Archive: May 18th, 2007

Preview: Mets vs. Yankees

Alex Rodriguez ponders the subway seriesThe Subway Series !

Ho hum … maybe if they didn’t do this twice a year, every year, it would seem more interesting. For some reason, it doesn’t feel nearly as special as it used to. In fact, it’s something of an annoyance — kind of like going out on New Year’s or St. Patrick’s Day. You know — all the amateurs are out. Similarly, Shea and the bars will be filled with pedestrian New York fans who watch the All-Star Game, one or two World Series games, and the “Subway Series”.

Not to take the excitement out … after all, this is still a big series for both teams — but not because it has something to do with crosstown rivalry.

Rather, the Mets are 1.5 games up on the Braves, so every game counts. By contrast, the Yankees are 9 games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox, and fading fast. The Yanks can’t afford to continue their current slide if they want to see the postseason, and really need to right the ship, right away. We can pretend that the two teams will be battling for bragging rights, but in reality it’s not about that.

Sorry to burst your bubble. Here’s how the games stack up:

Game One: Oliver Perez vs. Andy Pettitte

The lefties do battle in what appears to be the most exciting pitching matchup of the series. Who will take the mound for the Mets — Dr. Perez or Mr. Hyde? Andy Pettitte will likely do his usual thing — pitch 6-7 innings, give up one or two runs — but will the rest of the Yankee team support him? If the “good” Ollie shows up, it could be a great game.

Game Two: Tom Glavine vs. Darrel Rasner

Darrell who? Glavine has got to get his 295th win out of this game, right? Well, Rasner’s no slouch, and is actually one of the Yanks’ better starters at this point in the season. Rasner is kind of where John Maine was at the beginning of the second half last year — good low 90s fastball, inconsistent breaking pitch, inadequate changeup, but somehow does well enough to get through the lineup twice and give his team a chance to win. After that second time, though, there could be trouble. Most likely, though, he won’t be around for that third time — he averages about 5 1/3 innings per start.

Game Three: John Maine vs. ????
Maine needs to shake off his first poor start of the year and come in with good stuff against a potentially dangerous Yankee lineup. Yes, the Yanks are slumping, but they’re more like a sleeping giant than a team on the skids; they’ll hit, eventually, and the question is not if but when. However, the Mets are already hitting, and you would think they’d have an advantage against the Yankees’ mystery starter — it most likely will be rookie Tyler Clippard, who is a righthanded junkballer with a big overhand curve (i.e., Matt Morris). Luckily he’s not a lefty but could still stymie the Mets — as could Rasner — if the Wandy Rodriguez Effect is in place.

Mets Bats

You’ve likely noticed that David Wright is back and Carlos Delgado right behind him. Delgado may continue to warm up, considering that the Yankees will be throwing two inexperienced righthanders. Expect to see a lot of Carlos Gomez this weekend — he looks like the real deal, and far ahead of where we thought Lastings Milledge was this time last year.

Yankees Bats

Where are they? The Yankees are hitting .274 as a team and have not been the dominating force everyone expected, despite a huge April for A-Rod. Rodriguez has since cooled considerably, and Bobby Abreu has been absolutely awful. There was a time when Abreu could still help a team when he was slumping — be it by drawing walks, stealing bases, or using the glove — but those days are long gone. Jason Giambi most likely will be out all weekend with an injury, so we’ll see Doug Mientkiewicz at first base. Additionally, Robinson Cano is hitting .234 and playing like a zombie, while Johnny Damon has been having issues with his legs all year and only hitting .256. Outside of A-Rod, the only Yankee hitter to be concerned about at this point in time is Jorge Posada, who’s hitting a blistering .371.

Bottom Line

If the Yankees continue not to hit, the Mets should have a wonderful weekend. If by chance Shea Stadium somehow sparks the Yankee bats, it will be a wild and rollicking series.


Giambi Finally Admits to Steroids

Jason Giambi in his younger and slimmer days playing for Team USAIt took a while, but Yankee Jason Giambi finally, publicly admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Unlike his original public apology — the one in which he didn’t make clear for what exactly he was apologizing — Giambi this time mentioned specifically that he was sorry for taking steroids.

Well, sort of. Actually, he referred to the drugs as “the stuff”, and we can probably infer that “the stuff” is the steroids and human growth hormone mentioned in his grand jury testimony.

“I was wrong for doing that stuff … What we should have done a long time ago was stand up — players, ownership, everybody — and said: ‘We made a mistake.’ … I’m probably tested more than anybody else. I’m not hiding anything. That stuff didn’t help me hit home runs. I don’t care what people say, nothing is going to give you that gift of hitting a baseball.”

Yeah, riiiiiiiiiiight … whatever you say, Jason. So if that “stuff” didn’t help you hit homeruns, then why did you take it? To look good at the beach? To impress the girls with your biceps?

And if they didn’t help you hit homeruns, then why should anyone stand up and apologize? If steroids don’t make you a better player, then what’s the issue? Where was the mistake?

Why Giambi chose now to spill the beans is anybody’s guess. Perhaps to deflect the attention from Kyle Farnsworth?

In any case, thanks for the long-awaited apology. Good thing we weren’t holding our collective breath.


Inside Look: New York Yankees

New York Yankees LogoEven if you are a diehard Mets fan, if you live in the New York Tri-state area, it’s difficult to avoid knowing at least a little bit about the Yankees. The Yanks, after all, are the media’s primary focus when it comes to baseball — regardless of how well the Mets are doing. And that’s fine with us — it takes the pressure off, and allows the Mets to worry about what they’re doing on the field, as opposed to off (for the most part, anyway).

With the “Subway Series” about to commence, you have the rare oppoturnity to get inside the mind of a Yankee fan. Alex Belth of Bronx Banter and was kind enough to share his thoughts on a few subjects pertaining to the “other” team in New York.

1. First of all, what is going on with the Yanks? We thought the problem would be pitching, and though you’ve gotten some really bad luck with injuries in the rotation, it doesn’t seem like pitching is the problem.

Well, when they are hitting they haven’t been pitching, now that they are pitching they aren’t hitting. You figure if that’s the case, things should even out in the long run. That said, Damon has been playing hurt all year and hasn’t given them much at all. Giambi has been hurt and his production has fallen off. Abreu is experiencing the worst slump of his career and Robbie Cano is having his sophomore slump in his junior year.

On the Michael Kay Show a few days ago, Tino Martinez remarked that “only two or three guys are playing hard” on any given night. Are you seeing what he’s seeing? Do you think lackluster effort is part of the reason for the Yankees’ slow start, or a result of it?

I can’t really speak to that because I’m not in the clubhouse. But they definitely are not sharp and they don’t have a group of Type-A red ass personalities that they had back in Tino’s days.

4. How important is this Mets-Yankees series to George Steinbrenner? Considering the fact the Yanks are eight games behind the Red Sox, would losing two out of three to the Mets be viewed as the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, and might we see some knee-jerk reaction from the top?

Well, the Mets are always a big deal to George but I think it’s important to remember we aren’t dealing with The Boss we once knew (and loathed) for years. He’s severely diminished, and if he was going to have a knee-jerk reaction, well, he would have fired Torre years ago. Which isn’t to say that something won’t still happen, but you can’t set your watch by George’s explosions anymore because that George isn’t here anymore.

5. How do you think Joe Torre will manage the Yankee bench with the NL rules applying? (i.e., who will be the main pinch-hitters, how long will starters stay in, etc.)

Giambi won’t start because his foot makes him a liability in the field–not that he wasn’t already a mess. Which means that he’ll be regulated to pinch-hitting, late in the game and likely for a pitcher. Torre does not have much of a bench to work with. It’s not like he’s going to send up Will Neives any time soon.

6. Finally, what’s your take on interleague play? Has it lost its luster? Do you think it’s helped settle any Yankee fan vs. Met fan arguments?

I never cared for Interleague baseball, so it never had much luster for me. But I think objectively speaking the bloom is off the rose. I understand why they have interleague play–the Mets and Yanks sell out virtually every game–but it takes away anything that could be special about a true subway series. If they insist on it, I’d rather the Mets and Yanks play three games each season, one year in Queens the other in the Bronx, to keep a little suspense to it. As it is, the Yanks see the Mets as often as the usually see the Indians or the Royals. Kills it for me. And I’m not sure what six regular season games settle in terms of arguments. Playoff apperances and World Championships settle arguments. Otherwise, we’re just talking about fleeting bragging rights.

7. Anything else to add in regard to the series?

As you can tell, I’m not much for the subway series. It’s more for the fans, and I’m just not the kind of fan who likes getting hyped up for the sake of it. The Red Sox are different. Those are division games. I think the Mets-Yanks rivalry is a fugazy, fake, trumped-up. The Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers had a rivalry because they used to play in the WS often during the 40s and 50s. The Giants and Dodgers rivalry was real, Yanks and Sox are real. Yanks and Mets? I suppose it means something for a lot of fans. I just don’t happen to be one of them.

Thanks for your input, Alex.

Mets fans, be sure to check out Bronx Banter for opinions and analysis on the daily soap opera that is the New York Yankees, and also read more of Alex Belth’s articles at (Sports Illustrated).


10 Things to Like About Jason Vargas

Jason Vargas pitching for the MetsIt was only one game, and there’s a good chance it could be his last — at least for a while.

And, Jason Vargas gave up five runs — four the result of two gopher balls in the sixth inning. Hardly impressive. So why would there be any fuss at all about the little lefty?

Call it a hunch, but I think Vargas could one day be a significant contributor to the New York Mets. It may not be this year, and he likely won’t be a star, but from what he’s shown in his miniscule time with the Mets, I think Jason Vargas could evolve into a solid #3 or #4 starter. And in this day and age, that’s high praise for a young hurler.

Here are ten reasons to like Jason Vargas:

1. He’s a competitor.
Maybe it has something to do with his small stature, but Vargas has the look and demeanor of a fierce competitor — on a Roger Clemens level (no, he doesn’t have The Roger’s skills, but he does have the game face).

2. He challenges hitters.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of pitching around sluggers. I like to see pitchers who believe in their stuff and go right at guys — regardless of slugging percentage. Vargas backs down from nobody.

3. He throws strikes.
Yes, he gave up two homeruns in one inning. But he did not walk a single batter in seven innings. He may get beat, but he won’t beat himself.

4. He’s efficient with his pitches.

This goes along with #2 and #3. Because he doesn’t pick around the plate like a kid who hates vegetables, and challenges hitters to swing, he gets out of innings in a dozen pitches or less. This is a nice feature for a starting pitcher, and saves the bullpen.

5. He exudes confidence.
Isn’t it really uncomfortable to watch Mike Pelfrey’s discomfort in the first two innings of a ballgame? It’s a lot less stressful to watch Vargas pitch. Even if he gave up five runs in the first inning, Jason’s borderline cockiness would have kept you feeling good about the Mets’ chances in the game.

6. He’s unflappable.
A homerun by Angel Pagan? Whatever. Another homer two batters later to Aramis Ramirez? Hey, sh*t happens, it’s not the end of the world. Vargas kept his composure after the two taters, in a mature way that was comparable to Tom Glavine. Vargas settled down to retire the next two batters, and then threw a hitless seventh. No worries, no panic. Very professional.

7. He’s lefthanded.

Not sure why, but lefthanders are overvalued, and can have longer careers than righties if they so desire.

8. He can hit.
A .310 career batting average. ’nuff said.

9. He fields his position well.

This cannot be discounted. See Glavine, Maddux, et al.

10. He’s a team player and good guy in the clubhouse.
Or didn’t you notice that his head was shaved clean?

Also, there was a specific game last year — Mike Pelfrey’s first big-league win, ironically — that Vargas came in to relieve Ricky Nolasco in the second game of a doubleheader. The Mets had pounded Nolasco for nine runs in an inning and two-thirds, and manager Joe Girardi asked Vargas to come in and take one for the team. Vargas remained out there for over six innings, allowing another 8 runs, but continued to compete. A dark day in his career, but also evidence of his selfless attitude.

Again, it’s doubtful that Jason Vargas will some day start an All-Star game. However, his makeup suggests that he might someday compare to Bobby Ojeda, or, at worst, a lefthanded Bobby J. Jones — the kind of guy who has a lot of heart, a competitive fire, and won’t wilt under the pressure of a big game. In other words, exactly the type of pitcher valued by a championship team.