Archive: June 6th, 2008

Mets Game 60: Loss to Padres

Padres 2 Mets 1

So much for last week. The Mets are back to … well, I try not to use expletives, as this is a family-friendly blog.

The Mets blew another one, making Randy Wolf look like Sandy Koufax. Wolf is not that good — the Mets’ hitters “approach” is godawful. Witness: second inning, when Carlos Beltran swung at the first pitch of the inning and hit a lazy fly ball to right for the first out, and Fernando Tatis swung at the first pitch of his at-bat to ground out weakly to short for the third out. In between the usually aggressive Damion Easley was smart enough to take a few pitches, and had a ten-pitch at-bat. All for naught, though, since Wolf still got out of the inning expending only a dozen pitches. Example two, fifth inning: the Mets are retired on four pitches. FOUR PITCHES! You can’t let a schlep like Wolf off the hook like that — make him work!

That’s exactly what the Padres did to the usually efficient Johan Santana, who unfortunately is NOT Sandy Koufax and therefore mortal. The Friars worked Santana for 100 pitches in six innings — by contrast, Wolf was only on pitch 89 with one out in the seventh. Remarkably, the Mets got nothing resembling a rally against Wolf until they FINALLY started taking some pitches in the sixth and seventh. Huh.

Unfortunately, in the big leagues, you can’t wait until the sixth inning to start using an intelligent plan of attack. Because by then your ace pitcher has been knocked out and you are down by a run.


Luis Castillo sat back on his heels and lollygagged a routine grounder in the first inning, and hustling Scott Hairston beat out the throw to earn an infield hit. It was an atrocious, sickening, inexcusable non-effort by Castillo. Luckily, it didn’t turn into a run, but it caused Johan Santana to work just a little bit harder to get out of first inning. After the inning, Santana sat right next to Castillo, gave him a glare and a few chosen words. Good for Santana, and shame on Castillo, who was extending the Carlos Delgado poison we talked about yesterday. Once again: WINNING IS NOT A SOMETIME THING, IT IS AN ALL-TIME THING. YOU DON’T DO THINGS RIGHT ONCE IN A WHILE, YOU DO THEM RIGHT ALL THE TIME. Thank you Vince Lombardi.

Toward the same point, interesting to see manager Charlie Manuel bench MVP Jimmy Rollins for jogging on a routine fly ball. Delgado and others have gotten away with such garbage all year, and all last year, without so much as a second look. Why can the reigning MVP be benched but not an overaged, underperforming hasbeen?

In this particular ballgame, did anyone wearing orange and blue play nearly as hard as Scott Hairston? Yeah, didn’t think so. Some guys really want to win, others go through the motions and expect to win.

Scary moment in the game came in the sixth when Johan Santana attempted a bunt and was hit in the left shoulder. To add insult to injury, because he offered at the pitch, it was called a strike.

Another scary moment came in the bottom of the eighth, when a fly ball nearly dropped on Fernando Tatis’ foot. Had that ball landed just a few inches closer, he would have had a fractured toe for sure. OK, I don’t mean to get on Tatis, as he’s one of the few Mets busting his butt all over the field. Shame, though, that he has to be playing out of position. Why is it so hard for the Mets to find legitimate outfielders?

In the seventh inning, with men on first and second and down 2-1, the best the Mets could send to the plate as a pinch-hitter was Robinson Cancel, who was making his first MLB at-bat. Do I need to repeat that last sentence? Nothing against Cancel, who worked hard in spring training and seems like a nice guy, but this is the best you can put up there in that situation? Where is Ramon Castro? Why are both Cancel and Abraham Nunez on the 25-man roster? These are the best bench bats available?

Speaking of taking pitches, I HATE when Luis Castillo shows bunt on pitches he’s taking all the way. Totally bush league … little league, in fact.

Aaron Heilman needs a sabbatical … and this coming from his biggest fan on the planet. When you come into a game and walk the .214-hitting Michael Barrett on five pitches, it’s time to take a break from the game. Send him to AAA and make him a starter already. He’s so screwed up, physically and mentally, that the only way he can be valuable is through reinvention.

And reinventing Heilman, by the way, is not turning him into Joe Smith. Whoever suggested he start purposely throwing from that crazy low arm slot should be shot.

In the ninth inning, Gary Cohen commented that “if the Mets come up short, they’ll look to the missed opportunities in the sixth and seventh innings, when they had the bases loaded.” Au contraire, mon frere … if they had any intelligence at all, the Mets would look to innings one through five, when all they did was swing recklessly early in the count, in making Randy Wolf look like a world-beater. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Final tally: Mets made the Padres throw 121 pitches. That’s what — a typical five and a third innings of Mike Pelfrey?

Funny how the last-place Padres win thanks mainly to outstanding, hustling, diving defensive plays, and aggressive defensive plays that were perfectly executed. This remains the difference between the Mets and their opponents — the levels of energy and effort and aggressiveness.

Next Game

The Mets will attempt to not lose this series by sending former Padre Oliver Perez to the mound on Saturday against Cha Seung Baek. I hate to be pessimistic, but I’m not feeling good about Ollie, and feeling even worse about the Mets facing a guy they’ve never seen before — especially with their currently lousy lack of a game plan on offense. There’s a very real chance that the Mets get swept in San Diego this weekend — and they have only themselves to blame. You can’t “turn on” and “turn off” your effort — this is the big leagues, and 100% effort, focus, and intelligence is necessary 162 times per year. It’s getting very near time for a housecleaning — players and management included.


Armed and Ready

tony_armas_jr.jpgIf Oliver Perez doesn’t get things together quickly, there is an able and willing arm waiting down in triple-A: Tony Armas, Jr.

Armas is only 3-5, but the record is deceiving. He has made seven consecutive “quality” starts, and has not allowed more than three runs in any of his 12 starts this season. In those dozen games, he has averaged over six innings per outing, and posted a svelte 2.29 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. These numbers are even more impressive when you consider he is tallying them in the PCL, a notorious “hitter’s league”.

“I’ve been working on a lot of the mental stuff,” Armas said. “Throwing inside, pitch selection, throwing different pitches in different locations. It’s building up a lot of confidence.”

In 74 IP, Armas has walked 15, allowed 59 hits, and struck out 59. I keep looking at the stats trying to find a reason not to promote him, and not finding it.

Armas is nowhere near the raw-skilled talent he was six years ago, when he hummed in the mid-90s and overpowered Major League hitters. However, he may have finally learned how to pitch. Combine his newfound guile with his competitiveness (which was never an issue), and perhaps the Mets have a valid comeback guy in the mold of Darren Oliver or (a healthy) Orlando Hernandez.


Playing for Peanuts: #3

A new episode of “Playing for Peanuts” will be showing on SNY this weekend — on Sunday night at 6 pm.

peanuts.jpgEpisode #3: “The Good Life City”

Synopsis: The Peanuts return home to Albany, GA (aka “The Good Life City”) after winning six games in a row to start the season. Steve Butler takes us on a tour of the player’s disgustingly dirty house. Back at the stadium, the Peanuts are visited by former MLB slugger Cecil Fielder and manager Wally Backman chews his team out after a sloppy performance.

Check out the open thread for the episode, where you can find some “inside” info from producer John Fitzgerald and also post your comments. Oh, and if you follow that link, you can also get a ringtone of Cecil Fielder as “Dr. Livinggood”.


24 Hours of Baseball

The Brooklyn Cyclones are running a charity event called “24 Hours of Baseball“, beginning at noon on Friday, June 6th.

13 staff members of the Cyclones will play baseball — yes, hardball, not softball — for 24 hours straight, in an effort to raise funds for Autism Speaks, HeartShare, and the NYPLCF, which will allocate the funds to needy recipients throughout the Brooklyn community.

Yours truly will be playing in the kickoff game at noon for a team made up of NY-area journalists called “The Scribes”, which is being partially sponsored by the good folks at Mattingly Sports (don’t tell Donnie I’m a Mets fan). Wait till the professional writers find out I’m a lowly blogger! Hopefully Buzz Bissinger isn’t on the team.

If by chance you are in the Brooklyn area, come on down and watch, it should be fun. If you can’t come by but would like to make a donation, you can do so here. ALL monies go directly to the aforementioned charities.


Mets Game 59: Loss to Padres

Padres 2 Mets 1

Who knew this would turn out to be a pitchers’ duel?

The unlikely combination of Mike Pelfrey and Josh Banks traded zeroes through six innings, each giving up only one run before exiting the ballgame. Banks was more efficient than Big Pelf, throwing only 71 pitches to Pelf’s 112. However, they both gave up a single earned run before handing off the game to the bullpen.

And the bats remained silent in the battle of the bullpens — and remained silent in the bottom of the ninth.

With lefthanded hitters Brian Giles and Adrian Gonzalez due up for the Friars, Willie Randolph called on lefty specialist Scott Schoeneweis to hold the fort. However, he walked the first two batters he faced, then knocked down a ball back to the box by Gonzalez for the first out, which put runners on second and third. The next batter was intentionally walked, setting up another lefty-lefty matchup for Scho, with Paul McAnulty the batter. Schoeneweis proceeded to hit McAnulty with the first pitch to force home the winning run. Ugh.


Mike Pelfrey still needs an offspeed pitch, particularly one he can throw for a strike. So many times in this game he ran into deep counts with hitters because he couldn’t put anything other than his fastball over the plate. On the few occasions he guided the slider through the strike zone, it was predictably flat and easily smacked. Have to give him credit though, for spotting the sinker well on both sides of the plate. I sincerely hope he figures out how to throw a decent straight change or something (curve? forkball?) similar — if so I have full confidence he’ll be a legit MLB starter.

However, I believe his strong outing had more to do with the ineptness of the Padres’ offense than the effectiveness of Pelfrey. The Friars left 15 runners on base, and won the game thanks to two walks and a hit-by-pitch. Pelf gave up only one run in his six frames, but struggled in nearly every inning. A better hitting team would have done more damage.

Schoeneweis has five walks in his last two outings, spanning less than a full inning. He was missing on very close pitches, but what the heck is he doing walking Scott Hairston to start the inning — after starting him 0-2 no less? Hairston, unlike his brother Jerry, does not take steroids and is no threat to put one over the fence, particularly at Petco. Put the ball over the plate!

Kind of disappointing to see the Mets bats do nothing against Banks. Ryan Church looks lost, and I wonder if his head is still an issue. I hope we see Fernando Tatis playing 1B in Friday night’s contest — it would be nice to see some offensive production and hustle from that corner for a change.

Jose Reyes was the only Met with more than one hit, going 2-for-3. He’s 5-for-7 in his last two games, and now hitting .289 on the year. The Mets had only five hits all game, and one walk — also by Reyes. First-pitch swinging by this team is driving me nuts.

Reyes was also sparkling in the field, making several excellent plays that saved runs.

I like seeing Willie Randolph throw caution to the wind, and ignore his 100-pitch alarm. He’s been pushing his starters to 110+ pitches recently, and I would be happy to see that eventually extended to 120-130 (won’t happen, but I can dream, can’t I?).

Watching the postgame: Mike Pelfrey has a very big face; Scott Schoeneweis could pass for House MD.

Abraham Nunez made his Mets debut, pinch-hitting late in the game. Strange pickup, and even stranger promotion. I suppose it’s good to have him around because he can play shortstop, third base, and second, except, the Mets have no need for a backup at any of those positions. He’s also a switch-hitter, which means little when your career average is .242. He had one excellent year with the Cardinals at age 29, but that’s the age most players are in their prime. I hope he can make a contribution but would much rather see Jose Valentin back with the club.

Next Game

Johan Santana goes against Randy Wolf in another 10:05 pm EST start on Friday night. Watch it on SNY, listen on WFAN or XM 188.