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18 | July | 2007 | Mets Today
Archive: July 18th, 2007

Mets Game 94: Loss to Padres

Padres 5 Mets 4

It was a case of too little, too late. But, a step in the right direction.

Mets pitcher John MaineJohn Maine struggled through a 36-pitch first inning, though it wasn’t entirely his fault. Maine induced an inning-ending double play grounder from Adrian Gonzalez, but unfortunately Carlos Delgado could not bend over his belly to reach the ball and it skipped all the way to the rightfield corner, scoring Brian Giles from first. Maine struck out Mike Cameron for the second out, and appeared to be out of trouble when he ran the count to one ball and two strikes on Khalil Greene. However, Greene fought off the 1-2 pitch and dropped a Texas leaguer in front of a diving Shawn Green in rightfield to score Gonzalez, who’d been running on contact with two outs. It looked like the inning was going to get even uglier when the next batter, Josh Bard, lined a shot off the glove of a diving David Wright, but Maine kept his cool and retired Kevin Kouzmanoff with a flyout.

In the third, leadoff batter Milton Bradley sent the first pitch he saw into the centerfield seats to extend the Padres lead to 3-zip. That wasn’t enough of a hole for Maine, so he gave up another solo homer to Adrian Gonzalez in the bottom of the fifth.

With a comfortable four-run lead and in the midst of pitching a fantastic ballgame, Greg Maddux abruptly took himself out of the game, having thrown only 65 pitches. This eventually turned out to be a break for the Mets.

It didn’t happen immediately, however, as Cla Meredith threw a quick and perfect sixth. Finally, the Mets got on the board in the seventh inning, when Carlos Delgado led off the inning with a homerun against LOOGY Royce Ring.

The top of the eighth inning started innocently enough. The Mets were down 4-1, and highly regarded setup man Scott Linebrink retired the first two batters easily before walking Jose Valentin. Then Linebrink threw a wild pitch to give Valentin second base. Then he walked Carlos Beltran. Then the pitching coach came out, and a minute later David Wright smashed a searing line drive into the leftfield seats to tie the game.

However, Joe Smith struggled mightily in the bottom of the 8th and gave back the lead. Why Willie Randolph waited one batter too late to bring in Pedro Feliciano is anyone’s guess. Smith induced a groundout from Mike Cameron to lead off the inning, but walked the next batter Khalil Greene on four pitches. Smith then struck out Josh Bard with a nasty slider, but gave up a single to Kevin Kouzmanoff to put runners on first and second. With lefthanded hitter Geoff Blum at the plate, and Feliciano warming in the bullpen, Randolph left Smith out there — but he gave up another single to score the go-ahead, and winning, run. Smith looked really sad sitting in the dugout after being removed, as Feliciano retired pinch-hitter Jose Cruz Jr. to end the inning.


Notes

If you saw the ground ball that went past Delgado in the first, then you know that Maine pitched a helluva game, and truly was only responsible for the two solo shots. Delgado’s inflexibility saved him from being charged with an error — it’s hard for the official scorer (especially a home team scorer) to give an error to someone who doesn’t get the glove on the ball. But make no mistake: Delgado has to field that ball.

Interesting that Willie Randolph put Delgado and Green — two lefty hitters — back to back in the lineup. It was as if he were pulling a Tony LaRussa Jedi mind trick on Padre manager Bud Black — convincing him to use Royce Ring specifically for those guys. If that was the strategy, it sort of worked, since Delgado went deep on Ring.

Jose Reyes is looking really bad on off-speed pitches lately. Hopefully he’ll start trusting his hands again — he doesn’t seem to realize how quick they are.

Though it was a loss, it somehow felt a lot different from what we’d seen through most of June and the beginning of July. The at-bats were more focused, and the body language was good — no one was going in the tank, making dumb mistakes, or giving in. It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. And though the Mets lost, they played the game well, and fought back (finally!), which is encouraging. As long as they continue to show the hunger to win, and play hard and focused, they’ll stay atop the NL East — in my humble (not) and uneducated opinion.

Ron Darling gave a few pitching lessons during the broadcast, one regarding the pressure points that Greg Maddux uses, and one — taught to him by Mel Stottlemyre — regarding the difference between a two-seamer and a sinker. Both explanations were close, but not the entire story. So, if you are a young pitcher and genuinely interested in knowing how to get the fastball to move, send me an email.

Willie Randolph announced after the game that David Newhan had been optioned back to New Orleans and that Marlon Anderson would join the Mets in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Next Game

The Mets travel to Chavez Ravine to face the Los Angeles Dodgers for a four-game set. Tom Glavine faces Derek Lowe in a 10:10 PM EST start. Once again, gotta wonder what the West has against afternoon games.

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Williams Clears Waivers

Lefthanded pitcher Dave Williams, who had been designated for assignment by the Mets to make room on the roster for Oliver Perez on July 14th, has cleared waivers already and joined the New Orleans Zephyrs.

Anyone who witnessed his July 8th start can tell you that Williams was not even close to ready when he made his first start of 2007. Williams spent most of March, April, May and June recovering from surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck, and made only three starts — totaling 18 innings — in the minors before his forgettable game with the Mets.

Luckily for the Mets, no one took a chance on the 28-year-old lefty, who once at full strength could be very helpful as a spot starter and long man out of the bullpen. Anyone who thinks his inability to break a pane of glass with his fastball earlier this month means he’s washed up, must understand this guy’s only been throwing a ball for about three weeks, after not throwing since October of last year. He did not have the benefit of spring training, and his throwing program was rushed because of the DL rules. Now that he’s cleared waivers, he can take his time building back up in AAA.

My uneducated guess is he’ll need at least another three weeks, which would make him “ready” in mid-August. That may seem a long way off, but anything can happen between now and then. There could be an injury, a trade, a suspension, a dropoff in perfomance — many things can happen that would require his services with the big club. It’s always nice to have an extra lefty hanging around.

Franco Returns to Atlanta

As you may have already seen, 49-year-old Julio Franco has rejoined Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves after being released by the Mets.

The Braves’ idea of Craig Wilson and Scott Thorman at first base has blown up, and the position is now being manned by top catching prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Franco’s two main purposes on the Mets were to provide a good clubhouse presence and make Orlando Hernandez feel young, but apparently he wasn’t fulfilling the former — supposedly, he’d been whining about playing time and other things that a .200 hitter has no right to be complaining about. Said Willie Randolph,

“The clubhouse stuff is totally overrated,” Randolph told reporters in San Diego. “You have to play, you have to produce.”

And according to John Delcos,

Jose Valentin offered up that Franco was a less than eager participant in the club’s pre-game stretching. He also said Franco wouldn’t hesitate to get in the face of some of the younger players about doing their jobs even though he was hitting .200.

“To be a leader for me, it’s not enough to talk all the time,’’ Valentin said. “You have to go out and do it yourself.’’

Ouch.

Sounds like Franco should be looking for a coaching job — as we’d all been begging him to do since mid-May. You know, those who can’t do, teach.

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Shut Up Michael Kay

Michael Kay photoFirst, let me state that I enjoy listening to Michael Kay on the ride home every afternoon. Yup, I admit it — I’d rather listen to a Yankee homer than Fatcesspool and the Crapdog. Kay is fairly entertaining, usually gives the Mets ample attention on his show, and doesn’t ever discuss baseball teams from San Francisco.

However, yesterday he spoke about something that made him laugh — and it makes ME laugh.

“Last week the Mets changed hitting coaches. The funny part is they changed hitting coaches because they felt that their philosophy of taking pitches, working the count, wasn’t being instituted. And I kind of laughed at that … Rick Down is the guy who brought THAT philosophy to the Yankees … did Omar simply not like Rick Down?”

Um, Michael … puh-leeze tell me you weren’t serious. No, really. Do you think that Rick Down’s philosophy of working the count is some kind of new idea? Further, do you really, honestly believe that just because a guy’s philosophy is correct, and in line with the organization’s, is the penultimate reason to keep his job?

Take my hand, Michael, and allow me to introduce you to the rest of the world — the one outside of professional sports. For example, let’s examine a business that sells a product, or products — go ahead, pick any one you want. Now, let’s say that the company’s philosophy is to sell their goods based on exceptional customer service. Let’s also say that their regional sales manager lives and breathes exactly that philosophy. Let’s go even further, and say that manager’s team set company sales records the year before. Are you with me, Michael? OK.

Now let’s say that the company is looking at their sales numbers for this year, and they’re down — and that the numbers in the aforementioned manager’s region are particularly down. Now, that manager has the same sales team from the year before, and still holds the same philosophy, but the sales aren’t where they were a year ago. Who’s to blame?

In the real world, Michael, that sales manager might be given a chance to ignite his staff, or might be told to fire the members of his team, or he’ll be fired himself. It doesn’t matter if he understands the company’s philosophies and goals or not — the bottom line is, he has to be able to effectively communicate them. He has to implement the philosophy, and find a way to drive the team toward the goals. If he doesn’t, he’s gone.

Now, back to pro sports. The Mets’ goal is a World Championship. They have, effectively, the same personnel in place. Their hitting is not up to snuff — the offensive statistics are down, and the players are not adhering to the organizational philosophy of working counts. It doesn’t matter if Rick Down knows what the batters should be doing, it matters that he can’t get them to do it. The measure of a manager or a coach is that he can extract the full potential of his players — not simply that his theories and philosophies make sense. Rick Down can preach all he wants about what he thinks about deep counts, but if he can’t convince Damion Easley not to swing at the first pitch in the seventh inning of a one-run game, then he has failed in his role as hitting coach.

Yes, I know, part of the Rick Down firing was to shake things up. There had to be a scapegoat, as you can’t fire the players, so Down gets the boot. And yes, the players’ lackluster performance is much their own fault. However, to those who live and work in the real world, and have witnessed the removal of managers in the corporate setting, do not see Down’s firing as surprising, nor illogical. It’s the way life works — someone gets paid to lead others toward a goal, the goal is not met, the leader gets fired. Not uncommon, and part of the deal.

So, Michael, before you “laugh” at a decision made by the management of an organization, consider the reality of the world. And also, that sometimes a pro sports team does, in fact, expect results — just like a “real” business.

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Random Notes for July 18

More random thoughts on the current state of the Mets

– I don’t mind Willie Randolph playing Jose Valentin to “get him going”. Yes, I’m the guy begging to see Gotay starting, but Valentin is a good all-around player who can help the team in many ways off the bench, starting 2-3 times per week at 2B and in the outfield. Ideally, Willie would mix and match Valentin, Gotay, Shawn Green, Lastings Milledge, and Carlos Delgado, keeping all of them fresh and focused. However, that’s a bit too much juggling for Randolph — he’s still trying to figure out that double-switch thing.

– We may look back on Tuesday night’s victory as the turning point in the season. The attitude, focus, and body language were indicative of a team hungry to win. They’ll need to keep that going through October if it’s to be a championship season.

– Pointed out by regular MetsToday visitor Micalpalyn: Tom Glavine’s quest for 300 is more or less under the radar lately, which is a good thing. Four out of his last five starts were absolute gems, the only poor one being in Colorado. His focus on 300 has left, and he’s back to concentrating on one pitch at a time.

– Gotta love Willie Randolph playing down the extra BP before the game last night. God forbid he give HoJo some credit so soon after his “brother” Rick Down left.

– Carlos Delgado is batting .312 over his last 93 at-bats. I think it’s safe to say he’s out of his slump.

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10 Reasons Willie Randolph Needs an Eye Exam

1. He couldn’t read the abysmal numbers his offense was putting up, and couldn’t see the godawful at-bats they were zipping through. Otherwise, he never would have disagreed with the firing of his “brother” Rick Down.

Photos of Rick Down and Willie Randolph show they are not brothers2. He isn’t able to see that he and Rick Down are clearly, not, brothers.

3. It took him three months to recognize Ruben Gotay as a player on his roster, and another two weeks beyond that to see his batting average was higher than anyone else’s on the team.

4. It took him just as long to recognize Julio Franco was still on the roster, and couldn’t see Franco’s batting average, which was the lowest on the team.

5. He consistently mistakes the “5” in front of Scott Schoeneweis’ ERA as a “2”, and therefore inserts “The Blow” into meaningful ballgames.

6. He can’t seem to discern any of the numbers in Damion Easley’s batting average — how else do you explain his persistence in proclaiming that “Easley’s having a good year with the bat” ?

7. He couldn’t see that Carlos Delgado was in the worst slump of his career, and as a result kept penciling him into the cleanup spot through the end of June.

8. He rarely waves Aaron Sele into a game because Sele usually is seated toward the back of the bullpen, too far from Willie’s range of view.

9. He sees Damion Easley’s iron glove and Jose Valentin’s limited mobility as superior to Ruben Gotay’s defensive skills.

10. He sees a bushy and manly mustache in the mirror, rather than what it really is — a silly, pencil-thin smear of peachfuzz that only a 15-year-old boy would be proud to wear.

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Good Signs

A lot of good came out of Tuesday night’s game in San Diego.

Among them:

  • all-out hustle from everyone, for the first time in a while
  • being extremely alert and aware and taking advantage of little mistakes by the opponent — i.e., Valentin taking second on a ball in the dirt, Valentin and El Duque stealing on Peavy
  • the reappearance of “small ball” — for example, Shawn Green bunting the runners to second and third with none out in the eighth
  • taking first pitches as a rule, rather than exception
  • deep counts, long at-bats, wearing out the starting pitcher
  • Carlos Beltran hitting to the opposite field
  • the Mets tacking on runs throughout the game, keeping the heat on and continuing to score through the ninth inning
  • an overall sense of focus, urgency, and a distinct “edge” (not sure how to explain it, but the team just looked more interested in playing and winning than they’ve had)


Also of Note

  • Chip Ambres finally was promoted. The guy has been destroying the ball in AAA over the last month and a half. He takes Damion Easley’s spot on the roster (Easley was placed on the bereavement list as he has a family illness) and may get a few pinch-hit appearances.
  • Jose Valentin had several deep counts, a big hit, and was running around like a chicken with his head cut off. Wonder if Ruben Gotay’s batting average and extra pregame workout was the inspiration?
  • Mets prospect Corey Ragsdale

  • Doesn’t matter much to the big club right now, but eternal enigma Corey Ragsdale — a former first-round pick — is being converted from shortstop to the pitcher’s mound (I’d post the link to Baseball America, but it’s a pay/subscription site). Ragsdale’s greatest tool has always been his arm, and he’s struggled to stay above the Mendoza Line his entire pro career.
  • Did you see anything else? Did I miss anything? Leave your comments, thanks.

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