Browsing Archive July, 2009

Mets Game 102: Loss to Diamondbacks

Rockies 3 Mets 2

At the start it was a skirmish between soft-tossers, but in the end, a battle of the bullpens.

Livan Hernandez and Doug Davis matched each other slow curve for slow curve through six innings and each exited the game with the score tied and no chance for a decision. The soft-tossers hurled nearly identical outings, with both going 6 innings and allowing 4 hits and 2 runs — with all runs scoring on solo homers.

But in the end, it was the Arizona bullpen that prevailed, as they held the Mets hitless over the final three frames while Sean Green imploded, allowing a runner inherited from Pedro Feliciano to score the winning run.


Ironically, the loss was tagged on Feliciano, even though it was Green who shat the bed. Sometimes there is no justice in baseball scoring. Note: Feliciano was charged with the loss on the MLB official boxscore posted 10 minutes after the game; it has since been amended.

The 8th inning was a prime example of why the Diamondbacks are in second-to-last place and going nowhere this year. After Sean Green hit Justin Upton, walked Mark Reynolds on four pitches to load the bases, and was clearly struggling to keep the ball within six feet of home plate (seriously, not an exaggeration), genius Miguel Montero swung at a 1-0 pitch to bounce into a tailor-made DP started by Dan Murphy. Minutes later Green bounced a ball to the backstop to allow a run anyway, but it could’ve been much worse. If I’m manager A.J. Hinch (meh), I have the take sign on until Green shows he can throw two balls near the plate. If it were Miguel Cabrera at the plate instead of Miguel Montero, I might think differently … though it would be tough. After Green bounced in the run, Ryan Roberts swung at the very next pitch and eventually grounded out to end the inning. Again, you see a pitcher struggling mightily, don’t help him! Green was darn lucky to get out of there with only one run — any decent-hitting team would have scored 3-4 runs at minimum.

And while we’re on the subject of fundamentals, Ron Darling mentioned during the ninth that a hitter in a sacrifice situation should start the bat at the top of the strike zone — this way, if the pitch is above the bat, you know to let it go. I personally do not like this approach, because when the bat is up high, it means you have to move it down for strikes — and when you move a bat down to the ball, the ball tends to go up. Obviously, bunts should go down, toward the ground, which is why I’ve always preferred to start the bat low, at the bottom of the strike zone, and move it UP to the ball — which tends to impart an overspin on the ball, and sends the ball downward. Simple physics.

Frankie Rodriguez has not been in a save situation since the All-Star break. Wow.

The first two runs of the game came on homeruns hit on hanging curveballs. Mark Reynolds blasted a Livan curve a good 430 feet over the centerfield fence, while Dan Murphy jumped on a Davis deuce and bounced it off the rightfield foul pole, exactly 330 feet from home plate.

The two teams COMBINED for nine hits in the game. Miraculously, the Mets walked seven times — and not one of those baserunners scored. Davis issued six of those walks, and nearly all of them were of the “unintentional intentional” variety — he clearly picks and chooses who he wants to pitch to.

Angel Berroa pinch-hit for Livan Hernandez with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth. Have to say, if Berroa is the best you can do in that situation, I prefer to take my chances with Livan.

For the record, Jerry Manuel — the guy who admittedly “doesn’t put much into stats” — explained the decision by stating “Berroa’s had some success in the past against Arizona”. Um … hmmm … not sure how that’s a factor — does Berroa respond to the uniform rather than an individual’s stuff? In his career, Berroa has a .218 average vs. Arizona. Yes, last year Berroa hit .308 vs. the D’Backs, and against Doug Davis he was hitting .500 — but it was 1-for-2. Again, I may take my chances with Livan right there.

Angel Pagan and Luis Castillo are a combined 1-for-15 in the last two games heading the top of the lineup.

So with the Giants leading in the Wild Card standings, we have to root for the Phillies this weekend. Awesome.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Rockies do it again at 7:10 PM at Citi Field. Oliver Perez faces Max Scherzer in an intriguing contest of talented enigmas. Both pitchers have the stuff to throw a no-hitter on the right night, and either could also disappear from the game before the fourth inning. No matter what, the crowd surely will be refreshed by cool breezes from the swings and misses siphoned from both lineups by these fireballers.


Deadline Deals

The clock has struck four and the apple in Citi Field may as well be a pumpkin.

No trades for the Mets, but a flurry were made by others. Since the 2 PM update, the following occurred.

Red Sox get Victor Martinez
The Bosox were expected to do “something”, and they did, moving Adam LaRoche (see below) and adding Casey Kotchman and Victor Martinez to their lineup. Martinez can catch, play 1B, and DH; his presence along with Kotchman’s likely means “Big Fraudi” Ortiz will have more time to “research” his PEDs usage. The Red Sox gave up three pitchers — Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price. Nice haul for the rebuilding Indians, and a deal that helps both clubs going in opposite directions.

White Sox acquire Jake Peavy (again)
This time Peavy OK’d the deal, according to various sources. What changed since the last time? More importantly, Peavy is currently on the disabled list. Isn’t there an MLB rule stating that a player on the DL cannot be traded? The Padres get a foursome of prospects: Clayton Richard, Adam Russell, Aaron Poreda and Dexter Carter.

Nationals trade Nick Johnson to the Marlins
Stunning to see an in-division deal, but the Nationals are so far down in the standings they’re listed in the Central. The Fish gave up minor-league LHP Aaron Thompson, a 2005 first-round pick who compares to Tom Glavine — meaning, a soft-tosser (89-91 MPH fastball) who relies on control and guile. The 22-year-old has struggled with injuries and has been something of a disappointment. I’m not sure who he would compare to in the Mets’ system … maybe Michael Antonini? (Though, Antonini is two years older.) But stop thinking about it … where would you put Johnson with Dan Murphy entrenched at 1B?

Nationals trade Joe Beimel to the Rockies
Lucky for the Mets, they just missed seeing the LOOGY face their slugging LH hitters in key situations (had there been any such situations, or if the Mets had any dangerous LH hitters). They also missed out on adding him to their own bullpen. The Rockies gave up two undisclosed minor leaguers.

Blue Jays trade Scott Rolen to the Reds for Edwin Encarnacion
This deal had been rumored for several weeks, with the Jays supposedly uninterested in the free-swinging Encarnacion. But they came to their senses when they realized that free swinger was only 26 years old and is as good a fielder at the hot corner as Rolen used to be. Being 13 games out tends to knock sense into teams.

Braves acquire Adam LaRoche from Red Sox for Casey Kotchman
Whoa! Where did this one come from? Theo Epstein’s saberbrain loves Kotchman’s OBP, youth, and contract status. We thought the Braves didn’t like LaRoche’s passive attitude, but I guess they’ll look the other way and focus on his homerun bat. Instant upgrade for the Bravos.


Trades Update – Victor Martinez About to Move?

As of 2 PM this afternoon, the Mets have not announced a trade. But there are still two hours to go before the deadline.

Meantime, the Twins have acquired Orlando Cabrera, the Tigers have traded for Jarrod Washburn, the Dodgers found someone to take Claudio Vargas off their hands, and the Red Sox may be on the verge of acquiring Victor Martinez.

Roy Halladay, Adrian Gonzalez, Heath Bell, Scott Kazmir, and Mark Hendrickson are still property of the same teams they were with last night.

Wait …. someone CARES that Mark Hendrickson will be traded or not traded? How did that one make the wire?


Does Omar Need to Make a Deal?

The Mets’ recent winning streak (all of four games) was enough to get the natives restless and insist that Omar Minaya make good on his promise that the Mets are “buyers” rather than sellers.

As the clock ticks down, one must wonder if indeed the Mets will “buy” before the deadline — and if they do, will it be for the right reasons?

This season is smelling a lot like 2004 — the last of the Art Howe years.

On July 31, 2004, the Mets were in fourth place (just ahead of the Expos) and 8 games behind the league-leading Braves. Jim Duquette was the lame-duck GM at the time, and desperate to save the season — as well as his job. The Wilpons kept stammering about “meaningful games in September”, and Duquette pulled the trigger on an array of moves in the final days before the trade deadline. I’ll refresh your memory:

Acquired RHP Kris Benson and IF Jeff Keppinger from Pittsburgh in exchange for 3B Ty Wigginton, IF Jose Bautista and RHP Matt Peterson.

Acquired RHP Victor Zambrano and RHP Bartolome Fortunato from Tampa Bay in exchange for LHP Scott Kazmir and RHP Jose Diaz.

In case you forgot, those two pitchers had little impact on the team’s performance. By the end of the season, the team finished in fourth place, just ahead of the Expos, and 25 games behind the NL East Champion Braves. Did Fred and Jeff say “meaningful” or “meaningless” ?

Similarly, this year, the Mets appear to still “be in it”. Maybe all they need to do is acquire one or two players, and, combined with the return of the “cavalry”, they can pull off a miracle.

Also similar is Minaya’s situation, in comparison to Duquette’s back then. It’s not bad enough that the Mets have choked away a postseason appearance two years in a row, not bad enough that they’re currently in second-to-last and ten games behind, not bad enough that their farms system is a shambles, but on top of all that, Minaya made more of a mockery of the Mets’ Mickey Mouse operation by verbally attacking a journalist at a press conference. If all those issues aren’t enough to put Minaya on thin ice, nothing is.

So, knowing that a poor finish by the Mets could finish Minaya’s career as a GM (who else would hire him after all this? XM / Sirius maybe, to team with Duquette), will he make a desperation deal, as Duquette did?

Let’s hope that ticking is indeed a clock, and not a bomb …


Mets Game 101: Loss to Rockies

Rockies 4 0Mets 2

You can’t win ’em all.

Poised for a sweep, instead the Mets finally fell to the Rockies, fulfilling their manager’s prophecy that there is no such thing as momentum in baseball.

Although he allowed 4 runs on 8 hits and 4 walks in 6 1/3 innings, Jonathan Niese had nothing to be ashamed about. He battled all night and came up with big pitches in tight situations, before running out of gas and giving up a two-run homer to Clint Barmes.

Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa limited the Mets to two runs on three hits and three walks through 6 1/3 to claim his ninth victory.


Though he was laboring all evening — and on an oppressively hot and humid evening at that — I can sort of understand why Jerry Manuel pushed Niese out there for the seventh. With the score tied, Niese was looking at a no-decision had he left the game, and the opposing pitcher was leading off the inning. Manuel was likely hoping Niese could gut his way through three more outs and give the offense another chance to give him a shot at a win. But once De La Rosa led off with a double (even if it was misjudged by Angel Pagan), all bets were off, and Niese should have been removed on the spot — regardless of his pitch count (he was a still below 100 at that point).

In the postgame, Bob Ojeda kept harping on the fact that Niese was “pitching without his best stuff”. I’m not sure I agree, mainly because I don’t know what Niese’s “best stuff” looks like just yet. Obviously it wasn’t his “best stuff” as in “the best he’s ever pitched in his life”, but he did have a nasty, sharp-breaking 12-6 curve, and that’s his calling card. Niese struggled with the command of his fastball, and for all we know this issue might be par for the course at this point in his young MLB career. In other words, let’s see this kid pitch at this level for 15-20 games before we form expectations and decide what his “best” is. Otherwise, we may talk ourselves into thinking he’s better than he is, and measure him against unrealistic expectations — similar to what many did when Dan Murphy’s promotion coincided with a once-in-a-lifetime hot streak.

The Mets literally stole the first run of the game. David Wright attempted to steal third and was thrown out by a good five feet — but the umpire inexplicably called him safe. Moments later Jeff Francoeur lifted a long fly ball to the right field wall to score him easily. I think everyone will agree that the breaks have been going the Mets way recently — and it’s a long time coming.

Angel Pagan was caught trying to steal home in the first inning, on the front end of a first-and-third double steal. Very questionable move, but I think the Mets need to continue being aggressive — both to score runs and to keep the games interesting for us fans.

David Wright was 7-for-13 in the series. In contrast, Clint Barmes had only two hits — but both were dingers.

Next Mets Game

The Mets begin another four-game series against an NL West club when the Arizona Diamondbacks come to Flushing on Friday night. First game begins at 7:10 PM, with Livan Hernandez facing Doug Davis.


Mets Game 100: Win Over Rockies

Mets 7 Rockies 0

Break up the Mets!

The steamrolling juggernaut known as the New York Mets flattened the Rockies for their fifth consecutive victory.

The Mets’ offense singled Jason Hammel to death in the second inning, giving ace Johan Santana an early five-nothing lead. They tacked on another two, but Santana needed only one, as he shut out Colorado through seven strong innings. Bobby Parnell and Tim Redding hurled scoreless frames to complete the victory.

Meanwhile, it was Cory Sullivan day at Citi Field. Sullivan played spectacular defense in left field and went 2-for-4 with a triple, a run, and one driven in — the first of the ballgame.


Every Met other than Santana collected at least one hit, and the team totaled 11 — 5 of them for extra bases.

Santana allowed only 4 hits and one walk in his 7 scoreless innings.

The Rockies had one chance to get back in the game, in the top of the fourth. With the score still 5-zip, they loaded the bases against Santana with two outs and slugger Ian Stewart at the plate. Santana got ahead 0-2, but Stewart tied into a changeup and drove it deep down the rightfield line, just foul. After a several more fouls and a few balls, Stewart finally went down swinging to end the threat and the inning.

What happened to Jason Hammel? Truth is, his location wasn’t all that bad — most of the hits against him came on pitches low and possibly out of the strike zone. But the Mets came out swinging aggressively and “hitting them where they ain’t”. It was borderline bizarre to see so many hits in such a short amount of time — a nightmare for the young righthander.

Jerry Manuel continues to play down the idea of “momentum” — he dismissed the idea during the postgame interview. I don’t get it, especially since he is a self-proclaimed old-school, “feel” guy who eschews modern stats and sabermetrics. Every other experienced, old-school baseball man will tell you that momentum is a major factor, both in a ballgame and over the course of a season. I would argue, in fact, that his negativity from a month ago sparked inverse momentum to depress the club. It’s very simple: winning breeds confidence and confidence leads to better performance, which leads to more wins — and that cycle is defined as momentum. And as Yogi Berra said, “90% of baseball is half-mental”.

Strangely enough, Manuel will talk about “going on a roll” or a “hot streak” when the “cavalry” returns. Don’t those terms relate to “momentum”?

Next Mets Game

The second game of the doubleheader and the final game of the series occurs tonight at 7:10 PM. Jonathan Niese faces Jorge De La Rosa. If Niese continues to pitch like Jerry Koosman, this game is in the bag. If not, I blame Jerry Manuel for poo-poohing the concept of momentum.


Mets Lead MLB

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Mets now lead MLB in press conferences since the All-Star Break.

Elias also announced that today’s conference held by Minaya broke the all-time record for most apologies in a 48-hour period.

Well done, men!


If the Mets Buy

When the team was more than 8 games behind in the Wild Card standings, Nepopolitans GM Omar Minionaya insisted that the team would be “buyers” rather than “sellers” at the deadline. This, of course, came as a surprise, since they were window shoppers last year at this time — a time when they were atop the NL East but desperately in need of one or two final pieces to solve the puzzle. If they were so close last year and didn’t “buy”, why would they “buy” now?

But we have tired of trying to figure out what’s going on in the minds of the Nep’s front office — it’s a futile and frustrating exercise. Most likely, it’s the four-game winning streak, which has lifted the hopes of the fans and fed the Mets’ hype machine. If the Mets make a deal now — even a little one — it could be enough to incite many fans to buy tickets for August and September. So with a little more than 24 hours left to wheel and deal, let’s consider what Minionaya might try to procure.


The Mets have needed a second lefthander to team with Pedro Feliciano since … well, since forever. The never-ending auditions of Pat Misch, Ken Takahashi, Casey Fossum, etc., has not uncovered a gem. Maybe the Mets can swing a few A-ball suspects for someone like John Grabow or Joe Beimel — but in the grand scheme of things, would such a deal make a difference?

First Baseman

Forget it. The Mets are committed to Dan Murphy at first until Carlos Delgado or game 162 — whichever comes first. So get used to second baseman-type production from the first base position, and hope against hope that the Mets can make up for it at another position.

Left Fielder

The player that would have fit perfectly here was Ryan Garko, but the Giants beat the Mets to him. Mark Kotsay might have been a nice pickup for the short-term, but he also was scooped up. Ben Francisco or Wladimir Balentien would have been an upgrade over the current menagerie being thrown out there. Heck, Wily Mo Pena would’ve been nice to try out right now, but that possibility was muffed. No use crying over split milk. The list of players left include Ryan Spilborghs, Mark Teahen, Jeremy Hermida, Josh Willingham, maybe Luke Scott and Ryan Freel. Of that group, Hermida has the most upside, but I don’t see the Fish dealing within the division. Willingham would step right into the middle of the Mets’ order, but the Nats likely will ask for too much in return. Teahen is the one that may make the most sense, but the Royals are looking for a centerfielder — which would mean, I presume, Angel Pagan, who is currently igniting the Mets’ offense. Would KC take Jeremy Reed or Cory Sullivan, along with a prospect along the lines of Nick Evans?


Unless you believe Omir Santos is the long-term answer behind the plate, the Mets will need to get a catcher for 2010. If there was a young catcher available for less than a king’s ransom, it would behoove the Mets to make a deal. I don’t see that happening — they’ll take their chances on finding another fill-in or former Expo over the winter (Michael Barrett should be available).


The Mets needed a solid starting pitcher going back to last July, and the best they could come up with was Livan Hernandez. Say all you want about the “brilliance” of plucking Livan off the scrap heap, but it glazes over the “stupidity” of bidding against themselves for Oliver Perez, over-paying for Tim Redding, and counting on John Maine to come back at 100% health. One junkyard pickup doesn’t make up for purchasing three zirconias at the jewelry store. Unfortunately, everyone needs pitching, and few good arms are available, so if the Mets were to trade for anyone of value, it would cost them dearly. A Halladay deal isn’t happening, so the Mets will cross their fingers on the theory that the thirty-six-million-dollar man and young Jonathan Niese can hold up the back end of the rotation — while also hoping that Mike Pelfrey will make more steps forward than backward and Livan will continue to stymie bad-hitting teams.


If it hasn’t happened by now, it’s probably not happening — the Mets appear committed to Alex Cora while pretending Jose Reyes is coming back. I don’t know — maybe the Mets make a move for someone like David Eckstein. If Angel Berroa continues to stink up the joint, it’s back to Argenis Reyes, Wilson Valdez, or Jerry Manuel’s .220-hitting protege Jonathan Malo.


I think the Mets make some kind of deal, for no reason other than to make it appear as though they’re trying — and also to help push away the tiresome Omar Minaya – Tony Bernanzard – Adam Rubin debacle. I’ll go on a limb and say the Mets’ best trade partner is the Royals; perhaps they make a deal with them for Teahen and Freel or Willie Bloomquist. Or, they can hold onto the message that “good players can still be had after the deadline” and pick up some garbage like David Dellucci or Chris Shelton.