Archive: April 22nd, 2008

Mets Game 18: Loss to Cubs

Cubs 8 Mets 1

Ho hum … the New York Mets lost another one, swept by the Cubs in Chicago behind the pitching of Ted “Koufax” Lilly, who held the orange and blue to one run on four hits and four walks in six innings.

Nelson Figueroa took the loss, though he didn’t pitch poorly. He wasn’t great — 5 walks, 7 hits, and 3 runs in 5 innings of work is hardly awe-inspiring — but he provided about what you’d expect of a fill-in fifth starter. Oh, did you expect him to continue pitching like ED Figueroa (circa 1978)?

It was a fairly close game until the eight inning (huh, that sounds familiar), when Jorge Sosa loaded the bases with Cubs with no outs, looked like he might get out of it by getting two infield outs (huh, again, familiar) before giving up a grand slam to … um … Ronny “Hercules” Cedeno (it’s like deja vu all over again) to put the game way out of reach.


Notes

Is it me, or did it seem like the Mets went in the tank around the fourth inning? For one inning — the sixth — they looked slightly interested by building a weak, nearly fruitless “rally”, but otherwise the Mets looked sleepy. Maybe they’ll use the scheduling as an excuse (the late night in Philly, no day off on Monday, day game today, blah blah blah). Someone please put some undetectable greenies into the clubhouse coffee … please. It suddenly feels like 1979, with people like Dwight Bernard and Wayne Twitchell pouring gas on fires and then hoping that “sluggers” such as Doug Flynn and Richie Hebner could find a way to come back.

For all the fans foaming at the mouth and ready to crucify Aaron Heilman yesterday, may I introduce you to Joe Smith, Pedro Feliciano, and Jorge Sosa who also are not perfect. Smith allowed the first three batters he faced to reach base and gave up a run before Willie Randolph took the ball from him and gave it to Pedro Lite. Feliciano proceeded to throw a wild pitch and nearly a second on his first two offerings, then had to intentionally walk the only batter he faced. Based on their performances and the nearsighted numnuts who get paid to “analyze” the Mets on TV and radio, I’m going to guess that Heilman, Smith, Feliciano, and Sosa should all be sent to a fiery acid pool and replaced with — hmm … Brian Stokes? Anyone can look at a boxscore and point out the “bad guys” based a poor stat line — the Mets problems, unfortunately, are much more complex than that.

Sosa nearly did get out of that eighth inning without damage, and in fact had struck out Kosuke “Foul Tip” Fukudome on a beautiful pitch on the outside corner. However, the home plate umpire’s arm was paralyzed from the shock that Fukudome had not slapped the pitch into foul territory, and by the time he recovered, everyone assumed it was ball three. But I’m sure all the critics will glaze over that detail — just as they glazed over several details in Heilman’s outing — and come up with something “intelligent” like, “Sosa can’t make the big pitch”.

Hackensack, NJ native and former Cub Doug Glanville led the crowd to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch. His singing was … well … let’s just say it’s a good thing he quit the choir to concentrate on baseball as a kid.

Next Game

The Mets travel down to Washington, DC to face the Nationals for another two-game series. I imagine they’ll be well-rested and out of excuses by game time tomorrow night at 7:10 PM. Mets ace Johan Santana faces Nats non-ace Tim Redding. Santana was signed to a $137.5M to be a “stopper”, to stop losing streaks. Let’s see if he can deliver against one of the worst teams in MLB.

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Unlikely Mets Fans

Dallas Clark bobbleheadLast night during the SNY broadcast we were told the story of Indianapolis Colt star Dallas Clark, an unlikely Mets fan.

It was kind of weird to see Clark wearing a David Wright jersey, partially because you just don’t do that in Wrigley Field and mostly because I don’t expect an NFL star to be that big of a fan of an MLB player. I know superstars are people too, and therefore it’s normal for them to be fans of other sports, but something just doesn’t seem right about a well-known professional athlete wearing another pro athlete’s name on his back.

But more legitimately unusual is that Clark, who grew up in Iowa, is a diehard Mets fan. How does such a thing happen in the middle of a cornfield? You’d expect him to be a fan of the Cubs, or the Reds, or possibly the Braves since Ted Turner’s SuperStation used to broadcast them all over the country and promoted them as “America’s Team”.

Which got me to thinking (that’s a lie, it got my wife to thinking) — how many other “unlikely” Mets fans are out there?

I know people such as Ben Stiller, Matt Dillon, Matthew Broderick, and Tim Robbins (among others) are supposedly Mets fans, but they were all born in or around NYC, so it’s not so unlikely. Hilary Swank though — another one from the cornfields (Nebraska) — is supposedly a Mets fan.

Another seemingly “unlikely” Mets fan is slide guitarist George Thorogood; from his biography on Musician’s Guide:

Early in his musical career, Thorogood would take time off for the baseball season, even when he was in the middle of recording an album. For decades, Thorogood’s favorite baseball team was the New York Mets. “I’ve always been a New York Mets fan,” Thorogood told Sport magazine. “They crawled their way to mediocrity, and that was me. It was a team I could relate to.”

Of course, Alex Rodriguez is a Mets fan — strange for someone who plays for the Yankees.

We know Chipper Jones is a Shea Stadium fan — he named his kid after the park, after all — but that doesn’t qualify him as a Mets fan.

And then there’s the unlikely fact that the wife of MetsBlog creator Matt Cerrone is NOT a Mets fan, but (gasp!) a Yankee fan!

Any other unlikely Mets fans out there? Post them below.

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Say No to Frank Thomas

Frank Thomas with the Blue JaysWith Carlos Delgado looking like he’s more ready for an oldtimer’s game than a big league contest, and Frank Thomas recently released by the Toronto Blue Jays, no doubt there are some people wondering if the Mets will consider picking up the “Big Hurt”.

While I have been a Frank Thomas since the late 1980s — I followed his (and Bo Jackson’s) college career at Auburn through the pages of Baseball America — signing him now, at this point in his career, makes little sense for the Mets, for several reasons.

First of all, Thomas was released because he was unhappy with his new role as a bench player. Throughout his career, Frank Thomas has been a star, and an everyday player. He still believes he can help a team in a regular role. That type of role is unavailable to him in a Mets uniform right now. Yes, Delgado is stinking up the joint and his bat speed can be clocked by a sun dial, but Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph will stick by him for at least a few more weeks before acknowledging that Carlos is washed up. If Thomas is unhappy riding the pine in Toronto, why would he agree to be a backup in New York?

Secondly, even if Thomas is amenable to being a bench player for the Mets, there’s no guarantee he’d flourish in such a role. He’s never come off the bench before, and the ability to do so is greatly underrated. It took several years for Marlon Anderson and Damion Easley to learn how to be at the ready and perform well in a limited role, and to expect Frank Thomas to suddenly turn into a viable pinch-hitter is asking too much.

Thirdly, Frank Thomas is a guy who — at this point — is a one-dimensional player: he hits mistakes over the fence, and doesn’t do much else. He can’t run the bases, he can’t field well, and doesn’t hit for the high average of yesteryear (actually, he sounds a heckuva lot like Delgado right now). He might take more pitches and draw a few more walks, but that doesn’t help much being a station-to-station baserunner. To be valuable to a team, Thomas has to get enough at-bats to keep his long swing in rhythm to take advantage of those mistakes. He won’t be the kind of guy who can play twice a week and hit 20 HRs in 300 ABs — he’ll need at least 500 at-bats to get the ball over the fence often enough to justify his existence. That likely won’t happen in a Mets uniform.

Oh, and the other reason he’s still able to hit mistakes is because he has nearly 20 years of experience batting — in the American League. He’s seen plenty of veteran pitchers many times over, and takes advantage of elephant-like memory to occasionally guess right on what pitch is coming next. By moving to the NL, he would face many pitchers for the first time, and not have the benefit of previous experience. It’s common for longtime veteran hitters to be stymied when switching leagues (i.e., Roberto Alomar).

Finally, do we even know if he can play the field any more? The last time he wore a first baseman’s glove was 2004, and that was before his nasty foot injury. He’s a gifted athlete, for sure, but hasn’t fielded a ground ball in four years, might be less mobile than Carlos Delgado (if that’s possible), and is over 40 years old.

Maybe, if we knew Frank Thomas could play the field adequately — at least as well (?) as Delgado does now — AND we knew he still had bat speed, he might be worth considering. But unfortunately, thinking of him as the Mets’ answer to their first base problem is akin to forcing a square peg into a round hole.

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How Jose Reyes Can Be Faster

Impossible, right? Jose Reyes is already the fastest player in baseball — or at least, the fastest player east of Minnesota (where Carlos Gomez now plays). But there is one thing he can do that would get him on base a few more times — and it’s such a simple fundamental it’s ridiculous that no one has pointed it out to him yet.

If you pay attention, you’ll notice that Jose Reyes almost always looks at the ball after he hits it and watches it being fielded, particularly on infield ground balls. If he would simply put his head down and run directly to first base, he might just pick up a few extra infield hits — or not ground into double plays. Any high school sprinting coach will tell you that you slow down when you’re turning to look at your opponent, that it’s best to focus on the finish line, and it works the same way in baseball. There was one at-bat in particular, in the sixth inning with Endy Chavez on third and John Maine on first, when Reyes hit a hard grounder to short and was out at first by a whisker to complete the double play. Chavez scored, as it was only two out, but it would have been nice to have Reyes on first with only one out, don’t you agree? Watching the replay, you see Reyes hit the ball and follow it toward Ryan Theriot — in fact, Reyes looked two more times as Theriot fielded the ball and shuffled across the second base bag. I bet a silver dollar he’d have been safe had he looked only at first base and ran through it. Furthermore, Reyes’ front foot landed on the BACK of the first base bag instead of the front — had he landed on the front of the bag, he might have beat the ball (as Luis Castillo did a few pitches later). Maybe they can affix blinders — like the ones they put on horses — to the sides of Jose’s helmet?

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