Archives for the month of: July, 2009

Alternate verses as titles included:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue;

The Mets lost 11-0 last night.

Goddamn it.

And:

There once was a Met from Nantucket,

who slipped in the shower and was placed on the 60-day DL.

And:

Let us go then, you and I,

where the diamond is spread out against the sky,

like an athlete prostrate upon the trainer’s table…

That last one comes courtesy of T.S. Eliot, a poet of great renown and a whack job late in life. But that’s what happens when you write Cats.  But what happens when you helm a team that can only score three runs over nine innings then only manages two hits the following night?  I don’t know the answer to that question.  Stop asking me.

Chowdah At Foley's.jpg

This was part of the scene on Thursday at Foley’s NY, where Frank Messina, the “Mets Poet” and author of Full Count: The Book Of Mets Poetry, regaled the back room with some verse, delivered in the best Beat tradition, just before the game against Atlanta.
(Links to various characters in this story will follow at the end of this post.  To your left is Chowdah, speaking to Kevin Burkhardt prior to the game’s start.)
I’m fairly new to the art of showing up with camera and note-taking capacity; as I’m not covering a session of the General Assembly or the death of an elected official or even a community board meeting, I find it best to show up, act respectful and casual, and go with the flow.  For a reason unknown to me, I ratchet up my deference whenever I walk into an Irish bar.  I might as well be in dress uniform.
I don’t get it; I’m not generally disrespectful in any other public setting, so it’s not like I’m bringing my game up to par.  But most places will elicit from me a “Thanks, friend,” or an, “I’m fine; how’re YOU doin’, guy?”
But in an Irish bar, I become a halfway-timid collection of curt head-nods, “sirs” and “ma’ams” and “thank-you-most-kindlys.” Stranger still to be this way at Foley’s, which is what ESPN’s set and costume warehouse would look like if the world were suffering under the heel of a massive conspiracy called Organized Sport, arranged and executed by all manner of media.  
Foley’s owner, Shaun Clancy, greeted me and introduced me to Mr. Messina, who made sure I was where he was told the action was going to be.  Before long I was drinking a beer and chowing down on the David Wright Sandwich.  (I recommend it if you like buffalo sauce and bleu cheese dressing.  Otherwise, stay away.)
Frank Messina Reads.jpg
Mr. Messina read perhaps five or six installments.  Most notable was a poem titled “Psycho Chick,” which tells the story of a woman less interested in the game she’s brought to by her date than with causing trouble for the man, in the name of fun.  I’ve never been on the Kiss Cam, but if I were, I’d like it to be without the stigma of having “METS SUCK” written on my forehead in lipstick.
Mr. Messina read to the delight and, on occasion, participation of those there, and afterwards, stuck around for the game, at one point inviting me to join his group.  You can see part of that group seated at the table with the gentleman in the white Mets jersey.  It was a fine way to spend a Thursday evening and eventual Mets loss.  
Howard Johnson Baseball Card.jpg
I sat at the Howard Johnson table, thinking perhaps this would bring some free-swinging mojo to the team.  Sadly, I have no mojo to impart.  Such is the way this season’s going.  In fact, about a block away from the bar I tripped on what I have to think was a rat, and messed up my shoe in the landing or messed up my foot.  Either way, I’m wearing Sperry Top-Siders until further notice, as the thought of walking with any arch support sends shockwaves through my sole.
My thanks to Mr. Messina for his hospitality and gregariousness.  It’s not necessarily uncommon to find such a person or group of persons in New York; what disarms time and again is just how similar our experiences can be, even in a town as large as this.
Additionally, Mr. Messina, my thanks for your patience as I told the story of last year’s Caribbean Night at Shea–a story I always start off by saying, “Let me tell you about the most obnoxious I’ve ever been at a baseball game.”  I’m sure at some point in the lean off-season months I’ll need material, so I’ll save that story for then.  But Thursday night left me eventually so comfortable that I could relate a tale of utter awfulness to a near-complete stranger.  A great little recharge for a guy who sometimes gets so bogged down in the details he neglects to consider the masses he passes daily.
**
They say Sheffield has a cramp.  I believe nothing that comes from the trainer’s room these days.  Nothing.  Day in and out I’ll watch the boys go to war with whomever they have, but in the interstices?  Dead to me.  That whole training crew.  Even if it isn’t their fault.
And that blanket statement will serve as a nice eventual segue to my other point, which I’ll make in a bit. 
I believe it is acceptable to indict a crew for perceived ineptitude.  The stories of J.J. Putz and Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes unfolded like a coffee drip in zero-G.  Those daily updates before their respective shut-downs were sins of omission.  
No, Ray Ramirez isn’t running out to talk to the press every day; that’s not his job.  But if he or anyone on his team are watching this train wreck unfold and not looking within to discover a larger problem, then they’re deluding themselves.  If they are and find their words being distorted by the front o
ffice, they have an obligation to speak up independent of that office, to save their hides.  The Mets are not the Mafia; speaking truth to power will not earn you cement shoes and a trip to the Hudson.  At the worst it’ll earn you a dismissal and a clear conscience, and a subsequent consultation with a civil attorney.
A not-insignificant percentage of this roster has gone down to injury, yet that is not what sticks in my craw.  Injuries happen.  Even a raft of injuries such as what we’ve seen unfold.  The communication of the NATURE of such injuries is what’s GODAWFUL, and plenty fixable.  Damage is being done due to poor internal judgment of the timbre of the wail outside the gates.  It is not noble at this point to hold to the party line and watch that line shift day in and day out.  I’ve quit jobs because management couldn’t communicate effectively its dire straits; both times I was right to have done so.  Both firms are in fairly deep trouble now.
There is a perception held by Mets fans that the training crew is incompetent and the PR team works as a disinformation machine, and that perception does not serve the fans or the club.  If someone in there cares about what they’re doing and can explain what’s going on, they should get out and speak up, and damn the consequences.  Even if what’s going on is nothing save examinations which initially reveal one thing, then later reveal another, and indecisiveness as to handle the situation.  At this point, the silence is what’s deafening.
If you can’t fix the team, fix yourself and be honest about it, and you’ll fix the fans.  Else seek a merge with the Nationals.  They, too, have come to a point where individual troubles have mounted to become a desperate reality, and can’t seem to get out of their own way for the sake of rational, reasoned, professional operation.
Ergo segue:
**
While waiting for Mr. Messina to begin reading, I took out the BlackBerry and read Marty Noble’s mailbag segment on the Mets.com website.  Something I read there continues to bother me.  Link at the end of the post, but here’s what’s pertinent:

One of the comments at the end of one your stories said you’re a Yankees fan. Is that true? How can you be a Yankees fan and write about the Mets?

— Allen S., Jersey City, N.J.

Some place in the past five years, I said or wrote that I was a Yankees fan as a kid. That was true and remains true. I still am a fan of the Yankees of the 1950s and early ’60s. But the “Lone Ranger” was my favorite show then, too. Some things change.

But you don’t have to be a fan of the team you cover. Indeed, you shouldn’t be. Objectivity is critical and impossible if you’re rooting. I’m a fan of good baseball and games with good, writable angles. And yes, a fan of the Mickey Mantle-Whitey Ford-Yogi Berra Yankees. And I have Lone Ranger DVD’s.

No, you don’t have to be a fan of the team you cover.  Objectivity is critical.  Right on those scores.

However, I disagree with Mr. Noble’s statement that one shouldn’t be a fan of the team one covers, and that objectivity is impossible if you’re rooting.  In fact, I disagree vigorously with that.
Rather, one should be a good enough reporter to set personal differences or common interests aside to tell the story objectively.  If you’re a fan; if you’re not a fan.  Humans DO have that capacity.  It doesn’t stop at reporting; it doesn’t stop at one’s profession.
The Wife used to work the butcher counter at Whole Foods.  The Wife’s a strict vegetarian.
A colleague went upstate this past weekend to marry a good friend to a woman who, by all accounts, is a MAJOR harpy.
If I attended a Braves game versus the Cardinals (I have problems with characters on both teams), and the Cardinals had led 11-0 going into the eighth, but the Braves roared back and won the game 12-11 (legitimately; not by Yadier Molina catching Mackey Sasser Syndrome or something), I’d be stoked to have been witness to such a feat.  There’s no joy in the Cardinals’ misfortune there.
If the Mets spit the bit during a game with playoff implications, it is possible to still love the Mets and speak evenly about how they so unabashedly screwed several pooches, a goat, and Acts Three and Four of Rush’s “By Tor & The Snow Dog.”
I’ve stated publicly and on this blog that I’m no Yankees-hater.  Were I around when the Dodgers played in Brooklyn, I’d probably be a Dodgers fan, but how can one not admire the Yankee teams of Mantle and Ford and Berra, before and after the Dodgers split?  
Dislike people who are soundly reported to be of poor character.  Find suspect those whose reputations are on the line yet seem to do nothing to repair them.  Be sure they answer to you in some way, whether through investment or inseparable proximity, or whatever you choose.  But I find it lazy to use one’s job as a reason not to engage in the same reality of interest and passion that most the rest of us share.
I feel as though I should extend this to a discussion of relativism.  We’ll see if I’m still annoyed later.  For now, I think I’ve at least started to make my point.
Let’s go Mets!
*Here come the links.  PLACES, everyone!

Frank Messina’s website is here.  You can buy his book from Amazon.com by going here.  Pick it up, and seek Frank out; he’s a great guy.

Foley’s NY is on 18 West 33rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, and you can see/read more about the place by going here.  If you enjoy a pint and have mild and undiagnosed Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (as I do), you’ll be hard-pressed to find such a busily decorated place in the city.  They’ve got a life-sized cutout of Don Zimmer by the urinals, for chrissakes.  Good thing it’s laminated.

Marty Noble’s Inbox article for Mets.com, from July 16, 2009, can be found here.

Busy day at the races; I shall have to be typically verbose when I get my sorry butt back home tonight (which will be through bitter rainstorms and the compulsory Friday night trip to see my parents).

An additional treat will be photos and words regarding the Frank Messina reading at Foley’s NY, of which I spoke yesterday.  Good time, good fun.  Later.

For now, something to hold you over.

Here’s the thing I came away with during last night’s game against the Atlanta Braves (L, 5-3).  We spoke about it, the event attendees and I, as it happened.

Top of the seventh.  Score tied, and remarkably so given that all three of the Mets’ patchwork outfield got steady work from Oliver Perez. (His walk count lowered from seven nine days ago to four last night.  Follow that?)  Righty Manny Acosta relieves Derek Lowe for the Braves. (Derek got jobbed by his infield and an odd strike zone last night.  Rare that this is the case, but the high-and-tight zone seemed to benefit Ollie.  But I was watching from a ways away, and drinking; I wonder what excuse I’d make were I a real reporter.)

Brian Schneider grounds out.  He was hitless last night, with a couple walks (one intentional).

One now must pinch-hit for Oliver Perez, who’d just gone over the magic number of pitches for anyone, and who wriggled out of a jam to end the sixth.  Who do you go to?

The Mets’ bench last night, excluding any Livan Hernandez pinch-hitting shenanigans, included:

  • Jeremy Reed (lefty batting .292 going into last night);
  • Angel Berroa (righty batting .136 going into last night);
  • Omir Santos (righty batting .268 going into last night); and
  • Fernando Tatis (righty batting .247 going into last night, and who once hit two grand slams in an inning).

There are thirteen pitchers currently on the Mets active roster.  With good reason.

Tatis popped out to second and we were all grateful that he could only possibly ground into a double play.

So everywhere we could look to find fault, we could not.  Without a viable fourth starter, and a fifth starter by committee, the Mets need to carry an extra arm or two.  Given the tie score late, one must save their strongest offensive weapons in case of emergency. 

The thought must’ve been: “Tatis gets on base.  Pagan’s been swinging well and Castillo’s got a hitting streak going.  We could eke out a run then slam the brakes on Atlanta.”

Except Tatis popped out, leaving no margin for error by Castillo, who was the weakest part of that equation.

The bench is less than exciting these days.  As for the relief corps, Feliciano walked the first guy he faced in the lower half of the frame and, well, if you were watching or not, you can figure out the rest.

It was a perfectly okay and understandable substitution, but if someone were to ask me next year or the year after or the year after how bad the injuries that befell the 2009 Mets hurt the team, this will be my anecdote.  It was a tidy little baseball game that ended badly.

Tonight’s line-up, as posted by David Lennon of Newsday:

Angel Pagan – CF

Luis Castillo – 2B

David Wright – 3B
Gary Sheffield – LF

Jeff Francoeur – RF
Daniel Murphy – 1B
Alex Cora – SS
Brian Schneider – C

Oliver Perez – SP

Essentially the same line-up three games in a row.  No kidding.

This hasn’t happened in I don’t know how long, and that’s only remarkable in that we’d seen the Mets in the same level of decrepitude for about three weeks prior to Angel Pagan’s return.

So that begs the question: was Jerry Manuel hoping Fernando Martinez or Fernando Tatis would get hot, enough to warrant Cora’s leading off?  Does Angel Pagan represent the understudy linchpin the Mets so sorely need to be AAAA as opposed to merely AAA or, dare I say, AA?

Has Chowdah so reliably picked up the mantle of the five-hole? With the same efficacy that Ryan Church so stupendously dropped it? (Or was not really given a chance to?)

The answer, to all these questions, is a qualified “Yes.”  That’s probably all we’d get if we were allowed to interview Jerry pre-game, and since I’m about done with my last fifteen-minute break, that’s all you’ll get from me.

Let’s go Mets!  Pray for Perez’s competence; I’ll pray for my sanity.

*Note: went for a sit-down lunch today and happened to catch ESPN’s top ten MLB plays of the first half.  Number One on that list?

Believe.

I got called out, recently, for wearing my black Mets jersey.

“They’re no expansion team!  Where’s your pride?”

Must’ve left it in my other pocket.

I do own a black Mets jersey–the home alternate, which reads “Mets” on the front–and I wear it sometimes.  Always to ball games, with the black cap that I’ve whirled around so often in celebration of a run scored for the home team that it’s starting to buckle.  And underneath the jersey, my “I’m Calling It Shea” T-shirt which I ordered in late April yet arrived late May, taking the slow boat to Bay Ridge.  (I kid; there was a run on production.  It was well worth the wait.)

More on the jersey: it has the Shea patch on it; there’s no name or number on the back.  When The Wife got it for me as a Christmas gift, I was still unsure of what player to pick. 

I’ve seen people wear black with “Seaver” on the back.  Incorrect.  Incorrect, too, is the one black “Ryan” jersey I’ve seen, with the number 30.  I can’t believe one’s allowed to order such things.  Perhaps their wearer’s names were, respectively, Seaver and Ryan, but somehow I doubt it.

I’d considered a “Shea” with the number 08 on it, but while I must’ve gone to a couple dozen games at Shea (there were some very lean years in the Vargas household), I never felt like I owned the place: my best memory was a game I caught in the Mezzanine, sometime during my senior year of high school, and fearing the upper deck would collapse on me when chants began for Benny Agbayani. 

“AG-BA-YA-NI!” ::clap, clap, clap clap clap:: “AG-BA-YA-NI!” ::stomp, stomp, stomp stomp stomp:: 

I think he got a hit.  I don’t think the fear would be so terribly ingrained if cheers and foot-stomping hadn’t come, and that because of a hit with some impact on the game.  I’m somewhat ashamed for my fear, I admit.  Nothing to be done now; place be gone, yo.

I strongly considered getting “Franco,” 45, with perhaps the “C.”  These, I was told, were unavailable.  Perhaps for the best.

So the back remains blank.  I wear a black Mets home alt jersey from the last season at Shea Stadium.  This does not bother me.  The Wife, an alert and astute woman as ever there was, figured I wanted a jersey for going to ball games, where ketchup from hot dogs and grease from sausage-and-pepper sandwiches are attracted to me like bees to ball girls.  Rightfully, she thought black would better hide the stains of beer and pity and triumph and whatever coats the seats of the Coney Island-bound N train at night, as it leaves Queensboro Plaza.  NB: I’m told “it’s sweat and nothing else.”  Okay, buddy.

I have little excuse for the cap except to say that black goes with most things, until it’s faded.  Then it goes with almost nothing, but you’re committed.  But that’s my retort to the guy walking past me on Shore Road: my wife got it for me.  I eat like a five year-old.  You’re not wearing it.  Go about your business.

However, the Mets are a currently team full of rookies and super-rookies, and tired veterans past their prime, with a couple of superstar names doing the best they can.  They’re playing under-.500 ball in a brand-new ball park sagging under the weight of garish advertisements, and dripping with the sarcasm of fans who denote an appalling lack of history represented within its confines.  The park, in fact, is named after a bank.  I posit that this is about as close to an expansion team as I hope the Mets ever get.  Besides, to be truly authentic I’d have to wear a wool pinstriped Mets jersey.  I’m not wearing a wool pinstriped Mets jersey.

That’s enough about the jersey.

The Mets start their 10-game post-All Star Break road trip tonight in Atlanta.  Oliver Perez will face off against Derek Lowe, in my absolute worst nightmare. 

Derek Lowe is 8-7 over 19 games started and almost 113 innings pitched.  He’s walked a bit more than half the players he’s struck out (37 BB to 61 Ks), and he’s earning $15 million this year.

Oliver Perez is 2-2 over 6 games started and almost 27 innings pitched.  He’s walked 28.  Struck out 22.  He’s earning $12 million this year.

But he’s a lefty.

…I considered writing a paragraph here about extrapolating Perez’s stats to be comparable to Lowe’s in number of games pitched.  But that would be roundly unscientific; as stats-lite as this site is, I decline to presume borderline-sub-mediocrity as strongly as I decline to presume success.  I can’t predict the lights-out performance from Perez and fold that in there; neither can I swear that we’ll see the same thing start in and start out (though history’s on my side, there).  Do what I was going to do if you want: multiply each number in Ollie’s line by three.  See where it gets you.

As it stands, what stands out are the walks.  Follow the back-of-the-envelope logic here that walks are committed when a pitcher cannot get the ball to the catcher through the strike zone for a looking-or-swinging strike or a foul ball.  The fault for that pitch can either be with the pitcher, the catcher, the batter (especially if he’s Eddie Gaedel, I guess), or the umpire, who couldn’t tell a damned strike if he caught it in bed with his dog.  Where was that one, Blue?

Where was that one, indeed.

Eliminating the catcher from fault, and the batter, who’s a variable anyway, and the ump, who has every idea what a strike is and what a ball is (and leave my dog out of it, thank you very much) we’re left with the pitcher. 

Why is the pitcher at fault?  Does something hurt?  Does he not have the skill with which a professional can usually determine what pitch is appropriate to throw?  Something wrong at home?  What?  Tell us what it is, and we’ll do our best to fix it, by God.  We’re paying you all this money.  Imagine how much more we have invested in the rest of these mugs.

“My knee, Coach.  It’s my knee.  It hurts somewhere in the back, there.  That’s why I can’t make my pitches.”

Fine.  DL it is.  Perez walked seven of those 28 after missing about two months, for rehab.

$36 million over three years (Perez) is a long way from $60 million over four years (Lowe), but two months for seven walks and a victory is a long way, too, from two months and six victories, which is about the number Lowe collected in that span, along with a decent number of innings, saving your perhaps expensive, perhaps rebuilt bullpen. 

There’s a fiduciary myopia, there.

I will no doubt expound on this more tonight, following whatever happens in Atlanta.  I know it will be pouring in New York, both outside and inside Foley’s NY by the Empire State Building.  Frank Messina will be reading some Mets poetry.  As a student of letters, this I gotta see.

Save for news that comes in from Mets town, it’s very likely I’ll be packing myself in bubble wrap until Thursday.  I have no use for the All-Star Game this year.  Every Met selected should be carefully wrapped in newsprint and gingerly lowered into a box of Styrofoam peanuts until the Atlanta series.  That’s my belief.

Beltran’s already in that box.  I guess David Wright has an obligation to show himself to be an ironman.  So be it.  As I hear it told, Johan Santana will go but does not expect to pitch.  I’ll bite my tongue about Mets pitchers injuring themselves in non-baseball related activities, such as going out for pizza at 2a in Miami…

I guess that would be more of a concern for Frankie Rodriguez.  Johan Santana doesn’t eat.  He watches Chuck Norris eat and gets his nutrients through the satiation of the universal consciousness.

On the topic of injuries, I’ve been thinking about this lately and wonder if anyone else has: do you think about how bad a player’s hurt when the player indeed is hurt?  I watched Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds try for Wright’s bloop on Saturday night and saw the bad angle his wrist took and how the fall just jammed his arm, there.  Dude fractured his wrist.  If I fractured my wrist, I’d be complaining about it for weeks.  I’d bitch CONSTANTLY.

Think of Carlos Delgado.  Torn labrum?  Bone on bone joint operation?  Spurs?  That’s not minor surgery to have.  How much pain do you think he was in–and forget the “he has to do his job”–and how much do you think he thought about being sixty years old with a plastic hip as opposed to a surgically repaired original?

I absorb the ouchie in the present but afterwards it becomes an abstract issue, this being on the DL.  That stuff’s gotta hurt.  Even with cortisone shots and excellent conditioning and platelet-rich sure sure fine fine… it’s gotta hurt.

Chris Dickerson, replacement for Jay Bruce: back spasms yesterday.  Sheesus.

I could only catch glimpses of the Mets game (against the Reds; W 9-7) yesterday as I made my way to a Bastille Day celebration on Smith Street in Brooklyn.  I should’ve caught the game in whole instead.  With a detention center on Atlantic Avenue just a short few blocks away, revelers contented themselves with skateboarding, sweet Italian sausages and zydeco music.  Nothing French about any of that.  No storming of any jails or hoosegows or clinks or whatever you choose.  Lame.

The Chowdah Watch continues; he went 2 for 5 yesterday.

The Mets are back to three games under .500, still six and a half games behind the Phillies.  This rest will be good.  I’m going to cross my fingers and hope to see a nearly identical line-up three games in a row.

Until then, time to tend to my other starved pursuits, and generally ignore the All-Star circus.  Someone call me if Albert Pujols dons a Superman cape, leaps over Yadier Molina, and dunks a bag of balls into a pitching machine. 

From ESPN’s recap of last night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds (W, 4-0):

Pedro Feliciano worked the eighth and Francisco Rodriguez finished the six-hitter.

Don’t call it a six-hitter.  This is exactly what I was talking about last week.  Calling it a six-hitter sounds dumb.  There were three pitchers.  C’mon. 

Beyond that, I’m resolved in calling Jeff Francoeur “Chowdah.”  Why?  Here:

http://www.hulu.com/edp/http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ehulu%2Ecom%2F/embed/VK0pcn0rqvDyuN3F3fO8CA

Because I’m between items on my agenda this Saturday (the humidity’s calling into question my desire to finally repaint my hallway), I thought I might take time to clean house here, a bit.

Example: I’ve been negligent in responding to comments, which is rude of me.  So, here they are, condensed:

After having the flu the other day, Ryan Church did have a great night last night.

Fernando
Nieve just had a bad night. It is going to happen in a young career, at
least it did not happen against a divisional foe like Philly.

But that is why we play three games series, the Mets just have to buck up and take the other two games.

Should be a great game tonight.

Rays Renegade

That from the owner of Rays Renegade (obviously).  Also, almost two weeks ago.  You can tell because, back then, Ryan Church played for the Mets.

“Pennies make dollars” is what my dad used to tell me, and wins like the one not had in this game are what hurt come late September.  It’s the same as the Phillies winning by 21 runs one night, then losing by one run the next.  The games don’t have to be against a divisional rival to have an impact on the race–and I don’t think Mr. Renegade was implying that–but they matter just as much as saving face and picking up slack a whole game at a time, rather than a half.

And God, is Nieve still kinda crummy.  Carriage, meet pumpkin.  He didn’t embarrass himself last night, but the start he had prior was abysmal.  The thing about Niese–indeed, the thing about the AAAA Mets as a whole this year–is that there seems to be no object lesson in teaching the opposition that they need to press.  With any pitcher not named Santana, the guys in the batter’s box must be thinking, “It’s just a matter of time before I get my pitch to hit.”

That profile photo, Mr. Renegade.  Fantastic.  I’ll need one similar, now.

This comment came the next day, as I tried to will the Mets to a win.  They were two games below .500 then; it only took a week to go five games below.  (That just means they can take them back in a week, too.)  From Susan, at Perfect Pitch:

Good advice. Just hard for them to follow. But here’s hoping!

My tactic? Laughter:

http://perfectpitch.mlblogs.com/archives/2009/07/fowl_play.html

I’m Section 314, by the way…most every single game. Say hello anytime!

Susan

I gave Susan a shout-out when the Mets won, saying we’d done it together.  However, for those trolling for hard luck writing who’ve stumbled onto this Mets blog and don’t know much about Citi Field, here’s something: those with seats in the 500s can’t really go down to see people in the 300s.  Trust me, I’ve tried.  You get a hard time from the ushers who think you’re trying to work a seat upgrade.  It’s more politely handled at Citi Field than it was at Shea, but it’s firm.

So, Susan, I’m sorry I haven’t stopped by.  I try to be a gregarious guy; I try to make strangers friends, because it’s one of the few natural thrills in modern comfortable life.  But I can’t get there from here.  Come by 528 anytime; no one cares if you stop by up there.  Row 6, right across from the start of 529.  

This one from Dillon, of Living The Baseball Life:

Injuries have been the biggest reason for the Mets’ non-success this
season. And yesterday Johan didn’t get a bunch of calls that he should
have gotten.
-Dillon

Amen, and no kidding, Dillon.  Since then, the Mets have lost Fernando Martinez to knee swelling, so the injury bug is spreading to the replacements.  I get the sense that David Wright’s pride is wounded, as well.

As for being a Yankee fan in Beantown… woof.  And I like Boston a lot; I’ve made good money there and have some good friends who still live in the area.  My favorite bar named after a writer (Charles Bukowski) is there, too.  But I can’t imagine not even really being able to see games.  Last time I checked, the cheapest seat for a game at Fenway was more than my total beer consumption on a Flushing night (and that’s not an inconsiderable amount of cabbage).  Perhaps you do better than I.  Good luck to you, sir.

This from mrmetnoel@optonline.net, on Tuesday’s day off:

That was a great article I enjoyed reading it & I agree some Mets gave up way to early still got 80 games left. LETS GO METS

I don’t think there’s necessarily a give-up with players; I meant that there was no game played that day, and that’s why they didn’t lose.  Thanks for the comment.  Let’s hope they don’t give up.

This from birdland of Birdland Blog:

hhahah, you have a very nice blog here. Sorry that the Mets are not in
first this year though. Who knows? Maybe they could make a push and win
the East? Maybe! My blog is birdland blog if you wanna comment! 🙂
-O’s birdland blog

Thanks for the kudos on the blog.  I don’t think we’re yet at the point of desperation.  Certainly they need to get on a good run and hope the Phillies and the Marlins and the Braves run short of steam, and both things happening are quite possible.  However, they both need to happen at once.

**

If the Mets offense can give the opposing pitching reason to be cautious, that’ll go a long way towards re-establishing parity in match-ups.  But veterans can’t catch up to the pitch they know they could hit, and rookies and super-rookies are too impatient to wait for them.  Prime-time stars are left hanging.

This is the long-term result of injuries.  It wasn’t by design.  It wasn’t on purpose.  But it’s what’s happening.  For all the back and forth on whether the trade for Francoeur was bad or good, we’re not addressing the fact that the team approach is incorrect at present.  Strong pitching, yes.  Flaweless defense, yes.  But offense: sit in there and work counts.  Make those games four hours long.  Tire them out on the other side.  Learn what’s coming from the pitcher and how the defense is going to play you in various situations.

If that program is sound, then I don’t know that getting Francoeur is going to help it.  I don’t know that getting young for the sake of getting young is reason enough to make a trade.  If the knock on Omar Minaya is that he prefers older players over younger players, then shouldn’t we be doubly grateful that he didn’t bring in another Hispanic player?  I mean, while we’re perpetuating myths and stereotypes…

Let’s see if bringing back that old chestnut stirs some conversation.

…The opposition may not yet be able to ascribe a narrative to your line-up, in part because they don’t have to: they can pick you off one at a time.  But you, Mets bats, need the team narrative.  Like when Jose Reyes would get on base, steal second, get bunted over (for better or horribly worse) by Luis Castillo, and Carlos Beltran would get him in with an opposite field double.  Then David Wright gets Carlos in with an RBI single.

It’s at this point that Delgado would hit a home run.  But, y’know.  Anyway, that was nice reliving those days.

Fellas, you need a story.  You need to write your movie.  The injuries are Act One.  The swoon is Act Two.  The rise is Act Three.  Work counts to get on base or extend the game and knock the opposing pitcher out.  Once you know that story and can tell it well, the opposition will try and upend that story.  The only way I can see to defending against a team that consistently works at-bats is to throw heat past the rookies and crafty stuff against the veterans.  And the rookies will hit the speed balls while the veterans smack that garbage around the field.

See?  It’s that easy.  Why am I not a manager?

**

David Wright should bat third only in emergencies.  This situation is a crisis.  It’s not an emergency.

Troubles rank in the following order, from least to most dire:

Issue
Problem
Emergency
Crisis
Ragnarok

Crises are prolonged emergency situations.  Problems are solvable in situ; Ragnarok is the destruction of the Gods. Which I guess means that, should we get to Ragnarok, the Wilpons will have to do battle with the evil Norse wolf Fenrir and Jormungand; think they traded those two for Shawn Green.  

Think about it: Ragnarok is to be preceded by three winters with no summers.  I’d say 2007 and 2008 qualify as winters of the nuclear variety.  And it’s pretty cold out in Flushing these days.

I can’t count how many line-ups Jerry Manuel has presented but I’m sure the number rivals the number of games won, if not games played.  But this lefty-righty nonsense has got to stop; these hitters have no margin for error on the bench, and need to learn to hit pitches from right handers and left handers.  Regularity will breed familiarity.  Familiarity is important, as the alternative–mixing and matching on a day-by-day basis–is obviously not working.

David Wright hitting third in a line-up does not give him the opportunity to produce, given the poor hitting usually placed ahead of him.  And look at the man: he desperately wants to produce.  He feels better when he does.  He feels looser.

I don’t have an answer as to how the line-up should be constructed beyond this, because we’ve not seen a consistent line-up, especially since the loss of Beltran.  Can Daniel Murphy be a great hitter in the two-hole?  How do we know?  He doesn’t hit in that position every day.  Can Gary Sheffield be trusted to hit doubles while in the three-hole?  I doubt it, but who’s to say he won’t instead hit a homer?

David Wright needs not the protection of power hitters ahead of him and behind, but the ego boost of contributing to the team offensively and defensively.  Captains need to feel useful.

Sandwiched between Thursday night’s loss to the Dodgers (11-2) and Friday night’s loss to the Reds (3-0) came the trade to the Braves of Ryan Church for (wait for it) Jeff Francoeur.  No truth to the rumor that Omar Minaya also received a DeLorean from Atlanta GM Frank Wren, set to the year 2005.

The subtitle for this blog mentions its stats-lite leaning.  So I tell ya who paints a pretty picture of this is Ted Berg of SNY.  Find his analysis here.

I got the alert while walking down a staircase from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s roof garden to the glories of the building’s first floor.  Got the alert on my Blackberry.  Let out an immediate, “Whoa!  What?!”  This endeared me to the surrounding bluebloods.

I can hope that moving Ryan Church is part of some ridiculous master plan Mr. Minaya’s cooking up to get a better deal for a different player.  I can’t even form the hypothetical, though; it’s such an impossible consideration.  Who’s going to want Jeff Francoeur?  Or, excuse me, Jeff Francoeur and cash?

How ’bout this: maybe you go and get Jeff Francoeur and cash because you need to eat part of Alex Rios’s salary.  Alex Rios, in case you don’t know, is an outfielder (RF) for the Blue Jays, who came down to Earth as fast as I’ve been telling anyone who would listen two months ago they would (that’s almost a sentence).

Trade Francoeur for Alex Rios and Alex Rios’s salary, then add a pitching prospect or two, and get Roy Halladay.  Also of the Blue Jays.

That’s it.  That’s the way this makes ANY sense.  I’ll know I’m right if I’m awakened by Mets goons in a few hours, and dragged to the bowels of Citi Field and beaten soundly.  Or if the blog is hacked and the post is taken down.  I should print and mail this to a media outlet for my own security.  Or put it in a safe-deposit box.  AL pitching would eat Francoeur alive; that level of machination would be preposterous.  I’m not even going to spin my wheels on it anymore.

(But if that’s what happens, I’m telling EVERYONE I know that I called it.  Check the timestamp on the post.)

(UPDATE: Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse believes the cash was to cover the difference in salaries between Church and Francoeur.  Read that here, and thanks to Metsblog for providing the link

Alex Rios, by the by, makes $6.4 million this year, is halfway between Francoeur and Church in age, and has produced at a slightly-to-somewhat better rate than Francoeur has while playing in the AL East, where players know not to stretch borderline doubles into Neverland triples.  So there’s what makes the hypothetical next move tantalizing yet RIDICULOUSLY IMPOSSIBLE.  I hate that I just spun my wheels more on this.)

Wow.

Mr. Minaya went out and got a guy who’s hit three more home runs than who he replaced, and who hasn’t yet been exposed to the Mets medical staff.  As health care professionals, those guys seem about as competent as Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.  (You may find a staff photo of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem here.)  A note to Francoeur: wear your batting helmet at all times.  In the box, on the field, in the dugout, in the showers, at your nephew’s birthday party.  Always. 

Did Howard Johnson pull a Rick Peterson and declare that he could fix Francoeur in five minutes?  I can’t imagine Bobby Cox hasn’t already tried the only sane thing, which is to slap the boy upside the head and say, “STOP SWINGING SO DAMN HARD AT EVERYTHING!”  Bobby Cox strikes me as the kind of man who would try that first.

Nope, not understanding this here.  A severe comprehension shortage.  I thought last night’s line-up was bad.

I don’t even know how to cheer for Francoeur.  What do I shout?  “Frenchy”?  That seems rude.  I’d already broken in my “Church” to “Churchy” to “Chachi,” and was digging it.  Goddamn it.  Maybe I can stay within the “Ch”s, pay homage to The Simpsons, and call him “Chowdah.”

Too tough to explain.  That seems to be a theme, here. 

Time for bed.  Things are usually better in the morning.

*UPDATE 2: I reference CBS Sports’ MLB Players Page so often that I’m just going to put a link to it on the sidebar.  CBS Sports stats; Andy Rooney references.  I’m the oldest twenty-six year old I know.

Tonight’s line-up, as posted by David Lennon of Newsday:

Luis Castillo – 2B

Nick Evans – LF

David Wright – 3B

Gary Sheffield – RF

Fernando Tatis – 1B

Ryan Church – CF

Omir Santos – C

Alex Cora – SS

Livan Hernandez – SP

I know I made mention awhile ago about David Wright not batting third, then didn’t bother to follow it up.  I will soon, I swear.  That’s not what this is about. 

This is about not playing Daniel Murphy. 

According to Metsblog, Mr. Manuel believes it prudent to get Fernando Tatis a start against a left-handed pitcher before the three righties before the All-Star Break.

Fernando Tatis has not excelled in a bench role this year.

He has not excelled in a starting role this year.

Starting him every now and again is like being a super-bencher, which I liken to being a super-freshman: not enough credits to be a sophomore; too many to be a freshman.

Nuts, Mr. Manuel.  Nuts. 

Bring Tatis in off the bench in a regular capacity, or play him in a regular capacity.  But don’t start him every now and again as though you’re giving someone a day off.  The only person that needs it also swung the bat pretty well last night.  At least you had the presence of mind not to sit him, too.

Just… just… I don’t… I can’t… too many reasons why… this is horrible… I can’t… I can’t…

And why is Luis Castillo batting lead-off?  Was he that great batting eighth last night, or was Alex Cora that bad in first?

Brain… melting… too much… can’t… compute…

(Dana cannot locate the “crash-and-burn” sound effect for the show)
Casey: EEEERRRRRRRRR-BWOOOOOOOOH! That sound?
Dana: Yeah.
Casey: Really?
Dana: Yes!
Casey: Make the sound that you made.
Dana: Casey, I made the sound!
Casey: Make it!
Dana: …Oooooor-kssss!
Casey: Ah…
Dana: What?
Casey: That’s not the sound.
Dana: That’s the sound!
Casey: (walks over to the tech’s desk) Chris? Will? Be with me now: EEEERRRRRRRRR-BWOOOOOOOOH!
Will: Crash and burn.
Casey: Can you do it?
Chris: Got it.

(Written at 7 AM, posted at 3 PM.  Brilliant.)

It’s early and, truth be told, I’m still a bit hungover.  This will be somewhat disjointed.  But there will be pictures.  Everyone likes pictures.

First, let’s get the wiseacre business out of the way.

This is what a Met with an extra-base hit looks like:

second base.jpgThat’s Daniel Murphy there, of the Jacksonville Murphys.

This is what the scoreboard looks like when the Mets notch a run:

scoreboard.jpgThat’s all for sarcasm at present. 

Section Five Twenty-Eight was fortunate enough to have the presence of the guy I’m calling “Big Man” in the house with us (the mascot I mention in my rambling, devoid-of-line-breaks bio).  We were all concerned, and muttering hopes for his well-being.  And then, like a shining beacon… my eyes crossed just now; I did indeed type “beacon” and not “bacon,” right?… he appeared:

big man.jpg…in all his Beltran finery. 

And along his back-up band of relatives, thus excusing his early departure. He had a kid with him who wanted to hit some balls off a tee over in Kiddie Field, so there you go.  Four beers chugged. Two bought from groups in other sections, as though the gaggle up in Promenade Left are collective macrocosms of players in that Goodfellas scene at the Copa.  I like it.

The man’s a celebrity, and as with all celebrities, we’ve gotten a little too involved with his health.  He’s got a long way to drive, and it was a Wednesday, and the man appears to have lived a fun life already.  So we began to chant, “Sip!  Sip!  Sip!” when another beer materialized in his hand.

Baseball, in the in between moments–and there were many, as Oliver Perez decided to pitch in a gear normally reserved for sloths, slugs, and the infirm–can be quite entertaining in the stands.  Others have already picked up the mantle for Big Man.  In the manner of Spartacus, we had other revelers shouting “Section Five Twenty-Eight!” and doing damage to their own livers for a change. 

I tell ya, it’s great for branding.  I should have some business cards made up and leave them with the poor lambs still trying to sell season tickets.  Or at the sausage stand.

By the way, Sean Avery was on the Kiss Cam.  He did not kiss the woman seated next to him, and I think it’s because they just happened to be seated together, and not actually together-together.  Donald Trump was ALSO on the Kiss Cam.  He nodded, waved, then planted a deep one on what someone in the men’s room later described as “a fine piece of filet gumbo,” which is perhaps my FAVORITE superlative to bestow on a member of the fairer sex.  A kudo to you, sir.

The question of songs one would have play as one entered the batter’s box came up; this is similar to the old joy of picking the song to be played as one enters relief, but has the benefit of multiple choice: first time in; second time in; clutch situation.

The oddest suggestion was “What’s Going On?” by 4 Non Blondes.  It’s frightening that three fairly grown men did not need the help of the three women across the aisle from us to belt a verse and the chorus:

“And so I cry sometimes when I’m lying in bed
Just to get it all out, what’s in my head
And I, I am feeling a little peculiar
And so I wake in the morning and I step outside
And I take a deep breath and I get real high
And I scream from the top of my lungs,
‘What’s goin’ on?’

And I say hey… hey…
I said HEY! What’s goin’ on?
And I say hey… hey…
I said HEY! What’s goin’ on?”

Songs are universal.  Especially gems such as those.

And then Daniel Murphy made perhaps the best play I’ve ever seen in the infield, in person or on television.

**

It’s not The Catch.  It’s not Johan fielding the ball off the barrel of the broken bat.  But if ESPN runs a piece calling out the worst Mets plays of the season, in EARLY JULY, then calls Murphy’s behind the back toss to Bobby Parnell the “Web Gem Of The Year,” either their calibration and their motives are off, or the Mets do indeed have the concurrent capacity for dreckitude and amazibility.

I’ve watched it about twenty times.  The ball settles in Parnell’s glove.  As L.A. Dodgers first baseman Mark Loretta’s foot plants onto the bag, Parnell’s glove closes around the ball.  He maintains possession.  There’s your out, Mr. Loretta.  Thanks for playing.  You had a hit and knocked in the first run with it, and that’s more than your opponents last night had been able to say in a while.  So no talk of luck or lack of luck, please.

What thrilled us was it appeared, rightly, that Murphy would have to be like unto The Flash to grab the ball so far away from the bag, then get into position to fire to Parnell.  No one thought it was going to be a behind-the-back toss like that.  We were instantly on our feet, all of us, all around us.  Unbelievable.

**

I was in attendance for Manny Ramirez’s passing of Jimmie Foxx on the home run list.  Good for him.

**

ground rules.jpgCiti Field’s ground rules include the following admonition (paraphrased): “Please refrain from using foul or inappropriate language.”  I took that picture after I took this picture:

oliver perez.jpg…which is of Oliver Perez heading for the bullpen to warm-up.  You can tell by the high socks.  Faux-hawk is, thankfully, obscured by the ball cap.

There were children present all around me and my group yesterday, which made watching Ollie and getting frustrated by Ollie after his fourth pitch and Ollie’s fist pumps after getting out of hells of his own making very difficult.

I am so thankful to be done with an Ollie start and escape unscathed.  I have no evidence to refute my various claims regarding the man, and as I of course did not wish harm on the Mets, I’m still safe from the blade of hindsight.  Nevertheless, my personal calculus for last night runs thusly:

Seven walks, including walking the bases full in the third, after getting the first two outs (negative)

+

Holding Manny Ramirez hitless each of the three times he saw you (positive)

=

Zero.

So he did not do any further damage to himself, in my eyes.  I can now think about other things for the next few days.  Delightful.

Good job, guys.  Catch you this evening.