Archive: May 9th, 2007

Mets Game 33: Win over Giants

Mets 5 Giants 3

The sabermetricians and naysayers were right: John Maine is not really as good as he’d been pitching before this game.

In this latest outing, the Giants bombarded him for 3 runs in six innings, shooting his ERA all the way up to 1.85. And here we thought we had the righthanded Sandy Koufax.

Maine’s command was something of a conundrum. He was throwing pitches that enticed batters to swing and miss, but he had a very hard time spotting balls in the strike zone. For example, his change-up was diving down and away from lefties all day, but he couldn’t throw it for a strike. As a result, he struck out 4 in row at one point but walked 6 (1 intentional).

Meantime, his adversary Matt Morris had the Mets in fits, using a nasty 12-6 curveball as his primary pitch. TV announcer Keith Hernandez guessed that Morris threw about 70% curveballs, and he may have been right. It was a brilliant strategy, especially since his deuce was definitely “on” — with so sharp a break that it fooled not only the Mets but the home plate umpire as well, on occasion. When he was removed after seven strong innings, it seemed at the time to be a curious move, as he was still dominating the Mets. Ah, but this is the 21st century, and pitchers aren’t allowed to remain in games beyond the 100-pitch limit (Morris threw exactly 100). As it turned out, it would be San Francisco’s undoing, as the Mets feasted on the fastballers who came out of the Giants bullpen.

First, they unleashed on Brad Hennessey, whose straightballs looked like BP to the Mets after being frustrated by Morris’ unhittable curve. After David Wright struck out, Carlos Beltran followed with a walk, then Carlos Delgado stroked a double on a 3-2 pitch with Beltran running. Beltran scored easily to tie the game.
Armando Benitez in a familiar pose
In the ninth, Giants manager Bruce Bochy made his second mistake, bringing in Armando Benitez to hold the tie. Longtime fans of the Mets remember the Meltdown Man well, and most of us breathed a sigh of relief to see him enter the game. Benitez in a tight game is like money in the bank for the opposing team, and he didn’t disappoint.

Paul LoDuca led off with a line drive single to left, but was erased when Pedro Feliz perfectly played Ruben Gotay’s sacrifice bunt attempt. Endy Chavez followed with a walk, and throughout the at-bat you could see Benitez beginning to unravel; he was visibly annoyed with the strike zone judgment of Bruce Froemming. The emotional volcano inside Armando erupted after a Jose Reyes pop fly dropped between rightfielder Todd Linden (brought in for defensive purposes) and second baseman Ray Durham to load the bases. As the lava poured out, Benitez threw three consecutive balls to David Wright, then laid two meatballs over the middle of the plate — the second of which was hammered into the leftfield corner to score Chavez and Gotay and put the Mets ahead by two.

Billy Wagner came on in the ninth and threw a perfect, uneventful inning, striking out two and using only 11 pitches in the process.


About an hour after Flushing University posted my profile on Ruben Gotay, Gotay blasted a homerun into the rightfield seats. I will take full credit the dinger, and consider it a good luck kiss.

It appears that Carlos Delgado is moving out of his slump, evidenced by his third-inning blast into the bay and his unbelievable opposite-field double that tied the game in the eighth. The double was hit on a low and inside pitch about an inch off the ground, and he couldn’t have hit it better with a sand wedge. Keith Hernandez thinks he’s still “too quick”, and I agree, to a point. Though his head, hands, hips, and weight are all in sync now, whereas before his head was pulling out early and everything followed in a clumsy way. Generally, you don’t want to be hitting off your front foot, as Delgado was doing, but if everything is in sync, it can result in good things — such as fly balls into the drink. That said, Delgado is on his way back, and should be stroking the ball to all fields soon enough.

Once again, Shawn Green was hitting bullets all over the place, but right at people, and he remains hitless while hairless. Perhaps Hernandez has something with the “don’t mess with a hot streak” superstition.

Paul LoDuca nailed two runners attempting to steal in the first inning, and has thrown out 9 of 15 this year. Big change from last year, and a long way from the Piazza days.

Next Game

The Mets get a day off to make the cross-country trip back home. They open a three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers at 7:10 PM at Shea. Jorge Sosa is scheduled to make his second start of 2007 against Jeff Suppan. I’ll be at the game; if you’re desperate to be there too, and think you can handle my non-stop yammering, I might have one extra ticket. Email me if you’re interested.

Check back here on Thursday afternoon for the series preview, which will include insights from a high-profile Brewers blogger.


MLB: Please Stop the Madness!

After hitting Prince Fielder with a pitch, Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Matt Capps has been suspended for four games by MLB.

Capps hit Fielder in the shoulder two pitches after yielding a J.J. Hardy homerun. There was no previous warning issued by the umpires, yet they immediately tossed Capps from the game and the NL slapped him with a four-game suspension.

One inane comment from Joe Starkey of the Tribune-Review:

Capps, noted for his impeccable control, went 0-1 on Fielder before unleashing a fastball that sizzled toward the slugger’s skull. Luckily, Fielder got his right arm up in time and absorbed the blow on his shoulder. … But when a ball heads for a cranium in that situation, whether intended or not, Major League Baseball needs to act swiftly and severely.


So … regardless of whether a ball “intentionally” or “unintentionally” hits a batter in the head, MLB should suspend the pitcher?

Further, if a batter can’t get out of the way of pitch coming at his head, it’s the pitcher’s fault? Puh-leeze.

I know, I addressed this issue a month ago. And I’ll likely continue to address it every time MLB suspends a pitcher for doing his job, and every time MLB disempowers pitchers everywhere, and every time the Almighty Selig forcefully changes the game of baseball.

Starkey goes on further to state:

You can’t blame Capps for denying he meant to hit Fielder. There would be nothing to gain from admitting it, only more trouble. And it’s possible he simply lost control of the ball or meant only to move Fielder off the plate.

Point is, the pitch could have ended Fielder’s career. And the circumstances pointed overwhelmingly to an intentional act, which is why umpire Alfonso Marquez immediately and rightfully ejected Capps without warning.

“Point is, the pitch could have ended Fielder’s career.”

Please explain to me how it is that imbeciles like this are getting paid by newspapers to write this drivel?

Maybe I’m the moron, but last I checked, Major League hitters wear ear-flapped, impact-resistant headgear made from high-tech materials and built specifically to protect a human cranium from the force of a 100-MPH fastball. This isn’t 1920, when Ray Chapman’s only protection was a wool cap. Further, Major League hitters are the best in the world at what they do, in part because they have excellent eyesight and outstanding reflexes. That said, the reason hitters get hit by pitches is because they 1.) do not expect to get hit and 2.) have not practiced the art of getting out of the way.

Anyone who played baseball before 1985 knows the above to be true. For example, I played Little League baseball in the early 1980s. Back then, we kids weren’t dressed down with multiple pads, guards, facemasks, and other protective accessories. Instead, we were given a helmet, and we were taught to get out of the way. The coach would throw tennis balls at us as we stood at the plate, and we learned to bend our knees, duck, and turn our head toward the catcher — the idea being that if the ball was going to hit, it would hit you in the back or the meaty part of your backside. It sounds crazy, I know — learning to protect yourself, as opposed to being reliant on various pieces of plastic. Similarly, the pitchers were taught to follow through in such a way that they faced the batter after releasing the pitch, glove up and ready to field the ball. Batters and pitchers went through these drills because the possibility of getting hit by the ball was part of the game.

Strange, isn’t it, that pitchers don’t wear football gear, helmets, or face masks, when they are in direct line of the batter’s fire?

Question for Joe Starkey: if a pitcher gets hit in the head by a batted ball — intentionally or unintentionally — shoud MLB act “swiftly and severely” by suspending that batter for four games? Would you expect the umpire to throw the batter out of the game?

Hmm … when Carl Crawford hit a lightning line drive into Matt Clement’s skull in 2005, Crawford remained in the game. The umpires, I guess, thought that Crawford’s hit was unintentional.

But the point is, that hit could have ended Matt Clement’s career … so why was nothing done?

Further, how can we be so sure it was “unintentional” ? Ask any batter at any level of play what their goal is, and their answer is likely to be “to hit the ball up the middle”.

Why the double standard? Why is the batter allowed to hit the unprotected pitcher, but the heavily armored hitter is not responsible for getting out of the way?

Seriously people, let’s be logical about this. And instead of being so quick to throw pitchers out and suspend them, consider how these knee-jerk reactions are affecting baseball on the whole. Look at the situation that YOU created, MLB. Did Matt Capps hit Prince Fielder with a pitch? Or, in fact, was Prince Fielder irresponsible in avoiding the pitch? Because umpires continue to toss pitchers, and MLB subsequently suspends them, the real issue at hand — the fact that batters don’t know how to protect themselves — looms larger and more dangerous.

Forget about the implications of the strike zone getting smaller, because pitchers will be afraid to pitch inside. For the moment let’s focus on this problem: by telling pitchers they cannot hit batters, you are in effect telling batters that they won’t get hit. In turn, batters will not learn how to get out of the way, will continue to dive into the plate, and will stubbornly stand their ground as a pitch comes near their body.

MLB, by suspending Matt Capps, is not helping the situation — it is only making it worse.


Fernando Tatis: Steroid Target?

Fernando Tatis hitting for the CardinalsA few days after minor leaguer Jorge A. Reyes was suspended for 100 games for violating baseball’s drug policy for the second time, the Mets have another steroid-related issue to deal with.

According to the Associated Press, the investigators driving George Mitchell’s steroid probe have requested the medical records of several ballplayers from the Baltimore Orioles. The players include Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Grimsley, David Segui, Jerry Hairston, Jr., and current New Orleans Zephyr Fernando Tatis.

The reasoning behind the request has not been reported, but it’s obvious that there is reason to believe that Mitchell’s agents suspect these players of using performance-enhancing narcotics.

After the revelation of former bat boy-turned-drug dealer Kirk Radomski, followed by the Reyes suspension, and compounded by the suspension currently being served by Guillermo Mota, the Mets appear to be falling deeper and deeper into darkness of baseball’s most embarrassing issue. So far, the organization has been able to skirt the subject. PR man Jay Horwitz deserves a gold medal for the remarkably effective damage control he’s executed thus far, especially considering that he’s operating in the most sensitive media outlet in the world. Though, his effectiveness is due in part to the fact that fans don’t want to hear bad news about their heroes. As juicy a story steroids may be, it simply doesn’t sell. Before finding out that a local hero is a user, New York fans want to hear that Barry Bonds has been brought to justice. The steroid issue is something people want unraveled away from home. Unfortunately, the deeper this story goes, the closer it’s getting to Flushing.