Thursday, August 25, 2005

Meaningful games


At this point (6:15pm), you are probably fully versed in the second night of carnage in Phoenix. Wright hit two homers, Jacobs hit two homers, and they combined to score nine of the team's eighteen (18) runs. It was a lighthearted romp, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The only bad news is Jae Seo's ERA ballooned to 1.30.

Watching SportsCenter at the moment. Here's what I've learned: Jeff Brantley is a first-class, ocean-going baffoon.

Asked for his analysis of the NL wild card race, he said (and I'm paraphrasing but it's pretty close):

"What a great story it would be for the New York Mets or Washington Nationals to make the playoffs. But the reality is they're... it's not going to happen. Their starting pitching just isn't as good as it's made out to be and they don't have what it takes to overtake all the other teams in the division.

Whether it's the Phillies, Astros, or (stumbles and looks down at his notes) Florida Marlins, I think you're talking about the Houston Astros. Why? Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Brad Lidge. Book it."

He's entitled to his opinion, of course, and the Astros are a fine pick, but how can a professional baseball analyst come to the conclusion that the Marlins, Phillies, and Astros are legit contenders, while the Mets aren't? Is two games really an insurmountable lead? Isn't our starting pitching looking pretty good at this point?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Time to wash the road unis

They've got blood all over them. Nine singles, four doubles, a triple and a home run. 14-1. Mercy is for the weak.

David Wright in particular really filled out the stat sheet, reaching base and scoring in all four plate appearances, doubling twice, stealing a base, and driving in two. Ramon Castro drove in 5, Mike Jacobs homered for the second time in his 8 career ABs, and Victor Zambrano held the Snakes to a single run of their own. Oh, and Heath Bell fanned two in a perfect ninth inning.

Not a lot to complain about. Meanwhile, everyone else in the Division/Wild Card race, with the exception of the Phillies, took a L last night. So the Mets move within two two of the lead, tied with the Nats and trailing the Phils, Astros, and Marlins.

Tom Glavine turned in a positively spectacular outing on Monday, and the offense was, as Teddy KGB might say, "akyay." Floyd drove in two, while Reyes(!) and Diaz contributed 1-run home runs.

The "Steve Trachsel Question," which had been so bedeviling Willie and the chattering classes, was resolved in what I believe to be the best way possible: Danny Graves was unceremoniously DFA'd... and there was much rejoicing.

The roster is still not without a weak spot or two, as Kaz Matsui has retaken a regular role, but whose isn't, may I ask?

Tonight will be the fourth new installment of the Jae Seo Show. Each one thus far has made the early-season cancellation ("we like the cut of Ishii's jib") look dumber and dumber. He's been absolutely awesome, there's just no getting around it. All we can do is hope this increasingly significant run signals a new level of performance for him and not just a series of astonishing blips on the screen.

He's bound to give some of that 1.09 ERA back, but just how much?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Busting recaps

I just have one comment on Friday's game: I told you Seo.

I'd also like to weigh in belatedly on Saturday's game, which was almost a disaster not soon to be forgotten by those fans in attendance or watching at home. I don't have a problem with removing Pedro after six innings and 78 pitches. Tom Seaver does*, but I'm beginning to think his brain has a thick candy shell.

No, what I have a problem with is the employment and even occasional deployment of one Daniel "Danny" Graves. A friend and fellow Met fan asked me on Thursday who the most egregious (his word) member of the bullpen was. I answered without much hesitation, because the guy doesn't have much real competition for that title. He's really, truly awful.

While any combination of relievers should be expected to nail down an eight run lead for three innings, if you for some reason wanted to make it as interesting as possible, throwing Danny G. out there is a good start.

So, how did yesterday's game three go, you ask? Frankly, not too well.

The top of the 1st: a litany of base hits - many of them of the ill-gotten seeing-eye lookie-here fluketastic variety - continued out of control until Benson just had to be removed so he could sit there catatonic in the dugout repeating "Christian Guzman" and rocking back and forth like a spectral Leo Mazzone.

Bottom 5: Anderson and Diaz single, and Mike Jacobs gets the call to pinch hit in his first major league at-bat. We all know what happens, the lefty-hitting youngster takes a low fastball from Loaiza and crushes it to right field. Mets now trail 7-3. Neither Seaver nor the other guy in the WB booth mentioned this, but Jacobs had been going kind of bonkers in the Eastern League. Sure, he's a little old (24) for the circuit, but .321/.376/.589 with 25 homers is - pardon the expression - the real.

Several junctures in the later innings: Mets get one or two baserunners with zero or one outs and squander the bejeezus out of the opportunity. Cairo, Castro, and Floyd left 3, 4, and 5 runners on base, respectively. Cliff racked up three of those five in a single, humiliating at bat:

With the bases loaded and two out, Frank Robinson brings in Joey Eischen to face Floyd. Both pitcher and hitter are lefties with unusual platoon splits. Floyd struggles less than most lefty hitters against LHP, and Eischen has actually been shutting righties down (.576 OPS against) more effectively than lefties (.759), for a "reverse" split. In short, the matchup is far more favorable than one might expect. So I'm thinking how great this is, that Robinson's knee-jerk move could easily make this a squeaker or even a tie game, when Cliff takes a long, ugly swing for strike one on a sweeping hook that landed low and way outside. Hmmm. Surely he'll be wary of that one, I think. Strikes two and three: Same pitch, same location, same lunging swipe by Floyd, and that was all she wrote.

Tom Glavine gets the ball tonight at the BoB. He'll be opposed by the pride of Ashland, KY, Brandon Webb. The Mets are 3 games out of the wild card.

* Although he got very defensive when asked to reconcile this criticism with his approval of Frank Robinson's pulling his positional regulars at the same point in the game. His argument was that pitchers get four days of rest anyway, while the positional guys don't. I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to find the flaw(s) in that one.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Young Master Duke

It says something about my love of baseball that a night at Shea which includes a rather lengthy performance of Pakistani music followed by the sight of my beloved Mets getting thoroughly mystified by a 22 year-old could still be so enjoyable.

Pittsburgh phenom Zach Duke carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning, Jose Castillo had two doubles (both times getting greedy and hosed at third), Brad Eldred took V. Zambrano deep, even Ryan Doumit went 3-4. It was generally an embarrassing night for the home team.

Can I get something off my chest? The next time Fran Healy tells me how "exciting" a player Jose Reyes is, I'm going to put my head through my television screen.

He's not the only one saying it, either. Chris Russo has spoken highly of him recently and declared he's less and less interested about Reyes's OBP, as if he was that interested to begin with. Even the usually sensible Gary Cohen is developing a little bit of a crush on our little speedster's hit (138), steal (42), and run (72) totals.

I'm going to make my position on this as clear as possible: If you're a leadoff hitter, and you only reach base 29.4% of the time, you are crippling your team. There's nothing quite as unexciting a 1-2-3 inning, and batting Reyes leadoff is just about the best way to go about it.

I don't care how many hits he's racked up (through constant, mostly powerless hacking), bases he's stolen, or runs he's personally scored. It's not enough to make up for the veritable torrent of outs he's making. When he does something productive, yes it's exciting. But mostly what excites me is my favorite team scoring runs and winning games, and Reyes isn't producing nearly enough.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Damn, Aaron.

After last night's 2 innings in relief of Tom Glavine, Aaron Heilman's line for the month of August looks like this: 7.2 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 12 K.

Glavine himself gave up nine hits, but only Jason Bay's solo shot scored a run. I got to hand it to the guy, he's eaten up innings (150, which means that 2006 option is going to vest. Sorry fellas.)and hasn't given up as many runs (4.26 ERA) as I was expecting. I thought he was going to be awful, but instead he's been Kirk Rueter ca. 2001.

Beltran started and looked quite good. No visible twitching in the batter's box or happy feet in center. He went 1-2 with 2 walks and a very clean steal; he also scored from 1st on what should have been a single. He's done that twice in the last week or so. It's fun to watch.

Yusmeiro Petit did the nasty to the Portland Sea Dogs yesterday: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 12 K. (asssist: metsblog). I'm happy we still have Milledge, but I'm happier we still have him.

Gotta cut this short today. Off to Shea for a pregame event. Don't want to get into it though, for fear of getting dooced.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Benson, Mets take opener. Plus: A blind taste test

A couple thoughts on last night's game:

Benson's 2-RBI base hit was not the from the pitcher-trying-not-to-embarrass-himself playbook. It was not a bloop, bleeder or flare. It was a frozen rope single, the kind Edgardo Alfonzo used to hit all the time back in the day. Timely, too.

Victor Diaz in right field: Boy, I don't know. He was charged with an error in the 9th inning after he overran Tike Redman's single, turning it into a double.

"Overran" makes it sound a lot better than it looked, though. It was if he was running towards a completely different baseball, much further towards center field than the actual one, until he realized it (too late) and reversed course so violently that his feet almost came out from under him.

I hope Mike Cameron saw it, unless laughing is too painful in his post-operative state. That Diaz barely managed to remain upright is the only thing that kept him off SC/BBTN.

Time to play "Name Those Mets":

Player A: 351 AB, .259/.326/.444
Player B: 111 AB, .261/.328/.441

That's about as identical as two hitting lines get. Player A is Mike Piazza, and Player B is Ramon Castro. This is pretty unfortunate. I was in favor of the Castro signing, but I didn't expect or want him to challenge Piazza for offensive supremacy. That's just bad news.

Those batting lines could diverge quickly, but the current picture suggests that, considering the defensive chasm between the two (Piazza CS% update: 12 for 81), the playing time distribution going forward may have less and less to do with keeping Mike fresh.

Last night's game filled me with optimism, as wins often do. Our boys have 44 more games to play, they're 3.5 out of the wild card this morning, and right now they've got the Pirates at home. The outlook isn't all that bad.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Dodgers spoil Pedro's no-hitter, shutout, and win.

And just like that it was over. The Dodgers won again, leaving the Mets with little but their dignity (their health having fallen by the wayside last week).

How do the Mets' postseason chances look now? In a word: ugly. The Braves have all but wrapped up their Nth division title, and no fewer than four games and four teams stand between our boys and the wild card spot.

All the same, it's still possible, and let me get something off my chest right now: the Mets, while technically (okay in every sense) the NL East's fifth place team, are grossly misrepresented by the "last place" moniker.

Their record is 7th in the league. The fact that four of the six teams ahead of them are in their division shouldn't be held against them. Quite the opposite, they've won more games than the Cubs, Padres, Dodgers, and six others, despite playing a significantly harder schedule!

Moreover, if you look at Expected W-L records, the Mets and Astros are tied for the league's third best record and the wild card.

Call the Mets a last place team if you must. It's undeniably true. But bear in mind they may be the best last-place team in baseball history.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Mets Lose Game, Outfield

That was gruesome.

It is now being reported, though it hardly qualifies as news, that Mike Cameron will require facial surgery to repair multiple fractures of his cheekbones and nose. Carlos Beltran isn't expected to need surgery, but x-rays did show a "slight facial fracture."

The Times's Lee Jenkins closes his piece with a rather ghoulish bit of post facto foreshadowing:

"Going into the season, the Mets acknowledged that having two center fielders in the everyday lineup posed some risk. During an interview about potential collisions in spring training, Beltran said: 'The center fielder has priority. If the center fielder calls, you've got to get out of the way.'

Cameron countered: 'I'm not going to change my game. I have to play the same style I always have.'"

There was the usual handwringing about how this sort of collision should be avoidable. You get the feeling Lee thinks so, anyway, but I think Cliff Floyd got it right (courtesy ESPN):

"I knew those guys were so competitive... You try to block that out when they run together, two center fielders. They're taught to chase the ball. They're taught to give it everything."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Benson Revisited

Kris Benson baffled the Padres for eight plus innings and David Wright drove in six runs as the Mets took game two in a blowout.

Benson, you will recall, was the centerpiece of the other "Black Friday" deadline trade last season. Jim Duquette acquired him and 2B Jeff Keppinger from the Pirates for Ty Wigginton, prospects Matt Peterson (SP) and Jose Bautista (3B).

After last night's performance, Benson's ERA stands at 3.54, which ranks 18th in the league. He's lost a few starts to injury, but it's becoming harder to construe his 3-year/22.5MM extension as a sign of the fiscal apocalypse. He's earned his money this year. It's taken a career year for him to do so, but a career year is exactly what he's delivered so far.

Wigginton was never much of an asset, and was sent down in June. As for the two prospects, they are both currently at Double-A Altoona, where Eastern League hitters have been bludgeoning Peterson to the tune of a 6.16 ERA over 111 innings. It's not bad luck, either. He's surrendered 18 home runs and 64(!) walks against only 61 strikeouts.

His record somehow stands at 10-7, which tells you all you need to know about wins and losses. While there's clearly not much to miss in Peterson, it appears that what must be his fantastic run support has owed no small debt to the production of Bautista.

Never having played in the Mets organization, (he was shipped off shortly after arriving from KC), Bautista's age-24 season has been quite impressive. In almost 400 AB, he's hit .281/.367/.494 for the Curve, with 20 homers and 22 doubles. He strikes out a lot, 94 times already, but he draws his share of walks (45) too.

As Matt points out over at MetsBlog, we'll never know whether the trade, as opposed to simply signing him as a FA, was really necessary; and Bautista looks like a decent bet to have a major league career. On the other hand, the Mets need a 24 year-old third base prospect like a fish needs a Blackberry, and Kris Benson has hardly disappointed.

For all the good it does him, Jim Duquette looks a little bit smarter this week.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Pedro gave up 5. Remain calm.

First of all: Nice catch, David.

Unfortunately, it only served to help keep the score respectable, as Pedro gave up five runs, including homers to Brian Giles and the less-than-beastly Khalil Greene, in his five innings of work. Chan Ho Park, meanwhile, looked fiendishly effective against the NYM lineup, allowing two runs and striking out 8 in 5.2 IP. Padres win, 8-3.

Unsurprisingly, Pedro's outing has elicited some concern from fans and in the media. It was, after all, his worst start of the year, and his third consecutive start for which he was not credited with the much revered "W".

For another thing, to the extent that we kept our post-signing expectations cautiously optimistic, Pedro has surpassed them in spectacular fashion. For a fan base still nursing the psychic scars left by the FA acquisitions of Vaughn, Alomar, Burnitz et al, Pedro's 2005 has been a wonderful and wholly unfamiliar ride.

So it only seems reasonable at this point in the season to wonder when the other shoe is going to drop, Pedro-wise. As has been pointed out in many spaces, including this one, he's thrown honey bunches of innings this season. His 157 IP ranks 5th in the league, and projects to 232 for the season, which, as Andrew at C'nD points out, would be his highest mark since 1998.

He's 33, slightly built, and no stranger to shoulder injury, yet appears to be getting yoked like a prize ox. Something is clearly wrong with this picture.

As it happens, there is. The number of innings he's thrown is the result of Pedro's uncanny efficiency, not medieval or shortsighted handling by Randolph and Peterson. On average, Pedro has needed 14.0 pitches per inning. That's the lowest figure in the National League.*

Venture a guess how many NL starting pitchers have thrown more pitches than Pedro this season? More than 4 (the number with more IP), surely. Maybe 8? 12? Try 18. After runaway leader Livan Hernandez, they include pitchers of varying ages and styles. Chris Capuano (#4), Noah Lowry (#6**), and Jeff Weaver (T13) are just a few of the many NL starters who have required more pitches to complete fewer innings than No. 45.

But wait, there's MORE evidence that Pedro hasn't been overworked!

Baseball Prospectus keeps a statistic called Pitcher Abuse Points, which looks not only at the number of innings and pitches but how they are distributed on a start-to-start basis. Studies have shown a pitch count distribution of, for example, 140-120-100 to be more harmful than 120-120-120. In other words it's the really grueling outings that hurt.

By this measure, Pedro is off the charts... as in taking much scrolling to find, down in 90th place. That's all MLB (no league filter, oddly), but the list of NL starters who've taken more abuse per BP includes Brian Lawrence, Vicente Padilla, even Jerome Williams! That's right, Felipe Alou and Dusty Baker have combined to ride Jerome Williams harder than Willie's been riding Pedro. That's both shocking and reassuring.

Yes, Pedro got hit yesterday, and his velocity was down. But his velocity's been down all season, and it hasn't stopped him from dominating opposing hitters, striking them out in droves and not giving up walks. That the Padres rapped out 9 hits against him, including 2 homers, is more disappointing to me than it is worrisome. Just tip your cap to the Friars and wait for Pedro's next start.

He may not finish the season with a sub-3 ERA, but there's little to suggest that his workload or slower fastball will prevent him from doing so.

* He trails three American Leaguers: the rather freakish Carlos Silva (12.0), usual suspect Roy Halladay (13.5), and unusual suspect Jason Johnson (13.9). It's worth noting that none of these superefficient performances include K-rates remotely ressembling Martinez's. Efficiency vs. Dominance is usually an either/or proposition.

** Lowry's thrown a whopping 17.9 pitches per inning, most in the NL behind teammate Jason Schmidt.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Jae Seo Crazy

I know Saturday was a long time ago now, but I haven't yet had the chance to applaud Jae Seo's dominant return to the rotation.

It's the kind of thing that makes me happy, especially when I stick my neck out like Lefty Ruggiero for this guy in the comments section, where certain skeptics thought I was being foolish or naive for anticipating marked improvement from Ishii's production.

I wanted to pull Jae aside and tell him (through Edgar Lee, the team's in-house Korean interpreter) that he's my guy now, and that means no one can touch him. And on Saturday, against Mets-owner Greg Maddux, the Cubs rarely did.

Come Sunday, the baseball world turned its attention to a matchup so historic, so statistically improbable, that only the stage of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball could accomodate its grandeur. I refer, of course, to Zambrano v. Zambrano.

No, that's not a typo. Those were the last names of the two starting pitchers, and they're both the same... I know it freaked me out too.

All kidding aside, Victor added to the night's already dangerous "whodathunkit" quotient by thoroughly outpitching Carlos, the better and more famous Zambrano who left the game with a groin injury.

The Mets ended up winning the game by a score of 6-1, which was really ideal for me because I was/am participating in a little 2-week sportsbetting hedge fund with my uncles that included a straight wager on the Under 7.5, which was in constant peril but held up in the end.

Tonight the Mets begin their three-game series at San Diego, sitting 6.5 games out of the division lead and 3 games behind Houston in the wild card. For all the talk of the Mets' home-road splits, there's not much being made of their increasingly impressive run differential, which stands at +46 and produces an Expected W-L record of 61-50. In other words, they're playing like the 4th best team in the league.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Bonehead move, Willie

Wednesday Night:

Before the first pitch, Cohen and Rose reported that there was a rumor going around that Kaz Ishii was queued up as a long man behind Pedro Martinez tonight.

I'm going to be an optimist and assume there is little reason to expect needing one. Pedro's pitched into the 7th in 17 of his 21 starts, so it could only be a sign of injury or strict pitch count. Regardless, Ishii has finally been evicted from the rotation. This is happy news indeed. He has proven to be less valuable than Jason Phillips, less valuable than a replacement level pitcher (salary per ESPN: $2.58M), and generally a huge liability that no amount of Rick Peterson mojo could fix.

Meanwhile Jae Seo can finally stop asking himself what in God's name he needs to do to take that job back. He's been putting in very solid work at Norfolk (4.29 ERA, 111 K/30 BB in 121.2 IP) and looked great in his brief early-season stint for big club.

Pedro is not looking (sounding, actually) on top of his game. Milwaukee scored two runs in the 2nd, on two doubles and a single, and he has yet to strike a Brewer out.

Thursday Afternoon:

I guess I did a good deal of nagging about moving David Wright up in the lineup, but I really haven't gone off on Willie for any particular in-game decision he's made. It's time. Leaving Braden Looper out there to lose the game is inexcusable.

Looper was obviously spent from his 35-pitch outing the night before, and isn't really "lights out" when he does have his 96mph stuff. Meanwhile, Juan Padilla, who's become my favorite reliever since Heath Bell, was just sitting there in the bullpen. He had thrown only 14 pitches is his inning of August 2, and was just waiting to put his cool glasses on and go dommo the Brewers.

But no, Willie went with the Proven Closer because it was the 9th inning and bringing anyone else in, even a guy who's been as effective as Padilla, invites (more) postgame criticism if the non-Closer gets smacked around.

We'll never know how that game would have turned out otherwise, but it was a terrible managerial decision nonetheless. So a bitterly sarcastic "Nice work" to Willie Randolph.

Thursday Late Afternoon:

Roberto Hernandez just spit the bit for the second time in two games, this time in spectacular fashion. 1 inning, 6 hits, 1 walk, 5 runs. The 9-7 ninth inning lead became a 12-9 deficit. It looks like they're going to lose to the Brewers again.

More on this game tomorrow. They're down to their final out now (D. Wright, 1st and 3rd), and I'm not going to want to write about it for a little while.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Cameron jacks up Turnbow, Mets win in 11

What a game.

I'm not generally sold on the effect of intangibles. For example, if a player, let's call him "Mike Cameron," starts raking on July 31, many if not all commentators weigh in with some version of the following:

"[Mike]'s been dealing with the distraction of speculation about his future, reading his name in the headlines* every day. Now that all those rumors have subsided, he can get back to just playing baseball and the production has followed."

It makes sense enough, but correlation does not imply causation, and with this as with many other intangible/off-the-field influences I have a tough time buying in. On the other hand, there's no disputing that the actual Mike Cameron is 7 for his last 11. "Blowing up" as it were, including last night's super-timely solo HR off Derrick "Who's Derrick" Turnbow. Maybe he does feel more relaxed when he knows he's not about to get sent packing, but it still doesn't prove causation, I don't even care what he says himself.

As most of you have probably figured by now, Mike's a pretty whiny guy. So in the postgame interview, when Ed Coleman puts the storyline (trade rumors were preventing him from hitting) to him in question form, of course Mike's going to talk about how he's had to stay "professional" despite everything he's had to "deal with."

Anyway the bottom line is the Mets survived a historically, trivia-answer-type disastrous start by Victor Zambrano and came back from 6-2 down.

Aaron Heilman is looking like a Cash Money Millionaire in the bullpen, striking out five in 2.2 scoreless. Why is Kaz Ishii still in the rotation again?

Looper got into a little bit of trouble in the top of the 11th, but K'ed his way out of it, just like a dominant closer! Sure it was Russell Branyan and Damian Miller, neither of whom are total strangers to strike three, but it was a clutch showing regardless.

Of course it ended on Piazza's pinch-hit base on balls. I loved his comment after the game: "I've hit into double plays in those situations." We know, Mike, but you didn't this time and we're proud of you.

* Usually these players' names are actually only found in the body of the article. They get listed either before or after top flight prospects as part of a larger package to be exchanged for players with names like "Manny" and "Soriano," who are in the headlines proper, but commentators don't want to be jerks about it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I'll run (naked) with this one

Last time I passed on a hot tip, I regretted it. So without further ado, I'd like to direct your attention to a friend of a friend.

It occured to me yesterday evening, after posting here, that THE story of the day was Rafael Palmeiro failing a drug test, and I didn't even mention it in passing. I made a joke when the "Juiced" controversy was in full swing about Palmeiro not being above better living through chemistry.

I acknowledged that he, Pudge and Juan Gonzalez would make pretty likely suspects for steroid use, but I didn't think that meant they actually were, ya know, juiced. Well it looks like Raffy was after all.

And, AND - I admit to taking perverse pleasure in this sort of thing (see also: Rush Limbaugh's painkiller addiction) - he'd denied it in front of Congress, under oath of course, and participated in something called the "Zero Tolerance Roundtable"!

That's how I like my athlete/celebrity public humiliation: served in generous portions with all the fixins.

Anyway, back to the New York Metropolitans... Tonight at Shea: Victor Zambrano, coming off a positively gemlike 7-inning performace at Coors last week, takes the hill against Milwaukee. He will be opposed by former National Tomo Ohka, who is the kind of pitcher that the Mets have an unfortunate habit of making look awfully good. Ohka is really much closer to bad, and I'll be disappointed if we don't begin another Sisyphean push over the .500 mark right away.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Nothing to see here

Well, nothing happened.

There was no "Bloody Sunday," or "Shortsighted Saturday" or any other easily nicknamed day in organizational history.

Manny Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and (sigh) Adam Dunn all still work for their former employers, while Lastings Milledge, Yusmeiro Petit and Brian Bannister remain safely ensconced in the warm bosom of the New York Mets' farm system.

As I pointed out Saturday to the FAN's Adam Schein (never thought I'd be "Brian from Brooklyn" but there it is), Mr. Milledge seems to be sporting a rather large halo for a guy who has yet to hit his fifth home run of the 2005 season.

He hit four in 232 AB at St. Lucie, and while he's posted a .324 average at Binghamton, I'd like to see some power from our consenus Top Prospect. Call me unreasonable, but it is one of the five tools, right? I'll save my concerns about his SB% for another time (hint: he gets caught frequently).

Meanwhile, in Houston, the boys salvaged the last game of the four game series, averting total catastrophe and escaping the Juice Box with a mere savage beating. Strange that it should come against Oswalt, but isn't it always the way?

I followed this one by the out-of-town scoreboard at Yankee Stadium, where I was taking in the Empire's 11-inning barnburner with Los Angeles Angeles. My younger cousin Holly, seated to my left at the Stadium and appreciating how bummed out I would have been about a Houston sweep, was nice enough not to point out that the Mets had fallen behind 4-3 in the 6th inning (I admit I was getting into the game in front of me, junior circuit or no), calling my attention to the score only when they had tied it in the 7th. So thoughtful, that Holly.

The series still put the boys squarely behind the eight ball, wildcard-wise, while the Braves, led by Jeff "The White Guerrero" Francoeur, have been putting the division back in the hammerlock to which it should by now be accustomed.

A heroic run could still be in the offing, but losing the first three games in Houston probably made it a little easier for Omar to think long term about the deals being discussed.

Speaking of which, BP did a simple but informative breakdown (in today's "Damned Lies..." [$]) of the proposed Manny deal, which estimated that the remainder of Ramirez's contract will net a loss of over $20 million for its holder.

I had been of the opinion that whatever the financial ramifications, trading Manny seemed like a good way to hurt the Sox's repeat chances. While that's probably still true, the right package of players in return, combined with the massive unburdening of Manny's remaining contract years, might have made it a good deal for the BoSox in the medium-term.

I would like to have seen him in the Mets, lineup, with his hair spraying out the right side of his helmet and the ball hurtling off his bat, but this was probably a good non-deal for Omar to make.