Browsing Archive June, 2008

All Mets All the Time

Joe Janish and Mark Healey recording Live From Mickey Mantle's radio show

In case you missed it — and believe me, I won’t begrudge you for not tuning in to a two-hour radio show on a Friday night that also happened to be the first day of summer — you can download the podcast / MP3 of Live From Mickey Mantle’s, which featured yours truly as the main guest.

Download it from here and listen to it at your leisure.

Have to say, I’m a huge fan of internet radio and podcasts, simply because I can listen to what I want, when I want — rather than be a slave to some radio station’s programming schedule.

In any case, if you listen to the show you’ll hear me spew on and on about our beloved Mets. Some of the topics we covered included the Willie Randolph firing (as if you needed to hear MORE on that subject), my first impressions on Jerry Manuel, who we think is the best Mets announcing team of all-time, and myriad other Mets topics.

Listen closely, in fact, and you will hear me reveal a realistic trade proposition that involves Brian Schneider and would bring back a future Hall of Famer — straight up.

Many thanks to Mark Healey and Gene Berardelli of Gotham Baseball for having me on the show and keeping my whistle wet through the evening.

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Mets Game 72: Win Over Rockies

Mets 7 Rockies 2

A great game from every angle.

John Maine provided strong starting pitching, the bullpen did a great job, the defense made stellar plays, and the offense did everything right with the bats and on the bases. No complaints.

Maine went 6 2/3, allowing 2 earned runs on 6 hits and 3 walks, striking out 6 in a 110-pitch effort. He fell behind 2-0 in the first frame when hot-hitting Jeff Baker blasted a two-run dinger. However, the Mets marched right back in the top of the second, exploding for 5 runs on 7 hits to take the lead for good.

Trot Nixon mashed a solo homer in the third to extend the lead to 6-2, and the Mets tacked on another run in the 8th when Jose Reyes hit a ball that fell safely in right field with the bases loaded to score Damion Easley. Strangely enough, Reyes did not get credit for a hit because Brian Schneider went back to second base rather than going halfway on the fly ball, and was forced out at third on a fine throw by Brad Hawpe.

Notes

I’m happy the Mets have won again, but for the moment still have mixed feelings about their success. All that’s come out in the last few days regarding the way Tony Bernazard completely undermined and sabotaged Willie Randolph has me feeling bittersweet. It doesn’t help that every pundit and SNY personality points out every little positive thing and attributes it to Jerry Manuel. I like Manuel, I believe he is a very smart and solid baseball man, and he’s definitely more media-friendly. However, this roll the Mets are on started before he came along. Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, and others were already on hot streaks while Willie was still around. The team’s overall hustle, passion, and come-from-behind wins all began while on Willie’s watch. On the one hand, I think the team needed a change because Bernazard had singlehandedly created an extremely tense atmosphere which would not have been relieved until Willie was forced out. On the other hand, it’s a little sad that after two wins, everyone is giving full props to Manuel and forgetting that things were beginning to move in the right direction under Willie. Prime example: Carlos Delgado was neither hitting nor hustling until Randolph sat him for two straight games. Was it a coincidence, or did Willie light a fire under him?

Nice to see John Maine rebound after a few tough starts in a row. Also good to see Aaron Heilman pitch another scoreless inning. I hope Jerry Manuel notices that Heilman pitches very well when given a clean slate — i.e., starting an inning.

Everyone in the lineup had at least one hit, including John Maine. Heck, even Brian Schneider had two hits. The two Carloses continued to stay warm, with Delgado smashing a two-run homer and a single, and Beltran going 3-for-5 with a run scored.

A week ago, the Mets’ season looked to be in the crapper. Today, they reached .500, leapfrogged over the quickly dissolving Braves, and now find themselves in third place, 4.5 games out of first. Continuing the momentum has been an issue in the past, so we’ll see if the more relaxed Mets can keep the engine going.

Next Game

The Mets and Rockies do it again in Denver on Saturday at 8:05 pm. Pedro Martinez goes to the mound against Ubaldo Jimenez.

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Inside Look: Colorado Rockies

Colorado_Rockies.jpgThe “new” Mets, led by interim manager Jerry Manuel, head to the hills to play the Colorado Rockies for a three-game weekend series.

Last year’s NL Champions are having a tough time so far this season, struggling with a 31-42 record and 8 games behind the NL West leading Arizona Diamondbacks. The only thing keeping them out of the cellar is the fact that the Giants and Padres are performing just as poorly. However, all is not lost for the Rox. It’s still early in the season, and the D-Backs are not exactly dominating the West. All a Colorado fan must do to keep the faith is look to last year and the Rockies’ mad rush down the wire that placed them in the postseason. A similar rush could be starting right now, in fact — the Rockies are 7-3 in their last 10 games, and should have key players returning from the DL shortly.

To get a view of the Rockies from up in the mountains, we called on Brandi Griffin — a.k.a., “RoxGirl” — from Purple Row, one of the popular Rockies blogs.

1. Last year’s rollercoaster ride saw the Rockies go from pretenders to contenders, ending up in the World Series. Thus far this season, the Rox are mired in the NL West cellar and 12 games under .500. What do you think is the chance of a repeat of last year — a strong finish that takes them back to the postseason?

First of all, I think it’s crucial that the Rockies get within a couple of games of .500 by the All-Star Break. There’s simply no reason to think that a team more than five games under with seventy left to play has a chance to come back, regardless of how close they are to the division lead. Beyond that, however, the fact of the matter is that the NL West is still very much in play as only eight and a half games separate the division leader from the cellar dweller (which as of last night, is no longer the Rox, thankfully).The Diamondbacks had a chance to put the division in the cooler in May, but didn’t. Now everybody else, including the Rockies, has an opportunity to make a comeback. As for the Rockies chances specifically, I wouldn’t put it past them. Last season, the Rockies were still eight games back in the division as late as the beginning of July, so if we can close the gap a little these next couple of weeks, we should become a viable threat.

Plus, last season’s experience could benefit the team as the pressure mounts. I would think it would get easier to make stunning comeback runs if you had experience with them beforehand. Holes in one in golf are a good analogy. The odds of making just one are staggering, and to make two the odds are seen as sort of monumental, but it is a skill we’re talking about, and golfers who have made hole-in-ones in the past are as a group more likely to have future hole-in-ones than players who have never hit one. I think the experience of a successful late charge gives the Rockies one edge over the rest of their division rivals in the comeback chase, but I’ll grant that having a solid one through five in the rotation and an All-Star caliber lineup just perhaps might be a slightly bigger edge. Luckily, none of the NL West teams can boast that.

One thing that plays against the Rockies this season is that it’s looking likely that the Wild Card is going to be completely out of reach to NL West teams (thanks solely to our own ineptitude) by the middle of July, if it’s not already. The Mets and other teams around .500 or above definitely have an advantage in that there are still two possible avenues to the playoffs for them, the Rockies only chance this year it seems is to overtake the D-backs.


2. Injuries have been a problem for the Rox this year, but the fill-ins, for the most part, have done an admirable job. When / if everyone is healthy, who will be playing shortstop and second base?

Shortstop will be played by Troy Tulowitzki, second base might be more of an open question for a little while. Tulo’s April was awful, but there was a lot of bad luck with balls in play in his stats, and I think colder weather is a bigger factor for him than it is for many other players. Ian Stewart will likely be sent back to AAA to improve his pitch recognition while Omar Quintanilla will stay on as a defensive replacement and left-handed utility player. Second will come down to either Jeff Baker or Clint Barmes. Baker’s got the hot bat right now, but Barmes was almost equally impressive before his injury and he brings better defense at the position. I think Hurdle will use Baker as a super-sub for Helton or Hawpe against left-handed pitching, also to spell Atkins on occasion, and Barmes will be the primary second baseman but will be subbed for by Baker on some days as well, especially if his bat goes as cold as it did the last time he went down with an extended injury. Similarly, if Tulo continues to struggle, Hurdle will start to use a Barmes at short, Baker at second combo fairly frequently. It’s good to have as many options as we do, though, I’d rather have too many good bats that the manager is trying to find time for than not enough.


3. Over the winter, the Mets signed and then “unsigned” Yorvit Torrealba. Are you happy he returned? Was there ever any scoop in Colorado as to why the Mets contract fell apart?

The word that was leaked was that the Mets suddenly had concerns about Torrealba’s shoulder. However, since they never actually had anybody do a physical on Yorvit, it tells me that this is probably a complete fabrication. Watching how Omar Minaya operates when he wants to get out of something leads to me suspect that the truth is that somehow Minaya actually figured out that no other team was going to bid close to as much for Torrealba, so he just burned those bridges quickly and thoroughly in an attempt to avoid being discredited by the New York media for such a glaringly stupid move as offering the contract in the first place. Good for you guys that you got out of it, but I think it should have been more of a sign that your front office can be pretty clueless than it was taken for at the time.

I think Yorvit does well as a backup or split time catcher, as he’s shown lately while Chris Iannetta has gotten more playing time, but is particularly ill-suited for a starter’s role. He has a tendency to get complacent in both his approach at the plate and behind it if he doesn’t feel like he’s being pushed or his job is being threatened and he doesn’t have nearly enough skills to stay valuable while also slacking like that.


4. What’s the chance of Brian Fuentes finishing the year in a Colorado uniform? Is Manny Corpas ready to be a closer?

Corpas has struggled a bit this season with his mechanics and until he shows that he’s fixed this the answer is no. As for Fuentes, I think it depends on how close we are and how desperate other GMs are. Fuentes is almost certain to be a Type A free agent after the season, meaning any deal would have to be equal or greater than the value of two top 60 draft picks. I don’t know if I’d want my team giving up that kind of package for a rental reliever unless I was sure that this was all I needed to put me over the top. Fuentes is very good at his job, and underappreciated by most Rockies fans and certainly baseball fans in general. Imagine if you had a reliever over three seasons pitch 208 1/3 innings with a 3.24 ERA, a 228/71 K/BB ratio and a .681 OPS against. Pretty good, right? Now think about if that reliever did that while playing every single one of his games in the most hitter friendly stadium in the majors in Coors Field. That’s Fuentes’ line at Coors and the context should take him from “yeah, not bad,” to “dang this guy’s good” if one’s fairly assessing him.


5. Dang indeed. Moving on … Who has been the biggest disappointment on the Rockies thus far? Who has been the most pleasant surprise?

Lots of possibilities for disappointment. I think, for me, I would have to eliminate guys like Troy Tulowitzki, Manny Corpas or Franklin Morales because they are so young and talented, and inconsistency is just sort of a way of life with young ballplayers typically. So while they’re certainly disappointing, there’s enough hope for a brighter future there to mitigate that. So I guess my biggest disappointment would be with Jeff Francis, who after winning 17 games for us last season, and for the most part pitching like he deserved that, has just been woeful this season. It’s a heavy blow to take when one of your expected top two starters, a veteran, but not an old one, whose performances should be relatively consistent, suddenly falls off a cliff. Francis has pitched better the last couple of outings, so I’m hoping for a turnaround, but he’s been the cause of a lot of my pessimism and angst this year.

As for pleasant surprises, I think I was most surprised by the resurgence of Clint Barmes, which I just really didn’t see coming and am frankly still a little skeptical about.

6. Bottom of the ninth, tie game, two outs, winning run on third. Who on the Rockies do you want to see at the plate?

Matt Holliday. Easily. I mean clutch might not be a real phenomenon, but he’s one of those players that has definitely given a lot of positive enforcement to the contrary, leading the team in WPA each of the last two seasons. You compare him to say Garrett Atkins, who overall hits very well, but doesn’t seem to come through late in games or with runners on as often or Todd Helton, who can be counted on for a walk or the occasional dramatics but not the consistent show stopper. People remember the bloody chin slide and phantom tag of home more, but just before that, Matt’s opposite field triple in game 163 against Trevor Hoffman to tie the game was just an incredible piece of hitting in one of the most leveraged situations imaginable.

7. Same situation as above, but the Mets are at bat. Who would you least like to see in the batter’s box?

Beltran would be nerve wracking, but I’d have to go with David Wright. I know from my fantasy team that he hasn’t had his best season, but he’s clearly a dangerous hitter. If you are wanting my off-the-wall, from a Rockies fan only perspective, I’ll also add Damion Easley. Seriously. He reached safely in four straight pinch-hit or late-game defensive sub ABs against us over the last two seasons, including a double and a game winning homerun (which started the streak) in April 2007 before we finally got him out for once this past May. He;s been added to my list of Pedro Feliz All-Stars, players who are top caliber against the Rockies but scrubs to everybody else.

Well done. Thanks again to RoxGirl for providing insight on the upcoming Mets – Rockies series. Be sure to check out PurpleRow for top-notch information on the Colorado Rockies.

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Mets Hire Krivsky

In an under-the-radar move, the Mets have added Wayne Krivsky to the organization as a “Major League Scout”. Presumably, that means he will be scouting the players on other teams. A great addition to the Mets, as Krivsky is highly regarded throughout baseball as an astute talent evaluator.

But don’t be fooled … and Tony Bernazard, you better watch your back.

Krivsky was unceremoniously — and perhaps too hastily — relieved of his GM duties by the Reds earlier this season. He had been hired in February 2006, and did a credible job of completely overhauling the Cincinnati roster. His worst deal was also the most glaring — a deadline deal with the Nationals that sent two lineup starters (Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez) in exchange for sore-armed Gary Majewski and enigma Bill Bray. In his defense, Krivsky was not aware of the seriousness of Majewski’s shoulder issue, and in fact the Reds began a lawsuit against the Nats over the deal.

Looking beyond that bad deal, Krivsky made some very good, creative moves during his helm. He acquired Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena, picked up Brandon Phillips for a bag of balls, picked up closer Eddie Guardado in return for a nondescript minor leaguer, stole Jeff Keppinger for a non-prospect, gave up nothing other than cash for Josh Hamilton in a slick Rule 5 Draft deal, then turned Hamilton over a year later for Edinson Volquez in what is being celebrated as the trade of the winter.

Before taking the Reds GM job, Krivsky spent a long career in scouting, player development, and as an assistant GM — a career which began in 1977. He played a key role as Terry Ryan’s right-hand man with the Twins, and I think we can all agree that Minnesota has had a pretty damn good system going for the past 25 years. Oh, and he was always at the table when it came to labor relations, contract negotiations, and arbitration hearings. His full bio can be found here.

So, while Krivsky might be scouting for the Mets right now, part of his hiring likely was with the idea that he’d eventually move to the front office — likely as Omar Minaya’s “special assistant”.

Who knows, maybe the Mets are preparing for the exit of Tony Bernazard, who is rumored to be a candidate for the Seattle Mariners’ GM job (insiders say there are more than a few people in the Mets’ organization “rooting” for him to get that position). Or, dare I say, maybe Omar himself needs to be looking over his shoulder.

Whatever the case, Krivsky brings exactly the type of professionalism, experience, and skillset the Mets need right now.

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Mets Summer Items

With the first day of summer upon us, and a day without a game, I invite you to check out a page full of Mets-themed summer items I found on eBay. If you place bids and/or buy anything after clicking on any of the items, you’ll also be sending a few cents toward the server fees and coffee expenses that keep MetsToday running.


Mets Summer and Tailgate Items

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Bernazard Bandwagon

tony_bernazard.jpgHmm … seems I’m not the only one wondering about Tony Bernazard’s influence in the Mets’ organization.

Check out what Mark Healey had to say about Shea’s resident Rasputin in his article “Peas in a Pod” at Gotham Baseball.

Speaking of Gotham, I’m scheduled to appear as a special guest this Friday at 6pm on their weekly radio show “Live From Mickey Mantle’s“. If you are in NYC on Friday, come on down and heckle me. If not, you can listen to the show live online or download it afterward and listen at your leisure.

[nms:tony bernazard signed, 1]

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Managing Metspectations

Underdog_mets.jpgLess than a week ago, I was rooting for Willie Randolph, since he had assumed the role of underdog. And that is the natural inclination of a Mets fan.

Now Randolph is gone, and the team is mired in fourth place, a game under .500. To win 90 games, they’ll have to play better than .600 baseball going forward. In fact, they’ll have to go on a tear that has them playing almost 30 games over .500 to reach that magic 90-win mark. And 90 wins might not even be enough to get a wild card berth, much less win the division. In short, the Mets have little realistic chance of getting to the postseason.

But don’t take it from me what do I know? Listen to the “professionals” — the oddsmakers in Las Vegas. They have adjusted the odds of the Mets going to the World Series:

For the Mets, once they picked up standout pitcher Johan Santana during the off-season, they were immediately installed as a heavy favorite for the NL pennant. Just look back to February when New York was listed at +175 at Betonline.com, the best odds of any team to represent the NL in the World Series.

The Mets were even made a strong favorite to win this season’s World Series with 5.5-1 odds at Bodoglife.com. Only the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox had better numbers at 3.5-1.

But by the time the Mets replaced Randolph with interim Manager Jerry Manuel on Tuesday, their odds had already dropped to 6-1 to win the NL pennant, behind Chicago (9-4), Arizona (4-1) and Philadelphia (9-2).

(Admission: I never bet and am not entirely sure what some of these numbers mean. But I get the gist of it.)

Call me crazy, but I’m liking the odds stacked against my team. I’m starting to feel like a Mets fan again.

[nms:rusty staub mets signed,2]

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