lost their hold on the division, but is still treating the Mets like a minor league team. Larry Jones, who is playing hurt, showed drive last night, taking out Jose Valentin on a possible double play. Now, I hate Larry, but I respect his drive. I want to see that drive from this team. A few weeks ago, we were lauding Willie for his ability to have the team play hard, even though the division was all but wrapped up. We are not hearing any of that now. Thinking they can turn it on once October 3 comes is foolhardy. I know, there are teams that have had big winning streaks at the end of the season who have failed in the playoffs, and teams who skidded at the end who did well. Those are exceptions. For the most part, teams who have played well coming into the playoffs continue to play well once they begin.

Rest time is over. Time to play hard and get ready for next week. Get some revenge tonight for the pastings over the past couple of days. At the start of the season, I stated that winning 6 of every 10 would be enough for 96 wins and a playoff spot. . They got the playoff spot, but the 96 wins appears out of reach at this point.

This may sound defeatist, but it is not. It is concern, concern which is justified by poor play over the past couple of weeks. I know this team has the talent to do well in the playoffs, even without Pedro. I just want to see it happen.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Is the Finger Poised...

Over the panic button? For me, not quite, but it is getting close.

I know, I know, they are playing out the string. But seriously, the past 12 games, have been UGLY. We are talking about a team that ran roughshod over the NL for the better part of the season suddenly not being able to hit. Lets look at the numbers, shall we?

3 losses to the Pirates
2 - 2 against the Marlins
1 - 3 against the Nats
Last night, a 12-0 thrashing at Turner Field.
The ERA over the past 12 games is 4.73. The batting average is .244.
For the season, the ERA is 4.15 and the batting average is .264.

Now, as Metstradamus pointed out today, most of the pitching damage (I mean you Oliver Perez) has been done by guys who will not be on the post-season roster. However, there are questions about 2 of the 4 starters as we get set for the NLDS. Pedro, we know all about his issues. Then there is Trax, who after pitching a gem in the clincher, has had 2 bad outings.

Think about this for a second. Game 1, if Pedro is pushed back, could be started by El Duque. Game 2 would then be Glavine, with Pedro pitching Game 3 and Trax game 4 (if necessary). Now, I like Trax a bit, but I really won't be all that comfortable with him being on the mound if they are down 2-1 going into game 4. If that is the case, he better bring his A+ game, or a lot of fans are going to be looking to drive him to the airport. Game 5 would be El Duque again. On the other hand, the pen will be stacked enough where they should be able to survive any pitching blips in the first round.

My main concern is the lineup. The bats have been quiet. The Carlos' have been slumping, Wright has his moments, but they are a bit less frequent of late, Green has been slumping, and Floyd, well, Uncle Cliffy has had a hard time of it this year. I don't care how well the pitchers do, if the bats stay silent, this thing could be over quick. Leaving 8 guys on base last night against Smoltz is not a way to prepare yourself for facing good starting pitching in the playoffs. Now, a couple of weeks ago, it looked like they would face either The Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles, or the San Diego Padres. Now, though, St. Louis is slumping, so they could be the first round opponent, or, should they continue to falter, Houston could be the opponent (if Philly wins the WC). Houston has a rotation that is scary good. Oswalt has been on fire, Pettitte has pitched well, and Clemens, well, you never know if he is going to throw a ball or some other object at someone. The only saving grace is that Houston has hit as well all season as the Mets have the past 12 games, in other words, poorly.

The time for rest is over. The A Lineup needs to play it out. Everyone has had the rest they will need. Now, they need to get the bats going. Call Jobu, sacrifice a chicken, sleep with your bats, I don't care. This team needs to start hitting. Tonight would be a good place to start.

Let's keep our fingers crossed for Pedro's health tonight.

Wally Matthews Update

To show that I can give credit when due, Wally wrote a nice piece yesterday on Jose Reyes being the MVP for the team. It is amazing how one day he can do a hatchet job, and then turn around and write a well thought out piece.

Still, while I can give credit, I hold a grudge. Wally has a lot of work to do to get back in my good graces. While he is not in Larry Brooks territory with me, he is on the lower rung.

Fun with links

Ah, I see the more things change, the more they stay the same. Hope you are enjoying him Falcons fans.

Wah, wah, wah. You leave 10 guys on base, you can't bitch about a bad call.

Better. Now do it in the regular season OK?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wally Matthews - Class A A-Hole - Part 2

I want to thank Jessica at Chick's Dig the Pitchers Duel, for mentioning Wally Matthews story from yesterday on her blog (apologies to Jessica for mistakenly crediting someone else earlier for bringing the story up). I normally read Newsday on my way home, which is why this post was not up yesterday. Rest assured, had I read this in the AM, I would have written this then.

So Wally has done it again. A month or so after basically saying David Wright cold be using performance enhancers, yesterday, Wally decided it was time to take on Pedro Martinez, in an effort to boost Steve Trachsel. Now, I do not have an issue with trying to boost Trax. Frankly, if he gets a start in the first round, no problem from where I sit. I wouldn't mind Maine getting the start instead, but I am not going to get all twisted about Trax starting, he has done a good job this year, and, who knows, he could be Bobby Jones II.

No, my issue was with the way Wally wrote about Pedro. Here is an example

Martinez, on the other hand, is a temperamental diva who trains at his own pace and pitches when he feels like it. Last year, he shut it down early when the Mets were eliminated from the race. This year, he vacationed for much of August and now, despite two subpar comeback outings, finds his position at the head of the rotation waiting for him.

Well, this sounds suspiciously like the crap we used to hear about before Pedro came to NY. Now, lets examine the claims here a little more closely. Wally starts by saying last year Pedro "shut it down early". That is true, but the fact is that he had been pitching hurt, and the Mets had signed him to a 4 year contract. Should the organization have let him pitch, risking further injury, and destroying their investment? I think not.

Then we get to "This year he vacationed in August". Now, Wally apparently has not been reading his own paper. All year long Pedro has been fighting myriad of injuries. First, it was the toe. Then, he hurt his hip in Florida. Now, he hurt his calf. Now, maybe Wally doesn't realize this, but a pitcher needs his legs to be strong in order to be able to do his job. When you cannot push off, you cannot be effective. Perhaps Wally should see Pedro's start in Philly when he was knocked around the day the calf first started hurting. Everyone in NY, with the exception of Wally, realizes that the Mets post-season hopes rest on the entire rotation, including Pedro being healthy. Does he really think teams are quivering at the sight of Trax on the mound?

Wally took exception to the following quote from Pedro, given on Sunday "You guys are 50 vultures and I'm one dead, skinny raccoon." Given the story that Wally wrote, can you blame Pedro? I certainly can't. Every day he gets asked the same question. Every day, he gives the same answer. The media continues to pry and try to get the hot quote from him. Just shut the hell up, and let the guy rehab. If he is ready, he will be ready. If he is not, then he is not. This injury is not something that is going to magically heal overnight.

I'm not sure if Wally is just a closet Yankee fan trying to piss Pedro off or if he is trying to make the case that Steve Trachsel deserves a postseason start more than Pedro. LIke I wrote above, Steve can start, that is fine. But to try to say he is more deserving than Pedro because he has 15 wins is nuts. You want to know the reason why Pedro has a slot Wally? It's because any time out there he has the chance to dominate. You want to know why Trax is not guaranteed a spot? Because any time out there he can be dominated.

I'm getting a little sick and tired of the anti-Met slant of some members of the media. The Post ran with the PLD divorce/girlfriend story. Wally has taken shots at the Mets. His Pompousness and the Hyena take at least a day a week to slam the team. Tell me Fat Boy, where was the questioning of the Yankees celebrating after they clinched, after a loss no less? It was OK to bash the Mets, but not the Yanks guys? We got 1 day of stories out of the whole A-Rod thing, but a week over PLD, with a lot of unsubstantiated claims thrown in for good measure.

You know, considering the Mets won the division for the first time in 18 years, the continued maturing of Jose Reyes and David Wright, the comeback season of Carlos Beltran, and the surprises that are Endy Chavez and Jose Valentin, I should be a lot happier right now. Too bad the media can't let me enjoy it more. Am I being a little sensitive on this? Maybe. But the last thing I want is a Pedro pissed off at the media, because if he mouths off about it, every single paper will have a negative story about him.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"Not Ugly, Not Great, Just so-so"

The above quote was uttered by:
1. Eric Mangini after the Jets win against Buffalo yesterday
2. Steve Tracshel after the Mets loss yesterday
3. Bill Clinton, while discussing his latest intern

That quote definitely fit 1 and 2 above, and who knows, may have fit #3 as well (based on his track record, probably a good guess.) The winner is Tracshel, who gave that critique of his outing yesterday. Steve was Steve, 5 innings, 3 runs, 8 hits, 3 walks and a strikeout. In other words, his usual outing.

The concern on my part is not with Trax, he will give what he has. Three runs is usually not insurmountable. However, the way the Mets have been hitting of late, it is. Carlos Delgado has 32 rbi in his last 30 games, a nice number, but, they come in bunches, as Howie said yesterday on WFAN. It is vital that Carlos start hitting before next week. Carlos Uno is sitting out with a tight quad. Better he does so now, rather than injure it more and be hobbled in the playoffs. They need all facets of his game, including his legs, to be ready. David Wright woke up Saturday, with a 3 run HR amid a 3 - 5 day. PLD went yard Saturday as well. The bottom line for the Mets is this, no matter what the starters do on the mound, if the bats are asleep, the playoffs will be over very quickly. Rick Down needs to work with these guys, now. The inconsistency has to stop before it does damage.

Nice to see Phil Humber get out there yesterday. Good reward for a guy who came back from Tommy John surgery. Nice for the fans to get to see a glimpse of the future.

Good thoughts for Nick Johnson, man, that collision was ugly. Further good thoughts for Chris Simms. Having your spleen removed is no small thing.

As for the Jets, what can I say? Who would have thought they would be 2-1 after 3 games? Not I, that's for sure. Now, they are tied for 1st, but given the next couple of games, against Indy and Jacksonville, they may not stay there for long. But for now, bask in it fans, it sure feels nice.

Chad was not a world-beater yesterday, failing to hit the 300 yard mark, actually, the 200 yard mark. But he made the right throws, and did not give up the ball. He had a key first down on the final scoring drive, on a sneak. Nice to see him playing without fear. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, these guys want to play for him, and it shows. Coles played despite a sore calf, and had 10 catches for 78 yards, continuing a nice start to the season. The running game was basically dead, though Cedric Houston had 2 nice 5 yard carries on the last TD drive, including the score.

On the other side of the ball, they bent (boy, did they bend) but did not break. You can do that against JP Losman. Nice dying quail at the end of the 3rd quarter JP. And hey, what's that noise behind you JP? Oh, its Kerry Rhodes coming to get the ball again. Man, Rhodes is playing well. Taking advantage of the plays the defense is calling. Willis McGahee may be a great runner, but he can't block a lick. As for Hobson's TD on the fumble return, if Dick Jauron is not going to ask for a review, too bad. The defense though will have its work cut out for them against Peyton next week. Let's see how they respond.

Odd's and End's

Nice to see this guy is up to his old tricks

Nice to see this one sticks the knife into other fans hearts not just Met fans

This guy better start earning his new contract, or else it is going to be a long 15 years.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fret Not Fans

So last night, we saw the second start of Pedro's late summer spring training. After Friday night's display, fans were concerned that he was not ready, and that the Mets would be in trouble in the playoffs. So many were hoping that last night would see Pedro dominate. For a little while at least, he did.

Four innings of no-hit ball. Five strikeouts. Not a bad way to start. Not a lot in the way of speed, but Pedro's control was much better, and he had his off-speed stuff working well. In the fifth, he tired, allowing a couple of hits, hitting a batter to load the bases, and finally allowing 4 runs, 3 earned. Final line, 5 innings, 7 k's, 1 bb, 4 runs, 3 earned. So, some improvement.

So the question remains, should Met fans be worried about Pedro? He has missed significant time this year due to injuries (which was a fear when he was signed for 4 years prior to 2005). The bad side of this is that he is not in peak form as they head to October. The good side is that Pedro has tired late in the season the past couple of years, so this time off could be a blessing. The thing is this, he is using these last 3 starts as Spring Training in a way. He did not make any rehab starts, he is in effect doing his rehab with the Mets. He threw 68 pitches on Friday, and threw 87 last night. He is doing his side work to get his arm strength back. The key is for him to get his arm back and his control. These games now mean nothing, the division is clinched, Home Field is in the bag as well (damn you Trevor Hoffman). The man is a competitor, once the bell rings, he will give it all he has. Let's take a little trip down memory lane, shall we.

In 1999, the Sox were facing the Indians in the ALDS. Pedro started Game 1, and went 4 innings, leaving with some soreness. The Sox went on to lose the game 3-2. They also lost game 2, but won games 3 and 4. It all came down to a deciding game 5. Bret Saberhagen started for the Sox in Cleveland, and lasted little more than 1 inning. Derek Lowe came in, and pitched the 2nd and 3rd. Boston tied the game at 8 in the top of the 4th, and in the bottom of the 4th, Pedro came in. He proceeded to pitch the rest of the game, 6 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 3 bb's and 8 k's. Boston went on to win the game.

Now, I know that was 7 years ago, but lets go back to 2004. Boston is playing the Yanks. The Yanks are in the midst of the GREATEST CHOKE OF ALL TIME. After pitching well in games 2 and 5, during Game 7, with the Sox up big, Pedro asks in, at Yankee Stadium, where he is sure to be greeted with "Who's Your Daddy Chants". Now, he did not pitch great, giving up 2 runs in 1 inning of work, but the fact is that his team needed him, given the extra inning games that had depleted the Boston pen, and he took the ball. That's the type of guy he is.

Was I worried when I saw his reaction on Friday, a little. But at the same time, I understand it. He is a prideful man, who wanted nothing more I am sure, to be the man who pitched the clincher. He felt he let his team and the fans down, and he was upset that he was not where he wanted to be. Last night, he made progress. Wednesday, against Atlanta, he will make some more. Then, on October 3rd or 4th, he will give everything he has for his team and the fans.


Gang Green head up to the tundra in Buffalo Sunday. This will mark Chad's first game there since his first shoulder injury. It will be interesting to see how he performs in the rain and the wind, especially if Coles (calf injury) cannot go. The lack of a running game will hurt them badly if they can't get it going. The defense needs to keep Willis McGahee in check, which has not been easy the past few times these two teams have met. Stopping him will allow J.P. Losman to lose the game for the Bills. Buffalo is favored by 5 1/2. Now, I don't bet on the Jets (one of the lessons Dad taught me), but if I did, I would take them this week. I think the running game will get going, and the defense is going to stop McGahee. The running game will be key. Time to get moving guys.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


With the playoffs being a certainty, I am a lot calmer. I'm not quite sure what to do with myself, now that I do not have to dwell on each game and what the impact will be. As a result, posts here may be a little less frequent, and may cover more than just the Mets for the next couple of weeks, today's post being a case in point. Once the Playoffs start, back to normal.

Last night, the Mets, despite losing, clinched Home Field Advantage for the NLDS and NLCS. This is important, as any fan can tell you. Shea during the playoffs absolutely rocks. The fans act as not just the 26th man, but and extra 52,000 fans. You can have your St. Louis fans, or Boston fans, but the NY fan supports there team like no other. I don't care if you talk about baseball, football basketball or hockey, there is no place like a NY arena or stadium for a playoff game. Shea is loud, MSG is as well. Nassau Coliseum literally moves as the fans stomp their feet. The Meadowlands, with the wind and the fans is a vortex. Great environments for the home team all around.

Not much to say about last night, as I missed most of the game. I can say this, guys, I know it would be nice to have Dontrelle WIllis on the team next year, but making him happy by letting him hit 2 home runs and drive in 3 is not going to make a trade any easier. At least he wil not face the Mets in the first round. He absolutely owns this team, 11-2 all time, 5-0 at Shea.

Memo to Miguel Cabrera - STFU. Going into the opposing manager's press conference to talk smack about winning, and then sitting out the game? This guys got some testicular fortitude. If I was Miggy, I would think twice about digging in against Pedro today, assuming he shows enough sack to actually be in the lineup.

I see the other NY team clicnched the division last night and had a little celebration. I wonder if His Pompousass and the Hyena (I've changed his nickname. A hyena is a scavenger and laughs a lot, just like Russo) will have anythingt o say about it being too much. I saw the Big Eunich gave a champagne shower to the YES reporter. He must have loved that.

I'm a little torn about all the hooha over A-Rod in SI. Seems Giambi talked a little bit, as did A-Rod. On one hand, it makes me chuckle to hear teammates throw each other under the bus. A-Rod did it to Mussina, who was only the Yanks best pitcher for most of the season, and Giambi, who rebounded nicely from, what was it, oh, a pituitary gland issue or something totally unrelated to sticking needles into his ass. Giambi apparently told Torre to stop coddling A-Rod, and told A-Rod that he needed to start hitting, and proceeded to rip apart a few hit A-Rod talked about having in Boston. Now, I do not like the Yankees, so part of me is happy to see some turmoil.

The other part of me thinks this is so much BS. I have no doubt that guys on the Mets call each other out when they are slumping. That is what teammates do. The problem I have is that this is in a magazine. This type of stuff should have stayed in the clubhouse. By most accounts, the Yankees granted permission for Verducci to interview various players, but I have a hard time believing that Giambi, Torre or A-Rod gave up that Giambi stuff knowing it would be used in the story. The timing of the story is irksome as well, being so close to the end of the regular season. Just seems like piling on. Of course, the way the story is written shows the Yanks in turmoil, which could wind up being not the case. As I noted, guys call each other out in the clubhouse all the time. The stuff being reported is nothing new.

It was only a couple of months ago that I opened the Cafe. I don't pretend to be a journalist, I'm just a fan who is enjoying the season. I had no thought of starting this place until a couple of months ago. Last season, I started to frequent a couple of the blogs listed in the links, Faith & Fear, and Metsblog. During this past spring, I found Metsgeek and Metstradamus. It was while commenting there (and on a couple of other sites) that I started to get the idea to do something similar, to put my thoughts down. A couple of bloggers gave me some encouragement, and here I am. I hope that you are enjoying my slant on things. I know I'm enjoying writing them.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Same Stuff, Different Day

And so, on the day after, things went about as normal as usual. The "A- lineup" (per Willie) was used, with Julio Franco playing 3rd base and Michael Tucker playing first. The only "regular" was Tom Glavine, who pitched 8 solid innings, allowing 2 runs. Since they once again faced a lefty, the Mets were down 2-1 coming into the bottom of the eigth, but used a rally started by Anderson Hernandez (who earlier did something odd, homering for the first time in his major league career) to take a 3-2 lead. Billy Wagner closed it out, save #39 on the year. Same result, different day.

Interesting point about lefties that I read yesterday. The problem is not entirely with the lineup not being able to hit them it seems (while it would help of course). Met pitchers, in the past 20 starts against lefties, have an ERA over 7. I don't care who is facing the Mets, when your starters are putting up a large crooked number as an ERA, you are not going to win many games.

In other Same Stuff, Different Day news, Francessa and Russo (aka His Pompousass and the Screaming Ninny) had another show of Met bashing apparently. You see, each week on Tuesday, Paul Lo Duca does a call in show with mid-day host Joe Bennigno. Seems Paulie missed yesterdays show for some reason. His Pompousass and the Screaming Ninny went on the berate Paul for missing the spot, not understanding how he could do that. Apparently they called his agent, who had no idea where he was. Hey guys, I know where he was, at home, sleeping it off. Did these idiots not notice that the team won the division the night before? Did they maybe think that he had a late night?

Look, I'm not saying Paulie should get off scott free here. He has a contract, he should have at least called to say he would miss the spot, maybe offer to do it today instead. But once again, His Pompousass and the Screaming Ninny had an opening to bash the Mets, and took it. The whole schtick is getting tiresome. If anyone should be upset, it is Benigno, who's show PLD was supposed to be on. The other two idiots should have stayed out of it. But of course, they cannot. The Screaming Ninny should be more worried about his Giants, 20-8 losers to the Rockies on Monday night, the same Giants who last week he said the Mets don't want to face in the playoffs. Hey Doggie, they are DONE. Especially after last night's 12-4 ass-whooping. Oh, and your star rookie, Matt Cain, he took the loss, giving up 7 earned in 5.1 innings. Maybe Barry should share some of his stash with the rest of the team. As for His Pompousass, stick to talking about horses, the one thing you can do without pissing off a good portion of your audience.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Happy Recap

After waiting the weekend, not to mention 18 years, the Mets clinched the NL East last night, topping the Marlins 4-0. The crowd could be heard loud and proud over the airwaves. The anticipation started early, and was helped along as the scoreboard showed the Cubs dismantling the Phillies. At the end, Cliff Floyd secured the win (and kept the ball, Fred, let him have it). The celebration began, on the field, then in the clubhouse, then back out on the field, as the team went out and showered some fans behind the dugout with champagne and beer. Nice of them to do it, and what a rush for th fans themselves.

It has been a long road to return to this position. Fans know the history of late, the loss in the 2000 World Series, the Art Howe Error, various players coming with promise, only to fail. Last year, they showed progress. Omar brought in Pedro and Carlos B to start off. However, he was stuck with guys like Braden Looper, so the progress was not as good as it could have been. Still, there was a 24 game improvement from the year before, and we had something that had been lacking for quite a while - reasonable hope.

This year, Omar brought in more reinforcements, Wagner, Delgado, Lo Duca, Filthy. During the year, he filled in holes with Green, Mota and Roberto Hernandez. The youngsters stepped up, as Wright and Reyes made the All Star team, having breakout seasons. The Mets have owned first place since the 3rd game of the season. Its been a great ride for all.

It was perhaps fitting that Steve Trachsel pitched and won the clincher. I posted on Metsgeek yesterday that Steve would go 7, giving up 3 runs. While he missed the innings mark, he exceeded the expectations of runs allowed in the best way, allowing none. Steve has 15 wins on the season. He may have caused a run on Tums, but he got the job done.

This was a season of redemption for a few guys. Carlos Beltran for one more than made up for last year, putting up MVP Type numbers for most of the season. Jose Valentin, who most fans wanted to run out of town earlier in the year, took over 2nd base and has not looked back. Fitting for him to have 2 home runs last night. Many thought the idea of Lo Duca batting second was wrong, but it could not have been more right. He may never replace the power of Mike Piazza, but he has earned a place in fans hearts.

Then there is Willie. Say what you want about his decisions from time to time, but he has gotten the team far in less than 2 seasons. Everytime he trotted out the "B" lineup, it seems to have worked. How many starting pitchers has he had to put out there this season? The injury to Filthy? Wagner's blown saves? Heilman's poor first half (when compared to last season's second half). Having to use Lima Time! as a starter a few times? He may make us scratch our heads from time to time, but he is doing something right.

Today is a day for us to reflect on the season, and to enjoy the first step. There are two rounds of playoffs, then the World Series to look forward to. There is Pedro getting ready for those games. Meaningful October baseball is back in Queens. As is Hope.

Tonight, I would expect to see the B lineup. I'm not afraid of it anymore.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Still Waiting...

Well, both the Mets and Jets had issues this weekend. Let's start with the Jets.

Despite Chad Pennington throwing for over 300 yards for the second straight game (first time in his career), the Jets feel to the Patriots yesterday, 24-17. The New England Belichickens jumped out to a 24 - 0 lead, thanks to continued kicking game issues, this time punter Ben Graham, who shanked a punt late in the second quarter, the result being a 10 yard punt and a Patriots TD.

The running game, or lack thereof continues to hurt the Jets. Blaylock, Washington and Barlow combined for a total of 51 yards on 24 carries, 2.1 yards per carry. That is not going to get it done. Teams know that the Jets can't run, so they are going to come after Chad, hard, and make him beat them alone. While he has bounced up from each hit the last couple of games, how much longer can he be expected to do so?

The passing game looks good. Coles and Cotchery each had big plays on short passes. Coles used the stiff arm to good effect. These guys, assuming Chad is alive after the next game, could have a nice season. Talk all you want about Chad not having a powerful arm, as I wrote last week, he is smart, he gets the ball to the receiver. If they can break a couple of tackles, things can happen. The Jets rarely in their history have had guys like that, usually the receiver catches the ball and goes down. Nice to see these guys fighting for yards after the catch, and making things happen.

They had a chance at the end to tie it. Things looked bleak, as New England once again drove down the field, but a blocked field goal by Bryan Thomas (finally starting to play well after being a 1st rounder a few years ago) gave the Jets the ball. The Jets moved to their own 45 with 26 second left, but an interception at the NE 25 ended the drive and the game.

Still, based on the expectations coming into this season, the team should be proud. They played well the first game, and yesterday made a game of it when they could have given up. Nice to see the fight is there. It can translate into wins at some point.

Can someone explain to me why Eric Mangini feels the need to cover for Belicheck? Eric, the cord is cut, Belicheck snubbed you in front of 80,000 fans and many more at home yesterday. I don't want to hear that you are friends still. The man is an ass. He could have at least shook your hand. He insulted you, because his ego is more important to him than your getting an opportunity to be a head coach. Belichicken hates Woody Johnson. Woody signs your checks, not Bill. Send him a little love note saying "Dear Bill, GFY you Fat Bastard, your former friend Eric. PS: You don't like it, TFB."

As for the Mets, this weekend saw the appearance of SUCKME and leftitis. Toasty Joe coined SUCKME, which stands for Shaky Unknown Chuckers Kill the Mets Every time. Well, that is what has happened as of late, especially Friday and Saturday. Unknown lefties took the mound for the Pirates, and shut the Mets down. Yesterday, we saw Zach Duke, far from a SUCKME, as he is a known quantity. Yesterday was simply leftitis.

Now, a couple of weeks ago, I was not all that concerned about the Mets facing lefties. Some fans were concerned about the Padres getting David Wells, but not me, thinking its only one guy in a rotation. Since then, the Dodgers have thrown two unknowns, the Pirates threw 2 unknowns and 1 known. The Mets have gone down each time. I am not starting to worry. Even the players are making jokes, asking if Florida called up any lefties for tonight. Thankfully, no, they are throwing righty Moehler.

So the Mets now have an 8 game homestand where they can end the waiting and clinch the division. A word to fans who may be there when it happens. I know it's been a long wait, I've been with you every step of the way. But please, do not tear up the field. They have a game tomorrow. The groundscrew will have to patch it up. Do you want to be the person responsible for an outfielder hurting their leg stepping into a divot? I didn't think so. Scream your head off, go home, pop open a beer, and watch the highlights on the news. Keep your ticket stub. But don't rip up the turf. They need the field for another month plus. Let's show some control.

So, let's set the DVR or VCR for tonight. Keep the drink of choice on ice. Trax takes the mound. This is a chance for Steve to get the fans in his corner. If he gets the win tonight while pitching well, we fans may (I stress, may) forgive the past couple of poor outings. To be the guy on the mound when they end 18 years of waiting will get you a lot of love. Go get 'em Steve!

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

The Magic Number is now down to 1! After 18 long years, the Mets are on the verge of a division title. This season has been special, as the team has been in first place for all but 1 day in the first week of the season. The group Omar put together has gelled, behind Willie, a man who last year was the subject of some criticism. While there are still times Willie makes you scratch your head, it is hard to argue that he has done an excellent job this year. There was an influx of new players to start. Then, numerous injuries to the starting pitching staff, as well as the relief corp. But in the end, the team kept it together, and dominated not only the NL East, but the NL overall. Met fans can now enjoy a division title, one a long time coming.

As I've noted before, I've been a Met fan for some 30 years. I was born in the midst of the 1969 World Series, so in my life, the Mets are 2 - 2 in the WS, and have made the playoffs a total of 6 times. There has not been a stretch where the Mets have been the dominant team. In the early 80's, as the team began to emerge from the doldrums of the M. Donald Grant Error, the fanbase grew. There was a nice mix of veterans and youngsters, and the Mets made nice runs in 1984 and 1985, before finally breaking through in 1986. In 1987, injuries and suspensions hurt them, but 1988 saw another playoff appearance. That would be the last one until 11 years later, when in 1999 the Mets won the Wild Card. They repeated that in 2000, and made it to the WS, losing to the Yankees. We have waited another 6 years for an appearance, and, much like 86, they did it in style.

During the last 20 years since the Mets last won the Series, we fans have been witness to some truly awful teams and players. The early 90's were painful. The Art Howe (did he get the job) Error sucked. We have seen Jeff Torborg and Dallas Green in the dugout. We've had guys like Robbie Alomar all but spit on the ground at the thought of playing here. Worse, we've seen the other team in town make the playoffs for 10 straight seasons, winning several WS along the way, but also thankfully being the perpetrator of the BIGGEST CHOKE IN SPORTS HISTORY (you didn't think I was going to forget that now, did you?). We fans have suffered the slings and arrows of Yankee fans who could not name 3 players from the pre 1996 roster. Ask them who Luis Polinia or Mike Pagliarulo were, and you would get a blank stare.

We've suffered the jibes from Atlanta Braves players, like John Rocker, who insulted our fair city. Of Larry Jones, who uttered the biggest insult of all, telling Met fans to put on their Yankee shirts. Of Larry naming his daughter Shea. Of Alomar hating playing here. Of Mo Vaughn, well, being Mo Vaughn. Of various bad trades and bad free agent signings and draft picks not panning out. Of the media reveling in the latest Mets lost. Of the media, despite the fact the Mets were having an outstanding year, still feeling the escapades of various Yankee losers like Carl Pavano deserved back page coverage more than the latest Met comeback win. We've heard the snickers of "Pedro is playing with a bad arm. You bought all of your talent", while youngsters such as David Wright, Jose Reyes and Aaron Heilman, among others were conveniently forgotten. We've heard, "Well, it took a Yankee like Willie to teach you how to win, and you needed El Duque too", all while they forget about players such as Straw, Doc, Cone, Leiter, not to mention the manager, Joe Torre, who all came from the Mets and were integral parts of Yankee success.

Well, at some point in the next few days (perhaps, and hopefully as early as tonight, how sweet would it be for Pedro, who helped show that good players should sign with the Mets, to get the win), we fans will be able to exult along with the players, as the clinch the division. All the hard work the team has put in will bear fruit as they enter the postseason. For the fans part, all of the poor play, missed expectations, and various insults from all parties from the past 18 years can be forgotten, as we toast our NL East Champions. The waiting is indeed the hardest part, but it makes the winning that much sweeter. We can worry about who the opponent in the first round will be later. For now, we will enjoy the moment, and savor it.

Feel free to use the comments and tell me and the other readers how you feel about the pending clinching of the division.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Down to 2

Thanks to the Braves inability to play good baseball (read Matt Diaz unable to catch a simple fly ball, he made Manny look like a Gold Glover there), the counting shal be 2 for the Mets to clinch. The outcome last night looked to be in doubt in the 6th, as Josh Willingham continued to torture the Mets, hitting his 3rd Home Run of the series to put Florida up 4-3. But the boys were able to tie the game in the 9th inning to force the game into extras.

Manny thanks to Miguel (Dorn) Cabrera, who in the ninth inning actually tried to make a highlight real play. Unfortunately for the Fish, Hanley Ramirez was the guy who should have fielded the ball, as Cabrera only succeeded in deflecting the ball past Ramirez, allow the tieing run to score. The best part of the play was that Carlos Delgado went the other way with the pitch. Now if only he could do that when the shift is fully on.

The Fish would be plagued by defensive lapses in the 11th, when the Mets were able to put the winning runs across the board. First, a wild pitch allowed Jose Valentin to score the evenutal winning run. Then, Hanley Ramirez had a throwing error trying to get Ledee at third on a grounder by Jose Reyes. The damage was completed by PLD, singling to score Reyes, who had advanced to second on the Ramirez error. Billy Wagner notched his 38th save, despite allowing a single to Willingham. Note to Rick Peterson, lets pitch Willingham a little more carefully next time, shall we?

Another note fromlast night, more good bullpen work. Glavine pitched OK, his usual 6 innings, 100 pitches. He was followed by Roberto Hernandez, Mota, Heilman (who got the win with 2 more shutout innings) and Wagner. The pen pitched 5 scoreless innings, allowing only 2 hits and 1 walk. They continue to get the job done. The Mota pickup, which many thought was a disaster in the making at the time, has turned into another gem. Remind me not to doubt Omar so much in the future.

So, the Magic Number is now 2. The Braves can no longer win the Division, and are all but eliminated from the Wild Card, being 6.5 games back, behind 5 other teams with 17 games to play. They stand at 7 games under 500. Not that I'm complaining or anything. Pardon me while I chuckle a tad. The wheels fell off for the Braves this year, dramatically. Now, Braves fans are thinking, "Well, Hampton comes back next year". Good luck with that. They guy is coming off major surgery, you really expect him to be great next year? Smoltz is all but gone as a FA, and Hudson has been awful. Larry Jones is a walking training room. Frenchy likes to strike out. The days of Braves dominance may be done.

On a non-baseball note, I read a nice "feel good" NCAA football story yesterday in the New York Times (yes, I do read more than the Post, News and Newsday). Seems a safety for Clemson, Ray Ray McElrathbey has decided to care for his younger brother, aged 11. Seems their dad is a gambling addict, and their mom is a drug addict. Ray Ray decided that rather than allowing his brother to go into foster care, he would take him in. Now, this being the NCAA, he was not allowed to receive any support from the University to help, or from others who may wish to assist. The school petitioned the NCAA, and they rightfully granted a waiver, allowing Ray Ray to receive extra financial assistance from the school and others not connected with the school as well. Teammates have helped him out, taking his brother for burgers and such. Others have helped with day care and while he is traveling for games. Had the NCAA not apprvoed this help, he would have lost his eligibility.

Now, this may not be a story that gets a lot of press outside of the Times, and many may be thinking, "big deal", but in my book, given all the recent stories of college athletes getting into trouble with the law, it is nice to see an athlete do something positive. Here is a kid who has had a tough upbringing by all accounts, yet he is mature enough to step up to the plate and take care of his sibling. The story gave me a nice feeling when I read it last night. I hope it does the same for you.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

(No More) Mr. Brightside

With apologies to Brandon Flowers and the Killers.

I am a fan who tries not to get too high or too low. I cannot live game by game in baseball or hockey, the season is too long for a short bad streak to spell ruin. Football of course is different, given the 16 game season, but then again, as a Jet fan, I never expect much to begin with. My Mets this year have given my joy, not seen really since 1988 (yes, 2000 was nice, but they were the WC, 1988 is the last time they won the division outright).
For my Islanders, I had a nice early run, hit a terrible patch in the mid 90's, and then had a shot lived resurgence in the beginning of this decade. I've seen 4 Stanley Cups, numerous owners, god-awful jerseys, terrible teams, and a GM that could draft real well, but gives Isiah Thomas a run for worst trader ever. Last season started with mild expectations, which were quickly dashed. Then, the offseason started, and boy, did things get silly.

I was pleased with the hiring of Ted Nolan. Granted, he had been out of the NHL for a while, but here was a guy who was a winner in Buffalo. He is a taskmaster, the type of coach the team needed. At around the same time, it was announced Bryan Trottier would be joining the organization, as well as Pat LaFontaine as a special advisor, and Neil Smith as nominal GM. Not totally please with Smith, but at least Mike Milbury was gone.

Then, 40 days after he was hired, Smith was fired. Islander Goalie Garth Snow was announced as the replacement GM. Patty quit as well. I gave Wang the benefit of the doubt. After all, he had built CA into a huge company, and had settled down the ownership situation on the Island. He had approved trades for Alexi Yashin and Michael Peca. His only black mark as it were was keeping Milbury on board and firing Peter Laviolette. I still thought things were going to be OK. I was annoyed at those in the media who based Wang for his committee type set up for the front office, using the occasion to take cheap shots at my team. How dare they treat my team like that, only I can treat my team like that.

After yesterday though, my doubts have overtaken my hopes. I tried to look on the brightside of things with the signing of Rick DiPietro to a 15 year $67.5 million contract. Really, I have. I like Rick a lot, so my problem is not with him. Had he not been signed, and traded instead as was rumored, I would have been mightily pissed. He is only 25, $4.5 million will be cheap if he turns out to be as good as hoped. They don't have to overpay him in a couple of years. I don't buy the BS that he is going to coast and not play hard with his new deal. By all accounts, this kid is cocky, and has a great work ethic. The last thing he is going to do is tank it on purpose. He knows the bar is raised, and he is going to do everything he can to pass it. People who compare this to the Yashin deal are stupid, because Rick is not Yashin. I believe he has the talent to be a top 5 goalie. You can say, well, he did not win a medal in the Olympics. True, but Team USA scored fewer than 2 goals in most of its games. He had a 2.28 GAA, which is quite good. I would, as would most hockey fans, take that over an entire season. Heck, other players may be willing to come to the Island now, sine the owner likes to throw money around so freely.

No, the problem I have is with Wang. It feels sometimes that he is Gov. LePetomaine and Milbury is Hedley Lamarr. I could see him calling his Crack Hockey committee together and saying "I didn't get harrumph out of Ted", followed by Mike saying "Give Charles harrumph". Milbury tried to do a deal like this with Rick last year, and the NHL squashed it. No such luck this time around. A couple of stories today noted that this may be why Smith was fired, that he wanted no part of this deal. Wang has succeeded in making this franchise a laughingstock for the second time this offseason. Fans are surely upset as a result. As you can see from the comments on yesterdays post, Ranger fans are eating this up. Isles fans are going to have to deal with this for 15 more years. Boards on are filled with similar and worse comments.

If Gary Bettman had an testicular fortitude, he would have stopped this deal. He helped bring Wang in as owner (along with former Senator Al Damato, who I hate for myriad other reasons, I am close to adding this as well. Al is no longer close with Wang apparently). Bowie Kuhn stepped in to stop the A's from trading various players for cash in the mid 70's, as it was harmful to the game. Bettman should have done the same here.

I cannot look on the brightside any longer when it comes to the Islanders. I will still be a fan, support them, and hope that they succeed, but I am afraid that this team is going to be in trouble for a long time. My expectations for the coming season will be moderate, hoping for a playoff berth at best. I will try not to expect more, and be prepared for less.

With any luck, the Mets will play deep into the postseason, and I can avoid the Isles until November. Maybe in a couple of years, the Mets can do the same, and the Jets can play into January, further easing my pain.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Oh those Wacky Islanders

The Islanders have scheduled a news conference for 3 PM today to announce the signing of Rick Dipietro to a new contract.

Rumor has it that it is a 15 year, $67.5 million deal.

Let me repeat, rumor has it, 15 years for $67.5 million, or $4.5 million per year.

Words escape me for now. Once this is confirmed, rest assured that I will have something to say.

WTF Was That?

For two games in a row now, the Mets have laid a giant turd. Sunday could sort of be written off, as Willie trotted out a new look lineup, and then pulled starters early. Last night though was different. The "playoff" lineup was put on the field. While they scored a few runs, and Beltran and Uncle Cliffy went yard, they still only managed 6 hits for the game, four off of Anibal Sanchez, making his first start since his no hitter last week (think the Red Sox are maybe kinda sorta regretting the Beckett deal now? Hanley Ramirez and Sanchez have done nice work).

The pitching let the Mets down last night. Dave Williams was the latest #4 playoff starter hopeful (granted, he was a long shot at best) to get the daylights smacked out of him. I'm not going to bury the guy, as he won 3 of his first 4 starts (the Mets won all 4), but giving up 9 runs on 11 hits in 3 innings is not going to help him make his case. Roberto Hernandez pitched 1 inning of scoreless ball, but then Heath Bell and Royce Ring came in, and the game got out of control. Phil Humber warmed up during the game. Alas, Willie did not give him a shot. I understand not wanting to hurt his confidence, but could he have done much worse? Maybe he could have given the team a shot in the arm. Heck, in the NHL, a goalie change sometimes does the trick, why not give it a shot? I'm not trying to kill Willie here, after all, how can you? But if there was ever a game to get the kid some work last night was it.

At the very least, maybe he could have done something about Cody Ross. Ross came into the game hitting 240, with 9 home runs. He added 3(!) home runs last night, victimizing Williams, Bell and Ring. WTF indeed. How the hell do you let a guy like that own you? The Marlins hit 5 HR's in all.

The ugliness arose on defense as well, as Reyes, Valentin and Green all made errors, the former two on throws, the latter on a catchable fly. None led to unearned runs, but still, very sloppy.

A game like this is going to happen every once in a while. The hope is that the team responds, and proceeds to kick some butt and take some names the next time out. The problem is that they had a bad game Sunday, so this makes two in a row. The last time that happened was in Boston. This series is a chance to put the Marlins further back in the WC race. I'm not saying the Mets should be afraid to play the Marlins, but they need to send the message. They've done it against better teams, now they need to do it here. The playoffs can be a crap shoot, WC teams make it to the World Series, as we Met fans know. You never know who will get hot.

I'm not going to sit here and gnash my teeth over all this though. The Magic Number remains at 4. For the first time since 2000, the Mets are going to the playoffs. Pedro is coming back this weekend. Glavine looked good this past weekend. So the two horses should be ready for the playoffs. Wright is hitting again. Beltran seems to be OK after his scare. Hopefully they get going again, and go into the post-season on a hot streak.

I'm getting increasingly concerned about the Rick DiPietro situation. As of a week or so ago, things were supposed to be close to resolution as far as a new contract. However, no announcement, and training camp opens in a couple of days. Wang's policy is no deal by camp, you don't play. I can understand his reasoning, but at the same time, Wang went on vacation for two weeks at the end of August/early September, losing precious negotiating time. He would not allow his nominal GM, Garth Snow, to negotiate in his absence. He should have given Garth parameters to work with.

Wang needs to get his priorities in order here. Rick is the goalie, for better or worse. I'm not saying Rick is a top goalie in the NHL, but he has shown flashes (he played well in the second half, and at the Olympics, not his fault that Team USA could not score). Other goalies with similar or lesser track records have signed recently. Wang decides to keep the albatross that is Alexi Yashin's contract around, but is nickel and diming his goalie? WTF? No one year deals here Charles. Sign him for 4 years, $10 million, and be done with it. If they lose this guy, Wang is not going to win his fans over. If he thinks reaction to the Neil Smith Fiasco was bad, he ain't seen nothing yet. He'll be lucky to get 5,000 per game as an average this year.

Charles, lock your ass in a conference room with Rick's agents. Break out the checkbook, use some of your CA money, and get this done. The last thing this team needs is this sort of distraction. Do you really want to go into the season with Wade Dubielewicz as your starter? I think not.

Get it done Charles.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Chad - Good. Trax - Not so much

So week 1 in the NFL is over. The Jets wound up winning a nailbiter, that should have been a blowout. Paging Mr. Nugent, you better start hitting some kicks son, or you will be booted out on your ass. I can understand missing a field goal, but a point after? Not good. Herm may not have minded, but Eric is a little cranky about it methinks.

Thankfully, I was able to watch the game, and saw an offense that actually moved the ball. Apparently, for one week at least, the ghost of Paul Hackett did not possess Brian Schottenheimer. While the running game did not look very good, and the injury to Kendall may hurt them in the long run, Chad Pennington had a very good game, throwing for over 300 yards and two TD's. He was picked off in the red zone, for the first time (!) in his career, but a borderline pass interference call nullified it. So his streak lives.

I was very impressed with Chad. He made the throws he had to make. Granted, most of them were short range, but when he had to go down the field a bit, he did so, connecting with Coles for 41 yards (and the ball went over 30). Here's the thing, Chad never had a strong arm, even before the injuries. What he did was move the ball, and he did it again yesterday. The guy is a leader, that's it. The team wants to play for him, and they want to win for him. I still think they will only win 6 games this year, but I think they will play hard, and not get blown out. If in a few weeks they have a couple of more wins, I reserve the right to change my mind, but for now, I am trying not to get too excited.

My last comment on the Jet game before I move on to the Mets - Jeff Fisher is an awful coach. First, he names Kerry Collins, a Titan for all of 2 weeks to start over the vet, Billy Volek. Then, he puts in Vince Young for 1 series. Young actually moves the ball before tossing an interception, but then is stuck to the bench for the rest of the game. I know Collins led them back, but one TD was from the 1 yard line following a fumble. Collins was awful. Young brings another dimension to the game, and he should have gotten more of a shot.

As for the Mets, well, an up and down weekend against the Dodgers, splitting the series. El Duque bounced back nicely, Glavine pitched real well as well. Alas, the two men fighting for the #4 spot in the playoffs spit the bit. The fact that both faced SUCKME lefties did not help of course, but there is still concern. And yes, Willie started a back-up lineup yesterday, not helping Trax, but frankly, it would not have mattered if the starting lineup was there, given how poorly he performed.

Of the two, frankly, I would lean towards Maine getting the nod. Trax is a vet, and was 12-1 in 18 starts prior to this month, but he has fallen apart. Yesterday he did not get out of the third inning, and admitted to have no breaking stuff. This cannot happen in the playoffs. Maine at least throws hard, and challenges hitters, which gives him an edge over Trax. It troubles me that people are quick to write-off Maine after a poor start, but not Trax, who has had 3 poor starts in his last 4 appearances. Time for The Jacket to get to work on both of them.

Similar to not getting to high with the Jets, I am not going to get down on the Mets. They have 88 wins, and a magic number of 4. I'm not going to panic over their inability to hit lefties of late. I will panic if the next time they face one Willie does not put out a good lineup however.

Friday, September 08, 2006

J E T S Jets Jets - Oh, who the Hell are we kidding...

OK fellow masochists, football season starts on Sunday, so it is time for the first annual season preview here at the Cafe.

Slight diversion before we begin...
As many of you know, I am a fan of the Mets, Jets and Islanders. Luckily, 2 out of the three teams have won championships during the time I am old enough to remember. Alas, the Jets have not won since I was about 3 months old. It's funny. The rivalry between Jet and Giant fans is nowhere near as intense as the rivalry between Islander/Ranger and Met/Yankee fans. For the Mets/Yankees, it is basically that Yankee fans are obnoxious jerks who act like they are a part of the team "We've won 26 championships" or something like that. Of course, most of them have only been fans for the past ten years, and would not know any players prior to that, but anyway. For the Isles and Rangers, the hatred stems from the Isles winning 4 Stanley Cups, while the Rangers went 54 years between Cups. So there is a lot of hatred there. For Jet/Giant fans, there is little in the way of hatred (so far as I can tell) primarily because for the most part, both teams have had awful stretches. I know, the Giants won 2 Super Bowls, but they stunk as bad as the Jets for a while as well. When they won, I did not root against them. I will always root against the Yankees and Rangers, as most Yankee and Ranger fans would never root for the Mets or Isles.

On too the preview.

Lets start with some of the management changes. Key additions through subtraction are the loss of Herm (Two-faced) Edwards. Despite protestations that he did not want the KC job, he left. I liked Herm, but there is no way he would have allowed a player to get away with that. Good riddance Herm, and enjoy life in KC without Priest Holmes. As for Chiefs fans, enjoys poor clock management and empty speeches.
Another plus was the departure of Terry B(r)adway. This is the man who let Laveranues Coles go, then traded Santana Moss to get him back. This is the guy who allowed Herm to get away for only a 4th round pick. This is the man who traded a first rounder for Doug (not so) Jolley and a 2nd rounder. He signed players to overpriced contracts. Again, Terry, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

To replace the above, we get Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum. The jury is out on Tannenbaum for now, though he had some input on contracts, so I have some concerns. As for Mangini, Johnson better hope some of the Bill's rubbed off on him. While others are cracking wise about Mangini's age, I don't care how old he is. Personally, I like his youth, as I think he may be better able to relate to the players, and may not be as caught up in the old ways of doing things. Time will tell.

Key Losses
Kevin Mawae, Curtis Martin, what little strength was left in Chad's arm.
D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold on the line
A new playbook to replace the one that Paul Hackett left lying around?

The key here is going to be Chad. Is his arm stronger than a 2000 Florida ballot? If not, things are going to be real tough. There is no more Curtis Martin to keep defenses honest. Blaylock is a nice back, but he is not at the same level as Martin. Neither is Kevin Barlow. Hopes abound that Leon Washington can help. Patrick Ramsey is not an option, nor is Kellen Clemens (despite the unfortunate last name, I have high hopes for Kellen for 2007).
The tight ends still lack a go to guy. Chris Baker needs to show he can catch the ball. He is a good blocker however, which will be needed, given the youth on the line.
At Wide Reciever, Coles and McCareins return along with Jerricho Cotchery. It will be interesting to see if Cotchery can improve on last season. He has good speed, something the other receivers lack. Tim Dwight adds depth, and allows Justin Miller to stay away from return formations, reducing the possibility of a fumble.
The line is young with Mangold and Ferguson. Pete Kendall remains, hoping some veteran leadership rubs off on the youngsters. They need to keep Chad alive.

Key Losses - John Abraham.
The change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 is causing concern. Abraham is gone, after playing his first full season. Can Shaun Ellis rebound after a poor 2005, especially without Abraham around to attract double teams? Can Dewayne Robertson fulfill his first round promise? The same for Bryan Thomas, who moves to OLB.
As for the linebackers, Victor Hobson, Jonathan Vilma and Eric Barton return. Can they along with Thomas handle the 3-4 alignment. Vilma is too talented to not be able to. I think the front 7 will exceed expectations this season. Lots of pride and talent there.
The defensive backs are going to be vital again. Justin Miller must avoid brain farts like in the Giant game. Rhodes and Coleman need to keep the deep threat from being one. Andre Dyson is a nice pick up. David Barrett and Derrick Strait need to keep the nickel and dime packages from being exploited. Strait, after being all but traded, has a lot to prove.

Bottom Line
This is a rebuilding year. Make no mistake. Despite playing a soft 4-12 schedule, the Jets are going to be hard pressed to do much better than last season. Speaking of which, can someone explain why on the JETS commercials on SNY they show 1969, 1998 and 2006? Which of these does not belong. Christ, what a stupid commercial.
That being said, I will not be surprised to see them go 8-8. I will not put money on it, as my Dad taught me to never bet on the Jets (as well as things like Molson is good beer, 1960's rock music is good, and to hate the Yankees). Personally, anything better than 6-10 should be considered a good year, given a new coach, lots of new players, and the QB situation.
Buckle up Jet fans, its going to be a long season.

The Value of a Penny drops further...

So last night the Mets began a series against the latest team in the NL that the Worldwide Leader decided should be the team everyone should be afraid of, the Dodgers. After the All-Star Break, the Dodgers went on a nice little run, and added Greg Maddux and Julio LUgo to the team. They had an 11 game win streak, and ESPN decided they were the team to fear.

So last night, for a game that frankly meant little to the Mets, considering the post-season is all but assured (Magic Number now 7), Willie decided to put out the playoff lineup:
Lo Duca

This is the first time the lineup has been used (of course Green has only been a Met for a short while, but still). The boys sent a message that they are not to be forgotten. They put up 13 hits, 7 runs, and a couple of HR's. Jose Valentin hit a typical one (that went about 425 feet). Jose Reyes decided to do it the hard way, and hit his first inside the park job. Watching him race around the bases is one of the most exciting things to see in baseball. He can just turn it on, which he had to do last night, as he did not bust it out of the box. When you have that 6th gear, you can do that. Just please don't do it in the playoffs Jose, ok?

Tom Glavine made his second start since his bloddclot scare, going 6 1/3, with 5 hits, 5 K's, no BB and no runs. Mota, Robo Hernandez and Heilman finished it up. Another shutout for the Mets.

So tell me ESPN, the Mets faced the best the Dodgers have to offer, and smacked him around. What more proof do you need that the Mets are not only the best team in the NL, they are one of the best teams in the majors. Their dominance has little to do with the rest of the NL, and everything to do with the team itself. Look at that lineup, and show me another team that is appreciably better 1 - 8? The speed, power, ability to hit with RISP makes this the top lineup in baseball.

Now, I know that in 1988 the Mets dominated the Dodgers in the regular season, only to lose in the playoffs. It could happen again, but the difference is that this team is hungry. The 88 team was too, but there was not the urgency. This team needs to go to the WS to shut people up. It will do that.

Other Cafe News...
Rumblings are that the Isles and goalie Rick DiPietro are running into some snags in contract negotiations. This from Eklund at Now, Eklund has the tendancy to be off base, so it is possible he is wrong, but you never know with Charles Wang.

My Jets Preview will be posted this evening, for those of you who like to suffer like me and root for the green and white. Check back later tonight, or in the AM.

In the meantime, Let's Go Mets. Time to hang a crooked number on the Dodgers again.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Chopped, Sliced, Diced, Minced, Fileted...

So, after years of misery, the Mets all but ended the Braves season yesterday, sweeping a doubleheader on the arms of Dave Williams and Oliver Perez, and the bats of Shawn Green, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes. For the first time since 1998, the Mets won a season series from the Braves.

Now, I know the Braves have had a number of injuries, and that Larry (I will not call a grown man "Chipper") Jones missed 3 of the series. Too f*cking bad. There were years where the Mets had injuries, or just plain old bad teams, and I did not see any sympathy for them. They still had Renteria, Andruw Jones, Giles and Smoltz this year. They made the decision to not resign guys, or to trade away others, so don't cry for them. Their reign is over, it's the Mets turn now. I loved hearing the war chant at Shea at the end of game 2 last night.

For more on this topic, visit Metstradamus.

Other Met thoughts...

I love Omar Minaya. The man has done a fantastic job assembling this team. Very few trades or signings have not worked out for him. Last year, he picked up Marlon Anderson, and Marlon went on to have a good year. He brought in Roboerto Hernandez, who regained his lost form, despite a poor record. Beltran may have had a poor season last year (playing hurt for most of it) but this year he has been awesome. Pedro? 'nuff said.

This past offseason he picked up Lo Duca, Delgado, Wagner, Sanchez, Oliver, Bradford, Feliciano and others. Nary a deal fell on its face. The Lo Duca second half swoon that many were worried about, did not happen. Wagner has been better of late, though he caused some angst this past weekend (and nearly caused a bad knee injury to Bettran). He obtained Nady for Cameron, Nady did OK, though he could not hit with RISP. When Filthy went down, he flipped Nady for Roberto, and Oliver Perez. Now, Roberto has not been great, but he is allowing Heilman to rest at times, and Aaron has certainly returned to form. Perez, if he can build on yesterday, is going to be a #3 starter next season. To replace Nady when Milledge struggled, he obtained Shawn Green for the soft tossing Evan McClane. Green started well, slumped, but recovered in a big way yesterday. Maybe the only deal that has not worked real well is Julio Franco, but he did well early in the year, and had some key hits, as well as key coaching when he pushed Beltran out of the dugout for a curtain call. I'll take that ratio any day of the week.

As for Willie, despite some moves that are questionable, he has led this team to 86 wins, using a ridiculous number of starting pitchers this season. We fans may bitch about certain pitching moves, but they are the rarity. I do get troubled when he gets really lambasted, as it seems people forget the dark days of Art Howe, but I can understand. Met fans are always waiting for the roof to cave in. We cannot enjoy success until the last out has been recorded. Is Willie perfect, no, and I have done my share of complaining as well. But I do not fear him costing the team a game in the playoffs. The game is won or lost on the field for the most part. I am confident he will put the right guys out there. So long as they execute, the team will be fine. I'm not going to get all twisted about pinch hitting for Williams yesterday. Yes, Perez was going in game 2, and based on his last outing, there was concern about needing the pen for game 2. However, with the rosters being expanded, there were enough pitchers available to cover. The nitpicking needs to stop.

The Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles Dodgers are in town starting today for a 4 game set. Here are the matchups:
Penny v Glavine tonight
Kuo v Maine tomorrow
Maddux v El Duque on Saturday
Hendrickson v Trachsel on Sunday

I want the Mets to slay the last vestiges of the Braves and beat the ever living daylights out of Maddux. Beat him like a rented mule. He has done well since arriving in LA, remind him of his last month plus on the Cubs (where he helped to destroy my Fantasy Team, thanks Greg).
Tonight, I want Glavine to progress in his return. I would like to see Duque and Trax pitch well, and get ready for the playoffs.

The Magic Number is now 8.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Awww, wasn't that nice

Well, the Mets last night apparently decided to make the Braves feel better. They figured, what the hell, we are 19 games up on them, let's throw them a freaking bone. I mean, what else explains the horrible showing last night? A couple of errors (the defense seems to have taken a rest the past few games after being so stout for a while recently). The bats stayed in hibernation, for a second straight game (1 hit? a day after getting only 4?)

Of course, the lineups lucky charm was going last night, in the persona of Steve (Trashball) Trachsel. Typically, when Steve pitches, the Mets hit. That is the only explanation for his 14 wins. Last night, Steve was true to form (actually a tad worse believe it or not), lasting 4 1/3, giving up 4 runs (3 earned) on 4 hits, with his usual 1 strikeout, along with 7 (count 'em - 7) walks. Heath Bell and Royce Ring pitched well in relief, Roberto Hernandez gave up a run in 1 inning of work. The result last night adds fuel to the anti-Trachsel fans who feel that the team cannot allow him to start in the playoffs, cause if they face a good pitcher, they are going to be in trouble, given Steve's 5.02 ERA. I like Steve, as a #5 starter, and tend to agree that he should not start. The problem is that he is not a good candidate for the pen, as he takes a long time to warm up. As a result, we will probably see Pedro, Glavine, Maine and Trax in the rotation, with El Duque coming out of the pen.

I did not post over the weekend, being occupied with end of summer stuff, but a couple of things stood out. For one, Carlos Beltran showed on Saturday why he is the MVP. That catch, in a game the Mets needed, was beautiful. Not only did he make the catch, he got the ball back in to the infield before he fell on his bad wheel. Of course, the shoddy offensive output the past two games shows how important he is to the lineup (Mets are 9-8 in games Carlos does not play). Now, I know Pujols puts up some great numbers, and Ryan Howard is a beast with the bat (and ugly with the glove.) How some pundits on the Worldwide Leader (Joe Morgan) feel he is not even the most valuable Met is beyond me. Morgan said that for a couple of months, Reyes and Wright carried the team. Hey Joe, do yourself a favor, and look into how consistent Beltran has been this year. Even when those two were carrying the team, Beltran was doing his part. And when they and Delgado slumped, Beltran did not, and proceeded to carry the team. All do respect to Howard, but a one-dimensional player should not be in the discussion. Beltran and Pujols are the top two candidates.

David Wright was slumping for quite some time, but Willie said he is young, and did not need a rest. So David starts to hit last week, and what does Willie do, he rests The Prince on Sunday, a game where Beltran was out with his knee, and Lo Duca was being rested. Tell me Willie, why the change of heart? Why take out another bat when Oswalt, the top guy for the Astros is on the mound? Now, I like Willie, but this is one of those things that makes his critics nuts. If he is young, and did not need a rest while slumping, why give him a rest when he is hitting the hell out of the ball?

So the Magic Number stays at 11. The number over the Braves stays at 8. Let's hope that the giving is over, and the Mets take the next two, the better to whittle the Braves tragic number down to 4.

In Jets news, Ray Mickens was cut. It was a nice story when he resigned this offseason, after being cut for Ty Law (who followed his buddy Herm to KC). The veteran leadership would have been nice, but Mangini went in another direction. Here's hoping Ray hooks on somewhere.

Friday, September 01, 2006

You Can't Win Them All

Well, the boys failed to sweep the Rockies last night. Oliver Perez gave up 7 runs in 3 innings. The pen did a good job in replacing him, Darren Oliver gave up 1 run in 3 innings, Chad Bradford and Pedro Part Dos both pitched 1 hitless and scoreless inning each. Alas, the offense could not outslug the Rockies on this night, despite amassing 13 hits, 10 in five innings along with 4 runs, against starter Jeff Francis. Francis entered the game with an 3.53 ERA. Francis also allowed 2 walks, for a WHIP last night of 2.40.

The defense's errorless streak came to an end in the first inning, as Jose Reyes made a throwing error. The Prince had another Home Run, a solo shot in the top of the first. Carlos Beltran added another RBI to his career high, and Jose Reyes added two, giving him 70 on the season. Jose also stole a base, going 3 for 5 and scoring a run. The Mets now boast 3 full time starters with averages of 300 or better, as both El Rapido and The Prince reached 300 again, joining Paul Lo Duca.

Tom Glavine returns to the mound tonight in Houston. Let's keep our fingers crossed (no pun intended).

I'm a day late with this, but, please keep good thoughts for Red Sox starter and rookie Jon Lester. Lester had been bothered by back issues of late. An exam showed swollen lymph nodes, which could be a sign of cancer. Let's hope that is not the case for this young man.

******Jet's News******
Well, Doug Jolley is gone, traded to Tampa for a couple of jock straps and some practice balls (aka an undisclosed draft pick). He was acquired last season by Terry Bradway prior to the draft along with Oakland's second round draft choice, for which the Jets gave up their first round pick. Bradway had stated that there were no tight ends in the draft as good as Jolley. Tell that the Heath Miller.

Brooks Bollinger was also traded, a day after it appeared he was going to be starting the final exhibition game tonight, with a chance to solidify his roster spot. It appeared to me at least that he was a goner in any case. The Jets had traded for Patrick Ramsey, and had given him a 1 year extension, so there was little chance of him being cut, no matter how much he sucks. Kellen Clemens was a second round pick, and possible future starter, so he was safe. Bollinger, by all accounts a good guy, just is not the right guy for the Jets. He is tough, but his skills as a QB are not the best. I do wish him luck in Minnesota.

Further cut-downs will happen this weekend. Next week will see the inaugural Jets preview here at the Cafe. Position and group breakdowns, and my fearless(?) (fearful?) prediction for the coming season.