Archive: May 8th, 2007

Mets Game 32: Win Over Giants

Mets 4 Giants 1

With a cleanly shaven head, Shawn Green wonders how he'll keep his hat onThe Few. The Proud. The Mets.

The United States Marine Corps would have been proud to see the Mets — 21 of them, anyway — shave their heads in an expression of their dedication to each other as a single unit, a team. (Jose Reyes, Tom Glavine, Aaron Sele, and Aaron Heilman chose to remain individuals, but we’ll see how long that lasts.)

Their attempt to resurrect the spirit of Chris Woodward seemed to have a positive effect, as the Mets finally handed Tom Glavine his 294th career win.

The Mets got off to a quick start on Matt Cain, scoring three runs in the first and adding a fourth in the second. They looked very comfortable at the plate the first time through the lineup, as if they knew what was coming. Maybe Cain was telegraphing his pitches? If he was, he corrected it by the third, but not before falling behind four zip.

Cain was bombarded by three straight doubles to start the game, stroked by Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran. Those two-baggers resulted in two quick runs, and a third came home on a sac fly by Moises Alou. In the second inning, Paul LoDuca led off with a line drive single, and was driven home for the fourth Mets run on a triple by Reyes. Those four runs were more than they needed, and held up through the end of the game.

The early damage done to Cain seemed to deflate the Giants, who looked as if they were trying to get the game over with, rather than competing. Of course, it didn’t help that future hall of famer Tom Glavine was having one of his special nights.

Glavine’s changeup was “on”, and he spotted it well with the fastball and curve to keep the Giants off balance all night. Once, he mixed in an El Duque-style, eephus-like, 60-MPH curveball to fluster Barry Bonds. Even when ahead on the count, the Giants batters were making defensive swings, trying in vain to simply put the bat on the ball. It was a truly “vintage Glavine” evening.


It was slightly surprising to see Damion Easley starting with the righthander on the mound and the switch-hitting Ruben Gotay available. Most likely, Willie Randolph put Easley in the lineup partly because he’s a trusted veteran, and partly because he made an error the night before. By starting Easley a day after botching an easy grounder, Willie was giving Easley an opportunity to make amends, and also avoiding any press-invoked controversy. In other words, he didn’t want to send the signal that making an error means you’re benched.

However, it’s pretty clear to most observers that Easley is, shall we say, “challenged” in the field. Even his prime, he was never confused with a Gold Glover, and hasn’t improved with age. Considering that the Mets made such a big deal about starting Anderson Hernandez because of his defense at the beginning of 2006, it’s strange that they’re not giving the similarly slick fielding Ruben Gotay more of an opportunity. Hopefully he’ll be more than the commissary second baseman on day-game-after-night-game / Sunday afternoons, as it could be exciting to see Gotay fulfill the so-far unrealized potential suggested as a Kansas City Royal.

Shawn Green — who with the buzz cut now resembles a serial killer — hit bullets all over the field but right at people. He was hitless but is still hot.

Wright and LoDuca, on the other hand, were hot and their line drives found holes. Paulie sprayed hits to all fields while Wright made a point of mashing the ball up the middle and to the opposite field. The instigators of the buzz cuts were a combined 5-for-8 on the night.

Carlos Delgado looked to be coming out of his slump with a few hard-hit line drives over the past few days, but his head is still too “noisy” as he takes his swing. If you watch closely, you’ll see his head rise up as he brings his hands forward — and the rest of the body follows the head. The vertical head movement is causing three things: first, it’s not allowing him to get a clear look at the ball; second, it’s turning his swing into a more pronounced uppercut; and third, he’s opening up his hips too early, and pulling off the ball. All of these issues, however, may be symptoms of his timing being off. The fact that he’s swinging under the ball (in most cases) suggests that he’s late on pitches — and therefore trying to speed up his body to catch up to the pitch. In other words, he’s jumping at the ball. Hopefully, he’ll soon get his timing down and get back to mashing the ball on a consistent basis, instead of once every two games.

Next Game

One more Left Coast contest, thank the lord is it an afternoon game. John Maine faces Matt Morris at 3:35 PM EST — set up your DVR and watch it when you get home from work.


Q&A: Brian Lawrence

Photo of Brian Lawrence as a San Diego PadreAll of New York was buzzing after the signing of a certain veteran righthanded pitcher this past Sunday … today we finally catch up with the newest Met, Brian Lawrence.

MetsToday: After a flurry of cameras, microphones, and questions thrown in your face over the last few days, how does it feel to be at the center of attention in the largest media outlet in the world?

Brian Lawrence: “Yeah, New York sure is unique in that respect. I’m not one to bring attention to myself, so it was a little overbearing. Generally I prefer to keep a low profile, let my pitching do the talking.”

MT: It was pretty emotional from the perspective of a New York Mets fan. And surely your former teammate Oliver Perez shed a tear. What were you feeling when the announcement was made by Omar Minaya?

BL: “In all honesty, all I could think about was eating. I’d been on a plane all day, and you know how that food is in business class — a bag of peanuts and a cold turkey sandwich doesn’t do much for a big dog like me. As for Ollie, we haven’t spoken since 2002, and back then his english wasn’t too good.”

MT: Well you’ll have plenty of fine restaurants to choose from in NYC. Besides the food (ha ha), and the reunion with Perez, what made you choose the Mets over other suitors, such as the Tigers, Orioles, and Padres, for example?

BL: “Well it obviously wasn’t about the money — as Detroit made a higher offer. It was more about finding the right organization, the right fit for both parties, and making sure my family was on board with the decision.”

MT: Speaking of family, you declined a “family values” clause that would have enabled you to travel home when you weren’t pitching.

BL: “Yeah, that was a nice gesture by the Mets management, and shows why they are a class organization. They know my family is back in Colorado, having already moved twice in the last two years. But it’s not fair to the team, and with all the money we make as big leaguers, being away from family — or having them move around with you — is part of the deal.”

MT: Team is important to you.

BL: “Hell yeah. If it were all about me, I’d be playing tennis, or on the PGA Tour.”

MT: What about critics who consider you a “hired gun” or a “mercenary”, and the complaints that the Mets are simply trying to “buy a pennant” ?

BL: “I suppose people could look at it that way, but I’m in this for the long haul. This isn’t about just 2007 — I’m hoping to help the team for a few years. As far as the Mets buying a pennant, people will think what they want to think.”

MT: At this stage in your career, you’re not much more than a six-inning starter. That said, do you think you’ll make a significant contribution to the Mets?

BL: “As much as I hate to admit it, that’s a very fair question. I didn’t gallop here on a white horse, I came in a Hertz-rented Chevy. I’m not some kind of savior — I put my pants on one leg at a time just like anybody else. All I can do is try my best to give the team quality innings and do whatever is needed to get a ring.”

MT: Coming off shoulder surgery, it’s going to take some time in the minors to build up your strength. How long before you’re ready, and when do you expect to be called up?

BL: “I don’t expect anything. I’ll continue stretching out my innings — god willing — and do everything I can to get back into the shape I was in 2002-2005. Whatever happens from there, is dependent on my progress and the Mets’ needs.”

MT: Assuming you win a World Championship here with the Mets, will you petition the Hall of Fame to be inducted as a Met? Or will you go in with the Padres hat — the team with which you made your mark?

BL: “Getting inducted into the Hall of Fame is such a high honor, I’d be OK if my bust had a triple-propeller beanie hat (laughs). In all seriousness, the Hall of Fame is not about me, it’s an institution for the fans and generations of fans long after we’re all gone and forgotten. So whatever the Hall wants to do, is fine by me.”

MT: Thanks for taking time out from your hectic schedule to meet with us. Good luck on your road back to the bigs.

BL: “Much obliged.”


Mets to Make a Deal?

Omar has been too quiet. Something has to be up. Unless we really think the signing of Brian Lawrence has been Minaya’s biggest project in this young season.

Over at the Mets blog on SNY, Ted Berg has a list of second basemen that the Mets might consider pursuing: Jorge Cantu, Marco Scutaro, Jamey Carroll, and Mike Fontenot. Other than Cantu, a strange list, and what makes it even stranger is that Berg dismisses Cantu as “not that good” and “he can’t really hit”.

Hmmm …

Personally, I’m not sure why the Mets would trade able-bodied players (such as Ramon Castro, as Berg suggests) for Scutaro, Carroll, or Fontenot, when they could just as easily get Jeff Keppinger back for a bag of balls or convince Fernando Vina to come out of retirement. Those proposed options are not significant upgrades over the current Damion Easley / Ruben Gotay combo.

Team Mexico's Jorge Cantu points toward SheaCantu, however, is intriguing. After hitting 28 homers and driving in 117 in 2005, his production fell off in 2006 — though not so much to bury him. The 14 HRs, 62 RBI, and .249 average are not that far from Valentin’s output last year. His glove is not the greatest, but neither was Valentin’s this time last year. Berg points to weak OBPs as indicators that Cantu stinks, but I don’t buy it. Take a look at Jeff Kent’s OBP in his early years and you’ll see strikingly similar numbers (Kent, in fact, was a very similar player at the same age). Young batters — particularly sluggers — tend to have a lower OBP because they are free swingers. As they mature, and continue to hit for power, they learn to lay off pitches and take their walks. At only 25 years old, and with his value at an all-time low, now is the time to roll the dice for a talent such as Jorge Cantu. If nothing else, his cheesy mustache compares favorably to Valentin’s.

Other than Cantu, the only other possibilities would be Ronny Belliard, Jose Castillo, or maybe Mark Grudzielanek. Belliard’s time as a starter with the Nationals is over now that Cristian Guzman has returned. Belliard has been pining to return to his New York City roots, and should come cheap. However, the Mets had little to no interest in him when he was a desperate free agent, so it’s hard to see them trading for him. Grudzielanek might be a good fit, but he probably isn’t available. The emergence of Esteban German suggests that the Royals could make Grudzielanek available, but that’s just a guess. He’s the only established veteran on the team other than the oft-injured Mike Sweeney, so they may want to keep him around to set an example for the youngsters.

Jose Castillo turns a double play for the PiratesOn the other hand, Jose Castillo could be had, as he’s stuck behind Freddie Sanchez at second and Jose Bautista at third. His average is currently hovering around the Mendoza line, and the Pirates have had it with his work ethic. Like Cantu, he’s been a slugger in the past, and is only 26 — far from washed up. Maybe a change of scenery would do him good — it certainly worked out well for Oliver Perez.

In the end, I’m not so sure Omar Minaya is shopping for a second sacker. With Shawn Green picking up the slack at the bottom of the order, the Mets may be OK giving Ruben Gotay a chance to reclaim his once-promising career (see my full take on Gotay tomorrow afternoon at FlushingUniversity). If that’s the case, Minaya is more likely working the phones hard for some legitimate bullpen help and possibly a power-hitting reserve outfielder to help Endy Chavez spell Moises Alou — the role that Ben Johnson might be filling if not for a shoulder injury.