Browsing Archive September, 2008

Mets Game 141: Loss to Phillies

Phillies 3 Mets 0

Fred Willard as Mike LaFontaine of Wha Happened?
Wha’ happened?

If it was going to be a 3-0 outcome, it should have been the Mets on the winning end, no? After all, the Phillies bats were ice cold, and hitting in pitcher-friendly Shea Stadium, and the Mets with their scrappy offense and Mike Pelfrey on the mound were poised to win a low-run ballgame. Right?

Somehow, though, neither the Phillies nor the Mets followed the script, and the Sheasters wound up on the wrong end — despite another fantastic performance by Pelfrey, who spun seven stellar innings of four-hit ball, allowing only two earned runs. Unfortunately, one run was all the Phils needed, because the Mets could muster only three hits (two of which were doubles by Daniel Murphy) off starter and winner Brett Myers. The Mets fanned ten times in the process, and were no more effective against closer Brad Lidge — though they made it interesting by putting runners on the corners before the final out was made.


Other than Big Pelf, Murphy was the only bright spot on a dismal night, going 2-for-4. Strangely enough, the Mets managed four doubles but only one single the entire night — and that didn’t come until the ninth against Lidge.

Brian Stokes pitched another impressive, and perfect, inning of relief.

Ricardo Rincon finally threw his first pitch as a Met, and in fact fulfilled his purpose on the planet as a LOOGY (though, I guess technically it would be LTOGY, though it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as nicely) by retiring both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. I thought Rincon deserved a spot on the 25-man roster out of spring training …. well, better late than never.

Next Game

Wily old craftsmen Pedro Martinez and Jamie Moyer go head to head on Saturday at 3:55 pm (FOX game, darn), though this angry, blustery chick named Hannah might intervene.


Keeping Castillo

Listen to me tonight from 6-8pm on Live From Mickey Mantle’s and I’ll explain why the Mets should hold on to Aaron Heilman and Luis Castillo through the winter.

Also you’ll hear the inspirational stories of former Yankee and 9/11 firefighter Frank Tepedino and teacher Billy Staples, who has done amazing work in turning around the lives of inner city kids through baseball.


Inside Look: Phillies

phillies-oldlogo.jpgThis weekend’s series between the Mets and Phillies should be the last time in 2008 they meet each other on a baseball field (save for a one-game playoff).

With the Mets in first by a full three games and 22 left to play, this series could prove to be the most important of the year for both teams.

It’s certain to be a good old fashioned showdown, with both teams bringing their “A game” and sending their top hurlers to the hill. The Phillies, in fact, are moving ace Cole Hamels up a day so he can face Johan Santana on Sunday — though Hamels will still be working on his normal four days’ rest.

If the Mets sweep, they will effectively eliminate the Phillies from contention — though we all remember what happened last year. If the Phillies sweep, it will make for an incredibly tense, gut-wrenching, and exciting September for both teams. If the Mets take two out of three, they’ll push the Phillies further back but not remove them from the race. If the Phillies take two out of three, they pick up one game in the standings and remain in the Mets’ rearview mirror. I think that’s all the “ifs” to cover.

To get the Phillies fans’ perspective, we’ve called on Erik Grissom of the popular Phillies Flow blog:

1. Why the big deal about Cole Hamels pitching on regular rest and starting Sunday? Is there a specific injury concern?

I’m not the spokesman for the team or a medical professional of any kind, but my specific injury concern would be that part of his body could fall off. Most disastrous from a Phillies’ perspective would be his left arm. Hamels has already thrown 203 innings this season and is on-pace to throw 235. Hamels leads the NL in innings pitched and fourth in pitches thrown. He doesn’t turn 25 until December.

There’s not much sign of a slip late in the season — he’s been pitching great. In his nine starts since the break he’s 3-2 with a 2.69 ERA and a 1.06 ratio. In his 20 starts this season before the break he went 9-6 with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.02 ratio. In 2007, though, he threw significantly fewer innings but had to hit the DL down the stretch with a sore elbow (he didn’t make any starts last season between August 17 and September 17 in 2007).

Manuel has been much better at limiting his pitch count in recent starts, but in four of his first 18 starts this season he threw at least 115 pitches, throwing 120 or more three times.

While there may be general concern about Hamels, part of the bad news for the Phillies is why he is starting out of turn. And the answer is simply that Kyle Kendrick, who should be taking the start, has just been abysmal of late and he’s just not a guy the Phillies can put on the mound in such an important game. Kendrick has allowed 22 earned runs in his last 21 2/3 innings (9.14 ERA) over his last five starts– it may not be long before JA Happ or Adam Eaton replace him in the rotation altogether.

2. Jimmy Rollins was in the manager’s doghouse at the beginning of the season, and eventually became the target of the Philly boo birds. Since his recent hot streak, how is he now perceived by the fans?

Rough season for J-Roll both on and off the field. After being benched in a game for failing to hustle early in the year, Rollins was kept out of the starting lineup for another after failing to arrive at the stadium on time. He later criticized Philadelphia fans, suggesting they were front-runners that only supported a player when things were going well. He’s also down on the incessant booing.

For most of this season, Rollins’ numbers had been down across the board. He has hit well lately, though, and comes into tonight’s game 9-for-his-last-21. His power numbers are still down. He has hit ten home runs this year after hitting 30 in ’07 and 25 in ’06. He’s slugging nearly a hundred points lower than he did in ’07.

The fan reaction to Rollins’ comments and his play have varied. To generalize, I think it’s safe to say that memories of his 2007 MVP season have faded and some love has been lost. However, a lot of the bad feelings have been muted with his play of late. So maybe he was right about the front-runner thing.

3. The Philly bullpen has been outstanding, but also used heavily. Any concerns about it breaking down in the final weeks? Any evidence of a breakdown by anyone? What is Charlie Manuel doing to keep the arms fresh?

I think it’s pretty safe to say that the bullpen breakdown has already arrived — you may remember (or may have blocked it out) that the Phils took a half game lead over the Mets with a win on August 26. They lost three in a row after that, with spectacular failings coming from the pen back-to-back-to-back and costing them all three games.

In terms of innings thrown by the pen, the Phils are near the bottom of the league. The innings haven’t been distributed evenly, however — Durbin and Madson have both already thrown more than 70 innings in relief and both are in the top six in the NL in innings pitched as a reliever.

The Phils are going to have a lot of trouble winning unless they get the core of their pen, Madson, Durbin, Romero and Lidge, pitching well again (or get other guys to step up and replace their contribution).

Manuel has made an effort to manage the key members of his pen. It’s been tough with Romero especially, given that he was the only lefty pitching in relief for the Phils for much of the year. Condrey, Seanez and now Eyre, in limited innings, all have decent numbers in relief for the Phils this season. When you look back at the numbers after the season is over I think there’s a chance we’re going to wonder why Manuel wasn’t a little more willing to go to Condrey and Seanez a little more often.

Manuel has also been hit hard by some failings in the rotation that had waves that made it to the pen. Kendrick hasn’t gone six innings in any of his last five starts, going 21 2/3 innings or about 4 1/3 innings per start. That leaves a lot of innings for the bullpen to pitch. I had also hoped that the addition of Blanton could give the Phils some stability at the top of the rotation and give the pen a rest. The trio of Hamels, Myers and Blanton at the top seems like they should be able to give the Phils innings and keep the pen in the pen and not on the field. But Blanton has also had trouble going deep into games. He’s gone less than six innings four of his last five times out. In his nine starts with the Phils he’s averaged under 5 1/3 innings per start (47 2/3 innings in nine starts, about 5.30 innings per start).

4. What is the key to the Phillies beating the Mets this weekend?

Keep Reyes off the bases. Take their shots at Ayala and the Mets’ bullpen with Wagner out.

I think the return of Church is a challenge for the Phillies as the Mets put another lefty bat in their lineup the Phils haven’t seen for a while. Romero, the Phillies’ top lefty in the pen, has worked a lot this season and has been great against lefties this year. But he can’t pitch to all of them. Scott Eyre is option 1A and he’s been good since joining the Phils. But he doesn’t inspire the same confidence that a fresh Romero would. For a Phillies’ fan it’s tough to forget Delgado’s home run off of Seanez at the end of last month.

5. What is the key to the Phillies repeating as NL East champions?

Getting their offense turned around and getting good work from their bullpen.

The Phillies just aren’t scoring runs. They were tied for tenth in the NL in runs scored in August. They actually went 16-13 in the month, but it was primarily because their starting pitching was very strong while the offense and the pen both struggled.

Rollins, Howard, Burrell and Victorino all had very weak Augusts. Howard hit 213/328/463 and Burrell 181/275/343. Utley got hot at the end of the month, going 8-for-his-last-17 to end August, but he struggled most of the month as well. The Phils don’t have much of a chance unless Burrell, Howard and Rollins hit better in August than they did in September.

Romero, Madson, Durbin and Lidge have been the core of the Phillies’ bullpen. Romero has been pretty solid all year long, but Madson’s ERA is near five since the All-Star break. Durbin has given the Phils a ton this year, but he’s been charged with runs in three of his last four outings. In those four appearances he’s allowed seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings (18.90 ERA). He allowed two home runs over his first 56 appearances of the season and has allowed two in his last four. Even Lidge, who’s also had a great season, has shown some cracks. He threw to a 1.13 ERA before the break and has thrown to a 4.58 ERA with a 1.36 ratio since.

Overall, the Phils’ pen helped them win a huge number of games early in the season. They aren’t helping them win many now. The Phils are either going to need that core of Romero, Madson, Durbin and Lidge to do the job they’ve done all year, which seems highly unlikely given how effective they were early and how many innings they’ve thrown, or get good bullpen innings from other sources. The mostly likely sources of good bullpen innings for the Phils down the stretch would be Condrey, Eyre and Seanez — all three have been good for the Phils this season, but haven’t seen nearly the pressure situations that Romero, Madson, Durbin and Lidge have faced.

6. Who do you predict will be the “sleeper MVP” of September for the Phils? In other words, who will give a surprising contribution down the

He would hardly be a sleeper, but Howard is the guy that can carry the team by himself. Rollins, Utley and Burrell can all get silly hot, but none of that trio can put the team on his shoulders the way Howard can. He’s had some monster months in his career, the best of which was probably August of 2006. In that month he hit 14 home runs and had 41 RBI.

This year he’s been about as bad as you can be if you’re going to lead your league in home runs and RBI.

Assuming Howard doesn’t count as a sleeper, I’d go with Werth. He’s had the best year of his career and comes off an August in which he hit 313/433/639 playing regularly.

7. Ninth inning, two outs, man on third, tie ballgame. What Phillie do you want at the plate?


8. Same situation as above, but the Mets are hitting. Who would you least like to see batting for the Mets?

Reyes. It’s close between him and Wright, but Reyes always seems to kills us. Wright strikes out more and the possibility that Reyes’ speed helps him beat out an infield hit makes him pretty scary in that situation.

Thanks again to Erik for providing his take on the Phillies. Be sure to check out Phillies Flow for more info on that pesky team down I-95.


Without Willie

Could Tony Bernazard have been any more clear about how he felt about Willie Randolph? Do we need any more evidence of his questionable character and lack of professionalism?

In the Daily News, John Harper spoke with Bernazard about the resurgence of Carlos Delgado, and Tony B just couldn’t leave Randolph — or his own ego — out of the conversation.

“The other thing,” said Bernazard, “is that maybe it has something to do with the new people running the team.”

He didn’t refer specifically to either Randolph or Jerry Manuel, but with that one sentence, Bernazard may as well have declared:

“See? We were right.”

Bernazard still won’t say so publicly, but it’s clear in conversation with him about the state of the ballclub that he felt Randolph had to go, perhaps felt more strongly about the need for a change than anyone in the organization.

And even though the Mets can never defend GM Omar Minaya’s clumsy, insensitive handling of the firing, you can’t argue these days with the idea that indeed the front office was right.

The last sentence, by Harper, is incredulous and typically short sighted. The front office wasn’t “right” about Randolph being the wrong manager — they had no choice but to remove him as long as Tony Bernazard was going to repeatedly undermine his authority and bad-mouth him to anyone who would listen — be it players, coaches, journalists, team officials, or Jeff Wilpon.

Imagine trying to manage a group of 25 men, and a middle manager from another department is constantly hanging around the cubes of your workers, and whispering bad things about you to them. For example, telling your receptionist that in a closed door meeting with the higher ups, you questioned her phone manners? You think your group would be working at optimum efficiency with that sort of thing going on?

More gems from this article:

… the Manuel Mets barely resemble the Randolph Mets.

Bernazard feels it’s no coincidence. Although he avoided specific discussion of Randolph, his praise of Manuel seemed to be a commentary on the old manager as well.

“You have to have the pulse of the team,” Bernazard said. “You have to be prepared and you have to communicate with your players. Jerry does all of that.”

and, in regard to whether Delgado’s comeback had to do with the managerial change:

“Delgado is such a student of the game,” said Bernazard. “If you’re running a good game, he knows. When you’re running a bad game, he knows.”

Tony Bernazard made it crystal clear that there wasn’t enough room in town for both he and Randolph. His pitbull tenacity in pushing Randolph out had no boundaries nor ethics, and in the end he comes out smelling like a rose because on the surface, it looks like Jerry Manuel is a genius and Willie Randolph an idiot. In truth, the tense dark cloud that surrounded the team in Willie’s last 8-12 months was a calculated and despicable manipulation by Bernazard, designed to dispose of Randolph. Hopefully, Bernazard gets a GM job on the West Coast this offseason, as has been rumored — because who knows who he’ll turn on next.

But who cares, right? Because the Mets are winning and that’s all that matters. Why am I being so negative?

Well, when a situation makes me sick to my stomach, the easiest way to soothe my tummy is to let it out by blogging about it. I’m still rooting for the Mets, still love that they’re winning, and am happy with Jerry Manuel in charge. But all this behind-the-scenes drama centered around a guy who has ZERO qualifications for his position and an equal amount of professionalism, yet gains more power with every Mets win, cannot get swept under the rug.


Mets Game 140: Win Over Brewers

Mets 9 Brewers 2


The Mets pulled off another sweep, this time in Milwaukee as they battered the Brewers.

The game was over before Oliver Perez stepped on the mound, as the Mets exploded for six runs in the first frame off Milwaukee starter and loser David Bush. The biggest blow came off the bat of Ryan Church, who sent a line drive over the right-center fence for a grand salami. Is it safe to say Church is “back on track” ?

Ollie pitched well, looking much better than in his last start, spinning six and two-thirds while allowing only two runs. Remarkably, he did not induce one ground ball out during his time on the mound.

The Mets bullpen shut out the Brewers the rest of the way without incident.


Dan Murphy continues to stroke the ball consistently and get on base. He went 2-for-4 with a walk, a double, and two runs scored.

Strangely, the only other Met with at least two hits was Brian “Sluggo” Schneider, who blasted his 7th homer of the year.

With a 6-1 lead in the sixth and Oliver Perez in minor trouble, Duaner Sanchez — who pitched an inning on Tuesday — was the first man warming up in the bullpen. So … what was the point of adding Carlos Muniz, Bobby Parnell, Brandon Knight, and Ricardo Rincon to the roster? Does it have to be a 10-run game for these guys to get an opportunity? Baffling.

More baffling, with a six-run lead in the 8th, Sanchez came into the game. Based on what I’ve seen of Sanchez over the last month, he needs rest, not more work. And the head-scratching continued in the ninth. After the Mets tacked on another run, increasing the lead to seven, instead of seeing Parnell or Muniz finish the game, Scott Schoeneweis strode to the mound. Looked a lot like something Jerry Manuel’s predecessor would have done, eh? But hey, for all we know, both Parnell and Muniz are nursing injuries, and that’s why we didn’t see them.

As Keith Hernandez astutely pointed out, David Wright absolutely must work in BP on shortening his swing and hitting to right field. The Mets need him to get back on track for the final stretch of the season.

Speaking of, I noticed something else about Wright (yesterday I pointed out his “overload” of the hands). Earlier in the year — and throughout his MLB career — he would step slightly early, but keep his weight back, kind of doing a toe-tap with his front foot as he waited and made his decision to commit to a swing or not. Lately, his stride and swing have looked smoother — he strides, and his hands immediately start forward. It may look smoother, but it’s not necessarily better. He may be better off going back to the early stride and toe-tap — it’s worked for four years at least.

The Scho’s new mustache is terrible. Absolutely terrible. It looks like a paste-on stache, like the one they gave away last year for Keith’s Mustache Day.

Next Game

The Mets have a day off on Thursday, then open their last series against the Phillies at Shea on Friday night at 7:10 pm. Mike Pelfrey goes to the hill against Brett Myers.


Playing for Peanuts

Who needs the constraints of network TV, cable, or satellite? You can watch what you want to watch when you want to watch it. Power to the people, god bless the internet.

Playing for Peanuts, Episode 1, for your viewing pleasure.


Mets Game 139: Win Over Brewers

Mets 6 Brewers 5

The much-anticipated debut of Jonathan Niese was less than auspicious. However, it was pretty obvious that the kid was shaking in his boots — I believe he’ll show us a much better performance in future starts, when he’s more relaxed and tense-free.

After being handed a 5-1 lead, Niese couldn’t escape the fourth inning, allowing four runs to tie up the game. He exited with the only possibility a no-decision — so it was up to the Mets bullpen and the bats to take the game from there.

Not surprisingly, the offense pulled their sleepwalking routine for the next six frames. Surprisingly, the relief corps did more than an admirable job of keeping the Brewers at bay.

The game remained tied until the tenth, when Daniel Murphy started things off with a single up the middle. Jose Reyes followed with a sacrifice bunt that catcher Jason Kendall threw into right field, allowing Murphy to scamper to third. Endy Chavez (remember him?) then followed with a long fly to right to score Murphy easily and put the Mets ahead.

Joe Smith threw three pitches for the win, and Luis Ayala earned his fifth save — though not without a little bit of stress.


Keith Hernandez keeps harping on the fact that David Wright has a “curveball swing”, is “flying open” with his front side, and not going the other way. It looks to me like David is “loading up” more than usual — meaning, he’s bringing his hands back and up further than earlier in the season. The telltale sign is that you can see his entire name on the back of his uniform, and his right elbow fly up above his head as the pitch is coming in. Some rotation is vital to generating power, but too much can be detrimental (though, there is one school of thought led by former MLBer Mike Epstein that believes “rotational hitting” is the best way to generate power). For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, so Wright’s over-rotation in his “load” is likely causing his front side to fly open. Those who are paying attention will recognize this is the exact issue that caused John Maine’s shoulder problems. Luckily for a batter, over-rotation means you’ll be pulling everything, but not hurting yourself.

Keith also pointed out two terrible slides by the Brewers — one on a play at the plate that cost them a run, and one at second base that cost them a runner in scoring position in the 8th inning. Excellent analysis by Keith, and shame on big league teams for not stressing the fundamentals and/or teaching their players how to properly slide. It’s the little things that win and lose ballgames.

I distinctly heard “Hava Negila” played during the seventh inning by the Milwaukee organist (while Guillermo Mota was pitching). Nice to hear, since they don’t play it at Shea since Shawn Green retired.

Is it me, or does Jon Niese slightly resemble Michael Phelps?

Carlos Beltran was 2-for-3 with a three-run homer, and is smoking the ball all over the place. Can you say, September 2004?

Some strange moves by Jerry Manuel that could be criticized after the fact. For one, he chose to let Fernando Tatis swing away with no outs and men on first and second with the score tied. Tatis bounced into a double play. Later, Manuel allowed Nick Evans to hit with Argenis Reyes on second base with two outs in the seventh, Guillermo Mota on the mound, and five lefthanded bats waiting on the bench. In a stunning about-face, Manuel replaced Evans with Endy Chavez as a defensive replacement immediately after Evans grounded out to end the inning.

Next Game

Wednesday’s game is an afternoon affair, as they celebrate the day after Labor Day as Labor Day in Wisconsin (or something). First pitch is at 2:05 pm EST and will be thrown by Dave Bush. Oliver Perez pitches for the Metropolitans.