Archive: August 1st, 2008

Mets Game 109: Loss to Astros

Astros 7 Mets 3

That one hurt.

The game was a dogfight from the beginning, with both teams scoring in the first frame — the Mets on an RBI single by David Wright and the ‘stros on a solo homer by Kaz Matsui. Opposing pitcher Brandon Backe then blasted a solo shot of his own to put Houston up 2-1. In the top of the fourth, the Mets scored two to go up 3-2, then gave the lead right back in the bottom of the frame on yet another solo shot, this one by Carlos Lee.

The contest remained tied until the 8th, when the Astros finally moved away from the solo homer and upgraded to the much more efficient 4-run variety. After loading the bases, Aaron Heilman served up a gopher ball to Mark Loretta, giving the game to the Astros. While it is difficult to come back from a four-run deficit with only three outs left, the opposing team’s closer on the mound, and the bottom of your lineup coming to the plate, the circumstances probably didn’t matter. The Mets had a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity of their own in the seventh, and squandered it. It simply wasn’t the Mets’ night.


Carlos Delgado kept up his hot hitting with a 2-for-4 evening, including a double. Jose Reyes also went 2-for-4.

Aside from Wright’s first-inning RBI, the Mets received run-scoring singles from Damion Easley and Fernando Tatis. Even though Tatis and Easley produced runs, their presence in the lineup doesn’t help to strike fear in many pitcher’s hearts. The meekness of the Mets’ lineup, in fact, is disconcerting, but could look a lot better when Carlos Beltran starts hitting.

For reasons unknown, Endy Chavez hit for himself with the game tied, none out and the bases loaded in the seventh, against LOOGY Tim Byrdak. Chavez is hitting .212 with one RBI against lefties this year. Ramon Castro, Robinson Cancel, and Nick Evans were all available on the bench. I guess the thinking was that Chavez would put the ball in play somewhere. Personally, I would have preferred to have someone like Castro up in that spot, knowing you have a good chance of getting either a fly ball or a double-play grounder to shortstop — and with none out in a tie ballgame, I’m OK with the DP if it scores a run. With all the talk of Jerry Manuel being so aggressive, I’m surprised we didn’t see Endy drop a squeeze. Though I guess that would’ve been difficult with lead-footed Brian Schneider on third and the corners playing in.

Once again Aaron Heilman is the scapegoat. By the way, what is his “role”? Based on recent events, I assume his role is “everyman”. He pitches setup, middle relief, long relief, short relief, and situational relief. He comes in when the team is ahead by a slim lead, ahead by a large lead, behind by margins both slim and wide, and always when the score is tied. It seems the only time he doesn’t pitch are days like Thursday — off days. He’s being (ab)used by Manuel the same way as Willie Randolph — keep putting him out there as long as he’s “hot”. Here’s the crazy thing about the Joe Torre theory of riding the “hot” pitcher — there’s no such thing. Pitchers may appear to go on streaks the way hitters do, but there’s nothing streaky about relief pitching. Eventually, a pitcher who is overused gets either overexposed or fatigued. Fatigue has been an issue with Heilman since 2006, when the “Proctor Rules” first were bestowed upon him. Few managers have an inkling about the human body and the biomechanics of overhand throwing, so they “play the hot hand” until the pitcher “goes cold” — not realizing that the pitcher would be very consistent if only there was a hint of rhyme or reason to his workload. It’s not rocket science, folks — if you keep pushing a pitcher out there, eventually he’s going to break.

I’m not understanding the logic behind putting Heilman out there for second innings. Is it really because Manuel has the green light to “stretch him out” for starting? I don’t think so. As usual, Heilman’s arm angle at release began to drop at the beginning of his second inning of relief — his elbow was a good two inches below his normal three-quarter/sidearm delivery on the ball that Lance Berkman crushed for a double. When he’s throwing from that low a release, it’s only a matter of time before someone jumps all over a meatball high in the zone. Don’t blame Aaron — blame the idiocy of the people who put him into these situations. The shame of all this is that the fans see Aaron as the bad guy, and Aaron blames himself.

The stupidity is spread by the propaganda machine known as the SNY broadcasters, most notably Keith Hernandez, with asinine, uneducated quips such as “… you think he’s coming out, and he takes two steps back.” No Keith … if you showed up to more than half the games, you’d see that the minute he starts pitching well, the Mets whip him like a racehorse until he fails. He’s not Turk Wendell, and has never responded well to overuse. Some guys are rubber arms, Heilman isn’t one of them. We’ve been watching him break down from abuse for three years, and still no one sees the pattern. His delivery is too complicated to be entrusted to knuckleheads. If he can’t be managed properly out of the ‘pen, then put him in the rotation, where a consistent training regimen is more suited to his unusual delivery.

By the way, Mark Loretta is now 4-for-10 with two homers in his career against Heilman.

Pedro looked terrible in his first game back since the death of his father, and he will be a question mark for some time. First and foremost, there is the emotional side of the equation — as much as we’d like to think that professional ballplayers can flip a switch, the truth is, they’re human, just like us. Imagine how you would perform at your job a week after the death of one of the people closest to you in your life — not well, most likely. From the physical perspective, Pedro was out of sync with his mechanics, had no rhythm, but most concerning, was pitching with a very low arm action and release point. We expected him to be a little rusty, and not sharp, but he’s not going to get sharp throwing below his usual three-quarter delivery. Most of his pitches were delivered from a sidearm angle, with a low elbow. I suspect he is still suffering from problems with his shoulder. Low elbow = high pitches (ask Heilman). That’s why you saw three gopher balls. Pedro was all guts and guile in this game, and his physical condition is worrisome.

Next Game

It will be a battle of the aces on Saturday night, as Johan Santana faces Roy Oswalt at 7:05 pm in Houston. Catch it on SNY, WFAN, or XM 185.


Trade Analysis: Manny Ramirez and Jason Bay

Dodgers get: Manny Ramirez
Red Sox get: Jason Bay
Pirates get: Bryan Morris, Adam LaRoche (Dodgers), Craig Hansen (Red Sox), Brandon Moss (Red Sox)

Every ten minutes throughout the day, there was a new Manny rumor brewing. The day began with his bags packed for Miami, to join the Marlins, and by the end of the afternoon he was Westward, landing in Hollywood. Manny’s ever-changing destination kept Bay in limbo, though at one point it was reported that Jason Bay was going to Tampa Bay to be Ray.

When the smoke finally cleared, the wreckage looked like this: Joe Torre gets Manny, the Pirates get four prospects for Bay, and the Red Sox wind up with a worse team than they were when the day began.

Throughout it all, there was not a whisper from the Mets. This despite the fact that division rivals Philadelphia and Florida were making offers. Omar Minaya’s explanation was that


Trade Analysis: Ken Griffey Jr.

White Sox get: Ken Griffey, Jr.
Reds get: Nick Masset, Danny Richar

This analysis is going to be biased, and sound bitter, because I’ve been a huge Junior Griffey fan since his first days in the big leagues. So consider yourself warned, and read this with a grain of salt.

The White Sox ability to acquire Griffey for this package absolutely stunned me. Yes, Griffey is not exactly on fire this season. Yes, he had to waive his no-trade option. True, he’s in the last year of his contract, so he’s essentially a rent-a-player. Indeed, he can no longer play centerfield, which is where he’ll be roaming in Chicago.

But he’s still Ken Griffey, Jr.!

Here’s the thing: if the Mariners were insisting on two top prospects for Raul Ibanez, and Griffey was out there for two non-prospects … well, how did we miss that one?

The scoop on the youngsters: Masset is an inconsistent pitcher who was on the 25-man roster only because he was out of options, and the ChiSox thought they might be able to use him for mopup duty. He was a so-so prospect in the minors, and now as a 26-year old has not shown enough at the MLB level to get anyone excited — a 7.09 ERA last year and a 4.63 ERA this year. He’s a slightly younger version of Brian Stokes or Jon Adkins, with about the same upside. Richar, on the other hand, has not had his weaknesses exposed at MLB yet, so the jury is out. But he is far from a prospect at this stage in his career. A good comparable is Ruben Gotay: Richar is below-average in the field, has average speed, a little pop, with his best tool a lefthanded bat. But when your best tool is your bat, and you’re hitting only .260 in AAA, your career is no longer promising — especially as a 25-year-old.

Looking at this trade, I’m jealous. I would love to have sees Griffey and his .245 average come to Shea for, say, Ruddy Lugo and Anderson Hernandez. Call me crazy, but being on the big stage of New York, in the heat of a tight pennant race, might have been just the ticket to boost Griffey’s bat. He wouldn’t have had to be a star, and could have fit very nicely in the sixth spot of the order. The guy still has homerun power, is above-average and a professional in all aspects of the game, and puts forth 100% effort. Don’t give me the excuse that he’s a lefty hitter, and the Mets have too many of those. Would you rather have Raul Ibanez, simply because he hits righthanded? I’ll take my chances with too many lefties. It didn’t hurt the 2006 Mets.

This isn’t a Charlie Williams for Willie Mays trade. Mays should have retired a few years before his embarrassing swan song of ’73. Griffey can still play, and is still feared.

Bottom line: the White Sox get a future first-ballot Hall of Famer who is still a game-changer and has the potential to carry a team. Not only did they give up garbage for him, but the Reds are PAYING the rest of Griffey’s salary. Figure that one out!

Oh, and if he bolts after the season for another team, they get two #1 picks. Not a bad deal.

Next analysis: Manny Ramirez and Jason Bay


Trade Analysis: Arthur Rhodes

Marlins get: Arthur Rhodes
Mariners get: Gaby Hernandez

The Marlins were really aggressive at the deadline, and seemed on the verge of pulling in the biggest “fish”. But when it was all said and done, all they came away with was Arthur Lee Rhodes.

Florida’s bullpen has been shaky this year, so it made sense for them to pick up a veteran arm. And they didn’t give up much. Many Mets fans remember Gaby Hernandez as central to the trade that put Paul LoDuca in the orange and blue. Some went as far as to say the Mets were crazy to “empty their farm system” of “top prospects”, especially when they could have signed Bengie Molina or Ramon Hernandez (and thus been stripped of a draft pick). In the end, Gaby never quite lived up to the hype. He had an underwhelming season in AA last year, and struggled mightily in AAA this season. (Funny how those “can’t miss” prospects miss sometimes.) Still, he has age on his side, and perhaps a change in scenery will help turn him around. The Mariners will give him every opportunity to find himself, and could come up with a gem. And they got him for a soft-tossing LOOGY who likely would not have been brought back in 2009.

I can’t get on Omar for “missing out” on this deal. Rhodes is strictly a LOOGY at this point in his career, despite reports to the contrary. He would not have been an upgrade over Scott Schoeneweis, and even if Scho were dealt separately, there are other, better, available lefties out there to choose from. In fact, I’d prefer to promote Ricardo Rincon from the Mexican League before giving up a warm body for Rhodes.

Nice deal for both sides.

Next analysis: Ken Griffey, Jr.


Trade Analysis: Ivan Rodriguez

Yankees get: Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez
Tigers get: Kyle Farnsworth

How does Brian Cashman do it? Say all you want about the Yankees having the highest payroll and the deepest pockets, but you cannot discount the extraordinary job that Cashman has done — especially since given more control of the organization in the past few years.

Jorge Posada goes down for the season, and Cashman pulls a rabbit out of his hat — a bonafide future Hall of Fame receiver who is a proven winner and still has gas in the tank. And he obtains him in return for an inconsistent, enigmatic middle reliever. Yes, Kyle Farnsworth is pitching well lately — this is what’s termed “selling high” in economics courses.

Tell me, as a Mets fan — would you have been happy if the Mets traded Brian Schneider or Ramon Castro for Farnsworth? I bet there are some of you who would have been upset had the Mets sent Robinson Cancel to the Yankees for the flukey Farnsworth. Yet here is Brian Cashman, once again in the right place at the right time, dealing away excess at the height of its value, and getting an All-Star to put somewhere at the bottom of the lineup.

Here’s what gets my goat: the fact that Dave Dombrowski was supposedly demanding Aaron Heilman for a crappy fifth outfielder, then gives away a superstar for Kyle Farnsworth. Yes, I know Pudge’s best days are behind him, but he’s hitting his usual .300 with some pop — and I’d take him over Marcus “Strikeout Machine” Thames in a heartbeat. The combination of New York City and the pennant race is going to rejuvenate I-Rod, who is far from running on fumes. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the Yankees re-sign him for ’09.

The rich get richer.

Next analysis: Arthur Rhodes


Trade Analysis: LaTroy Hawkins

Astros get: LaTroy Hawkins
Yankees get: Hawkins’ absence, Matt Cusick

This trade is hardly worth mentioning in terms of impact, but I feel the insanity and shock value of the deal is worth discussing.

As mentioned earlier, Ed Wade is insane if he thinks the Astros are going to make a push for the playoffs this year. He’s even crazier if he thinks