Wednesday, July 30, 2008


We're heading into August, and I'm thinking about October.

It occurred to me today, as I was thinking about the trading deadline, that this is one of those trade deadlines where it feels like it will have a serious impact in a couple of months. So I'd be disappointed if the Mets didn't make a move.

Jason Bay would be ideal at this point, but I'm not getting my hopes up for him or Matt Holliday. If it happens, great, because that's the piece the Mets need. If not, I just hope they make a move that reflects what fans want - don't give up the farm, but show us that you can make the right move.

I'm thrilled that the Mets don't seem to be interested in Manny Ramirez. It's a double-edged sword with him - whoever gets him, if he's traded by tomorrow, will get the "I'll play for you" Manny. But then there's the Manny who doesn't run out ground balls and complains about a balky knee lurking in the shadows, waiting to bust out when things turn sour. And that's a distraction the Mets don't need.

What I'm hoping is that the Mets don't overreact to prevent him from going to Florida. I say let him go there. He will drag Hanley Ramirez way down - that kid is impressionable, and you put the wrong guy there, he'll go right down the tubes with him. That's why getting rid of Miguel Cabrera was such a good move for them. And if the Marlins do deal Jeremy Hermida (and Josh Willingham, I think I heard), it's a better long-term move for Boston.

And I still suspect that after tomorrow, within a week or two, someone might go ahead and add Barry Bonds. He'll help someone down the stretch, and I think one team will become desperate enough to make the move. I hope it's not the Mets.

PRETTY GOOD TIME TO BE AN ANGELS FAN: Gotta love what the Angels have been doing if you're a fan...They're playing the best baseball in the league, and then they add to it by acquiring Mark Teixeira for Casey Kotchman. A great trade for them - they didn't give up much in a definite upgrade. They were already going to cruise through the rest of the season...this only makes them more of a threat in the post-season. (I heard today that they've gone 170 post-season innings without a that true? Possible? That streak will end this year.)

Monday, July 28, 2008


If you would have told me in April that this 3-game Mets-Marlins series in the last week of July could end with the Marlins in first place, I would have thought you were crazy.

If you would have told me in June that this 3-game Mets-Marlins series in the last week of July could end with the Mets in first place, I would have thought you were crazy.

But here we are.

And it's a credit to the Marlins that they're in this situation. They've been hanging on all season, and went through a stretch about a month ago where it looked like they were tanking and it would become a two-horse race in the NL East. They righted the ship, and here we are.

They're a game behind the Phillies right now, but have been playing much better baseball lately than Philadelphia.

They were in first place as recently as May 31, with a starting rotation you probably couldn't name (I can't) and are led by Fredi Gonzalez, who has to be the manager of the year.

Like the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East, they've proven to be more than a fluke, and a team that will factor into the conversation for years to come.

But for now, it's time the Mets put them away.

Because if you'd have asked me in April if the Mets would be comfortably ahead in the division by the beginning of August, I would have definitively said yes. And now, with everything that has happened this season, the Mets have that chance. They need to take advantage.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I'm glad Johan Santana pitched a complete game Sunday.

I'm glad he showed that he could stretch it out, throwing 118 pitches.

And, yes, it came at a time when the Mets needed it - the bullpen was worked to the max in Saturday night's 14-inning game, and the Mets get right back to work Monday in Florida.

But it's not the same as his last two complete game opportunities.

Santana showed us on Sunday that he's capable of going 9 innings, and throwing more than 100 pitches.

The Mets (and Mets fans) now need him to be able to do that in games where the score is not 9-1 and there's more on the line.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


The third in an occasional (OK, you caught me, weekly) series. I'm not going to sit here and try to defend Shea Stadium as one of the best ballparks of all time. I can honestly tell you, though, that I never walked into Shea and thought, "This place is a dump." The bottom line is, Shea is where the Mets play, and for me, it will always be special. I realize these are pretty individual memories, but I hope reading them stirs up something in your mind about some place that you may take for granted.

I've done some research and concluded the date must have been Tuesday, May 13, 1997. (The attendance that day according to the box score I found was 13,997. Think that's accurate, or someone was just having fun with numbers?)

The low attendance number also helps explain why my dad and I were able to get walk-up tickets, and sit about twenty rows from the field in the orange seats (field level), a little bit behind first base.

I was able to identify the game because of one notable thing that happened - Armando Reynoso started the game for the Mets...and he also hit a home run. I remember that very well.

What I didn't remember was that future Mets NLCS hero Mike Hampton started the game for Houston. He pitched well in that game, according to the box score (except for the homer to the opposing pitcher). We also saw John Franco notch his 11th save of the season, in a Mets 4-3 win.

But the reason this game stands out is not something you can find in the box score. And it happened during the first at-bat of the game.

Like I said, my dad and I bought tickets the day of the game. I had just come home from college, and we decided to catch the Mets...and we decided to get good seats. So there we were, 15 rows from the field, when Craig Biggio stepped in to lead off the game.

He fouled a pitch off, and it headed our way. I had been close to foul balls before, but this one looked really close. My heart started to beat faster. I put my arms up, and it was more than just the obligatory reach-out - this one I had a legitimate shot at getting.

It was a pop-up type of foul ball. So when it started its descent, it was weird - it was getting bigger and bigger, like it was coming straight down towards me. So my hands went straight up, with a crowd of other hands. And then I felt it right in my palm - stinging - and then it was gone. I missed it, I think because I was tippy-toeing trying to outreach everyone else and I wasn't focused on catching the ball.

I turned to look at my dad, disappointed. And there he was, holding the ball.

"Wow, Dad!" I said. "18 years, and I finally got a foul ball!"

"I don't think so," he said. "48 years, and I finally got one."

He still has it. And I'm glad my only foul ball opportunity happened at Shea. Hopefully I'll get another at Citi Field. Or my dad will.

Friday, July 25, 2008


It's been a weird summer for me. Usually about this time I'm getting psyched for fantasy football and the regular football season. It could be due to the pending arrival of baby #2, or the amount of time I'm spending with Baby #1, but every time I hear a football story on ESPN or read something in the paper, I kind of zone out. I haven't even bought my fantasy football preview magazine yet...don't know if I'm going to. Heck, think about the last time I even mentioned the Jets on this blog.

That all could change very soon. Up until now, the story I've ignored the most has been Brett Favre. Favre has to put this nicely....a bit of a pest recently. And I don't think he should have made any retirement announcement if he had any thought that he might get the 'itch' to play again this season. And I don't think it's fair to the Packers what he's doing right now.

And right now, there's no denying he's going to come back. And there's no chance he comes back to Green Bay. And there's about a 50% chance that he's going to come back as a member of the New York Jets...and that's just too good to ignore.

Here are some of the pros and cons of the situation:

1. The Jets have a chance to get one of the best quarterbacks in the game.

2. He's coming off one of his better seasons in recent years.

3. He has a lot to prove.

4. He's better than what the Jets have right now.

1. He's 38, and like the Mets, the Jets have a way of screwing up big acquisitions like this.

2. Though Favre has never had a great supporting cast, the Jets are, well, the Jets.

3. The signing of Favre means goodbye to Chad Pennington. But at least he's giving way to Brett Favre, and not Kellen Clemens. I could live with that, I suspect he can too.

I've written about him before - I like Brett Favre. When the Jets struggled (which was for most of my life), I liked to root for Green Bay, and Favre. So there would be a tremendous amount of symmetry for me for Favre to go out as a member of the Jets.

I don't have a problem with him wanting to write a better ending to his career, better than a loss in the conference championship game, in which his final pass was an interception. I just think he could have thought a little more about how many other people his decision affected before he did anything rash.

All that said, if Brett Favre becomes a Jet this weekend, my interest level in football is ramped up tenfold.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


For the first time since mid-April, the Mets are atop the National League East by themselves.

How they got there on Thursday, considering the way they've played this season, could surprise you.

Carlos Delgado had the game-winning hit, snapping a 1-1 tie in the 8th inning with a 2-run double, capping a series where he smoked the ball nearly every at-bat, and continuing to be hot at the plate.

Oliver Perez came up big in another big game, striking out 12 over seven-and-two-thirds innings, while walking just one.

And the Mets took two out of three from the Phillies, after Tuesday's potentially devastating loss, to improve to 9-4 against Philadelphia this season.

Just like last year never happened.

NOT NEWS: Fred Wilpon admitted he "screwed up" with the firing of Willie Randolph. Apparently he had a chance to convince Omar Minaya to wait until the morning, but didn't do it. In other news, the sky is blue, dogs chase cats, and the Phillies don't scare me (anymore).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


The optimist in me wants to just say, "It's only one game. There's two more against the Phillies, the Mets can take two out of three and be back in first place." But the reality is, this is just what happened last year - late comebacks by the Phillies finished the Mets, and they still really haven't recovered.

The pessimist in me, the one who realizes this is one of the most frustrating seasons in recent Mets history, and the one who feels like it might end in disappointment, says Tuesday night's game was the one the Mets needed to have, because it was their ace on the mound, and it was supposed to set the tone against the Phillies.

"But wait," says the optimist. "Remember the fourth of July? The first of four in Philadelphia? The Mets were supposed to win that one, too, and set the tone. They lost that Santana start, and all that did was spur them on to a 10-game winning streak...and that loss was a game the Phillies also won in their final at-bat. And the Mets are still 7-4 against Philly this year."

So I guess all is not lost - but it certainly puts the Mets in a bad spot tonight losing in the fashion they did last night. Especially since it's unknown whether Billy Wagner will be available again, and no one showed the ability to slam the door at the end of last night's game.

In part, I blame Johan Santana. Earlier this year, I wrote how it was part of what a smart pitcher Santana is that he knows his limitations as a pitcher, and isn't always pushing himself to the point of bodily harm to go that extra inning. Well, I'm starting to realize that maybe he could push himself once in a while, especially in what he called his "biggest game with the Mets", and on a night when the Mets knew they didn't have their closer (as unreliable as he is). (In this, I agree with what Tim Smith wrote in the New York Daily News - you can check it out here.)

OK, so Santana threw 105 pitches. He threw 75 of them for strikes - he probably wouldn't have thrown a ton more in the ninth, the way he was throwing, and if he got into trouble, then you turn to the bullpen.

You can also blame the defense - Jose Reyes made a bad play trying to get a force at second on a slow grounder with the bases loaded. In that situation you have to get the sure out - that's the benefit of a 3-run lead. Instead, the Phillies kept the bases loaded, and had no one out forever in the ninth inning. And of course the bullpen gets its share of the blame. (I'm not sure why Aaron Heilman wasn't the choice to start the inning, or Joe Smith - both do well against righties and lefties. Maybe because Duaner Sanchez had closed before....but I didn't like that Smith only faced one batter.)

But for a change, you couldn't blame the offense in a Johan Santana start. 5 runs isn't a ton, but it was enough last night. And they could have added more if it weren't for some good defensive plays by the Phillies, where you just have to tip your cap. Chase Utley laid out for a liner to end an inning with the bases loaded, and Endy Chavez was nailed at the plate twice - once from left, once from right - you have to take your chances with his speed on the basepaths, so I don't blame him at all.

The pressure is on John Maine tonight. The last time he faced this situation, he pitched well, and then left the game with that arm cramp. What the Mets need is a win in game two against Philadelphia. Then, and only then, will Tuesday night's game become "only one game".

METS KILLERS: It dawned on me last night that the Phillies have definitely built their team a bit around players who do well against the Mets. They have Pat Burrell, who has been killing the Mets on a Chipper Jones-like pace his whole career. Then they traded for Joe Blanton, partly because of his career record against the Mets (in limited starts, granted) - in two previous starts he hadn't allowed a run to New York. And then there's So Taguchi, who was one of the reasons the Mets lost to St. Louis in 2006, and he had a huge pinch-hit in the 9th inning last night. Perhaps this was common knowledge to others, but I just realized it last night watching Blanton and later Saguchi.

TRADE UPDATE: Great move for Arizona picking up Jon Rauch. I'm not sure what their setup situation has been, but if they move Rauch in to the setup position for Brandon Lyon, that's where he's most comfortable. And if they need him to close, for whatever reason, he's proven he's more than capable of doing that. Now that they're back to .500 the Diamondbacks might as well be the team to come out of the NL West...and Rauch will certainly help. (Although this young second baseman they traded away seems like a good pickup for Washington - apparently he's very fast, with a good batting average and on-base percentage. Seems like he'll be a good leadoff hitter, and could be a big part of their future...worth keeping an eye on. He was sent to Triple-A.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


When I did my roundup yesterday, I struggled with the "Most Impressive" label over the past two weeks, finally settling on the feat the Mets have pulled off by winning 11 of 13 and putting themselves in first place.

But they couldn't have done a lot of what they've done recently without a tremendous effort from Mike Pelfrey. To me, Pelfrey's 8-6 record overall and 3.81 ERA (6-0, 2.70 in his last ten starts) don't come as a surprise, but he certainly could have qualified as "most impressive" the last month.

Here's Pelfrey's runs allowed in his past ten starts: 2, 1, 1, 6, 0, 4, 1, 0, 0, 5. He's averaged just under seven innings per outing in that stretch, and when he gave up a homer in Cincinnati in the second inning on Sunday (he would give up two more that day), it was the first time in 64 innings that someone had homered off of him.

Pelfrey came into the season a huge question mark - remember, the Mets weren't sure if it they would need to 'settle' on him as an injury replacement for Orlando Hernandez? And he was coming off an off-season where his stock plummeted, as he wasn't even valued by other teams in Mets' trade talks?

Well, that's changed. Pelfrey figures to continue to be one of the most important members of the team through the next month, as he 1) hopefully continues to pitch like he has, and 2) becomes what I'm sure will be the focus of teams looking to trade with the Mets. And if you're the Mets, you have to think long and hard about whether or not to trade Pelfrey - he's what the Mets don't have a lot of right now - a young and healthy pitcher. (I mentioned last week that if the Mets had an opportunity to get Matt Holliday from Colorado for Mike Pelfrey I would do it...but I don't know that there are many other values that are worth trading him for.)

There's one thing that might be a concern when it comes to Pelfrey, although it's too soon to tell if it's a pattern yet. He's been very streaky thus far at the beginning of his career. Remember when he started last year 0-7? Then this year after a 2-0 start, he lost six straight starts, before his current six-game winning streak. Maybe from here on out he's figured something out and he wins way more than he loses, but it's worth pointing out here.

As important as Pelfrey is right now, he won't figure into this big series with Philadelphia - that task falls on Johan Santana (Tuesday), John Maine (Wednesday), and Oliver Perez (Thursday). But neither is that Pelfrey's role...yet. If he continues to pitch like this, the Mets will be re-working that rotation to make sure he is the one pitching when everything is on the line.

IN MEMORIAM: I forgot to mention this last week, and then when I heard about Jerome Holtzman passing away, it reminded me, and I didn't want to let another day go by without saying something. On July 14, Red Foley passed away at the age of 79. Foley was the official scorer for Mets and Yankees games for many years - and it seemed that every game I watched growing up, his name would come up whenever there was a scoring decision. To me, the name Red Foley was synonymous with "official scorer"...and when I hear the term official scorer come up when I'm watching a game today, the first person I think of is Red Foley. I guess I always though that would be a neat job.

I was doing a lot of traveling around the time he died - I just want to make sure he got the recognition he deserved.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Time again to give you my thoughts on the good and bad from the Mets, as well as around baseball:

MOST IMPRESSIVE: This current stretch, where the Mets have won 11 out of 13, has saved their season. Again, I'm mad that the Mets are only showing signs of life this late in the season, but better late than never, I guess. Huge series beginning Tuesday night at Shea against Philadelphia, which the Mets could come out of in sole possession of first place (and watch out for Florida, surprisingly still just a half-game back). The Phillies are on the ropes, waiting to be knocked out.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: The Mets need a corner outfielder, no doubt. But what Fernando Tatis has done in the meantime has been huge. He's the type of player you see on winning teams - stepping in when called upon and producing. He single-handedly got the Mets two of those wins on their winning streak. Unfortunately, you can't count on him the rest of the way to do this consistently. That's why he's a "surprise".

LEAST IMPRESSIVE: I wrote last week about how Jose Reyes needed to have a huge second half for the Mets. He came out of the All Star break going 1-for-13 in his first three games. He popped a lot of balls up, a sign he's either tired or trying to do too much. That's just what the Mets didn't need. The Mets went 1-2 over that stretch...but this story has a happy ending - in the win on Sunday, Reyes was 4-for-6, scoring three times.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Billy Wagner did to the National League this year what Trevor Hoffman did to the NL (and what I then thought would be the Mets' chances in the World Series) in 2006. He blew the All Star Game, which eventually gave home-field advantage in the World Series to the American League, and in the process continued to show why Mets fans can't have 100% confidence in him come October.

MOST IMPRESSIVE: I don't know how much good it will do, but I like the fact that the Brewers are going for it. The CC Sabathia acquisition was a great one, we'll see what adding Ray Durham brings. (Ned Yost says Rickie Weeks will still be the primary second baseman.) But it certainly sends a message that the Brewers are knocking on the Cubs' door - pounding, actually. And even though the Cubs did all right for themselves with their trades, I'm not totally buying into them yet.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: I'm classifying it as a surprise that after slogging through the worst stretch of their season (2-8 over their last ten games), the Tampa Bay Rays still have a one-and-a-half game lead in the AL East. I know a lot of people think they'll fade, and I'm not a 100% believer in them, but I'm starting to think they'll be sticking around. And the big key is they gave the Red Sox fits when they weren't that they are good, they can beat the Sox..they've already shown that this year. The AL East race might be one of the better races to watch down the stretch.

LEAST IMPRESSIVE: Until they get a team up over the .500 mark, the National League West continues to qualify itself as a disgrace. I'm pretty sure someone will start running away with that division, and be above .500, but when you have the Colorado Rockies 14 games below .500 and only six games out of first, that's a problem.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: You have to be disappointed if you're a fan of the Atlanta Braves. They're basically what the Mets were three weeks ago - underachieving, looking up at the Marlins, realizing they could be right in that mix, but aren't. I thought Atlanta would be very good this year...but they've never really put it together. The problem certainly isn't at home, where Atlanta is 31-20 and Chipper Jones is hitting well above .400. It's the 15-32 road record that's done them in.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


If you're getting tired of me writing about Billy Joel and concerts, well, this is it. I won't be writing about many more, because I don't think I'll be attending many more live musical events. The reason is, I just don't think anything could top what I saw on Friday night at Shea Stadium.

I can't believe how lucky I was that a) this show that I so badly wanted to see my brother was able to get tickets to, b) when he did get tickets, it was to the Friday show (the Final Last Play at Shea), and not the Wednesday one, and c) that this show was better than I expected.

This was no ordinary concert - it was an event. It was a huge event. I can't believe how awesome it was.

First of all, the set-up was pretty cool. It was pretty neat seeing the stage set up in center field, with the video boards surrounding it, with Citi Field looming over the stage, and the bowl of Shea surrounding everything. I took these pictures with my phone, just to give you an idea of what it looked like, before the show:

Then there was the performance itself. Mohegan Sun was less than a warmup compared with this show. This was Billy Joel in his prime, when a Billy Joel concert was huge. It was 3 hours, five guests, and 30+ songs. It was awesome.

I was dead wrong about Elton John showing up. I don't know why he didn't...but that's OK. Tony Bennett joined Billy Joel again for 'New York State of Mind', and then Garth Brooks did 'Shameless', Steven Tyler came out and did Aerosmith's 'Walk This Way', Roger Daltrey did 'My Generation' (as Billy Joel smashed a guitar), and the rumors about Paul McCartney turned out to be true, as he showed up at the end and played 'I Saw Her Standing There' and 'Let It Be'. It was huge. Huge.

The only thing that made me the least bit wary the whole night was the weather - it was about 95 degrees, and Billy Joel busted it - to the point where he couldn't catch his breath in between songs. I was worried for his health.

But he made it through, and I can't believe how Shea rocked out to Billy Joel. We were in the mezzanine (the green level - third one up), and the stadium shook more than I ever felt it before. Keith Hernandez always talks about how the Mets can feel it when the stadium shakes like that - I've never felt it wasn't even like that in the 2000 playoffs when I went. But it was like that on Friday night - I could feel our section moving, and I saw the upper deck bouncing. Just tremendous.

No better way for me to say good bye to Shea Stadium.

Here's a list of the songs that were performed, if you're interested:

1. Star-Spangled Banner
2. Miami 2017
3. Prelude/Angry Young Man
4. My Life
5. The Entertainer
6. Summer, Highland Falls
7. Zanzibar (with Shea Stadium highlights playing on the video screens)
8. Allentown
9. Ballad of Billy The Kid
10. New York State of Mind w/Tony Bennett
11. Root Beer Rag
12. Movin' Out
13. Goodnight Saigon
14. Don't Ask Me Why
15. This Night
16. Keeping the Faith
17. The Downeaster Alexa
18. An Innocent Man
19. Shameless w/Garth Brooks
20. She's Always A Woman
21. Captain Jack
22. Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)
23. River of Dreams
24. A Hard Day's Night
25. Walk This Way w/Steven Tyler
26. We Didn't Start The Fire
27. It's Still Rock 'N Roll To Me
28. My Generation w/Roger Daltrey
29. You May Be Right
30. Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
31. Only The Good Die Young
32. I Saw Her Standing There w/Paul McCartney
33. Piano Man
34. Let It Be w/Paul McCartney

Friday, July 18, 2008


The second in an occasional series. I'm not going to sit here and try to defend Shea Stadium as one of the best ballparks of all time. I can honestly tell you, though, that I never walked into Shea and thought, "This place is a dump." The bottom line is, Shea is where the Mets play, and for me, it will always be special. I realize these are pretty individual memories, but I hope reading them stirs up something in your mind about some place that you may take for granted.

My first ever trip to Shea Stadium is one I don't remember. My dad says we had great seats, and he took me as a baby to see the Mets, along with both of my grandfathers. I think that's pretty cool - even though both have long since passed away, I take pride in knowing they were at the first game I ever went to. (The games I attended with my paternal grandfather were some of my favorite memories - he would always go to the Senior Citizen's Days - I thought of him last Thursday, at one of those summer afternoon games, which he would have attended, when I took my daughter to her first game at Shea.)

I bring this up because the one constant in my early attendance at Shea was my dad. Even when I was in my teenage years, I rarely went to games without him. And whenever I attended an Opening Day, I went with my dad.

There's always something special about Opening Day. There's usually a ceremony, there's always the hope that "This could be the year", and even though the weather in New York wasn't always great, there was always the sense that spring was in the air.

I've written before about my favorite Opening Days - click here to read about them and to read the story about my dad lying to a nun.

But one in particular stands out right now, because of the series the Mets played at Shea just before the All Star break. The Colorado Rockies made their last visit to Shea Stadium, and the Mets unceremoniously swept them away. It dawned on me that after Sunday night's game, the Rockies had played their last game at the building where they played their first.

I was at that Opening Day - and the one thing that stands out in my memory was that they sold out of programs. I sent away for one (at left), and I guess anyone could have, but I also got this letter of apology, which proves I was there (at right). (I also remember that when the Marlins made their first visit a month later, there were plenty of programs.)

But that expansion was a big deal to me. I remember taping the expansion draft, watching intently as these players I had never heard of were taken by the two new teams.

And I was deathly afraid the Mets would lose to this brand-new team. They didn't, though they also didn't crush them like I hoped they would. The Mets swept the 2-game series, 3-0 and 6-1. So there's a bit of symmetry - a Mets sweep to start and end Colorado's time at Shea. Dwight Gooden pitched a complete game shutout that Opening Day - one of his last good starts at Shea. And for this Opening Day, the weather was nice - a very sunny Opening Day.

I don't know how many Rockies fans could tell you who started the first-ever game for Colorado, or how many know the result - but I do (David Nied was the starter). And 20 years from now, when the AFLAC Trivia Question asking "Where was the Colorado Rockies' first-ever game?" shows up, hopefully I'll be watching, and this memory of Shea Stadium will come back to me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


It's the question I'm sure is on every Mets fan's mind - will Friday's Billy Joel performance at Shea be as good or better than Wednesday's?
I was thrilled when my brother was able to score tickets to the show on Friday - because, unlike the people who scrambled to buy the tickets on Wednesday for the "final concert ever at Shea Stadium", I would be seeing the actual final concert ever at Shea Stadium.

The thing is, the first show, last night, sounds like it was awesome. It was as I expected - similar to the Mohegan Sun show I saw last month, but with more bells and whistles - and lots of guest appearances. There was Tony Bennett joining in on "New York State of Mind", John Mayer playing guitar on "This is the Time", John Mellencamp singing "Pink Houses", and Don Henley doing "Boys of Summer".

The Beatles tribute was to be expected - he did three - "A Hard Day's Night", "She Loves You", and "Please Please Me"...and I'm sure he'll do at least three on Friday. And changing some of the words to songs like "Miami 2017" to include Mets references I'm sure will happen again. But I doubt Tony Bennett would make another appearance...although if he's paid the right amount he probably would. (What awards show was I watching where he got up there and thanked Target for being his sponsor?)

I'm almost sure of one thing - Elton John will make an appearance Friday night. He's in concert in Atlantic City on Saturday night. I thought maybe Bruce Springsteen might be a possibility too, because they both hail from the area, and they both have played Shea Stadium. My brother said, What would they possibly sing together? He's probably right - it wouldn't work...although I think Billy Joel imitates Springsteen on "A Matter of Trust". Anyway, Springsteen is in Europe, so there's no shot of that. (I also always associate Springsteen and Joel together because of the college radio show Justin from NYC and I did - Springsteen is his favorite, Joel mine, and we always played them once an hour. So I thought out of Billy Joel's sentiment to me, he would make the arrangements. I guess I was wrong.)

And this isn't the most exciting thing I've ever come up with, but in 1986 Billy Joel recorded "Code of Silence" with Cyndi Lauper. She doesn't seem to have anything on her schedule right now, and she hails from New York City, and I've seen her do the national anthem at Shea Stadium countless that recipe seems right. I wouldn't be surprised if they broke out that song.

The question is, did Billy Joel go the extra mile for the Wednesday customers, because they didn't end up seeing the actual 'Last Play at Shea'? (In retrospect, the Friday show should have been sold first, and the second show should have been added on Wednesday.) Or does Friday's concert outshine Wednesday's, because it is the last show ever?

I'll let you know Saturday night.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I've already laid out what I thought the Mets needed to do for the rest of the season to be a success, and why they could do it. They've gotten a huge head start on that goal by taking a 9-game winning streak into the All Star break. (7-0 in their quest to go 46-28 over the rest of the season and get 90 wins to win the division.)

I will throw this caveat out there - the Mets won 8 games in a row in April, and then pretty much immediately afterwards tanked for two months. But this 9 game winning streak just feels different. I should also point out here that it absolutely drives me nuts that they're only playing like this now...this is the way they should have been playing all season.

But I've been talking about one thing for the past couple of weeks, and it's mind-blowing how these numbers play out - and that is just how valuable Jose Reyes is to this Mets team. Perhaps you've seen these numbers somewhere else - I've only seen them early last week on SNY, and I couldn't find them anywhere else at the break. So I apologize if they're wrong, but I had to do them myself, and I admit that I may have made some mistakes. Either way, though, they're incdredible:

Jose Reyes in Mets wins
(51 games) .330 average, 8 HR, 28 walks, 32 RBI, 57 runs, 23 steals

Jose Reyes in Mets losses
(42 games) .262 average, 2 HR, 14 walks, 11 RBI, 11 runs, 9 steals

The saying the past few years has always been, "As Jose Reyes goes, so go the Mets"...but I don't think it's ever been as clear as this. Reyes has missed two games this year - the Mets lost them both. Reyes has one game with 2 home runs - the Mets lost it. Every other game in which he has homered they have won. Basically, if he gets on and scores, the Mets win the game...and he's been getting on base plenty this year.

I was also blown away by Reyes' overall numbers - he's hitting .302, his on-base percentage is .367, and he's slugging .487! This is a leadoff guy!

This is MVP territory. And I bring it up because for the Mets to win the division/make the playoffs/win the World Series they need to ride Jose Reyes. There are good players on the Mets, but the David Wrights can't do much unless Reyes is getting on base ahead of them. And the past two seasons, when the Mets didn't get as far as fans wanted, fingers could be pointed at many players, Jose Reyes prime among them. In 2006 it was the playoffs where he was not effective. Last year, it was after the All Star break.

It seems Jose Reyes finds his own motivations. Last year it seemed he was lacking a motivation, or was distracted. So maybe not making the All Star team this year is the best thing that could have happened to him and the Mets. Maybe that will be the spark he needs to complete this amazing season he's having. And maybe that spark will lead the Mets to a 90+ win season and beyond.

SCHEDULE: If you're in the business of buying the excuses of ballplayers, there might be something to the fact that the Mets had a draining schedule this first part of the season. I think I first heard it mentioned on one of the radio broadcasts of the Mets games last week - remember, the Mets made 3 trips to the west coast over 7 weeks in May and June. Distance-wise, they don't have anything nearly as grueling over the final part of the season.

For what it's worth, the Mets played the Sunday night game heading into the break, and are one of just a handful of teams playing on Thursday coming out of the All Star break. That's one day less of vacation than other players are getting...but maybe it'll end up keeping them more rust-free...and they're probably anxious to get back to work with how hot they went into the break.

A GAPING HOLE: With Ryan Church out indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome, Angel Pagan possibly not coming back this year, and Moises Alou now out for the rest of the season, the Mets need an outfielder bad. The names that have come up are:

Raul Ibanez: Carlos Beltran has endorsed him - they played together in Kansas City and are still close. He would be a typical Mets pickup - effective enough, but in the end, not worth what the Mets gave up. He's probably the most realistic option for a Mets pickup.

Fernando Martinez: The Mets' prospect is only at Double-A. Bringing him straight to the majors would probably be a mistake. I guess he's had some injuries issues too.

Matt Holliday: This was big on WFAN last week. I would say do whatever it takes to get Holliday. He's one of the best players in baseball, and he would be around for a while. I don't know why the Rockies would trade him....but if they did, Mike Pelfrey would be a great fit for Coors Field. He is a groundball pitcher, and that's exactly what the Rockies look for. Matt Holliday would be huge for the Mets.

WRIGHT WATCH: David Wright added two more doubles since we last wrote about it - he's at 24 for the season.

All-Time Leader: 792
Wright's 2008 Total: 24
Wright's Career Total: 165

ALL STAR BREAK STATS: Just to clear up what I posted Monday night, and in response to the comment that was left - I never said it wasn't an impressive number that Josh Hamilton was putting up in the RBI department. I'm just saying that everyone should cool down when relating these numbers to others' numbers at the All Star break. It's not the mid-way point of the season - it's 96 games in. I agree he's on pace for a huge number of RBI, but it's not record-setting. I hope that clears it up.

Thanks for reading the three posts today. Back to baseball tomorrow.


I'm not the guy you want to be around if you're looking to see history. I'm the guy who watches an entire hockey game, but changes the channel for 25 seconds and misses the only goal of the game. I'm a Mets fan, so I've never seen a no-hitter that I really care about. I'm constantly aware that I may be watching something with historical significance, but it's the moment that I let my guard down that it happens.

Such was the case with the 2008 All Star Game, which was pretty magnificent (so I've heard). I loved the pre-game ceremonies, but I started feeling pretty sick by mid-game, so I turned in early. Justin from NYC wrote a great summary of the game at Here's the view of a guy who didn't make it past 11pm.

THE PRE-GAME CEREMONY: That was pretty cool. I saw some of the 1999 ceremony, at Fenway Park, but I was working then and didn't really enjoy it like I should have. This one I was able to appreciate. That was really, really great. I loved seeing Ralph Kiner out there, and guys like Bob Feller (when they showed him in the 1939 All Star Game at age 20 in the highlights earlier, I started questioning whether he was still alive - he looks good for 90!).

Justin pointed it out, too - but Willie Mays is a jerk. My dad was giving him the benefit of the doubt, thinking he was just 'out of it', but from all I've heard about Mays, he gave Josh Hamilton the cold shoulder. No wonder Barry Bonds is a mess - Willie Mays was his role model.

Speaking of 'out of it', I was wondering why Whitey Ford was not one of the guys throwing out a first pitch, then I thought back to the parade (which was horrible, but I watched anyway - Fox is such a joke...but that's a story for another day). When they asked him and Yogi Berra about the All Star Game Ford started at Yankee Stadium, he laughed and said he didn't remember - "How'd we do?", he asked. I thought he was kidding. Maybe he wasn't.

I thought conspicuous by his absence was Johnny Bench. Where was he? I can't really think of any other notable Hall of Famers that weren't there...but there probably were a few. And I know Paul Molitor finished his career mostly as a DH, but was that really fair to him to make him be the guy who represented designated hitters at the ceremony?

Finally, I was shocked by the George Steinbrenner appearance. He looked better than I expected...and it was much more touching than I expected as well.

THE GAME ITSELF: Billy Wagner still frightens the heck out of me. I didn't see him blow the save (truth be told, I didn't know until I saw a text from Justin this morning), but the fact that he only had to get one out and didn't in a big spot upsets me.

I only saw David Wright's first at-bat, in the eighth, where he struck out, but it's nice that he ended up getting four at-bats. And it's especially nice that he didn't play the field (he was DH), so he didn't have to beat himself up at all.

15 innings...I feel for the managers, who had to make some tough decisions. My newspaper didn't even have the final (it stopped at 13 innings in its game story), but The Wife forwarded me a quote from today's Boston Globe that said Clint Hurdle would have used David Wright as his pitcher had the game gone 16. I don't know if he was joking, or if he could only use Wright because he was the DH, but that probably would not have been a good thing for the Mets.

Finally, it was just a good All Star Game to watch (what I watched of it, anyway). It was truly the best of the best on display. I love baseball's All Star Game because of the uniforms - I love that the players wear their team's uniforms (just the home or away version, depending on the league), and I love the idea that on one night of the baseball season, all baseball fans are watching the same game. I think moreso than the post-season, where there might be bitterness, or there's competition from other sports, all eyes are on this one game. I think that's pretty cool.


As part of our vacation, The Wife and I made a pretty much last-minute decision to go to the Mets-Giants game last Thursday, thinking it would be our last chance to see a Mets game at Shea Stadium. (For her, it definitely was, for me, I'll be going to see Billy Joel on Friday, and I'm holding out hope that even after the new baby comes in September I'll be able to sneak in a playoff game.) It also allowed us to take The Baby to her first and only game at Shea. The trip gave me my first up-close look at Citi Field. I can't wait. There's not much more I can add to that.
Unfortunately, in order to park in the very limited parking spots that are available near Shea, we had to get there very early - so we were there around 11:20am for the 1:05pm start. This did not make it a pleasant experience for The Baby. She was pretty worn out by the time the first pitch was thrown, so we didn't last very long.

The good news, though, is that most of the stuff to see was before the game. I got to take the pictures of the new stadium that you see here.
I also got to see one of the Shea Countdown numbers come off - this day marked 39 games left at the stadium. With all due respect, I was less than thrilled by the person who changed the sign - Joe Pignatano. Sure, he was an original Met and coached with the team for many years, but I was hoping for someone I could more closely relate to. I was occupied with The Baby at this point, but The Wife snapped an awesome picture:
The Mets won the game, 7-3, their sixth game in a row as part of their current nine-game-winning streak. John Maine pitched for the Mets, this is him in the first inning, throwing one of his too-many pitches. We left in the third or fourth inning...and one of the bonuses of my parents' house location is that we made it home in the same inning. Great souvenir by the way - I bought a souvenir soda and it came in a Shea Stadium Final Year cup. That's just a great idea by the Mets. (Although I rarely use these souvenir cups I get, I am gathering a nice little collection.)

ALL STAR GAME ROUNDUP: I wasn't feeling 100% last night, so I think I might post multiple times today. Keep checking back, if you don't mind. I'll have at least an All Star Game roundup, but I also plan on doing a look-ahead for the Mets.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I was going to just mail it in tonight, and save the comments I thought of while driving back home for tomorrow...but then I saw all the hard work the Southern Bureau put in over the weekend while I was gone and I figured I owed it to at least him to write something new.

HOME RUN DERBY: I don't love the Home Run Derby. It's just OK, it runs too long, it's too much Chris Berman, and it makes me think it would be better if it were like the old black and white one-on-one home run derbies the old ESPN Classic used to show about 15+ years ago. But every once in a while it redeems itself, and tonight it was in the person of Josh Hamilton.

Not only is his a great story, but he hit some bombs...and in record-setting fashion in that first round. And seeing the bombs land in places in Yankee Stadium where home runs rarely go was pretty cool.

One thing, though. So he has 95 RBI at the All Star break. His team has played 96 games. That's not like 95 through 81. I feel like this is really late for an All Star Game. Maybe it's been this late before, but let's not make such a big deal that a guy has this many RBI at this point of the season...or at least tell it like it is and say that it's through so many games. Same with Francisco Rodriguez's saves total - it's impressive, but it's not like this is the exact midpoint of the season.

MORE ON TEXAS: I heard a couple of interviews with Ian Kinsler today...for the most part the Texas Rangers seem like a likeable group of guys. This was the same team, remember, that won over Mets fans last month during the rain delay by sliding across the tarp in that game that ended up getting rained out...just seem like a group of guys that enjoy playing ball and being around one another. Just thought I'd mention that.

DAVID WRIGHT, ALL STAR: So obviously I'm thrilled that David Wright was named to the All Star team as an injury replacement. But up until I heard that on Friday, I was thinking that maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Wright wasn't part of the festivities. He has faded the past couple of years (although less so last year), particularly in 2006 after coming in second place in the home run derby. So I thought the rest would do him good. After seeing him named to the team, though, I think he'll be OK - there's no travel involved, with the game in New York, and he's not starting - he's just another player there. So that might prove to be beneficial. And from what I've read, he really wanted to be a part of the game at Yankee Stadium. So I think it'll end up being a good thing.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


The Mets did what I wanted them to do - they got back to .500 at 44-44 (actually winning 3 out of 4 from Philly, when I thought they might just split), and they're tied with the Marlins for second place, just a game-and-a-half behind Philadelphia. They're still not playing the best baseball I've ever seen, but they're winning, and they look the best they've looked all season - which isn't saying much for the first half of the year.

Right now, the Mets are 46-44, and there are 5 games left before the All Star break. It seems like they'll go into that break better than .500.

Here's the way I look at the rest of this 2008 season.

When the Mets resume after the All Star break, they'll have 67 games left in the season (not quite the mid-way point). Using the 44-44 point as the re-start for the Mets, what I hope will have been the turning point, here's what needs to happen. I think 90 wins (sadly, it will probably be less), will win the division. That means from 44-44 the Mets need to go 46-28 in their remaining 74 games from Sunday. (They're off to a 2-0 start.)

At the beginning of the year, I would have told you the Mets could go 46-28 with their eyes closed. But obviously, that hasn't been true in practice. Here's why it's possible right now:

1) They have one of the best pitchers in baseball. Lost in this miserable start to the season has been Johan Santana's first season as a Met. There have been adjustments for sure, but he has been very good - the Mets just haven't been supporting him. Overall, Santana is 7-7 with a 2.96 ERA. He has struck out 109 in 121 innings, and walked just 32. The Mets have lost his last six starts. I expect a huge second half, just because they can't keep losing when he's out there.

2) Pedro Martinez* has found his rhythm? I can't say this for sure, but his Monday start in Philadelphia was very encouraging. It was a big game for the Mets, and he came through big. He's still not going more than five or six innings, but if he can keep the Mets in games (and get enough run support, which was probably huge for him), that will be enough. Martinez* is a battler, and wants to go out and be great - that can only be good for the Mets.

3) The offense is playing like it has been expected to. The Mets current four-game winning streak has seen them put up 30 runs (9, 4, 10, 7) and 59 hits (14, 14, 17, 14) - including Tuesday night against one of the best pitchers in baseball, Tim Lincecum - and all of the key players are getting hot - most notably Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Let's not forget the lesson we've talked about with Carlos Beltran the past couple of years - he's a very good second-half player.

The past couple of years, the best team has not represented the National League in the World Series. It's been the team that has gotten hot at the right time. So maybe it's not important that the Mets got off to such a rocky start. Sure, it cost Willie Randolph his job, and it made a lot of people unhappy, but if all continues to go well, the Mets could become that hot team in October. And in that case, it may just prove what we thought at the beginning of the year - that they've been the best team in the National League all along.

A WEEKEND AWAY: Beginning with Thursday afternoon's game at Shea, I'll be in New York for the weekend. If anything major happens, I'm sure the Southern Bureau or Dave in Brighton will keep us posted in the comments, so you can keep checking back. I'll definitely have something to help you pass the three days (and for some teams, four) of the All Star break, so you'll get a baseball fix.

ALL STAR FINAL VOTE: I've talked about this before - but the Milwaukee Brewers have a surprisingly active fan base. I saw it when we saw the Brewers play the Reds in person in Cincinnati, I saw it when we saw them in person against the Nationals in Washington.

They turned out to vote Ryan Braun into the All Star Game, and Corey Hart is leading David Wright in the Final Vote. This is despite my best efforts - I wish would limit how many times you can vote - I just keep doing it, and I don't know when to call it quits. I'm like one of those teenage girls holding up a "David Wright, will you marry me?" sign. But now I'm going away, and I've done all I can do for Wright.

I would like nothing better than for the announcement to come while I'm at Thursday's Mets game that the fans voted in David Wright. (I'm pretty sure I was at a Red Sox game the day they announced Johnny Damon got the final vote - I might have been working for a TV station that day...anyway, two different cities, two final vote announcements. That would be cool.) So please help. Click here to vote 100 times, like me, for David Wright.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


The first in an occasional series.

I'm not going to sit here and defend Shea Stadium as one of the best ballparks of all time. Deep down inside, my dream of visiting all the different ballparks probably came about when I was younger because in my subconscious I might have been thinking, "There has to be something better out there."

But the bottom line is, Shea is where the Mets play, and for me, it will always be special. That's why I was psyched when The Wife mentioned going to Thursday afternoon's game. I realized that I won't have many more opportunities to visit Shea this year (this will in all likelihood be my last visit for a game - Billy Joel won't be the same - unless somehow the Mets can swing the playoffs and I can swing getting down there for them), and this is probably the only time The Wife and The Baby will be there. And with her pushing eight months pregnant (The Wife, not The Baby), I wasn't going to push it - so it being her decision, I'm loving it.

The suggestion for Thursday, though, made me think about my favorite memories of Shea. And I'm only considering events I attended, so I'm not going to talk about things like 1969, 1986, or anything involving the Jets. I'll do this once a week or so (maybe more) to share with you why this cookie-cutter ballpark will always be one of my favorites, right up there with the current jewels in Houston and San Diego.

My first memory (these are in no order) doesn't refer to a specific game, but moreso the times I spent at Shea when I was younger.

We lived very close to Shea, and through work, my dad had on-and-off again season ticket packages. So we went to a lot of games when I was younger - I'd say roughly 10 a season. Maybe more...some years less. Bottom line - I spent a lot of time at Shea, and often it was with my brother or sister. (Once a year we took about five of my friends in July for my birthday party.) And there was a period of time where my entire family (aunts, uncles, 10 cousins all together) went to either a Mets or Yankees game. Those were great.

I was into the games...often, my brother or sister (or both) weren't. Certain patterns developed over the years, and I see them as I thumb through old scorebooks (I always kept score - for a rough estimate of how many Shea games I went to, between 1986 and 1996, when I went away to college, I amassed 60 scorebooks. I kept score less as I got older, so I think it's still an accurate estimate of how many Mets games I went to per season.).

Anyway, back to the patterns - here's a look at a sample from 1991 - turns out this scorebook is from a Dodgers-Mets game, and you'll notice Hall of Famer Gary Carter, as well as Darryl Strawberry, are playing for the visiting Dodgers. I vaguely remember this game, but only after I pulled out the scorebook. (It also brings back painful memories of an early indication that Gary Carter talked too much - I think this was the series where Keith Miller made a costly error for the Mets that allowed the Dodgers to win the game, and Carter gave him a classless "Thanks, buddy" or something like that, then made a public show of apologizing. Actually, that might have happened in Los Angeles, because I seem to remember Carter boarding a Mets bus to apologize. But that's another story for another day.)

If you care enough to look closely (for some reason it's not clicking-and-enlarging), you'll notice a couple of things. First of all, there is an elephant at the bottom - for some reason I took to drawing elephants and monkeys (no monkey on this day) in between innings to keep my sister entertained.

In addition to flawless scorekeeping, you'll also notice on the left-hand side, below the Dodgers roster, a tally. This was something my sister invented while with my cousins at one of those games where everyone went - due to Shea's proximity to LaGuardia, there were a lot of planes that crossed overhead throughout a game. So I allowed her to keep a "Plane Tally" on my scorecard - a big sacrifice on my part. I have to believe there were more than 10 planes during this game - but maybe, ironically, the baseball game diverted her attention from the plane game.

I realize these are pretty individual memories, but I hope reading them stirs up something in your mind about some place that you may take for granted. Because the more I think about it, the more I realize that Shea Stadium played a significant part in my life...and while I'm looking forward to Citi Field, I'm going to enjoy looking back on my experiences at Shea.

Monday, July 07, 2008


MOST IMPRESSIVE: Brace yourself - I'm about to sing the praises of Jose Reyes. I mentioned this the other day - statistically speaking, he's the most important player on this team. I'll break it down further next week (SNY showed a stat about Reyes' numbers in Mets' wins and in losses, which I'll try to re-create), but for now I'll say this: Reyes got his average up over .300 in Monday night's game. He was hitting around .250 in mid-May. It's no coincidence that the Mets have gotten hot again as he has turned things around.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: New Life. I can't believe that the Mets aren't buried and gone...and I think neither can they. There's a different attitude around the team this weekend, as they're on the verge of taking three out of four from the Phillies - it's like some children's storybook. The Mets lost their confidence at some point in the past couple of years in Philadelphia. Well, the first weekend of July, 2008, they went back to Philadelphia, and lo and behold there it was - the Mets are back!

LEAST IMPRESSIVE: Well, up until today I was going to comment on Pedro Martinez*'s efforts, but he might have turned a corner with Monday's start. Maybe all he needed was some run support. I could have predicted he'd find his stuff tonight, though - because I chose not to start him in fantasy baseball.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: I guess when all is said and done, I really wanted the Mets to have some representation in the All Star Game (read: more than just Billy Wagner). But like I wrote last week - they really didn't deserve it. And Wagner showed on Sunday why his selection is dicey. I find myself, though, voting like crazy for David Wright to make the team - I like to think that at the end of his career he will have a really long string of continuous All Star appearances. (Help him out - click here to vote for David Wright!)

MOST IMPRESSIVE: Just because I happened to catch it live on Sunday, Justin Upton hit a 484-foot bomb at Chase Field against the Padres. It landed in the seating area for the restaurant out behind left field. It deserves mention as "impressive".

BIGGEST SURPRISE: A step up for the Tampa Bay Rays. Instead of just being "impressive" this time around, they get the "surprise" label because they don't just lead their division anymore, they have the best record in all of baseball.

LEAST IMPRESSIVE: The Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. Have you seen this stat? The Orioles won the first Sunday of the season, and haven't won since, dropping thirteen straight on Sunday. I love that type of stuff, unless the Mets are involved.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: I guess this merits mentioning here. Jeff Francoeur was recalled today, after being sent down to Double-A for three days. It was supposed to be a three-week stint. He complained, and was recalled, after tearing it up at the lower level. I think the Braves did the absolute right thing, and I think Francoeur should have dealt with it and come back after the All Star break ready to play if he was upset about it. I became a big believer in the 'sending the ineffective player' back down thing after the Blue Jays did it with Roy Halladay five or six years ago - he went all the way down to Single-A. I know it's different situations, because Halladay had less major league experience at that point than Francoeur, but he's been dominant since that send-down. Think it lit a fire under him? I do. (I think it was the right thing for the Tigers to do with Dontrelle Willis too.) Maybe the same thing will happen with Francoeur - but his whining might have messed up the process.

WRIGHT WATCH: It's been a while since I did an update while the Mets were actually playing, which means it's been a while since we've updated you on David Wright's march on the all-time doubles record (he had an RBI double tonight, along with a homer):


(22 doubles? That man should be an All Star! Vote here.)

BIRTHDAY WISHES TO ME: Not to toot my own horn, but I turned 30 today. And the only reason I bring that up is because you may or may not remember, but I designed an MLB-type sleeve patch to celebrate the occasion. This is probably the last opportunity I'll have to show it, so I'm showing it again.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


At the end of the year, will we look back at this weekend in Philadelphia as the point of the season where the Mets turned things around?

I'm starting to think maybe.

If you've read this blog for longer than the past couple of months, you know it's just not my nature to be negative (at least for very long). So maybe it's the summer months, maybe it's Dave in Brighton's optimism, maybe it's just wishful thinking - but I'm starting to believe maybe the best is yet to come for these Mets.

Because all this time I've been lamenting the fact that the Mets haven't been better than average this year, neither has anyone else in their division. The Mets begin play on Sunday just four-and-a-half games behind the Phillies, a game behind the second-place Marlins. And on Saturday night, they pulled a Philadelphia on the Phillies - coming back from behind to not just win, but pile on the Phillies bullpen - that's exactly what Philadelphia has made a habit out of doing to the Mets this past year-and-a-half.

So here's the deal - if the Mets close out this Philadelphia series strong - or at least just win on Sunday, evening their record at 44-44, we'll call it a blank slate. There's always the possibility that the second half will bring new life. The fact that the Mets even have life after such a miserable start to the season should be inspiration alone, but to this point it hasn't been.

Oh, and one other encouraging note - last year's division champs, those same Philadelphia Phillies? Through 88 games, they were 44-44. So the Mets, at 44-44 stand an even better shot at a division title, because the division is much weaker this year...and it wouldn't take a monumental collapse from the team in front of them for the Mets to finish on top.

Boy, they don't make it easy, do they? A 4-2 win in 12 innings (thank you Fernando Tatis) after "All Star" Billy Wagner blew a 2-0 lead in the 9th inning.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


I like it when a ballplayer gets good and fired up. I've mentioned a number of times that's something I think this Mets team could use - whether it's a brawl or just someone getting the team to act like they care.

It's not just the Mets - it's all around baseball. Last night, the Marlins lost to the Rockies 18-17. I saw a bit of the seventh inning, when the Marlins led 17-12. Logan Kensing was brought in with two men on, and I think no one out. He had nothing. Absolutely nothing. He walked the first batter he faced, loading the bases for Matt Holliday. Then he grooved one and Holliday hit it out. And then he proceeded to give up another base hit. He just kept grooving it in there. How about going high and tight on someone? No one ever does that anymore.

So I think there needs to be more emotion. Somewhere between Willie Randolph, whose greatest show of emotion was a glare from the dugout, and the likes of Joba Chamberlain and Jonathan Papelbon, who overdo it a little bit. A happy medium would be nice.

In the past week or so, though, there have been four instances of the type of emotion you would like to see out of a ballplayer, but in the wrong scenarios and for the wrong reasons. Let me break them down for you:

Shawn Chacon - Chacon was released by the Astros after allegedly throwing his general manager to the ground and then almost beating him up. This all apparently happened because Chacon was being summoned into the manager's office...although some reports indicate that while Chacon wasn't in the right, GM Ed Wade didn't necessarily handle himself in the most professional manner. (Speaking of unprofessional - the MLB Players' Union filed a grievance over this....what a joke.)

Regardless, there's no excuse for assaulting your boss. I don't care how unhappy you are with your own performance, or how the club is handling your situation - this is not the place for this kind of behavior.

Manny Ramirez - Manny was "Being Manny" (one of the worst aphorisms [am I using 'aphorism' correctly?] since 'it is what it is') last week, shoving the Red Sox's traveling secretary in a dispute over Ramirez's ticket allotment while the team was in Houston. First of all, is there something in the water in Houston? Secondly, it's like this never happened - there has been a murmur about it, but hardly an uproar. Thirdly, this is the second internal incident of its kind involving Ramirez...but no one seems to be putting two and two together here. Remember in the game where the Sox and Rays fought, there was a dugout incident between Manny and Kevin Youkilis? All reports after that indicated that Youkilis was the one who was at fault, because he threw equipment around or something, and Ramirez asked him to stop. Well, Youkilis isn't the one going around shoving 65-year-olds.

Joe Girardi - Well, at least with this one we're getting closer to some on-the-field action. After exploding for 18 runs on Wednesday, the Yankees were shut out by the Red Sox on Thursday. And Girardi was mad. He was short-tempered with the press, but he wasn't too much of a jerk. He got really mad when one reporter (Joel - I'm not sure who that was) kept asking the same question, trying to find out what Girardi told his team in a players-only meeting, but was pretty responsive to the rest of the questions. Basically, Girardi said, he was mad about losing - no matter who the opponent is.

Jose Reyes - Finally, Jose Reyes and broadcaster Keith Hernandez had a heated argument on the team plane traveling to St. Louis last week. (Let me just say that I first heard about this from my mom - which meant I had to go and check to make sure it really happened. Sometimes she mishears things on the news. And the real story here is that she got this story 94% correct.) (Also parenthetically, the Southern Bureau had a tongue-in-cheek response to this story that's worth reading.)

Apparently, Reyes was upset about what he heard Hernandez had said about him on the air. I didn't see this play, but last week after a throwing error against the Yankees, Reyes threw his glove to the ground. Hernandez said, "Well, he's got to get over that. Enough babying going on now. He's a grown man. He's been around a long enough time. Take off the kid gloves." (That quote is from Reyes's defense is that when you make an error, you're supposed to be upset about it.

OK, fine. But some people interpreted the throwing of the glove as a shot at Carlos Delgado, who I've read could have caught the ball (again, I didn't see it - I was at NASCAR). It wouldn't surprise me if Reyes was showing up Delgado, because Delgado always....and I mean always...shows up Reyes. Dating back to 2006 - if Delgado had to step off the bag for a throw, he would stare down Reyes. I guess they had a good relationship about it - but it was really ridiculous. Anyway, I wouldn't be shocked if Reyes was showing up Delgado.

The bottom line here is that Reyes should be fired up - but not because Keith Hernandez is calling him out. He should be fired up that his team is losing.

There's one thing that all four of these situations have in common. They're not motivated by the right reasons. They're all motivated by selfish reasons, which is a commentary on the people who play the game today. I think the Chacon and Ramirez situations speak for themselves. Though the Girardi situation is very close to being appropriate, the fact that it comes just after he heard from his outspoken boss and comes during the most important series he'll probably face all season (in fourth place, with the Red Sox in town) makes me second-guess the timing and the real reason for his anger.

And the Reyes thing isn't about baseball. It's about his image.

Jose Reyes is the most important player to the Mets. The stats speak for themselves (I'll probably get into it more around the All Star break). But his attitude leaves a lot to be desired. And until he acts like someone who wants to win, Keith Hernandez, a winner, has every right to criticize the way Reyes acts on the field.

Friday, July 04, 2008


On this Independence Day, I thought I'd share with you a little of the inner workings of my brain. I often wonder how certain historical figures compare with certain athletes. Do they compare?

Admittedly, some of these are forced, but I thought I'd take a look at some of the figures of our independence and pick a Met that shares some of the characteristics of that person. I found myself basically recreating the 1986 team, I guess because I'm pining for some happy Mets memories these days, but I think it works: Every story needs a foil, an enemy, a villain. For the 13 colonies, it was England, represented by King George III (although if you want to get into specifics it was more the ideas represented by the king than the person himself, but for our intents and purposes.....). For the Mets, historically, it's been the Braves, represented in the person of Bobby Cox. So many of the players have come and gone, but the Braves have stood in the Mets' way (not counting last year) since 1995...and Cox has been the constant.
Some call Samuel Adams the "Father of the American Revolution". He was an older guy, with a palsy, and he wasn't very successful at anything he did in life. He failed as a businessman and as a tax collector. But what he could do was stir up trouble. He was sort of the behind-the-scenes orchestrator of the Revolution. Davey Johnson (or any manager, for that matter) fits that role with the Mets - a behind-the-scenes figure who pulled the strings and put people in the place they needed to be to succeed.
Looking for an on-the-scene leader? That would be Keith Hernandez for the Mets - a captain, and the one who took a vocal lead when one was needed. The same way George Washington took charge of an army that wasn't really an army yet and pulled off a great upset. Both commanded the respect of the people around them.
Looking for someone reliable to get a job done? Paul Revere orchestrated an alert system to let the countryside know that the soldiers were on the move. He kept his cool under pressure, even being captured that night. Gary Carter also kept his cool in a pressure situation, keeping the Mets alive in the 1986 World Series when they were down to their last out. Both survived hits to their reputations later in life, and both couldn't have done it without lots of help (Billy Dawes rode ahead of Revere, Carter was a member of a team), but to hear their stories told (Revere by Longfellow, Carter by Carter) you'd have thought they were the only people to ever do what they did.
As Sam Adams was the "Father", John Hancock was the "Money". He financed many different aspects of the Revolution with his healthy inheritance. He was a figurehead, he couldn't go out and fight, but he made his mark, literally, by putting his name on the Declaration of Independence first and largest. He also led the meetings between all of the colonies - an ace of the staff, so to speak. Dwight Gooden was the "Money" pitcher for the Mets in the early-to-mid-1980's, leading up the Mets' pitching staff.
Ray Knight was a veteran presence in his brief tenure with the Mets. He was just a solid pro. Thomas Jefferson was a similar presence among the early American politicians, although I wouldn't classify him as anything close to an MVP. In another interesting connection, Knight married pro golfer Nancy Lopez while Thomas Jefferson looked like he could be a veteran of the LPGA.
I hate to compare Darryl Strawberry to the greatest traitor in American history...but here goes. Benedict Arnold was actually a celebrated member of the Continental Army before he felt underappreciated and decided to gather information for the British side. Darryl Strawberry's story is also one of great promise with a huge downfall. He also went to play for the Dodgers and then the Yankees - sort of traitorous, no?
For many years, John Adams was sort of an overlooked figure in the American Revolution. He played an important role, but his failures were noticed somewhat more than his accomplishments. He was insecure - always worried about his legacy, which turned out OK more than 200 years later. Rafael Santana played an important position - shortstop - for a World Series-winning team. He is overlooked. He should be worried about how history will remember him.
This is one of those that might be a stretch. I felt that Lenny Dykstra had to be included - I sort of tied him to John Paul Jones - naval hero. Both sort of had an all-or-nothing attitude, risking life and limb to achieve their goal.
Patrick Henry was a Virginian who inspired with his words. Wally Backman was an Oregonian who inspired with his play. Hmm. Maybe another stretch.
Finally, you may not have heard of James Otis. He was a powerful speaker who spoke out against the tyrannies of England. His words inspired men like Sam Adams to take action. One day he was accused by British soldiers of being disloyal to the King because of what he had said - he took offense to being called a 'traitor' because he thought he was just speaking the truth - he didn't believe the colonies should separate from England at the time, just work out a better system of taxation. Anyway, the soliders cracked him over the head with a sword, the story goes, and Otis was never the same - slipping slowly into insanity. You ever hear the story about Kevin Mitchell and the cat at a girlfriend's house? That dude was crazy too.