Archive: April 1st, 2007

Game 1: Win

Mets 6 Cardinals 1

(I PROMISE that this is NOT an April Fools’ joke … the Mets really did win tonight.)

While the Mets’ offense is what everyone talks about, it was their defense and pitching that stole the show on Opening Day.

Jose Reyes and Jose Valentin teamed up to turn several double plays, including one absolute masterpiece in the 9th inning. There are no words to describe it, so hopefully you caught it live or on ESPN Web Gems.

The outfield was equally spectacular, headed by a diving catch by Moises Alou and a perfect throw by Carlos Beltran that nailed David Eckstein at home in a bang-bang play at the plate — which Paul LoDuca did a great job of executing the block-catch-and-tag.

Tom Glavine was terrific, keeping hitters off-balance and guessing wrong for six strong innings. He ran out of gas in the sixth, but hung on just long enough to get through the end of the sixth. Glavine cruised to his 291st career win.

Chris Carpenter, on the other hand, had some troubles early, giving up five earned runs in his first four innings of work. However, he didn’t look bad — he threw plenty of low, moving strikes and even when he missed, seemed to be just a hair off the black. As Tony LaRussa admitted during an in-game interview, the Mets simply did a great job of laying off pitcher’s pitches, and hitting pitches they could handle. The overall team approach was strong fundamentally, as several Mets hits were to the opposite field or up the middle. Even Tom Glavine had a base hit to left field.

Carlos Delgado looked great at the plate, and although he had only one hit, easily would have had three if not for the obnoxious shift. He had one bullet up the middle that was speared by Eckstein and another into what would have been the hole between first and second.

Joe Smith made his MLB debut after Pedro Feliciano walked the leadoff batter in the eighth. Smith gave up a hit and a walk and struck out one before giving way to Aaron Heilman with the bases loaded. For a moment it looked like Willie Randolph might test Smith’s mettle, and let him work out of the jam. But, the Mets had a four-run lead at the time and Scott Rolen up at bat, and I believe Willie factored in the beauty of an Opening Day win and Tom Glavine’s one step closer to 300. If it were later in the week, with perhaps a John Maine decision hanging in the balance, Willie might have let Mighty Joe work himself out of it. For the record, Smith threw a total of 12 pitches in his debut — 8 for strikes. The only four balls he threw were all to Albert Pujols, and they were appropriately low and just off the outside corner. Any other hitter would have chased at least two of them.

I was a little surprised that Billy Wagner finished the game with a five-run lead. First, because Wagner has shown he is a disaster in non-save situations. Secondly, I thought it was a prime opportunity to get Ambiorix Burgos into a game, late, without it being a pressure situation. As it was, Wagner finished the game without too much stress, though he did allow two hits.

Though the Mets collected 12 hits on the evening, only Paul LoDuca and Shawn Green had more than one (two apiece). So much for each of those players’ sub-.200 batting averages in spring training.

Genius quote by Joe Morgan: “Albert Pujols has to be even better than he’s ever been for the Cardinals to repeat. There’s a lot of pressure on him this year especially because of all the injuries the Cardinals have.”

Um, Joe? There is not one St. Louis Cardinal with an injury at this point in the season. (Genius!) That quote barely beat out this one:

John Miller: “Frank Robinson, in fact, hit a homerun on Opening Day while serving as player-manager for the Cleveland Indians.”

Joe Morgan: “Yeah, but since he was a manager, are we counting that?”

Hmmm …

Day off on Monday, then the Mets and St. Louis do it again on Tuesday night at
8:10 PM. El Duque faces Kip Wells. Yes, Kip Wells is the Cardinals’ #2 starter … and you thought the Mets had issues with their starting rotation.


Mets Sign Clemens

Roger Clemens talks to reporters in Port St. LucieAssociated Press reporter Irving Lanson found out on last Saturday that Roger Clemens made a decision about where he’d be playing in 2007.

“New York,” Clemens told Lanson, “but please keep it quiet. We’re still working on the details, and if it falls through, I may sign with the Yankees instead.”

“Hold on,” Lansing interrupted. “What do you mean, the Yankees instead? Didn’t you just tell me you decided on New York?”

Lansing heard Roger stifle a chuckle on the other end of the phone.

“I told you I was giving you the scoop of the year,” replied Clemens. “I’m signing with the New York Mets.”

Lansing was sworn to secrecy, promising to hold off on reporting the scoop until today. The Associated Press broke the story a few minutes after midnight this morning.

“We’ve been looking for an impact arm,” Mets GM Omar Minaya said. “A guy who could keep us out of losing streaks, who can shut the door. Obviously, Roger’s that kind of guy.”

Contract terms were not immediately disclosed, but rumored to be in the neighborhood of $31M (prorated).

“The money had already been earmarked,” Minaya explained. “Originally, it was supposed to go to a guy like Matsuzaka, or a Zito. Obviously, those guys didn’t work out, and when Roger became available to us, the Wilpons reassured me that the dollars were still there.”

Clemens provides the Mets with the top-of-the-rotation starter they’ve been desperately seeking since Pedro Martinez’s rotator cuff injury. Clemens will report to extended spring training in Port St. Lucie immediately, and could be ready to go by late May.

“I’m not in shape, it’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of time to get ready,” said Clemens. “I know my body, and I’m not rushing anything. If it’s May, it’s May. If not, then hopefully June. I’m preparing to pitch through the end of October,” he added, hinting at a Mets postseason appearance.

“It’s not about the money,” Clemens continued, “it’s about winning. And the Mets, in my opinion, have the best shot at a World Series title.”

One Met in particular was very excited about the news, when reached for comment at 6am: Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey will also be in Port St. Lucie — for the next two weeks — waiting to join the club in mid-April when his fifth spot in the rotation becomes necessary.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Pelfrey said. “I’ll get to see how a future Hall of Famer prepares. His workouts are legendary. I’m going to soak up everything I can while I’m down here with him.”

When asked if he looked up to Clemens as a youngster, Pelfrey replied, “Absolutely. Clemens and Nolan Ryan. I modeled myself after those two, they were the best. There’s still posters of them up in my bedroom at home … I mean, my parent’s house.”

Manager Willie Randolph was more low key. Randolph was a coach with the Yankees during Clemens’ first stint in New York, from 1999 to 2003.

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to him joining us, but that’s a long time away. We have to focus on the game tonight, on Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals.”

When pressed for further comment, Randolph finally said, “He’s a competitor, no doubt about it. He’ll add another dimension to our ballclub. He’ll give us another look from the right side.”

If Pedro Martinez can return in time, the Mets could potentially have the best one-two starting pitcher combination of all time.

“That’s a long way off,” Randolph warned. “Let’s get through this week.”

Click here for more details on the Clemens signing

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