Friday, February 29, 2008
1964: 53-109 (10th place out of 10)
1968: 73-89 (9th place out of 10)
1972: 83-73 (3rd place out of 6)
1976: 86-76 (3rd place out of 6)
1980: 67-95 (5th place out of 6)
1984: 90-72 (2nd place - 6.5 GB)
1988: 100-60 (lost NLCS in 7 games)
1992: 72-90 (5th place out of 6)
1996: 71-91 (4th place out of 5)
2000: 94-68 (lost World Series in 5 games)
2004: 71-91 (4th place out of 5)
2 out of 11 leap years were pretty good (although when you consider that 1988 was a huge disappointment, maybe not).
The Mets started out in 1962, so let's throw 1964 out the window - and if you do that, you're left with 10 years. Half of those were 65-70 wins, so those would be bad years. 2 more were just mediocre - 3rd place finishes, a little above .500. 1984 was a good year, but the Mets still finished behind the Cubs.
The other two are 1988 and 2000, and you have to hope these 2008 Mets surpass both of those performances. And here's a little insight into my predictions for the year (which will be passed along sometime in the next couple of weeks) - I think it will take about 100 wins to win the National League East this year. This could be a very intense race.
SNY: This space here was supposed to be filled with my quick first reaction to the Mets first televised spring training game against the Cardinals. Unfortunately, I forgot to set the TiVo. (How far we've come in the four years of this blog - where originally there were VCR problems in situations like this.) Well, I just watched the introduction of the late replay, and I have two reactions - number one: Keith Hernandez does not look good. His new hairstyle (or lack thereof - it doesn't look like he's balding at all, but he shaved his head) does not suit him. The second thing is that it's exciting just to have baseball on TV.
Tomorrow's March....and the season will be here before you know it.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
The backup catcher is Ramon Castro, and he could play a pivotal role. Paul Lo Duca missed a lot of time last year, and Castro proved his worth as an everyday player. While Castro is not an everyday player (I maintain he loses his effectiveness the more he plays - I just think he's more apt to wear down, and is more effective off the bench), he could be a short-to-long-term solution if Brian Schneider is hurting the Mets at the plate more than he's helping them in the field.
You might notice that there aren't many alternatives in the outfield for the Mets. I wrote about Endy Chavez yesterday, and he's a left-handed hitter, as is Ryan Church (the starter in right for now). There's no real right-handed bat off the bench for the Mets who can play the outfield. There's a possibility the last bench spot will go to Angel Pagan, who the Mets acquired in the off-season, and he's a switch-hitter. But there's also a real chance he'll be in the minors. There are non-roster invitees Ben Johnson or Brady Clark, but there's also a reason those guys are non-roster invitees. (Jose Valentin was also invited back, and though he's a switch-hitter, he won't be seeing time in the outfield...if he makes the team.)
The Mets are going to be giving Damion Easley plenty of time in the outfield this spring, and if I recall correctly, he played a little outfield last year. Primarily, though, Easley is a middle infielder. So is Ruben Gotay, and Gotay figures to be the backup shortstop, as Willie Randolph wants to get Jose Reyes more rest this season.
The easy solution to the outfield problem is twofold - 1) the people in the lineup who aren't Ryan Church produce, taking off some of the pressure that's on him to hit lefties. 2) Ryan Church hits lefties, and the issue is moot.
One more factor to watch is 19-year-old Fernando Martinez. He already predicted that he will be in the majors at some point this year (which would make him the youngest Met to make the pros since Dwight Gooden). But Martinez definitely factors into the Mets' plans for the future, and there is a chance we could see him at Shea even before September call-ups.
There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Mets bench. This is an issue that will need to be revisited as the regular season draws near, and the final spots on the team are awarded.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
2007: .287 avg, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 20 runs, .325 OBP in 71 games
Quite possibly the worst thing to happen to the Mets last year was the injury to Endy Chavez. Or, rather, the biggest contribution to the worst thing to happen to the Mets last year (missing the playoffs) was the injury to Endy Chavez.
Chavez suffered a left hamstring injury early last year, resulting in him playing in just 9 games in June, July, and August, and overall, in less games than Moises Alou. For the Mets to have as much success as they hope to have in 2008, Chavez needs to appear in more games than Alou, and he needs to stay healthy.
The chances of that looked like they took a hit in December, when Chavez had to have an MRI after a slide into home during winter ball resulted in an ankle injury and an injury to his right hamstring. Luckily, Chavez reported to spring training in good shape, and that injury isn't expected to be a problem.
Chavez is the entire package - for a guy whose role is to fill in. He's fast, so he serves as a pinch-runner. He's an excellent defender (and suffers the most of any of the Mets for the 2006 playoffs loss - his catch in Game 7 of the NLCS was outstanding, and was recognized as such, but it has been de-valued by the Mets going on to lose that game). He's a good hitter...and an excellent bunter. And he's comfortable with his role.
Chavez doesn't complain about not being a starter, and he knows that his chances will come, with Moises Alou aging in left, Carlos Beltran needing rest every so often in center, and Ryan Church a big question mark in right. Come playoff time (fingers crossed), Chavez's role becomes even more pronounced, as we saw in 2006. He's a late-innings defensive replacement, but when that role puts him in a position to hit, the Mets don't suffer.
Chavez's patience might be put to the test if the Mets' outfielders stay healthy . Will he start asking for more playing time if Moises Alou doesn't suffer a long-term injury? (That's probably a bad example, since Chavez will get plenty of fill-in time for Alou to rest.) Hopefully, though, playing time for Chavez won't be an issue until 2009, when Alou's contract is up, and the left field job is expected to be inherited by phenom Fernando Martinez (who could make an appearance there this year, at age 19). But that's well over a year away. Hopefully, in Chavez's stat line, that's still about 130 games away, plus another 15 or so in October.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
If all goes well this year, the Mets will have Duaner Sanchez for the 7th inning, Aaron Heilman (7-7, 3.03 ERA, 1 sv in 2007) for the 8th, and then Billy Wagner (2-2, 2.63, 34) closing games in the 9th. The biggest question mark is Sanchez, who missed all of last year after a car accident that left him with an injured shoulder in 2006. Last year, Sanchez never got back into playing shape, but this year, he is reportedly in great shape in spring training. Even more important about Sanchez's situation is that when a starting pitcher goes 7 innings, he will be able to split an 8th inning load with Heilman.
I've mentioned this before - I think Santana errs on the side of caution when it comes to his arm. That could result in a few starts where he goes just six innings. Last year, 13 of his 33 starts lasted just 5 or 6 innings. Couple that with an aging Pedro Martinez* and Orlando Hernandez in the rotation, and the bullpen could see plenty of work.
So the bullpen will be an important factor all season for the Mets (and every other team in baseball). Wagner will close games - there's no doubt about that. My fear is that he will get hurt, and the Mets will be left vulnerable. I expected more injuries from Wagner the past couple of years, and he's stayed surprisingly healthy. He'll be 37 this season...his body is going to break down sometime...hopefully it's not this year. Wagner's biggest contributions this season could very well be with his mouth - he becomes prime suspect number one for speaking his mind (after Carlos Beltran, though, it seems) now that Paul Lo Duca is gone.
For the first time in a number of years, Aaron Heilman hasn't been complaining about his role...it seems, for now, he has given up all hope of becoming a starting pitcher with the Mets...and by coming back this year, he might realize that by not rocking the boat, 2008 is a very real possibility for a world championship.
Besides Sanchez, the other key members of the bullpen are lefty Pedro Feliciano, who was 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA last year. Lefties hit just .168 against him. Scott Schoeneweis will be back, fresh off his appearance in the Mitchell Report - and he had a very disappointing 2007 season (a 5.03 ERA tells the tale). Sidearmer Joe Smith will be a factor at some point this season, but after a great first half of last season (36 IP, 2.75 ERA), he pitched just 8 innings in the second half of the season, and was not effective (6.48 ERA). Jorge Sosa was a pleasant surprise for much of the season, doing good work filling in as a fifth starter, but you don't know what you're getting from him this year. He might be the 2006 Darren Oliver/2007 Aaron Sele long-relief type in 2008. And the Mets signed Matt Wise, late of the Brewers, who is coming off a decent year, but nothing special.
The Mets have some arms in the bullpen, and I think they'll be OK when they have to use their relievers. The example of Joe Smith illustrates, though, what overwork can do - he was a rookie last year, and was overworked in the first half. The Mets paid the price for that in the second half, and Willie Randolph lost confidence in the reliever.
Someone will certainly surprise out of the bullpen this year, and someone will certainly disappoint. It's the same story every year. What the Mets need is consistency from the trio of Sanchez, Heilman, and Wagner. If the Mets can get leads to those guys, and they pitch like they did two years ago, the bullpen will be a strength, and not such a question mark.
Monday, February 25, 2008
HERNANDEZ: 9-5, 3.72 ERA, 128 K's, 64 walks, 147.2 IP
PELFREY: 3-8, 5.57 ERA, 45 K's, 39 walks, 72.2 IP
I didn't set out to combine two of my starting pitcher summaries, but I think the 2008 seasons of Hernandez and Pelfrey will be linked even more than those of John Maine and Oliver Perez.
I just can't see El Duque, at his age (whatever it may be), making it through a full season, especially considering the starts he has missed the past couple of years. All kinds of ailments have popped up with him in just a season and a half with the Mets. So when he pitches, I think the expectation is that he will be solid, as he has been since coming back to New York. And El Duque will not pitch out of the bullpen this year - he's against it, and I really haven't heard it brought up again since he came out so vehemently against doing it.
The pressure here lies squarely on Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey is saying all the right things - while he would prefer to start, he'll do whatever the team wants him to do, etc. I think the only thing he really needs to worry about is pitching well, and making sure the team and its fans are confident that when he is asked to step in, he'll be effective.
The bad news is that Mike Pelfrey began 2007 0-7, and as the record indicates, he pitched poorly for most of the year. The good news is that Pelfrey made progress, and finished the year 3-1 (albeit with a 4.88 ERA). And he figured some things out as he went along.
Pelfrey's highlight was his first game back up with the Mets, on September 1st. He started at Atlanta, and threw six innings, giving up one run on one hit while striking out 7. He says he was throwing the ball more confidently, and the Braves were making outs. The one bad start down the stretch Pelfrey had was at the end of September, when he gave up 6 runs in 5-and-2-thirds to Washington, when everyone on the Mets was playing poorly. So if Pelfrey comes out with the kind of confidence he showed in most of September, he can have a good season.
One of the biggest questions is whether the Mets would start Pelfrey in the majors out of the bullpen, so that he is on standby in case El Duque goes down. I suspect, unless there are serious health questions about the veteran, that Pelfrey will start the year in New Orleans, so that he can get his regular work in. Mike Pelfrey is in the organization's future as a starter, and I don't think starting a season out of the bullpen does anyone much good.
One of the biggest insults to Pelfrey over the off-season had to be how far his stock has dropped. As he watched his closest friend in the organization, Philip Humber, get shipped to Minnesota in exchange for Johan Santana (incidentally, the acquisition that knocks Pelfrey out of the rotation until he can earn himself a spot), Pelfrey had to hear all of the analysts talk about how the Mets were in a hole when it came to negotiating trades, because Pelfrey was not held in high esteem anymore by any other organization.
That had to provide a spark for Pelfrey. It will be evident early on whether or not he took that as an inspiration to get better. Because if he continues his losing ways, the Mets can't really afford to let him work through 0-7 again (especially if they look back on last year and realize any one of those games cost them the playoffs). If the Mike Pelfrey of early-to-mid September 2007 shows up in 2008, though, the Mets will have the best rotation in baseball, hands down.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
MAINE: 15-10, 3.91 ERA, 180 K's, 75 walks, 191 IP
PEREZ: 15-10, 3.56 ERA, 174 K's, 79 walks, 177 IP
I think these two merit having a preview written about them together, because I think so much of the Mets' success this year hinges on the two of them performing well. Also, I thought it was eerie how similar their stats were last year.
Bottom line - if the Mets get 30 wins out of these two again, they're not going to miss the playoffs. It just won't happen. The question is, can the Mets get 30 wins out of Maine and Perez?
I think a couple of things are working in the Mets' favor. One is the point I've been beating you over the head with for the past month or so - with the addition of Johan Santana, instead of facing other teams' second and third starters, Maine and Perez will be facing the third and fourth starters, and they are better than those pitchers. There are not many teams who have formidable opponents for Maine and Perez. So call factor one the 'Steve Trachsel Factor' - Maine and Perez will get wins for just showing up. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Oliver Perez leads the league in run support this year.
Another reason you can expect them to do even better than last year is the fact that Brian Schneider is behind the plate. From all I've been hearing about Schneider's ability to handle pitchers, I've really built him up to be some sort of Supercatcher. But he has to be able to help Perez keep his head on straight when he starts to lose his control. And John Maine has shown an incredible ability to focus when the games/season are on the line, so maybe Schneider can force him to think like that on a normal day in July in addition to late September/October.
The last positive I'll list is that there has to be some sort of comfort level for these guys now. Both backed up the promise they showed in the 2006 post-season with very good 2007 seasons. They've proved they belong here, and that they can hold their own. Other than the pressure of pitching every fifth day in the New York spotlight, the pressure's off.
The warning signs are the same they have always been. Can John Maine avoid throwing 100 pitches by the sixth inning? Can Oliver Perez find his release point so he isn't walking 9 batters a game? I think the best thing for each of these guys is that last year, while it was ridiculously successful for both of them, was also a learning experience. They learned on the job, and they didn't suffer for it. That can only lead to a better 2008.
PEREZ ALREADY 1-0: Worth noting - On Friday, Oliver Perez was granted a salary arbitration win, meaning he will earn $6.5 million dollars this year (the club was offering $4.725 million). The odds were stacked against Perez - this was the first salary arbitration hearing the Mets lost since 1992.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
2007: 3-1, 2.57 ERA, 32 K's, 7 walks, 28 IP
I think now is a very good time to take a look at the Pedro Martinez* signing, and how it has played out for the Mets.
2005: 31 starts, 15-8, 2.82 ERA, 217 IP, 208 K, 47 BB
2006: 23 starts, 9-8, 4.48 ERA, 132.2 IP, 137 K, 39 BB
2007: 5 starts, 3-1, 2.57 ERA, 28 IP, 32 K, 7 BB
First and foremost, I stand by what I've said all along - while I wasn't thrilled initially when the Mets signed Pedro Martinez*, it is because of Pedro Martinez* that so many others followed suit, and it is because of Pedro Martinez* the Mets came within an eyelash of the 2006 World Series (even though he didn't pitch that post-season), and it's because of Pedro Martinez* that the Mets were in the position they were in this off-season to acquire Johan Santana. Everything has a cause/effect relationship, and Pedro Martinez* signing with the Mets got the ball rolling on a number of things. So even if (God forbid) the Mets do not win this year's World Series, in the final year of Pedro*'s contract, it's because of Pedro* that they will be in the position to do so in the coming years.
That said, this is a big year for Pedro* in the eyes of fans a little more short-sighted than that. And I can't really blame them. He wanted four years, and that fourth year was a big question mark because of injuries. The Mets took the risk of getting four years out of Pedro*, giving him the four-year deal. At this point, Pedro* can only give them three, because last year was just five starts long for him. Things would have been different had the Mets made the playoffs, which was the plan, but it didn't work out that way.
I also need to clarify the 2006 numbers. Pedro* was better than 9-8 that year - he started the year 5-0, and could have been 9 or 10-0, but the team (offense and bullpen) didn't support him, leaving him with a string of no-decisions. (In 2005, too, don't forget he had to suffer through Braden Looper closing his games, and could have been better than 15-8).
So overall, Pedro* has pitched very well as a Met. This year will be different, though, because there's no pretending he is the Pedro* of old, who can get an upper-90's fastball past you. Pedro* will try to win this year on experience, guts, and guile.
And I think Pedro* will do OK on his experience, guts, and guile. He is a very smart pitcher, and knows what he is doing on the mound. I think the end of last year was a preview of what we can expect from Pedro* all this year - and I don't think a low-3.00 ERA and 15 or so wins is out of the question. I have also written about this before, but I think it helps tremendously that Pedro* is the number two pitcher on the staff.
Was the Pedro* signing a good one? I say yes. Especially if that fourth year turns out to be a championship year for the Mets, and Pedro* is on the mound pitching well for the Mets in that fourth year in the World Series.
SPRING TRAINING TELEVISED: I love what the Red Sox station, NESN, is doing - I saw that this morning they were airing a couple of hours of spring training workouts. I tuned in for a little bit and saw some batting practice and some pitchers throwing. It might be a little much if they do it more often than this, but I'll tell you this - if SNY were airing some of the Mets spring training workouts, I'd be tuning in to every second of it. Hopefully this sets a successful precedent that other teams and their networks start following.
Friday, February 22, 2008
2007: 15-13, 3.33 ERA, 235 K's, 52 walks, 219 IP
"I can breathe. It's like a big glass of cold water when you're thirsty. That's how bad we wanted Johan. I'm glad he's on our side. He's somebody who, now, everybody can rely on. Actually, he's somebody I'll love to be around. He's a great person. I'm really proud to have him here. I can't wait to give him a big hug and say, 'Hey, we're together now.' One from the left side, the other from the right side."
Pedro Martinez*, like many Mets fans, is very excited about the Mets' acquisition of Johan Santana, speaking the above words almost immediately upon his arrival in Port St. Lucie.
Johan Santana makes the Mets pitching staff deeper, allowing everyone else to move down a slot, and instead of pitching ahead of where they belong in the rotation, the Mets pitchers are now among the best in the league where they are slotted. (In other words, John Maine is not a number two starter...but he's better than most teams' number threes. Same with Pedro Martinez* at number two, and Oliver Perez at four. Even El Duque at five.)
Santana also gives the Mets a threat - someone who could very well go out and win every start he makes. He won't, though. As much as I love this acquisition, this is going to be a tough year for Santana. He'll pitch great...but he won't get the wins to show for it. He will leave a lot of games tied 0-0 or 1-1 in the sixth or seventh innings...and the Mets might win those games, but they'll have trouble getting on the board early against the Cole Hamels, John Smoltz, Roy Oswalt, etc. of the National League. That's my prediction for Santana - his strikeout numbers and ERA will be out of this world, but he'll suffer in the wins department.
I'm looking at Johan Santana's numbers, and I didn't realize that he was a reliever for the first three and a half years of his career. But that just helps prove my point further. The point I want to make is that the Mets could be getting quite possibly the best pitcher at age 29 in history. Here's why - the Twins take care of their pitchers. They probably eased Santana into his role as a starter - that's why he was a reliever so early on (speculation here - I really don't know this as a fact). His innings increased each year until they dipped last year (last year was a bad season, statistically and relatively speaking, for Santana). So his arm is probably in good shape entering this six-year deal.
And here's my big point - some people are pointing to a 17-strikeout performance by Santana last year as a negative, because he left the game after 8 innings and didn't try for 20 K's. I ask these people - how many times does someone go out there, looking for a personal record, and end up blowing a game for their team because they were looking for individual gain? And how many times do we rip that person? I think it's a great thing that Santana didn't go out there for the ninth, because he had already thrown 112 pitches. If he goes out there and hurts his arm in the ninth, or loses the game, he gets bashed. He knew he was handing the game over to his closer, and was willing to set personal glory aside in order for the team to pick up a 'W'.
Sounds to me like Johan Santana has sound judgment about his body, is a good teammate, and bottom line - he wants to win. Doesn't seem like there's anything wrong with that to me.
NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT: Johan Santana is on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated (thanks to the Southern Bureau, a loyal SI subscriber, for the heads-up). Hopefully there will be no SI jinx. The article was decent - I read it online, though SI doesn't make it easy to find their magazine articles on their website. The article is about how Santana helped shift the mentality of everyone in the Mets organization. Nothing really new in there, except that along with landing the best pitcher in the game, the fact that he acquired Santana also landed Omar Minaya a new pair of expensive shoes in a bet he made with Mets owner Jeff Wilpon.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
If you're like me, and don't always watch videos connected to blogs, I'll recap. Brett Myers got everyone on the Phillies to go along with this prank, including management, players, and the media, in which he convinces Kendrick that Kendrick has been traded to a baseball team in Japan. My initial anger over this has cooled somewhat, and I'm starting to find it more amusing than anything else, but I have some issues with it.
I'll start with the most serious issue (the rest are all petty), which is that this has to be the worst thing to pull on someone in baseball. I don't know Kyle Kendrick's family situation, where he's from, or anything about his personality, but I bet he doesn't want to be traded. I bet hardly anyone, unless there's an extenuating circumstance, wants to uproot themselves from a place where they are pretty comfortable, and relocate to somewhere else. It has to be a fear in the back of everyone's mind that this might happen to them, and to have that fear drawn out and paraded in front of everyone is a crappy move, in my opinion. (Some might say that's what makes an excellent prank.)
Not that I'm a stick in the mud - but I've never been a real fan of pranks, or hazing. Anything that puts someone else in a position where they are made to be an unsuspecting fool (or worse, where they are put in a dangerous situation, like some of the hazing incidents gone bad that you hear about) turns me off....maybe I have some unresolved issues from grade school. OK, not maybe - definitely. New York City public schools are tough, what can I say. But one of the few consolations I take from not having made it to the major leagues was that I never had to go through any sort of hazing ritual.
Maybe it's because my dislike of the Phillies has been ramped up in recent years, or maybe it's because I don't really like Brett Myers....but I thought this was all-around tasteless.
Other than that, here are some thoughts on this video:
-Didn't Kyle Kendrick suspect something was up when the cameras were all over the place documenting this trade announcement? Since when do cameras follow players into the manager's office for bad news?
-I got a kick out of Charlie Manuel pronouncing "Yomiuri". I'm not sure how it's pronounced, but I'm pretty sure when you have a drawl such as his, you're pretty much screwed when you attempt to say it.
-I don't doubt that Brett Myers is probably a jerk. But Kyle Kendrick acts like it's also the most natural thing (in addition to the constant camera) that Myers is in everyone's business. I'd have decked Myers by the time he starts telling Ryan Howard and everyone that I was traded.
-By the time the media is gathered around for the announcement, doesn't it look like Kendrick knows this whole thing was a joke? Case in point - "Do they have good food in Japan?" Who would ask that if they were really worried about having their life uprooted?
-The Philadelphia press, meanwhile, isn't getting any good samaritan recognition here. They're like the dorky kid who is just so glad they're not getting picked on that they laugh extra hard when someone else draws the negative attention. Seriously, some of those guys act like this is the most fun thing they've ever been a part of. Then again, it probably is.
-All told, the sigh of relief when Kendrick finds out it was a joke is probably the best part. He comes off pretty likeable, having handled the prank with class.
-Myers comes off even more unlikeable than he was before. The 'player' Kendrick was allegedly traded for was the competitive hot dog eater Kobayashi. Myers was probably most proud of that fact, as after revealing the prank, you see him saying, "That's the hot dog eater!!!" It's like that's all he knows about Japanese culture - man, that hot dog eater's name is totally Japanese. We should use that in a prank involving Japanese baseball!!
Back to the Mets player previews tomorrow - the pitchers are next.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
-The Mets that you expect to open their mouths and stir up a pot go in this order: Billy Wagner, Pedro Martinez*, everyone else.....then Carlos Beltran. But Beltran ticked off the rest of the division, the Phillies in particular, over the President's Day weekend by proclaiming the Mets as the team to beat in the NL East. Carlos friggin' Beltran opening his mouth. I couldn't believe it when I read it. Here's what he said:
"Let me tell you this: Without Santana, we felt as a team we have a chance to win in our division. With him now, I have no doubt that we're going to win in our division. I have no doubt in that....So this year, to Jummy Rollins, we are the team to beat."
Way to put some pressure on the team, Carlos. Especially considering you personally have shown a tremendous ability to rise to the occasion and not strike out with the bases loaded in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series with your team trailing by two and two outs. You should go out and put extra pressure on yourself and your team, and while you're at it, call out the guy who actually backed up what he said against you guys last year.
Listening to and reading what some of the Mets said when they heard about Beltran's comments, it seems like some of them either don't know what to make of it, or are giving it the half-hearted, "Yeah, you have to like his confidence", while what they're thinking is the same thing I'm writing - "He said WHAT?".
Of course the Mets have to think they are the team to beat in the division, with Johan Santana. But there's no reason to go out and say it. You need to play this season with a chip on your shoulder from last year...not give other teams a reason to want to come out and beat you.
-The man you usually expect to say something controversial has been relatively quiet so far this spring training. Pedro Martinez* had good things to say about the Johan Santana acquisition, and then he started talking the other day about how he dominated the game playing 'clean'. I think it's funny first of all that Pedro* talked about how good he was (I didn't actually hear what Pedro* said, I heard people talking about it on the radio), but not only that, I think he's right. His first years with the Red Sox, and his last years with the Expos, Pedro Martinez* was dominant. And that's when most everyone in the game was juicing up, and one thing about Pedro*, as I heard a newswriter put it, at 140 pounds, he wasn't juicing. He absolutely overpowered everyone, and he was clean. That shows you the kind of pitcher he was.
-Everyone connected with the Mets that I've heard interviewed so far this year believes Carlos Delgado is going to have a monster year.
-I'm also hearing a lot of 'addition by subtraction' when it comes to Brian Schneider replacing Paul Lo Duca, especially when it comes to Willie Randolph and the clubhouse.
-One of Willie Randolph's biggest announced plans for 2008 is that he wants to rest Jose Reyes more than in the past, in the hopes that when he plays, he'll play better and last longer through the season. Ruben Gotay figures to get more time at short to see if he can spell Reyes.
-I heard Mike & The Mad Dog on Monday, and they were talking about Lastings Milledge hitting two home runs on the final Saturday of the season against the Marlins, and how his comments woke up a Marlins team that then decided to show up for the final game of the season, instead of mailing it in. I still believe the Marlins wanted to knock the Mets out of the playoffs anyway, and if you remember, there was nearly a brawl on that Saturday that Milledge wasn't a catalyst for, but I think a relevant point is that Milledge certainly has some maturing to do, and needs to realize how some of his actions affect other members of a team. But that's now Washington's problem....and probably the Mets', for about 20 games a year.
-One other thing that Randolph said is that Ryan Church will have to play himself out of a job. He's going to have the chance to play everyday, unless he proves he can't hit lefties at all. Church really struggled against lefties last year, and he will be rested against tough lefties, but otherwise, he'll be in there. Either Mike Francesa or Chris Russo compared it to a Paul O'Neill situation when he went from the Reds to the Yankees. I think that's wishful thinking, but I agree with Willie Randolph's response to that (and I paraphrase) - "If that's the case, I'll be pretty thrilled".
-On the topic of Milledge and Church - the Southern Bureau posted a comment that's worth commenting on - who would you rather have - Johnny Estrada and Lastings Milledge or Ryan Church and Brian Schneider? Good question. My answer is - if you had asked me in November/December, I definitely would have gone for Estrada and Milledge. And while I still like Estrada, all that I've heard about Church and Schneider since they have been acquired has me excited to see them, and I'm happy we'll have the chance soon. While I would not have been disappointed with the Estrada/Milledge combo, I am looking forward to Church/Schneider, and at this point, I'd rather have them.
-So far it seems like most Mets have the right attitude heading into 2008 - they're embarrassed by last year, and they want to get out on the field and try to correct that disaster. That's what the fans want to hear...and see - the Mets going out there and playing the polar opposite of the kind of baseball they played in the last half of September. Hear that, Beltran? Not talking about it....just doing it.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
2007: .235 avg, 6 HR, 54 RBI, 33 runs, .326 OBP, 129 games
To Rick Peterson, Brian Schneider is a catcher who knows how to handle pitchers - one of the best in the game at doing so.
To Omar Minaya, Brian Schneider is an excellent defensive catcher.
To Willie Randolph, Brian Schneider is not Paul LoDuca (and that's a very good thing).
To Mets fans, none of this matters. Brian Schneider (who will forever be paired with Ryan Church in this regard) is the .235-hitting catcher that was acquired in exchange for top trading chip Lastings Milledge.
I guess it's no harm, no foul, since the Mets traded Milledge to the Nationals and were still able to acquire Johan Santana from the Twins. But the fact remains Milledge was out there for years, and could have brought the Mets a big catch....but he brought Brian Schneider and Ryan Church. And that has the potential to be a tough thing for Schneider to live down...or live up to.
Personally, I think I'm going to like Schneider. I keep hearing great things about the kind of catcher he is, and any offense he adds at this point looks like it'll be a bonus. That said, I don't think he'll hit .235 again - he's more of a .260-.270 hitter, and the Mets will be able to give him plenty of rest, with Ramon Castro seeing plenty of time off the bench in 2008, I'm sure.
Paul Lo Duca might give you a .300 average, but his emotions could cloud his judgments (and also did a number on relationships in the clubhouse, from what I hear). If Brian Schneider is hitting less than .300, but keeping the Mets in games by keeping his head on what's happening in the field, that's an improvement for the Mets. The Mets have a few pitchers who could use a heads-up catcher - Oliver Perez in particular, and guys like Aaron Heilman out of the bullpen. Maybe that's where Schneider proves his worth.
Catcher was a very strange position this off-season. The Mets went from a possible free agent signing of Yorvit Torrealba (or Jorge Posada to a lesser extent) to an actual acquisition of Johnny Estrada, to finally settling with Brian Schneider. If he can contribute in any way offensively, while living up to the defensive standards that will now be expected of him, Mets fans will be fine with Schneider ending that game of catcher roulette as a Met.
Monday, February 18, 2008
2007: .272 avg, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 57 runs, 3 SB, .349 OBP
I am not ashamed to say that I know next-to-nothing about Ryan Church. So let's learn about him together.
Church is a lefty-throwing, lefty-batting, 6-1, 200-pound outfielder. He'll be thirty when the season ends (October 14), and has been in the majors for four years now, all with Montreal/Washington. Last year he played in the most games of his career - 144, putting up the numbers you see above. The numbers aren't bad, but one that's a little alarming, which you don't see, is the 107 strikeouts. He seems to strike out a lot, although at least last year his strikeout rate dipped (in 2006 he struck out 60 times in 71 games!). I would have thought he was speedier than his numbers indicate - but he doesn't steal many bases at all, so I guess not.
Church will see plenty of playing time this year. He will be the Mets' starting right fielder, and won't really see platoons, because the next option is Endy Chavez, who also hits lefty. But what will happen is there will be many times when both Church and Chavez will be in the lineup because of either an injury to or rest for Moises Alou. The key to the Mets' outfield situation this year will be the health of Chavez and Church, because they are the ones who will need to go the distance in order for the likes of Alou, and to a lesser degree Beltran, to be rested and most effective (with Beltran, there's a chance he'll miss about 20 games because of an injury, not so much that he needs the rest).
And I think I'm OK with Church playing that role. Church has a little bit of pop - he hit a career-high 15 homers last year, and ten the year before in half as many games. Maybe the Mets see something in their scouting that indicates Church is poised to break through. I don't know. They seemed content to get him along with Brian Schneider in exchange for Lastings Milledge, leading you to believe they would rather have Church in right than Milledge.
Here's what I'm going to believe about Ryan Church - he's Eric Valent if he had the chance to play every day. I've always liked Valent, and he made some contributions to some pretty poor Mets teams earlier this decade as a pinch-hitter. I'll start out the season believing that comparison is accurate. And maybe Church will prove me right, and I'll become a Ryan Church fan. If he turns out better than Valent, all the better for the Mets. Let's just hope he's not worse - because the Mets will be facing Milledge a bunch this year, and I'm sure he'll remind them with his hitting of what they traded to get Church.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
2007: .341 avg, 13 HR, 49 RBI, 51 runs, .392 OBP in 87 games
I'm not a huge Moises Alou fan. A year ago, before the season began, all of my comments about Moises Alou had to do with what was pretty much an invisible spring. He was quiet all season (not a surprise, really, considering he played a total of 11 games in May, June, and July). But when he played, Alou was consistent - consistently one of the best players on the team. I still don't love him, but I'll take him as a left fielder on a potential World Series team.
The biggest drawback to Alou is his age, and the injuries that go along with that. He'll turn 42 in July, and that's part of the reason he only played a little more than half a season last year. But boy, can he hit. Alou burst out of the gate in his first month as a Met, hitting .349 in April. He had his only slump of the year right before he got hurt, in May, but finished the year with a .330 average in August, and a .402 average in September, playing full-time both months. More importantly, he was hitting for power - Alou's slugging percentage in September was .607.
Bottom line - Alou can hit, and not just hit, but hit in key situations. Alou thrived against the other teams in the National League East - combining for a .344 average, 8 (of his 13 total) HR, and 33 (of his 49) RBI in 55 games against the Braves, Phillies, Marlins, and Nationals. Part of that is because the Mets played so many divisional games when Alou was healthy, but that only works in the Mets' favor.
I still don't love Moises Alou. He'll still come up with a big injury this year. But as long as he hits when he's in there, and the Mets give him the appropriate rest, with the likes of Endy Chavez and Ryan Church doing lots of platooning with Alou, I'll deal with him as a role-playing veteran making an impact on a team that has the potential to go far....for this last year of his contract.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
2007: .258 avg, 24 HR, 87 RBI, 71 runs, .333 OBP, .448 SLG
A year ago, it was second base that was looking like the Mets' big weakness, and I predicted that Jose Valentin, though he was the starting second baseman at the start of the season, wouldn't end the season the same way. This year, I'm making that same prediction for the Mets' first base situation.
I don't know who might unseat Carlos Delgado, but unless he plays better than he did last year, the Mets will need to find an alternative.
There's one potential saving grace here - Delgado is in the last year of his current contract. There is an option for a fourth year, which would be next year, or a buyout. Perhaps the fourth year will be an incentive that will cause Delgado to produce Carlos Delgado-type numbers (read: about 10 more homers and 20 more RBI than what he gave the Mets last year). And if not, because it's the last year of the contract, the Mets might turn elsewhere sooner than they would have otherwise.
There's one other piece to Delgado's poor season last year. I wonder how much the steroid rumors got to him (and whether or not there is some sort of legitimacy to them....but I'm not going to go there). You look at everything Roger Clemens is going through, and what are the first years the allegations against him come around? His Toronto years, when the numbers of his teammate Delgado also spiked. There were all sorts of reports last year about how slimmed-down Delgado looked, and his numbers certainly took a nosedive in 2007....but could that just have been because he knew of things in Toronto, and didn't speak up? Or because he was involved in them, and was afraid he'd get dragged into the report? Either way, that's now free and clear, and maybe he'll play 2008 with a clear mind.
So there's a couple of ways to go with Carlos Delgado. He could continue this slump that lasted most of last season, and continue to look like his career is coming to a quiet end. Or he could have one last hurrah in a contract year. Or he could bounce back from a slumpy season with a season more indicative of the type of player he has been throughout his career. If it's option one, I think the Mets won't waste their time going with some other option at first base. If it's either of the last two, it will be nice to have a version of Carlos Delgado with the Mets closer to the more productive 2006 version than the disappointing 2007 one.
Friday, February 15, 2008
2007: .276 avg, 33 HR, 112 RBI, 93 runs, 23 SB, .353 OBP
The only problem with Carlos Beltran is that he's making so much freakin' money. If he wasn't making $17 million a year, he'd probably be appreciated more. He's a good ballplayer. The problem is that he played out of his mind directly before becoming a free agent, and cashed in in a ridiculous way. And then he had a season where he hit .268 with just 16 home runs (2005). In 2006, Beltran was a big reason the Mets ran away with the division, hitting 41 homers, but tempering fans' enthusiasm by watching an Adam Wainwright hook fall into the strike zone for the final strike of the Mets' season. Last year, Beltran wasn't bad. He had a hot April, cooled May through July, but was not to blame for the collapse, with a good August and September. The fact remains, though, that every time Beltran does something wrong, it will come back to his salary. $17 million for that?!
Mets fans are "stuck" with him, though - and "stuck" is in quotes because that's not a bad thing. As far as I know, Beltran is a positive (though quiet) clubhouse influence, and though there have been some rocky defensive situations in his Mets career, Beltran is an excellent defender. That's a big deal, especially now with Johan Santana, too. The Mets are solid defensively, and having Beltran in center field is a big reason why. Unfortunately, Beltran's eagerness to get to tough balls might contribute to more injuries than he needs (he's fragile enough as it is - he doesn't need to go crashing into walls in Houston), but you can't say he doesn't hustle out in the field.
Beltran is a good baserunner, and the past couple of years indicate he has rediscovered his power stroke. The problem? He doesn't really have a power stroke historically. In his 7 years in Kansas City, Beltran didn't hit more than 29 homers. He got traded to Houston, and hit 23 there in a little more than half a year. Then he goes and hits 41 and 33 with the Mets. And his batting average, which was better than .300 twice in Kansas City, hasn't come near that with the Mets. Perhaps he'd hit for a better average if he wasn't swinging for the fences. But it looks like there are two choices: no power and good average, or decent power, and see the average suffer. If the Mets are going to hit Beltran third or fourth (and with the presence of Luis Castillo, my hopes that he will hit second are long gone), I'll take the power. And good news on that front: With Pedro Martinez* pitching a full year (hopefully), Beltran should have about 25 homers in Pedro* starts alone (remember a couple of years ago when he homered in about the first 10 starts or so by Pedro*?).
I just wouldn't mind seeing Beltran be able to hit the curve once in a while. For $17 million a year.......
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Bobby Valentine is in Japan these days, managing the Chiba Lotte Marines. I'm sure his name will be popping up in the next month or so as Major League Baseball extends eastward to open up its season.
I've never really had the chance to comment on Valentine, since the blog came into existence during the Art Howe
Most people are either gung-ho in love with Valentine, or way in the other direction, flat-out hating him. I never loved him, but I never hated him...and you can't argue with the success the Mets had while he was manager.
I was mostly amused by Bobby Valentine's antics, the most entertaining of which was the "sneak-back-in-the-dugout-wearing-a-lame-disguise-after-being-thrown-out-of-the-game". That was funny. No one does that. He did. I loved it. Only rarely did I feel his antics got in the way of the game. He was also spirited - he cared, and it showed. You didn't get that same emotion out of his successor.
The one thing I'll fault Valentine for is the fact that some of the Mets mentioned in the Mitchell Report are closely connected with him - especially Matt Franco (who has denied the allegations), who followed Valentine to Japan. I feel like he's the type of guy (Valentine is) that would let players get away with stuff like this right under his nose if it would help them win. I get the impression he'd be one of the people sticking up for Roger Clemens wholeheartedly right now.
Anyway, Valentine is on a list that includes just three other men - Gil Hodges, Yogi Berra, and Davey Johnson - men who took the Mets to the World Series. Until another man takes the Mets one step further (looking your way, Willie Randolph), he'll be the one I look back fondly on for now. So Happy Valentine's Day.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
2007: .325 avg, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 113 runs, 34 SB, .416 OBP
There's not much to say about David Wright. He's what the Mets have needed for a long time - a homegrown product who is equal parts role model, model citizen, and excellent ballplayer. His numbers speak for themselves - and when you consider he got off to a pretty slow start power-wise last season, and still finished with 30 homers, you get an idea of how well he's playing at this stage of his career. So instead of focusing on him in the 2008 season, because he's an automatic at this point, I'm going to look at David Wright in terms of his career, and one potential record that I think is in his grasp, as he enters his fourth full season in the majors.
If you read regularly, you probably know where I'm going with this...I stand by my argument that by the end of his career, David Wright will have made a run at the all-time doubles record. Tris Speaker holds the record, with 792. I'm going to look at Wright in comparison to Craig Biggio, who finished his career last year number 5 on the list, with 668. (I also plan sometime on writing an argument about whether or not Craig Biggio is a Hall of Famer.) That parenthetical note leads to this interesting bit - of the top 20 players on the all-time doubles list, 15 are Hall of Famers. And the ones who are not are Biggio, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds (when he hit doubles instead of homers), Rafael Palmeiro, and Luis Gonzalez.
David Wright has been consistent with his doubles in his career so far. He has 141 in three-and-a-half seasons. He hit 17 in 69 games his rookie year, then 42, 40, and 42. (The Mets team record is 44, held by Bernard Gilkey in 1996.) Counting 2004, that's an average of 35 a year. Speaker's numbers average out to about 37 doubles a year. For Biggio, it was an average of 33 a year over 20 seasons. So Wright is right on target.
And it's not like this is something that's going to go away as he gets older - you'd have to think he'll get more doubles as he gets older, not less, because some of the balls he hits that might have left the ballpark might become doubles off the wall instead of going over the wall. Not to mention the fact that he has a long way to go before he gets older.
For the record, Biggio's season-high for doubles was 56. Speaker's was 59. If Wright mixes one of those in, he'll spike his average a lot higher. The single-season record for doubles is 67, achieved by Earl Webb in 1931.
David Wright has good power, he steals bases, he improves every year as a defender - he helps the team in a number of ways. And he has the potential to be an all-time great. But there's really nothing on his resume that stands out in a record-setting way....except for the two-baggers.
So while you're following the Mets' successes this year as a team, and the great home run individual performances, I'll continue to watch David Wright's pursuit of the team doubles record, one hurdle on his way as he continues his assault on the all-time list.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
2007 (with Mets - 50 games): .296 avg, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 37 runs, 10 SB, .371 OBP
Until the Mets traded for Johan Santana, I would argue the best thing they did this off-season was lock up Luis Castillo. He's a sure/shore thing - he'll shore up the second base position, and he's pretty much a sure bet to hit .300.
Second base has not been a position of strength for the Mets in quite some time - probably since Edgardo Alfonzo was in his prime. With the current crop of Mets, Jose Valentin was the next option, and he's a big dropoff from Castillo - 2006 was the best year Valentin will ever have, and the 45 strikeouts Castillo had all of last year are about a month's work for Valentin in one of his usual years.
I think the presence of Castillo will help make Jose Reyes a better hitter, too. Castillo has such a good approach at the plate, and is the perfect number two hitter. He'll drop down a perfect bunt when that is called for, go the other way in the right situation, and he's smart running the bases, too. He was also one of the few Mets who maintained a high level of performance through September (.404 OBP, 31 hits, 6 doubles, 2 triples) when everyone else was contributing to the collapse. I distinctly remember breathing a sigh of relief whenever Castillo came to the plate, because he always came through. How does that benefit Reyes? He's someone Reyes can continue to learn a positive approach from, and he'll allow Reyes the opportunity to steal a base, then bunt him to third so he can score a run.
Castillo and Reyes up the middle, with Beltran in center, give the Mets one of the best defensive 'up the middles' in baseball. Sure, he's on the wrong side of 30, and he's a bit banged up, but the guy knows how to hit, and he's still one of the best second basemen in the game - or, at least, in the National League. He makes the Mets better. I don't know that there's much more to say about him than that.
Monday, February 11, 2008
2007: .280 avg, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 119 runs, 78 SB, .354 OBP
This season could go one of three ways for Jose Reyes.
1) A season-long funk because he's mad, upset, unnerved by the fact that his name popped up throughout the Johan Santana trade process.
2) The total opposite of number 1 - a great season, to make people realize the Mets are lucky to have him playing shortstop and batting leadoff.
3) The same old, same old...which really isn't that bad.
I'll admit - I was a little fed up with Jose Reyes last year. But while the Mets were collapsing in September, he was hitting .205, stole just 5 bases, and got on base just 35 times in 27 games (especially significant when you consider he was on base an average of 33 times in the previous 5 months on hits alone). So I think I had a right. But time heals all wounds, and I'm ready to start fresh and forgive and forget.
Reyes needs to do the same. I'm sure he's hurt that the Mets could have parted with him to bring a big star to New York. But he needs to understand that's the nature of the business. And the fact is, the Mets didn't trade him, and Omar Minaya bent over backwards to stress they never really were close to doing so. And now the Mets are a lot better, and Jose Reyes is absolutely a big part of why they are so good.
Reyes's performances at the end of 2007 and in the 2006 post-season are starting to show some sort of pattern - either he's wearing down at the end of seasons, or he's pressing too much with everything on the line. Maybe this is a good thing. The Mets surely have to notice this, and make adjustments to it. And other teams might start underestimating him at those points in the year, which could make him more dangerous than he already is.
I think another big plus for Reyes this year is the absence of Rickey Henderson. I don't think it was a coincidence that after his arrival, Reyes's game went downhill. I don't know exactly what to pinpoint there, but it seemed like there was a connection. (Conspiracy theorists [my dad] will say Reyes started to dog it because of Henderson, but I don't think Henderson changed Reyes's attitude, just a little bit of his approach, I think.) Consider Reyes had 46 steals, caught 11 times before the All Star break (and Rickey's arrival), with just 32 steals after, and he was caught 10 times. Something happened.
If I had to make a prediction for Reyes's 2008 season, I'd go somewhere between numbers 2 and 3 at the start of this article - I think he'll come out gangbusters, in part because he wants to make up for the end of last season, and partly because he's happy he wasn't traded. I don't think there will be much anger. And I think he'll be shown lots of love by the Shea fans...I know I'll be on his side again.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
This year, with the Super Bowl now behind us, and baseball that counts a month and a half away, I offer you this quick overview of some of the big names in NASCAR - who they are similar to in other sports, and what teams you might compare them to. Please keep in mind - after one season, I am by no means an expert, and admittedly, some of these are a stretch (and some important names are missing - but I'm just one man, and can only do so much. Apologies to Kurt and Kyle Busch.). But I will offer my explanations. Enjoy. And, by the way, the NASCAR league has just started up again. Shoot me an e-mail if you want in, and I'll try to pull some strings. It's very exclusive. (Click the chart for larger images - I apologize the graphic didn't match up with what I wrote quite like I hoped.)
NASCAR begins and ends with Jeff Gordon. He is the face of the sport, and much like Derek Jeter, he started winning when he was young, and has won throughout his career in a professional manner. In that way, he is like the New York Yankees - when in doubt about picking a winner, Gordon is always a good choice.
Dale Earnhardt, Junior is also everywhere you look in the sport - flashy endorsements, big money - but he doesn't win. Just like Alex Rodriguez, or the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The stark opposite is Mark Martin. He's a part-owner, old guy, and like Brett Favre, considers retiring, but hangs on for 'one more year'. Unlike Favre, Martin only runs half the season, but he's still effective. Like the Green Bay Packers this year, making a run even though you might not expect them to.
Jimmie Johnson, like the Boston Red Sox, has that target on his back - he's the one you want to beat, because he's the defending champ. Like Josh Beckett, Johnson is young, brash, and clutch - also, they're both two-time champions.
Tony Stewart reminds me of Dan Marino - he's a hothead, and you either love him or you hate him. The only difference is that Stewart has won twice - Marino, none. There are a bunch of teams that are this divisive, but I'll go with the Dallas Cowboys.
Juan Pablo Montoya experienced a successful crossover season in 2007, coming over from IndyCar racing (I think I have that right), to do well on the NASCAR circuit. Kind of like Ichiro, not championship-level success, but still good in his own right. I'd also compare it to the Arizona Diamondbacks, experiencing success right off the bat.
These next few guys are comparable to the Diamondbacks, in that they are like small-market success stories:
Martin Truex, Jr. merits a comparison to Rich Harden, a guy who (besides the same intense look in their eyes in those pictures) hangs with the small-market type, just biding their time until a bigger deal comes along and they go big time. That came this year for Truex. I compare it to the Oakland A's, but it's more like the players that go through the system than the team itself.
Clint Bowyer is the same way, but sort of succeeds under the radar, like Brandon Webb. He just goes out and is solid, though Webb is probably the better pro. I'll compare Bowyer to the Minnesota Twins pre-2008, who succeeded despite their diminutive status.
And finally, I'll focus on J.J. Yeley. Yeley left the team he made a name for himself with last year (though, if I have this right, he was sort of forced out because Earnhardt was hired by Joe Gibbs racing), kind of like Barry Zito left Oakland to get rich with San Francisco. I'll throw in the Washington Redskins because both have recently parted ways with Joe Gibbs.
The Daytona 500 is February 17, which seems later to me than last year. But I can't wait - it's a long haul until March Madness.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
I cancelled my subscription to Sports Illustrated about three years ago - maybe four. When I started teaching, I started reading so many children's books and educational publications that I just wasn't reading the magazine, so I viewed it as a waste and cancelled.
Now, I have since subscribed to two magazines - TIME and American History. I read both cover to cover, but American History is quarterly, so it's not a big time investment (but it was a great idea to subscribe to it - I highly recommend it). TIME, obviously, is weekly, but I make time for it. As I progress through my teaching career, I have less planning time, more time not devoted to school work, so I can read a magazine. Maybe two. But I don't know that I'm ready to go back to SI.
And they aren't making it easy for me to come back. Each time they send me an offer, the free gift with the subscription is the same - it's an NFL windbreaker. No one must be biting, because they seem to be having a hard time getting rid of these things:
I think I would go back to SI - but I'm waiting for them to offer something really good. There's a chance I'll go back in October, 2008, if the Mets win the World Series and there's some kind of related gift offer. Anything Mets or Jets-related would draw me...but they need to do better than a windbreaker.
I'm still a little leery about these free gifts. The whole reason I got TIME was because they were offering a free AM/FM radio. I am under the impression that someday I'll find a radio that will allow me to tune into New York's SportsRadio 66/WFAN (660 AM) from my home here in Framingham, Massachusetts. So I bit. Suffice it to say, this radio is not the one - I'm lucky to get an FM station in Massachusetts on this thing, let alone AM in New York City.
So, Sports Illustrated, I'll come back. But I need something good - and it needs to be of good quality. I'm waiting for your next offer.
GOLF: Because I am doing fantasy golf this year, I now have an excuse to watch all of the tournaments, which is why I spent part of this snowy Saturday watching the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. A couple of thoughts:
1) Last year, HBO aired a documentary about Kevin James and Ray Romano participating in the event. It was awesome...but it didn't get a lot of airtime. I saw about 50 minutes of what I think was an hour-long show, and I didn't see it on again. Anyway, it was pretty intriguing, especially when Romano almost made the cut. I wonder if they're doing a follow-up this year, because Romano is in good shape to make the cut this year.
2) The probable joy of James and Romano when they found out they would be golfing together (with their pros) after the pairings came out could only have been rivaled by the agony felt by Don Cheadle when he found out who his amateur partner would be.....Kenny G.
A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: This e-mail from Rob in Jersey serves the purpose of informing, after yesterday's post about the Jets' schedule in 2008:
"Hi John. Regarding the NFL schedules, I don't think many people have caught on to the general change in the weighting procedure since the last divisional realignment. Before Houston joined the league and they went to six four-team divisions, it was three five-team divisions in the NFC, two five-team divisions and one six-team division in the AFC.
Each team played four out of five teams from a given division in the opposite conference. The team that was skipped was based on the previous year's finish. (In other words, a last place team from the year before would get to miss the first place team on the crossover.) Then there were, of course, 8 intra-divisional games (for a total of 12). The final four games were intra-conference games based in part on the previous year's finish and not restricted to just one division.
Now, teams play an entire pre-determined four team NFC division, six intra-divisional games and an entire pre-determined intra-conference division (for a total of 14). There are only two games on the schedule that are based on previous year's finish. Next year, for instance, the Patriots play both of the other AFC first place teams, Indy and Pittsburgh, in addition to the entire AFC West. I'm sure you've known all that silly minutia for eons, but I thought it might be instructive to some of your legions of readers. Call it a pre-emptive strike against people wondering why the Patriots have such a joke of a schedule after going 16-0!"
Thanks for that, Rob.
A COMMENT ON THE COMMENTS: The Southern Bureau weighed in on the Erik Bedard trade, and just to respond/clarify: I did think about him leaving the AL East, and how that could be a benefit...but I just get a feeling. And perhaps it will be just a one-year adjustment, and then Bedard is back to his old self. I don't know....again, just a gut feeling. And I will be rooting for him to do well, though I fear he might not do well in 2008.
Friday, February 08, 2008
I expected the Mets would try to steal some headlines from the Giants by introducing Johan Santana on Monday, but in reality, we all know you can't compete with a Super Bowl championship. So Monday and Tuesday were out, as far as the Mets were concerned.
But the Mets made the most out of the short week.
On Wednesday, it was cliche-o-rama, with Johan Santana, as the Mets introduced their new ace, who will wear number 57, and who knows the team will take it "one game at a time", and they're going out there "to have fun". You've heard it all before - everything he said had been said many, many times before.
As much as Johan was an unexpected surprise these past few weeks, the Mets made the big announcement I've been expecting for a long time -
Billy Joel will perform the last concert at Shea Stadium. It's not when I thought it would be - "Last Play at Shea" will be held on Wednesday, July 16th, which is the day after the All Star Game, which I keep forgetting will also be in New York (at Yankee Stadium). Tickets go on sale in a week - I have to be there. Everyone in my family will be on some sort of phone trying to get tickets....I guarantee it. I also guarantee that during the concert, Billy Joel will make some sort of reference to the previous acts who performed at Shea, including the Beatles, and will probably pay them homage by covering a number of different groups' songs.
The only thing that will make this year at Shea better is closing it down with a World Series championship. How great would it be if the National League is able to pull out the All Star Game win in Yankee Stadium, granting the Mets home field advantage in the World Series, against whoever, allowing the Mets to win a World Series at home, in the last game at Shea, in Game 6 or 7 of the World Series? (I'll answer my own question: It would be awesome, but I'm not getting ahead of myself....the past two years the World Series was my expectation, and we all know both years fell well short. And I sure would love a World Series sweep - if it takes the Mets winning it on the road, I'll be OK with that.)
BEDARD TO SEATTLE: You probably remember that Erik Bedard is one of my favorite players in baseball these days. You might be shocked by what I'm about to say. First of all, it seems like Seattle gave up an awful lot for him - 5 players in exchange for Bedard. He's very good - but even the Mets got Santana for less. (I know nothing about the prospects - but 5 for 1 is a deal for a special type of player...and I'm not sure that's Bedard.) Now, I like Bedard a lot. But I get a bad feeling about him now going to the American League West. Don't get me wrong -I'll be rooting for him, and I'm actually excited that every fifth day I'll have a reason to watch the 10pm games....but I'm not sure he'll have as much success as he did in Baltimore.
COMING SOON: This e-mail has prompted me to lay out a schedule for the next few days (it also includes a clever play on words involving the name of the blog):
Enough football and baseball. Where the heck is the five-part NASCAR preview to run under the headline 200 Miles (per hour) from the Citi?
Sincerely, Dave in Brighton"
First of all, it's just one part - but we're just two days away - it'll be posted Sunday night, a week ahead of the Daytona 500. Saturday will be a piece unrelated to any sport in particular, and then Monday night will begin about a month-long preview of the Mets. And pretty much all baseball all the time from there on out.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
The schedule isn't out yet, but the Jets know who their opponents will be in 2008:
At home: Buffalo, Miami, New England, Cincinnati, Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Arizona
On the road: Buffalo, Miami, New England, Oakland, San Diego, Tennessee, San Francisco, Seattle
Now, other than the fact that it's a pretty weak schedule (and the Jets didn't even finish in last place - imagine Miami's schedule!), the schedule features the Jets against the NFC West. Good things happen when the West comes up in the Jets' NFC Opponents rotation.
1998 - This was before the realignment that resulted in a very balanced schedule. The NFC West at this time was Atlanta, San Francisco, New Orleans, Carolina, and Saint Louis (the Arizona Cardinals were in the NFC East, and the Seahawks were still in the AFC). The Jets went just 2-2 against the West (not playing New Orleans, and losing the opening day heartbreaker to the 49ers), but they made it to the AFC Championship game.
The Jets played the NFC East in 1999, the Central in 2000, then:
2001 - Again, the Jets were just 2-2 against the NFC West, not playing Atlanta, but they made the playoffs.
The Jets faced the NFC North in 2002, the East again in 2003, then:
2004 - In the realigned divisions, the Jets took 3 out of 4 from San Francisco, Arizona, Seattle, and St. Louis, losing to the Rams on the last day of the season, but still clinching a playoff berth. They beat the Chargers in the playoffs, but lost to the Steelers.
In 2005 it was the NFC South, then the North in 2006, and the East last year. It's the West's turn again in 2008...and good things happen when the Jets play the NFC West. There have been playoff appearances in years where the Jets play the other divisions, but there's something to the fact that the Jets have made the playoffs the last three times they have played the likes of the 49ers and Rams.
And I've got nothing else, really, to sustain me from this 2007 season, so I'll just hang my hat on that.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
I've spent the last couple of days trying to figure out why the Giants win has been so satisfying. It finally struck me last night. For the first time in a long time, I got to root for an actual underdog.
This sort of thing doesn't happen when you live in New York. The Yankees are always the most talented and the most well-paid team out there. The Knicks just plain stink. It's not because they're a bunch of young guys in over their head. It's because they're a group of underachieving prima donnas who don't have enough personal pride to care. The Rangers are a slightly colder and slightly less offensive version of the same formula.
This year's Giants, though, are a different story. It's a team made up of good guys who play hard and seem to genuinely like each other. Strahan and Eli hanging out together on that float during the parade? That never would have happened before. The Offense and the Defense have always hated each other. Apparently, that must have been Tiki's fault.
And, they have the lowest payroll in the NFL. It's true. Look it up (I know John will, and probably already has). [I did, and according to USA Today, where that list you see to the right is from, Justin speaks the truth.]
For once, I was rooting against the juggernaut, the monolith, the Yankees. And I get the appeal of that now. But, that doesn't mean I'm changing my ways. The Knicks might still make the playoffs, and we're just a few days away from Pitchers and Catchers.
And with that, I think we turn the page on the Super Bowl. Unless some other huge thing comes up. But I doubt it. I have one more thing to say about the Jets, for tomorrow, and after that, it's our NASCAR pit stop, and by Monday we'll be full-fledged baseball. As Justin says, pitchers and catchers (note that these are not proper nouns) are right around the corner.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
I should’ve known the Patriots’ downfall was coming. But unfortunately, I – and the rest of New England – forgot what it means to be a sports fan in this area. This was a cold, hard slap back into reality.
Being a sports fan in Boston means you don’t plan a victory parade before the victory.
Being a sports fan in Boston means you don’t apply for a trademark for “19-0” or “The Perfect Season” before you’ve had a perfect season.
Being a sports fan in Boston means you don’t wear a red sweatshirt during the final game when your silly, gray hoodie has brought you luck all season.
Being a sports fan in Boston means you don’t get your hair cut before the big game and you don’t let your girlfriend sit in the luxury box (even if she is a supermodel).
Being a sports fan in Boston means you don’t go on your husband’s blog and guarantee victory for your team. (Sorry, that was stupid of me).
We only need to go back in history – 1986 when Roger Clemens left the dugout during Game 6 to shave for the post-game interviews, 2003 when the Red Sox grounds crew painted the World Series logo on the grounds of Fenway before the ALCS was over – to see that these are things you DON’T DO! Because when you do do them, you get screwed. And even if you don’t do them, you’ll probably still get screwed.
No, our sports history is based on suffering, heartache and blame. And now the cycle continues. Just when we thought we had won enough championships in recent years to have gotten rid of all jinxes, superstitions, and plain ol’ bad luck, and could turn all haughty and boastful, the sports gods have brought us back to reality. Face it: this is Boston. This is our legacy. We all should’ve known better.
The thing that stood out most to me here - I thought I knew everything about Game 6 of the 1986 World Series - but I didn't know about the Roger Clemens shaving thing. So I looked it up on google, and it was on a blog or two, but I didn't trust that. So I went straight to the videotape. Early in the game, Clemens clearly has a little stubble (not confirmed by The Wife, who said, looking at the grainy video, "I can't tell, he's like 12."), and kind of has sideburns. Then, later, during Gary Carter's at bat in the 10th inning, he's in the dugout, and he's clean shaven. I couldn't find a definitive image from the early part of the game - but someone online somewhere took this picture of Clemens from his TV, and it is clear that Roger shaved:
Now, I know we have to turn the page to baseball. The Southern Bureau can't wait:
"Lets talk baseball. Forget football.
Mets projected lineup: courtesy mets.mlb.com
SS Jose Reyes
2B Luis Castillo
3B David Wright
OF Carlos Beltran
1B Carlos Delgado
OF Moises Alou
OF Ryan Church
C Brian Schneider
I promise you - by Sunday night/Monday morning, I'll be full-fledged baseball. I'm working on a month-long season preview. Trust me. First, a couple of more football loose ends to tie up, then a brief NASCAR pit stop. Then away we go with baseball. Please bear with me.
Monday, February 04, 2008
But when the Patriots scored with about 3 minutes left, and the Giants were facing fourth down, and later third and long, I thought it was all over. And it was hard to get too disappointed, because as much as I believed the Giants could win the game, I never really expected that they would.
As soon as the game got underway, the Giants' chances started looking up - they controlled the clock in the first quarter, keeping the Patriots' offense off the field. Advantage: Giants.
Then the Patriots held them to a field goal. Advantage: Patriots.
The Giants had a tremendous pash rush, and Tom Brady got knocked down more than in any game I ever saw him get hit. Advantage: Giants.
The Patriots were still able to get in the end zone. Advantage: Patriots.
In the back-and-forth fourth quarter, the Giants looked like they would win, then lose, then they started getting breaks (breaks which usually go the Patriots' way), and they were able to pull it out. I never expected that they would. Going back to August, I thought the Giants would be awful this year. I thought Tom Coughlin would be gone. I thought the players would hate that he was back. I thought the Jets would have a more successful season - by a lot. There are a lot of things I was thinking as the game ended - here are my thoughts:
-I don't think this is why they lost (or at least, the number one factor of why they lost - it was probably a factor), but the Patriots got out of character this week. They were cocky. They don't get cocky - it's part of what has made them so successful. They had a target on their back, which said 18-0. To go around like they were going around Arizona the past week or so made that target grow bigger and bigger, in my opinion. Two pieces of evidence to support my theory:
1) When another team makes a prediction, or says something, a la Plaxico Buress saying the Giants would win 23-17, the Patriots usually let it go, and say, our actions on Sunday will speak for us. But Tom Brady (Brady of all people!) responded to Burress' comments, saying something like, "He thinks we're only scoring 17 points!?" In reality, they got 14.
2) I've mentioned this before - but Bill Belichick was downright charming with the media the week leading up to the Super Bowl. I have no distinct memory of previous media days, or the weeks leading up to his previous Super Bowls, but I don't remember Belichick talking so much to the media ever. He was talking about his summer plans, how successful the season was, etc. Almost like he was trying to make sure his image for the 19-0 team was a positive image. After the Super Bowl, we saw the real Belichick - one word answers, ornery, uncomfortable to interview. I don't really blame him - but it's his job to talk to the media, win or lose. He doesn't handle that too well in general, let alone after a Super Bowl loss. And the week leading up to the Super Bowl was really out of character. And I think a lot of the Patriots were out of character leading up to the Super Bowl.
-Tom Brady, on the other hand, is a class act. He really is, as football players go. He stood there post-game, answered all questions, didn't cut interviews short like Belichick did, and he gave decent soundbites. I understand it must be hard to do that after a tough loss - as a fan, if someone tried to interview me after a tough loss, I'd kill them. But that's not my job. It's the job of Belichick and Brady, and Brady handles it very well.
-Eli Manning's throw to David Tyree, which Tyree made a circus grab of against his helmet, after Manning eluded the defense, which looked to have a sack, is exactly why "In the Grasp" should NEVER be called in the NFL. I hate it. I understand it's meant to protect the quarterbacks, so they don't get slammed to the ground....but let them play. One of the most amazing plays in history happened as a result.
-Did you notice in Peyton Manning's booth, on one of the later replays, the girl standing next to Manning, after Eli threw the go-ahead touchdown, when Manning is cheering, that the girl was dying to give Peyton a high five and Peyton wouldn't even look at her? That was pretty funn.
-Again, I never watch Super Bowl halftime shows, so maybe I'm missing out - but I thought Tom Petty sounded awesome. I couldn't believe that he sounded so album-quality during halftime of the Super Bowl.
-If I was a fan of either team, I might have had a heart attack. That fourth quarter was way too exciting. I don't mean to make light of it, though - I wouldn't be surprised if some people did feel light-headed in that game. I can't even imagine if that were the Jets how I would have handled it. I get way too emotional in those situations.
-I know this sounds unbiased coming from a Jets fan, but this was not the greatest Super Bowl upset of all time. That conversation has to begin and end with the New York Jets over the Baltimore Colts. If not for Super Bowl III, Super Bowl XLII might never happen. You need to understand the history of the AFL-NFL merger to know how big that win was by the Jets...and though the game was a snorefest, it was the most important snorefest in history.
-About the only drawback in my mind is the fact that now the 1972 Dolphins are vindicated. But I think I can deal with that, because I've dealt with it all my life. I think I still hate Miami more than New England...but the gap is narrowing.
Here's my final word on the Patriots' 2007 season. For about half the season, they were one of the greatest teams of all-time - probably the greatest. But towards the end of the year, they became just a very good football team, even an excellent football team. But a beatable football team - not really the invinceable 16-0 team their record showed them as. Teams were getting close to beating them. Unfortunately for them, they lost in the worst spot imagineable. At 8-0 or 9-0, they were dominant. In the second part of the season, they were just another good 7-0/8-0 team. And 7-0 teams sometimes lose in the playoffs. The Patriots have been ripe for the picking for the last couple of months. On Sunday, they got picked.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
- The Giants defense has been as solid as a Giants fan could have hoped.
- Tom Petty sounded AWESOME at halftime. I'm not a huge fan - I'm a casual 'Greatest Hits'-type fan....but he was great. I would have figured him for a horrible, Bob Dylan-type voice, but he was great.
- Big play by Kevin Boss just now - first play by the Giants in the fourth quarter. Shockey who?
- Tom Brady might actually be hurt....he's not able to evade the Giants rush. I thought that was a media-overblown story.
- I don't care what color his skin is, Mike Carey is an excellent referee. (He became the first black referee in a Super Bowl Sunday night.)
A couple of predictions I didn't have the chance to put on the site before the game, but they came in well advance of the game - my dad picked Patriots 31, Giants 20. And then there's this from Rob in New Jersey:
"Hi John. Longtime reader, 4th or 5th time emailer. Love the site (...and all the rest of the email versions of the b.s. sports radio callers use to butter up the hosts in the hopes of getting more than the usual 23 seconds of air time). Anyway, I saw your prediction for the Super Bowl and your rationalization, and I couldn't help but take umbrage. And I wanted to register my umbrage before kickoff.
The idea that the 2007 Giants are the 2001 Patriots incarnate has been making me laugh. The 2001 Pats lost on November 18th of that year (to the Rams) and never lost again. They entered the SB on an eight game winning streak. Several of those wins were decisive. The Giants enter today's game on a three game winning streak (all three playoff games). They lost two of their final three games. In the one win, Eli Manning fumbled FIVE TIMES and threw 2 or 3 picks (can't remember which). Yes, they played the Patriots tough, but the Giants have not come close to duplicating the impressive pre-Super Bowl run of the 2001 Patriots, in my opinion. (I could provide more facts and figures, but nobody wants that.)
I may be proven to be a dope as the game unfolds, but I wanted to make sure my assessment didn't come off as Monday morning quarterbacking. Pats 41 - Giants 13. Keep up the good work!
Cherry Hill, NJ"
Point taken, Rob. But I wasn't really looking that far back - I just meant in terms of Super Bowl matchups - not many people gave the 2001 Patriots a chance against the powerful Rams team, except for those who really knew the Patriots. The same happened this year with the Giants, in my opinion.
- Back to the bullets - the Giants just scored to take a 10-7 lead in the fourth quarter.
- That score reminds me of another thing - it sounds like (and on this broadcast, I realize it could be skewed) there are more Giants fans than Patriots fans. Although, I guess there has been more for a Giants fan to cheer for than a Pats fan up until now.
One more e-mail - I haven't exactly been tortured by the fact that the Giants are playing the Patriots - it's been an easy decision for me to root for the New York team, and against the perfect season. But it's downright torturous for my cousin - I think he intended for this to be published:
"We'll, the worst has happened. The Patriots and the Giants- a Jets fan's nightmare. I don't buyall this BS about a close game. We haven't had a good old fashioned blow out in a while at the Super Bowl. It used to happen every year. The Patriots will put an exclamation point on their perfect season with a big win. I'll say 42-17. The weather will be good and their experience will prevent any early jitters. The Giants have to have their luck run out soon. They were supposed to be bad. Their coach was supposed to be on the hot seat. Yours truly picked them to be 5-11. I still haven't gotten over week 5 when the Jets had them beat. Look at their post season so far. Tampa had barely beaten anyone all year. Dallas was banged up and playing lousy at the end of the year. Green Bay came out of no where this year. Who knows how good they really were? If I sound bitter, well I am. Too many crazy Giant fans yelling Phil Simms is a Hall of Fame QB while I was in High School. Brady broke Simms' completion % record earlier this post season. Now let him squash the Big Blue on Super Bowl Sunday. And the best part is that recent history tells us the the Super Bowl losers usually fair poorly the following year. Next year is a green and white year. Wait until next year..... Cuz"
I'm heading back to the couch. This should be a great ending. If it merits more writing, I'll revisit it on Monday. Post your reactions, if you have any, in the comments, or send along an e-mail.