Archive: July 16th, 2007

Mets Game 92: Loss to Padres

Padres 5 Mets 1

The Mets had several opportunities to push David Wells, but couldn’t move him. All that weight makes him fairly immovable, I guess. Unfortunately, every time they got a bit of a rally going, the Mets had the dumb luck of having the middle of their order up at the plate. It’s hard to score runs when you’re constantly putting runners in scoring position for Carlos Beltran and not someone further down in the lineup.

Grrrrr ….

Their inability to put anything together against a fat old man who was struggling was not only embarrassing, but a waste of a fine effort by Jorge Sosa, who pitched six strong innings in his first start since returning from the DL. Sosa, in fact, hit Wells the hardest, driving a double into the left-center gap in the third inning. Sosa also walked against Wells, and thereby had a perfect game at the plate. Pretty sad when your pitcher has the best at-bats against a grossly overweight 44-year-old. Any of the starting eight — except maybe Carlos Delgado — would have reached base easily by merely dropping a bunt back to the rotund one. In fact, had Boomer been forced to bend over, he likely would have thrown out his back and left the game.

Sosa pitched six innings and allowed two runs on five hits and two walks. He deserved better.

The bullpen wasn’t so great — Joe Smith allowed two hits, one of which eventually scored, and Aaron Heilman allowed his seventh homerun of the year, a prodigious blast to dead centerfield off the bat of Mike Cameron (huh, Heilman ineffective again on back-to-back days … who’da thunk it?). But it’s avoiding the obvious to blame the game on the bullpen. Bottom line is, the Mets had many, many chances to move runners around and failed miserably. Every game, this squad is looking less and less like champions, and more and more like also-rans. Omar Minaya is right to be concerned — and critical — of this woefully underachieving offense.


Bandits Caught

David Wright was picked off first by David Wells in the sixth inning. Unfortunately, no one noticed that Wells clearly balked — he strode a good three-quarters of his normal stride toward home plate, rather than stepping toward first as per the rule book. It didn’t matter, though, since Wright was going on first move — a bush league decision on his part. It’s OK to go first move once in a while, but it rarely makes sense before the pitcher has thrown a pitch, nor thrown to first base.

Ruben Gotay was thrown out by a mile on a 3-1 pitch to Jose Reyes in the seventh. Did someone give Jose the take sign? Normally I’m all about taking pitches and getting into deep counts, but a 3-1 count, tight ballgame, and your best triples hitter at the plate in a triples park — why isn’t he swinging there? Gotay didn’t seem to get a great jump, making one wonder if Reyes missed the hit-and-run sign. It would certainly explain things — there isn’t any other logical explanation.


After not being in good position to throw, and allowing the runners to advance on a fly ball in the third, Lastings Milledge got the TPS Reports treatment upon returning to the dugout — receiving verbal corrections from both Sandy Alomar and Jerry Manuel. Lastings’ response? “I got the memo … ”

Buff Brothers No Longer Puffed

Fascinating, isn’t it, how the Giles brothers no longer hit for any power? And how they don’t look quite as “puffy” anymore? I swear Marcus’ neck shrunk by at least two sizes. The power outage MUST have something to do with Petco, and the shrinkage may be due to the crappy food on the West Coast. Couldn’t possibly be anything else. I mean, has anything been implemented, or changed, in MLB, since 2005?

Ring My Bell

Nice to see Heath Bell pitching well for the Padres — we certainly wouldn’t be able to use an effective middle/setup reliever right now. Who did we get for him and Royce Ring? Oh, that’s right, two AAAA guys to fill out the Zephyrs’ roster.

Valid Points and Observations by My Wife During the Game

My wife Amy had a flurry of intriguing observations while watching the game and simultaneously playing solitaire with a deck of New York Mets Playing Cards (I, on the other hand, can barely walk and chew gum at the same time). Among them:

  • Khalil Greene looks like Paris Hilton.
  • Ron Darling was in the broadcast booth, but Keith Hernandez was not. My wife further noted that Darling and Hernandez are rarely in the booth together — making one wonder, are they the same person? Kind of like Michael and Latoya Jackson …
  • Jose Valentin must have punched a wall because of a girl. Because, if it were a man who ticked him off, he would have punched the man.

Speaking of Valentin, just what in tarnation was he doing in the lineup? Especially since (a) his hand injury most severely affects his righthanded hitting; (b) Damion Easley’s career batting average against David Wells is a lofty .311 in 61 ABs; and (c) Valentin was hitting .125 career vs. Wells?

Next Game

Well, there went the Mets only chance to win the series, and they had a sweaty pig ready to be placed on the spit. They lose Tuesday night in a match to Jake Peavy that begins at 10:05 PM EST. El Duque goes to the mound for the Mets, not that it matters. If the Mets can’t muster anything against the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man, the only way they’ll beat Peavy is if he tries to throw lefty.

I’m sorry, do I sound negative? I get that way when I sit up until nearly one in the morning to watch these Left Coast games, only to be disappointed by sloppy play and unfocused at-bats.


Inside Look: San Diego Padres

San Diego Padres logoTen questions weren’t enough to cover the Padres … so I asked seven more of “Dex” and “jbox” of Gaslamp Ball.

1. The Padres remind me a bit of the Mets of the 1970s — superior pitching, good defense, abysmal offense. It didn’t help that injuries have hurt the lineup as well. Are the additions of Milton Bradley and Michael Barrett enough, or do the Padres need to go outside the organization again for a bat before the trade deadline?

Bradley and Barrett will probably be the only offensive help that the Pads are going to get this season. It should be enough, if you look up and down the lineup it looks like a good offense on paper, it’s just a matter of getting the offense to click at the right times. Just about every Padre fan is begging for Kevin Towers to make a trade for a power bat, we at Gaslamp Ball like the strategy of playing to our strengths. We are a great pitching team, let’s live and die by pitching and hope for the best as far as the offense is concerned. There isn’t much out there
in the way of a power bat, and what is out there would handcuff the organization in the future. We don’t want another contract like Klesko’s that puts leg shackles on the team.

2. If San Diego does make a deal, who might they be after? Who do they
have as trade bait?

We really don’t have any idea who the Padres are looking at, we suspect they aren’t even shopping for anymore offense. Kevin Towers has mentioned recently that he wants to pick up another 5th starter.

Our relief pitcher, 8th inning guy, Scott Linebrink has been on the trading block so long, that he’s putting up roots there. Moving his wife and kids to the trading block and looking to build a winter home there.

3. Kevin Kouzmanoff struggled at the beginning of the year, but seems to have righted the ship. Is he the answer at third base — now and for the long term?

Kooz is the answer for now. The idea is that he’ll develop into the greatest third basemen to ever play the game, but who knows how that will work out. We’ve had a bad track record with third basemen since Caminiti, so you hope for the best.

4. What can we expect from David Wells and Greg Maddux in this series? Are they helped by Petco?

I expect David Wells to get into some arguments with some Umpires and throw about six innings of vicious curveballs on the outside half of the plate. Maddux will pick at the corners too and then probably get into an argument about the umpires strike zone as well.

5. What’s your feeling on the Giles brothers? Are two better than one?

Brian Giles hurt his knee a few months ago and had a deep bone bruise. He was on the DL for what seemed like forever. He’s lost all of his power from his days in a Pirates uniform, but he can still work a count with the best of them. He just recently took Marcus’s leadoff spot in the lineup.

Marcus has been struggling but is still the best defensive second basemen we have. He started off really hot offensively but he’s the type of guy that will come around and not slump for too long.

6. Tie ballgame, ninth inning, two out, runner on third. What Padre do you want at the plate?

Adrian Gonzalez. He slumped hard last month, but he’s still the best all around hitter we have. He can put the ball in play, he can hit for power and usually has a good idea of the strike zone.
He’s also sexy, sexy enough to make a Mets pitcher swoon and throw him some meat over the plate.

7. Same situation, but the Mets are hitting. Who would you least like to see in the batter’s box?

Adrian Gonzalez, because that would mean something crazy just happened. Adrian Gonzalez or Mike Piazza with a blonde crewcut circa 1999-2000, glowing like Obi-Wan Kenobi, that’d be scary.

Thanks again to Dex and jbox, and be sure to check out all things Padres (and Jedi mind tricks) at Gaslamp Ball.


Ten Questions: San Diego Padres

Bo Vandy of San Diego Spotlight was kind enough to answer ten questions regarding the Padres, to help educate us ignorant Right Coasters …

1. From our viewpoint, Bruce Bochy leaving for San Francisco was pretty stunning. Was it as surprising on the West Coast?

I don’t live on the West Coast, I follow the Padres from Nebraska, so really couldn’t tell you what people were thinking there, but I was fairly certain he was gone, win or lose. I even expected the Padres to pull a Dusty Baker scenario and let Bochy go even if they had pulled off a miracle.

2. How does Bud Black compare/contrast to Bochy in style? What’s your opinion of Black thus far?

Right now, I really don’t know, Black seems to have helped Peavy and Young, that’s for sure.

3. We can’t go on without at least mentioning Heath Bell. MetsToday was a major supporter of Heath, so his performance this year is hard to swallow. Are you happy thus far with Heath, and do you think he can be a reliable setup guy in the future?

Heath has had some bad outings, but he’s obviously had more good ones. I think he’ll be someone that can be relied on, as his career progresses, and perhaps as an heir apparent to Hoffy.

4. Speaking of that trade, can you please tell us all you know about Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins? We’re still waiting to find out what either of these guys have to offer (while they toil in AAA).

Unfortunately, I know almost nothing about them

(that speaks VOLUMES)

5. Is Kelly Calabrese still massaging players in the dugout? (sorry, I couldn’t resist — and yes, Keith Hernandez is still in the broadcast booth)

I have no idea. We don’t have anyone who will whine about it for 20 minutes any more.

6. When he’s hot, Khalil Greene can carry a club with his bat. Do you think he’ll ever develop consistency at the plate?

I’d like to say yes, but it’s not as though he’s a rookie. He was a fantastic hitter in College, but that really hasn’t translated over to the bigs. He’s obviously got some pop, but I don’t think he’ll ever be a .300 hitter, or anything close. Right now I’d settle for .280 with 20 homers — decent production from a shortstop.

7. Kevin Kouzmanoff: real deal? Would you have made that deal then, and would you make it again now?

Absolutely real deal. After an abysmal April, he’s come on quite nicely, especially showing some pop. I think 2008 will be his breakout year, average, and power wise, but I think he can also put together a huge second half, as long as his back holds up. I’d make the trade again, especially with the kind of season Josh Barfield has had so far, he’s been a major disappointment, I expected him to have a huge season for the Indians this year.

8. Milton Bradley and Michael Barrett both came with some baggage. How are they fitting in with their teammates thus far?

Bradley’s only played four games for us so far, so it’s a bit early to tell with him. As far as I know, Barrett hasn’t had any problems personality wise, but he hasn’t been the offensive spark plug the Padres hoped he’d be. I’m also a Cubs fan, so I have a unique perspective of this trade, it was apparently lose-lose. The Padres are 2-10 when Barrett starts, Rob Bowen couldn’t hit himself out of a wet paper sack. Barrett is also a huge downgrade defensively from Bowen, and I was confused at the time why either team did this trade. Both teams had one defensive catcher, and one offensive catcher. The Padres became a team with two good offensive catchers, and poor defensive catchers, the Cubs became a team with two pretty good defensive catchers, who can’t hit to save their lives. Barrett will be a free agent at the end of the year, and I don’t see him coming back next year.

9. Tie ballgame, ninth inning, two out, runner on third. What Padre do you want at the plate?

Someone we trade for at the deadline. Honestly, that is the key cog the Padres are missing, we don’t have the one big bat that opposing pitchers fear. If we don’t acquire it before July 31st, we certainly need to go out and get one in the offseason. If someone were to put a gun to my head I’d say Brian Giles. He’s had a very good June and July after an abysmal first two months, but his power is no where to be found

10. Same situation, but the Mets are hitting. Who would you least like to see in the batter’s box?

I’m sure you’ve never heard this before…..Jose Reyes. Just deadly in far too many ways, speed, power, patience at the plate. Wouldn’t want to see Reyes.

Thanks again to Bo of San Diego Spotlight for his cooperation.


Where Pelfrey Should Go

Random thoughts for a Monday afternoon …

Setup Man: Mike Pelfrey

We already know Mike Pelfrey is going to New Orleans. We’ll assume he’ll be re-joining the Zephyrs’ starting rotation. However, for the immediate future of the Mets (meaning, this year), it may behoove the brass to install him into a relief role. It’s pretty darn clear that Pelf ain’t helping the Mets as a starter this year, but his 95-MPH sinker and slider are ideal for bullpen duty. Maybe if he focuses solely on pitching one or two innings at a time, and only throws the sinker and slider, the Mets could have a formidable relief weapon (Adam Wainwright, anyone?) by the end of August. Oh, by the way, I wrote about Pelfrey as a reliever a few weeks back on Flushing University.

Back to the Bench

Ruben Gotay had an oh-fer yesterday and there’s a lefty on the mound tonight so we’ll assume he’s back on the bench. However, we’ll also assume that Damion Easley is starting in his place, and he’s batting over .300 against David Wells lifetime — so no biggie.

Games or Auditions?

This past weekend’s four-game set with the Reds may have been as much an evaluation as a competition. Cincinnati’s season is as dead as a doornail, and GM Wayne Krivsky is making just about everyone on the roster available. The Mets might be interested in pitchers Bronson Arroyo or David Weathers, or a veteran bat such as Jeff Conine. Surely fans would love to see Ken Griffey Jr. come to Shea, but a $16.5M option for 2009 automatically kicks in if he’s traded — making his acquistion sould more like a Yankee deal than an Omar deal. Though, if Omar wants to be really brave, he’d make a whammy of a trade and pry away Brandon Phillips to play second base. I think the chance of Conine coming this way is a bit more likely, but you never know.

Hot on Our Heels

Don’t look now, but the Braves are breathing down our backs, only a game and a half behind in second place. The scary thing is, they’re doing this with John Smoltz on the DL and Andruw Jones struggling to stay above the Mendoza Line. Guess what — Andruw is heating up, Smoltz will be coming back soon, and I’m getting scared.

Phading Phast

While the Braves are surging, the Phillies are slipping. They’re now five games behind, and are in danger of being passed by the Marlins. We must congratulate them, however, on their 10,000th loss — the most of any professional franchise in the history of sport. Think about that — a team could lose 100 games a season for fifty years and only be halfway there.


Trade with the White Sox

Calm down, it didn’t happen yet (if ever). And I’m certain MetsBlog would have scooped me if a deal went down.

However, it does seem that everybody’s waiting for Omar and Kenny Williams to make a deal. It ain’t happening — unless the ChiSox are willing to give away Jose Contreras for a spread of non-prospects (likely not).

Many MetsTodays visitors — and I — would love to see Javier Vazquez returning to New York (albeit to Flushing). However, since Williams just signed Mark Buehrle to a contract, it’s pretty clear Chicago plans to be in the hunt for at least the next few years. That said, why would they deal Vazquez, to whom they awarded a three-year extension this past March? Or for that matter, why trade Contreras — as has been suggested — when he is under control through 2009 for a cost below market value? Unless, of course, you think he’s washed up — in which case, do you want to gamble on a change to the NL being a boon for him?

There’s something to that idea — certainly the weaker-hitting league helped rejuvenate El Duque’s career. Speaking of, El Duque and Contreras are very similar pitchers, though Contreras tends to rely more on a splitfinger than the curve. Would it be beneficial for the Mets to add another junkballing starter to the staff? Maybe — but only if Jorge Sosa were ticketed to middle relief duty, Sosa has made very clear that he is uncomfortable in the bullpen.

The Mets’ terrible hitting of late has been the impetus for forecasts of Jermaine Dye coming to Shea. Not likely — not with Lastings Milledge suddenly tearing the cover off the ball and Dye hitting .230 AND limping on a bad quad. Though, reports are that Dye just went 3-for-6, is hitting homeruns, and his quad is completely healed. Funny how all that positive spin comes about two weeks before the trading deadline (I wonder if Kenny Williams just bought a Rolex for someone in his PR department?).

If the Mets make a deal, it more likely will be for an arm, and ideally a potential setup reliever. Someone like Octavio Dotel, Salomon Torres, or David Weathers would be nice, and perhaps not too expensive.

Speaking of cheap relievers, what ever happened to Scott Strickland? He was released by San Diego in late May after going 4-1 with a 4.58 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 19 innings for AAA Portland in the hitter-friendly PCL. The Padres dropped him before having to pay him an MLB salary to toil in the minors. He might have been a nice minor league pickup two months ago, but if he hasn’t pitched since mid-May then he’s probably a real long shot at this point.

Will the Mets make a deal? Probably, but how impactful it is remains to be seen. I’m betting on Omar to make one of those under-the-radar moves, such as he did last year to steal Guillermo Mota. We sure could use Mota circa September 2006 right now.


Series Preview: Mets vs. Padres

San Diego Padres baseball logoThe Mets travel to the West for a one-week swing on the Left Coast before returning home on July 24. They open today against the San Diego Padres before moving on to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers in what could be their most difficult week of the month.

Though they’re currently one game behind the Dodgers in the standings, the Padres are regarded by many to be the best team in the National League. That’s right, Mets fans — pull your head out of the sand. The Padres, on paper, have superior pitching, comparable defense, and an offense that is awful but good enough to win behind the first two components. And as we know, great pitching usually beats good hitting (unless you are the 1974 Mets).

Game One: Jorge Sosa vs. David Wells

We have no idea how Sosa will respond after tweaking his hamstring two weeks ago. If he’s completely healthy, the vast expanse of Petco Park should help his cause.

David Wells is having a down year, and he showed his frustrations to the world in an animated tirade against an umpire a week ago. He walks more people than he used to, but that won’t affect the Mets’ walkless offense. He may, however, have some trouble getting the ball all the way to the catcher if he throws too many of those 82-MPH fastballs at the letters. His curveball is still pretty sharp, though, and his changeup remains one of the better ones in the NL. Unless Rickey Henderson has had an instant impact, it’s likely the Mets batters will swing early on his pitches — and either knock him out by the fourth, or make him look like its 1995 again.

Game Two: Orlando Hernandez vs. Jake Peavy

El Duque will be greatly helped by the size of Petco and the punchless Padre lineup. However, he might have to pitch a shutout to win this game.

That’s because Jake Peavy will be on the hill in the top half of innings, and he’s in the middle of what may turn out to be the best season of his career. If the Mets can’t score more than one run off Matt Belisle, you think they’re gonna reach Peavy? Let’s just hope he doesn’t spin a no-hitter and whatever we can muster after that, will be a pleasant surprise. (My prediction: El Duque collects the Mets only two hits.)

Game Three: John Maine vs. Greg Maddux

Maine got roughed up in his last start but will rebound against the Padres. He’ll have to — he’s the stopper and there’s a good chance he’ll be following a loss.

Maddux has always been a thorn in the Mets’ side, and continues to annoy all of us with his sh*t-eating grin. Like his former teammate Tom Glavine, much of his success depends on how much of the plate the umpire gives him. But, again, that won’t mean much against the free-swinging Mets. There is one bit of optimism: the Mets pounded him last year to the tune of a 7.36 ERA. However, that 2006 lineup pounded a lot of pitchers — this 2007 version is disgraceful imposter.

Mets Bats

Other than the recent spark provided by Lastings Milledge, the Mets lineup isn’t exactly exciting anyone yet in the first half. Yes, they just took three out of four from the Reds, but Cincinnati is a dying team in last place and the Mets won by the skin of their teeth in two of the games — both against pedestrian pitchers. In fact, in their three wins, they scored a total of only 10 runs — facing two starters with more than ten losses, and all with ERAs around five.

Milledge is hitting well enough — and the rest of the lineup poorly enough — that he may move up a few spots in the order. However he’s doing well in the #8 spot, so who knows — maybe it’s a good thing to have some firepower at the bottom.

Shawn Green is starting to get some good swings on the ball, and Carlos Delgado seems to be out of his season-long slump. Jose Reyes is doing his thing at the top of the order, but there is a gaping void in the number three spot. It’s time for Carlos Beltran to start hitting already.

Padres Bats

Ah, the chink in San Diego’s armor. The Padres are last in MLB in hitting (tied with the Chicago White Sox), with a batting average (.243) resembling those aforementioned ’74 Mets. Veteran outfielder Brian Giles is a shell of his former self (huh, his stats have plummeted ever since steroid testing began), his brother Marcus is batting .240, the NL has caught up to Adrian Gonzalez (.262), and Jose Cruz Jr. was their starting leftfielder until very recently. How strong can an offense be when Mike Cameron is second on the team in batting average?

Still, San Diego does have its offensive threats. Young shortstop Khalil Greene is only batting .240, but when he’s hot he hits homeruns in bunches (BTW, he hit one on Saturday). Newly acquired Milton Bradley is hitting .313 this year, and as usual has a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. Rookie Kevin Kouzmanoff was hitting .108 as of the first week of May but since has hit .308 (48-for-156) with 12 doubles, eight homers and 32 RBIs — he’s also sent two over the fence in this young second half. Though Brian Giles’ production and power is down, he’s still a professional hitter who will get key hits, and Gonzalez could be coming out of his slump.

Bottom Line

The more you look at the Padres, the more they really do resemble a mid-1970s Mets team, though with a much deeper bullpen. If the Mets couldn’t find their strokes against the bush leaguers the Reds threw at them, it’s hard to believe they’ll start hitting against the best pitching in all of MLB (the Padres lead the rest of the Majors in ERA by over half a run). What makes things more difficult is that Petco Park is one of the hardest places to hit a homerun, and the Mets have relied on the long ball all year for their scoring. Someone will need to wake up Carlos Beltran, and the team will need to suddenly remember how to manufacture runs if they’re going to take a game or two in this series.