Archive: September 18th, 2007

Mets Game 150: Loss to Nationals

Nationals 9 Mets 8

The players had a team meeting. Willie Randolph had a closed-door meeting. The team was facing one of the worst teams in the National League. They were motivated to get rolling. All signs pointed to “go”.

And the Mets lost.

Gosh … where do we start? What was the worst part of this game? The fact that John Maine gave up eight runs in four innings? That Willie Randolph remains only slightly more animated than a corpse? That Jose Reyes had another oh-fer? The news that El Duque will be out at least another week to ten days? The injury to Moises Alou? The fact that we as Mets fans not only have to deal with a colossal collapse but simultaneously have to tolerate the glib and goading Yankee fans that have re-emerged out of the woodwork to point out the opposite directions the two New York teams are taking lately?

Let’s just glaze over all the negatives and focus on the positives. For example, the Mets did not make an error. That’s right, they went error-free for a full nine innings. Shawn Green went 3-for-4 with another homerun. Endy Chavez and Jeff Conine were a combined 5-for-5 with 3 RBI. Moises Alou had two hits and extended his hitting streak to 22 games. Paul LoDuca went 2-for-4 with a double. David Wright hit two doubles. Guillermo Mota pitched a PERFECT one-third of an inning.

All for naught.

The Mets blew a first-inning, four-nothing lead. They blew a 7-3 lead. They blew, period.

I can’t revamp here the summary without getting sick (again). Go to Yahoo to read the recap.

Notes

Usually when a team holds “team meetings”, it’s either the beginning of the end or a collective grasping at straws. In other words, losers hold team meetings. When was the last time you heard of a team rallying around each other and prevailing over their opponents after a supercharged team meeting?


Next Game

The Mets have already lost the series to the lowly Nats and the Phillies are a game and a half behind. And Mike Pelfrey (instead of Tom Glavine) will be facing Matt Chico in the finale in another 7:05 PM start. So yeah, we’re counting on the 2-7 Pelfrey to pull the Mets out of the deepest ditch of the year. Good luck with that.

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Postseason Gear

The chilly weather of this past weekend was a reminder of how cold it can get in the New York City area in the fall. Since we’re assuming our beloved Mets will be competing come October, it’s time to start choosing cold-weather gear to wear to Shea during the playoffs.

Even if you don’t have postseason tickets, no doubt you’ll be heading out to bars and friends’ places in the brisk autumn weather — and you certainly don’t want to be mistaken for a Yankee fan!

So check out the MetsToday Store for the recently added “Cold-weather Gear” section, where I hand-picked Mets jackets, knit hats, gloves, sweatshirts, long sleeve shirts, mock turtlenecks, blankets, coffee thermoses, and every other item I could find to keep warm during the postseason. There are about ten pages to browse through, with items at all different price points, so you’re likely to find something worth ordering. Be sure to order today so you can get your gear in time for the NLDS.

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Head Scratchers

Starting Pitcher: Brian Lawrence

This game was doomed 24 hours before it began, when Lawrence was summoned to be the “emergency starter”. Did we miss something? I didn’t see an ambulance, nor hear sirens.

The gist of it is this: Pedro Martinez needs a full five days’ rest between starts. OK, fine. So throw John Maine on his regular four days’ rest (he last pitched on the 12th), then go with Mike Pelfrey (who last pitched in relief on 9/11) for game two, and Tom Glavine (9/14) for game three. The problem then is who pitches the opener in Florida — but worry about it then, after you’ve likely swept the Nationals and it doesn’t matter as much. You can throw Jason Vargas against the Marlins (who last pitched on 9/14), or Philip Humber, who has pitched all of three innings this month. In fact, why didn’t Humber get the “emergency start” in the opener in DC? Did the Mets really believe that he would do worse than the nail-biting four-inning disasters Lawrence has provided in every one of his previous five starts?


The Double Switch

Poor Willie Randolph has had a hard time wrapping his head around the whole “double switch thing” ever since entering the National League. It’s not really his fault; after all, he spent most of his life in the American League, where they play a modified version of baseball.

Finally, after almost three years, Willie figured out how to execute the complicated maneuver. It was a nice try — and you have to commend him for trying — but it didn’t quite make sense. Willie replaced the pitcher’s spot with Mike DiFelice, and brought in Jorge Sosa to hit in Paul LoDuca’s position in the order. This was an ill-advised decision on several fronts. First, Sosa is actually a better hitter than DiFelice (Sosa was originally signed as a power-hitting outfielder). Secondly, of all the players in the lineup to replace, it can’t be LoDuca — one of the few guys on the field currently with a pulse. According to Randolph, he wanted to pitch Sosa for multiple innings without his turn coming to the plate. If that’s true, why? Despite his recent troubles, Sosa has been one of the guys Willie’s leaned on when the Mets are ahead in the game. If he pitched more than an inning on Monday, he would not be available on Tuesday. That means if the Mets need pitchers for the 6th and 7th the options will include Pedro Feliciano and … Guillermo Mota. This was a bad idea from the beginning, never mind the fact that it was exacerbated by Willie’s decision to pinch-hit DiFelice with Ruben Gotay — thereby eliminating the purpose of the double-switch.

Paulie’s Tirade

Paul LoDuca’s postgame quote:

“There’s no excuses,” said Paul Lo Duca, who appeared to seethe at being removed on a double-switch in the sixth. “We get paid a lot of money and we’re not playing the game the right way. We’re lackadaisical on defense. We swung the bats a little better tonight, but it just seems like we’re not really playing to win. We’re being very passive and leaning back on things and just not playing well. It needs to turn around quickly or we’re going to be going home.”

Not sure why Paulie’s so excited … this has been the Mets’ modus operandi all year. And the strategy has worked quite well — cruise along, put in just enough effort not to lose more than you win, and wait for the Braves and Phillies to lose more often. That strategy looked like it would work fine last night, when the Cardinals nearly came back from an eleven-run deficit to beat the Phils.

The “Big” Games

Throughout the first half of the season, Willie Randolph continually downplayed the Mets’ struggles and justified his giving away weekday afternoon games with the illogical view that the most important games of the year are played in September. (Of course, at the same time, he’s been quoted as saying “every game is important”.)

Willie’s stone-aged philosophy that the games at the end of the year are somehow more important than those in the beginning or middle is now coming back to bite him in the ass. For example, we’re now looking at “throwaway” games — such as the Dave Williams start right before the All-Star break — with new perspective. We’re wondering why Damion Easley and Jose Valentin were given so many chances over the hot-hitting Ruben Gotay in the first half, and no longer buying the “it’s not all about the numbers” explanation handed by Randolph. But perhaps more relevant is the fact that Willie made September games appear so much more important than those played from April to August, that the team is choking. Sound defensive teams such as the Mets do not make ten errors in two days. Only two things cause that kind of lapse: fatigue and/or nerves. It wouldn’t be surprising if exhaustion was at least partly to blame for some of the errors in the field. After all, two of the culprits are the two most-worn players, David Wright and Jose Reyes. Keith Hernandez can say all he wants about youngsters not taking a breather, but the fact is, these two guys are dog-tired — and it’s too late now to do anything about it. Much was made of the day off finally given to Reyes a couple weeks ago, but unfortunately, 48 hours doesn’t necessarily rejuvenate a guy who needed a rest since mid-May.

Back in Keith’s day, players had access to greenies, and almost no one stole 75 bases a year. The biological fact is, bodies eventually break down, and a guy like Reyes — who exerts more than anyone else in MLB — needs more rest than the MLBPA-sanctioned every-other Monday off. Consider this: the year Rickey Henderson stole 130 bases, he played in 149 games — and his position was the outfield, which mentally and physically is less demanding than shortstop. Further, anyone who watched Rickey will tell you that there were plenty of moments he “took it easy” (less-nice people called him “a dog”). However, Reyes doesn’t cruise, or dog — ever. He’s putting out 100% from the first pitch to the last, and Randolph should have realized early on that he would need frequent breaks during the season to stay fresh. With two weeks left in the season, there’s obviously no time for that for either of the Mets’ young stars.

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Fundamentals: a Refresh

Rawlings Major League BaseballOK, no time to panic here. All the Mets need right now is a refresh on the fundamentals of baseball. Perhaps playing in those big stadiums with the frenetic crowds and TV cameras and flashbulbs popping has caused you Mets to lose sight of the fact that, whether it’s played in a sandlot, on a little league field, or in a $500M retractable dome stadium, it’s still baseball. And to win at this boys’ game, you must follow fundamentals. For example:

1. Know the number of outs and the score at all times.

2. When in the field, and before the next pitch is thrown, think about what you will do with the ball if it’s hit to you.

3. When you are behind in the score and leading off an inning, take a strike.

4. A walk is often as good as a hit.

5. Leadoff walks nearly always score — so get them on offense and prevent them on defense.

6. Never, ever make the first out nor the third out at third base (particularly when your MVP is at the plate).

7. In the field, listen to your catcher’s instructions regarding where to throw the ball. He’s the only one on the field who has the play in front of him.

8. On ground balls, keep the glove down. It’s easier to move the glove up on bad hops than to jab it down.

9. In the field, always try to get in front of the ball and use two hands if possible.

10. For pitchers, the most important pitch is strike one.

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