Browsing Archive September, 2010

Mets Game 154: Win Over Phillies

Mets 5 Phillies 2

Take THAT, Chase Utley! Now you know what happens when you wake a sleeping giant!

The Mets mustered all the motivation they could find, inspired by a ferocious slide by bad-ass Carlos Beltran, and absolutely hammered the first-place Phillies.

Beltran not only dropped to the ground and got dirty, but his slide was in the general direction of another human being. Kevin Burkhardt reported that Beltran nearly took out TWO infielders on the play. It was an incredible display of interest, to the point where it almost confused the Phillies. Not only that, but the slide filled Beltran’s teammates with enormous pride and attentiveness, giving them the energy they needed to stomp all over Kyle Kendrick and the rest of those dastardly, dirty dregs from Philadelphia. It was a shining moment in Beltran’s career, and one that cemented his status as the team’s leader.

Excuse me for a moment … I’m getting verklempt just thinking about “the slide” …

Game Notes

OK back to reality. Beltran’s slide was hard, clean, and appropriate. But the channel 11 / SNY staff’s decision to position it as something inspirational was laughable. If that slide was the Mets’ answer to Chase Utley‘s from the night before, then this team is even more clueless than we thought — and more in need of someone to teach them how to play baseball than anyone realized. There was nothing remotely outlandish or motivational about it, aside from GKR and SNY’s response to it — which was, as with the Utley slide, a completely fabricated angle of importance. Maybe the idea is to build “toughness” and “hard play” as a snowball of a talking point that eventually explains the hiring of a “fiery” manager such as Wally Backman. Believe me, I’m all for seeing Wally as manager next year — but please don’t create some artificial platform to justify his hiring; he is qualified on his own merits.

Dillon Gee was once again outstanding, allowing only 2 earned runs on 5 hits and 2 walks in seven strong innings. Gee should be the focus of excitement in this ballgame, not the first time Beltran slid toward a middle infielder in six years.

Or better yet, let’s talk about Lucas Duda, who delivered a 3-run, pinch-hit double to put the Mets ahead. The postgame interviews would have you believe that drive was inspired by the Beltran slide, but I’d be more inclined to think that Josh Thole‘s bases-loaded single did more to swing the momentum the Mets’ way. Though, in the post-game interview, Thole did “admit” that “the slide” helped get the Mets motivated — after being handed a framed question to which answering any other way might embarrass the inquisitor. But hey, maybe the slide really did get the Mets going. If so, why the heck did it take 154 games to light a fire?

By the way, Beltran’s slide was kind of sheepish compared to that of Wilson Valdez, who took out Jose Reyes an inning before.

Just think, if this were 1960, the season would be over and we’d all be out of our misery.

Two streaks were snapped with this game: the Phillies’ 11-game winning streak and the Mets’ 6-game losing streak.

Next Mets Game

The rubber match occurs at 1:35 PM on Sunday afternoon. Pat Misch faces Cole Hamels.


The Mets Are Sissies

From Wikipedia:

Sissy is a pejorative for a boy or man to indicate that he fails to behave according to the traditional male gender role. Generally, it implies a lack of the courage and stoicism which are thought important to the male role. It might also imply interests seen as strikingly un-masculine. This pejorative may be given to anyone as an insult. Several variations, such as “sissy boy” or “sissy baby”, exist and any term can become pejorative or insulting if preceded by “sissy” and applied to a boy or a man.

Sounds about right for a team that is offended by Chase Utley making an aggressive but clean slide. Utley was (and is) playing the game the way it was meant to be played. There was no malice in his slide, nothing “dirty” about it — other than the fact he soiled his uniform pants. Why people are even focusing on “the slide” as if Utley did something wrong is preposterous — if anything, it should be an example of instruction on how one is to slide hard but cleanly in an attempt to break up a double play.

The press has turned this slide into an event, probably because the Mets are so damn boring and uninspiring that they’re hoping to artificially create excitement. They cajoled lame duck manager Jerry Manuel into suggesting that his team will “take care of it” by sliding hard into Utley. Um … how about sliding hard into Utley ANYWAY, since that’s what a player is supposed to do on a DP attempt? David Wright’s response was similarly off-base:

“We’ll reevaluate the way that we go into second base. … He’s a second baseman. If he wants guys sliding like that into him then it’s perfectly fine. … It’s a legal slide. It’s within the rules. But somebody’s going to get hurt. … He knows the difference between a good, clean slide and a slide that’s late. … Chase plays the game hard. He plays the game passionately. But there’s a thin line between going out there and playing the game hard and going out there and trying to get somebody hurt. That’s a thin line. Nobody’s going to go and push us around. We’re going to have our teammates’ back. I think cooler heads prevailed, but we’ve got to let them know that over on our side, we didn’t appreciate it, and we’re going to go out there and have our teammates’ backs. … If he doesn’t mind guys coming like that after him, then everything’s good.”

Bad move, David. Because Utley did not cross that line. But more importantly, Wright has more or less promised that Utley will get taken out — possibly by crossing that “thin line”. Which means that if Utley does not get upended or knocked down at the plate, the Mets will transform from simply sissies to “sissy marys”; from Urban Dictionary:

Someone who chickens out of doing something after promising to do it.

It’s a lose-lose situation — if they don’t do something, then they’ve publicly cowered to the Phillies based on an imaginary issue. But if they do initiate something against Utley this weekend, they’ll look like whiny sore losers to everyone except the most blindly diehard Mets fans. It would not be unlike the situation we saw in Game 161 of 2007, when Miguel Olivo charged Jose Reyes. The Marlins were at the end of a long, frustrating, disappointing season, were down 10 runs in the ballgame, and thus Olivo’s act was pathetic desperation — not any kind of “grit” or “toughness”. The Mets are in a similar place right now, and knocking Utley on his backside will not turn the team into something they haven’t been for several years. Let’s face it — in addition to underperforming and lacking the talent to reach the postseason, the Mets would not have been described as a “hard nosed” team for a long, long time.

Though, if the Mets and Phillies do get into some kind of rhubarb, I’m liking the Mets chances — particularly with beasts such as Lucas Duda, Mike Hessman, and Chris Carter jumping off the bench.


Mets Game 153: Loss to Phillies

Phillies 3 Mets 2

So I blinked, and missed the game.

The Phillies disposed of the Mets in short order, cruising to their 93rd win of the season in a mere 2 hours, 10 minutes. That’s pretty impressive, considering:

– a knuckleballer pitched 6 innings for the Mets
– there were 5 pitching changes in the ballgame
– only two double plays were turned
– the game was played in the 21st century

Game Notes

R.A. Dickey was pretty good, but not good enough to beat the Phillies. He knuckled down for 6 innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks. He also ripped a double.

Unfortunately for Dickey, Joe Blanton was a touch better — allowing only 2 runs on 6 hits and a walk in 7 frames, expending just 74 pitches.

Ike Davis went 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Angel Pagan hit his 11th homer to drive himself and Davis in. And that was the scoring for the Mets, folks.

Davis’ double looked like it might be a game-tying homer in the top of the ninth, but it bounced off the middle of the left-field wall. He was stranded on third base when Jesus Feliciano struck out to end the game.

The bottom of the fifth ended with a double play turned on the Phillies on a Wright-Tejada-Davis relay. Chase Utley went in aggressively and upended Tejada on the play. It was an absolutely clean play, but it was a hard-nosed slide that you don’t see very often in these days of the pretty-boy sissy buddies. You DO see it often from Utley and others on the Phils. Now understand: the Phillies are more or less guaranteed to be in the postseason, and therefore this game means relatively nothing. Yet Utley still went in hard. Only minutes later in the top of the sixth, Jayson Werth went full-force into the right-field wall in an attempt to catch a fly ball, and Raul Ibanez ended the inning with a sliding catch in left field. It is late September, the Phillies may clinch before the weekend is over, and yet they are playing like it is the 7th game of the World Series. An inning after that, Joe Blanton fell flat on his face scrambling to field a drag bunt and retire Angel Pagan. That kind of display makes one consider buying a Phillies cap.

That’s not to say the Mets don’t hustle as well. There are a number of players — particularly some of the younger ones who are trying to make an impression — who play hard most if not all the time. But for whatever reason, playing hard and aggressively all the time — LOOKING like a team that will do whatever they need to do to win — has not been something one would identify with the Mets. They show up, most of them usually play hard, and sometimes, if the score seems out of reach, they look like they’ve given up. That’s what their overall body language shows, to me, anyway — and it’s something that’s been apparent since 2007, even when they won more games than they lost.

Speaking of the Phillies and their current record, their “magic number” is 2. In other words, a combination of Phillies wins and Braves losses that equal 2 will result in the Phillies clinching the NL East. For example, if the Phillies beat the Mets on Saturday and the Braves lose to the Nationals. So there’s a very good chance that the Mets will be party to a Phillies celebration this weekend. Oh joy.

This was the Phillies’ 11th consecutive win.

The Mets are now five games under .500 and have a firm hold on fourth place.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Phillies play again on Saturday night at 7:05 PM. Dillon Gee faces Kyle Kendrick.


What Happened To the Pitching Philosophy?

Last night I watched the Mets 1967 Yearbook (god love the DVR). They showed clips of Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack, among others. Something I kept seeing, over and over, with every pitcher in a Mets uniform, was this:

– a step back behind the rubber that started momentum going forward

– legs driving the delivery

– momentum continuing forward, evidenced by a follow-through that had the pitcher completely square to and facing home plate

These were very basic fundamentals of pitching for at least 50 years (try to locate a book by Bob Shaw
, which is out of print but may be in your local library) and it appears they were taught by the Mets organization in the 1960s. I say this because I lied before — the one pitcher whose delivery didn’t exhibit all three of those elements above was Jon Matlack.

The footage was of Matlack’s very first season as a pro, when he was fresh out of high school at age 17 and he had some side-to-side momentum driven by his hands and arms that led to premature opening of the front side. Additionally, he didn’t fully use his 6’3″ frame to his advantage in terms of the gift of gravity — he stayed somewhat upright. In other words, his mechanics were slightly flawed. But by the time he reached the big leagues in 1971, his delivery had been adjusted so that it resembled that of Jerry Koosman, Tom Seaver, Tug McGraw, and others. For example, his stride was lengthened, he had some “drop and drive”, he lined up his nose to his toes at release, and had momentum driving more forward than sideways. There were still some minor flaws in his motion, but for the most part, after 4+ years in the Mets minor league system, Matlack’s delivery was more efficient and in line with those crazy “laws” that the British guy Newton set 400 years ago.

Somewhere along the line, the Mets stopped teaching those essential fundamentals and in turn, stopped manufacturing pitchers. It may have happened briefly in the 1970s, but the system had a strong run in the 1980s when Nelson Doubleday was a quiet owner who let Frank Cashen run the show. It seems that the “voice of reason” that was behind the Mets’ pitching philosophy was silenced for good at some point in the 1990s. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe it was the retirement or removal of one of the “old-school” guys — Al Jackson is still around, but perhaps no one pays attention to him any more? It’s strange, and it’s a shame.

There is an ironic quote by Matlack from 1978 cited on a blog post published around this time last year by my friend John Strubel. The quote is from a conversation between Matlack and Seaver, which occurred after both were traded away from the Mets:

“I completely can not understand it,” said Matlack. “There’s no way I can fathom how, when I was in the minor leagues, they had the best system, the best talent. When I came to the major leagues, we had the nucleus of a dynasty, with our pitching and defense, we went from the best baseball city in the country to an absolute joke.”

Jon Matlack gets low and drives forward vs. Reggie Jackson


Mets Game 152: Loss to Marlins

Marlins 7 Mets 5

The Fish swept the Mets, but at least the pain was quick. A two-game sweep is less painful than a three-game sweep, isn’t it?

I feel like I haven’t written a meaningful game recap post since early June. Is that the reality? Do you really care about any of these games, particularly now that the Mets are “officially” mathemetically eliminated from postseason play?

Game Notes

We can all agree that the 2010 season was over two months ago (maybe three). So when we do these recaps we should be looking at 2011 and beyond, right? In which case, what the heck was Jonathon Niese doing out on the mound for the sixth inning? He had absolutely nothing, which was the same that he’s had for his last half-dozen starts. In addition to having zilch, he’s completely gassed — out of energy. There’s nothing left in the tank, and it doesn’t take a genius to see that. On the one hand, he needs to keep going out there every five days and making his starts, so that his body gets used to a full 162-game season. On the other hand, why push him beyond fatigue in a meaningless season, in a meaningless game? As you know, I am 100000% against pitch counts and believe in conditioning pitchers to go far beyond the ridiculous 100-pitch count. But at the same time, I recognize that it is not smart to push a pitcher far beyond the point of fatigue, because it is when a man is tired that he injures muscles and ligaments — and negatively adjusts his mechanics. Niese’s arm speed has clearly slowed over the past 3-4 weeks, and he has changed his delivery slightly to compensate. We have pointed out many times earlier in the season — when he was full of verve — that his mechanics were inconsistent. Guess what? Mechanics become even more inconsistent when one is tired, and that leads to bad habits that take twice as long to reverse as they did to develop.

I’m not saying the Mets should be babying Jon Niese. What I’m saying is that the people with the power to make decisions should be paying close attention to Niese’s delivery, velocity, command, and health, and be more judicious in the way he is used over the last two weeks of the season. He has, after all, become a vital piece of the 2011 rotation.

What else to talk about … eh, who cares, really? Carlos Beltran had three hits, including a triple and a homer. Yippee. Too little, too late — but maybe it will help show other teams he has something in the tank for 2011, thus enabling the Mets to trade him elsewhere while eating 90% of his salary so he can go ape in his walk year. Awesome.

Dan Uggla showed Mets fans what a Major League second baseman looks like. He had three hits including a double and 2 RBI, and made a stellar play to end the ballgame. His defense is nowhere near Gold Glove status, but it has steadily improved from embarrassing to passable. You know what? I’ll take a dozen to 20 errors at the keystone if I’m also getting 30 HR, 100 RBI, .285 AVG. and an OPS near .880.

Huh … it doesn’t seem so long ago that the Mets swept a four-game series in Pittsburgh and were a game over .500. Now they’re 4 games below .500. What the heck happened?

Next Mets Game

Mets fans get a well-deserved day off on Thursday and then return to the agony on Friday to watch their team face the first-place Phillies in Citizens Bank Park. Game time is 7:05 PM and Dillon Gee faces a man who may be his future ceiling — Joe Blanton.


Mets Game 151: Loss to Marlins

Marlins 5 Mets 2

The battle for third place did not go well for the Mets.

Wow, how sad is that? The Mets are “battling” for third place — and losing thus far. That’s what this season has come to, with less than a dozen games left. The hot stove season can’t come soon enough.

Game Notes

Mike Pelfrey pitched well, but couldn’t hang around long enough to earn his first win vs. the Fish since his MLB debut. Big Pelf went 7 full innings, allowing only one earned run on 5 hits and no walks, striking out 4. He exuded a confidence we haven’t seen in a while, and was fairly sharp in spotting the fastball. To me, his mechanics looked the best they’ve been since before the All-Star exhibition, particularly in staying upright and using his height and gravity to his advantage — i.e., the “tall and fall” style of delivery. The hunch-over that we spotted a long time ago was less obvious, and he also did a good job of driving momentum toward the plate instead of side-to-side. Honestly, I have not seen such clean and efficient mechanics from Pelfrey since June. And what do you know? He pitched well. It’s like the two might be related or something.

Unfortunately for Pelfrey, Adalberto Mendez (who?) was just as effective against the Mets lineup, also going seven frames and allowing only one earned run. So the ballgame became a battle of the bullpens, and in the end, the Mets were on the short end of the stick. But when Elmer Dessens is the best guy you can send to the mound in the 8th inning of a tie ballgame on the road … well, what do you expect?

Lucas Duda hit his second big-league homer and went 2-for-4. Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada also had two hits apiece, with Tejada hitting a double.

David Wright went 3-for-4, including his 25th homer of the year.

Next Mets Game

The final game of this quick two-game set occurs at 7:10 PM in Miami. Jonathon Niese faces Alex Sanabia.


Off Topic: DJ Kitty Spins Rays to First Place

Mr. Met will forever have our heart. But there is a new mascot who’s a big beat blaster, dropping dope beats cuz he knows he has to. Cuttin’ and scratchin’ are the aspects of his game, and by October you will know his name. Behind a turntable he makes the laws, just watch for the movement of his paws. Ask him who’s the best, and he’s sure to say, the baseball team called the Tampa Bay Rays.

He ain’t the rally monkey, he’s much more witty — he’s the motivator known as DJ Kitty.

See the video here.

props to Run-DMC for lyrical inspiration


Mets Game 150: Loss to Braves

Braves 6 Mets 3

I realize the Mets stink, but I was hoping they’d win at least one of these.

After sweeping the Pirates in four straight, the Mets were swept by the Braves in three straight, in their home park.

Game Notes

Not even the feel-good story of the year, R.A. Dickey, could hold back the Bravos. Dickey allowed 4 runs on 10 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings, and though he allowed far too many baserunners, for the most part he did an admirable job to keep them from crossing home plate. Dickey had only allowed two runs until the 7th frame, when he was removed after allowing two singles to start the inning. Pedro Feliciano relieved him and got two outs that sandwiched an intentional walk, then manager Jerry Manuel chose to play the matchup game, calling on Manny Acosta to face the righthanded-hitting Derrek Lee with the bases loaded. Acosta proceeded to serve up a 430-foot grand slam to Lee to give the Braves the lead and eventually the ballgame.

On the bright side, both Carlos Beltran and Ike Davis went 2-for-4 with a run scored. David Wright blasted his 24th homerun of the game, a two-run, 370-foot blast in the first frame.

Next Mets Game

The Mets have the day off on Monday to travel to Miami, then begin a quick two-game set vs. the Marlins beginning on Tuesday. Game time is 7:10 PM and pits Mike Pelfrey vs. Adalberto Mendez.