Friday, December 29, 2006
And the Jets will win - I can't imagine a scenario where they lose to the Raiders. It's New Year's Eve, near New York City, so the Raiders will have other things on their minds - they'll mail this one in, and finish 2-14. For the Jets, it's all on the line. So I say, Jets, 27-3. Not even close, which would be uncharacteristic of the Jets' season.
I mentioned how unlikely this playoff berth would be. I talked about how early in the season I thought the Jets would be competitive, but I didn't think their possibly finishing at .500 would get them near the playoffs. Turns out, they're heading for 10-6, and that's going to be good enough. I started to think the Jets had a shot about midway through the season - remember when the Jets lost that heartbreaker to the Browns in Cleveland? I thought that would come back to haunt them, because instead of heading into their bye week at 5-3, they were 4-4. Then the Jets ripped off 5 wins in 7 games, and here we are.
I don't want to jump to conclusions, because these are still the Jets we're talking about, but if the Jets win on Sunday (which I think they will), how will they do in the playoffs? I really think they have a shot at doing some damage. Here's what will happen at the VERY LEAST: The Jets lose in their first game, and for all the young guys on the team, it's valuable playoff experience. But the core of the Jets have been to the playoffs before, especially Chad Pennington, and I think that's really important. They remember the hard lessons from two years ago, where a conservative game plan and an unreliable kicker did them in. I think Pennington will take control and lead the team to some playoff wins.
The road will be a tough one - most likely taking the Jets through Indianapolis and New England, and possibly a Baltimore or San Diego, but the Jets can beat all of those teams. I won't get into the playoffs too much right now, since first the Jets have to make it there, but I will say I can't wait. I think the Jets will do well. Hopefully I'll have the chance to do a Raiders wrap (I'm going to the game on Sunday), and a Playoff Preview sometime next week, somewhere in between the busy back-to-school week.
One last thing- here's the standings through 16 weeks in the johnnyjets League:
1. Cousin Eddie: 123
2. The Wife 114
2. Justin 114
4. johnnyjets 111
4. Dave in Brighton 111
6. Southern Bureau 94
Thursday, December 28, 2006
It seemed like the Mets were making a strong run lately for Zito. I really was convinced word would come down one of these days that he was going to be a Met - that's why I was waiting on my off-season recap (a first off-season recap, anyway), because I had a feeling the Zito signing would happen over the holidays, and I thought he'd be coming to the Mets.
Now that he's not coming to the Mets, I find it a little easier to see Zito's flaws. First, let me say that he is a very good pitcher, and coming to the National League, he will probably put up better numbers than he did in the American League. But Zito isn't a GREAT pitcher. He gives up a lot of runs a lot of time. This will continue to happen in the NL - if his curve doesn't curve, he's not effective. He's definitely going to be the Giants' ace, but he might not be the best pitcher in the National League.
An interesting fact I saw today - the three highest deals in history (over $100 million) for a pitcher have been Kevin Brown, Mike Hampton, and now Barry Zito. Zito better hope his deal turns out better than those other two.
That said, the Mets certainly could have used Barry Zito in 2007. They needed a front-of-the-rotation guy. Hopefully within the next week I will be back with a first look at what the Mets have done this off-season and what they still need to get done.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
That wasn't pretty. It wasn't as dominant as it should have been. But it was exciting, and it was a 'W', so the Jets are one win away from the postseason.
I can't really believe I'm writing this, considering the way this season should have gone. It should have been a rebuilding type of year. I thought the Jets may have pulled out a .500 record, based on Chad Pennington coming back, healthy for the first time in two years, but I didn't think they'd sniff the playoffs. Here's what I wrote in August/early September:
Chad Pennington is back to his old self, I guess. He's throwing the ball well, and has all but won the starting quarterback job back, which is very exciting. That alone gives Jets fans hope that the Jets might not be as bad as everyone thinks - Pennington knows how to win. I'll leave it at that.
The Jets are definitely going to be an improved football team this year, and I think they'll be better than a lot of people are picking them to be (I've heard 4-12 again, or 5-11). I think there's a chance the Jets could squeeze out 8 wins, maybe even 9. The problem is their schedule is tough. And I think once the Jets figure out what they have in Cedric Houston, their running problems will be solved.
Not sure what I was thinking about there with the "tough schedule" part - maybe because of their division. But now the Jets face a "win and in" scenario next week - beat the Raiders, and they're in the playoffs.
As I wrote here, I thought the Jets would beat the Dolphins on Monday night. But watching the game Monday, it was the type of game that you felt would end in heartbreak for the Jets. Scoreless through the first half. Then a 3-0 lead quickly turned into a 7-3 deficit. But Chad Pennington showed why the Jets have to be considered a threat if they get into the playoffs - because he led the team right back down the field to a 10-7 lead, then again to the game-winning field goal. Leon Washington was huge, too, showing incredible bursts and moves to gain some big yardage. Parts of that game, though, especially when the Dolphins brought in the backup quarterback, had "Typical Jets loss" written all over it.
Now there are other worries. The Jets should beat Oakland, at home, next week. It is certainly an easier task than when they had to beat the Raiders, in Oakland, in 2001, in order to make the playoffs. (They did, then lost the playoff game back in Oakland the following week.) This Raiders team is nowhere near as good as the rest of the NFL - this shouldn't even be a contest. (The good news is that the NFL's flex schedule did not make this game the Sunday nighter on New Year's Eve, so I will be going to the 1 o'clock game to cheer the Jets into the postseason.) The problem is, the Jets have a history of losing games they should win...especially when something huge is on the line.
One positive - that hasn't happened in a while. In 2002, the Jets needed to beat Green Bay at home to win the AFC East - they did, and they blew them out. The Jets haven't choked away a playoff spot since 2000, so that's good news. I'm sure Eric Mangini will have the team properly motivated, considering his playoff experience recently with New England.
And then it's playoff time (hopefully). If the Jets make it, they'll likely draw New England or Indianapolis. The way Indy has played recently, the Jets could win that game, and they've already showed they can beat the Patriots in New England. This could be an exciting playoff run. (There's an outside chance it will be Baltimore, but they'd probably have to lose and a couple of other things would need to happen. That might actually be the toughest matchup for the Jets.) I can hardly wait.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
The Jets need to win both of their games, and finish 10-6. So they should really only be worrying about themselves (not something we have to worry about this week, since Monday night they are the last game beind played on the weekend). There are 3 other teams entering today's play at 8-6 - Cincinnati, Denver, and Jacksonville. (We're not going to worry about the 7-7 teams, because they need a ton of help, and they shouldn't factor in with the Jets winning both of their games.) Cincinnati and Denver are playing each other today. So one of those teams is going to be 8-7, one at 9-6. Jets fans, it doesn't matter who you root for in that one, as long as the winner of that game also wins next week, and makes the playoffs along with the Jets.
The Jaguars have a chance to really mess with the Jets' chances. They are playing the Patriots. All the Patriots have to do is win one of their final two games to clinch the division (they play at Tennessee next week, so it isn't totally out of the question that they may lose these two games...but it's highly unlikely). I think the Patriots win today, effectively ending the Jaguars' hopes (they play at Kansas City next week, but they would need a lot of help to get in, and if everything works out the way I'm rooting for, I don't see that help coming). But there's a chance the dominant Jaguars team that has showed up in certain weeks this season shows up today, upsets the Patriots, and throws a wrench in things.
So, if the Jets win this week, there's a chance they'll be 9-6, along with Denver or Cincy. And the other Denver/Cincy team and the Jaguars would be 8-7. So the Jets would only need to win at home next week against Oakland and get into the playoffs. To recap, Jets fans should be rooting for the Pats this week - write off the division. If it turns out the Patriots lose today, we'll re-evaluate next week's games...and be rooting big-time for Tennessee, and a division championship. Because if the Patriots lose today, that means the Jaguars win, and then the Jets will need a little help next week, I think.
As for Monday's game, I think we're past the days where the Jets choke in big games. (Unless the opponent is Buffalo, whcih, thank goodness, it's not.) I think the Jets will beat Miami something like 27-13, setting up a big weekend next week. (The other factor in the Dolphins game is that the Dolphins had some trash talk going on after the Jets' win over them earlier this year, saying stuff like, "we're the better team". The Jets haven't forgotten that - it's come up in the papers this week. That's good that the Jets are using that as some motivation, too. (Although the playoffs should be all the motivation they need, it never hurts to add a personal slight.)
PICKS: It's been a while, but since the season is almost over, I'm updating for you the standings in the johnnyjets pick 'em league:
1. Cuz: 115
2. Dave in Brighton 106
3. The Wife 105
4. Justin in NYC 105
5. johnnyjets 103
6. Southern Bureau 87 (I think he's given up)
Let's also keep in mind, though, that The Wife forgot to put her picks in one week, costing her big time. So her score is still with a 0 for one week. Pretty impressive.
Finally, this picture I came across earlier in the week, showing that for the Jets, it's not just about the football - it's about reaching out to that younger fan and establishing a connection that will last a lifetime:
Sunday, December 17, 2006
It's been a busy football season, but there's really no excuse for me not writing in so long, especially considering how well the Jets have done. On Sunday, the Jets won again, clinching at the very least an 8-8 record, and moving a step closer to again controlling their own playoff fate.
The Jets looked awful to start this game, letting the Vikings bust through the line on two consecutive plays, the second of which saw Chad Pennington cough up the ball, allowing the Vikings offense to have good field position, and score on their first possession. But that was it. With the Vikings leading 7-0, the Jets scored on six straight possessions, taking a 26-7 lead, en route to a 26-13 win.
I love that the Jets didn't play into the Vikings hands in this one - they play the run well, well, we'll just throw it. Pennington finished with what I believe is a career high 339 yards, throwing for a touchdown and one interception. He's just short of 3,000 yards for the season. I say, get Chad Pennington into the post-season, and anything can happen. The guy knows how to win...he just needs to avoid mistakes.
Now, I have a couple of concerns about this Jets team, that I've been sitting on for a few weeks, since I've last written. The first is their inability to put teams away. Other teams always have one final drive in the last five minutes with a chance to either take the lead or win the game. I would like more games like the one against the Packers, where the Jets just buried them from the start. Even this (sort of) blowout game against Minnesota, the Vikings had a chance late, because the Jets weren't running out the clock well.
The other thing I'm concerned about is the way the Jets have played at home. It doesn't really matter, I suppose, being that the Jets have just one more home game, against the Raiders in two weeks, and that's a very winnable game. (If the Jets make the playoffs, it's very unlikely they will be playing any home games.) And I guess that leads to a huge positive - for the Jets to have a shot at the playoffs next week, they need to win on the road (at Miami), and then for the Jets to do anything in the post-season, they would need to win a few road games. This year, the Jets are 3-4 at home, and 5-2 on the road. I feel VERY good about the Jets' chances in Miami next week, and now that the Steelers have shown people that a Wild Card team can go all the way, maybe something magical will happen for the Jets. At the very least, this young team that they have will have some experience playing in some very meaningful games, rather than just stumbling through a 4-12 or some such season.
Now, here's the disclaimer. I was all set to write this article last week, and then the Jets went out and laid an egg against Buffalo. They're not a perfect team, I know that. But they are a good team, and they can surprise some people. A win in Miami next week, and the Jets are going to the playoffs. A loss next week, and this was just a very entertaining (and another frustrating) year.
NOTES: I had this thought this morning. What if Curtis Martin returns next year, and in order to take less of a beating, becomes another passing option for Chad Pennington as a wide receiver. It would allow Martin to be an important part of the team, without upsetting the young running backs the Jets have now, and it would allow Martin to be less banged-up than he would be as a running back. Just a thought. I'd like to see him back for one more year, and that's about the only capacity I can see him returning where it wouldn't upset what the Jets have going for them this year.
Also, thanks for checking out the site if you're switching over after reading my posting on "The Southern Bureau's" blog, the 'Orange Couch', on the WECT website. If you're one of my (few) readers, check out my posting on the "Southern Bureau"'s blog - it stems from a bet I sort of won back on johnnymets.blogspot.com.
I'm going to try to keep updating this site down the stretch run of the season (this is, after all, why I created this site), but I'm not sure how often that will be, what with the holidays upon us. I am going to try to go to the Jets-Raiders game on New Year's Eve (hopefully the flex schedule won't make that a night game), which could be a playoff clincher.
And GO COLTS - the Jets need the help, and a Cincinnati loss is a huge help. We're looking at a big 8-6 bunch - the Jets, Jaguars, Broncos, and possibly Bengals on Monday night. It's going to come right down to the wire.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Here's why I think the Jets can win:
1) The Jets should have a sour taste in their mouths from the disappointing showing against Cleveland before their bye, and should use that as motivation today. 2) For the Jets to make the post-season, they will need to win the division - they are not getting a wild card. For the Jets to win the division, they need to win this game. 3) Their coaching staff should have been able to learn from the first loss to New England this season, and should be able to come in with a game plan to win.
Here's what the Jets need to do to win:
1) Score first. They can't afford to let the Patriots march right down the field and take an early lead - the Jets have been coming from behind too much this season. 2) Pressure Tom Brady. They need to get to the quarterback, something they haven't done all season, and make sure he's not beating them (that still leaves the ground game...which the Jets haven't been able to stop all year - make stopping the ground game reason 2-and-a-half). 3) Don't make mistakes. The Patriots are opportunistic. The Jets need to protect the ball, and take advantage of whatever opportunities come their way.
I look at number 1 as the most important today. If the Jets can't come right down and score first, the best they can do is prevent the Patriots from scoring early. If the Jets get out of the first quarter (which has been horrendous for them) still tied 0-0, they have a shot. I say Jets, 27-17, because a win over the Patriots is overdue.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
The Mets are reportedly going to announce on Monday that their new field (seen at the left), which will open in 2009, will be called "Citi Field", which is because Citibank (or Citigroup) is buying the naming rights. As far as corporate names go, that's actually pretty good. I'm pleased. Could be much worse. It could be one of those company names that people hate, and instead it would be called "The New Shea", or it could be a company that's going to go out of business and the name would have to change again (like a dot-com, or like Enron). Citibank is stable (although banks are prone to takeovers and mergers), and "Citi Field" is pretty cool for a stadium in a city. I'll take it.
Some people are saying it's too bad the "Shea" name is going by the boards...I agree, but it's the way of the world right now - hopefully William Shea will be remembered by Mets fans without the stadium bearing his name. And there is one sponsor that would have been better, which Mets fans apparently voted on somewhere - MetLife.
HOW ABOUT A GARY CARTER UPDATE?
The latest on Hall of Famer Gary Carter is as follows - he was up for the hitting coach position with the Colorado Rockies, but that position was filled in-house (former Met Howard Johnson was also up for the Rockies' hitting coach position). I do believe a bench coach job will be opening up in Colorado as well, which Carter could also be an option for.
But there are a couple of other possibilities - the Dodgers are reportedly interested in Carter as manager of their Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas. And now that Manny Acta is going to be named the new manager of the Washington Nationals, the Mets may look in-house to fill Acta's position, in which case Johnson and Carter could be possibilities. Now, I love him, but I know Carter is full of hot air and talks a lot, so that might be a stumbling block - but all he's done as a coach/manager in the minors is win (see below), so maybe that outweighs everything else. In other words, Willie Randolph will deal with a coach who annoys him because he knows how to win.
Also, let's say he fills Acta's job and becomes the Mets' third-base coach - if he makes a mistake, at least he'll be a stand-up guy about it and face the media (he'd love the attention). Gary Carter will not be a major league manager with the Mets - Randolph will be in his way - but it'd be nice before he goes elsewhere if he gets the chance to coach with the Mets. (It'd also be nice to see HoJo back at third, as a third base coach. I bet the Mets choose between those two guys.)
GARY CARTER'S MANAGERIAL RECORD
2005: (Gulf Coast Mets): 37-16
2006: (St. Lucie Mets)
1st Half: 40-30
2nd Half: 37-32
Postseason: 2-0, 3-0 (5-0 total)
****Finally, Congratulations to Dave from Brighton on his marriage. We here at johnnymets.blogspot.com are very happy for him. It was an honor to be involved in what was a very fun and joyful wedding.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Now, here's the exciting part - the Patriots play the Minnesota Vikings Monday night. The game's in Minnesota. If the Patriots win, the Jets' chances at the division are pretty much over. But the Vikings have a very real chance at winning Monday night, dropping the Patriots to 5-2, then New England plays Indianapolis next week, and they could be 5-3 heading into a matchup with the Jets right after the Jets' bye. Even if the Patriots win one of those two games (but not both) the Jets have a chance to tie them for the division lead if they beat the Browns this weekend. So this is a huge game on Sunday - with many more huge games to come.
OUR PICKS: Here's all I'll say for this week - The Wife forgot to make her picks this week, and with her 0, she's still a couple of games ahead of the rest of us. But it's more competitive now.
I've been absolutely killing the Cardinals all year, and I spent my Saturday morning going through some past write-ups on just how bad a team the Cardinals were this year, the morning after they wrapped up their first World Series championship in 24 years (note the date - consistene feelings throughout the season):
...the Cardinals swept the Pirates, but Jose Hernandez hit a homer off Jason Isringhausen in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game. (The Cardinals won in the bottom half.) I'm telling you - the Cardinals bullpen is flawed this year. That will eventually cost them.
The Cardinals are a joke right now - they've had more 5+ -game losing streaks this year than any other first-place team in history, says me. It's got to be a record. They're awful.
The Phillies have now outscored the Mets 24-4 in the first two games of this four-game series, and the Mets are inching dangerously close to being compared to the St. Louis Cardinals - owners of the title "Worst Team to Lead a Division This Late in the Season". The Cardinals, you may remember, have been blown out a bunch of times this year - giving up lots of double-digit run totals, and tallying losing streaks of 8 games a couple of times this year. The Mets aren't there yet - but they're inching closer.
Tuesday night's game is pretty much a microcosm of my feelings about the way the Mets match up with the Cardinals. The only person in that lineup that can beat you is Albert Pujols, which John Maine let happen (twice), and the Cardinals' bullpen stinks. The unfortunate thing is that the Cardinals are very beatable - because of that, their lead in the NL Central is now down to one game over the Reds, and they are in serious trouble when it comes to making the post-season.
The Mets beat the
I've written a couple of times about how awful a first place team the St. Louis Cardinals are. They are living up to that title even more now with a huge collapse, but I still think they'll make the playoffs. And as much as I'd like to see them finish the collapse, I don't want Roger Clemens to make the playoffs, so I guess I'll take St. Louis.
As much as I hate the fact that St. Louis made the playoffs, I'm loving the possibility, with them ahead 2 games to 1, that the Mets will face them in the NLCS. There's two ways to look at this - the negative opinion is that the Cardinals are now hitting their stride in the post-season. The positive side (as a Mets fan) is that the Mets can kill the Cardinals. Which I think will be the case.
I guess the Cardinals were hitting their stride. Geez. Shows what I know.
What a weird post-season. I don't think I watched more than two innings total of the World Series. It's probably the least interested I've ever been in a World Series - partly, probably, because I was bitter.
I did catch on the news this morning, though, the celebration after the Cardinals won - I don't think I've ever seen a more lame celebration after a team won a celebration. The Cardinals did everything poorly this year...except win the whole darn thing.
ROGERS IS STILL A CHEATER: No one believes Kenny Rogers is a stand-up guy, after his macho display last year of knocking down a cameraman...but when he said he had "dirt" on his hand earlier in the World Series, I don't even think his own mother would believe him. The reason I bring this up again is 1) I strongly dislike Kenny Rogers, and 2) Sports Illustrated has a picture of Rogers pitching against Oakland in July with the same (illegal) substance on his hand. There goes that theory that it was just to get a grip on the ball in the cold weather. Kenny Rogers, ball doctorer. I wonder if he'll suffer any repercussions. Actually, I hope he comes back next year, tries to pitch clean, and gets his doors blown off. Thank goodness he's not a world champion. Although part of me hurts that Braden Looper is.
Monday, October 23, 2006
It was really bothering me that the Mets didn't get their chance to ruin Rogers' near-perfect post-season.
It was really bothering me that Rogers was having a near-perfect post-season.
How could this happen? Well, naturally, he's cheating, that's how.
And all of a sudden, the Kenny Rogers story makes perfect sense.
I didn't see Game 2 of the World Series. (I can't bring myself to watch, really.) But I have heard multiple stories, seen a little bit of the video - and that ain't dirt Kenny. And there's picture evidence, which I've lifted off of ESPN.com, that shows that Kenny Rogers had this same thing going on in Game 3 of the ALCS. Coincidence? I think not:
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but apparently Tony LaRussa came out to talk to the umps about this, but didn't really challenge it greatly. There's a bunch of conspirators out there, and this is one conspiracy I'm on board with. The rumors that LaRussa is not going after Rogers because of his friendship with Jim Leyland seem to be false - I'm going with the theory that LaRussa doesn't want to bust Rogers because then his own pitchers come under scrutiny, and they may be taking part in some untoward behavior themselves.
And thereby we have the Mets connection. The dominance of Jeff's Weaver and Suppan? Maybe they were cheating. Just a thought - there's a parallel here between Weaver and Rogers - mainly, they suck, and they're both pitching lights-out right now. Something's up.
(I would be remiss if I didn't bring up Oliver Perez's sudden success. I hate to point the finger at a Met....but while the accusations are flying around....)
Just a thought - assuming a good pitcher like Tom Glavine is just going with his regular stuff, he has a good first outing, then hitters see the likes of Weaver, Perez, John Maine (maybe), and then they get back to Glavine, who's not cheating, maybe his stuff looks a lot better the second time around, and that's why the Mets lose Game 5. Just a thought.
Long story short - I feel cheated. And I blame my own personal nemesis, cameraman-assaulting Kenny Rogers.
MAIL CALL: Just checked my e-mail - Dave in Brighton left me a message with the two pictures I just showed above. He asks, "What do you think, cheater?" I think I've stated my case. Sorry I didn't check e-mail before I wrote, I could have attributed the pictures to you, Dave, instead of where I got them from.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Until now I hadn't even considered the possibility that both the Jets and Mets could have been playing Detroit on Sunday. One would have been in Detroit, the other at Giants Stadium, but that would have been neat.
My prediction is that the Jets put away the Lions early, in their first blowout win of the season. Jets, 30-10.
Friday, October 20, 2006
This was not the way the 2006 season was supposed to end.
The worst part is that the Mets survived the setbacks - they were short on starting pitchers, but John Maine and Oliver Perez came through - huge.
It was one of their most dependable pitchers - Aaron Heilman - who took the Game 7 loss.
It was the opponent getting a dramatic 9th inning homer that won the game. It was the opponent striking out the star with the bases loaded to end the game. I would have bet money those roles would have been played by the Mets.
Jeff Suppan was the NLCS MVP - I would have given the award to Yadier Molina. For some reason he lit up the Mets' pitchers, and he was the one handling the St. Louis pitching staff every game, as opposed to Suppan's two games. Molina did an outstanding job, notwithstanding the fact that he hit the game-winner.
Suppan was outstanding, though. He held the Mets to just two hits in Game 7 - none after the first. He went a total of 7 innings, with the Mets only threatening because of his 5 walks.
This could have been a different story, though, because of those 5 walks. But the Mets couldn't do anything at the bat. There's plenty of criticism to go around:
Jose Reyes: Tried to do too much, like the past couple of years, and as a result kept popping up. He struck gold with the Game 6 homer, but was overswinging and that hurt the Mets - they need him on base, not crushing the ball.
Paul LoDuca: The year finally caught up to him. He looked pretty beat-up by the end of this series.
Carlos Beltran: $17 mil = you must not strike out looking to end the season
Carlos Delgado: Actually, no criticisms - might have been NLCS MVP had the Mets won.
David Wright: Just didn't produce. Have to hope this second half of his was a learning experience - he still hit for average (in the regular season), but the power disappeared. Was pretty non-clutch (non-David Wright) in the post-season. He needs to fix that for the Mets to win.
Shawn Green: Too inconsistent during the post-season. Either a 3-for-3 or an ofer, it seemed.
Jose Valentin: Just turned into an awful hitter the past few games.
Endy Chavez: Wasn't hitting for some reason, but his defense makes up for all of it.
I just don't understand how the Mets bats went so silent so suddenly. The adage still proves true - it's pitching that wins championships.
The good news there? This was the worst-case pitching scenario for the Mets, and they came within a double (assuming Beltran actually takes the bat off his shoulder) of getting to the World Series. And maybe Oliver Perez has figured out how to recapture his promise. And he and John Maine now have post-season experience under their belt. And Pedro Martinez****** should be healthy for next year's playoffs. Maybe the Mets will have dominant pitching this time next year, and not blow it. Maybe they needed to take this step before they win it all.
It still hurts though. I want to blame Tim Welke and his awfully inconsistent strike zone. I want to blame the bad position the Mets were in because of their starting pitching. I want to blame Beltran - but they lose Game 1 without him, so I can't. There's no one situation to blame. It was a team loss. And now comes the hardest part - no more meaningful baseball for me for 6 months.
- The Mets broke a streak - 11 consecutive home teams had won Game 7's after winning a Game 6 in which they faced elimination.
- The Cardinals will now face the Tigers for the third time in the World Series, 2 years after facing the Red Sox for the third time. This loss by the Mets really hurt my chart.
- Jeff Suppan's career numbers against the Mets: 4-1 in 8 starts, 1.85 ERA (actually, probably lower after this game), and a 7-1 team record.
SUPERSTITIONS: I did my part - I wore the same clothes as Game 6. Someone somewhere screwed up and wore the wrong thing, though. (By the way - think I'm nuts? Ask the Mets why they wore their pinstripe uni's in Game 7, after wearing them in Game 6...I bet it's the same reason I was wearing the same thing.)
A COUPLE MORE THINGS: I can't believe Tony LaRussa and Scott Rolen weren't speaking. That's the stupidest, most childish thing I can think of in your team's most important stretch of the season.
The Wife stated the Endy Chavez catch robbing Rolen of a homer was probably the greatest catch she's ever seen. She asked me to name one that was better. Considering the setting and everything that factors into the Chavez catch, I don't think I can.
Detroit will beat the Cardinals in 4, probably. I'm not sure where my wager with the Southern Bureau stands - not sure if it was only applicable if the Mets made the World Series. Doesn't matter I guess, he might as well write in my space here. I might not be using it for a while.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I asked for a little post-season drama. Now I have it. But I don't know that I really need it. Nothing's more dramatic than a Game 7 - and that's what the Mets face on Thursday night, for the right to face the Tigers in the World Series.
Game 6 was a little of everything that made the Mets such a good team all season long. I wanted Jose Reyes to set the table, get the Mets going...he got them going, but skipped the middle man by driving himself in with a leadoff homer in the first inning.
The homer came after the game's other MVP for the Mets made a key play on defense. Paul LoDuca made a nice backhand grab of a down and away pitch from John Maine with the bases loaded in the top of the 1st, saving a run. Maine then got a flyout, leaving the bases loaded. In the 7th inning, LoDuca provided the Mets with some much-needed breathing room with a 2-run single to make the game 4-0.
John Maine was fantastic in this game. He went 5-and-a-third, giving up no runs, and got key outs when he needed to. (He even made a spiffy defensive play on a comebacker by David Eckstein in the fifth - things were going his way in this game.) Maine's only mistake came at the plate, when he failed to lay down a bunt after an Endy Chavez leadoff bunt single in the third inning.
Willie Randolph punched all the right buttons, too. In the 7th inning, with lefty Chris Duncan pinch-hitting, Randolph called on righty Guillermo Mota instead of lefty Pedro Feliciano (who had given up a homer to Duncan in Game 5), and Mota promptly got the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
I might question Randolph bringing in Billy Wagner in a non-save situation - those are the only times I don't feel confident in Wagner. Wagner made it very interesting - letting the first two batters reach base, then giving up 2 runs before closing the door....gently.
Aaron Heilman pitched a great 8th inning, by the way, setting up Wagner.
So we'll head to Game 7. These games are killing me on school nights - I'm going to bed late, and I'm too wired to get right to sleep...I need the weekend bad. But then I'll be watching the World Series - and I won't be able to sleep after those games either.
The Cardinals are battle-tested in Game 7's - the past two years, winning one and losing one against Houston. Jeff Suppan won one, and he's going for the Cardinals in this Game 7. For the Mets, it'll be Oliver. Not sure if it'll be Perez or Darren, though. I might prefer Perez, just because Randolph has been reluctant to mess with his bullpen all year - I'd hate to see him start now. If Perez gets into trouble eary, then bring in D. Oliver, I guess. Tough call. But I think you stay with the guy who's been a starter.
Let's Go Mets.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
There is no way I ever thought the Mets would be facing an elimination game this entire season. I never saw it coming. The Cardinals were nowhere near as good as the Mets this season - but their pitchers right now are making the Mets look silly at the plate.
It started right out of the gate - the Mets had a chance to jump out to a first inning lead and failed. With men on first and third, David Wright struck out on a bad pitch (actually, a good pitch - but a bad pitch to swing at). He redeemed himself with a big double later, in the 8th inning, but was left stranded, with Carlos Delgado on third, after a Shawn Green pop to center and a Jose Valentin strikeout (looking). There's about 10 other guys on the Mets' roster I'd rather see up in a clutch situation than Valentin, by the way.
It wasn't all bad for Valentin - he had the only 2 RBI for the Mets on the night, driving home the first two runs of the game in the 4th. Tom Glavine, though, uncharacteristically gave the lead right back - giving up a solo homer to Albert Pujols, then another run before getting out of the 4th tied at 2.
Glavine got into a huge jam in the fifth, (aided by Chad Bradford), but Bradford and Feliciano got out of it with the Mets trailing just 3-2. Feliciano gave up a bad homer to pinch-hitter Chris Duncan in the sixth making it 4-2.
The Cardinals have done in this series what made the Mets so successful all year long - whenever the Mets scored, St. Louis has answered right back. And some uncharacteristic events have surrounded the Mets - swinging at bad pitches, Tom Glavine throwing half his pitches out of the strike zone (80 pitches - 40 ball, 40 strikes), and Jose Reyes reverting to his old, non-getting-on-base self. He needs to start setting the table back home to get the Mets offense working.
The Mets have their work cut out for them as they return to Shea - now having to face Chris Carpenter in an elimination game. Hopefully they can get to him like they did Friday night.
I'll admit it - I'm very nervous. John Maine hasn't given me any reason to believe he'll fail, but it's different from him starting Game 1 of the playoffs - one bad pitch now and the season is over. I'm really nervous. And should there be a Game 7 (fingers crossed), it's looking like Darren Oliver might get the start. I know how great Oliver's been all season, but Willie Randolph has been reluctant to mess with his bullpen and people's roles all season - it makes me nervous that things would go topsy-turvy in the season's biggest game. But there's a ways to go before that.
MORE CARDINALS PRAISE: Man, the St. Louis defense has been outstanding. David Eckstein by himself has saved about 5 base hits that could have changed this series (either leading off an inning or with men on base) by diving around the field. Everyone else has been solid too - they're not making any mistakes in the field. (We'll see if Eckstein's hand getting in the way of his bunt late in the game Tuesday night affects the way he's playing defense - he looked like he really hurt his hand.)
Tony LaRussa even had the good sense to not find a spot in the lineup for Scott Speizio Tuesday night, even with his hot bat. He was awful in left field Sunday night, and LaRussa went with a stronger defense, which was a good move. (Although I didn't know that Scott Rolen isn't speaking with LaRussa because he started Speizio over Rolen in Game 2.)
Also, the stat that amazed me Tuesday night was that the Cardinals bullpen has made the opposition go 0-for-31 now in the post-season with runners in scoring position and 2 outs. That's incredible. They have some young arms in that bullpen that are better than I've been giving them credit for. And I think they're in the Mets heads now too. If Jose Reyes swings at another off-speed pitch in the dirt I'll cry.
SUPERSTITION: I really did all I could here. I wore the right hat - I even changed pants late in the game because I thought the ones I was wearing weren't working. I'm out of ideas. I don't know what I'll do Wednesday night.
These games are absolutely killing me on school nights.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Also - Southern Bureau and I now have a bet going. Mets win the World Series, I get a post on his blog, the Orange Couch. If the Tigers win the World Series, he gets a posting here. Although, I was under the impression he was predicting a Tigers sweep....no matter. The Mets will win, and I'll be writing about it for wect.com.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
I was all set to sit here and write about how nicely the team bounced back from last week's 41-0 beating by Jacksonville. For a while it looked like the offense didn't respond well, but then Chad Pennington had two strikes to Laveranues Coles, and with the defense coming back nicely after allowing 41 points, and holding the Dolphins to 3, the Jets were on their way to a big win.
But - whoa - wait a minute.
There go the Dolphins straight down the field two (and a half) times, nearly coming back to tie the game. (I doubt I was the only Jets fan thinking about Dan Marino in 1994 - the fake spike game.) Olindo Mare missed the long field goal once the defense toughened up and actually stopped the Dolphins' progress. Like the Buffalo game, this is one that shouldn't have been as close as the final score was.
But it's not all the defense's fault - the offense didn't put the Dolphins away. On third down and short on the Jets last possession, they took a shot down the field, but Pennington badly overthrew his receiver. The Jets will say, at least we took a shot at putting the game away, but I say - they shouldn't have needed a third down bomb - they need to develop a running game, get a few first downs, and run out the clock. They need a back like Curtis Martin to do this.
Speaking of which, earlier this week I heard Martin was coming off the PUP list this week, meaning he could return sometime this season. I haven't heard anything about that since. I wonder if it's actually going to happen this year. I think the deadline for that is this week - so we'll see if it happens in the next day or so.
Anyway, it was a win for the Jets in a game they needed to win. And it's the first of the three must-wins these next few weeks before the bye week. Also, it makes the Jets 2-1 in the division, important if the Patriots should slip their hold on the division - and it could make the Jets' first game after the bye (at New England) huge.
Next week the Jets host Detroit. Gotta focus on baseball for now.
Well, last week's 41-0 loss to Jacksonville seems like something that could sit with you for a while, but if the Jets employed the 5-minute rule, it should be long forgotten.
This is the make-or-break point of the Jets' season. They either head into the bye week after these next three games at 5-3, contenders for the playoffs, or with only the chance of having a better season than last year.
I say they get off to a good start with a 24-10 win over Joey Harrington and the Dolphins.
A single by Reyes. A hit and run by LoDuca. Reyes goes from first to third. A big inning for the Mets. That's the type of production from the top of the lineup that made the Mets successful all season long. And it's been sorely lacking in this NLCS. Until the 6th inning of Game 4.
That's when the Mets went from up 5-3 to 11-3, and it all started with a base hit by Jose Reyes, and Paul LoDuca doing what he does best. Josh Hancock also walked Carlos Beltran, then gave up a Carlos Delgado ground-rule double, followed by a David Wright walk, a Shawn Green RBI single, and a bases-clearing double by Jose Valentin. The result - 6 runs, and an infinite ERA for Hancock. It all started with a Jose Reyes single, moved along the basepaths by Paul LoDuca.
And Oliver Perez was just what the doctor ordered in Game 4. His final line reads 5.2 IP, 5 ER, but those 5 runs are misleading. He came out to pitch the sixth only after the Mets had blown the game open, and he really gave up just 3 runs - those final two were bombs because he was just out there throwing strikes trying to get outs. Thank you Oliver Perez for doing what Steve Trachsel could not - pitching a good game, and keeping the Mets in it.
I look at this game as the Mets proving they are the better team than St. Louis (something they should have proven by now). For starters, the Mets' 4th-best starter was a lot better than the Cardinals' 4-th best starter. Oliver Perez seemed confident from the start. Anthony Reyes was wild, and couldn't put the Mets away in any inning. Even after getting 2 quick outs, he'd go and walk someone and give the Mets a chance to rally. Everyone makes a big deal out of Perez's 3-13 record - let's not forget he played for an awful team. He was 2-10 with the Pirates, 1-3 with the Mets. His high ERA doesn't help my argument any, but I don't think it's fair to single him out as the worst pitcher to start a post-season game (or put him in the same category as an Albie Lopez - pitchers with records of 10 games below .500).
Also, the Mets drilled the Cardinals' bullpen. They had the chance to bury them, and did. The Cardinals had a chance to bury the Mets in Game 3, and though they stopped the Mets' bats cold, they didn't blow them away. So that's reason number 2 the Mets established themselves as the better team.
Speaking of the Cards' bullpen - they had some impressive numbers this post-season, but they never really scared me as a Mets fan. The Mets proved why tonight - and during the regular season. They beat up on Cards' relievers a couple of times.
I was ready to kill (figuratively, in the written sense, not literally) Jose Valentin in the fourth inning, when he missed the tag on a sliding Ronnie Belliard in what should have been a strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out double play. Then he comes right back on the next batter and makes a tough play on a grounder to his right, backhanding it, then throwing a strike to Delgado to end the inning. He got a reprieve. Then his bat finally woke up, and he iced the game with a bases-loaded double in the six-run sixth, and all has been forgiven.
Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado have to be giving the Cardinals and their fans nightmares right now.
Speaking of the Cardinals fans, I'm going to again insult the "greatest baseball fans in America". Someone tell me if I'm wrong, but these have to be the "quietest baseball fans in America". They cheer when something good happens, but they quiet down right away. Am I misinterpreting this, or are other people seeing this? It can't be a very intimidating place to play. The loudest cheer (and I'm not just talking Game 4 when the Cards were getting blown out - I'm including Game 3 in this too) might have come as a mock cheer, when Cardinals pitchers finally got someone out in the sixth inning. Very odd. I guess I had a different impression of Cardinals fans - and they did seem more rabid in 2000. Maybe they are just taking this NLCS for granted, since they're in it every year.
SUPERSTITION: Just so happens I changed the Mets hat I wear during the games, since it wasn't lucky during Games 2 and 3. Looks like I have a new hat to wear the rest of the post-season.
COMMENTS: Don't forget to check the comments (or leave your own comments or e-mails, by the way - email@example.com). The Southern Bureau feels very strongly about the Detroit Tigers killing the Mets if they make the World Series. I'm pretty confident the other way - especially after a layoff. We might have to do something to make it interesting, if the Mets make the World Series (because he'll be right if the Cardinals make it - 4 and out). I haven't talked to him about this yet - but maybe winner gets a posting on the other's blog. Southern Bureau, let's talk.
DRAMA: I was thinking the other day, as I was going through some 1986 Mets-related materials, how there hasn't been any drama this post-season, whereas that one was filled with wins in final at-bats, etc. And I've decided I'll take 12-5 wins any day over drama-filled wins. As long as the Mets win.
I'm feeling pretty good about the Mets the rest of the way. Tom Glavine goes in Game 5 Monday night. (Rain is forecast, according to Joe Buck. Uh-oh.) Jeff Weaver goes for the Cardinals - I have a hard time believing he'll string together another great outing.
P.S. My dad has tickets to (now-necessary) Game 6 of the NLCS on Wednesday. There's no way I could go...but that could be the game that sends the Mets to the World Series. That would be neat. Back to work for me on Monday - I'm going to miss my little girl...and it's back to early mornings after late night baseball games.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Stadium organists. Stadium vendors. Sports bar owners. Opposing hitters. They all must love Steve Trachsel. The first three because he takes so long between pitches that they can all make careers out of his starts. The fourth group because he is awful.
Early on in the year, Trachsel wondered why he wasn't getting more respect from Willie Randolph, and why he's been treated the way he has - starting behind rookies, being passed over for playoff starts by the likes of John Maine. This is why, Steve. This is why. You lucked out all season with some outstanding run support, and the Mets hitters made you look so much better than you are. Now, when it counts, you didn't even give them a chance.
1+ inning. Not even 2. Not even an out in the second inning! And I'll tell you what - Randolph left you in too long. Trachsel should have been gone before the ground ball off his leg. Darren Oliver should have been brought in before the bases were loaded. Trachsel should take a lesson from Oliver - you bring your 'A' game to the post-season. (Although Oliver has had his 'A' game all season.) P.S. - I'm pretty sure Trachsel hurt his mouth biting his glove as he was being pulled from the game - he covered his mouth as though he hurt it walking off the field.
The problem here is the Mets kind of need Trachsel. They might be able to slide through the rest of the NLCS without using him again (if they win a couple more games), but if they make it to the World Series, unless El Duque comes back, they're going to need another starter - and Trachsel is it.
The Mets now need Oliver Perez to come through in their biggest game of the year - a year in which they haven't had many - if any - back-to-the-wall type games like they will in Game 4 Sunday night. The good news is that Perez faces the Cardinals' Anthony Reyes, who is untested in the playoffs himself, and might be just what the Mets bats need to wake them up.
As for Game 3, even the good went bad for the Mets. The Mets had a chance to set the tone early - in the first inning, Trachsel picked off David Eckstein (and though he wasn't called for the balk - it looked like he did balk), and that had the potential to be a huge momentum swing. Instead, Trachsel went on to give up 2 runs.
The Mets bats were silenced by Jeff Suppan, and as well as he pitched, I'm sure the early deficit sucked some of the wind out of the Mets' sails. That, coupled with the fact they were coming off a tough loss and a very late night of travel.
Trachsel left with the bases loaded, no out in the second, and Darren Oliver pitched six outstanding innings, after a wild pitch and a groundout resulted in the final St. Louis runs. The bullpen kept the Mets in the game, but (I can't believe I'm about to write this) Jeff Suppan was too much for them.
I praised him after Game 2 - but I'm starting to wonder about Shawn Green's decision-making in right field. Nothing has come of it, but I noticed two very odd things in the past couple of games. He seems to be throwing to the wrong place, missing cutoff men, and in general making bad decisions. The one that comes to mind in Game 3 is after Scott Speizio's triple (I don't fault him for missing the ball on the dive) Green threw the ball home, trying to get Pujols, when it didn't look like he had a play, and the throw allowed Speizio to go to third. (Speizio ended up stranded.) In the 9th inning of Game 2, he came up like he was going to throw home, where it looked like he had a play after a single into right, and didn't throw the ball. (Nothing came of that either.) Not sure what's going on there - I just hope it doesn't hurt the Mets at some point this post-season.
Endy Chavez continues to impress, and make you scratch your head about the Cliff Floyd roster spot. He nearly ran down Suppan's home run (oh, by the way Trachsel - a homer to Suppan!?!??! Really?), when he was playing very shallow, and nearly robbed it. He's a great outfielder - I hope he's the Mets' starting rightfielder next year.
The Cardinals' defense, meanwhile, was flawless. David Wright has yet to get a hit in the NLCS, but he was robbed a couple of times by Scott Rolen after hitting the ball hard. Rolen made a couple of defensive gems, and David Eckstein killed a possible Mets rally in the eighth inning, robbing Endy Chavez of a hit by diving to his right, then getting a force at second. Preston Wilson also gunned down Jose Valentin at second base, as he tried to stretch a single into a double.
After Game 2 I called on Steve Trachsel to lighten the load for the bullpen. It's funny (not really) that the bullpen ended up lightening the bullpen's load. Darren Oliver's outing may have been in vain in Game 3, but it could end up strengthening the bullpen in the long run. Because of Oliver, Randolph only had to use Roberto Hernandez for one inning, and had the chance to rest everyone else. The bullpen use shouldn't be an issue the rest of the series - unless Oliver Perez's outing is a disaster.
A couple of final things:
- I'm not sure if it was the FOX sound or what, but for "the greatest baseball fans in the world", the St. Louis crowd seemed awfully quiet all game. Am I the only one?
- The Mets being on the road shouldn't be an issue. Remember that in the first week of June, the Mets put together a 9-1 road trip in LA, Arizona, and Philadelphia that put them on the fast track to a dominant season. They are capable of going on a run on the road - and the most important thing for them that road trip is what will be important for them in Games 4 and 5 - getting a run in the first inning and jumping out to early leads.
- Finally, I have this sick feeling right now watching the Mets be pretty much dominated the past 11 or 12 innings. I hope the Mets have that same feeling, and go out there angry on Sunday night. Maybe they won't need a dominant outing by Perez, because they'll put up 10 runs. That's what I want.
ALCS: I should mention that the Tigers won earlier on Saturday, in dramatic fashion, advancing to the World Series. They could be waiting a very long time for their opponent. I have to say, it seems a lot different for the Tigers to be waiting all this time for a World Series opponent, than, say, the Mets after the Dodgers series. The Tigers are hot right now. The only benefit to a layoff like this is that they might get Sean Casey healthy. Other than that, it's only liable to cool off their hot pitching. If I'm a fan of the National League team who is going to face them (please, please, please be the Mets), I'm feeling OK about Detroit having a long layoff.
**FINAL, FINAL THING: I just saw David Wright's post-game comments. First of all, he was ornery - about as ornery as David Wright will get, anyway. And I like that - take that into Sunday's game. Secondly, he said it's not the end of the world - the Mets are only down 2-1. And he said no one is panicking. That's all good news. So hopefully Sunday night's posting is a recap of a win.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Two inches. That's how close the Mets came to probably having a 2-0 series lead instead of being tied 1-1. Shawn Green missed catching Scott Speizio's triple by two inches. Maybe less. I'm not going to say that Green should have caught that ball - it was a very tough play. Actually, he kept the Mets in the game by getting a glove on it, preventing a home run, and keeping the game tied at 6. But had he moved his glove two inches to his left, the Mets would have had a 6-4 lead, and would have had Billy Wagner in the game in a save situation, and things could have been a whole lot different.
Tony LaRussa really made all the right moves in this game. Starting Speizio. Subbing in So Taguchi late in the 8th inning. Tyler Johnson to face Carlos Delgado to start the ninth. Putting Scott Rolen in along with Adam Wainwright in the 9th, and seeing Rolen rob David Wright of a base hit, making the second out of the ninth inning. Chalk one up in the LaRussa column.
I still feel confident in Wagner in save situations. Something's different with these guys in non-save situations, and it's very frustrating, but it always seems to be the case. Billy Wagner has been untouchable in save situations - he only gets himself in trouble when he puts people on. But in a tie game, he comes in and gives up a homer. Then two more runs. I don't think Willie Randolph made a bad decision putting Wagner in the game - his hands were tied. After lifting Maine, the Mets were going to be in trouble by the 8th inning, after using Chad Bradford (great outing), Pedro Feliciano (good third of an inning), Guillermo Mota (first bad outing in a while), and Aaron Heilman (awesome). They needed to use Wagner in the 9th - because there wasn't going to be a save situation anymore. The only thing to hope now is that he bounces back - and didn't throw too many pitches.
The one bad decision I think the Mets have made this post-season is keeping Cliff Floyd on the roster for the NLCS. He can barely walk, and barely lasted an inning and a half, and like I wrote about after Game 1, might not be available for more than pinch hitting duty. Endy Chavez has done a great job filling in, but he should have been given the left field job from the get-go in this round. Now the Mets are one reliever short, and could have jeopardized having Floyd in the World Series, if they make it. They should have allowed him to rest, because by doing so they would have improved their Series chances.
If you would have asked me what I wanted to see from the Mets in this game, I would have told you they need to jump out to an early lead, set Chris Carpenter in his place. And thanks to a Carlos Delgado 3-run homer in the first, that's what the Mets did. They led 3-0, 4-2, and 6-4, and blew those leads. That's not Mets baseball. FOX alluded to the fact that the Mets bullpen has been overworked - I don't think so. They just came off five days of rest. I agree they've been getting a lot of work, but they're not overworked.
That said, Game 3 will be huge for the Mets. Steve Trachsel needs to pitch well, and needs to go deep into this game. It wouldn't hurt the Mets to win big, too - run up the score a little bit so that the bullpen, if it is used, has some wiggle room. And Billy Wagner can sit a game out.
Some thoughts on a couple of players:
DELGADO: I meant to say this the other night, but I better not hear anymore that Delgado was the longest-tenured player to never reach the post-season. I don't care. The minute he played in Game 1 against the Dodgers this became a non-story. He's in the post-season. And man, has he thrived. His two homers tonight were huge - but so was his error.
MAINE: He was hurt by the error, but he isn't doing himself any favors struggling to find the plate. He's throwing too many pitches, and too many balls. I also felt that his August 22nd start against the Cardinals, where he got tagged for 7 runs, may prove to be important because he learned not to let Albert Pujols beat the Mets - he had all 7 RBI.
GREEN: I was just mentioning to my dad tonight that getting Shawn Green was a great deal for the Mets. I'm not sure how much I wrote about it at the time, but I wasn't a fan of the move. I thought Green was on the fast track towards "washed up", and wouldn't contribute. I was wrong. First of all, he's got right field locked up for the Mets - could you imagine if the Mets had Lastings Milledge out there in this series? They'd be in trouble. He's a threat in the lineup, and he's a good influence in the clubhouse. All positives. And he almost made the great play in Game 2 to get the Mets a win. Almost.
MEDIA: A couple of notes on the media. I started Game 2 listening to the first couple of innings on the radio, because I had to pick up my mom at the train station. Dan Schulman and Dave Campbell. Campbell was really ticking me off - he was very down on the Mets. He didn't give the Mets any credit - talking about how poorly St. Louis played, rather than how well the Mets played in Game 1. That bothered me.
Also, I love that super slo-mo camera FOX has - it's really good for breaking down a guy's swing. It's also a really good teaching tool, watching the way major leaguers swing. And for this series, they not only have the camera trained on the hitter, but on certain plays in the field. And I like that because it makes some of those plays look cool.
MAIL: Two entries in the mailbag - actually, one's from the comments section (The Southern Bureau one), and the other's from the mailbag (Steve in Queens). They're very related, so I'll post them both, then respond:
"Watching Jeff Weaver shut down the Mets for half the game reminded me again how the American League is going to KILL whoever the NL team is.
Weaver was CUT from an AL team just months ago for being TERRIBLE, and now he almost wins a game in the NLCS.
Unreal. I think a third straight sweep is on the way. But lets all enjoy the Mets run until then...for Johnny's daughter's sake."
I understand your desire to have every team play each other at least once in the World Series, but you are a Mets fan first. I want to know who you think will be an easier matchup for the Mets in the WS. I think that the Mets would destroy Oakland and will have trouble with the Tigers. Therefore, I do not want the Tigers to make it to the WS. Putting aside your desire of WS matchups, do you agree or disagree.
Also, one of my friends from work was able to get me a ticket to tonight's game. As you well know, I am slightly concerned about the frigid weather that has been forecasted for this evening. Anyway, LETS GO METS.
Steve from Queens"
I'll go backwards here. First off, Steve is cold-blooded and doesn't like being out in the cold weather. So that explains that. Secondly, as for a possible World Series matchup, I think both of these comments are very similar.
I think it's safe to say the Detroit Tigers are going to the World Series (up 3 games to 0). And watching them play the past six games, I can't believe I once thought the Twins or Yankees would be tougher opponents. So to that end, I agree with you Steve - the Mets would probably be better off facing Oakland. (All of this assumes the Mets will play better in the remaining NLCS games and advance.)
As for how the Mets would do against the AL entry (Detroit), I have no idea. If any team has the bats to challenge the Detroit arms, it's the Mets (although it was also the Yankees). I'd like to see the Mets get that opportunity, that's for sure. I do think the Mets match up a whole lot better than St. Louis (they might be sweep numbers 1 and 3 in a row for the NL if they make it).
Losing Game 2 of the NLCS, and the chance for a sweep, hurts the Mets' chances of setting up their best pitcher (Tom Glavine) for Game 1 of the World Series. But I think Detroit-Mets makes for a great matchup - the Mets have the most AL-style lineup in the NL (and now AL-style starting pitching), and the Tigers play the most NL-style ball in the AL. We'll get into this more if I'm lucky enough to be writing a Mets-Detroit World Series preview.
Very big Game 3 for the Mets - and Steve Trachsel - Saturday night. It also wouldn't hurt for the A's to steal a couple and push the Tigers one or two more games.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
That was awesome. Tom Glavine was outstanding. He was just dominant out there. I can't believe how well Jeff Weaver pitched - he really has been pitching well lately, but Tom Glavine was near unhittable.
Glavine ran into one trouble spot - in the third inning, he got hit pretty hard, but David Wright snagged two line drives to help him out. The first was the first out of the inning, the second ended the inning - after singles put runners on first and second, David Eckstein hit one headed toward left field, but Wright cut it off, and doubled Yadier Molina off second.
Glavine benefitted from another double play in the fourth, when Albert Pujols walked, but with one out, took off on Juan Encarnacion's fly to center. It was shallow, it looked like it might drop, but Carlos Beltran made a great play on the ball, and then threw a bullet to first to double off Pujols. (Everyone is making a big deal out of how good a baserunner Pujols usually is - and it's not a load of hooey - I've seen it in games during the regular season - everyone says, "He's not just a great hitter, he's a really smart ballplayer and a great baserunner." That baserunning mistake could turn out to be one of this series' turning points. I love it.)
Glavine's line - 7 innings, 4 hits, 0 ER, 2 walks, 2 K's. Plus, he's thrown 13 consecutive scoreless innings to start his Mets post-season career. Can't do any better than that.
As for the Mets' offense, I can't believe how good they made Weaver look. They hit some balls hard, but mostly he was great for his 5-and-2-thirds. His one mistake came in the sixth inning, when with two out and one on, Carlos Beltran hit a Strawberry-esque bomb to right field, off the scoreboard (!) to give the Mets the 2-0 lead which turned out to be the final score. My only problem with Beltran these days is that I think he still holds a grudge against the fans who booed him last year. He was seemingly reluctant to take a curtain call after arguably the biggest homer at Shea Stadium by a Met in 6 years. Remember, early this season, Julio Franco had to convince Beltran to go out and take a bow after a big homer, when the fans finally started cheering Beltran? Well, guess what, Carlos? You deserved to be booed last year. Remember, the fans gave you a chance, they didn't boo you from the outset - you flat-out stunk. So enjoy the fact that the fans appreciate your outstanding season now. Or play with a chip on your shoulder, if it makes you better, actually. I just want you to help the Mets win.
Again, the bullpen was great. Guillermo Mota got the huge out in the 8th, popping up Preston Wilson with 2 outs, working back from a 3-0 count, forcing Pujols to lead off the ninth with no chance to tie the game. That at-bat came against Billy Wagner, who notched his third save of this post-season (4 appearances in 4 games) with a solid ninth. He walked Scott Rolen with 2 outs, but then got Scott Speizio to pop out. When Wagner walks a guy I only get a tiny bit nervous, as opposed to past Mets relievers/closers, who would walk a guy and you just knew that was coming back to kill them.
Speaking of past Mets closers, Braden Looper pitched the 8th for the Cards, and got a nice, hearty welcome from the New York crowd.
These two teams get right back to it on Friday night. After 5 nights of no (National League/Mets) baseball, they'll make up for it with 5 straight nights of NLCS action. John Maine goes for the Mets against Chris Carpenter. I still have a hard time believing Carpenter is one of the best pitchers (if not the best) in the National League. Perhaps because I haven't seen enough of him. He actually has not faced the Mets yet this year. Hopefully they can get out of New York up 2 games to none.
UNDEFEATED: Just an update to say that the Mets are undefeated in the 10 days my daughter has been in this world (4-0). I had to explain to her at the end of Thursday night's game that I couldn't come straight to bed right after the game because "Daddy is an important sportswriter, and people depend on him to write about this game."
GLAVINE AND MAINE: There was a clever sign in the stands at Shea: "Glavine and Maine and pray for rain", a play on the old Braves saying, "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain". I really am confident the Mets will get by on decent starting pitching, their bullpen, and their bats. But, like that fan, I am most confident in Glavine and Maine. John Maine has been a great addition - I got a little ticked during the Division Series when people - Steve Phillips, Joe Morgan, and Gary Thorne, I think - said he was a throw-in in the Kris Benson trade. He really was one of the Orioles' top pitching prospects. He didn't have great Major League numbers, but the sample size was so small. I remember writing something about him after the trade because I read one of those prospect books in a bookstore one day and there were some promising things written about Maine. I feel good about him starting in these important games - and I consider him much more than a throw-in accompaniment to Jorge Julio.
One more note on pitching matchups - the only reason I will root for Kenny Rogers the rest of the way is so that the Tigers reach the World Series, and the Mets get the chance to bash his brains in. I hope the Mets beat up on Rogers good in the World Series, and there's at least one instance where the bases are loaded, and someone hits a grand slam, and as they're rounding the bases, says to Rogers, "Should have walked me like you did Andruw Jones in 1999, jerkface!" That's what I hope.
INJURIES: Cliff Floyd left Game 1 after his first at-bat. He has maintained since Tuesday, when the Mets first practiced after the Division Series, that he doesn't hurt at all swinging the bat, but hurts at other times. Watching Floyd in the field during the first inning - he's a liability, and the ball certainly was finding him (although he made each play his way). After Floyd hobbled out of the box during his at-bat, he was lifted, and Endy Chavez replaced him. The Mets still say Floyd is day-to-day. It's a shame that Floyd isn't well enough to play, but seeing the way he was out in left field - he shouldn't even be on the NLCS roster. I could see Floyd having some value in the World Series as a DH, but not in the NLCS. The best we can hope for now are some productive pinch-hit appearances, I think.
Also on the injury front, Pedro Martinez* was back in the dugout, after his rotator cuff surgery last week. He was back and joking around with the team, which at this point is more valuable to the team than his pitching contributions from June through September. Also, before the game, Pedro* told reporters that he expects to recover from this injury more quickly than he originally thought. I don't know how he knows this, but he thinks he can contribute for the Mets in the second half of 2007.
MEDIA COMMENTS: We have the Joe Buck-Tim McCarver duo on the NLCS this year. That's fine with me. I'm not a huge Buck fan, but I don't mind McCarver. I know people hate McCarver, but he's comfortable for me - I did grow up watching him as a Mets broadcaster through my childhood. But the reason I bring this up is because they are joined in the booth by Luis Gonzalez....and he is fantastic. It's rare for a player to step into the broadcasting role so naturally and be good at it - but Gonzalez knows just when to speak, and how long to speak. He always has something worthwhile to contribute. A+ job. I was listening in the car to the Padres-Cardinals series, and heard the announcers, and thought, this guy is good. When they said it was Luis Gonzalez, I couldn't believe it. Good for him...I'm glad he's on the NLCS - although I do enjoy Lou Piniella (on ALCS duty - with Thom Brennaman and Steve Lyons. I'm glad I don't have to hear Brennaman.)
COMMERCIALS: Finally, I need to weigh in on the Tommy Lasorda ads. I think they're funny, I really do. I don't hate Lasorda as much as I probably should, since he was Dodgers manager when I hated the Dodgers, but I also don't love him. I love these ads. I especially like the Cubs one, when Tommy asks the woman what the guy (in the tree)'s favorite team is, and she says the Cubbies, and he looks, and says, "Oh." That's just great.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
But the rainout pales in comparison to the other news out of New York, which has Mets ties, but is also just a horrible, horrible thing. Cory Lidle, late of the Yankees, was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed into a building in New York City. Lidle began his career with the Mets, back in 1997, and I really thought he pitched in New York longer than that, but he was selected in the expansion draft by the Diamondbacks the following year, sat out with an injury, resurfaced with Tampa Bay, then pitched in Oakland, Toronto, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and with the Yankees. Lidle's numbers with the Mets were very good in 1997: 54 appearances, 81 and 2-thirds innings pitched, a 3.53 ERA, 7-2 record, and 2 saves.
The weird thing about this is that I was watching the coverage, and all of the facts were falling into place, and whenever an event like this happens I just think to myself, "I can't wait until all the facts are in and the speculation stops, and we find out exactly what happened." Well, eventually all the facts sorted themselves out, and it was very surreal to hear Cory Lidle's name involved. I feel awful for his wife and son. And anyone else affiliated with his loss.
It makes me wonder exactly what it must have been like when Roberto Clemente died. This is tragic, and it's Cory Lidle, a decent pitcher, but not a great baseball player. Clemente was a national - international - icon. I just finished reading David Maraniss' biography Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero. It was excellent, but of course, Clemente's story happened before I was even born. It must have just been heartbreaking for a guy like Clemente to die so young (as it is with Lidle). The most amazing thing about Clemente in the book was that he had all these premonitions that he was going to die young, and possibly in a plane crash. Very eerie. Anyway, it's a good book - I recommend it.
I don't think Major League Baseball was wrong to continue with the League Championship Series Wednesday night (the Mets and Cardinals would have played if the weather had allowed). I think it would have been more appropriate to honor Lidle with a moment of silence/tribute before the game than to cancel the games. I'm actually not sure what they did in Oakland - I missed the very beginning of that game.
ALCS: The Tigers just beat the A's to take a 2-0 series lead. I'm glad they're sitting pretty, heading home, because I hope the Mets play them in the World Series, so I get another new matchup out of the way. But I have to say I'm surprised that they are doing so well. I wrote many times this year about how I didn't think they were for real because they were beating up on the weak AL teams, and not doing so well against the AL contenders. Well, I guess they're for real now.
STREAKS: On the FOX pre-game show, they had a graphic showing that the Tigers had the worst 50-game stretch heading into the post-season in history - I think it was something like 19-31. Right behind them was the second-worst stretch - the Cardinals, with something like 21 or 22 wins. I knew the Cardinals were having a historically awful year for a first-place team - just didn't know how awful. Hopefully they don't hit their stride like the Tigers have started to do.
One last thing about the Mets - I'll predict they win in 5....6 at most. And as for the Mets' struggles in the final couple of weeks of the season - I really think it was because they had everything sewn up already, and didn't have much to play for. I think now, as seen in the Dodgers series, they're back to the old Mets of April-August. And I think that's what we'll be seeing for the remainder of October.
I'll have a post-Game 1 wrap late Thursday night.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Thought I'd revisit my pre-season picks, as we wait for the NLCS to get underway, and as we have a pretty clear picture of who will win what (the comeback players have already been named). I'll print what I wrote earlier in the year in italics - the playoff picks are from March, and the player award picks are from April 2 or so:
I totally blew the American League. I thought the Yankees would miss the post-season, the Indians would continue with last year's success (as would Chicago), and I debated a long time about who would win the West, and finally went with the Angels over the A's. Oops. In the NL, I got 3 of the 4 teams right, but I thought the Dodgers would dominate the West, and I was wrong about that. I also didn't think the Braves would fall so fast, although I did have them as the wild card to the division champ Mets.
NL Cy Young Award: I'm going with Tim Hudson, although I think Derek Lowe will get a few votes here (I expect a big season from him in L.A.).
Brutal year for Hudson. Lowe actually tied for the league lead in wins, after a slow start, but a bad year all around for National League pitchers. Who will win - maybe Brandon Webb?
AL Cy Young Award: Barry Zito. (Like I said, before their games on Monday...and he can't do any worse.)
I wrote that disclaimer in parentheses because in his first start of the season Zito got rocked. Zito had a good year, but Johan Santana will win this award.
NL MVP: Pretty generic, but I think it'll be Albert Pujols. I can't think of anyone else who will be that valuable to their team - I pick the Mets to do really well, but I don't think they're going to have that MVP-type standout guy. Everyone will contribute.
I was pretty right about the Mets not having the MVP-type, and I'll probably be right about Pujols - he'll probably edge out Ryan Howard.
AL MVP: I think David Ortiz gets his due this year. He keeps getting better.
I thought right - he's gotten his dues. But I think Derek Jeter deserves the MVP this year.
NL Manager of the Year: Willie Randolph will get recognized for unseating the Braves, edging out Grady Little.
Randolph would have won this year if Joe Girardi hadn't had such a successful season with the Marlins. But maybe Randolph does win becasue of the Mets' success. I was very high on the Dodgers this year, which is why I mentioned Little.
AL Manager of the Year: Might be Eric Wedge, because Guillen won it last year.
I was also high on the Indians. I'm guessing AL Manager of the Year is Jim Leyland.
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Nomar Garciaparra (if he ever gets off the DL).
Ding! Nailed it.
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Mike Lowell. I'm not sure if they even break up the Comeback Player award into AL and NL anymore, but if they do, these are my picks. If it's a Major League Comeback Player of the Year award, I'll go with Lowell, since he's a crossover between leagues anyway.
Jim Thome won the award, but I was right about Lowell having a big bounceback year.
NL Rookie of the Year: I'm not too familiar with the rookies this year, so I'm going to go with what I know, and say Brian Bannister, if he sticks around all year in the rotation and picks up 10+ wins.
I'm still not too familiar with the NL rookies. For a while it looked like the Dodgers' Ethier, but I think he fell out of the race. I'll say Ryan Zimmerman, I guess, of the Nationals.
AL Rookie of the Year: Whichever pitcher has a bigger impact on the Red Sox' staff - Jonathan Papelbon, or Craig Hansen.
I think I might have gotten this one right - Papelbon was dominant until he got hurt, and I think everyone realized how good he was.
MORE COMMENTS: Finally today, the Southern Bureau commented on the Red Sox/Yankees controversy - and check out the link he posted. I saw a Mets souvenir stand in a background shot of one of their Division Series games, and they had one of those "got postseason" shirts - I really hope the back didn't have "RIP Braves". But there's nothing wrong with taking "a little joy" out of the Yankees losing, Southern Bureau - it's when it becomes obsessive that I have a problem with it.
At least we can all agree on one thing - Dan Shaughnessy is an idiot.
Back to baseball Wednesday night - as long as I can, I'll be doing post-game updates.
- Tom Glavine versus Jeff Weaver in Game 1 of the NLCS. Weaver's been pitching a lot better lately. But I like the Mets-Cardinals matchup. The Mets have a way better bullpen, the rotations are about even, despite the semi-mess the Mets are in, and the Mets' lineup is better. The Mets can't let Albert Pujols beat them. That's the one player they need to worry about in the Cardinals' lineup. Meanwhile, the Mets can come at you from all angles. The only person not hitting right now is Jose Valentin, and I don't think that will last.
- One more thing about the Mets-Cardinals. Keep in mind that when Carlos Beltran got his monster contract, it followed up his monster post-season with the Astros. And who did the Astros play in that year's NLCS? That's right, the Cardinals. So that's something to keep in mind. Of course, these games will neither be in Houston or the same Busch Stadium where Beltran was so hot, but it's worth noting.
- Not sure what's going to happen with the Joe Torre/Yankees manager situation, but from an outsider's perspective, I don't think it's Torre's fault that the Yankees aren't winning World Series. Sure, he's made some managerial mistakes, but he should be given a ton of slack because of all the success he's had. At least he should be allowed to resign, not be fired...and he shouldn't be forced to resign. He should be allowed to leave on his own terms. This is why I stopped rooting for the Yankees in the first place - I think Buck Showalter got a raw deal there (although I'm not convinced he would have had the same success Torre has had). I've seen bad managers, and Torre is not a bad manager. He doesn't deserve to be fired. I feel the same way about Willie Randolph after just two years - I hope he's here forever. I hope I never get to the point where I'm rooting for him to lose his job.
- A couple of stats to throw your way - I'm dubbing the Mets-Dodgers series to tape from the TiVo, and as a result I'm re-watching a lot of the series, and there was a stat I missed the first time around. The Mets are 6-0 at Shea all-time in the Division Series. That's pretty impressive. Also, I'll add to that, that the Mets are now 3-0 all-time in their Division Series appearances. They've beaten the Diamondbacks (1999), Giants (2000), and now the Dodgers (2006). I'm not as obsessive about this as I am with World Series matchups (we're rooting for Mets-Tigers, incidentally), but I like the fact that the Mets haven't had a repeat opponent in the Division Series. (Unlike the NLCS, thanks very much, St. Louis.)
- Finally in this bulleted section, it makes me a little upset that 1) the Mets blatantly lifted the 'Sweet Caroline' schtick off of the Red Sox, and 2) ESPN and FOX find the need to come back live to the game and play that loudly, drawing attention to the fact that the Mets are copying the Red Sox. Now, the Mets make no secret that it is a Red Sox thing they are copying, but I don't like it, because it should be something that is unique to Fenway. It drives me nuts because someone in the Mets office, probably some intern, thinks it was a great idea to get a crowd pumped up by playing it, not realizing the full story behind why it's now played all the time at Fenway. And meantime, if there is a Neil Diamond fan out there who can help me with this, I imagine the "So good, so good, so good" etc. part of that comes from a Niel Diamond concert, and Fenway fans didn't invent that as part of a sing-along, right? They're just the first to do it at a ballpark? I don't know. I'm just disappointed the Mets couldn't come up with their own crowd-rouser. Like in 1999, when they played "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. I loved that. Or this year, whenever Jose Reyes comes to the plate, and they play the "Ole" (that's o-LAY) song, and the crowd sings along with "Ho-say, Ho-say, Ho-say, Ho-say, Ho-say, Ho-say". (That doesn't stand by itself too well.) Or just play "Meet the Mets", for crying out loud. That's always a crowd pleaser.
RESPONSE TO RED SOX COMMENTS: In case you don't read the comments section, here's Dave in Brighton's reaction to my comments about Red Sox fans being happier over Yankees failure than Red Sox success:
"Oct. 28, 2004 -- Red Sox win World Series. Hundreds stay up all night, meet the team at Fenway Park. People leap for joy in the streets. An estimated three million turn out for a parade despite flu-inducing freezing drizzle.
Oct. 7, 2006 -- Yankees eliminated in ALDS. Guy at work says to me this morning "Hey, can you believe that Yankees lost to the Tigers?"I think maybe you're exaggerating just a little. "
I am exaggerating...just a little. There are a couple of problems with my statement - one being that since I know how ridiculous Sox fans can get, I totally tune them out. I don't listen to sports talk radio here because of how stupid the fans can sound and because of how awful the hosts are. Which is part of problem number 2 - I sometimes think the Boston sports media is an accurate representation of the fans. It tends to be an accurate representation of only the type of fans who call and make me not listen to sports talk radio around here. (The third issue, which I won't belabor, is that I happen to know sensible Red Sox fans, for the most part, who root for and enjoy the success of their team, rather than focusing their attention on rooting against the Yankees. Unfortunately, I think the Sox fans I know represent the minority of Sox fans...or at least they are a very silent majority. I guess if they are the majority, they're the type of majority that don't get played up, because they don't feed into what the media likes to pump up around here. Which brings us back to my main point - it's the media.)
Here's what I mean. The headline on Dan Shaughnessy's column Sunday (I know - my biggest problem is reading Dan Shaughnessy...but I guess I was looking for an idiot to prove my point, and I knew just where to find one) is "Their fall in Motown is a classic", and the first line is "If you are a Red Sox fan, this was your World Series." The article is about there being a time and place to celebrate what the Tigers accomplished, but for now, let's focus on what's important - that the Yankees lost!
It's something that irritates the heck out of me, perhaps more because I've met some of these media types and they have huge egos. And it bothers me that they're successful because a lot of people buy into their negativity, and that's what feeds the egos. Maybe if they were nice guys, I wouldn't mind it. But most of them are not. So I'm sorry if I've offended real Red Sox (read: baseball) fans in my attempt to shoot down the Boston media once again. And now we can go back to what's important - rooting for the Mets to win the World Series.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
- Not sure who I'm rooting for the Mets to play in the NLCS. The best I can come up with is this - I want the Padres to win Game 4, so at least the series goes the distance and the teams can't set their own pitching rotations. And then I guess I want the Cardinals to eliminate the Padres, because I don't want the Mets to eliminate Mike Piazza. I'd rather see him gone before they have to do it.
- It's kind of pathetic to watch/listen to/read Red Sox fans' reactions to the post-season. I've written before about how Sox fans don't know how to deal with success - they almost enjoy failure more than success. But it is ridiculous to live up here and see the way they reacted to the Yankees getting knocked out of the playoffs on Saturday. It was almost more euphoric than the Red Sox' 2004 World Championship. Seriously. I'm not exaggerating by much here.
- I was watching Jason Tyner (DH?!?!) during the Twins-A's series on Friday, and it struck me that there are a lot of former Mets in the post-season this year. So I put together a little team. Here it is:
1 - Marco Scutaro, SS
2 - Preston Wilson, RF
3 - Jeff Kent, 1B
4 - Mike Piazza, C
5 - Mike Cameron, CF
6 - Jay Payton, LF
7 - Marlon Anderson, 2B
8 - Miguel Cairo, 3B
9 - Cory Lidle, P
I of course had to go with Lidle as the starter, but keep in mind we do have Kenny Rogers from the left side if we needed him. (Most painful thing about the Yankees losing was the fact that Kenny Rogers was on the winning team. But I did enjoy the fact that the Mets sent Jeff Kent home for the winter.)
The bullpen - Braden Looper and Jason Isringhausen
The bench - Vance Wilson, Jason Tyner
Managers/coaches: Ron Gardenhire, Joe Torre, and Bruce Bochy
It's not an All-Star team or anything, but it's a pretty good collection of talent. And some of those guys who the Mets gave away young, like Tyner and Scutaro, have built pretty good careers for themselves.
I'll be back with a preview before Wednesday, child allowing.