Sunday, April 16, 2006

1,000 MILES

Actually, more like 1,175 miles. That's how far the kids and I drove this weekend to take in Saturday's Mets game and make it back home at a decent hour on a school night. . . . Two losses in nearly a dozen games, and it has to be the one we go to. . . . Well, the Mets should be as good at road trips as my kids. . . . We'll try again. . .

Random Complaints

Of course, I had read about the idiotic booing. From Beltran to Heilman. . . . I pretty much shrugged it off, but, having spent a losing afternoon at Shea, I must say I was pretty disgusted with a lot of the fans. I was sitting in excellent seats, on a near sellout day, and it was a sea of beer, cigarettes and F**K's. Kids and adults over 40 were few and far between. All the conversations and most of the cheering you heard were laced with explitives, F**K this and F**K that. It was not hard to see this group booing anything that moved. . . .

He's Not Benitez!

Jorge Julio is a problem. He can throw 94-95, so if he could be "fixed" that would be great. But right now, he stinks, and that's a problem. This particular rant, though, is against everyone who keeps saying he is Benitez or just like Benitez, or whatever. He's a big, latin reliever who throws hard, but the comparison ends there. He in no Benitez. We should be so lucky. That's like saying Victor Diaz is Darryl Strawberry. Or that Victor Zambrano is like a young Nolan Ryan. Benitez was an overpowering reliever who ranks #6 all-time in games by a Mets pitcher (between Tug McGraw and Dwight Gooden), and 2nd all time in saves. If we had Benitez in our pen to fill Julio's role we would have the best pen in the league. Yes, Benitez wilted under the greatest pressure, and the Mets were wise to move on when they did, but Julio is nothing like him (and is not even getting the pressure opportunities to blow), and don't insult Benitez by making the comparison.

Bring on the Braves

Enough with my negativity though. We're off to the best start in Mets history, and the last time we had a lead this big in the division, I was a bachelor, Glavine was in the minors and Jose Reyes was four years old. So, get ready for a great three game series. . . .

Sunday, April 09, 2006


O.K., I'm getting a bit ahead of myself there, but 4-1 sure beats the heck out of last year's 0-5 start. Remember, they're at home and playing the division doormats, so they need to do well, but don't let that spoil your enjoyment. Here are some observations---encouraging and worrying---from Week #1.

Encouraging Point #1:

Duaner Sanchez looks like a great pick up. He's allowed 0 runs and only 1 hit in 5 innings of work, while striking out 6 and walking 2. And, if you've watched him, you know he wasn't just lucky. Moreover, he has shown the ability to pitch two inning stints. A real plus. (By the way, Jae Seo hasn't started yet for the Dodgers--he's their 5th man and they skipped his spot--but he's gotten cuffed around a bit out of the pen.)

Encouraging Point #2:

Carlos Delgado can field. From what we had heard in the preseason, I was expecting BAD defense over there, but so far he has been great. He's saved/handled 4-6 very tough throws---some high, some bounced, some thrown at him hard from very short range---he's fielded a couple of tough ones hit at him, he's made a couple of nifty tag plays on throws that pulled him off the bag, and he's started 1 or 2 (I'm sure of at least one) nice double plays with great throws down to second (a play, by the way, that Meinkeiwicz had a lot of trouble with last year, he really couldn't throw; Delgado's a former catcher, and it shows on his throws). Delgado may not have any range, but that just doesn't come up that often; I haven't seen one ball that he has not gotten that you could say a gold glove first baseman would have. He is just fine and better over there.

Encouraging Point #3:

It looks like Glavine and Trachsel still have it. OK, they both took advantage of the inexperienced Marlins, but considering they are a combined 75 years old, there was legitimate concern. Concern that their combined ERA of 2.00 over 18 innings with 16 K's certainly diminishes.

Concern #1:

Jose Valentin may be useless. Although he was once a good player, he looked like he was completely washed up last year. Mets scouts must have concluded that he was merely injured and could bounce back at age 37, because he got a guaranteed deal, which he needed because he did nothing in Spring Training. He has failed in each of the important clutch situations in which Randolph has used him. It will be interesting to see who goes when Matsui comes off the D.L.. Of course, when the bench is your biggest concern, that's actually encouraging. It looks like this team will needs its bench less than many other Mets teams, and Franco, Diaz, Woodward and Chavez are all solid for their roles.

Concern #2:

Jorge Julio. 'Nuff said. The Benson trade (like the Cameron trade) was a salary dump. In both cases, the Mets saved themselves millions of dollars and the trades cost the other teams millions of dollars. It makes sense that the Mets would get less talent back than they gave up. At least Nady's looked very nice so far. . . . Benson did have some value though, and so far it looks like it would have been better to get nothing in return. Julio wasn't around for most of the Spring, though, (due to the WBC), so let's give Rick Peterson a chance with him.

Concern #3:

Wagner's velocity. Three outings, and he's topping out at 92, or occassionally 93. The result: three innings and only one strikeout. This from a guy who should be at 96-97 frequently and has NEVER failed to strike out one man per inning in any season in his career (except for his debut year of 1995, when he faced exactly one batter and retired him, but not by K). It has been cold (though not so much today), and he did miss a lot of Spring Training, and his finger may still be bothering him a little, so there are plenty of explanations. Hopefully, though, the fact that he will turn 35 this season is not one of them. We're married to this guy for a long time, and he needs that lights out velocity. . . .

Monday, April 03, 2006


Highlight #1: A great opening day win, without a doubt, and wonderful to have it finished by a closer, especially after sitting through last year's fiasco. The highlight though, came in the top of the 5th. Glavine appeared to be struggling, getting into some trouble in every inning after the first, and walking three men while getting only twelve outs. He appeared to be getting squeezed by the ump, was not throwing inside and had more bb's than k's; in short, what his spring and his horrible first half last year looked like. Now, the Nats had men on 2nd and 3rd (following a well-stroked double by jose guillen), nobody out, with a 3-0 count on cleanup man Nick Johnson and the power-hitting Alfonso Soriano on deck. The Mets' one-run lead seemed certainly lost and worse. . . . Now, one thing about Glavine, is that he never gives in. He NEVER believes he "has to" groove one. He also has the composure that led to (or from) two Cy Young awards and a hall-of-fame career, so he was not going to panic. But still, it looked like the old gunslinger simply did not have the bullets anymore. He then threw three straight strikes to Johnson, catching him looking on the inside black. Then got Soriano strike one (high inside heat, swinging), strike two (back inside (got a nice call, but the ump was into it at this point), balls one and two on two just-for-show change-ups well off the plate low and away. Then, with Soriano leaning half way across the plate looking for another change, strike three looking on the inside black. Inning over. WOW! For the first time, I felt that he is actually going to get to 300 wins. It was vintage pitching from a hall-of-famer.

Highlight #2: Top of the second, dribbler up the middle, the rookie Anderson Hernandez ranges WAY to his right (he was shading the lefty hitter to pull), reaches down and gloves the ball. Great range---no way you thought he would get to it---but then, more incredibly, rights himself as he stands up taking two more steps away from first, leaps in the air while swiveling his body 180 degrees, and, in midair, uncorks a strong accurate throw to first---as if his feet were planted and it had been a routine grounder--so that the play was not even close. A GREAT play. Really unbelievable range. I don't know if this kid can hit enough, but boy is his glove going to be fun.

Other Notes: Good news is that Wright seemed ready to pick up right where he left off. Bad news is that so did Beltran---popping up with 2nd and 3rd 1 out especially painful. . . . Fran Healy NOT missed. . . . Stat of the day, the Mets the second team ever (or in a really, really long time) to start 3 infielders under age 24 on opening day. The last trio to do it, Glenn Hubbard, Rafael Ramirez, and Bob Horner for the '81 Braves, all became All-Stars in their careers, which totaled 35 major league seasons (Horner's was cut short by injury). The infield youth, plus our other guys embarking on their first full seasons in prime roles (Nady, Heilman and Bannister), should make for an exciting year. Hopefully, they learned today about cool under pressure from watching the "old goat."

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Well, it has been a busy off-season---half the Mets starting players, one starting pitcher, a majority of the bench and almost all of the bullpen were not with the club last year---that has produced a surprisingly young (5 regulars under 30, 3 under 24, and a rookie in the rotation), and likely exciting team. Flaws are easy to find, but there is a breadth of talent on this team that, combined with the youth, should make them fun to watch. There are two Hall-of-Famers (Martinez and Glavine), four others near the league best at their position (Wagner, Delgado, Beltran and Wright), another near All-Star (Floyd) and the most electrifying player in the league (Reyes). I'm so ready for opening day. Here are some thoughts about the roster. . . .

Most Pleasant Surprise: Brian Bannister. This rotation rookie did not even make most prospect lists, and he is universally described as a potential fourth or fifth starter at best, but I'm looking at him as a dark horse rookie-of-the-year. Last year's outstanding minor league performance and the maturity and make-up show he is ready for a major league trial, but what is really exciting about him is the buzz from his teammates. I remember in 1987 when Bobby Ojeda cut off his finger tip during the off-season. There was great concern about how the Mets would replace him. In a little-noticed off-season trade, the Mets had swapped back-up catcher Ed Hearn to the Royals for some minor league pitcher named David Cone. The first time the Mets saw Cone in intrasquad games in Spring Training though, there was a certain buzz from the players. Keith Hernandez said "we're going to be all right." Gary Carter said, "how did they come up with this kid?" The players just knew the guy would make it big. True, Cone was only OK in '87 before his huge '88, but you just don't hear veterans praising rookie pitchers that way very often. When you do, and when the whole organization shows a sudden deep confidence in a guy: watch out.

Best Injury: Kaz Matsui. Second base was a black hole last year, and the Mets' refusal to address it during the off-season (get me Grudzelanik (if we had him, I would bother learning how to spell it)), was easily the greatest winter blunder. I have grave doubts about whether Anderson Hernandez is ready to be a major league hitter---even if he hits .286, that will be a dead weight on the offense if he has no walks and no extrabase hits---but at least there is a chance that he is a major league hitter or nearly is, and he can play defense (plus, its always fun to watch and root for rookies). Matsui, nothing personal, was a disaster. He has proven that he is NOT a major league player. His injury is the biggest addition by subtraction since Rey Ordonez broke his leg to allow the Mets to win the wild card and go to the World Series back in 2000.

Key Addition: A no-brainer. Obviously, it's Carlos Delgado. To put the matter simply, if last year's team had had last year's Delgado, the Mets would have made the playoffs. He can be this team's Donn Clendenon, its David Ortiz. Huge acquistion.

Player to Worry About: Steve Trachsel. Obviously, the whole starting rotation is a concern. Pedro has been hurt, Zambrano is ALWAYs a concern, Glavine is 40 and had a lousy spring, and Bannister is a rookie. The one I'm the most worried about, though, is Trachsel. He's in the decline phase of a career that did not have nearly so high a peak as the Mets Hall-of-Fame starters. His spring has been nauseatingly bad. Cross your fingers here.

The Lineup: As of this writing, Randolph is going with LoDuca, Beltran, Delgado, Wright, Floyd for the 2-6 slots in the lineup, and I actually think this is probably his best choice. You must not let the other team use a single lefty to face Delgado and Floyd with the game on the line in the late innings, at least not without making him face Wright in between. To me, separating Delgado and Floyd is the single imperative. What about batting Lo Duca lower and sliding them all up one spot? Well, it gives more AB's to your better hitters, but Lo Duca's skills, such as they are, may be best used in the two hole, and Randolph's lineup avoids the wasteland at the bottom of the lineup that LoDuca, Hernandez, pitcher would produce. Also, no matter what, LoDuca figures to be much better than last year's #2 hitters (Matsui and Castro), and David Wright will get more at-bats this year than last.

Roster: The team's bench is stronger than last year (perhaps extra important in the post-amphetamine game), though it will be hard to top last-year's extraordinary pinch hitting performance. I like the choice of Feliciano as the lefty and of Diaz (who may well be better than Nady) for the last spot over a pitcher who would only appear in games we would lose anyway.

Play ball!

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