Archives for posts with tag: Gary Sheffield

Labor Day is nearing its end.  Time to get back to work.

coney island.jpg

There’s a large part of Coney Island that can be called a hole, and that’s being charitable.  When my mother would take My Sister and I out to Astroland Park on too-warm summer weekdays, my father out working, I would try my best to enjoy it, but even then there was a seediness I could not abide.  The water in the flume ride reeked of oil; the bumper cars squealed and shrieked.  I couldn’t escape the feeling that the adults around were having a lot more fun than I was.  Maybe not so for my mother, who toted us about.  But the wacky ones on the dilapidated boardwalk: sure.
the dock.jpg
These days, there’s a patina of theme park on all the elements that make Coney Island a disagreeable, damned place. Feel the grime in the air as you use a restroom!  Chuckle at the locals, surly to the point of assault!  Wander through the urban desert which lies just beyond Surf Avenue!  And live to tell the tale!
This crystallized for me on Friday.  And it felt good to feel right about what opinion I’d formulated while being splattered with gear grease from the Cyclone.  The place is a dump.  Let people keep their homes, and don’t wreck the view of the ocean.  Besides that, take it down.  Raze it.  Salt the earth so nothing so obscene grows again.
Don’t know why I’m so belligerent about it; I had fun doing what I’d set out to do: drink beer, eat hot dogs, watch sailboats, and cheer on Carlos Beltran.  I guess I’m still not over that Jerry Koosman thing.  Ugh.  
I want to put my fist through a door every time I think about it.
No, I’m not drunk.  Last I was drunk, I was at a bar on the Lower East Side, watching a fifth NYU co-ed try to stay on a mechanical bull.  Add that place to the list of what should be scrubbed from history.  (By the by: there, no one knew who the hell Jerry Koosman was, either.  Pay your taxes, kids.)
All right, enough.  Carlos.

beltran in the field.jpgbeltran throwing.jpg

beltran to the dugout.jpg
Watching major league players in rehab stints is relatively new to me.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I watched Angel Pagan play last year, but then I considered him a bench player, and quite young.  He’s still grade-A bench player material, and still quite young.  Beltran took it easy.  I didn’t see him sprint, really.  He jogged carefully to the dugout; he jogged carefully to the outfield.  Best thing he did during the game was move a runner over in the first.
beltran hits.jpg
That’s him running out from the box, stage right.  Beltran went 0-for-3 and the Cyclones lost, 8-2, victims of a seven-run seventh and a pre-game collective reading of Dr. Seuss’s Go, Dog. Go! 
I don’t know; that kind of thing would unman me prior to playing an adrenaline-fueled game.
keyspan board.jpg
Those with the means to take in a Cyclones game during their playoff run should do so; it’s a fun park and the team is not half-bad.  I’m slammed with work and the boys out in Flushing, myself, but now that I know they’ve done away with the nutso sound effects following every visitor gaffe (SPROING!!! CLUNK!!!), I no longer have to worry about lapsing into a decibel-heavy Thompson-esque hallucination.  They DID keep the hot dog race.
are those beans.jpg
Brought a colleague from work to the game, who wasn’t paying attention until roughly this moment, and asked, honestly: “Are those supposed to be beans?”
I’d like to point out the Lowell Spinners third baseman, Michael Almanzar, whose expression you can’t see but who must’ve had money on the gig, as his attention is obviously directed at the hot dog runners.  Ketchup was sucking hind Relish until a beat before the end, when somehow it found a burst of speed and took the race.  Fix.
beltran swings.jpg
Word is Beltran will be back for the game on Tuesday against the Marlins.  Same word has John Maine in action on Sunday in Philadelphia.  Roger Rubin (any relation to Adam?) reports Gary Sheffield and Carlos Delgado are probably done for the year.
beltran about to swing.jpg
I’m most concerned about Beltran.  It was fun to have Sheffield while it lasted; it’s sad to think I’ll most likely never see Carlos Delgado in a Mets uniform again.  
Maine is out to sea.  I’ve no idea what to make of shoulder pain, except that I imagine it hurts worse when trying to throw a ball at ninety miles an hour.  It hurt
s when I sleep on mine for nine hours.
Perhaps it’s not about the machismo, this business of Beltran coming back for increasingly irrelevant games in September.  What the press has reported him saying–he’s a baseball player; he has to play because he knows nothing else–may come closer to it.
I wonder if it’s about needing to get that sense of anticipation back, that instinct that doubtless takes over when the pitch is thrown and a millisecond of fear gives way to more milliseconds of action.  That’s what I always considered to be at the core of getting one’s “timing” back.  To an extent, perhaps all that is the same as the reason given: he’s a baseball player.  He has to play if he can play.  The alternative–NOT playing–can be counted on to extend that millisecond of fear.  It must worry a man like hell to have such a livelihood taken away.
So very well, Mr. Beltran.  You want to play baseball? I’ll keep my mouth shut and hope for the best.  Produce, though, man: stand tall in the batter’s box and swing at pitches you can hit.  Do NOT challenge that bone bruise for supremacy; it knows no logic, it seems, and in Citi Field, there be some damned dragons.
**
lounging.jpg
A grab-bag of notes (that image is the view I had from The Frying Pan on Friday; the end of baseball season means new shoes that I don’t have to worry about getting shelled, and I’m excited for that because these are starting to hurt like a mother):
  • David Wright ditched the Rawlings S100. He said it was an uncomfortable fit.  While some may ream him for this, I’m willing to take that at face value.  I watched the guy take hacks with it and it looked like it was sliding every which way.  
The helmet is supposed to make things safer for him; his protective gear rattling around on his melon doesn’t achieve that goal.
No excuse for getting the kinks worked out during the off-season, though.  I expect to see it and laugh all over again during Spring Training.
I miss the ’80s.  If Keith Hernandez had determined the better part of valor was to wear that helmet, and he got razzed hard for it, he’d’ve probably flipped some guys off.  I don’t see David doing that, nice guy that he is.
  • Greg Prince of Faith And Fear In Flushing wrote about the lack of Mets coverage in The New York Times.  His piece mentions Sunday’s paper, in a way that’s almost Fred Exley-esque.  But Mr. Prince, if you’re reading this: they’ve been quite late in posting material to the website, and this has been the case since at least last week.  Usually game recaps post within two hours of a victory.  All last week, they were coming in late morning/early afternoon-ish.  I would leave a comment on your site, but my browsers are wonkifying your comments module.  I would send you an email, but I’m afraid of what else lurks in that inbox.  My BlackBerry’s been blinking at me for days.
  • Speaking of the Faith And Fear folks: there’s another Amazin’ Tuesday event being held on September 15th at the Two Boots on Grand Street in Manhattan.  Though it’s my birthday and I’m winless at Mets events outside Flushing and my own living room and favorite bars, I’ve decided the Fates owe me one, so I will be there.  Jon Springer of Mets By The Numbers (see right blogroll for a link to his site) spilled the beans about who’s going to be there, and confirmation by Mr. Prince has only whetted my appetite.  I think it’s going to be a really fun night run by some quite engaging, and level-headed writers.  Plan to be there, if at all possible.  You are not obliged to say hello to me, or join me for post-game birthday karaoke.
  • Daniel Murphy was a double short of the cycle yesterday against the Cubs (W; 4-2).  He’s got nine home runs this season (eight + one: Subway sign-aided).  He’s committed, focused, and not a horrible embarrassment on the field.  If the Mets are destined to wander in the wilderness for a couple more years, and he maintains a level of competence, there’s no earthly reason to ship the man off.  Keep him within the organization.  At present, he’s at least deserving of a nickname more imaginative than Murph, and what we shout at him from the upper deck would be wildly inappropriate for consistent use.
  • I finished watching the first season of Commander In Chief.  Glad they changed the opening theme, which was bordering on plagiarism.  Shocked at the overuse of firing as plot device.  If the Mackenzie Allen Administration were a ball club, there’d be no NOBs on their uniforms.
  • There are some old posts that need some tweaking.  Less than a handful.  If you’ve found this blog and have been working to catch up, and notice an error, my bad.  They’ll be fixed Thursday night.
  • There’s this continued business of a Mets Hall Of Fame been discussed in and around the intertubes.  I had an idea from way back that, if time permits this week, I will attempt to explain cogently.  I’d planned to write about it in the off-season, but I feel inspired.
  • Nathan’s is delicious.  Mmm… nitrates.
nathan's.jpg
I will be at the park tomorrow for Mets-Marlins.  This game will be a Tim Redding joint, featuring more likely than not the return of Carlos Beltran, and hopefully the purchase of my very own Section Five Twenty-Eight T-shirt, which will be much appreciated, as I never washed my jersey after that last monsoon, and it reeks of urban rain and desperation.
Hope your Labor Day was fun and safe.  Time to kick it into gear for the stretch run.  Yes… the stretch run.
Let’s go Mets!
Advertisements

I imagine working on a post during the off-season will be much like trying to work on a post this morning.  It’s cold.  It’s dark.  The next room over, friends who freelance are in their fourth hour of drinking bourbon and working on their indie-rock-acoustic version of “Down By The River.”  And I don’t have much to say.

I’m excited for Josh Thole’s call-up like I was excited back when I still had magazine subscriptions and they showed at my door.  I’ll watch for his first hit and his first home run and when he strikes out in consecutive plate appearances for the first time, I’ll certainly head for the back pages and read as deep as I can into his stats.  But I’ll need something on the order of New York‘s Eliot Spitzer cover–post-scandal–to snap me back into focus.

Really, my deepest regret is that I probably won’t see Carlos Delgado play again in a Mets uniform.  It could happen, yes.  But I haven’t heard Word One since his oblique strain during his rehab. 

Makes me recall wistfully that I figured Carlos Delgado to reach five hundred home runs faster than Gary Sheffield.  Then I watched Gary Sheffield hit his five hundredth home run.

More and more, I think myself the Mets Angel of Death; I got excited, despite my constant harangue, about Carlos Beltran playing rehab out at Keyspan Park with the Cyclones, and began a quick think about how I might get to tonight’s game.  Then I recalled how I was in the stands when Angel Pagan hurt himself in his rehab assignment last year.

Proximity may not be a factor, and it needn’t even be a direct interest or direct suggestion of greatness or misery: I was watching the Houston-Minnesota preseason game with a roommate when we heard Chris Berman (you should refuse to call him “Boomer,” as I refuse) report Andy Pettitte’s perfect game in the sixth.  We switched to that game.  In the seventh, with one out…

Roommate: “Can you commit an error and still have a perfect game?”

Two outs.

Me: “No.  The game has to be perfect.  Twenty-seven up, twenty-seven down.” (In my head) “God, baseball’s an odd sport.  Nine innings, three outs per inning, twenty-seven the minimum number of hitters faced.  Ten innings and forty or fifty as a minimum: that satisfies a need for round numbers.”

The ball then ate up Jerry Hairston, Jr.  Man on.

Roommate: “But he can still get the no-hitter.”
Me: “As long as they score that ball an error.”

They do, and the next ball gets past Hairston for a hit.

Roommate: “Well, so much for that.”

I think in the off-season I’ll work on some back up plans: how to blather in the absence of blatherable material.  My mother likes the old saw about not saying anything when there’s nothing to say.  I once sat her down for ten minutes and told her why I thought that was an irresponsible thing for a creative person to do.

Besides, it’s September.  I love September.  Labor Day’s a mandatory barbecue day.  My birthday’s on the 15th.  I was hired to this no-longer-new job last year on the 22nd, and with it came money to pay bills and go to games.  And it’s cooler.  I love sweaters.  They make me look svelte.

David Wright comes back tonight, and so there’ll be something to talk about at the end of the day, surely.  That gives me enough reason to not bring my poison or voodoo or whatever it is to Coney Island and Carlos Beltran’s knees.  I’ll stretch the material like any good writer might do.

However, word is we’re closing early Friday.  If there’s any chance of seeing Beltran play on Labor Day weekend, I am there.

Like Lastings Milledge to a ball park, I was later than I thought I’d be to Two Boots Tavern yesterday; unlike Lastings Milledge, I have no shards of face to lose or save.  Besides, I had an important software pickup to make.  And then, an important barge to drink beer on while staring out onto the Hudson (note two separate links there).
 
And to the cyclist in the salmon-pink shirt who thought I cut him off crossing Twelfth Avenue, two things: your responsibility at that crosswalk is to yield to me; also, you came out of nowhere.
 
Nevertheless, Two Boots was arrived at and Two Boots was had.  Below, your hosts.
 
jason fry and greg prince.jpgThat’s Jason Fry on the left and Greg Prince on the right, of Faith And Fear In Flushing.  Also in attendance were Caryn Rose of Metsgrrl and Dana Brand of the eponymous Mets fan blog.  Also in attendance, via satellite, were the New York Mets and the Florida Marlins (and repeated shots of the Marlins projected new home, which looks fine if a bit stout); some attendees; beer; the Larry Tate pizza.
 
Those who are unaware, take note: the Larry Tate is spinach, tomato, and mozzarella on a white (ricotta) pie.
 
As Greg Prince read his recent post about the friendly hazing/rousing welcome Andy Green received from the remaining dozens of Mets fans at Citi Field immediately PW (Post Wright), I noticed to my limp amusement that the SNY update zipper–that little doodad at the bottom of the screen showing sports scores–has a sponsor. Yesterday, its sponsor was the Rums Of Puerto Rico.
 
I’d only had two beers at the time, but when something like that grabs my attention, sober or some number of sheets to the wind, I tend to paint all things with the same brush.  So the piece Mr. Fry read, covering an almost-endless, anguished search for a Rich Sauveur card, was sponsored by Topps.  (The photo is mid-rant.)
 
jason fry.jpgMs. Rose’s piece, like much of her great work detailing games and her experience as a game-going fan, would’ve been sponsored by the Mets Fan Local 162, if such an entity indeed existed.
 
caryn rose reads.jpgAnd Mr. Brand’s piece (near as I can tell, it’s not on his site, so buy the book already) was sponsored by Citi, seeing as how they were somewhat responsible for one of the biggest laughs of the night.
 
dana brand reads.jpgHe read of his experience at Shea during the last game there (from his new book; go here to pre-order), and of the numbers ceremony at center field, which ended when Mr. Met pulled down the last numbered card to reveal the Citi logo; he should’ve reacted “like Mr. Bill from Saturday Night Live” when the crowd remaining pelted him with boos.
 
I’ll take his word for it. I couldn’t get tickets to the last game so I hunkered down with a good friend (an Indians fan) and her sister (an Indians/Mets fan) at Mercury Bar in Hell’s Kitchen–there was some good juice left in that place then–and minutes after the end of the game we found ourselves at Rudy’s down the street. Good juice in that place, always.
 
In fact, that experience crystallized for me my current phase of Mets fandom: we split a pitcher of Rudy’s finest, and whereas I’d spent late September 2007 alone and charmless, I spent late September 2008 flush with new marriage and new jobness.  There was all the desire in the world to add another pitcher to the pile and yet, we didn’t, coming to the conclusion that this would be the day we each exercised some self control in the face of maddening loss.  We were adults.
 
So they went home. I went home. Folded laundry, I think. Watched some football, I know. Put baseball in a drawer for a couple days, then came back when my head was clearer.
 
Of course, as I was thinking about all this last night, in the flash of a matter of moments, I caught on the Two Boots flat screen this representation of the current state of my head:
 
paul's head feels like this.jpgClarity is relative based on your proximity to, or length of time away from, an anthropomorphic sponge.  That image brought to you by Nickelodeon.  

Johan’s done for 2009; J.J. Putz is done for 2009 and fairly gone afterward; Billy Wagner’s gone. Even he who throws three straight balls to Pedro Martinez and is taken out mid-count is in New York for an MRI. So the Mets pitching roster is brought to you by the Hospital For Special Surgery and Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Inc., which is no doubt working hard to secure rights to Wagner-Papelbon I: The Melee At Fenway.
 
When Bobby Parnell is a starter this late in the season, and he’s arrived because Jon Niese can do a split but he can only do it once, you wind up with Sean Green on the mound.  Green tried real hard to give the game completely away, too.  Last night’s episode of Sean, You Almost Hit A Coupla Guys And No, Sean, Omir Santos Is Not Set Up Nine Feet Off The Plate was sponsored by Tums and whatever keeps me from performing the matter-energy conversion needed to transport myself to wherever he is and shake him like a Bond martini.

That was a long sentence with a couple of genre cues dropped in there.  Thanks for hanging in.

Gary Sheffield needs some Icy-Hot and any Met batting in the late innings of a losing game always appears to need some Red Bull.  Reading about Omar Minaya’s press conference as I rode the subway over the Manhattan Bridge made it clear to me some brand of ginkgo biloba should be stocked in the front offices.  C’mon.  You don’t remember what was up with your star acquisition back in March and April?  Are you mad, man?

The game was over in under three hours (L, 2-1).  Never blessedly; perhaps, though, for the best.

**

Some things I came away with: I grow more convinced that deep-seated Yankees hatred is generational, like what I hear when talking to someone who grew up w
atching the Brooklyn Dodgers.  I just don’t know anyone in my age group in New York who hates the Yankees with the passion those older than I do. 

As I’ve said, I have no beef with anyone’s beef.  But I’m on about something else here.  I won’t quote anybody (because my eyes were fixed on the game after the readings, and I’m no reporter), nor will I name names of those I heard discussing a seemingly unrelated issue.  However, there was the question last night, and it’s relevant with just over a month left and the Mets pitching rotation Swiss cheese: why do Mets fans stay?  Why do they stay and watch, after Art Howe, and after 2006, 2007, 2008, and soon, 2009?  Why, after the blunders and miscommunication, after the obstructed views and the paltry giveaways and the Draconian, dunderheaded security policies?  Why, after the Aflac this and the Lincoln Mercury that and the Rums of Puerto Rico and Geico and Citi and Just For Men?

I suppose that’s four questions, at least.   But all the same theme.  The answer given last night was, essentially, who knows? 

I guess that’s fine, and if I write that, you know I don’t fully buy it. 

When I lie awake at night, thoughts are rarely about the Mets, as I don’t work for them or base my livelihood on their ability.  When they win big or lose bad, my thoughts may stray.  When they’re in the playoff hunt, sometimes I’ll do the sort of mathematical gymnastics that always put me to sleep when I’m horizontal.  They’re the Mets.  I don’t analyze my need to breathe and I don’t analyze my need to eat.  I try hard not to analyze my need to have fun, or why I have fun doing what it is I do.

Milton Green: “Jack, we’re having a catch!”
Jack Donaghy: “Don’t ruin it, Milton.”
Milton Green: “Just like father and son!”
Jack Donaghy: “Did you hear what I said?”

My answer is not “who knows,” but “who cares?” 

Your answer may vary.  And that’s okay.  It’s okay for us to have different reasons for doing what we do.  We’re each of us our own special flower, and most of us residing in the concrete-and-steel, garbage-soaked, noise-polluted halls of 2009 Mets fandom city of New York.  We have, each of us, our own stories about how we came here, what we need to get out of this, what would trigger our eject button.  And, holy crap, do we have opinions. 

Keep David Wright out for the rest of the year.  Let him play. 

Put Carlos Beltran in a straitjacket.  He could still run in one and catch fly balls with his teeth–I say let him. 

Let K cards be taped to the electronic zipper board (this wail brought to you by Utz).  But they’re covering the Wise Potato Chips ad (this retort brought to you by Wise).

Barring the creation of some Mets fan union, which would send a representative to the table for discussion and a vote on any and all decisions affecting Sterling Mets, LP, I don’t see Metsdom keeping a unified voice on anything past, “Yay! They’re winning!” or “Damn, they’re losing!”  That’s New York for you.

And yes, that can represent any number of other cities and towns as well, but having spent extended time in a few towns and cities, I can say with reasonable surety that New York does it with a special sort of schizophrenia.

This is the place where people will bemoan the lack of police presence when they’re mugged with one side of their mouth and bemoan the “Disney-fication” of Times Square with the other.

By extension, this is a place where, currently, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by five-to-one, yet a staunchly Republican mayor was elected twice.

Bringing it back to baseball matters, this is a place where people will say, over and over, “I’m done watching the Mets; I’m done going to the games: they treat their fans horribly and their management is a wreck…” and yet, they’re there. 

They’re there mixed in with kids who are maybe going to their first game or couples sharing their first game together.  Mixed in with die-hards who buy the special non-media guide scoring book.  Mixed in with visitors from other cities.  Mixed in with those who just need to get away please for the love of God. 

A blind family has tickets on the Friday plan; I see them all the time walking up the steps to Section 530.  At the other end of my row, there’s an older gentleman who’s been sporting jean shorts since the weather got warmer.  Keeps to himself, barely claps, but watches the field intently.  There’s Big Man.  There’s the group three or four rows up who’ve made T-shirts worrying more about beer than the performance on the field.

Some who cry for escape actually manage some level of backbone and split, and that’s their prerogative.  I think the best of that lot are those who don’t think themselves missionaries, come to spread the good word of Life Without Baseball. 

But if they want to, they’re within their rights.  That’s New York.  As long as you don’t break a law or force me to break a law (which is against the law in itself), you can do whatever damn fool thing you want: boycott, desert, hang in when it’s ludicrous, whine about the beer koozie you didn’t get, or push real hard for a refund when you realize your view must pierce alternating layers of Plexiglas and steel railing.  Again, with justifiable beef or not, you may also try and rally others to your cause.

Your success or failure may change things or not.  But full participation or full agreement is never assured.  I’m quite certain I’ve heard from a few people who thought Vince Coleman’s firecracker stunt was funny.

You know all this.  I’ve said all this, in one form or another, repeatedly in the short life of this blog. 

What you need to remember, readers, is the following: just because you don’t agree with someone out there doesn’t make you wrong, and just because you choose when and where to engage doesn’t make you a bad or lazy person.

This is New York.  The Mets are New York.  Feel privileged to be a part of it.

I will now take a Craftsman-brand hatchet to my soapbox.

First, a bit of business: I’ll be at Two Boots Tavern tonight for the second installment of Faith And Fear In Flushing’s “Amazin’ Tuesdays” series.  If you enjoy feedback loops, click here; Mr. Prince not only gives you a rundown of who’ll be there and how you can get a free beer, but he’s also been kind enough to link to my reviews of the first Amazin’ Tuesday and the earlier “Metstock.”

Those of you who are in the area are probably going to be eating pizza and drinking beer anyway.  You should do so on Grand Street.  If you do, say hello.  I will not buy you a beer, unless you buy me one, but somewhat tangentially, I’m not contagious anymore and indeed, my head is quite nearly clear of congestion at this point.  That alone should throw the proverbial wheel hard in the direction of approachably genial.

So, yes, Amazin’ Tuesday.  Two Boots Tavern.  What I like to do from the Upper East Side is take a Lexington express train down to Union Square, transfer to the local, and transfer at Bleecker to a Sixth Avenue express.  Three trains, yet the ride somehow takes about fifteen minutes.  I’m somewhat attention-deficient, so the movement keeps me upbeat.

Starts at seven.  Go.

Now then: I wrote this post on August 12th, about the new Rawlings S100 batting helmet (use your back button to return).

On August 17th, I wrote this post hoping that Johan Santana wouldn’t suffer at my bony, cloak-wearing hand.  Not “hands,” as the other is busy wielding a scythe.

However, he’s now with Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital For Special Surgery.  I meant to take a spin by there and see if there’d been anything laid at the foundation.  Perhaps it’s just enough that someone spent last night behind the gates somehow, clad in black and holding a single thorny rose.

Billy Wagner will probably not accept a trade to the Red Sox because he wants to be a closer, and Jonathan Papelbon already jigs-it-up for the Fenway folk.  I think his particular brand of hard luck (and ours) will be at the negotiating table.

Luis Castillo’s taken his lumps already.  Chowdah’s got the ligament issue (and Chowdah didn’t even show until July).  Sheffield’s got his/has his/will get his; I can’t keep straight what’s bothering that guy anymore.  But at least he’s gone out there.  This is good.

Schneider’s a ghost already; predicting his doom would probably only RAISE his batting average.

If you’ve seen a Star Wars or an Indiana Jones movie–or even Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (which, if you enjoy a ruthlessly bloodthirsty matinee, I recommend)–you’re familiar with something called “The Wilhelm Scream.”  It’s reserved for the death of cannon fodder: a foot soldier who you KNOW is going to go down in a hail of whatever fired by whomever our hero is.

If you do a search for NPR Wilhelm Scream, you’ll come across the On The Media transcript for an interview on said scream.  Read (and listen? I don’t have the player) here.

The Mets are not the bad guys, though they’ve been made out to be.  But at this point, all the Mets have are redshirts: guys who really should be faceless.

(“Three balls to Pedro Martinez after two three-run homers, and he was pulled mid-count.”)

I can’t, therefore, try my hand at predicting the next Met injury because, to the extent that the guys out there are pretty much all the same redshirt, it doesn’t matter.  Luke and Leia are going to manage to swing onto the other side of the bridge; Indy will get the better of Belloq.  Good guys or bad, that’s the script.

This is obviously not their year.  As I’ve stated several times now, one should watch Mets baseball if Mets baseball is still fun.  I will still watch, because it allows me time to decompress.  And I enjoy a win whenever they do.  Besides, after baseball comes football, but after football comes a whole lotta nothing.

However, while I will not predict the downfall of another Metropolitan, once my voice fully recovers, I will be practicing my “AIIIEEEEEEE!!!”

**I’ve been pulled from tonight’s game, by the way, in favor of Nelson Figueroa.

These are the thoughts I have when the Mets are rained out and the Yankees are playing under a dome.

I’ve been gone for awhile.  I cannot be blamed.  I worked nine straight days.  Sure, this was the view from my hotel room for the last two:
beach.jpg
But by no means was it all fun and games.  Those who may know me may know I enjoy a bit of a tune-up when the workday ends.  The proceedings made need for a bottle of Scotch.  I usually abstain from any liquor I can’t see through during summer months.  I made an exception, and a serious dent was put in the thing as I watched the only ball game available to me: Dodgers-Cardinals (on Monday, STL over LAD 6-1).
So if the three of you who read were torn up over the lack of material, know that I was torn up as well.  Mets game via BlackBerry.  Reading up on the Minaya-Bernazard-Rubin nonsense while riding NJ Transit back to civilization.  Falling asleep just after the blown call that had Castillo safe on Tuesday (against Colorado; W 4-0).  Painting my hallway today–TODAY, of all days, where the heat and humidity drenched me repeatedly.  Good thing it’s just latex paint.
At any rate.  Back.  Stretch run.  Sparkle, sparkle.  I geared up for the Mets game but switched it over to the Yankees game after the rain-out for a number of reasons:
  • I was starved for baseball that bore ANY connection to New York.
  • I’d already watched The Ruins, which a friend DEMANDED I DVR and watch.  Wrong call, Sheriff.  Movie was well-done, but lame.  I take my horror schlocky with two sugars.
  • It was raining hard, so going out was not an option.  It’s still raining.  Going out is absolutely not an option.
  • There was almost nothing else on.  The exception was KVC: Komodo Vs. Cobra, co-starring a pre-Tell Me You Love Me Michelle Borth.  But I missed this being on until the near-end.
  • I’d read on the Post‘s website that the Rays might trade Carl Crawford and Scott Kazmir.
I start salivating when I start thinking about competent left fielders.  It’s been far too long for the Mets.  Carl Crawford was 2-for-4 tonight, notching a triple off Brian Bruney and scoring from there on Evan Longoria’s home run in the ninth.
As for Kazmir… well, Maine doesn’t look like he’s long for this season.  You should know how I feel about Perez.  Kazmir’s still young and his performance in ’09 will dim the salary lights a little.  Santana-Kazmir-Pelfrey-Niese-Perez.  I can live with that.   A bit lefty-dominated, but that can be solved by jettisoning Oliver Perez.
I’m just sayin’.
But competent fielding and hitting in left?  Delightful.  Forgive me if I don’t want to bet the farm on Cory Sullivan.  Or Gary Sheffield.  Don’t hurt yourself trying to remember the last full-time Mets left fielder.  Christ, Trot Nixon played outfield for the Mets last year.  That’s not a joke.
Counting on Carlos Beltran, who, according to reports filtered through Metsblog is working out despite the bone bruise on his mole knee not being healed, seems chancy to me.  Chowdah has thus far proven himself.  I have been saying my mea culpas and will shout them if he becomes the beast he was in a past life.  But counting on that, and Sullivan, and a not-quite-100% Beltran to patrol center at Citi Field, and trying to make a run for it, is asking for trouble.  Nick Evans was the Mets’ starting left fielder during the last game of the 2008 season.  Endy Chavez replaced him, for defense.
The last good guy out there was Moises Alou, and he wasn’t even legitimately good.  Just lightning-in-a-bottle, astound-you-with-that-batting-stance good.  Crawford-Beltran-Chowdah, with Pagan off the bench, makes me feel a hell of a lot better.
One hopes the symptoms of foot-in-mouth include remorse, humility, and visible shakes yet exclude inability-to-get-on-the-horn, and Omar Minaya can do just that and get a guy.  Crawford isn’t the best left fielder in the world, but he’s a damn sight better than what’s out there right now.
No offense, Mr. Sullivan.  I want you to know, however, sir, that the following “Cory”/”Corey”s have more interesting Wikipedia pages:
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and prove me wrong.  I will gladly add berating you to my list of venal sins if you show me up.

I am told that this is the sound a car engine makes when it’s about to fall out.

My mind has not so much been wandering as it’s been speed-jogging through vast wastes of half-remembered things I’ve done and things I’ve seen.  This could either be the result of an unusually busy time at work or an extended stroke. 

If it’s a stroke, I have to hand it to my neurons, who’ve sought to bring me back to the days when I watched The Naked Gun 2 1/2 every other day for nearly a year.  I left the house Thursday singing the film’s version of “Besame Mucho.”  That brought me to O.J. Simpson, who, if you recall, had a supporting role in each of the Naked Gun movies before the… unpleasantness.

Where were you when O.J. Simpson and Al Cowlings were “fleeing” the authorities in the white Ford Bronco?  I was in a van myself: a brown Chevy, owned by a family friend who was driving a group of guys up to a house in Sullivan County, NY, to build a deck.  My father went; I came along.  I was in sixth grade.  Sat on a milk crate in the back, with the tools.  Bob, another Bob (but we called him Robert to distinguish), Frank, my dad, and me.  Up the highway from Brooklyn in a two-seat Chevy van.  And we followed the news via radio (we left the city at 7p).

Lest you think this post a less-than-tasteful rehash of the Simpson trial, I’ll have you know that I was annoyed that we were listening to the coverage of a low-speed car chase, the whup-whup of helicopters only enjoyable when WATCHING ON TELEVISION.  No, I wanted to listen to the Mets game.  They were playing the Marlins that night out at Dolphin/Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Pro Player again/Dolphin/LandShark Stadium, and I had the fool notion that this would be Pete Smith’s chance to shine.  Nevermind that he was already 3-6 on the year.  Also, I’d rarely listened to baseball in the car, and being there with “the guys” made me think we’d be “the guys” riding up and listening to the game.

But these guys, to a man, are jokers and wise guys, and there was not much fun to be had in baseball that year.  And certainly not with the Mets.  In the Mets’ defense, they walked off the job just three games below .500.  Our current crop of Mets are seven below, which is chilly even in the dog days of summer.

See what I did there, with the double meaning?

As it turned out, however, it wouldn’t matter what we were listening to.  When we broke out of getaway traffic, Bob hit the gas to make up for lost time.  Thirty-five miles an hour.  Forty.  Forty-five… what’s that hum?  Fifty… Dad, something doesn’t feel right here.  Fifty-five… it’s not a hum; it’s a rattling.  Is something shaking loose back there?

Sixty: BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAP!  The thing shook like a gallon can of Benjamin Moore in the auto-mixer.  But we weren’t going to drive forty-five miles an hour up to the house; we’d get there in the middle of the night (and “middle of the night” reminds me that Billy Joel’s “River Of Dreams” came out that year; what the hell is going on with me?).

So we dealt with it.  Robert got car sick.  My dad was hoarse from laughing so hard.  Bob, ever the even keel, went on like nothing was wrong.  He even waved at the people passing us, most of whom, I’m told, were laughing and pointing.

We got to the place around eleven, which is about when O.J. was taken to jail and well after the Mets had lost; Retrosheet tells me the game was played in a tidy 2 1/2 (see?) hours.  They’d fallen to 30-36.  There were no highlights worth watching, but I had to wait until the next day to find that out, because TV was wall-to-wall lurid that night.  My father said, “Eh.  They’re gonna strike anyway.”

His biggest concern, and frankly mine as well, was whether we’d make it back at the end of the trip with our respective fillings still in our heads.

There.  I’ve just told you a more interesting story than last night’s game (vs. Astros, L; 5-4), which I watched via fast-forward recap, mildly hungover from a colleague’s housewarming the night before.  I caught a glimpse of Gary Sheffield in one of the freeze frames, and thought about how, fifteen years ago, I thought he’d be a remarkable improvement over Joe Orsulak.

Why the hell do I remember now that I thought fifteen years ago that Sheffield would be an improvement over Orsulak?  Why do I get the feeling that if Sheffield didn’t have his endless cramp, he’d be batting third now, just like he did then?  Why are the Mets a van that rattles like the Rapture’s coming whenever you need them to go the speed limit?

Again, I am told this is the sound a car engine makes when it’s about to fall out.

I’m locked in the death throes of a staff retreat until Tuesday evening.  And then I go to a seminar on retirement planning.  Until then, and after, let’s go Mets!  Trading deadline’s coming; avoid cheap gas.

*I know I’d said that I’d write something on Bernazard, but it’s been rather busy.  Besides, the thing’s been talked to death already.  Fire him or trade out one of the T-shirt launches for a regular mid-inning fight between him and Batdad.  That’s essentially my opinion.

Those asterisks are my own. 

Anyone see 28 Days Later?  Anyone?  Anyone?

Bike messenger wakes from a coma to find London and, indeed, most of England, taken over by fast-moving zombie-like creatures.  If you saw I Am Legend, you saw the conceit yanked to an unfortunate computer-generated extreme; this Danny Boyle movie of which I speak does proper service to fear.  Though it was a shame to see the German Shepherd succumb in Will Smith’s vehicle (they are not two movies with the same plot; just similar-ish symptoms to a vague disease).

The problem I have with both films is I find it hard to believe that anyone THAT sick can move THAT fast, regardless if they have issues with ultraviolet light.  When I see guys go down, they move fairly slow.  Sometimes, they need carts to help them out.  Not intimidating.

The list of currently disabled Mets (or, if you prefer, Mets with disabilities):

  • John Maine
  • J.J. Putz
  • Billy Wagner
  • Carlos Delgado
  • Ramon Martinez
  • Jose Reyes
  • Carlos Beltran
  • Fernando Martinez

Add to that Gary Sheffield, who is day-to-day, and Fernando Nieve, who will be day-to-day, then placed on the DL once they find enough change to load up the MRI machine and stick him in there.

I’ve already excoriated the Mets front office with playing fast and loose with either their facts or their process of information gathering or their responsibility to level with the fans.  At this point, the training staff will need to book a crew from the HBO documentary set and give them unfettered, twenty-four hour access to the training room, the Hospital For Special Surgery, and any vehichle used to transport injured Mets across our local bridges and highways.

When David Wright wakes up from his daily coma, though, he doesn’t find terminally-ill position players given superhuman strength through dint of their virus.  Even if he did, I don’t believe Jerry Manuel to have the talent to persuade crazed neo-zombies to properly settle under a pop-up and catch with two hands. 

Luis Castillo has that going for him: he’s better than a neo-zombie.  But I kid Castillo, whose hitting streak is still alive.  Double-digits or bust, Luis. …Wait.  No.  No bust.  Do not bust.  Far too much busting lately.

So no open review of the Mets training staff is going to help the guys on the field.  But as no help seems to be imminent for the guys on the field, I do not withdraw my demand to get something of the sort.  The real hard work for the Mets is keeping confidence for this year in the face of long odds so that more confidence is not lost in the fan base next year.

I will gladly sit in cushy field level seats, don’t get me wrong; if fan confidence takes a nosedive then I expect I’ll be able to buy tickets for sixty bucks and take in the game within earshot of David Wright.  But if the fan base deserts, there may be scant money to get players in the house that will bring fans back that will give the Mets a chance at the postseason that will bring fans back the year after.  See what I’m saying?  Of course you do.

So aside from still trying to make a run this year–and as I’ve lived through a team losing a seven-game lead with seventeen to play, I’m not discounting such a run in the opposite direction or even interested in calling the hypothetical a miracle–the Mets have a responsibility to weigh actions to make next year a better one.  This is a tough thing to do.  But not impossible.

However, that job’s being botched by injuries and the treatment of injuries.  It seems even David, our bike messenger awakened to find a horror shop of pain and abject misery, has settled on injuries and plowing through those injuries as this year’s story.  Jerry Manuel’s joking out of turn about it (find it on Metsblog here and the Daily News here and… well, where have you been?) cements the point.  This is the story.

Mets, your job: control the story.  At this point in D.C. politics, an injury czar would’ve been appointed.

It may be that, as declared by frantic writing on the church wall, “the end is extremely ******* nigh,” and it may be that the only thing to do is to survive and plot and plan for escape.  But this movie’s gettin’ real dull without the cavalry.  Let’s just hope the season doesn’t follow 28 Days Later too closely.  I’d hate to think that Omar Minaya has Carlos Beltran chained up somewhere.

Given Beltran’s angry despondence over his knee, though, it may be wise for him to be so chained, for Mr. Minaya’s protection.

Some time ago I was given a book to read by a colleague.  The book is titled A Fan’s Notes, and its author, Frederick Exley, does a remarkable job of barely speaking about sport in the two-hundred seventy pages I’ve read thus far.  (I write like a fiend, work a full-time job, and watch baseball.  Time rarely presents itself for reading anything but the paper while cooking or in the W.C.) 

Really, the book is a memoir, detailing the author’s institutionalization during the mid and late ’50s.  Conformity issues.  I don’t imagine being lent the book was meant to send a message of any sort.

When Exley does speak of sport, he speaks of the Frank Gifford New York football Giants.  He speaks of getting far too fired up about them, about clapping grown men repeatedly on the back, on jumping and screaming and praying and slapping his hand on the bar.

That was me yesterday afternoon.  I became the living embodiment (Mistah Exley–he dead) of Frederick Exley.  I was in a safe place to be such a Loopy Lou–Pacific Standard on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn–but goddamn.  I need to calm down.

Others, however, seemed to feel differently, because I put on quite a show during the top of the ninth:

Alex Cora singled off Manny Acosta.  I clapped hard and whacked my knuckle against my wedding ring, letting out a sharp, “Nnnneeeeowwww!” which amused everyone and no one at once.  Angel Berroa hit for Brian Stokes and sacrificed to get Cora to second.  I stood on the support rungs of my stool and beat the bar with my fist.  Chuckles abounded.  The small crowd there that afternoon had decided it would be best to laugh at me than wait so they could laugh with me.  There is little to laugh about when watching the Mets these days–at least with anything more than gallows humor.

When Pagan ripped that ball past Martin Prado and out to right, I had fully intended to punch the air in excitement. 

However, my face got in the way.

I didn’t stop screaming, “Go, go, go!” though I felt a sharp pain in my cheekbone and my glasses were now nowhere to be found.  Turned out that in the excitement and scoring of the insurance run, I’d punched them off my face with such ferocity that they flew off and behind my head, dropping to the floor behind me and causing one of the lenses to pop out of its half-wire frame.  I also sliced the top of my right index finger.  I could photograph this, but I think I’m going to pass.  Respectfully.

When I gathered myself in time for the next batter–the eyewear being crucial in actually SEEING what’s onscreen–I had a flashback to the old “poking the eyes” bit that the Stooges pulled.  I didn’t think my day would get wackier.  Then Castillo executed the best suicide squeeze I’ve seen in my admittedly limited history of witnessing suicide squeezes.  I can count them on one now scarred hand.

As Acosta prepared for David Wright, I muttered a barely audible, “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.”

**

Speaking of David Wright: the Braves seemed to have it all worked out for him yesterday.  Walk the poor *bugger.  Here’s how that strategy panned out (ordered by plate appearance):

  1. top of first, two out, 0-0: intentionally walked; Chowdah grounds out.
  2. top of fourth, no one out, 0-0: strikeout.  Given that he led off the inning, it was an acceptable deviation from the plan.
  3. top of sixth, one out, Castillo on second, 0-0: intentionally walked.  Chowdah reaches on an infield single to load the bases.  Jeremy Reed walks (unintentionally), scoring the lead run.  Wright would then score on a Santos sacrifice.
  4. top of eighth, no one out, 2-0: Wright singles, then steals.  Nothing really comes of the inning; he’s stranded at third.
  5. top of ninth, two out, Murphy on second after a walk and a steal: intentionally walked.  Chowdah would then get Murphy in on an RBI-single.

I don’t believe the strategy of intentionally walking David Wright, even given the state of the team at present, will bear much fruit.  Or, if it’s to be done, perhaps best to do so only if there are outs and no one on.

The Mets may be bloodied and bruised, and jokes abound about their not-ready-for-prime time players.  But don’t treat them like they absolutely don’t know what they’re doing.

**

Sheffield left Friday with a cramp.  Now it’s a tweaked hamstring.  Sure it is.

*I had a different “b” word in place there, but apparently the MLB censor drones believe it unfit for mass consumption.  Very well.  Lame.  But very well.

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.

Okay, okay.  I kid because I love.

In case you’d not heard, Jerry Manuel had a family chat with the team on Tuesday night, and the team rode over to Miller Park together Wednesday morning.  Then Mike Pelfrey pitched a gem, and the Mets beat the Milwaukee Brewers 1-0 to avoid the sweep.

In reply to a commenter on the previous post, let me say that it appeared by the encore presentation of the game that the Mets DID play some baseball.  There is the notable exception of the seventh inning, wherein Mike Pelfrey, like Bono and Alexander Haig before him, forgot a key nuance of his day job and committed a balk.  But they played ball, and I thank you for your words.  I like to think we had some part in it.

John Franco spoke some nonsense about David Wright not being a clubhouse leader, and David Wright retorted in quite fine fashion before going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. You can read about it from Metsblog here.  (UPDATE: Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News presents a transcript here.  Despite openings and closings not transcribed, I get the sense it’s otherwise complete.)

I’m a supporter of the idea that the Mets need a team captain.  I also think they need to trade Oliver Perez and bid a heartfelt farewell to Fernando Tatis.  But in all those cases, what does a team do if an injury takes that guy out?  Mark DeRosa went over to the Cardinals, sprained his wrist after three games for them, and will be out for the next three or four games.

And if the Mets trade Brad Holt and Bobby Parnell for Adam Dunn, and Adam breaks his hand trying to open a jar of pickles?

And if the Mets sell half of the Acela Club, Mr. Met, and his kids for Roy Halladay, and Halladay breaks down like a ’77 Dodge Dart? …Though I’d almost do that deal.  Swap Mr. Met for three minor-league mascot prospects, and make the call.

Any Mets captain would have to be resilient and magnetic enough to draw attention even if on the bench.  These attributes are not quantifiable; Mr. Franco was right about that.  But what he has wrong is not the need, but the reason for the need.  The Mets need a captain for our sake, not theirs. 

David Wright is right: we don’t know what goes on in the clubhouse behind closed doors. All reports are that Carlos Delgado is still at home recovering and Gary Sheffield’s a model citizen, so John Franco’s further afield than most.  They need to play as a team, and pick themselves up in times of trouble.  Playing coherent baseball as a team will keep the crew from air-mailing balls and throwing to the wrong bag and all that nonsense.  I think the 2009 Mets are working hard at playing as a team, with some glaring goddamn missteps.

But we need a captain because on any given day during this injury crisis, we’ve seen half this lineup play a few handfuls of games.  Argenis Reyes; Fernando Martinez; Nick Evans?  To the masochistic Mets fan, these names are familiar if not battle-tested.  To the casual observer, they’re nobodies.  The captain fills the gap in crowd confidence with his captaincy, like so much *Great Stuff.

Gratuitous link.

And when the captain goes into the locker room, he controls the message to the media hordes who demand to know just what they’re gonna do about all these injuries and do you think Omar should trade for a bat or some rotation help and oh my gosh oh my goodness gracious the 2009 Mets are a step away from 1962! 

(Ah, Suzyn Waldman.  When digital photo frames can reliably play downloaded video, I’m hanging that Clemens bit in my bathroom.)

When Delgado comes back and Jose Reyes comes back and Carlos Beltran and J.J. Putz and John Maine come back, we should see these guys as a team with a colorful history.  The captain can continue to control the message, but we really should hold no illusions that, when the door closes on the clubhouse, David Wright is going up to Carlos Delgado and telling Carlos how to play the game.  Carlos would be well within his rights to take an aluminum bat to the man.

The captain frees the rest of the team up to coalesce and do their job.  The captain takes the heat for the other veterans and the rookies.  For that, he’s awarded a slightly larger percentage of the glory and the pain.

From this perspective, the reason Mr. Franco believes the Mets need a captain is because he needs to hear a player voice of authority account for what’s going on at the park.  But to extend that to be the reason for the shoddy play is false.  The Mets have not played at their best because they are not at all at full strength.

A team in better shape, DL-wise, would be the Philadelphia Phillies.  They got blown out by Atlanta yesterday, no-hit all the way through to the seventh, and the Mets are now two games behind first. 

I’m sure David Wright wants to lead the Mets, Mr. Franco.  Tell me if anyone wants to lead this division.

*Great Stuff is a registered trademark of The Dow Chemical Company.  If you’re going to use it, WEAR GLOVES AND EYE GOGGLES AND CLOTHES YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT EVER WEARING IN PUBLIC AGAIN.