Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Git 'er done, Omar!

Cameron for Sheffield?

Do it. Do it yesterday. Do it twice.

As long as the "throw-ins" do not include the likes of Petit, Milledge or Bannister, I say do the damn thing.

It's true that Cameron's offensive numbers on the season are looking very comparable to Sheffield's, and then there's the whole elite defense thing, but bear with me.

After returning from the DL, Cameron set the world on fire in May, hitting .372/.476/.686. "Mashing," if you will. Of course that sort of hitting is grotesquely out of line with his (or most others, I suppose, but especially his) career norms, and he's given a lot of that back in June.

Sheffield is old (36), and expensive (11.5M this year), and thus is the kind of player that is usually courted by teams who haven't been struggling to stay at .500.

On the other hand, my fondness for this year's roster is well-documented, and I believe the offensive improvement of Sheffield, who is still capable of MVP-type numbers, over Cameron could put them on a pace for the division title or wild card.

Meanwhile, I don't see Cameron, 32 himself, as a cornerstone of the next great Mets team, like say a Kazmir. That he was a jerk about the move to right is neither here nor there, as far as I'm concerned (he really is better in center than C-Biscuit). It just makes him more valuable to the Yankees than to the Mets.

In short, if it's possible to get Sheffield for Cameron without tossing in any blue chip youngsters, it'd be freakin' sweet.

As for last night's game, it was a joy to listen to, right up until the moment when Danny Graves entered the game. As Gary Cohen pointed out, it's been a "free look" for the Mets, since he cleared waivers, but you can get a look at a gruesome car accident for free too. It don't make it pretty.

Zambrano, despite giving new meaning to the word "inefficient," kept the Phillies off the board, striking out seven in the process. Roy Halladay he ain't, but he's been respectable, which is better than I was prepared for.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What role are our Role Players playing?

Baseball Prospectus's "Hit List" ranks the Mets 17th this week. Characterizing Beltran, fairly I must admit, as looking "completely out to lunch," Jay Jaffe goes on to point an accusatory finger Omar's way.

General manager must be joining star outfielder at this metaphorical midday meal, because "how else to explain a roster which features Chris Woodward playing first base and Gerald Williams drawing a major-league paycheck?"

The man has a point.

Woodward, it should be noted, has been at least adequate (.315/.357/.438) in his 89 ABs this year. Unfortunately, this is as good as he's ever been, and it's still not what you want to see from a first baseman.

His career numbers are those of a replacement-level middle infielder, yet with Mientkiewicz hurt (and perhaps even healthy), he's been manning the most offense-intensive position on the diamond.

As for Gerald Williams, he's 0-1 on the season, so you could say the jury's still out. But this is a 38 year old who, over the last three seasons, has made as little as one can make of 177 ABs, "hitting" .192/.243/.333.

I had just assumed that he was garden variety reserve player, who wasn't good but couldn't be easily and inexpensively improved upon (i.e. replacement level). He's not, and moves will have to be made before he gets a single start.

In other news, John Rocker has been released by the Long Island Ducks, after striking out 19 and walking - get this - 28 in 18 IP. Said Ducks owner Frank Boulton: "We know the talent is there, and I'm sure we haven't heard the last from John in baseball."

To that I'd say: I don't think it is, and I really hope we have.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sweep Squandered

Well, as hard as it was to watch Heilman, Ring, Hernandez, and Looper cough up the lead in the late innings, I found comfort in one of life's great truisms: easy come easy go.

Were it not for the comic ineptitude of the Yankee defense, there would not have been a three run lead to blow. Some "unearned" runs are the product of a questionable accounting system, but the Mets' three last night were actually undeserved.

When a second baseman boots a grounder as badly as Cano did, or when a shovel toss goes into the visiting dugout, you just thank God for small favors and hope to take advantage.

As it happened, the bullpen blew it big time.

For one thing, I hadn't realized just how outstanding Heilman's peripherals had become before they flashed his line on the screen last night. He gave up a couple base knocks, but his changeup looked legitimately nasty, even if his facial features are doughy and undefined.

I'm willing to give Royce Ring some more time before sending his free-pass-distributing ass back to Norfolk, but only because he's a youngster who may need it to calm the nerves and not because I have any doubts that said ass has been a serious liability.

And, Braden, if you had to do it over again, would you maybe throw a couple of strikes to Tino Martinez?

Oh well. Two of three at the Stadium ain't bad. The boys are off tonight before starting a home series with the Phillies, who seem to have relapsed like the patients in "Awakenings".

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Was that... offense?

Well that was reassuring.

Unusual suspects Mientkiewicz and Daubach each homered, the latter in a pinch-hitting capacity, and David Wright missed a third by about an inch, hitting the top of the railing in right-center.

Benson was hardly dominant, and surrendered the almost obligatory Pat Burrell moonshot, but he kept it respectable and Royce 5-9, Hernandez and Looper combined for three masterful innings.

Centerfielder and part-time whipping boy Carlos Beltran hit a single and a long double and looked, to my nonprofessional eye, to be running fast and without pain. Hopefully he'll be back to his historically good basestealing ways after the All-Star break.

During my absence, Willie Randolph went ahead and moved David Wright up to the #2 hole. To that I say Bravo, sir. Bravo. It took a little while but he's finally done right (N.P.I.) by the team's most (pending Beltran's return) productive hitter.

Zambrano gets the ball tonight against the young and wild Robinson Tejeda (nice ERA thus far, but peep these control issues). First one to the strike zone wins!

Actually, I give Vic a hard time, but he hasn't given up more than 3 runs in any of his seven starts since April 24.

No, I'm not superstitious. Why?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Hiatuses, and Stop Killing Beltran

So tonight the Mets return from their day off, and I return from a somewhat longer absence.

As y0u are no doubt aware, our beloved team has been plummeting like a sack of 25 highly-paid rocks off the Whitestone Bridge, winning two (2) of their last eleven (11) games.

As much as it hurts to watch the Mets shrink in the Nationals' rear view mirror, my confidence in their ability to rebound remains intact.

This optimism, for which objective grounds are becoming admittedly scarce, has a lot to do with my skepticism towards any division rival's chances of running away.

But I also think the team will be better in the 2nd half, given even as few as 10 starts from Pedro (who really can't be expected to throw all the innings he's on pace for).

For one thing, I think the lineup is better than this. By "this" I mean the 15th ranked offense in the NL by OPS (733, ahead of only the Astros, whose 691 is just ghastly). It shouldn't continue.

During my vacation I listened to quite a bit of Mike and the Mad Dog, who were just crucifying Beltran for his perfomance this year.

There's no denying that his performance of .268/.323/.427, with one steal in three tries and some shaky D in center, has been dead weight at best.

He's still been a good deal better than Reyes, and our first baseman, but the media has given those two miles of slack.

As disappointing as Beltran's been in these 239 AB, I just can't take Russo seriously when he says, in that super-definitive tone those two have perfected, "Beltran's not a great player. A good player, but not up there with [list of elite players including A-Rod, Tejada etc.]"

If Carlos Beltran were healthy, and we've been told he's getting there, he would not have struggled this much. When he's fully healed, I expect the mediocrity to stop. There's just no reason to think it will continue.

Over the last three years, he's hit .281/.366/.523, in about 8 times the number of at-bats. He was a "Great" player as recently as last fall and I expect some version of that player to return as soon as his health does.

Time will not heal all the Mets' wounds, of course ( though cutting DeJean can't hurt), and they have spotted the rest of the division at least 2.5 games, but I'm not losing hope quite yet.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Chris Burke has no sense of history

The well known fact that no Mets pitcher has thrown a no-hitter doesn't particularly bother me, and at least a few of them, like A.J. Burnett's 6 BB, 0 H effort a few years back, were not actually as impressive as Pedro's showing last night.

All the same, it would have been great to see him make that annoying bit of history go away.

Thanks to an untimely hack by their young 2B/OF, the Astros were spared being the answer to the revised trivia question.

They were embarassed nonetheless, as Pedro fanned an even dozen, gave up two hits and one walk, and never came close to giving up the small lead the offense mustered off Roy Oswalt.

Zambrano takes the hill tonight, and while we may not be similarly dazzled by his performance, it really should be enough to keep the Astros in check.

I am going to be headed up to Cape Cod tomorrow, where the Lowells speak only to Cabots, and neither of them have internet access. I'll try to post when I can.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Mets draft Pelfrey, sign Graves

It's official. The Mets have taken the best available college pitcher: Boras client Mike Pelfrey of Wichita State.

His line for 2005 is as follows (courtesy of BP):

1.91 ERA, 131.2 IP, 136 K, 28 BB, 3 HR

I like it, and I'm glad Omar didn't reach for Craig Hansen, who was not taken in the first round.

Baseball America's mock draft($) was eerily accurate, correctly calling the first 18 picks and a good number after that.

The supplemental round is just beginning, but the Mets are done selecting for a while, paying the proverbial piper for the Big Two free agent signings.

In less exciting news, we've also signed Danny Graves, who boasts 182 career saves despite not being an especially good pitcher. Recently, he's been downright awful, and I hope he doesn't get handed too many high-leverage innings just yet.

Monday, June 06, 2005


The first place team in the NL East has 26 losses on the season. So does the fifth/last place team. That's what's commonly referred to as a "tight" division.

After yesterday's doubleheader split against the Giants, the Mets find themselves tied with the resurgent Phillies (not to be confused with the insurgent Phillies of Kirkuk) one game off the pace.

The pace in question is, for the moment, being set by the Washington Nationals, who have won four in a row. It's a nice story, but I'm sticking to my guns on this one: the Nats are meat. "Real" first place teams, or even just "good" teams, don't allow more runs than they score. It's bad practice.

Meanwhile, preseason faves Atlanta and Florida have been faltering, so what we have is pretty much a five-way tie, with every team between .500 and .550. To give you a better idea of these teams' almost Orwellian conformity, you could fit the entire division between Boston and Toronto, who are 2nd and 3rd in the AL East standings.

For more "Wow, that's a close race!" commentary, Marty Noble's gotchu.

Friday, June 03, 2005

"Water is a blessing."

Whatever you say, Pete. I'm sure the grounds crew could arrange to have the infield sprinkers turn on every second inning if it you think it helps.

Plenty of excitement last night at Shea, where I was sitting in Section 1, Row U, which provides almost exactly the same view of home plate as the overhead cam used to replay pitches on/off the corners.

The audio was provided by a group of obvious regulars, led by a large, curiously dressed man to my all too immediate left called "Fuzz." Rather than sitting in adjacent seats, these guys, all except Fuzz fully decked out in team apparel, were spread out over about four rows and five or six seats across. But from the volume of their near-constant and only occasionally game-related banter (which had its own vocabulary including a not so clever term for "blown save"), you would think they were in different time zones. Fuzz was without question the loudest person I've ever heard.

Fortunately, the game was a thing of beauty.

The first three innings were uneventful, as Pedro struck out five batters but gave up a towering home run to Tony Clark, and the home team struggled against former Met Shawn Estes.

Then in the fourth Carlos Beltran ripped a line drive an estimated 415 feet to right center (what is it with him and Pedro's starts?) Piazza walked and Floyd doubled. Had I been coaching third base, I would not have waved Mike home on this play.

Mike may actually be more exciting to watch run than Jose Reyes, who scampers from base to base in a heartbeat. With Mike it feels like he's tempting fate every time, lumbering around the diamond so slowly that it's hard to imagine him beating any reasonable throw to his destination base. It's like that scene in Jaws with the guys on the dock ("Swim, Charlie, SWIM!"). Had AZ's catcher, Snyder, fielded the ball cleanly, he was a dead man.

In any case, they put three up in that inning, three more in the sixth, and that was all she wrote. Pedro made the D-Backs, especially multiple strikeout victim Troy Glaus, look foolish at the plate, ringing up nine, walking none, and only getting hit hard by Tony the ex-Tiger.

The play of the game was of course Cameron's wipeout catch in right field. On the one hand, he shouldn't have fallen down going back on the ball. On the other, it's astonishing that he still knew where the ball was and caught it lying down. It was cool to see in person something that you know right away is going to be #1 on SportsCenter's "Top Plays."

The team's record stands at 28-26, a game and a half behind the Marlins and Braves, entering tonight's series opener against the Giants. Lefty vs. Lefty as Glavine gets the start against Noah Lowry, who may not be as bad as his current numbers suggest. I look forward to seeing if the fellas can put together an honest to God win streak against the Bondsless wonders.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Zambrano gets it done. Offense still comatose.

Not bad, Victor. Not bad 'tall.

Would it be nice to see the fellas put the occasional crooked number up on the Shea Stadium scoreboard? Certainly, but Brandon Webb is one of the better pitchers in the league, and a win's a win.

For his part, Victor "our"/"the other"/"the lesser" Zambrano still does not rank as one of the best pitchers in the league, or even on his team, but last night he was on top of his game. He struck out only five, and walked three, but kept the Snakes off-balance and induced a ton (13 to be exact) of ground balls. Chris Snyder mustered their only extra base hit on a bloop double to left.

The offense, as implied earlier, was about as powerful as an Adam Sandler movie. Piazza had a couple of hits, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to see nights like these as the sign of a return to Cooperstown form. He's still hitting .249/.314/.432, still not walking at anywhere near his usual clip, and of course he's still 36 years old.

Reyes had three singles, and successfully stole second each time. That's a great night, and I can't deny it's fun to watch the little guy rope the ball into the gap and haul ass to third. Still, being unable and unwilling to look past his other personal highlight reel (that of godawful can-you-even-see-the-ball? hacks), I'd diagnose my case of Jose Reyes Fever as mild at worst.

For all the scorn and ridicule that Kazuo Matsui has had to endure, it's troubling that charismatic good 'ol boy Doug Mientkiewicz seems to be getting a pass. Tom Seaver, to his credit, has been vocal in pointing out that no amount of first base defense can excuse a total absence of hitting from that position.

Too many commentators have been telling us to try to focus on the defense. [Bleep] that. YOU focus on the defense ("Hey, another putout!"). I'm going to look at Carlos Delgado's numbers and weep.

A 650 OPS from a first baseman is less a statistic than a cry for help, even if that help has to take the overgrown leprechauny form of Brian Daubauch, who has spent the season taking out his major league frustrations on minor league pitching.

In any case, Pedro gets the ball tonight, which usually bodes well, but I'd like to see the home team score a few runs just to be on the safe side.


For more on last night's game, Jaap at ABA has a good recap, which includes both the phrases "ohmic resistance" and "squishy fart."

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Admiral Halsey Torpedoes Mets

With the exception of a brief but distinguished stint covering the Stanford women's golf team, I have little daily newspaper experience, but sometimes I think it would be worth it just for the headline writing. If Jung Bong ever makes it back to the majors, the Atlanta Journal Constitution can expect a copy of my resume.

Despite returning the Mets' record to the .500 mark towards which it seems magnetically drawn, last night's game didn't discourage me as much as it should have. For one thing, it provided further evidence that Mr. Koo isn't, as I had previously thought, a very good pitcher.

It's disappointing that our relatively aged Asian import is not the lefthanded Akinori Otsuka circa 2004, but if he's going to suck, I'd rather he get blown up repeatedly, in the kind of dramatic fashion which alters depth charts and possibly rosters, than simply linger in crucial late inning situations, handing out free passes to the likes of Craig Counsell. What's the ETA on Mr. Ring, do you think?