Monday, May 31, 2004

May 31, 2004 - The Mets are 23-26, 1 GB Atlanta, 4.5 GB Philadelphia, 6.5 GB Florida

It sure feels like the Mets got their butts kicked by Florida this weekend. The Marlins took three straight from the Mets in Florida, leaving them six and a half games out of first place, and dropping them to fourth in the division. The Mets probably want a do-over after their last four games. Well, guess what? Beginning today, that's just what they get. The Mets still have seven games against Philadelphia and Florida, and they can end up back where they were on Wednesday, or better. (Of course, they could also be worse, but let's not think about that.)

The weekend featured some great pitching the first two nights, and some bad defense Sunday. I didn't see any of Sunday's game, but I listened to most of it. Apparently Kaz Matsui got charged with a tough error, and Shane Spencer dropped a fly ball. So the Mets owe Steve Trachsel, who ended up with a no-decision, but probably deserved better. The Mets also owe another one to Tom Glavine, who got the loss on Friday night despite pitching another awesome game. And Jae Seo pitched very well Saturday night - he's been very good since his call-up...and the Mets have needed that.

I don't want to talk about it, but I need to touch on Ar-friggin'-mando Benitez. It's still just May, so I'm not totally shocked by his dominance so far (he'll have to close out some games in October to prove to me he's a better pitcher), but what Benitez is doing right now is outstanding. I really thought coming into this series that the Mets would get to him - especially with Mike Piazza facing him in a key spot Friday. But Piazza didn't get to one's got to him. Benitez has retired 36 straight batters!! 36 straight! That's 12 straight perfect innings. He's recorded 20 saves in 21 chances. All very frustrating, but impressive nonetheless.

A word on Saturday night's game - a bummer. I think that was the first extra-innings loss on the season for the Mets. (I didn't actually see Mike Lowell's game-winning homer - with one out in the tenth we started watching the wedding video. It might be bad luck. Bad omen.) It's the first time I was nervous watching Braden Looper pitch. It's weird - I love watching him in save situations (rare though they may be), but in non-save situations or tie games, I'm not thrilled to see him in the game. The Mets need to get him more save opportunities so he gets his work in when they need him, and he doesn't need to be used in non-save situations.

For reasons why the Mets should not give up hope after the weekend sweep to the Marlins, they need look no further than today's opponent. The Phillies are 0-6 against Florida this year - with all six games coming in the first few weeks of the season. Philadelphia was able to dig themselves out of the hole the Marlins put them in - I'm sure the Mets will be able to do the same.

Friday, May 28, 2004

The Mets are 23-23, 3.5 GB of the Marlins, with whom they begin a three-game series tonight in Florida. The Marlins won yesterday, the Mets were off.

As I wrote a few weeks back, I read "The Bad Guys Won!", by Jeff Pearlman, over my honeymoon. The book is about the 1986 Mets, and as promised, here are my thoughts.

The book was a quick read, but I have to say, it was a little disappointing. I've read many, many books and stories about the 1986 Mets season and the players involved. This book didn't do much more than bring all of those stories together under the same cover. In some cases, direct quotes were used out of Darryl Strawberry's, Dwight Gooden's, and Lenny Dykstra's autobiographies.

That said, the book did have its redeeming qualities. Pearlman spent a lot of time on the hallmarks of the season; including the bar fight in Houston, the on-field fights during the season, the party on the plane following the NLCS, and Game 6 of the World Series. There's been a lot written about Game 6, and to his credit, Pearlman dug up some nuggets that usually get overlooked. He interviewed clubhouse guys, who presented a behind-the-scenes look at the Mets' clubhouse. You've heard how the Sox clubhouse at Shea Stadium had the lockers all covered up in anticipation of a celebration after taking a 5-3 lead in the top of the tenth inning. Pearlman talks to the clubhouse guys who had to rip all that stuff down in a matter of seconds, and the locker room tension in the moments following the game. There was also one passage that was cool, talking about how WHDH-TV's John Dennis was preparing to go live from outside the locker room to report on the Red Sox first World Series win since 1918. It also quotes "The Lowell Sun"'s Gerry Callahan. That's the angle I'm always most curious about, and it's a view that isn't often written about.

"The Bad Guys Won!" wasn't incredibly well-written, but it was a book about a bunch of ballplayers, so I guess you don't expect 'War and Peace' (assuming 'War and Peace'is well-written. I wouldn't know.).
Overall, I enjoyed the book, because I enjoy re-living that glory year, and the memories it brings back. A lot was written about George Foster, and the stories about him always remind me of the day that summer Foster was released. I was out back with my dad and my grandfather (I think we were barbecueing), and my dad was trying to explain to me what happened. I just didn't get it that baseball players could be fired.
So I'd recommend this book to Mets fans who don't mind seeing their heroes knocked down a bit (OK, a lot), or Mets-haters who are looking for a reason to hate the '86 Mets even more. Including Red Sox fans.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Phillies 7, Mets 4 (23-23, 3 GB)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Perhaps I'm too optimistic. Perhaps the negativity by so many Mets fans is the appropriate sentiment towards the New York Mets. Perhaps, even though the Mets are no worse off today than they were Tuesday morning, before they split the 2-game series with Philadelphia, then perhaps the Mets' season is over. But I don't think it is.

As one of the few Mets optimists left in this world, I'm going to focus on the positives that came out of last night's loss instead of dwelling on the negatives (errors by Matsui and Piazza, runners left on base, etc.), as all the late-night WFAN callers seem to do. First of all, Matt Ginter pitched a great game. He had a great start in Houston (vs. Clemens), then pitched crappily (is that a word?) but got a win vs. Colorado, and pitched very, very well last night. I sense someone who gets up for big games, which bodes well if the Mets' pitching remains in upheaval.

I read where the Mets had a team hitting meeting the other day to try to solve their problems hitting with 2 outs and runners on. The solution was to be more patient and put the pressure on the pitcher by waiting for a good pitch to hit. I noticed the hitters really putting that into practice last night, and the results were two 2-out bases loaded walks in the 6th inning by Danny Garcia and Cliff Floyd. Mike Piazza then struck out to end that inning, a sign of the bad things to come in the top of the seventh.

Another quick positive - Ty Wigginton made a great stab diving to his right to field a hard grounder in the 6th inning. Consider him even for the mis-play on Tuesday night.

A discouraging note - I think the headcase in Jason Phillips might be surfacing a bit. He threw a little hissy-fit in the batter's box in the 8th inning after the umpire called a pitch out of the strike zone strike one. The ump let him get away with the pouting, but then Phillips struck out swinging at two more very bad pitches. He better not let these types of games affect his head - he also had a homer robbed by Pat Burrell in the second inning, which could have built up in that distorted head of his and resulted in the late-inning blow-up. (I actually like Phillips - but he better not turn into bad Derek Lowe.)

Finally, the last point I'll make about last night's game - it was an ugly loss in a game the Mets should have won. Very similar to last Thursday's loss to the Cardinals, which became the sloppiest game of the year, in a game the Mets could have won. After that loss, the Mets responded with a spirited sweep of Colorado. If they respond the same way this weekend, they'll be tied with Florida in the standings. If the Mets are going to lose ugly once every five games, winning the rest, I think that's a ratio I can deal with.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Mets 5, Phillies 0 (23-22, 2 GB)

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Here's what I love so much about the Mets doing so well. Last night after the Mets win, I called to my wife in the other room (where she had watched 'American Idol' and '24', knowing the importance of not switching the other TV during the Mets game), "On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited are you about the Mets right now?"
Her reply - "8".
I said to her, "I mean with 10 being the highest."
"Yeah", she says. "8". This, from a Red Sox fan. Granted, she knew I was a 10, so her number should be fairly high, but an 8! She could have said 5 and I would have been happy.
Also, my friend Steve, usually pessimistic about all things Mets, Jets, and Rangers tells me last night: "I'm optimistic right now. Enjoy it while it lasts."
And this on Monday from my sister's boyfriend James, usually slightly less negative than Steve: "...I hope this isn't too premature, but Tom Glavine is starting to look like a Cy Young candidate". (I echo that sentiment, but in case that quote jinxes Glavine, I want it to be traced to James, and not me.) Winning breeds confidence. I love it. And here's what I'm tired of - this from today's New York Daily News:

"Who would have believed this? It's almost Memorial Day and the Mets are within two games of first place."


OK. Now to last night's game. I love these little 2-out rallies the Mets have been stringing together lately. Last night's came in the 3rd inning, when with two outs, Danny Garcia and Cliff Floyd get on, setting up RBI singles by Mike Piazza and Shane Spencer. That's winning baseball. And Piazza is looking great right now - he also homered last night. (Floyd added the insurance runs with a 2-run double off Rheal Cormier in the seventh - a pitcher he hadn't gotten a hit off of in 14 career plate appearances before last night.)

The Mets also played well on defense, one play notwithstanding. In the fifth, after allowing men on first and second, Steve Trachsel (5-3) got the next three in a row. Jason Phillips (catching) made a nice play getting the force at third on a sac bunt attempt, then Trachsel got a pop-out and a ground out to retire the side.
In the seventh, Trachsel was getting into a high pitch count, and with two outs and runners on first and second, he got a grounder to third base that should have ended the inning. That's when Ty Wigginton dropped the ball trying to throw it to first. Now here's the weird thing. Trachsel gets pulled for Stanton with the bases loaded and two out, leading 3-0. Despite the early struggles by the bullpen, I was never nervous about the Mets blowing their lead. I felt they were going to get out of it. I guess it's like I said before - winning breeds confidence.
So the Mets win the game 5-0.

Now some notes: After Piazza was pulled from the game I thought it was funny how he gives everyone in the dugout a high-five, and when he gets to Kaz Matsui, he gives a little bow. (Kai-tow?) I'm pretty sure I've seen other players do that with Japanese teammates, perhaps even the Mets when they had Tsuyoshi Shinjo, but it's just plain better when you see Mike Piazza doing it...Here's a possible new feature I'll do every day - the ex-Mets update. Today it's relevant to the current Mets' situation. Remember Paul Wilson, the number one overall pick from 1993, I think? He's now 7-0 on the season after beating the Marlins last night. Due to him, the Mets are 2 games back. Always knew he'd help the Mets get into first place...Karim Garcia has been continuing to play well (over the weekend he made a nice leaping catch against the wall), and I continue my campaign to get him traded. And now I make another case for the trade of Garcia - his trial for the bullpen fight in last year's ALCS is scheduled to begin here in Boston on October 26th. The Mets can't be worrying about Garcia's court dates coinciding with Game 3 of the World Series - get rid of him...The Mets sent down Tyler Yates. They're going to try to turn him from a starter into a reliever. And Ricky Gutierrez cleared waivers and is a free agent. So ends the Gutierrez era. (I still like him better than Karim Garcia.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Philadelphia - 24-18
Florida - 25-19
Mets - 22-22, 3 GB
Atlanta - 21-22, 3.5 GB
Montreal - 14-30, 11 GB

Let's start with the Phillies, the first two games of this all-important 12-game stretch. Philadelphia is hot. I know I criticized them early on, but they've improved their play. Like the Mets, the Phillies are 7-3 in their last 10. But take it a bit further back, and they've won 12 out of 16. Before that they were playing about .500 ball. They've made a very nice recovery after the 1-6 start. The Phillies also haven't missed a beat since losing their closer, Billy Wagner, to injury at the beginning of this recent stretch - his replacement, Tim Worrell, has blown just one save during that time (he's closed out five games). The good news here is Worrell's more beatable than Wagner, in case the Mets find themselves trailing the Phillies late in an upcoming game.

The Marlins have been the opposite of the Phillies lately. They're still playing very good ball, going 5-5 in their last 10 games. But they've definitely evened out since their hot start, and their pitching has shown it can be beaten. In May, the Marlins are just 10-11. The next 13 games for the Marlins are against the Reds and the Mets. The Reds have been better this year, and while I don't think they'll contend all year, they're playing Florida at a time when they can be beaten. One other note on the Marlins. Everyone's expecting the team to improve exponentially when A.J. Burnett comes back from Tommy John surgery sometime next month. I agree that most of these pitchers come back from this surgery stronger, and that Burnett was a very good pitcher to begin with. But he was also a streaky pitcher. Jack McKeon has said since last year the Marlins won't need to make a trading deadline move to improve their team because they'll be getting Burnett back. This is different though. When you make a trading deadline move you're getting a pitcher who's been pitching in the majors. Burnett hasn't pitched against major league batters in at least a year and a half. I think he'll be great next year, but I anticipate a bit of a rough go for Burnett the rest of this year.

The Braves can't be counted out yet. They're not as strong as they've been in the past, but they're still only a half-game behind the Mets. Most of the players on this team know how to win, and while I don't think they'll be a threat, they always, somehow, come back to bite me. So for now, we'll keep an eye on them. They've also been hit by the injury bug - Chipper Jones has just gotten back to action after a hamstring injury, and they are now without Marcus Giles. (They've been without Rafael Furcal almost the entire season.) The pitching is starting to come around, too - Mike Hampton has been pitching much better his last couple of outings.

Montreal - they won't be a threat at all the rest of this season. The Mets better cream them the next time they play. This team is beaten down from all their travel, not to mention, they're just not very good.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Mets 4, Rockies 0 (22-22, 3 GB)

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Well, I'm back, and so's the website. And the Mets are back to .500. Didn't think it was going to happen, did you? All we were hoping for was the Mets to be within striking distance by the time they started playing the Phillies and Marlins. Well, they've done a bit better than that - 3 games out, with 12 straight games against Florida and Philly. (Tomorrow I'll do an NL East recap, since the Mets are off tonight.)

As an FYI - last year, the Mets went 7-12 in the season series against both Philadelphia and Florida. They need at least .500 this year. And they can do prediction: in these next 12 games, the Mets will go 8-4. First place, here we come! (Sounds weird that this can actually happen, but I really feel that it can.)

A couple of things about Tom Glavine's performance yesterday. First of all, he's having an outstanding season. Second of all, I will reiterate my earlier prediction that one Mets pitcher will throw a no-hitter this year. They're just pitching that well. Thirdly, and don't get mad, I think it's my fault Glavine lost the no-hitter. The game wasn't available to me on the Extra Innings package, so I was following the progress on ESPNEWS and by calling my dad. When it got to be 7.1, I realized ESPN usually pops in at about this time, so I switched over, and saw that there were 2 out in the 8th. The first batter I see - boom - double to right. Un-freakin'-believable. I don't know if I'm ever going to see a Mets no-hitter. Oh wait, I just predicted one for this season. So I guess I will see one - this year.

A few notes on the events of the past couple of weeks: Kaz Matsui might indeed break Rickey Henderson's career leadoff homerun record. Every one he hits is a leadoff homer...I watched the Mets lose, 12-5, in the first game in Arizona two weeks ago. (Bank One Ballpark's nice, but I liked Minute Maid better, as a new park.) After the Mets lost the next game, things weren't looking so great. Then Glavine beat Randy Johnson, and I go to Hawaii, and the Mets start winning incredible games. Comebacks against the Astros, Cardinals, then the Rockies series. You get the sense something good's happening, don't you. (With that said, Mets, please don't blow these next 12 games.)...I have to admit, I think I was rooting against Glavine throwing a no-hitter yesterday. If a Mets pitcher is going to throw a no-no, it'd better happen while I'm at least watching the game, if not AT the game. Like I've said, it's the least they can do for me...I just reminded myself, before I left, my last posting asked the Mets to throw a no-hitter in Arizona when I went to the game. Instead, James Baldwin got rocked. Oh well...Oh, and when did the Mets release Raul Gonzalez, and why? I just read about that the other day. That's too bad. I kind of liked him. Time to turn my attention to Esix Snead.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Mets 8, Giants 2 (12-15, 4 GB)

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

(First of all, the home computer virus is gone, and due to a lack of sleep the previous night, I fell asleep during the rain delay last night. But it was a good feeling waking up on the couch at 2am to see Mets 8, Giants 2!)

Are you back on the bandwagon yet? Three in a row!! And it's not just that they're winning consecutive games, it's the way the Mets are winning them. I read up on last night's eighth inning - all with two outs!! And clutch homers. Spencer and Cameron. Matsui again putting some icing on the cake.

And Mike Piazza finally putting that damn record behind him. Now he'll be pressure-free. I smell four in a row...

A couple of thoughts about the early part of the game. Man, San Francisco is an ugly team. For a team that was so good the past few years, they continue to make horrible plays. Second inning - the pitcher, Williams, throws away the Jae Seo bunt (which was an outstanding bunt, by the way), and allows the Mets to score a run. Just bad defense, like Tuesday night.

And on the other side of the coin, Kaz Matsui made his best play as a Met on defense last night. In the third inning, he went to his right, backhanded a grounder, then immediately threw to first to get the out. It took a great stretch and scoop by Jason Phillips on the other end, but that was a great play, showing the most range Matsui has shown yet in a Mets uniform.

OK, I have to run some wedding errands. Al Leiter goes tonight. This is getting good.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Mets 6, Giants 2 (11-15, 4 GB)

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Bonds or no Bonds, a win is a win. The Mets took advantages of the Giants' mistakes last night (almost uncharacteristic of the Mets) and came through in some clutch situations to win back-to-back games for just the second time this season.

Some of this game was very ugly - on both sides. Mike Piazza clearly should have eaten the bunt that he threw away, and Danny Garcia made a careless throw himself, leading to a Giants run in the second inning.

The ugliness was contagious, though, and Edgardo Alfonzo caught it bad. He made a few bad plays in the field. In the third inning, Karim Garcia hit a hard grounder off Brett Tomko's foot. Alfonzo tried to get Garcia at first and threw wildly, scoring a run for the Mets. Then in the sixth inning, an Alfonzo error (or misplay) allowed the Mets to start a three-run rally, consisting of an RBI single by Jason Phillips and a clutch 2-run homer by Mike Cameron. The Giants in the sixth inning looked like the Mets usually do. No, that's mean - they looked like the Mets USED to look. But not anymore. The Mets now have a two-game winning streak. And they're putting their opponents away -not keeping it close. I know I say it a lot - but with the Mets struggling to win close games, the fact that they are winning by wider margins is important.

Notes: You all probably think it's too early to be scoreboard-watching, but I don't. Plus I like to watch a lot of baseball, so I watch the teams the Mets are chasing. And here's the update, because it was exciting, and it features two ex-Mets pitchers. First, the Phillies facing the Cardinals. The Cardinals led by one, 2 outs in the ninth, bases loaded, Pat Burrell of the Phillies at the plate. Burrell swings wildly and misses at strike three high and inside from Jason Isringhausen. The ball goes all the way to the backstop. Mike Matheny somehow nails Burrell at first by a half-a-step. The Phillies lose. The Mets pick up a game on Philadelphia. Move to Florida, where the Marlins are hosting the Dodgers. (Another ugly game, by the way - lots of dumb little-league type errors in this one too.) Armando Benitez finally blows a save - I think he had 10 straight saves to open the season. Nevertheless, the Dodgers scored the go-ahead run in extra innings when a ground ball hit by Olmedo Saenz went through Mike Mordecai's legs at third base. Eric Gagne closed it out, and the Mets picked up a game on the Marlins. Just like that, four games out of first. And the Giants and Brewers are two beatable teams...the Mets should be able to do very well on this homestand.

FYI - Due to the virus on my home computer and the impending marriage, I might not be able to keep up this site for a couple of weeks. God knows I'll try...but I'll definitely give an update when I return.

Keep in mind, Monday the 10th, in Arizona (that's next Monday) - the Mets must reward me with a wedding gift of a no-hitter. Although, according to my calculations, Jae Seo will be pitching. So it's unlikely. But I hope it happens.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Sorry about the lack of postings over the weekend. My home computer has a virus. I couldn't log on long enough to write anything. Very frustrating...kind of like Friday night's Mets game. They can't blow 5-0 first inning leads. Then Saturday, a Brian Giles home run was the difference in a 3-1 loss. And yesterday, Tom Glavine (4-1) turned stopper again, getting the Mets a win on the way back east. So the Mets finish up the road trip 3-3 (3-6 overall). They struggled against the then-Central-leading Cubs (0-3), before taking 2-out-of-3 against the then-West-leading Dodgers. The Padres had a 6-game winning streak before the Mets beat them yesterday.

There are some positives to take out of these last few games. The starting pitching is still doing great (notwithstanding Tyler Yates' performance on Friday). Mike Stanton and Braden Looper have been lights out. The offense is starting to hit, and Cliff Floyd and Ty Wigginton are coming back (whether or not that's a good thing remains to be seen - but at least it adds depth).

And here's another good thing, as I segue into the division update - everyone else in the division is slipping, with the exception of the Phillies. So here's a look at the NL East:

Florida - 15-10
Atlanta - 12-12, 2.5 GB
Philadelphia - 11-12, 3 GB
Mets - 10-15, 5 GB
Montreal - 6-20, 9.5 GB

The only thing I'll say about Montreal is this - one week ago in this space I wrote they'd be lucky to win one game on their 7-game west coast swing (look it up). They lost their first six games before winning yesterday. I nailed that one.

The Phillies are sort of streaking. I say sort of because they've won 4 of 6, and aren't really dominating, but they're doing much better than they were. And they're still ahead of the Mets, so we have to account for them.

The Braves, on the other hand, are stumbling - playing like the Braves team that the Mets saw in the first couple of weeks of the season. They're 5-7 in their last 12, alternating losses and wins in those games. They got their lunches handed to them in Colorado yesterday, 13-4.

Florida is still the team to beat, and that's looked like more of a reasonable task recently. (It's important to note - the Mets are still just five games out!! Don't lose hope.) The Marlins lost three straight over the weekend to the San Francisco Giants, giving up 12, 6, and 9 runs. So it looks like Florida's pitching has come back down to earth. The only bad news coming out of that losing streak is that it might give the struggling Giants confidence heading into their series with the Mets this week.

The Mets open up a homestand against the Giants tomorrow. Then they play the Milwaukee Brewers before heading west again. It's a six-game homestand, the Mets have to perform better than they did on their last homestand. San Francisco is worse than they've been in recent years, Milwaukee is better than they've been in recent years. The Mets have to win at least four games.

Notes: I finally got my '86 Mets book on Saturday. At this point, though, I think I'll just save it to read on the honeymoon. A full report will be given when I return.