May 20, 2009

BALK THIS WAY: METS FAIL TO SCORE, FAIL TO SWEEP GIANTS

By Aaron Schuldiner

In light of the rough finishes to the last two seasons in Flushing, it has become easy, if not fashionable, for Met fans to push the panic button after every loss. But when you’ve won eleven of your last thirteen games, you’re entitled to an off night against a good starting pitcher, right?

Entitled or not, that was the case Sunday, as the Giants edged the Mets 2-0 behind six shutout innings from Matt Cain. Cain walked five, but allowed only three hits, and got two huge double plays to kill the only two rallies the Mets could muster. In the second inning, Jeremy Reed, playing for the injured Carlos Delgado, bounced into a bases-loaded double play before Mets starter Mike Pelfrey grounded out to end the inning. Then in the eighth, Jeremy Affeldt got Angel Pagan to hit into an inning-ending double play, again with the bases loaded. The Mets went quietly in the ninth, as Giant closer Brian Wilson looked dominant after taking losses on Thursday and Friday.

Cain did not have his best command, but every time the Mets tried to put something together, he buckled down and put out the fire. That was in contrast to Pelfrey, who pitched well overall, but sabotaged himself with three balks. Both runners that scored for the Giants advanced from first base to second on balks, the second run coming in on an RBI single by none other than Cain.

It has always been my stance that Pelfrey has front-of-the-rotation talent, but mentally, it sometimes appears he’s not there yet. After the second balk he was visibly shaken. After the call was made, Pelfrey almost fell down while kicking the back of the pitcher’s mound in frustration, stirring up memories of his embarrassing tumble off the mound in the Citi Field opener. After the game, Pelfrey joked that maybe he just likes making a fool out of himself when he’s on national television. The Mets can only hope that the issue can be worked out of Pelfrey’s mechanics quickly, and doesn’t develop into some kind of Mackey Sasser-esque mental tic. Since Pelfrey didn’t balk once in his 290-plus innings prior to 2009, I would assume that it’s something he and pitching coach Dan Warthen can get figured out.

Sure, there’s no such thing as a good loss, and with this team there are no moral victories. The fan base is insatiably hungry for wins, and both Manager Jerry Manuel and G.M. Omar Minaya could find themselves on the unemployment line if the Mets don’t play their way into October. There have already been a few bad losses this year, the kind that you lose sleep over. Both of Johan Santana’s losses in which he didn’t allow a single earned run and the twelve-inning loss to Atlanta come to mind.

So, considering the Mets took three out of four at AT&T Park, where the Giants had the second best home record in the league before this series, it’s hard to be too disappointed. And considering those three wins featured the Mets setting a franchise record with seven steals in a game, plus an impressive comeback win over reigning Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum (In my mind, the signature win of the season to date), it’s hard not to be encouraged. Throw in the facts that the Mets essentially played the entire series without Reyes and Delgado, have won eleven of their last fourteen, and currently occupy first place in the N.L. East, and I suspect that last night’s loss might be quickly forgotten by the masses with a win tonight in L.A..

But for Pelfrey, it might take a balk-free start in Boston next weekend. A second performance like last night’s won’t be nearly as easy for him to laugh off.

THE GOOD
Despite allowing seven walks, Cain, Affeldt, Wilson, and Bob Howry never let the Mets get on the board, stranding nine runners in the process. Cain moved to 4-1 on the year and lowered his ERA to a stingy 2.65.

THE BAD
Granted it was a makeshift lineup, and it was unfortunate that the Mets’ three bases loaded at-bats were taken by Pagan, Reed, and Pelfrey. But when you leave the bases loaded twice against a good staff, there’s always a good chance you won’t get another opportunity, as was the case last night.

THE UGLY
It shouldn’t be lost among Pelfrey’s mental lapses that he did pitch pretty well last night, but no starter had balked three times in a game since 1994, when ex-Met Al Leiter completed the trifecta for Toronto.

THANKS FOR THE ADVICE. MAYBE YOU SHOULD BE A G.M.
Considering the way Steve Phillips was fired from his job as Mets General Manager in 2003 and subsequently run out of town, there was something funny about hearing Phillips on last night’s ESPN broadcast try to convince a national audience that the Mets should trade Carlos Beltran at the season’s end. Thankfully, Joe Morgan called Phillips out, explaining that Beltran’s skill set at his position is virtually irreplaceable. As one fan said to me on a local baseball message board, it’s scary when Joe Morgan becomes the voice of reason.

ROAD WARRIORS
After taking three of four in San Francisco, the Mets will head south to take on the Dodgers who, at 14-3, own the best home record in baseball. Tim Redding is slated to make his first start for the Mets against the Dodgers’ Randy Wolf. Gametime is 10:10 EST.

May 18, 2009

Delgado to be Operated on/Figgy DFA AGAIN!

About to leave for tonite's game, but I just found out that Carlos Delgado is having his hip operated on tomorrow in NY and will be out at least through the All-star break. He has a torn labrum and a bone spur in his hip- not good news at all!

Also, in order to add Tim Redding to the roster to start tonite's game, the Mets have once again designated Nelson Figueroa for assignment. I am betting this time he won't resign with us, and he shouldn't. Omars' greatest weakness remains roster management, and here is one more example.

More after tonite's game!

Where Have We Been/Where Are We Going?

I hope everyone in Mets-dom is doing well!!

Sorry for the lack of posts these last few months- wanted to give everyone an update.

After losing my father last year, my wife was told that she needed a kidney transplant, so we've been dealing with that non-stop for the past eight months or so. The good news is that she is holding her own, but it's a long fight that we are only in the beginning rounds of, and therefore time has been a precious commodity. That doesn't mean that I haven't been following and discussing all things Mets, and it's appropriate that I'm posting today as the Mets take on the Dodgers in Los Angeles, my home these last 16 years.

I'll be attending the games here, and will post some thoughts each day, and I will return some time within the next 24-36 hours with part one of my annual Baseball Book Review.

In the meantime, it's too much for me to post full-time, and since John Young is no longer posting/editing here, we're looking either for

a.) a full-time poster (or multiple posters) to take up the daily mantle,
or
b.) we're looking to move to an existing, popular Mets site where we can contribute articles as things strike our fancy.

Your thoughts/suggestions are greatly appreciated, and let's hope that the Mets continue their winning ways out here in La-La Land!!

Thanks for reading!!

Best,
David Rubin

December 10, 2008

Mets Bullpen Revemped!!!

Mets decided to take money from fans today. Unfortunately, the Mets have cut every one of their games to 7 innings. Well, they will still be playing 9, but after a bullpen filled day, the Mets signed Francisco Rodriguez (3 years, 37 Million) and traded for JJ Putz. Not only did we add 2 guys much better than our bullpen, Minaya found a way to get rid of Heilman. Omar also traded Mike Carp (a mino leaguer who has not come close to being what we expected). However, the Mets traded their most consistent bullpen pitcher, Joe Smith and fan favorite icon Endy Chavez. I did not like this part of the trade but I am sure this is what is best for the team. K-Rod and Putz should drastically help the Mets next year more than Smith and Chavez. The Mets also acquired Sean Green (not the outfielder we once had) and Jerremy Reed.

This was an amazing day in fixing the Mets. Now the Mets can focus on their starters. So far, it looks like the Mets will give Niese a shot at the rotation, especially with the big names being courted by the Yankees, raising the price of them. Lowe has a lot of teams after him and Burnett seems to be going to the Braves or Yanks. We shall see, my guess is we go after Randy Wolf or Garland now that Edwin Jackson has been traded.

Congratulations Mets fans, the bullpen is finally being addressed. I'm hoping we can get one more player with these guys to fill Smith's spot and leave Feliciano for the lefties. I doubt we can get rid of Schoeni now, I don't see anyone taking him off our hands.

Look for the next big transaction for the Mets to be related to some starter. I dread them settling on a 1 year contract with Pedro, but it is possible if noting else comes available (and I don't agree with this). I still say Oliver Perez is worth the years and money compared to these other guys. He is younger and if he finds his control (big if) it could be a huge reward. With Lowe, we'd be getting an older guy on the end of his career and with Burnett and Sheets, we'd be getting yearly injuries. We shall see folks, but for now we can be happy. I love Chavez and Smith but I'll say it again, I am sure this will be better for the team!!!

October 13, 2008

How to fix the Mets (probably the 317th article with the same title)

We can all look back on this roller coaster season and question, second guess, and even criticize the Mets for what they did. Sure they crashed and burned one more time, and I am as hard as they come when judging my team, but I can honestly say, we are better than half the teams in the playoffs. Last year, when we missed the playoffs, we deserved it. We were bad and that's all there is to it. This year was different. We actually were good, we actually deserved it. We were down 7.5 games early on and came back. This was truly a magical season. Sure we blew another opportunity, but I am honestly proud to still say I am a Met fan. I was as depressed as any and still get that feeling when I see the Phillies continue to win, but I know, we will bounce back and overcome our harships.

Now let's talk about fixing this team up. Sure, the Mets have a lot of money, but there are limits. Obviously, if we had an endless supply, you'd see a rotation of Santana, Peavey, Sabathia, Maine, and Pelfrey while having K-Rod as your closer and signing Texiera and Manny in the same breath. Wouldn't everybody love to see this. Obviously this can't happen. Sure, we'll free up a lot of money, but the probability of signing more than one big name guy is highly unlikely. In fact, signing one of them would really be questionable.

Peavy is up for trade. He is the best starting pitcher available available to acquire, however we do not have enough to give up to acquire him. The only way would be to probably through Delgado and F-Mart to them, but then you would have a hole at first (Texiera would need a lot of money as well and signing Peavey and Texiera would be too costly). Also, the Padres have Adrian Gonzalez so they wouldn't need Delgado. So Peavey is out.

Sabathia has shown to be a great National League pitcher for half a year. His problem is not so much us, but it is him. He loves and wants to stay in the National League, but he truley doesn't want to come to the east coast. He is rumored to want to move to the West Coast, leaving the Dodgers the likely candidate for him. We shall see, but I believe it will be hard for him to wear a Met uniform.

Texiera is the best first basemen on the market. With the Mets picking up Delgado's option, rightfully so, Texiera's only way of becoming a Met is through a trade of Delgado. I do question is Delgado can put up numbers next year like he did this year, but we do know he is capable of it, and he comes a lot cheaper than Texiera. Most likely, it will be hard to pry Texiera from the Yankees, because we sure know Hank will be throwing money to players left and right to get his beloved Yankees back to the playoffs.

Manny doesn't like New York. Omar does like Manny. Unfortunately, Omar will probably lose the battle because Manny will require too long a contract and a lot of money. The Dodgers have a ton of money and will definitely be willing to pay Manny with how he got them over the hump single handedly.

K-Rod is a possibility for us. Obviously we need a closer, but obviously, we need a bullpen. By giving him so much money, we would be limiting our ability to acquire other bullpen guys which is truly needed. I do, however, worry that since the Angels, who have the money to sign K-Rod, would let him go, since he has been so good. Overall though, I'd still sign him in a heart beat. Fuentes is good, but he doesn't scare me like K-Rod would. If we're going to be paying 10 million a year (what Fuentes wants) for a closer, I'd rather pay more and get one of the best there is.

Here is my plan for logically fixing the Mets. It will be costly, but not in the sense that we all want. I would get rid of all the bullpen guys with the exception of Joe Smith. I would then bring in many guys who can pitch to both lefties and rigthies. No more of this specialist non sense. Stokes was this way for a while, but then even he blew it. The main part is definitely fix the bullpen obviously. I would keep Smith, and I would get rid of all of the others, even if it means paying their salaries for next year. I would first try to trade them for any possible reliever in return, but if they have no value, which I don't think they do, I would just release them and pay their salaries. I would sign K-Rod if you can win the battle. I think it is a neccessity. I would trade for guys like Houston Street and or Kevin Gregg and make them the eight inning man. I would then bring in three more relievers, either through trade of our current relievers, or through free agency. I would also give Parnell a shot and maybe another young guy, in spring training to see what they got. I also think we will end up trading Nick Evans away. He has not much benefit to us because he is a true first basemen which we have too many players there and he isn't a great outfielder. His hitting was decent, but that looked to be more of a fluke than say Murphy. I do beleive the Mets will trade him to a team and in return get a decent reliever. They may end up packaging a couple of their guys like Castillo, Evans, and some of their relief to get packages in return.

Second base is a huge issue. Here is how to fix it. Get rid of Castillo. There, fixed. I would trade Castillo away for any reliever worth putting in the bullpen. If not, I'd release him and eat his salary for three years. It is worth it. I would then sign Orlando Hudson and his personality to fit right in with the Mets. This will be so much more productive in the batting order than having Castillo there. A lot of people are talking about moving Murphy to second. I love the way this guy hits and he seems more than just a lucky scrub. He looks like a true hitter. I also think he is an awful fielder, no matter where you put him. I don't think second base is the smartest position for him. I think it will be good to use Murphy as a platoon with left, right, and fill in at first, rather than have him be the starting second baseman.

For the rotation, I would sign Ollie back. I know it is highly unlikely, but he is still young. He will demand and receive a long term contract worth a lot of money. It will hurt to sign him and I know his Jeckyl and Hyde ways, but the guy can be great. He will come cheaper than people like Sabathia and you don't really have to worry about injury like you would with Ben Sheets and AJ Burnett. You are going to need two starters next year, and with Ollie (who has streaks where he is untouchable) you would only need one. You can then pay a guy like Derek Lowe, who will demand less years and money than these other guys, as your fifth starter. This would be an incredible rotation with a revamped bullpen.

Catcher is such a bad position. Unfortunately, we don't have anyone real good and Castro gets hurt all the time. We do still have Schneider under contract and there isn't anyone to sign to make Schneider worth releasing. Most likely, we will go into the season with a platoon of Castro and Schneider again, which actually worked out pretty well.

The last hole is quite a difficult one to figure out. Obivously, Church will stay in right, and he was our MVP early on. I don't think he is as bad as he played at the end of last year. I think he is somewhere in the middle of beginning part to the season and the end of the season. He should never have been playing last year and he should be good to go next year. As for left field, we need to bring someone in. Adam Dunn is a terrible fielder. His home runs will definitely help the offense, but the lack of batting average will hurt during rallies. I don't think this is the way to go. He will be costly as well. An even higher price comes Manny Ramirez. Manny will get 4 or 5 years and that is scary because he is 37. That would bring him well into his 40's making a lot of money. If we can get him for 3 years, I would do it. He is one of the best hitters in the game still. This is exactly what we need in the lineup. But with what he is demanding, I think it will be a difficuly sign. Plus, Manny playing for a New York team sounds weird. A cheaper route would be to sign Raul Ibanez. I know he is just as old, but he will be less expensive, plus not require such a long contract. He still can hit well too. He is a very underrated player. I see a platoon with Murphy in the outfield with Ibanez and Church. I think it is valuable to keep Murphy in the lineup, but it is very dangerous because he is such a poor fielder. I also think F-Mart should start to think towards the major leagues because by the end of the year, I believe he could really be an added player to this team. He could give us spark.

***Note, The Mets are likely to make a couple trades this offseason, so if people are wondering why am I talking all of this trade talk for relievers because we have no one to trade, we really do. I learned that if Mota can be traded, anyone can. With Evans and Murphy emerging, the Mets have a couple pieces of trade material. It probably won't warrant too much in return, but at least they have cards to play with. If they do break up the core, Beltran would be the first to go, but this is highly unlikely and would definitely make me angry. They could also pick up Delgado's option and then trade him, but that will probably not happen as well. Castillo and some of their relievers could be traded, but have very little value in return.

So heading into 2009, my Mets batting order and rotation look something like this.
1. Jose Reyes, SS
2. Orland Hudson, 2B
3. David Wright, 3b
4. Carlos Beltran, CF
5. Carlos Delgado, 1B
6. Ryan Church, RF
7. Raul Ibanez, LF
8. Brian Schneider, C

Bench:
Castro, Anderson, Murphy, Endy

and the Rotation:
1. Johan Santana
2. Mike Pelfrey
3. Oliver Perez
4. John Maine
5. Derek Lowe

and the Bullpen:
Francisco Rodriguez, Cl
Houston Streen, Setup
Joe Smith, Middle Relief
Bobby Parnell, Middle Relief
Eddie Kunz, Middle Relief
Kevin Gregg, Middle Relief

October 09, 2008

Hawaii Winter League; Help Wanted

The Hawaii Winter League a few weeks ago and there are several players in the Mets minor league system on the Honolulu Sharks. Representing the Mets are pitchers Junior Guerra who has a 10.29 era after 7 innings pitched, Roy Merrit who is 0-1 with a 4.05 era after 6.2 innings pitched, Scott Shaw with a 1.35 era in 6.2 innings, and Josh Stinson who is 2-0 with a 0.87 era after 10.1 innings.

Position player wise the Sharks have young shortstop Ruben Tejada who is batting .308 after 6 games, catcher Jordan Abruzzo who has a .214 average after 14 at-bats, and second baseman Greg Veloz who is hitting .323 in 8 games.

I am looking for writers for Mets Prospects. If you're intrested email me at debus15@yahoo.com.

October 07, 2008

AFL Mets

The Mets have 7 players representing them in the Arizona Fall League on the Peoria Saguaros. Representing the Mets are pitchers Tobi Stoner, Jason Vargas, Eddie Kunz, and Bobby Parnell, and Shawn bowman (infielder but primarily 3b), Daniel Murphy who will usually be playing 2b, and the solid hitting catcher Josh Thole.

Both Murphy and Bowman are in the opening day lineup and will be playing second and thirdbase while batting second and seventh in the lineup.

Mets Prospects will provide more information like bios of the players representing the Mets in the next couple of days.

October 05, 2008

Mets Prospects is Back

Mets Prospects is back from a break and will be posting throughout the winter, updating everyone on how the Mets Prospects are doing in the various fall and winter leagues.

October 01, 2008

It's The End Of The Season As We Know It

While the rest of the writers on this site got to experience the last days of Shea actually inside the stadium, I was forced to watch the agonizing conclusion inside a crappy sports bar in Pocatello, Idaho. Because it was on Sunday, and because I was in Idaho, there was no one in a 2400 mile radius that actually cared about a Mets game except for me. So I sat in a distant corner watching a crappy TV at 12 Mountain Time with a beer. Of course I had several ravenous Broncos fans around me who were already pissed that I had taken one of there TV’s. They weren’t nearly as bad as the drunken Vikings fan who thought every one in the whole bar needed to hear his less than informative ravings about how awful the ref’s were. At least I was watching the game though. My friend Steve tagged along and was nice enough to have his laptop so we could keep track of the Brewer’s score as well. It was a less than inspiring end to the season but at least the last game had some significance. I’ve sat through to many Mets season’s that ended around the all star break.

It got me to thinking about how long the off-season was going to be. I feel like we just got through the last one and we now have to suffer through more speculation and rumor. I will admit though, that the day’s after the last game I looked through everything Mets on the internet to read through multiple articles and comments sections just so I could hang on a little bit longer to my team. I’m not ready to let go yet. You don’t put that much time and heart into a season as a fan and then just let it go. At least I can't. So, to hang on for a little bit longer I want to offer my own perspective of what we should do this offseason. To do this I would like to revisit what I said we needed going into this season. I apologize ahead of time.

What I was wrong about: (see pictures below to see how much I needed to drink to make such a statement):

1.) I was in favor of Brian Schneider for what I said was, “His amazing defensive skills”









2.) I wanted Moises Alou back. Now, I did say he would miss some time but his bat was very valuable.





3.) I wanted us to sign Carlos Silva as a free agent. Hey, that’s why I’m not a general manager.





4.) I thought Pedro could be our #1 starter if we didn’t get a big name.




5.) “Aaron Heilman has proven to be reliable and durable.” That’s a direct quote and I should no longer be allowed to write on this site.



6.) I wanted to bring back Luis Castillo to sure up second base. I really shouldn’t be allowed to say anything Mets related with a thought process that obviously resembles a drunken squirrel.






What I was right about:

1.)


So without further ado, here’s what we should do this season. I apologize ahead of time.

1.) Keep our core. I can’t believe I even have to bring this up. Are there actually people out there who want us to trade D. Wright and Reyes? Apparently so and they should be forced to root for the Nationals. David Wright stays at third, Reyes stays at short. Please don’t make any comments to the contrary because I won’t be able to handle it.

2.) Keep Delgado and Ryan Church. I’ll admit I was one of the people wondering if maybe Delgado should ride the pine the second half. You all did, don’t act like you didn’t. He obviously found his stroke and corrected a major flaw in his swing. He is still getting older but I would roll the dice on him for next season. I don’t think he’ll be on fire like he was the second half but he will put up solid first base numbers. I still like Church a lot. He was our MVP for a little while and I wonder what his season would have been like had his brain not tried to take on Yunel Escobar's knee. One point for knee. I like his defense and he should be our right fielder next year.

3.) Dump the old guys. Sorry Moises Alou, Orlando Hernandez, Pedro Martinez. I think everyone can agree that we can't keep trotting out guys with major injury histories. These guys are almost guaranteed to get hurt again. I really love Alou’s bat and Pedro’s energy and leadership but the experiment is over.

4.) Dump Castillo. I was so far off with this guy. I’m interested in the Daniel Murphy experiment at second base in winter league. Orlando Hudson at second would be a dream come true. Either way Castillo can not be there opening day.

5.) Young left fielder with energy. I saw speculation on Mets Blog that Eric Byrnes could possibly be moved with the Mets being a possible option. Yes, Please. I would love to see Byrnes roaming around Citi Field next year. The guy leads by example and would add some much needed energy to the lineup.

6.) Improve Bullpen. You think?!

7.) Another Starter. We need another solid starter to follow Santana, Pelfrey, and Maine. I fear Perez may be done in Flushing. I still like the guy but I agree with a lot of people that he’s not worth what Boras is going to ask. I’ve heard Derek Lowe’s name getting thrown around. He has a career ERA under 4 and has postseason experience. I like it. I would stay away from Ben Sheets. Tons of talent but another injury concern. We have had enough of that. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more about who is up for grabs in the trade market after the world series is over. It will be interesting to see if Omar can shake out a trade or two.

FOR MET FANS, THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

By Aaron Schuldiner

Bittersweet.

For me, no word could better describe the feeling at Shea Stadium Sunday evening, as the Beatles’ In My Life played over the loudspeakers following the toughest of losses. I’ve watched the Mets at Shea Stadium for twenty years. It would be no exaggeration to say that it was there, at Shea, that I learned the game of baseball.

Florida had just bounced the Mets from playoff contention on the final day of the season, for the second straight year nonetheless, and about 40,000 Mets fans lingered to pay tribute to a building so many of us grew up in. The moment crept up all too quickly, as a win would have guaranteed at least one more game at Shea. All day, I refused to prepare myself for the possibility that it could all end so abruptly. I readied myself for a one-game playoff with Milwaukee at worst, and a divisional playoff series at best. I just couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge the fact that Sunday afternoon’s game could be the last before Shea closed her doors for good.

From the beginning, the day had all the makings of a celebration. Before the game, a packed house raucously chanted, “Let’s go Mets!” with the tarp still on the infield as the rain fell from overhead. When the grounds crew removed the tarp, they were greeted with such an ovation, you would have thought they were the ones in a playoff race. Marc Anthony belted out the National Anthem and Glenn Close sang God Bless America during Shea’s final seventh inning stretch, as New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg looked on with the crowd. Throughout the afternoon, video tributes to Gil Hodges, Casey Stengel, Bob Murphy and other ghosts of Shea past, played on the jumbotron. Great moments in Mets history were commemorated, like Robin Ventura’s grand slam single and Mike Piazza’s homerun in the first game after 9/11, helping to ever-so-slightly calm the nerves of the crowd between innings, if only for one moment at a time. There was a postgame celebration planned with Willie Mays, Yogi Berra, and countless other historical figures on hand to say their final goodbyes on the field. Indeed, there were all the makings of a celebration, except for one: The 2008 Mets surviving the day.

Before the game, when they announced that the first pitch had been delayed until 2:05, I told my father, “This is perfect. This means we might have a final score from Milwaukee before our game is done. We might get to watch the Mets celebrate a playoff berth on the field.” Then the guy sitting across the aisle chimed in, “Yeah, or we might see ‘em blow it altogether.” Thank you, black angel of death.

Once again, the Mets failed to deliver big hits when they needed them most, and appropriately, their beleaguered bullpen absorbed the season’s fatal blow. And 363 days after the Marlins ended the Mets’ 2007 campaign, history repeated itself at Shea as Florida once again sent the Mets packing.

The game was scoreless until the top half of the sixth inning, when Florida finally broke through, manufacturing two runs off Oliver Perez and Joe Smith. Then, in the bottom of the sixth, with a sense of impending doom starting to creep into the ballpark, Carlos Beltran smashed a game-tying two-run homerun to left. The homerun, Beltran’s 27th of the year, sent the crowd into a frenzy, but the excitement was short lived.

Leading off the top of the eighth inning, Wes Helms homered off Scott Schoeneweis to give the Marlins a lead they would never relinquish. Schoeneweis, who broke down in tears after the game, faced only the one batter and was booed mercilessly when he walked off the field. Luis Ayala relieved Schoeneweis and was promptly taken deep by Dan Uggla, as the Marlins jumped ahead, 4-2. An eerie calm fell over the crowd, as if they had heard this story before, and knew all too well how it ended.

The Mets mounted a rally in their half of the eighth, putting two men on with two outs, but it ended on the warning track along with Carlos Delgado’s inning-ending fly out. In the ninth, Damion Easley worked a two-out walk before Ryan Church flied out to end the game, and with it the Mets’ season.

The 4-2 Marlins win was even more disheartening than 2007’s finale, an 8-1 loss in which Mets starter Tom Glavine gave up seven runs before the Mets even came to bat. At least the 2007 Mets were kind enough to put the fans out of their misery quickly. Real humanitarians, that bunch.

Despite the loss, the Mets could have lived to host a one-game playoff if the Cubs had won in Milwaukee, but the Brewers seized their opportunity to bury the Mets. More than 50,000 scoreboard watchers at Shea roared early on when the Cubs took a 1-0 lead, then gasped when the Brewers tied the game 1-1, and finally let out a collective groan when Milwaukee took a late 3-1 lead. That groan was echoed moments later, with an even more distressful tone, when the score went final.

Wasted in the Mets’ loss was some amazing glovework by Endy Chavez in left field. In the seventh inning, after being inserted by manager Jerry Manuel for defensive purposes, he electrified the crowd with two outstanding plays that combined to keep at least one run off the scoreboard. First, Chavez made a nifty play holding the speedy Cameron Maybin to a single on a ball hit deep into the left field corner. He then ended the inning with a spectacular leaping catch while sprinting back towards the wall, robbing Jorge Cantu of an extra-base hit. It was made clear on Sunday that Endy Chavez is as much of a fan favorite as anyone on the current roster. The noise was defeaning following his two fine defensive plays, and again when his historic catch from the 2006 NLCS was replayed on the jumbotron.

Sunday’s loss had a feel that was unlike the ends of the previous two seasons. In ‘06, when the Mets came painfully close to their first World Series since 2000, there was disappointment, but also optimism for what was to come. In 2007, Flushing looked on in anger as a once-promising season culminated in the worst September collapse in baseball history. Sunday was different. There was an unfamiliar feeling of finality to the moment. Next year, even if the Mets make all the right plays, from the front office to the field of play, the place that they’ve called home for 45 years won’t be around to see it happen.

So, as bitter as they were about the Mets being absent from the postseason, approximately 40,000 fans stayed behind to take part in the ceremony to honor Shea Stadium. One by one, Mets radio voice Howie Rose introduced the star-studded lineup, as they emerged from the bullpens onto the field. Berra. Staub. Darling. Ventura. They stood in the infield waving as the crowd roared, a living timeline from the franchise’s infancy to the present day. Members of the 1986 World Champion Mets got some of the loudest ovations, with none warmer than the reception Dwight Gooden received. Gooden’s struggles off the field have been well documented, but the crowd screamed long and loud for him, as if to say, “We appreciate what you did on this field, and we’re behind you, Doc.”

George Foster was showered with boos, though it didn’t seem to surprise him. Upon his 1982 arrival in New York, Foster, the only player from 1966 to 1989 to hit 50 homeruns in a season, proclaimed that nearby LaGuardia Airport would need to adjust its flight patterns because of the bombs he’d be hitting at Shea. He never produced the way the Mets had hoped, and left the team on awful terms. On this day, Foster sort of grinned at the boos as if he understood that, in New York, you get booed when your words exceed your results, a lesson certainly not lost on this year’s team.

After everyone had been introduced, they lined up and strode single file towards home, each man touching the plate one last time. Bud Harrelson, shortstop for the 1969 World Champions, jumped on home plate emphatically. All that was left was one last pitch on the Shea Stadium diamond, from a Hall-of-Famer to a future Hall-of-Famer. Tom Seaver walked to the mound as Mike Piazza took his spot behind the plate and crouched down one final time. At one point, Piazza crept up a few feet to accommodate Seaver, who is obviously no longer in 1969 form, but Seaver gestured him back, and back he went. Seaver’s pitch bounced in the dirt, but Piazza came up with it on a hop, saving the moment like he saved the Mets so many times from the batter’s box just to his left. The two embraced on the mound, and walked painstakingly towards center field, waving in acknowledgment to the crowd as if they were the Pope and the President.

When they walked through the center field door, and the blue panels closed behind them, it finally hit me. All but four sets of the lights that line the Shea Stadium roof had gone dark, and John Lennon’s voice echoed over the loudspeakers. Through the smoke trail that lingered from the blue and orange fireworks display, it hit me like a ton of bricks: The ride was over.

Soon my natural pessimism, a prerequisite to being a Mets fan these days, will return. I will ask why GM Omar Minaya neglected to add to a bullpen that was doomed to fail before the season even began. I will ask what in God’s name the Mets will do with Luis Castillo for the three years that remain on his unthinkable contract. Soon enough, I will ask why some of the core players, for all their gaudy numbers, seem to play smaller as the games get bigger. Soon, but not yet.

What I’m about to say may bother some Met fans. I’m sure my sentiments are not shared by the entire lot of us, but in that moment, I couldn’t be angry about this year’s team. I honestly just couldn’t. I would have felt guilty. It would have been selfish to dwell on the 2008 Mets’ failures when this wonderful place, the place where I fell in love with baseball, was in its final hour. For Pratt hitting it over the fence, for Agbayani winning it in the 13th, for my twenty years worth of poignant memories, Shea Stadium had earned my full attention, if only for an hour or two. For all those unbelievable moments, I owed her that much. And as I stood there, half numb to the fact that the season was over, and fighting my hardest not to get choked up over the fact I’d never see that field again, I couldn’t help but smile at the memories. This was home.

At the end of it all, everyone recognized that the moment was about much more than the end of a season. It was about the end of an era. Thank you, Shea Stadium, for all the memories.

September 29, 2008

SHEA-ing Goodbye Is Hard To Do!! (Part Two)

By David Rubin


Well, this is going to be even harder than I thought, in light of yesterday's elimination. Going back in time to describe my last visit to Shea some 16 days ago was, I thought, going to be a great way to say good-bye to the regular season, and give me enough to write about while waiting for the first play-off game on Wednesday vs. the Cubs...and now, it's a real coda to the season, to this team and to this website. I'll explain each in greater detail.

As I mentioned in part one yesterday, Jon and I attended the Friday night rain-out, expecting to see Johan take apart the hated Braves, instead spending around $60 to eat dinner in Shea amidst the rain. That meant that, since we had tix for Saturday, we were going to see one last double-header, not even a day/night one, and double-headers were always my favorite part of the schedule growing up. However, as Jon quickly pointed out, there was no way, with our bullpen, that we were going to win both games, and it was very important that we saw a win in our last visit to Shea- which meant that, if Niese were to win the second game, that meant that Johan couldn't win the first if luck were to hold true to form.

My friends Mark and Danny joined us for the double-header, and we got there 2 hours before game time, enough time to browse the depleted racks of the team store and grab the first of 3 ballpark meals of the day. And by depleted, I mean "filled with Castillo and Perez and Wagner and Wright/Reyes stuff" with no Santana or Pedro or Delgado or Pelfrey or even Church stuff to be found. Thankfully, we had hit a Modell's prior to the game, so we restocked our t-shirt collections sufficiently enough to call the trip a success (on that front, at least.)


We had great seats in the loge section, between home and third base, and it looked like the rain would hold off, leaving a cloudy but cooler day for baseball. For Jon and I, it was fitting that we'd be closing out our Shea years with a performance by Santana, who steps into a long line of great Mets' pitchers (Seaver, Kooz, Matlack, Gooden, Cone, Leiter, etc) and whom we saw pitch his first official game in a Mets' uni on opening day in Miami oh, those many years ago (at least, that's what it seemed like!) and Niese, who represents the future of our home-grown pitchers. Not to labor the point, because we all know what happened- Santana pitched great in the first game, and we lost...Niese pitched incredibly in the nightcap, and we won. Sunday, while my father's life was being memorialized, the Mets dropped another one to the Braves and the sinking feeling came back to us, which couldn't be helped. Perhaps saying good-bye to the soon-to-be-levelled Shea would take all of the hurt and unfulfilled expectations with its demolished concrete and steel shell.

The memories would remain in our head, but IF we could start the 2009 season fresh, in state-of-the-art facilities, in a first class ballpark, for once, perhaps we could indeed hope for a better tomorrow! And yet, walking out of Shea nearly 9 hours after our arrival, we couldn't help but shed tears, as we realized what being a Mets' fan really is about - dealing with the myriad disappointments, with just enough incredible seasons sprinkled throughout our history to give us hopes each and every season...and that's what it's about, folks- HOPE!!! Otherwise, why buy the merchandise? The tickets? Give up doing other things when the game is on? Buying the bigger screen tv? Sweating and hurting with every loss? It's all because of that deadly, 4-letter word that brightens the shores of Mets' fans everywhere, come February...HOPE!! You feel it in spring training, when all teams are tied for first, where the next Dwight Gooden might show himself, or where the "next great free agent signing" debuts to thunderous applause, making it that much harder for him when the first regular-season boos are heard when he strikes out three times in a game or gets taken deep for a homer to lose a game.

HOPE is what Shea Stadium stood for- after all, isn't that what the founding of the Mets gave to New York-based, National League lovers whose teams had left him for the left coast a mere 4 years earlier?! Shea was the first of the new stadiums, and other than Dodger Stadium, I can't think of any others that are still standing. Fenway, Wrigley and the soon-to-be-replaced Yankee Stadium are all older then Shea, but each has its own unique characteristics, even if the Cubs haven't seen a major victory in 100 years, and its only been 4 years since those same Sox finally got their reason to "reverse the curse." Yankee Stadium is more than a ballpark, its an institution that isn't replaced easily...and yet, by creating the biggest spectacle this side of the Cowboys new megalith, Yankee fans will soon fall in love with a stadium that pays 100% homage to their teams' roots while offering amenities that no ball-fan this side of Donald Trump could even dream of.


What does Shea's replacement offer? Well, it's going to be smaller, and a lot "prettier" but it's also paying homage, some would say too much so, to the childhood dreams of owner Fred Wilpon in its similarities to Ebbett's Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Wilpons' high school teammate, Sandy Koufax. It's Wilpon's $$ that is building Citi Field, so he has the right to create something that plays into his dreams/desires. Mets' fans will come, regardless of how close the stadium looks to Ebbett's Field, or how the Jackie Robinson pavillion honors one of the greatest and most important ballplayers to ever lace up their cleats, but who is also a former Dodger great. It's not so much that homage is being paid to the Dodgers as it is that there is still so little Mets' history, and what history there is seems to be paid less attention to then some would like. The bottom line is that whatever your opinion of Citi Field is or will be, that is the only place the Mets will be playing their home games at for many years to come, and the hope is that newer, and better memories will be made and in shorter order. It took the Mets 5 years to win the World Series after moving into Shea...will Mets' fans be that patient if it took that long to get there in Citi Field? I don't think so...and I sure hope not!


Finally, the memories of Shea that most stand out for me are these, in no particular order:

...buying pins of players outside the stadium (right, Gary Cohn?); hot pretzels on the way out; bat day and walking through the autobody area with the bats at the ready; the planes overhead; looking into the bullpen to see Joe P's tomatoes; plastic practically shrink-wrapped on top of my warm cup of RC Cola; won't you try, extra dry, Rheingold beer, then Schaefer, is the, one beer to have when you'r having more then one (never knew what THAT meant as a kid but could sure sing it!); watching Tug McGraw kick Spalding rubber balls up to the upper deck during batting practice; going to Lum's Chinese restaurant after a game and seeing various Mets' eating dinner there; waiting outside the players' entrance for autographs, especially Lee Mazzilli; seeing Shea for the first time from the GCP after moving to California; the wave, when it meant something, during the '86 season; the "K Corner" when Doc pitched; Tom Seaver on Kiner's Korner after a win; Ed Kranepool at first base yet again; and, finally, walking down the concrete ramps after a victory, my dad holding hands with my brother and me, creating our own brand of "sports talk radio" in the car ride home while waiting for 1010 WINS to have a brief sports report giving us what we already knew- that the Mets' won! Those things come with me, wherever I go, and while Citi Field will NEVER be Shea, I think, at last, I am ready to make some new memories....


Where does this team go from here? It's too soon for me to speculate, as we've already heard, in less than 24 hours, that we should trade either Wright, Reyes or Beltran, sign K-Rod, fire Omar, etc...I haven't even fully recovered from yesterday, let alone be in the right frame of mind to think about what we need to do in order to make the play-offs next season, beyond the obvious. However, one thought keeps reverberating in my head- for all of the strength that we believed our rotation offered, here are some interesting stats- Mike Pelfrey's last victory came on August 25th - Ollie Perez's on September 3rd - Pedro Martinez's on August 31st and John Maine has been hurt the second half. Our starters failure to last longer in games caused extra wear and tear on an already challenged bullpen; without Wagner, we were doomed for failure! There's no excuse for losing, especially when you have such a well-paid team and considering that we seemed to have left the Phils and Brewers for dead just a few short weeks ago. The Yankees and Mets can both attest to the fact that expensive rosters don't equate to victories- just ask the Rays!! But, without starters beyond Santana who can keep us in the game, even with Wagner healthy we still wouldn't be able to last against the Cubs, Angels, Red Sox or Rays. Next year, our sentiment has to be thrown out the window, and Pedro can't come back as a starter that we are counting on. We have to get younger, and half the battle towards creating a better bullpen is putting together a rotation that can go deeper in the game more often. Innings-eaters are great, but successful ones, a la Santana and Sabathia, are worth their weight in gold. Let's hope that Maine regains form, or becomes our closer, and Niese can step up and grab the 5th starter role leaving 2 openings for Omar to fill. We'll discuss this in greater detail, once we've had a few days to consider what's happened this season and have had time to let at least some of the anger and shock diminish...


Regarding our blog, I know it's been way too long between posts, and for this I truly do apologize. John Young, founder of this site and someone who it's been a pleasure to root with these past 3 years, has moved to Florida and no longer seems to have time to blog- we only hope that, right now, he's not too angry with those Marlins and isn't ready to move back quite yet; Jonathan works in the housing business, and enough said about that; I've left my job and have gone into consulting, with hours that are far more unreliable; and, the name of this blog, Shea Nation, is one that won't quite represent the future of beloved Mets. Therefore, for now, we'll post sporadically, as things come up, and we'll have our usual preview of the Winter Meetings and our own best guess as to what's "best" for this team, player-wise, before the meetings begin (start with Derek Lowe, Orlando Hudson and K-Rod and go from there)...however, the name of this blog will be changing, probably in January of '09, as we move into the future with the Mets and hope for an even better season in '09.

As always...LET'S GO METS!!!!!!! And good-bye Shea, my old friend, and thanks for the memories!!!
PS: Special thanks to all who helped with and contributed to this blog this season: Daren, Aaron, Jack, Ed, Steve, Ed, Marilyn, Lisa, Reed, Michael and, most of all, to Jonathan and John, without whom this blog wouldn't be here! This season, in spite of the ending, was dedicated to my dad, Al - I guess it's fitting that we came close, but no cigar...but you deserved better, pop - so wait 'til next year, huh?

September 28, 2008

SHEA-ing Goodbye Is Hard To Do!! (Part One)


By David Rubin

As many readers know, I've lived in the Los Angeles area for the better part of 15 years now, and it's only been 4 years since I've been able to view every Mets game, via either computer or cable. That meant hitting sports bars at awkward hours, often the only one requesting a Mets-Pirates game, nursing a coke far longer than necessary just to get a glimpse of the team I've been rooting for all of my life. You see, like Shea, I too was born in 1964, and therefore, Shea is the only home of the Mets (or, for that matter, baseball) that I have ever known.

It was in that spirit that, on September 11th, 2008, I set out to return to the second home of my childhood, the concrete and steel known as Shea Stadium. The timing was right (and rife) for a homecoming; my family had scheduled the unveiling of my father's headstone for that weekend (again, as long-time readers know, he passed away this past January) and the best way that I could celebrate his life was to attend a few last games in Shea, the site of so many great moments of my childhood and adulthood, and a place where my dad, brother and I had spent so many wonderful days and nights. I could smell the hot pretzels from the plane as we passed over Shea, on the eve of the anniversary of the worst tragedy our nation had ever suffered through, and all I could think of was Mike Piazza, hitting that homer upon baseball's return to action, and how proud I was, not just to be an American citizen, but to be a Mets' fan, and a Piazza fan. And that's how I arrived in New York that afternoon; proud, as always, to be an American, and proud, as always, through think and (mostly) thin, to be a Mets' fan!

I am fortunate to have a family member who works for the Mets, and thus I was able to ensure tickets for Friday's and Saturday's games; to add to this, 2 of my best friends, Jonathan, my co-editor of this blog, and Mark, a dear friend and huge baseball fan, decided to fly in from Florida and Milwaukee, respectively, to take in these games together; we were joined by one of Jonathan's oldest friends, Danny, an amazing photographer who was more used to seeing games from the photo box rather than the stands. However, on Friday evening, it was Jonathan and I, arriving at Shea amidst heavy rain, taking in (what we thought would be) our last night game at Shea.

Now even though the game wasn't played due to the rain, it was still a very surrreal experience, as we dined in what Jon dubbed "Che' Shea" and as we took a long look around the stands; I remembered where I sat in a game in '69 with my dad and grandfather (my first game); in '73 (my first play-off game); in '77 (when the crowd numbered around 2,000 and mezzanine seats became box seats with a $2 tip to an usher); in '83 (the day it was posted on the scoreboard that Mex was traded to the Mets); in '86 (play-off and World Series games); in '94 (my last season living in NYC); and, finally, in '04 (the last time my dad and I would catch a game together at Shea). As Jonathan and I polished off some of Nathan's famous hot dogs and fries, the rain continued to fall and we knew that there was no way a game would be played tonight. However, we were left with a very content feeling, as we were able to say "good-bye" to the stadium itself, where few fans were left, allowing us to take our time departing, drinking in concession stands and restrooms, souvenir stands and stairways. In fact, although I've always had a fear of heights, and in spite of the couple of recent tragedies on the escalators, for some reason I always felt secure walking down the ramps of Shea, a place where, even in defeat and in spite of what some would call the coldness of the concrete and steel, I always felt warm and protected.


Walking outside Shea, once clad in green and blue corregated metal squares, the neon player sculptures buzzed and danced in the rain (see photos). I could see Dwight Gooden as the pitcher; Darryl Strawberry as the hitter; Mike Piazza as the catcher. And the realization began to set in hard- no matter how many great times the Mets might have at Citi Field...no matter how many great games I might get to see at Citi Field for the rest of my life, I'll never again be able to see where I was when I first saw Tom Seaver pitch or Rusty Staub bat or Ray Knight barrel around the bases, just like I'll never be able to point out the seats I sat in for my 10th birthday or where I brought a date to the stadium for the first time (her name escapes me but where we sat doesn't) - and THAT is the one thing that Citi Field will never have, that Shea will ALWAYS have- the MEMORIES!!!

Yes, Shea is delapidated and in desperate need of being blown up, as like an old car, it would cost far more to rehab the stadium then it would be to replace it, and no matter how many coats of paint it might receive, Shea can never compete with its younger brethren. So in goes a new, state-of-the-art stadium with a tribute to Jackie Robinson and Fred Wilpon's youth, while the tribute to my youth will be long-gone, along with Lum's Chinese Restaurant in Flushing, Rheingold Beer and Jerry Grote crouching behind the plate. That doesn't mean that Citi Field won't be impressive, as it already looks better then Shea ever did; it just means that it will be many, many years before I'll have any major memories of Citi Field, and it will never be the place where baseball first came alive for me, or for you. Those memories, thankfully, won't die, and will live on in our memories, in pictures, and in the stories that we tell to our children and their children...and the next generation will grow up in a world where the Mets will have always played in an upscale stadium (and, for that matter, will Citi Field be a ballpark or a stadium? I would guess they'll use the "ballpark" designation).

So good-bye, smell of urine from the men's room troughs; good-bye, roasted nuts and pretzel smells; so long peeling paint and worn concrete; farewell, my lifelong friend...you've remained faithful when others haven't, staying in the same place all these years, welcoming me with the open arms, strong winds and sounds of airplanes, the same way you did all those years ago...I just hope, at 44, that I'll be around another 44 years to see what Citi Field will be replaced with...

Back tomorrow with part 2, including our summation of this season, which hopefully won't be over...

September 09, 2008

Gammons- Five Reasons '08 Mets are Different!

In his most recent post at ESPN.com, Peter Gammons lists 5 reasons why the 2008 Mets are different then the 7/17 2007 Mets.



They are:

1.) Johan!!


2.) Delgado.


3.) Jose back to being Jose again.


4.) Mike Pelfrey becoming a #2 starter.


5.) Murphy, Evans and the "unheralded kids."


Let's briefly discuss each one.


1.) Johan: Gammon speculates that the Twins could have still had Santana as their top starter, putting them into the lead in the division, then let him go at the end of the season in exchange for 2 top draft picks (instead of the deal they received from the Mets.) Hindsight is always 20-20, of course, and at the start of the season, everyone was expecting Carlos Gomez to step up in a big way and provide the offense and spark that the boys from Minnesota lost when Torii Hunter chose to head west. While he still displays great potential, potential is what it remains, while the three pitchers they received (Mulvey, Humber and Guerra) all encountered statistical setbacks in their quest to make it to the bigs. All Santana has done is provide us with the most quality starts in the game, and his record should be 19-4 instead of 13-7 (they blew 6 save situations where Johan left the game while winning.) Santana has indeed been the biggest difference in this team, as he has truly been the stopper that we hoped for while sweating out where the Twins were going to send the lefty superstar. Bottom line- Omar made a great trade, Santana will top our rotation for at least the next 5 years and will open Citi Field in style! I'm fortunate enough to be going to this Friday's game in Shea, which will be my second to last game (live) this season, and my first in Shea this year, just as I travelled to Florida to see Johan's first game in uniform more than 5 months ago. I have the same feeling now as I did then when watching Johan take the hill; the same feeling that I used to have when Seaver or Gooden took the mound- that something great was liable to happen, and if not, his "very good" would still be pretty great! And that, in a nutshell, is the difference that Johan makes for this team!


2.) Delgado: Aaron wrote everything you need to know about Delgado in his earlier post from today- no need to repeat it except to say "MVP!!!"


3.) Reyes: Jo-Se, Jo-Se Jo-Se Jo-Se!!! He's back to his '06 form, posting numbers a la Honus Wagner once again. However, September seems to be his kryptonite, so let's hope he starts turning it up another notch again because he hasn't started the month too well...


4.) Pelfrey: If Delgado's return to form is the biggest surprise of the season, Pelfrey's rising to meet his potential certainly would be the second biggest surprise of the season. Pelf's rise to the number two spot in the rotation has off-set Maine's disappointing and injury-racked season and is gratifying to Omar Minaya especially, being that he was Omar's first #1 pick in office! Being around a gamer like Santana has to help challenge him, and big Pelf's maturity happened before our eyes, rather than in the minors, as most of us (including this site) called for. Nice to be wrong...especially regarding Pelfrey, who has been the one pitcher since Tim Leary all those years ago of whom I dared to dream would be our next franchise pitcher. Keep it up, Mike!!!


5.) Murphy, Evans and the "unheralded kids.": Yes, we've long believed that the Mets possessed far more talent in their minors then most of the daily journalists did. Yes, we've long thought that it would be great to see the trio of Evans/Murphy/Carp promoted through the minors together, to reach the bigs in late '09...who knew? Murphy has played his way into a starting role next year; they will be searching for a full-time position for Evans in '09 as well. Carp remains in the minors, and his not being called-up certainly would make one think his days in the organization are limited. Delgado's turn-around certainly makes him less valuable, but second baseman Castillo's troubles this season has opened up a place for Argenis Reyes, at least in a platoon role, just as Wagner's injury has opened the bullpen up for Parnell and Maine's has for Niese. So, it would seem, the Mets do, indeed, have more "weapons" in their minor league arsenal then most gave them credit for...should make Spring Training that much more interesting in '09!!

Now we need a few wins over the Nats and Braves, and for the Phils to hit a roadblock in Milwaukee, and September won't continue to be a scary month for Mets' fans anymore...but just in case, my toes and fingers will remain crossed all month long!

Delgado Deserving of MVP Consideration


By Aaron Schuldiner

“Delgado is a rally killer 90% of the time”

“The offense has one glaring hole (Delgado)”

“Delgado is just finished. Time to just bench or release. Heck trade him and pay his salary. I don’t care!”

“jeez, I can’t take Delgado anymore. Any chance we bring up Ike Davis like right now? LOL.”

“There has to be somebody somewhere better than Delgado. Is it worth carrying a $15M+ player to hold down a whole team?”

“I really don’t think we are going to score on this guy, especially with the likes of Delgado in the lineup.”

“DELGADO IS DONE.”

After Carlos Delgado’s 2 HR, 4 RBI performance in Sunday night’s win over the Phillies, I thought it might be interesting to revisit just how far Delgado had fallen out of favor among fans before his resurgence. The above quotes were posted in June to the message boards on the Mets’ official website. There were plenty of other comments that I chose not to list, some because they were borderline obscene, some because they were downright cruel, but most because there’s just not enough space on this page for all the venom that was spewed in Delgado’s direction. And to be fair, I agreed with the general consensus that Delgado was in fact “DONE.”

To see how far Delgado’s stock has risen, you first need to understand how far his star had fallen. This is a man who, not that long ago, was booed mercilessly by the Shea faithful from the moment he entered the on-deck circle until he returned to the dugout. Without actually looking back to see the vultures circling, it’s hard to appreciate his resurrection. It’s a remarkable story on the 2008 MLB landscape, and it’s relevant because I believe, with as much objectivity as I am capable of bringing to any Mets-related discussion, that Carlos Delgado is legitimately deserving of MVP consideration.

At the end of June, the Mets found themselves in 3rd place in the NL East, with more losses than wins. Carlos Delgado was batting a paltry .228, with 14 homeruns and 45 RBI, and was on the verge of being run out of town. The stretch that has followed has been nothing short of remarkable, and could become legendary if Delgado keeps hitting and the Mets keep winning. Since July 1, the Mets are 39-21, having taken over first place in the division, and Delgado is batting .305 with a plethora of clutch hits for a team that is constantly battling the stigma of being unable to hit in big spots. His 55 RBI over that span lead the National League, and his 19 HR are second only to Ryan Howard’s 20.

It’s unbelievable to think that Delgado is one October run away from securing a place in Mets immortality, but the idea is not farfetched. Yes, the Mets would have to make a run deep into October, and yes, they will have to fight off a feisty Phillies team just to make the playoffs. Nevertheless, if this team makes noise in the postseason, history will look back on them as the team that Delgado resurrected. Sure, the managerial change was a huge story. Sure, they have gotten big contributions from unlikely sources such as Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy. And sure, Johan Santana has pitched like the ace everyone billed him to be, and Mike Pelfrey has exceeded all expectations. But even with all those factors accounted for, I shudder to think where this team would be if Delgado never found his swing.

David Wright’s overall numbers have earned him MVP consideration, but those who see the Mets night in and night out know where Wright’s credentials fall short. The truth of the matter is that Wright has made a habit of leaving runners on base this season, especially with the money on the line. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Wright is batting just .224 with a slugging percentage of .403. In the same situation, Delgado is batting .266 and slugging a gaudy .594. No Met has gotten more big hits in 2008 than Carlos Delgado.

It begs the question, why Wright and not Delgado? The simple fact is that the MVP balloting is inherently flawed, in that you’re asking writers to vote on players that they don’t see often enough to judge. If you don’t watch the Mets every day, you haven’t seen how Delgado has been the life force of this team, slamming big hit after big hit, while Wright has often struggled in the clutch. I should point out that my purpose is not to condemn Wright. Overall, Wright is having a nice year, a good year, but not an MVP year. I should also point out that my purpose isn’t to condemn the MVP voters. It would be unfair, and unrealistic, to expect the beat writer in Anytown, USA, to follow the highs and lows of every player in baseball with a magnifying glass. My biggest issue with the voters is that there is a ‘popularity contest’ element to the award, an atmosphere in which a player’s status with the Baseball Tonight crew sometimes trumps the totality of his performance. Case in point, I wonder how many votes Carlos would already have locked up if his last name was Beltran rather than Delgado.

What is undeniable is that the Mets would not be where they are without Delgado. In September of what has been a tight divisional race, the Mets would undoubtedly be on the outside looking in right now if not for Delgado’s heroics. If a player’s ‘value’ can be measured by drawing a parallel between his success and the success of his team, then who is more valuable than Delgado? If you’re having as much trouble as I did answering that question, I think our collective silence speaks volumes as to Delgado’s merits.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just found a thread from June explaining why the Mets should make a move to replace Delgado with Scott Hatteberg. Imagine that. On second thought, don’t.

Editor's Note - From David
: It seems like Delgado has had 2 seasons in one, just like the Mets (w/Willie vs. w/Jerry). I know that the "comeback of the year" award usually refers to a season-over-season award, but if ever anyone deserved 2 awards (MVP & Comeback) it would be Delgado! Jose has had another great season, and Wright has been consistent but not spectacular; Delgado has been timely and the shot in the arm that the team needed. And WHO would have thuoght we'd be having this conversation back in June?? That's why they play the whole season, boys and girls...because this is further proof that anything can happen in baseball!!

September 01, 2008

Santana Starts September Superbly


Perhaps, after last years' collapse, some would change Shakespeare's famous line to "beware the ides of September." However, further proving that last season is just that, the Mets, behind the starting pitching of Johan "September" Santana and a bullpen that proved flawless (that's right- you read that right!), as well as the hottest hitter in the National League since June, one Carlos Delgado (again, you read that right!), took the first game in their 3-game series at Milwaukee, 4-2. Hot-hitting rookie Daniel Murphy was 2-4 with a run scored, and Delgado was 2-4 with 2 RBI's, including knocking in Murphy. Carlos Beltran, who was also 2-4, left the game with a right knee contusion- more will be known about his injury tomorrow, and we hope it's merely a day-to-day thing!


Nelson Figueroa, also called up prior to today's game, got the win with an inning of scoreless work after replacing Santana, who picked up yet another no-decision despite striking out 10 in 6 innings, giving up 2 runs on 7 hits. His ERA is 2.71, still second-best in the NL, and his 10 k's bring him up to 4th place in the NL. Oh, what a cruel year it's been for this should-be Cy Young candidate! At least we won the game!!!! Now 2 more from Milwaukee and things will really start to look up for us!!

And The Bench Gets Bigger

When the Mets' Johan Santana takes the mound against the Brewers' Ben Sheets, manager Jerry Manuel will have additional options on the bench and in the bullpen as rosters officially expanded today. Joining the team today in Milwaukee are infielder Marlon Anderson, who is being activated from the disabled list, as well as infielder Ramon Martinez (formerly with the Dodgers), catcher Gustavo Molina (no relation to the other Molina catchers), right-handed reliever Carlos Muniz (who has been up and down a few times this season), left-handed starter Jon Niese [See photo] (who will start this Tuesday in place of John Maine, as he auditions for a spot in the rotation in 2009), right-handed starter Robert Parnell, who will probably become a reliever for the rest of the season, right-handed pitcher Al Reyes (because there aren't enough Reyes' on the team), second baseman Argenis Reyes (glad to see him back) and left-handed bullpen veteran Ricardo Rincon. I'd like to see a few more players added, like pitcher Nelson Figueroa, catcher Raul Casanova and outfielder Trot Nixon, and we'll likely see one of these players promoted soon. Additionally, I think, based on the seasons they've had in triple A, Val Pascucci and Chris Aguila deserve a chance to have a cup of coffee in the bigs as well. I know that Omar is resisting bringing up F-Mart, and I agree with that, as I'd rather he rest up and play ball in the Dominican this off-season, and come into Spring Training ready to take AAA by storm! I'm sure Mike Carp is lonely down in Binghamton, missing Evans and Murphy, and he must be confused as to his place in the organization, as it looks more and more like he's just not in the big club's plans.

Let's hope the additions to the bullpen add some stability over the next 4 weeks, as the last 25 games will not only determine whether we make it into the play-offs, but will see the end to our beloved stadium (and namesake) - we're sure hoping the fireworks will come from our bats, as we give Shea a World Series exit!!! Enjoy the game today, and as always, Let's Go Mets!!!!

August 30, 2008

PEN-DA-MOAN-IUM !!!!!!

(With thanks to Marilyn Budd for the title)

So, here I am, heading out of a restaurant with my 2 daughters and the wife, relying on scores from my cellphones' version of an internet browser, going into the top of the 9th inning, down 2-1. I figured that was it, being that the Mets hitters' treat the 6th - 9th innings like a cheap hooker in the middle of the Bellagio. As I got into the car, before I could turn on my XM, Jon called me to let me know about Beltran's Grand Salami (and who said he wasn't "clutch") and our new 5-2 lead!! Sounded great, no? But, once again, Pen-da-moan-ium ran wild, as my new "least favorite" reliever, lose-n-I-yell-atcha (or Luis Ayala to those not following that closely) nearly blew it, letting 2 runs score before getting out of the inning with a ground-out, the Mets winning 5-4. It was much too close for comfort, and left me wanting to go back to the restaurant and pound down a few more shots of hard liquor! That's what this bullpen will do to you, and unless we can get some real help from the likes of Figueroa, Parnell, Niese, Muniz and Kunz, it's going to be that much harder to hold the hated Phils' at bay. In fact, on the radio today in Florida, a Phils' fan asked Peter Gammons about the Mets-Phils battle, and Gammons responded that they both have the same problem- the 6th-9th innings. Let's hope that somehow changes soon...and as Aaron said earlier today in his post, some revenge for last September would be real sweet about now versus those fish (and listening on the XM feed, you could hear fans cheering "let's go Mets" during the broadcast- no surprise there, as why should it be any different then when we attended the first two games of the season?)

Hasta!

August 29, 2008

Mets Prepare for Reeling Marlins

By Aaron Schuldiner

After dropping two out of three in Atlanta this week, the third place Florida Marlins limp in to New York for a weekend series with the NL East leading Mets. Florida has lost nine of their last fourteen games, and is now six games back in the NL East, after being only a game and a half out at the all-star break.

After these same Marlins eliminated New York from postseason contention on the final day of the ’07 regular season, you can bet the Mets would love to deliver the knockout blow to Florida here in 2008. Although the Marlins are still alive in the divisional race, at least mathematically, and they do still have six games with New York and six games with Philadelphia, a losing series in New York this weekend would signify a full tailspin from which the Marlins would be unlikely to recover.

The Mets will send Oliver Perez (9-7) to the hill tonight to oppose Florida’s towering young righty, Chris Volstad (4-3). Perez last faced the Marlins on August 8th, when he tossed seven shutout innings en route to his eighth win of the season. Saturday night, the Mets send Mike Pelfrey (13-8) to oppose Ricky Nolasco (13-7). Pedro Martinez (4-3) is slated to face Florida lefthander Scott Olsen (6-8) in Sunday afternoon’s series finale.

Division-Watch

Philadelphia blew a golden opportunity to pull into a first-place tie with the Mets Thursday night, thanks to the late heroics of Aramis Ramirez. With the Cubs trailing the Phillies 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Ramirez drilled a grand slam off Philadelphia righthander Chad Durbin to propel the Cubs to a 6-4 victory.

Notes

- Keep an eye on Florida second baseman Dan Uggla in this series. After a sensational first half and an All-Star Game appearance that Uggla would like to forget, Uggla went in the tank, hitting just .217 over the last four weeks. Over the same period, he has just two homeruns and six RBI, and somehow managed to strike out a whopping 24 times. However, Uggla showed signs of life in the Braves series, batting .400 (4-10) with two doubles, a homerun, and two runs batted in. The Marlins are a completely different team when Uggla is swinging the bat well, and it appears he may have one more hot streak left in him this year.

- Earlier this week, the New York Daily News reported that manager Jerry Manuel has enough faith in Ryan Church’s health to have returned him to everyday status in right field. Since returning last week from concussion-related issues, Church is batting .300 (6-20) with two multi-hit games.

- During the SNY broadcast of New York’s 6-3 comeback win over the Phillies Wednesday night, the Mets broadcast team mentioned Carlos Delgado’s name during an NL MVP conversation, and they were only half kidding. In what has probably been the greatest resurrection I’ve ever witnessed in Flushing, Delgado has gone from a guy who most fans wanted to be cut, to a guy who has a strong chance to be New York’s starting first baseman again in 2009. Delgado’s contract has an option worth $12 million in ’09, but his buyout is $4 million, which essentially translates to an eight million dollar salary next year is the Mets choose to retain him. If GM Omar Minaya thinks Delgado can come close to matching his 2008 numbers, chances are the Mets will open Citi Field next Spring with him as their first baseman.

- According to an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman on WFAN radio in New York, prized pitching prospect Jon Niese will make his Mets debut this Tuesday night in Milwaukee.

The "Experts" Called Our Minor League System "Shallow"...

On the timely quest to find out exactly who "they" are (as in "they don't want you to know" or "If it was left up to them"), and why they always think "they" are right, in this case, we've discovered that "they" are all of the so-called "experts" who derided the Mets' farm system at the beginning of and during the early months of this season, as being barren of top level prospects and not all that deep; gee, do you wish they had some nice seasoning with which to eat their words with now? (And NO, I'm not referring to "Dylan Gee" although I could!) And now we find that "they" are not only not correct, they are far from the mark.

Yankees- Prospects or Suspects?

A few days ago, in his column for the NY Post, writer Joel Sherman admitted that all of the hype before the season about how great the Yankee's minor league talent was, and how shallow the talent pool was for the Mets, turned out to be completely wrong- in fact, it is the Mets' who've been producing major league talent and not the Yankees (can you say "Philip Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Melky Cabrera, Shelly Duncan, etc.?) After the Santana trade (and remember, he could have been a Yankee for Cabrera, Kennedy and another prospect or two- think they want a re-do right about now?) many specualted that the Mets had diminished their major league ready talent, as Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber and Kevin Mulvey were thought to be major league ready and Deolis Guerra, although young, looked to be the top prospect in the trade. Now, after a season in which both Humber and Mulvey failed to turn in ERA's below 4, where Carlos Gomez proved to have some great potential but remained unable to find consistency at the major league level, and where Guerra took a step back in his development, this trade isn't looking too bad for the Mets, now, is it? Especially in light of the fact that Santana has the second best ERA in the NL, is in the top 10 in whiffs, at the top of the list in innings pitched, and if not for lack of run support from the offense, would have a record of around 17-5, all in all, again, I'd say this trade certainly worked out for the best- especially in light of the fact that not only have the players they traded away failed to produce, but players still in the system, like Nick Evans, Daniel Murphy (see photo), Eddie Kunz, Carlos Muniz and Argenis Reyes have all helped to keep the Mets in contention, via various levels of contribution. Additionally, with the likes of Niese and Parnell about to come up to the bigs when rosters expand on September 1st, I'd say that the young reinforcements are about to further plant a nail in the coffin of those naysayers.

Pelf Brings Wealth to the Rotation

Furthermore, there has been a HUGE full-season addition to the roster this season; someone whom without his contributions, we'd be far from first; someone who was the biggest draft pick of Omar's regime, to date; someone who a lot wasn't anticipated from this quickly, but of whom much was expected long-term; and finally, someone whom, earlier in the season, seemed to be a lock for demotion and now is looked at as a lock for becoming the number one starter everyone hoped he'd become- yes, we're talking about former Met minor leaguer, now Met star pitcher, one Mike Pelfrey!! If you wanted to knock the Mets farm system before the season, now you have to give it props for being able to import Santana utilizing prospects only, and for being able to elevate Pelf to the bigs permanently, with their addition giving the Mets one of the best rotations in the game. Just because Tom Seaver needed only a short time in the minor leagues doesn't mean Mike Pelfrey had to emulate "the franchise." For the last two years, we've all been antsy as to when big "Pelf" was going to pay dividends for the big league team; however, from looking at his size and the power of his fastball, we knew it was just a matter of time before the big right-hander would begin to make his presence felt in the majors. If we're going to look objectively at Omar and company's tenure then we MUST take Pelf's rise into consideration, and give Omar props for not listening to sports-writers and bloggers (myself included) who were clamoring for Pelfrey's demotion back in May. Pelfrey's rise sure makes us happy we've always taken the stance of "In Omar, We Trust!"

What's Next



Before the most recent draft day was finished, again, the so-called "experts" (yep, them again) were practically calling for Omar's head! Many were quick to point out whom the Mets didn't select- like pitching prospect Gerrit Cole, selected by the Yankees at the end of the first round and possessing a 98 mph heater (he's also represented by one Scott Boras)- the same Cole who decided to ignore any offer the Yanks might present in favor of going to college at UCLA (and man, will I be rooting for their baseball team next season- I'll even go to a game or two!) Instead, we selected Ike Davis, son of the old Yankee reliever Ron, a first baseman-outfielder who has shown flashes of the power expected of him in a few years during his brief minor league career with the Cyclones (although he's yet to hit a home run and has been battling through a few minor injuries). When Tom Glavine selected to return to the Braves, the sandwich pick we received resulted in pitcher Brad Holt (see photo), the soon-to-be 22 year old righty with a great fastball that has resulted in 84 k's and 31 walks in 66 innings with the Cyclones, where he's posted a 4-3 record with a 1.76 ERA. We'll be talking about this kid for a long time to come, and he'll probably be in AAA before too long (think late 2009).

Wilmer's No Flintstone


Let's go beyond this year's draft- and focus on one Wilmer Flores, who has perhaps pushed Fernando Martinez out as being the "prospect who can't miss." Flores, a shortstop right now, has centerfielder written all over him, possessed of excellent speed, a whip-like arm and great instincts for the game. All he has done is hit, hit and hit at every level he's been- oh, and lest I forget, he just turned 17 a few weeks ago!!! He ripped up pitching while playing in low A for Kingsport, batting .310 in 59 games and 245 at-bats, with 8 knocks, 41 RBI's, a .352 on-base percentage and a .490 slugging average- in his first full-season of organized ball - at the age of 16!!!! Filling in at Brooklyn for a game, all Flores did was go 3 for 4 with an RBI- a .750 average- it's only one game, I know, but this kid is for real!!!! I hope all of our expectations, the ballclub included, don't come to overwhelm his progress, after all he's of an age where he should only be worrying about things like his driver's license, prom and MTV, but instead he's come to represent the beginning of the promise made by Omar that their scouting and academies in the Dominican would begin to pay-off with top prospects. In Wilmer, and of course, not to forget Martinez, we've got the makings of that pay-off in ways even grander then we dared hoped for! Can you imagine, in 2-3 years, a line-up of mostly home-grown talent that included Reyes, Wright, Murphy, Evans, Martinez, Davis and Flores? It finally looks like this might be more real then we'd thought it could be, and if so, this would be the ultimate testimony to Omar's tenure as GM. Hey- I've been down this road too many times before (Tim Leary, Terry Blocker, Alex Escobar, Greg Jeffries or Kirk Presley, anyone) and yet, I still remain incredibly hopeful...for that, truly, is what being a Mets fan is all about!

So, when September 1st comes along (in, oh, 3 days), get used to seeing young talent like Parnell and Niese, just like you've already gotten used to the names Evans and Murphy- it's NOT the last time you'll be hearing their names!!!

August 28, 2008

It's Not Pretty, But It's A Race!!


Okay- 2 days of agony and ecstasy, and we're in exactly the same place we were on Monday- 1/2 game ahead of the Phillies in the NL East race, with one more win (the Phils have played one less game) on the ledge looking out into the dreaded month of September.

Tuesday night's loss was enough to make the craziest Met fan cry; having that big of a lead only to see it crumble brought back the horrible memories of last September- it couldn't help but to do so!! The difference, however, came last night when even without his best stuff in the first 2 innings, the Mets' were still able to rally around their Ace, Johan Santana, and on the heals of that terrible loss, unlikely heroes - Daniel Murphy and Carlos Delgado- refused to let the Phils' gain the upper hand and pulled out a victory with clutch-hitting, character and heart- 3 things that were solely lacking last season, especially at this time of year.

Delgado's turn-around merits a new award- comeback player of the year within a season! No one, least of all us, expected this from Delgado, although we did predict a big year for him prior to the season. That quickly fell by the wayside, as we questioned everything from Delgado's eyesite to the condition of his hips to how quickly he seemed to have aged; and all for naught, as those terrible opening months of the season have been long washed-away by his incredible hitting and team leadership since the firing of Willie Randolph back in June (and man, doesn't THAT seem like a long, long time ago.) It's funny how quickly the summer months melted away, while April, May and June seemed to drag forever. I guess that's what the difference between going from a confused team to a pennant-contender will do...

But let's face it- all is far from "well" right now. Our bullpen still is a source of great angst, picture Doug "risk" Sisk times five - and the only hope is that the infusion of a few fresher arms on September 1st, when rosters can expand to 40, will help out this beleagured crew. Figueroa, Niese, the newly reacquired Rincon and Parnell could all be of great help, and possibly Muniz and Kunz as well. I'd rather see just some pitchers come up, and maybe one or two more bats for the bench (A. Reyes), because I don't want to see any more time taken away from either Nick Evans or Daniel Murphy, because they represent both our future as well as our present. (And so much, once again, for all of those nay-sayers who condemned our farm system for so long!) Pitchers like Heilman and Feliciano seemed to have been over-worked early in the year, and with the injuries to Maine and Wagner, it's good to know that some quality reinforcements are on their way (and don't take for granted the fact that no one has seen Parnell or Niese or even Rincon - at least this season) and those new arms will likely give us a few different looks out of the pen, well-needed at this point!

And a big shout-out to the Dodgers- or NOT!!! After being swept by the Phils, they are swept by the Nats - and here I thought I was going to possibly be able to see a Mets-Dodgers play-off game in L.A.!! Guess it's not to be this season...Manny and all!!

And a big WELCOME BACK to Bob Klapisch, one of my all-time favorite sportswriters, of the Bergen Record and ESPN, who is recovering from being hit in the eye by a baseball while pitching in a pick-up league game. He lives baseball in more ways then most, and I strongly recommend reading his first article since July, detailing the start of his journey back, by clicking here. His reference to "Tony C" - Tony Conigliaro - is a poignant one for me because he was one of my favorite players when I started watching baseball as a kid, and I had been hit by an errant curveball while playing catch in a friend's yard only to see my eye swell up like a balloon, with my dad praying for an easier time of it then that suffered by the old Red Sox outfielder. Thankfully, it was just some major bruising and swelling, but unless you've been hit in the eye with a ball and experience what Klapisch referred to, the falling down as if you've been shot while time literally stops, it's hard to understand the utter helplessness and numbness that such a shot makes you feel. And, if you want to read a great article about the late, great Tony C, head over to the SI.com archives by clicking here.

A few last thoughts- David Wright has been solid all-season long, emulating what an MVP-season is all about; Reyes and Delgado deserve consideration, but this year, it's all about Wright...Johan Santana should have a record of 17-5, but it was gratifying on a night when he didn't have his best stuff for the first few innings, the team found a way to rally around him and pull out a much-needed victory. If he had received the run support he deserved, he would be neck and neck with the D-Backs' Brandon Webb for the Cy Young award...back to Reyes- after last season's let-downs, he's back to 2006-form and is still the most exciting shortstop, and player, in the game - Ramirez might be a better power hitter, but Reyes remains the one person who can single-handedly change an opposing teams' gameplan around, a la Lawrence Taylor in the 1980's with the football Giants...and on that note, finding a way to compare Reyes and LT, I am OUTTA HERE!!! Have a great holiday weekend- we'll be back with more!!