Sunday, August 31, 2008
Terry Francona, Manager: I've written before about how much I like Terry Francona. I think he's done a great job, facing his fair share of adversity and maintaining a high level of success. He can manage my team any day. I share the concern of many who follow the Red Sox, though, for his overall health. Hopefully he's at least kicked the chewing tobacco.
Mike Piazza, Catcher: I don't know who I'd pick if I had to go for a player who isn't retired - perhaps Matt Wieters, this Orioles prospect who's supposed to be great. But I pick Piazza because he's a class act, and played the game hard. Clean? I'm not sure - I find it suspicious that he couldn't find a place to play this year...but I certainly hope so. I wouldn't pick him if I didn't believe it in my heart.
Sean Casey, 1st Baseman: This team isn't all about talent. Sure, Casey's a good hitter, but by all accounts, he's one of the nicest people in sports. That means he can play for me.
Chase Utley, 2nd Baseman: Yes, he plays for the Phillies, but he's one of the fantasy league all-stars I have on my team. Actually, not all of them are all-stars, as you will see.
Bobby Crosby, Shortstop: I bought into the hype when he first came up and was supposed to be the next Miguel Tejada for the A's. I still check out how he did in the box score.
David Wright, 3rd Baseman: Need I say more?
Ryan Braun, Left Field: A fun young player to watch.
Johnny Damon, Center Field: When countless Red Sox players snubbed me on the field when I was working for a local TV station, he spoke to me. It went like this - he comes out of the dugout, I asked him for a word. "I have to take a couple of swings, then I'll be right back." He walked over to the cage, signed some autographs for fans in the stands, took his cuts, then came straight back to me. "You wanted to talk, right?" I'll never forget how he helped me. I'll also never forget how Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon were among those who wouldn't even look at me.
Vladimir Guerrero, Right Field: I guess time heals all wounds. When he was with the Expos, I despised him. Now, he's one of the players I most enjoy watching.
Roy Halladay, SP: He's awesome now, but I owned him back when he had to be sent back down to Single-A for some seasoning. I feel like a proud papa seeing him have this success.
Erik Bedard, SP: I feel bad for him for the whole Seattle thing. It just never seemed like a good fit to me. I wish he was back in Baltimore.
Mike Maroth, SP: He will always have a special place in my heart - we suffered through his 21-loss season together.
Boof Bonser, SP: Just because.
Troy Percival, CP: I almost didn't go with a closer - there aren't many I like - but I've always liked rooting for the Angels, and Percival reminds me of them. Plus, it's been nice to see his resurgence with Tampa this year.
BENCH - Freddy Sanchez (I was there the night he had an insane game for the Red Sox against Houston, which must have been the reason Pittsburgh traded for him), Grady Sizemore (maybe just because of his birthday - 8/2/82), Jason Bay (so excited to see his Red Sox debut), and Ken Griffey, Jr. (a schoolyard favorite growing up).
Saturday, August 30, 2008
They have been so frustrating, yet at times so fun to watch, that it makes me hope they frustrate me in this way right through the end of October. (Unlike, say, June, when I couldn't wait for the season to be over.)
Mr. Frustration himself, Carlos Beltran, caused the latest excitement with his 9th inning grand slam Friday night in Florida, following two hits that came after the Mets were down to their last strike, and a hit-by-pitch to the other former Mr. Frustration (Carlos Delgado). The Mets survived their bullpen in the ninth to record the come-from-behind win.
And there's the strange part. Once again, the Mets have responded in a most unlikely way to the worst-case scenario. And maybe that's because of 2007.
Last year, the Mets lost one heartbreaker after another down the stretch, suffering the worst collapse in history, and missing the post-season. This year, after every heartbreaker, the Mets seem to come back stronger.
-Heartbreak: Tuesday night, August 26th, against Philadelphia - The Mets blew that 7-0 lead in Philly, and lost 8-7 in 13 innings. Just a horrible loss. What did they do?
Response: They came back to win the second game in that 2-game series by coming from behind in the 8th inning, and then had their most dramatic win of the season in Florida Friday night.
-Heartbreak: Monday, August 11, against Pittsburgh - The Mets took a 5-1 lead into the 7th inning, then gave up 6 runs over the final three innings (3 in the ninth) to lose, 7-5.
Response: They responded by running off six straight wins against the Nationals and the same Pirates in Pittsburgh.
-Heartbreak: Tuesday, July 22, against Philadelphia - The Mets had a 5-2 lead in the 9th inning (after 8 strong innings by Johan Santana), when a parade of relievers gave up 6 runs to lose, 8-6 against the Phillies.
Response: The Mets took the next two against Philly.
-Heartbreak: Friday, July 4, against Philadelphia - Another wasted effort by Johan Santana - 8 strong innings with nothing to show for it. A run in the bottom of the ninth against Duaner Sanchez wins it for Philadelphia.
Response: The Mets won their next ten games, straddling the All Star break, to put themselves back in the picture as not only a team to beat in the division, but in the National League.
This resilience the Mets have shown throughout the year, especially against the Phillies, is a big part of what was lacking down the stretch last season. It's the sole reason the Mets are 10-5 against the Phillies this season, with three head-to-head games remaining. And it's a big part of why they have a 2-game lead in the division as we enter the final month of the season.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
It's tied at 7 in the 12th inning. Here's a list of how bad this game is:
-Pedro Martinez* went four strong innings before hitting a wall in the 5th inning and giving up 5 runs, turning a 7-0 lead into a 7-5 lead.
-Another blown lead by the bullpen (though Pedro* didn't put them in the best possible spot), and a blown save by (surprisingly good until now) Luis Ayala.
-The tying run in the bottom of the ninth scored on an ugly play - the runner, Jayson Werth, should have been out by a mile, but a terrible relay throw allowed him to score.
-Again it looked like the Phillies were more intense in a game against the Mets than the Mets were....especially concerning with first place on the line (the Mets entered the game ahead by just a half-game).
-Jimmy Rollins once again had a huge game against the Mets - with 5 hits (as of this writing).
-In a scene that has become all too familiar this year, the Mets scored early, and then did nothing offensively for much of the game.
-To top it all off, David Wright was thrown out in extra innings trying to stretch a single into a double.
The only, only good that will come from this game would be a win. And Philadelphia has seemed to be in control in the extra innings...a win doesn't look likely.
Monday, August 25, 2008
So there's a couple of problems here for the Mets - not the least of which is that their rotation is weakened without Maine. I know he hasn't been great this year - but when healthy he's solid. And he showed in 2006 that he is a clutch pitcher in the post-season.
There are legitimate worries about the rest of the rotation. Oliver Perez is still way too inconsistent. He's been pitching well lately, but you never know when that will end. Pedro Martinez* isn't the Pedro Martinez of old...every time he starts it looks like he's working too hard to get out six innings with only three runs allowed. Whoever replaces Maine will be young and inexperienced - most likely right now Jon Niese - but the Mets will finagle things so they won't need that rotation spot for a week or so. Mike Pelfrey has been great - I'm actually least worried about him.
Johan Santana, though, I'm a little worried about. I know I was among those calling for him to go deeper into games. But I'm not sure he's that type of pitcher. I just worry that he's throwing too many, against his will, because he's succumbing to the media pressure of New York City. And I worry that he's going to hurt his arm, and the Mets will be left with no one come playoff time. Maybe I'm worrying too much. But Santana has never been the type to go deep into games...and this great stretch of games that he has pitched seems out of the norm for him (innings pitched-wise). As great as it has been, I hope he's doing it because he can...not because he feels he has to because of the bullpen.
Finally, this is actually the opposite of a 'cause for concern' - more of a cause for celebration. I've been meaning to write it for a while, but haven't had the right forum. So I'll just throw it out here now:
Carlos Delgado has been on fire for about two months now. And the key, it seems to me, is his willingness to go the other way. Every time he has a multiple-hit game, it seems like a couple are going to left field. Monday night he hit an opposite-field homer. I'm not saying all of his homers are going that way - but enough have that it makes you think that's the key. I wonder if it is the work of hitting coach Howard Johnson, or if he figured it out for himself. Either way, he's been the most valuable Met since early July.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Next week, with the NFL season looming as of Thursday and the following weekend, will be Jets Week. I'll have Jets previews on the offense, defense, a division preview, and an overall look at the NFL standings. That'll start probably on Tuesday the 2nd, going through Friday the 6th.
After that, I'll try to balance between the Jets regular season and the Mets regular and (hopefully) post-season. I've also liked doing the bi-weekly MLB updates - I'll try to do some variation on that weekly with the NFL. And if I can get some folks to share their picks each week, maybe we'll get back to some sort of picks competition - I always like that.
And to reward you for sticking through the boring updates above, here's a look at where David Wright stands in his hunt for the doubles records, entering Sunday's play. Wright had two doubles the game where Carlos Delgado had the cheapest five hit-game in history (the first baseman threw way wide of first to the pitcher covering on one 'base hit', and the game-winner was a dropped fly ball by the left-fielder. Someone explain to me how that's a hit. But I digress.).
WRIGHT (2008): 36 Doubles
TEAM RECORD: 44
WRIGHT (career): 177
ALL-TIME RECORD: 792
Saturday, August 23, 2008
I wish I had been to the old, old Yankee Stadium...any old ballpark, really. I like the idea of an expansive outfield that actually had monuments and flag poles in play. I'm in the camp of those who aren't too sad to see Yankee Stadium go, because it really went when it was renovated in the mid-1970's.
A couple of visits to Yankee Stadium stand out - I went to a Yankees-White Sox game in 1996, the day I got my driver's license, which got rained out in the 7th inning, tied at 1. My uncle, who I went with, drove me home, and then his car stalled out in a flooded road in Flushing. In 1997 I went to one of the first Mets-Yankees interleague games, sitting in the bleachers for a near no-hitter by David Cone. But the ONE stand-out memory of visiting Yankee Stadium is even less pleasant than those:
The Wife, back before she was The Wife (even before she was The Fiancee), thought it would be nice to bring both of our families together for a Yankees game. So she bought a bunch of tickets to see the Yankees and Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Seats in the upper deck. Had I known she was making this purchase, I would have suggested she either A) not get upper deck seats, or B) not get tickets to a Red Sox-Yankees game. But she did, so on July 20, 2002, we went.
I'll keep this relatively short - it was a hot, hot July day, and this was a typical Yankees-Red Sox game. In other words, it took forever. So people had lots of beer, in the hot sun, and sat out there for a while. That led to a woman sitting in front of us throwing a peanut at the head of a Red Sox fan a few rows down.
He swung around, and immediately locked eyes with the Yankee fan who had been razzing him all day about five rows behind us. He goes up there, they get in each other's face, and then there's a full-out brawl. Punches are thrown, and less than 5 seconds into the fight, they're tumbling down the rows of the upper deck. Naturally, they come to rest right in our laps. Literally. A friend of The Wife's got pushed down two rows. The brawlers tumbled over the head of my future mother-in-law. I actually ended up in the middle of the two antagonists, pulling on one's shirt to make him stop punching. It was the most awful thing I've ever been near at a ballpark.
Great credit goes to the cops, especially the short, red-haired female cop, who were on the scene pretty quickly to break things up.
This fight overshadowed the exciting ending to the game, where the Sox took the lead in the 9th, but the Yankees came back to win in the bottom half. And the overall experience - we met in Manhattan and ferried to the Stadium - something I had never done before. (On the way back, though, the water level was too high for the ferry - we all had to stand in the front of the boat to get it to duck under an overpass. That was pretty ridiculous.)
I haven't been back to Yankee Stadium since. No desire to, really. One day I'll check out the new Yankee Stadium. But I'll make sure we have better seats. And it won't be a Red Sox game.
Friday, August 22, 2008
The baby is coming soon - real soon. Which is why I made the request in the first place.
See, the due date is September 15. The Jets home opener is September 14. I requested permission to maybe attend the Jets home opener, and see Brett Favre's first home game as a Jet. Really, I'm the one putting myself in a bad position - I have school the next day.
But I'm forgetting the most important part. The baby is probably going to come early - our estimate has it coming in the next week or so. So I think it's quite reasonable that I head down to New York for a day a couple of weeks after the baby is born, provided someone comes and sits with The Wife and our older child for the day.
My suspicion is that The Wife enjoys the time we spend watching the DirecTV Sunday Ticket together and would be upset if I left her flat to go watch the Jets in person that day. In which case, I totally understand where she is coming from.
Otherwise, I can't imagine what the problem is. I welcome your comments.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
In so doing, though, I breezed past the fact that there is someone on that Rays team who is probably a huge part of their success this season.
Cliff Floyd has played in just 59 games this year, hitting .260 with 9 homers and 25 RBI. But he might be the most important player on that team.
By all accounts, Cliff Floyd is a true professional. He does the right things, gets frustrated when he can't play because of injury (which happens a lot), and for a while now, he's been a mentor to younger players.
I never really thought about it much when he was with the Mets, but Floyd might have been the glue that made the 2006 team stick together and do as well as they did. There were some elements on that team that were potentially damaging (looking your way, Paul Lo Duca), but they never seemed to get in the way (like they did in 2007, when Floyd was no longer a Met).
He also took David Wright under his wing from the get-go. Maybe he sensed star power, and knew the MTV appearances would come if he was David Wright's right-hand man...but I know it was more than that. Floyd showed Wright the ropes about how to play in New York, and I'm sure a lot of what makes Wright the class act that he is has to do a lot with the fact that he spent so much time with Cliff Floyd while they were both Mets.
And now, Floyd is playing that role again. Except most of the team is David Wright. And there's even a Jose Reyes - apparently B.J. Upton has had a case of the not-hustlings. And manager Joe Maddon has left it to the veterans (namely, Floyd and Carlos Pena) to handle the situation. I read somewhere that Floyd was near tears when he told reporters that the 23-year-old Upton will "get it right". He's someone that cares about the game and how it's played...and he's brought to Tampa Bay a little bit of what was missing with the Mets last year and much of the first half of this year.
So every time I see Cliff Floyd hit a go-ahead homer for Tampa, or get an otherwise clutch hit, I'm happy for him. Because it's tangible proof of his importance to that team that everyone can see - and I know that a lot of the intangibles are going largely unnoticed.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Since that time, the Mets are 25-13. Not bad. Another stretch like that and they'll do better than the goal I set for them. (I'm off on this being a midway posting by a game - at the mid-point, they were just ahead of what I predicted, at 24-13, on pace for 48-26, or a 92-70 season.) Can they repeat this type of stretch? The answer is yes.
The Mets have a very favorable schedule the rest of the way - they're heavy on the NL East. They play a series against Houston this weekend, one against Milwaukee the beginning of September, then a 4-game series against Chicago in the last week of the season. By then, both teams could be in a situation where they're taking it easy heading into the playoffs. (Or everything could be on the line.)
The Mets and Phillies have five games head-to-head, and the Phillies have to face the Dodgers in addition to Milwaukee and Chicago. For what it's worth, the Mets have the Cubs at home, while the Phillies have to go to Chicago - another advantage for the Mets. (The Mets go to Milwaukee, but I like that - they seem to hit really well there. Especially David Wright.)
The thing that is scary for Mets fans is that games in September against Washington and Florida (and for the sake of this conversation, I've eliminated the Marlins from contention, but they're still very much in this race) were what helped eliminate them from the playoffs a year ago. On the other hand, I like to look at it this way - the Mets have come all this way from last September, and I think now that they're at this point of the season, the bad taste from last year will get back in their mouths. If anything, last year will be positive motivation against lesser teams, rather than a psychological disadvantage.
For some reason, I'm not as worried about the bullpen situation as I probably should be. I think I'm relieved that Billy Wagner is out indefinitely, because I'd rather see him sit out than come back at less than 100%. He's not as reliable as we'd like this year at 100%, so less than that is bad news at the end of the game. Believe it or not, the Mets have a better chance with what they have going right now than with Wagner in there playing hurt. And in Tuesday night's game against Atlanta, you have to give the bullpen credit - they won the game for the Mets, keeping it at 3-2, Atlanta, until the offense blew it open in the eighth. It was encouraging.
Granted, it was Atlanta, and they don't hit very well. But guess what - that's the type of offense the Mets will be facing a lot down the stretch. 8 more games against Atlanta, 6 more against Washington. That's 14 of only 36 games left. It's crunch time - and the results so far have me thinking about a possible 11 more wins after the Mets get to 90.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I say that's weird, because it's not like the Mets have had a ton of success that warrants an attitude of cockiness on my part. But they have yet to taste defeat in the first round of the post-season, so there's some rationale for my thought process.
The Mets are 3-for-3 in the Division Series, and none of those series was even very close. In 1999, it took the Mets four games to do away with the Arizona Diamondbacks, in 2000 it was four games and out for the San Francisco Giants, and in 2006 it was a 3-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers. (Let me just stress - I'm not saying there weren't difficult games within those series - but none of those series was stretched to a do-or-die fifth game.)
You look at other playoff teams in the years since the extra round of the playoffs was added, and it makes the Mets' success even more impressive. Look at the Atlanta Braves, who started off well in the Division Series, but lost in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. The Dodgers are 0-for-4 in the Series, with a 1-12 record. Even perennial playoff players like the Yankees and Red Sox (and to a lesser extent, the Twins, A's, and Angels) have lost first-round playoff series.
Of course, none of the years the Mets won a division series resulted in a world championship, but that's not my point. My point is, when I think of the post-season this year, I think of which team will come out of the other Division Series bracket. Because I'm pretty sure the Mets will be in the NLCS.
That's if they're able to hold off the Phillies and make the playoffs in the first place.
Monday, August 18, 2008
BIGGEST SURPRISE: I haven't spent much time writing about Daniel Murphy, but what a breath of fresh air. Besides the fact that he's 17-for-41 (.415 avg.) since being called up, he's been doing everything right. I put him in "Surprise" rather than "Impressive" only because I didn't hear a mention of him before he was called up. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention....but you'd have thought I would have heard something. FYI - he spent most of the year at Binghamton (AA), playing third base. And perhaps that's why he wasn't talked about very much - because he's behind David Wright on the organizational depth chart. But he's made a seamless transition to the outfield and solved the Mets' outfield problems. Good job all through the Mets organization for making that work.
LEAST IMPRESSIVE: There's no reason I should fear a comeback by the other team (especially when it's the Pirates) when the Mets take a 7-1 lead into the 9th inning...but because of the bullpen, I do. They hit that hot streak right around the All Star Break, and it looked like everything was better...but it's even worse now, without Billy Wagner, than it was at any point of the season. Problem is, people talk like all the problems will be solved when Wagner comes back - I still don't see him coming through in clutch situations.
And while we're on the topic - the Mets pulled the trigger on the Luis Ayala deal. (I commented on this deal when it looked dead last week.) It will cost them Anderson Hernandez, who didn't look like he had what it takes to be a major leaguer, so it might not end up being too costly, but I don't love the move. It's an extra arm out there, though, so I guess that can't hurt.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: I know he's having a decent season, but I just wish Carlos Beltran was more explosive. He's hitting .272, with 17 homers and 82 RBI. I mean, that's OK - he'll finish with 25 homers and 100 RBI, probably...but I want him to be doing 30+ homers and 110+ RBI every year...plus hitting .300. He's overpaid. That's the bottom line. And I will continue to be disappointed in him because of his salary, unless he puts up exorbitant numbers.
MOST IMPRESSIVE: I feel like the St. Louis Cardinals have gotten by this season on smoke and mirrors. They've fallen back a bit (7-and-a-half games behind the Cubs, but only 2 behind the wild card-leading Brewers) - but they're still good enough to be leading the East or West divisions. Their bullpen is a disaster, they don't have a tremendous lineup, they have injuries to key players - but they're having a great season.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: I know I spend a lot of time in this part every two weeks talking about the Tampa Bay Rays, but they deserve it. But the biggest surprise for them is that they're getting production from Rocco Baldelli, which is a nice story. He's suffered from a weird fatigue that no one's really sure about, I guess, but his career was in jeopardy. It's nice that he's come back, and it's also nice that he comes back at a time for the Rays when they're getting decimated by injuries - so he could play a key role in this big season they're having.
LEAST IMPRESSIVE: The Seattle Mariners are having an awful season, and it doesn't look like things are going to get better out there anytime soon. They want to break up the team, but I guess their asking price for their players is too much, and teams are unwilling to deal with them. That can't do too much for team chemistry...and it can't really help a team improve.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Tom Glavine is back on the DL, and may face career-ending surgery. I still hold a grudge against Glavine for the disaster that was the final game of last season, but I never wish injury on someone. What this makes me think, though, is that maybe he was hiding something that was more serious than he knew. Because he really hasn't been the same Tom Glavine since. And the Braves have to be disappointed that he's given them nothing this year...as so many of their players have.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
I've been thinking a lot about the big games I've attended at Shea through the history we have shared (me and Shea, that is). I mentioned last time the playoff games I attended. I've also written about one of the most exciting games I saw there, which came in the midst of a terrible season - the game where Anthony Young broke his losing streak. But I won't write about that again.
Instead, I'll tell you the story of what might as well have been a playoff game, since it was a do-or-die situation. It had everything - last-minute drama, everything was on the line - and it may in fact have been the biggest game I ever attended at Shea Stadium.
It was October 3, 1999 - a Sunday. Last game of the regular season, against the Pirates. This was after my college graduation, a month before I was regularly employed. Actually, at the time I was flat-out unemployed. And I was in New York to attend a wedding on October 2nd. I remember specifically that I planned only to be down for the weekend, so I only packed a suit for the wedding, and my jeans and gray t-shirt for travelling back on Sunday.
Well, when things shook out on Saturday the way they did, the Mets could face a win-and-get-in the playoffs situation on Sunday. So at the wedding, a couple of friends and I decided to pull some strings we had and go to the game on Sunday. I'm fuzzy on who I was with - I'm pretty sure there was a group of 3 or 4.
We had great seats - behind the plate, about ten rows up. I was on TV throughout the game, right behind the batter from the center-field camera.
The game itself did not match the excitement level (or the intensity) it deserved, considering the situation. The Mets played the Pirates, and the game went to the 9th inning tied at 1. (Ironically, future Met Kris Benson pitched for Pittsburgh that day.) In the bottom of the ninth, the Mets got back-to-back singles with one out, and with runners on the corners, the Pirates intentionally walked John Olerud to face Mike Piazza with the bases loaded.
Of course, we couldn't believe it - that's exactly who we'd want at the plate in that situation. The place was going nuts. So what happens - the pitcher throws a wild pitch, Melvin Mora scores, and the Mets win. Pretty anticlimactic...and, it turned out, the Mets would have to play the Reds the next day in a one-game playoff to decide the wild card (Al Leiter threw a two-hitter in Cincinnati), and I forget if we knew that at the time, but it was still a wild celebration at Shea, since we knew the Mets had kept their season alive.
A personal note: This was the game where while waiting for our tickets at the Will Call window, some older woman kept making passes at me. Turned out, she was Richie Hebner's wife - he was a coach with the Pirates at the time, and spent one season with the Mets as a player in the 1970's.
More importantly, though, that gray t-shirt and jeans turned out to be very lucky. I ended up staying in New York almost the whole week - I watched the Mets beat the Reds on Monday night at my parents', and then went to a Rangers game with my dad later that week - still wearing my gray shirt and jeans. Then the gray shirt and jeans were lucky for the Mets' win over the Diamondbacks in the first round of the playoffs, and it's what I was wearing when Robin Ventura hit his walk-off grand slam/double while I was interning at Channel 7 here in Boston. (OK, not really interning, since I had already graduated and basically just hung out and logged games...That was a great day though - I was watching the Mets in extra extra innings, and the U.S.'s dramatic Ryder Cup win all at the same time.)
The lucky outfit, which began its string of good luck on that Sunday afternoon at Shea, finally ran out of luck a few weeks later. I hate to end this story on such a down note, but the moment involved Kenny Rogers and Andruw Jones.
Friday, August 15, 2008
MIKE & THE MAD DOG
I'm pretty down about the end of Mike & The Mad Dog on WFAN in New York. I'm also disappointed that I just missed catching the beginning of today's show on YES - I was putting my daughter down for a nap and just caught a phone call between Mike Francesa and Chris Russo ending. Hopefully that gets played again.
Mike & The Mad Dog is what I pretty much grew up listening to as far as sports radio goes (actually, any radio - I didn't get into FM radio until much later in life). I always enjoyed the show, and like I do often with my sports teams, I defended Mike Francesa and Chris Russo when people put them down, even though I knew the person might have been right about what they were saying. Older now, I see their faults, but I still think they provided quality radio. (And having to listen to sports radio in Boston now, I realize how far and away better WFAN does things than other markets in the country - or, at least, better than Boston.) I'm 30, the show's been on for 19 years. I've spent a sizable chunk of my life listening to Mike & The Mad Dog...I'll miss it.
I'm sure Mike Francesa's show will continue to be fine on WFAN, and I'm sure Chris Russo will do fine wherever he goes (rumors are Sirius). And I'm sure they'll both be good shows to listen to - but it won't be the same.
UPDATE: Awful Announcing has the YES video of Chris Russo's phone call to Mike Francesa at the top of the show Friday. I listened to a couple of hours of the show, it was good stuff. A lot of the callers directed their affections, though, at Francesa - I thought it should have been more of an appreciation for Russo. Whatever.
The other thing, while I'm on the topic of media, is that www.awfulannouncing.com does a great job critiquing the media. I have a link to it on the right-hand side of the page - check it out every so often if you're interested.
I don't really have much to say about the Olympics coverage in general, though it seems that NBC is doing a fine job.
What I want to comment on is how much I enjoy watching Cris Collinsworth these days. I have come totally full circle on him. I used to strongly dislike anything he did - mostly from his work on 'Inside the NFL' on HBO. Maybe he said something bad about the Jets once that I held against him - I don't know. Maybe he came off as arrogant...I think it's a bit of both.
But ever since he started doing NFL Network games, he's started to grow on me. Maybe it's because he was the good alternative to Bryant Gumbel, who was just awful (and now gone), but he was flat out great, not just good compared to his partner. And now, whenever I watch the Olympics (I'm not watching a ton, but I catch the studio stuff every now and then), I'm happy when I see Collinsworth on - he's doing a great job there too.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I have to find my way down for that game...at least now I know I have 8 months to plan how I'm going to get out of school.
Ghosts, Curses, Legends, and Eerie Events
By Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon
I'm not much of a ghost-story guy. I scare easily, and frankly, there are other things that interest me more. Like things that don't scare me. So this isn't the type of book that I would have gone out and bought. But that's the neat thing about gifts - you'll get exposed to something you might not have otherwise read.
And this book (a birthday gift) was enjoyable, for the most part. You can read it cover-to-cover in a couple of days, or just leave it out and pick and choose sections that interest you - it's a quick read either way.
As for the content, I'm about 50-50 on whether or not I believe it. I think I believe in ghosts - at least, I find some of these stories about hauntings at ballparks and hotels pretty believable. But there's some obvious bull in this book, too - so much so that it makes you wonder why the authors bothered giving credence to the storytellers (like the guy who claims Buck Weaver, of the 1919 Chicago White Sox scandal, speaks to him asking him to "clear my name". I liked your story better when it was called Field of Dreams.).
Some of the very believable stuff centers on old ballplayers haunting fields they used to call home. Like groundskeepers in St. Petersburg (at Huggins-Stengel Field, specifically) claiming that on the day Joe DiMaggio died, they painted a 5 on the field where DiMaggio used to play in spring training. That day, the lawnmower died each time it hit center, and it wouldn't mow the 5. Same thing with the number 7 when Mickey Mantle died. That's weird, and I believe it. Not sure why, but I do. And countless ballplayers talking about haunted hotels.
One cool story in the book centered on a plaque the New York Giants made to memorialize a player named Eddie Grant, who died a hero in World War I. The plaque was in play in deep center at the Polo Grounds, but became lost when the Giants moved to San Francisco. I don't believe the Giants became cursed because of the lost plaque (they haven't won a World Series since the plaque was lost), but I did enjoy learning something new about baseball history.
The question I wonder when I hear these ghost stories, though, is why are these ghosts so benign? Johnny Damon claims he had a ghost in his house once and it just pinned him to the ground for 15 minutes (strangely, another ballplayer claimed he had a similar ghost experience once. Why have I never heard of these types of ghost "attacks" before?). How come the ghosts don't do something terrible? Why are they so playful? Just walking past, being spotted? Why don't they do something? That's the question I'm left with.
There are a few mentions of the Mets (they, too, trained at the alleged haunted Huggins-Stengel Field), and it's a fairly new book, so a lot of current ballplayers are mentioned. A nice summer, casual read.
A NEW ADDITION: I've been working on this for a while now, and finally figured out how to do it - please note the addition of the standings on the right-hand side of the page. If possible, I'll add NFL standings when that season starts as well. Hopefully the NL East standings have the Mets on top from this day forward...
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
All Carter has done this year is once again lead a team he has managed to the playoffs. The Orange County Flyers won the first half division title, meaning they've already clinched a playoff berth. Still, they're leading the second half as well - by three-and-a-half games -with less than a month to go in the season. They've been the best team, record-wise, all year long.
The playoffs start out with what appears to be a best 3-of-5 series in the first week of September, so we'll keep an eye out for that.
Lest you forgot, this is Carter's third year managing in the minors (or independent leagues, I guess), and he has yet to field a losing team. Here's his brief history:
2005 (Gulf Coast Mets): 37-16, but 0-2 in the post-season
2006 (St. Lucie Mets): 40-30 (1st Half), 37-32 (2nd Half), 5-0 post-season, Champions
2008 (Orange County Flyers): 28-15 (1st Half), 27-15 (so far in the 2nd Half)
According to Wikipedia, the Flyers lost in the championship two years ago, and were very average last year (37-39)...so this appears to be another pretty good managing job by Carter. If he continues to get his teams to perform like this, major league teams can't possibly continue to overlook him....can they?
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
There is no way they are going to win anything this year with the bullpen pitching the way it has been. And it's the most frustrating thing in the world to watch.
Aaron Heilman gets the bulk of the blame for Monday's loss to the Pirates, but the problem right now is that it's not just the 9th inning that Mets pitchers can't close out - it's any lead at any time. The Mets had a 5-1 lead going into the seventh inning, and right away gave back 3 runs, making it a one-run game. There is no way that game should have been a one-run game at any point after David Wright's 3-run homer in the first inning. (The offense can get some of that blame too - the Pirates tried to give the Mets a blowout win every which way on Monday.)
So after the game, Jerry Manuel talked about the fact that he had to make immediate changes to make things right. Here are my thoughts:
1) Eddie Kunz will be the closer. Manuel said he didn't want to have to put Kunz in that role so soon after coming up. You know what, the way the other dopes have been pitching, I don't care - Kunz should have been used in that role right away. It's what he did in the minors, he should have continued in New York. It's second-guessing at this point, but Manuel should have had Kunz in there from the beginning.
1a) I'm at the point where if Kunz can't do the job right away, and option 2 (below) doesn't work out, call up Brad Holt or some other minor league fireballer who can close the door. Just temporarily. The Mets are killing themselves here.
2) When John Maine comes back from his injury (possibly Wednesday), he will probably close until Billy Wagner gets healthy. I think this is an intriguing possibility, and if Maine is successful, I think it should be his permanent spot. He can be spotty as a starter, and ends up throwing too many pitches. I think he'd be ideal as a closer - and could solve the Mets' problems there for a while.
3) Johan Santana needs to go deep into tonight's game. It's the Washington Nationals, theoretically the Mets should win big (theoretically). Santana needs to step up and throw a complete game shutout.
4) I know there isn't a wealth of relievers available in the major leagues...but surely Omar Minaya could do better. The only person he seemed to be interested in at the trade deadline was the Nationals' Luis Ayala. 60 hits in 54 innings. And 21 walks. He's 1-8 (the losses are the only stat you can blame on the fact that he plays for the horrible Nats) with a 5.93 ERA. If Minaya makes that move through waivers (there are no indications he is still pursuing Ayala), it would be rubbing salt in this open wound.
Let's end on a positive note - David Wright is on another doubles tear - 3 in 2 games. I don't know that he'll break the team record, but he's creeping up there, and of course, continuing his assault on the all-time record:
WRIGHT (2008): 32 Doubles
TEAM RECORD: 44
WRIGHT (career): 173
ALL-TIME RECORD: 792
Monday, August 11, 2008
Let's start with the Tampa Bay Rays. As I've been saying for a while, they're not going anywhere. The Yankees have had a couple of pretty poor weeks, so they're looking like a long shot to overtake the Rays, and the Red Sox are now without Tim Wakefield, who will miss a couple of starts - it just seems like the stars aren't aligning for them this year. I'm not sure they will even hold onto their wild card lead...but that's another story for another day.
It makes sense with the Rays - they've had this young team that has been on the cusp for a few years - if they only had some pitching, people would say. Well, now their pitching is performing. But here's what I don't understand about Tampa Bay - I get that they have Scott Kazmir, James Shields, and Matt Garza, good pitchers all. But what has gotten into Edwin Jackson? This guy has been awful his entire career - first, as a reliever, with 23 appearances and a 5.45 ERA. Then last year in his first as a starter, 5-15 with a 5.76 ERA. This year he is now 9-7 with a 4.07 ERA. Has it just taken this many starts for him to be comfortable as a starter? Or is he having one of those flash-in-the-pan seasons? I mean, Kazmir had the good stretch earlier this season where he was dominant for 6 or 7 starts in a row, but Jackson has been way more consistent recently. I totally buy into the Rays this year...I just don't know what to think about Edwin Jackson.
Now the Mets - this is their week to make hay. They start this afternoon with a makeup day game against the Pirates at Shea, before hitting the road for the rest of the week - going to Washington then Pittsburgh (a wraparound series ending Monday). That has to be 6 wins. Has to be.
Pittsburgh has given the Mets trouble in recent years, which is why I'm not automatically throwing a 8-0 out there...and also, the bullpen is bound to blow a game this week.
So 6-2, 7-1 - that would allow the Mets to take over first place - especially while at the same time the Phillies are on a west coast swing and the Marlins will have their hands full with St. Louis and Chicago.
So Friday night I was kind of interested in the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. The Wife had it on, I sat for five minutes, and it bored me. I couldn't even tell you which part I was watching because it just didn't register in my head. I kept thinking, "I'd rather watch baseball." So I put on baseball, and didn't tune back in to the Olympics until the swimming Saturday night.
Now all I keep hearing is how wonderful/exhilarating/just plain cool the Opening Ceremonies were. How could this be? Wouldn't I have been able to tell if it was going to be exciting? Is it just that it got good towards the end (4 hours after I watched) when they lit the cauldron? And that the ending was so good that people forgot how torturous the rest of the show was (like women who give birth forget all the uncomfortable aspects and just remember the joyous parts)? Someone help me out here, please.
Finally, the Chad Pennington mystery is over - he's a member of the Miami Dolphins. This is kind of like the football gods screwing with me. I hate the Dolphins. Most of that is Dan Marino residue - I guess I really don't hate them anymore...I probably dislike the Patriots more these days - but I love seeing the Dolphins lose. The Patriots is more of a recent thing - for so long they were harmless, usually joining the Jets in awfulness year to year. But the Dolphins were rivals. And I hated them.
But now I'll be rooting for them 14 out of 16 games a year. I really hope Pennington wins with them, except when they play the Jets. And the cool thing about football is I can root for Pennington to do well against the Jets, you know, 14-20, 200 yards, and throw no touchdowns or interceptions. Maybe a bunch of dropped balls, so he's not even to blame when the Jets beat them, then he can do really well in the other games.
Miami is really the best-case scenario for Pennington - he'll play right away while teaching young quarterbacks at the same time.
In Jets camp, meanwhile, Laveranues Coles is apparently stewing about the loss of Pennington. Listen, I love that Coles is so attached to Pennington...but he's got to get over it and enjoy the fact that he will have a monster season running downfield for Favre bombs. And I think he will - he told the media last week that he just needed time to get over it.
Jerricho Cotchery took the opposite approach - I don't know if it was a veiled shot at Pennington or not (I'd like to lean towards 'not'), but he commented on how hard Favre threw. He said Vinny Testaverde threw hard, but Favre's ball was "definitely the hardest ball I've had thrown at me in a long time." Just realize, Jerricho, that the difference in the speed of Favre's throws compared with Pennington's is about the same as the difference in their accuracy at certain points in the game. I hope the receivers are ready for that.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Got to talking to my friends last weekend about the biggest games they ever attended. Among the answers: Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS (Aaron Boone), Derek Lowe's no-hitter for the Red Sox, a 2004 World Series game, Game 6 of the 1986 World Series (though the 8-year-old Southern Bureau left that one early), and Game 6 of the 1996 World Series (the clincher for the Yankees...and how about those two Game 6's a decade apart for the Southern Bureau?). The interesting thing about all of those examples is that the team you would have wanted to see win in each of those scenarios won the game.
My experience with big games is not as exciting. Sure, I've been to playoff games. And I've never seen the Mets lose a playoff game - I've been to two and they were both wins. Game 3 in 1988 was an 8-4 Mets win and Game 4 in 2000 was a 10-6 win, notable because Armando Benitez closed out the game without blowing it.
I only remember three things about the 1988 game, when I was 10 - 1) It was supposed to be on a Friday night, after which my dad and I would drive up to see my cousins for a weekend in Vermont, but the game got rained out and was played on Saturday instead, putting a damper on the weekend. 2) I forgot my glasses at school that weekend, so I didn't see the game very well. My dad was mad about that. And 3) I remember Keith Hernandez taking a digger running from second to third base. I guess it wasn't very costly, so that's good.
But that's the extent of my big-game experience at Shea Stadium. Big games, sure, but not really eventful ones. Of course, being a Mets fan, I've never been to a no-hitter at Shea. The big games I remember at Shea are for events that don't even come close to playoff games in terms of importance, but for some reason they stick out in my memory even more. Here's one example:
I was at the game where Spider Man married Mary Jane. The sports angle here is that this was the game where Lenny Dykstra and Mookie Wilson both dived (dove?) for a ball in the left-center gap, and collided. One's mouth hit the other's nose...neither was seriously injured, but it was pretty bloody...and pretty cool for a 9-year-old.
So was the "wedding". It took place before the game, with live-action characters. Spider-Man got married in his costume, and for some reason Doctor Octopus was there. Not sure I would have invited my mortal enemy to my wedding (as a matter of fact, I didn't), but to each his own. And the kids in attendance got the commemmorative comic, seen at left. I must have that somewhere - I bet it's worth keeping.
As the season winds down, I'll chronicle my other 'big games' at Shea. They don't quite match up in my mind with what my friends have seen...but when you deal with the Mets everything is relative.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Because I'm pretty sure, based on the look on his face while Mayor Bloomberg was reading scripted notes that the mayor clearly did not understand, had he known about it in advance, Brett Favre would have nixed the entire deal.
What an awkward situation. A Metrocard? To go where? Why don't we save this City Hall stuff for after Favre wins a Super Bowl (an occasion he's now prepped for, with an empty key ring in anticipation of a key to the city)...or at least a playoff game. For now, let him get the heck to practice, please.
WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?: Chad Pennington took the high road out of town, which for him is the only road there is. "I've learned a lot, become a better professional and a better man because of my experience and my time in New York," he said. He'll have a positive impact on whichever team picks him up - even if he doesn't have a good statistical year. Wherever he goes, I'll be keeping a close eye on him and keeping you aware as well.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Here's the example. In the fifth inning Wednesday night, Daniel Murphy comes up, batting second in the order, after a Jose Reyes single. After Reyes steals second, Murphy tries to move him to third by hitting the ball to the right side. The pitch is inside, and Murphy turns on it and pulls it right over the second baseman's head for an RBI single. That tied the game at 2. David Wright then reached on an error, so it's first and second for Carlos Beltran. Beltran flies out to deep right. Murphy tags at second, and would advance easily, except Wright forgot how many outs there were and got doubled off first.
To make matters worse, possibly because he was still thinking about the bad baserunning move, Wright made the error in the seventh inning that allowed the Padres to take the lead, and ended up giving Pedro Martinez* an unearned loss after a very good outing.
These were exactly the type of blunders (the baserunning more than the error) that cost Willie Randolph his job. And there's one of two things happening - either 1) Randolph so woefully prepared this team in the fundamentals of baseball in the spring that they're still suffering the consequences (obviously, the minor league system is teaching the right things, because Murphy and Nick Evans have been doing the right things all along), or 2) The current coaching staff is still stressing the wrong things with this team.
Either way, these Mets have made unacceptable mistakes all season.
Then along comes Thursday afternoon. Everyone is clamoring for David Wright to get a day off, but the problem isn't Wright - it's the bullpen. For the hundredth time this year, Johan Santana is pulled from a game, possibly prematurely, and the bullpen costs him a win. That's another story for another day.
What happened today was David Wright won a game for the Mets a day after losing one for them - a total turnaround for him. He hit a walk-off two-run homer. So that's a nice little bounceback. And it's good for the Mets that just when everything was seeming to go wrong (another blown save by the Wagner replacements), they're able to pull out a win.
Another big series with Florida begins Friday.
LAST WORD ON PENNINGTON: I'm not going to go through all of the possible destinations for Chad Pennington, because I've already done that. This is from before the draft (actually, before the Super Bowl even), but it's not outdated at all. I still think those are the most likely destinations, although maybe Minnesota moves up to the "very likely" category.
I hope the unceremonious departure Pennington is forced to take from New York isn't accompanied by kicks in the rear as he leaves. No, he didn't have a strong arm. Yes, he was injured quite a bit. And no, he never led the team to the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl - but he provided Jets fans with more thrills than most of us have experienced in our football-rooting lives.
He won more than he lost - and despite never making it all the way, he did win in the playoffs. Which is a lot more than other Jets quarterbacks can claim.
And what did he get for it? Constant complaints that he wasn't good enough. Direct competition from a totally inferior quarterback. More lack of respect...and more calls for a replacement...even after leading the team to a surprise playoff appearance in 2006. (I take part of the blame for buying his jersey. Sorry, Chad. At least now, with Favre, I can try to salvage my Glenn Foley #4 jersey.)
Pennington's resume includes a playoff appearance in his first season as the Jets starter - a season in which he led a resurgence from a 1-4 start to a 9-7 finish, and with a victory over Brett Favre's Packers in the final game of the season, a trip to the playoffs. All Pennington did was lead a blowout of the Colts, 41-0, before losing to Oakland the next week.
With expectations high in 2003, Pennington suffered the first of many season-derailing injuries, breaking his wrist in a pre-season game against the Giants. He came back from that to tear his rotator cuff in 2004, but missed just three games as the Jets went 10-6 to make the playoffs again.
In that season, Pennington deserved a better fate. His arm was trusted even less than usual because of the injury, but he led the Jets to a playoff win in San Diego. In Pittsburgh the following week, Pennington put the Jets in position to win the game twice, and of course, the kicker failed to hit the game-winning field goals.
2005 was a rough year - a horrible start, then another shoulder injury, and Pennington was done until 2006...when he threw for a personal-high 3,352 yards in 16 starts, and led the Jets to the playoffs. Last year he started just 8 games, and you got the impression that the arm injuries had taken their toll.
By my count, Chad Pennington was 32-30 as a starter with the Jets, 31-22 before last year. Which is important, because last year was probably an indication of what would have come this year - more games of 125 yards passing...which just wasn't enough. But it also was a product of his offensive line, which couldn't offer him any protection. Perhaps Pennington could have more success with a better team this year.
Everything you ever heard about Chad Pennington as a Jets fan was positive. Which is why I hope after the Jets release him, he gets picked up by another team quickly, and gets a chance to play. And I hope it's a team that will play at the Meadowlands in the coming season. And I hope Pennington gets the thunderous ovation that he deserves...and maybe Brett Favre takes note that you can leave a place with class, even when you haven't been treated like a god your entire career.
Let me just get this out of the way - I still think what Favre did to the Packers was unfair. Just because they wanted a decision back in March doesn't give him the right to hold them over a barrel when he decided he still wanted to play in June or July. The Packers did what was best for them - they couldn't play the waiting game and hold their whole franchise in limbo while one person was making up their mind. And they gave Favre his opportunities to stay with the team in the end...but by that time, for whatever reason, Favre decided he'd rather play for Minnesota. Which is ridiculous. This seems like the best-case scenario for everyone that was involved, except, I guess, for the Vikings and the Buccaneers.
But now that everything is settled, this is a great move for the Jets. I'm probably going to post multiple times today to cover different angles, but let's start with Favre, since it's been all about him for months now, and it's been a little more than a week since I last addressed the situation.
The only drawback I can see to this is that the expectations for the Jets are suddenly sky-high. I felt good about the Jets coming into this season - they made significant improvements, and the best thing was that they were flying under the radar - seasons where no one expects much are the seasons where the Jets tend to surprise and do well. Now, though, the Jets will be on national TV a lot, they'll be featured all the time - Favre is like an ESPN magnet - and they're suddenly playoff contenders. Rightly so - the only question mark they had was at quarterback - and that's now an exclamation point.
Brett Favre gives the Jets a legit downfield threat, which they just didn't seem to have with Chad Pennington. That makes Thomas Jones more of a threat, because now the Jets' passing game alone can beat a team, so defenses can't stack the box.
The other unexpected piece here is that this doesn't seem to be a one-year, one-shot deal with Favre. I think he'll play for a few more years, provided he doesn't get beat up this season. And that means, with a pretty good mix of youth and veterans at the key positions, the Jets might be contenders for a few years.
I'm slightly cautious here. Before last year, Favre was starting to look washed up. He was great last year, and he might be able to repeat that for the next couple of years, but that could be questionable. And to be good, he needs the Jets receivers to be good. Do the likes of Laveraneus Coles, Jerricho Cotchery, and Brad Smith, along with tight ends Chris Baker and (former Packer!) Bubba Franks equal the likes of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and Donald Lee? Or is it Favre that makes the receivers better? I guess we'll find out. And there's still the Patriots - Brett Favre can't guard Randy Moss.
Suddenly, I'm excited about football season. More to come....
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
But I have a different idea that can save face for Favre. It will only enhance his legacy, rather than tarnish it.
Brett Favre needs a job. The Mets need a closer. Seems like a perfect fit to me.
Who throws harder than Brett Favre? I bet he can hit 100 on the radar gun - he practically does that with a football, let alone throwing a baseball.
It's a win-win situation for everyone:
1) Billy Wagner is on the DL. Even when he has pitched, he's been hurt, and has been ineffective. No one else on the Mets seems to be able to lock down this closer position - Aaron Heilman nearly blew a 4-run 9th inning lead last night. Favre hasn't missed a game since 1992, right? So that solves that problem.
2) There's no such thing as an interception in baseball.
3) Obviously, this addition would lead the Mets to a World Series championship.
4) By the time the World Series is over, the NFL season will be halfway over. Favre will have a better idea then of which teams are in need of a quarterback, he'll be fresh, and be able to take the reins of a team that is missing that final piece for a championship. Who knows - by then, maybe Aaron Rodgers will be hurt, and everything can work out the way Favre wanted it in the first place - he could take over the QB position on the Packers again.
Brett Favre could win a World Series and Super Bowl in the same year. This is something that should be seriously considered.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Fenway Park is one of those parks that I've gone to for years without singing its praises. I'm very lucky to be able to go every once in a while - every time I'm there I get a little bit of the same thrill that I got the first time I went.
Sure, the seats are small, it can be uncomfortable to sit for long stretches there, and it would have been nice to live so close to a new ballpark had they not chosen to renovate, but it still is a special place.
Friday night I had the opportunity to go with Justin From NYC, Dave in Brighton, and the Southern Bureau (thanks to the Southern Bureau's dad), and decided I'd take pictures to show on the blog. There's another thing about Fenway - from certain places in the park, it's impossible to take a bad picture. The other neat thing about Friday night's game was that it was the first for Jason Bay in a Red Sox uniform (the Red Sox acquired him at the deadline Thursday in exchange for Manny Ramirez plus much more). He got a huge standing ovation, which you can see below.
The one thing I couldn't capture in picture is how awesome the view is coming out of the tunnel to get to your seats at Fenway. I remember getting chills the first time I did, seeing the Green Monster in person for the first time, thinking about Gary Carter hitting two home runs into the screen in Game 4 of the 1986 World Series. I tried to recapture that feeling, but when I came out of the tunnel on Friday, it was way too crowded, and all I got was this:
The first time I went to Fenway was 1995. We drove up to see Red Sox-Twins. It came a few months after we saw the second-to-last regular season game at Boston Garden, which was on Patriot's Day in 1995. We drove up to see Celtics-Nets, and on the way we went on a tour of Boston University, which turned out to be my future college. Since BU was so close to Fenway, we stopped by the ticket office and bought tickets for later that summer. The Red Sox game was very hot and pretty uncomfortable, but I was so psyched to be there that I didn't notice much. I've been many times since - definitely more to Fenway in the past decade than to Shea or Yankee Stadium combined - and the same is true now as it was then - even though it has its faults (which in a ballpark that is pushing 100 years old makes it 'charming', I guess), Fenway is a great place to see a baseball game.
Monday, August 04, 2008
MOST IMPRESSIVE: I've been meaning to write about this for a while, and now's as good a time as any since we're starting to see the promotion of a lot of the Mets youngsters. First and foremost, 33rd overall draft pick, Bradley Holt (though he seems to be going by Brad now) - who we've written about before - is having a great season with the Brooklyn Cyclones (3-2, 2.06 ERA, 58 K in 43 IP). And the Mets just called up Eddie Kunz, a closer at Double-A. He joins Dan Murphy, Nick Evans, and Carlos Muniz, already at the Major League level. And then there's Brandon Knight, off to play in the Olympics, and Jonathan Niese, who will be with the Mets at some point this season.
It's funny - only Niese and Knight are with Triple-A - the rest are all at lower levels...and while the talent in New Orleans (AAA) is some young, mostly veteran retreads, the lower levels of the Mets system seem chock-full of talent (Fernando Martinez, their top outfield prospect, is also at Double-A.).
Why is this relevant? Well, first off, I think the Mets have better minor league arms than they're given credit for. Secondly, with the Sports Illustrated article about David Price's importance to Tampa down the stretch, and the references to what Joba Chamberlain did with the Yankees last year...is it such a stretch to think that a couple of these young arms could help the Mets bullpen heading into September this year?
We'll keep an eye on the progress of all of these guys.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: I can't believe the Mets didn't make a trade deadline move. Parts of this I'm fine with - I didn't want them to trade for Manny Ramirez. Other parts I'm not sure how to feel - I think they need a corner outfielder who has a little more experience than Dan Murphy. But with the farm system coming along like I've already mentioned, I'm going with the thought process that it's a good thing the Mets didn't get rid of some young talent.
LEAST IMPRESSIVE: Billy Wagner blew another Johan Santana win on Sunday, and now he's hurt...or, I guess he's been hurt for a while and now he's getting it checked out again. Whatever...he's hurt the Mets a lot this year - my confidence level in him is at Braden Looper-type levels heading into the last couple of months.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: The Mets battled back to first place only to go 1-5 in their last six games, including this weekend's sweep in Houston. Now they're three out, and they're behind the Marlins and Phillies in the standings. The Phillies were reeling, and the Mets didn't pull away. Now it's going to probably be a battle the rest of the way.
MOST IMPRESSIVE: I don't think I've talked about him since the first or second bi-weekly analysis, when he was just terrible, but CC Sabathia has been just the opposite since being acquired by the Brewers. All he's done in 6 Milwaukee starts is go 5-0 with a 1.88 ERA.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Tampa Bay is still not going away, but let's also add the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins. This was supposed to be a throwaway year, and here they are leading their division the first week in August.
LEAST IMPRESSIVE: Saw the Oakland A's at Fenway Park against the Red Sox on Friday night (more on that tomorrow). They are pathetic. They're 53-57 right now, but fading fast. Frank Thomas is the only threat in that lineup.....and is he really even a threat anymore?
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: My pick to win the American League, the Cleveland Indians, sits dead last in the American League Central. They've been awful all year long.
He's not winning himself many friends around the league, and count me out when it comes to defending Brett Favre. If he had at least considered a trade to the Jets I'd sing a different tune...but to hold a team hostage the way he's doing and only accept a trade within the division....he should be arrested.
And one more football note:
The Southern Bureau has kept us on top of a number of things in baseball and football...he's done fine work keeping the blog updated through comments when I've been away (enough so that I just realized I should give him total access to the blog, something only The Wife has had up to now). It's because of the Southern Bureau that we knew of Brad Holt before the draft...and if you're a Chiefs fan, it would have been the Southern Bureau that let you know about rookie kicker Connor Barth before he came to Kansas City.
Well, the Southern Bureau's own blog is where you can get an inside look at NFL Training Camp through Barth's eyes - it's good stuff, and he's involved in a competition for the job, too.