Archive: June 25th, 2008

Mets Game 77: Win Over Mariners

Mets 8 Mariners 2

I’ll take another serving of that, thank you …

The Mets broke out for eight runs on only five hits — which to some might seem unusual. To me, and likely to you, the intelligent Mets fan, it makes perfect sense. For once, the Mets were patient, forcing a mediocre pitcher to put the ball over the plate. Novelist Miguel Batista could not do that consistently, walking five batters in 2 2/3 innings. It all began with Jose Reyes, who finally did his job as a leadoff hitter and worked the count in the first at-bat of the game. That six-pitch sequence, which culminated in Reyes strolling down to first base, set the tone for the game. Every batter afterward followed his cue and sat back, waiting for Batista to prove he could toss at least two strikes in a single at-bat.

That formula worked perfectly for David Wright, who hit a first-inning solo homer to put the Mets ahead 2-0, then slammed a two-run shot in the second to make it 4-0. After that second dinger, we wondered if he might hit nine before the night was over.

The offense continued to pile on the runs in the third frame, taking advantage of more free passes and defensive miscues to double the lead to 8-0. From there on it was up to John Maine to hold it up, and he breezed through six innings of five-hit ball, allowing two earned runs on the way to his eighth win of the season.


In addition to Wright’s two homers and three RBI, Reyes popped a three-run homer of his own. The other two runs were driven in by Luis Castillo and Marlon Anderson.

Aaron Heilman, Joe Smith, and Duaner Sanchez pitched the last three scoreless frames, allowing only one hit and two walks.

I attended the game at Shea as a guest of SNY — watched from their suite, in fact. Pretty cool, I have to say. Many thanks to Joe Pospisil for hosting me.

Here are some photos from my evening:

Next Game

The Mets have a day off and then host the crosstown Yankees for a four-game set, beginning with a day/night doubleheader. It should be an interesting litmus test for the born-again Mets. Pedro Martinez goes against Dan Giese in the opener at 2:05 pm, and Mike Pelfrey is scheduled to go against Darrel Rasner in the nightcap. Unfortunately I’m heading up to Cape Cod to hang out with the Hit Man, so the postgame recaps may come later than usual.


A True Fighter to Consider

We’ve been talking all year about how the Mets need to show more emotion, more spirit, more “fight”.

Well I believe I’ve found exactly that type of guy: Shawn Chacon.

According to ESPN:

Astros pitcher Shawn Chacon was suspended indefinitely by the team Wednesday for insubordination after reportedly grabbing general manager Ed Wade by the neck and throwing him to the ground.

“I sat down to eat and Ed Wade came to me and very sternly said, ‘You need to come with me to the office,'” Chacon said. “I said ‘for what?’ I said ‘I don’t want to go to the office with you and Cooper.’ And I said, ‘You can tell me whatever you got to tell me right here.’ He’s like, ‘Oh, you want me to tell you right here?’ And I said, ‘yeah.’ I’m not yelling. I’m calm.”

Chacon said things went downhill from there.

“He started yelling and cussing,” Chacon said of Wade, according to a story on the Chronicle’s Web site. “I’m sitting there and I said to him very calmly, ‘Ed, you need to stop yelling at me.’ Then I stood up and said, ‘You better stop yelling at me.’ I stood up. He continued and was basically yelling.”

Chacon said that after Wade told him he needed to “look in the mirror,” it got worse.

“So at that point I lost my cool and I grabbed him by the neck and threw him to the ground. I jumped on top of him,” he said. “Words were exchanged.”

Not since Lenny Randle punched Frank Lucchesi square in the face have the Mets had an opportunity to bring in an all-out, slugging bruiser. And hey, Chacon can fit right into the role left behind by Claudio Vargas.


Big Changes On the Way

So the buzz is that the times they are a changin’ at Shea. The hiring of Jerry Manuel was only one of many “adjustments” to be made by the Mets in the coming weeks. In fact there are closed-door meetings (will they stay closed, Mr. Bernazard?) happening right now, the results of which will supposedly mean major personnel moves.

What a revelation … too bad these discussions weren’t occurring over the winter, when the Mets’ biggest holes could have been more easily addressed. But what do I know? I’m just another blowhard blogger. I didn’t have access to the “inside information” that led the Mets’ front office to believe that

1) Moises Alou and El Duque would not go MIA;
2) Pedro Martinez would return as a #2 starter;
3) Ollie Perez would build off 2007 in a positive way;
4) Carlos Delgado’s slow bat speed was an illusion;
5) Luis Castillo is not the same man we knew in Florida;
6) Brian Schneider’s glove would overcome his offensive limitations;
7) Duaner Sanchez would return to 2006 form … and if he didn’t, Aaron Heilman was the next-best option.

At the same time, I’m willing to eat crow when I’m proved wrong. And it appears that my insistence that Mike Pelfrey needed to change speeds to succeed was off-base. I’ll also admit that I too was counting on Heilman to be a solid setup man. And, I was suckered into thinking Schneider would be a defensive stalwart — though with the lineup still counting on Delgado to be a force, it did worry me to have Brian’s bat in there every day.

But I digress … the topic here are the big changes upcoming. What can the Mets do, really, to change their current course? They have a roster full of immovable players and bad contracts. There is no one — at all — in the farm system that another team would deem “MLB ready”. We as Mets fans can get excited as we want about Jonathan Niese, Mike Carp, and Nick Evans, but the fact is, none of these players are considered “can’t miss” prospects by other organizations. And I shudder to think how much worse a mess the Mets’ farm would be if any of these three were dealt away.

That said, I wouldn’t count on seeing the likes of Erik Bedard, CC Sabathia, Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Ben Sheets, or Roy Oswalt coming to Flushing. In fact, it would be a stretch to believe the Mets have enough to pry away Raul Ibanez, Ryan Freel, or any of the other “second tier” players who may be on the market. Because realistically, who do the Mets have available to trade to a team that is selling? Aaron Heilman? Not getting much back for him at this point — better off holding on and hoping he can get it together.

It’s tough to deal when no one wants your expendable players, and your performing players are too valuable to trade away. Omar Minaya will have to be remarkably creative to bring in new faces that can make a difference. I suggested a Schneider for Ivan Rodriguez as one that could make sense for Detroit. Maybe there’s a desperate team out there nearsighted enough to believe that Delgado has something left. Minaya no doubt is working the phones for scouting reports on DFAs such as Denny Bautista, who resembles Jorge Julio in stuff — high 90s heat, can’t find the plate. Maybe there’s another “under the radar” player who can be acquired for next to nothing and provide a spark. I’m thinking a “AAA” player — similar to when the A’s unearthed Jack Cust. Maybe the Mets’ Cust is Val Pascucci, who is currently stashed in New Orleans. Maybe it’s former Athletic Dan Johnson, or one of those Texas Rangers sluggers we’ve talked about before (Jason Botts, Nelson Cruz). As long as it’s not Gerald Williams, it’s worth a shot.

Looking down on the farm, there isn’t much to choose from. Other than Pascucci, there isn’t a position player worth promoting (Chris Aguila certainly didn’t look as great as hoped). The Zephyrs do however, still have Tony Armas Jr., who has a 2.50 ERA over 16 starts and 100 innings in a hitter’s league. If this isn’t the right time to give Armas a shot — in Ollie’s next turn — then there will never be a right time. Nelson Figueroa has also pitched well since his demotion, and deserves a recall to fill the long man role left behind by the DFA’d Claudio Vargas.

In AA, there are some bright spots, but no one in particular who looks to be ready to make a splash. Mike Carp could have been such a guy early, when he was hitting near .370, but his bat has cooled in recent weeks. Still, can he or Nick Evans be any worse than Delgado right now? Jonathan Niese is pitching fairly well, though I’m not sure I’d bring him up over Armas or Figgy right now. And forget about Fernando Martinez — he’s just come off the DL and is nowhere near ready to play ball at the MLB level. He’d be an overmatched strikeout machine right now.

But, I could see an Evans, Pascucci, or Carp getting a shot. Unfortunately, there doesn’t look to be anyone similar to the Robinson Cano / Chien-Ming Wang spark the Yankees received back in 2005 — but back then, no one was expecting those two to have such an immediate and forceful impact, either. We won’t know for sure until these kids get a chance.

Over the past few weeks, we Mets fans have had to radically adjust our expectations. The postseason is no longer a given, and due to the math, we have to root more for other teams’ failures than our team’s success. The current cast of characters is a tired old bunch that no manager can inspire into a championship. So we have two glimmers of hope: 1. that the Phillies keep losing; and 2. that the Mets can follow through with their promise of changing the face of the ballclub.

Hopefully, these changes come quick, because the clock on this season is ticking.


Drinking the Kool-Aid

koolaidmets.jpgTwo nights ago, the SNY broadcast team (again) went on and on and on about Jerry Manuel, and how he’s already made drastic changes with this ballclub. For example, when Carlos Beltran stole third down by five and then charged home on a wild pitch, Keith Hernandez lauded the moves, and pointed out that Manuel said his team would be much more aggressive. Huh. Had Beltran done that two weeks ago I’d bet my house that Keith would criticize the move.

And by the way, the Mets were already pretty darn aggressive on the bases. They led all of MLB in stolen bases last year, with 200 — a good 56 more than the second-place club. And the Mets were either first or second in MLB for most of this year, prior to Randolph’s dismissal.

The Beltran conversation segued to a conversation that Manuel had with Beltran, in which he asked him to be more aggressive on the basepaths and steal more bases, and “forget about his basestealing percentage”. WOW!!! What a fantastic idea!!! What a revelation! Why didn’t Willie think of that, and ask Beltran to do just that?

Oh, that’s right — HE DID! On SEVERAL occasions over the past three years. In fact, the team even brought in a designated basestealing coach, Rickey Henderson, who tried (unsuccessfully) to drill home the same message to the stubborn Beltran. Hmm, is it possible Beltran wasn’t going to listen to anything Willie said because his countryman Tony Bernazard was constantly whispering in his ear, telling him all the terrible things Randolph thought of him?

Later in the game, the SNY camera cuts to Jerry Manuel and Jose Reyes talking. The quip by Keith Hernandez: “communication is always good”. As if to say that Reyes and Randolph never had communication? I’m beginning to buy into Randolph’s SNY paranoia.

In last night’s game, the “love” for Manuel would have continued, had it not been for the 10-nothing drubbing. Keith Hernandez forced it a bit, saying he “liked” Jerry Manuel and Carlos Beltran getting thrown out of the game, because he “… hadn’t seen this in three years.” Whether he was talking about the ejections, or the emotions, it matters not — because Willie Randolph was ejected a few times in his tenure, and emotions erupted as recently as Game 161 last year against the Marlins. On that day, and the day after, the same Keith Hernandez criticized the Mets for showing too much emotion, and “giving the Marlins motivation”. Huh.

Maybe there was an edict sent down by the head honchos, telling SNY to focus on the positive. In any case, the power of positive thinking ain’t working — the Mets are 3-4 since “great baseball mind” Manuel took over.

Interestingly, Ron Darling backtracked in the postgame last night, saying that it would take “30 days” before implemented changes are “noticeable”. Huh. And yet, Darling has been quick to point out — on air — a multitude of changes in the last week. Perhaps things look differently in the booth than they do in the SNY studio?

Ironically, Kool-Aid is artificially flavored. Just like this outpouring of effusive praise for Jerry Manuel.