Browsing Archive April, 2008

Mets Game 20: Loss to Nationals

Nationals 10 Mets 5

The Mets suck.

They can’t hit, they can’t pitch, they can’t field, and they give up after falling behind (same as last year) — against the worst team in baseball. Can’t wait to see what happens against the Braves this weekend.

Notes

David Wright made a spectacular play in the Nats’ three-run fifth on a sharp grounder by Ryan Zimmerman to save a run and get the third out.

As expected, Brady Clark was DFA’s to make room for catcher Gustavo Molina, while doctors figure out what’s going on with Brian Schneider’s infected thumb.

Home plate umpire Darryl Cousins was inconsistent with pitches on the right edge of the plate, which led to several strike-three lookings for both sides. For example, right before his RBI hit in the fourth, Ollie Perez appeared to have taken strike three on the inside corner — yet that same pitch was called strike three on Luis Castillo earlier and on David Wright later.

For those who were concerned about Luis Castillo — and Castillo’s presence in the two spot — you should have been happy to see him walking, hitting, driving in runs, stealing bases, and running wild.

The Mets finally retired a runner at third on a bunt back to the pitcher, in the sixth. Ollie jumped off the mound like a cat, D-Wright retreated to the bag, and Wily Mo Pena was retired easily.

Lastings Milledge was benched in favor of lefthanded-hitting Willie Harris against the lefthanded Perez. Strange. LMillz did appear in the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth, to face righthander Aaron Heilman.

Speaking of, once again I’m baffled by Raul Casanova’s location choice with Heilman on the mound and two strikes on the batter. Heilman had gone to the outside part of the plate on every pitch to Milledge, went full count, and then — after not throwing any fastballs — went to the fastball on the outside part of the plate. Why??? The whole strategy of going with soft stuff on the outside against a hitter is to set him up for a fastball on the INSIDE. Heilman had not thrown a pitch faster than 87 to Milledge at that point, and had pounded the outside corner. His 3-2 fastball — again on the outside — was clocked at 96 MPH. Had that pitch been put on the INSIDE corner, Milledge would not have had a chance in hell of getting around on it — not after being lulled into soft stuff on the outside. As it was, Milledge walked, and the next batter Felipe Lopez blasted a grand slam on another 3-2 pitch. My opinion? Raul Casanova is clueless when it comes to calling a game — or, he’s getting really bad information from the bench (it’s possible the pitches are being called from the dugout).

Carlos Delgado has officially become an albatross. He has absolutely no idea what to do at the plate — he’s flailing weakly at first pitches with no plan whatsoever — and has become worse (yes, it’s possible) in the field. In the seventh, he allowed a slow grounder to slip under his glove (the official scorer should be shot — twice — for scoring it a hit), and then let another one get past him one batter later. The second one didn’t look as bad, until you watch the replay and see that the runner was only a few feet away from Delgado and was trying to get out of the way of the ball while Delgado didn’t even make an effort. In the eighth, umpire Angel Hernandez was so shocked that Carlos caught a line drive that he called “fair” before calling “out”. Carlos, I have the utmost respect for you, and it’s time to pack it in. Either make an effort to improve, or retire. Get out of the way.

Next Game

The Mets face Atlanta, with Jackson Todd going for the Mets against Phil Niekro of the Braves. Skip Lockwood should be fresh and available out of the pen. Joel Youngblood might be starting at 2B in place of Doug Flynn to add a little more punch to the lineup.

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Is Brady Clark Done?

Breaking news: Brian Schneider has an infected thumb and has been sent back to New York for diagnosis (according to Adam Rubin and via MetsBlog.

Hmm … that leaves Raul Casanova as the Mets starting and backup catcher. Considering that Willie Randolph gets the hives just thinking about going the final two innings of a game without a backup backstop, my guess is there will be a roster move to make room for Gustavo Molina or Mike Nickeas — assuming Schneider’s issue is day-to-day and not something that requires 15 days of inactivity.

Looking up and down the 25-man roster, it appears that Brady Clark would be the odd man out.

With the typical game burning through 5-6 arms, the Mets can’t demote a pitcher — though if they do, one would surmise that Joe Smith is the one who would go down. And as far as position players go, the choice is among the bench guys: Endy Chavez, Marlon Anderson, Damion Easley, and Clark. I’m pretty sure Endy and the others are out of options, and the Mets wouldn’t risk placing any of them on waivers. Clark, however, would likely pass through, and if he didn’t, the Mets wouldn’t be crushed. After all, Fernando Tatis is waiting in AAA, and he is both a switch hitter and more versatile.

Personally, I don’t want to see Clark go, but at the moment he’s the most expendable man on the team. Unless, of course, he’s prepared to strap on the tools of ignorance — which is a slight possibility.

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Mets Game 19: Win Over Nationals

Mets 7 Nationals 2

The Mets paid a $137.5M insurance policy against losing streaks. Their policy is named Johan Santana. On this evening, the policy delivered.

Santana stopped a three-game slide, giving the Mets seven solid innings off the mound and a pair of two-bagger blasts off the bat en route to a 7-2 victory and his third win of the year.

For a while there, it looked like the Mets bats were still in a slumber, as they were only able to manage four base hits — two by Carlos Beltran and one by Santana — off Nats starter Tim Redding. Redding wasn’t particularly dominating, but the Mets couldn’t get anything going against the veteran righthander. However, Redding’s pitch count was nearing that sacred century mark in the sixth, so Washington skipper Manny Acta did the Mets a favor by removing his starter after giving up a leadoff single to Carlos Beltran. His choice for replacement, however, was dubious — Ray King, who would easily be confused with a hot dog vendor who is eating the profits. The slothlike southpaw was successful in his job of retiring lefthanded hitters Carlos Delgado and Brian Schneider, but not before giving up two infield singles, two stolen bases, a double to Santana, and three runs. Before Tim Redding could get to the showers, his 2-2 tie became a 5-2 deficit.

The Mets tacked on another two in the top of the ninth courtesy of a two-run double by Ryan Church to put the game out of reach.

Notes

Santana was sparkling, but not dominant, giving up seven hits and a walk in his seven innings of work. According to the scoreboard radar reading, he never cracked 90 MPH, topping out at 89 in the early frames and then slowing to around 87-88 later in the contest.

Interestingly, the radar readings displayed on the MASN (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) broadcast were consistently two miles per hour faster than those shown on the scoreboard. I know this because I was at the game and had the luxury of seeing both readings from a seat at the bar. Nationals Park is a fine place to watch a ballgame, BTW, and has that “new stadium smell”. There’s not a bad seat in the place, there were no lines at any of the concessions stands despite a packed house, and there are plenty of areas to lounge around with flat screen HD TVs on every wall. The corporate boxes look pretty sweet — I peeked my head into one — and all come with an outdoor deck with seating, so the high-rollers have the choice of staying indoors or watching the game outside. Even the restrooms are nice — yes, NICE. In fact the mens room had marble floors, new wallpaper, and porcelain sinks set in stylish Corian countertops. I thought I was in the restroom of a fancy NYC restaurant, rather than a ballpark. Amazing. I hope Citi Field includes similar features — in particular, I enjoyed the freedom of moving around the stadium to watch the game from different views (and drinking different brews).

Johan put three balls into the rightfield seats during batting practice prior to the game, so his two doubles — which were rips — weren’t a fluke. He wasn’t kidding when he said he wanted to play for the Mets so he could hit. Although, I did fear he’d pull a hammy while tearing around first base each time — the guy is a ballplayer, and hustles right out of the box.

Duaner Sanchez pitched a perfect eighth, striking out one and reaching 90 on the scoreboard gun (92 on TV). Billy Wagner extended his scoreless innings streak to seven in finishing the game.

On a negative note, Jose Reyes was disappointing in that there were two instances he came to bat with runners in scoring position, and he swung at the first pitch saw — both times resulting in weakly hit outs. The second time was the first pitch thrown by reliever Saul Rivera with Santana on second, and it resulted in the third out of the inning. I don’t mind first-pitch hitting if it’s successful, but I mind it greatly if the batter doesn’t get good wood on the ball. Jose has been over-anxious all season, and is going to see both his batting average and OBP continue to plummet until he changes his approach.

Speaking of first-pitch swinging, Carlos Delgado came to the plate in the sixth vs. Ray King with no outs and Ryan Church on second base. Delgado flailed at the first offering, and meekly popped the ball to Ryan Zimmerman. For a moment I thought Luis Castillo was at the plate — that’s how bad it looked. It’s not like King has hellacious stuff, so Delgado clearly does not have a plan at the plate. First pitch, man on 2B, he should be zoning an area that he can drive the ball to the outfield, and if he doesn’t get it, he should let it go. On that pitch he looked like he was protecting the plate on an 0-2 count. Ugly.


Next Game

The Mets and Nats do it again at 7:10, with Oliver Perez facing Shawn Hill.

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Inside Look: Nationals Park

The Nats have a new stadium this year, so I thought it might be interesting to ask a few questions of a Washington fan to learn more about it.

Herewith a quick Q & A with Chris Needham of Capitol Punishment.

1. What in particular is so special about Nationals Park … for example, is there something that would motivate someone from another city to jump on a plane to watch a ballgame there?

I’m not sure I’d travel long distances to see it. It’s a nice place, a perfectly average ballpark. My parents visited this weekend, and liked the views of the Capitol building from various sections. They also liked the ginormous video board.

On a personal note, I’m just happy to see a park with fences at normal depths. I’ve seen more homers in the three games I’ve been to this year than I did in the 70 or so I saw at RFK! (only partially exaggerated there….!)

2. Peter Angelos was against having a team in DC for a long time. Do you think he had good reason, and/or do you believe the Orioles have lost fans or revenues because of the Nats? How will the new stadium compete with Camden Yards, if at all?

That’s a tough one. I think there were plenty of DC and Virginia baseball fans who went to Orioles games because that was their only alternative, not because they were fans of Brooks Robinson. Many (most?) of those have stuck with the Nats. For the guys in the MD suburbs, I would imagine that their loyalties haven’t necessarily transferred. Being in different leagues, I know a few people who have two favorites — this isn’t quite Yankees/Mets!

I’d suspect that at the end of the year, 55-60 thousand fans will combine per game for these two probable last-place teams. That’s not bad.

And another thing to keep in mind is that Angelos owns the TV rights to the Nats. So their success means money in his pocket. That’s a screwy deal in and of itself, and the cause of much teeth-gnashing around here, especially in that first year when nobody could see the games, because cable companies refused to carry the TV network.

3. Since there are so many politicians and foreign dignitaries in DC, is security at Nationals Park tougher than in other MLB stadiums? Are there bulletproof luxury suites?

Nah. I’ve been frisked more thoroughly going into Yankee Stadium. And he didn’t even buy me dinner before! When they announce that the president will be there in advance, they put up metal detectors. But there have been a game or two where he just showed up, sitting in the box, unnoticed by most.

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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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