Monday, August 02, 2004

Games 102 through 104 - Mets
Marching through Atlanta Like Sherman . . . Hemsley

Braves 3, Mets 1
Braves 8, Mets 0
Braves 6, Mets 5
Record: 49-55

Two events of consequence in MetLand occurred over the weekend. First, the Mets were swept in Atlanta without a great deal of fight, as vaguely predicted in this space (something about "hot, humid, humbling hell"), confirming that the Mets have, for the most part, opted out of the pennant race this year. Second, the Mets dealt for two starting pitchers, which at first glance flies in the face of the other event, but after more detailed analysis merely shows them playing for 2005 rather than 2007. Oh, the Mets dealt Scott Erickson to Texas as well, but I did say "of consequence."

As much as that first event aggravated me beyond the reasonable limit for such a mediocre team, and as much as the second is in direct contrast to my previously posted official game plan for the club, it has put me in a relatively enjoyable place. I can effectively shift into the lame duck "every win is gravy" mentality that reduces my foot wounds and furniture repairs tenfold. Yes, it may seem a little like a voluntary lobotomy, or perhaps some self-applied brainwashing (John Franco is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life, to borrow from a newly remade classic), but let's view it as more of a willing skew of perspective. Hey, if we were the guys who were "just happy to be here" at the Break, then this nosedive from respectability is neither surprising nor all that distressing.

Sure, it's disappointing, but even when it seemed real, even when we saw that little glimmer that made us believe we'd go all the way, I think we all knew it was a facade, and although we would have liked it to go on longer, it was destined to end, probably sooner rather than later. Hmm. Kind of like a lap dance.

Particularly startling was the shelling of Kris Benson in his Met debut. Yikes. 7 ER through 5. It was the type of outing to make anxious Met fans wonder if toiling in Pittsburgh over the years was of his own doing. But that's not us any more! The talking heads offered the possible explanation that it was his third start against the Braves in a row, and they simply had had a long look at him by now. Sure, what the hell . . . we'll go with that.

Here were the two deals (of consequence):
Deal #1
The Mets get:
RHP Kris Benson
IF Jeff Keppinger

The Pirates get:
IF Ty Wigginton
RHP Matt Peterson
IF Jose Bautista
(whom the Mets received from KC for C Justin Huber)

Deal #2
The Mets get:
RHP Victor Zambrano
P Bartolome Fortunato

The Devil Rays get:
LHP Scott Kazmir
P Jose Diaz
I refuse to pen a thesis delving into hypotheses abound on what is all educated speculation. You can get analyses positive (Baseball Tonight) and negative ( elsewhere, though those who seem to have spent the most time looking at the implications seem to think that the Mets did fine by these deals. Again, they're playing for next year instead of down the road. And after a decade of prospects gone awry (forget Escobar; remember the unstoppable Pulsipher/Wilson/Isringhausen rotation to be?), Jim Duquette decided to mirror the Yankees instead of the Royals at the trade deadline.

On the downside: that philosophy depleted the Yankees' farm system and cost them Randy Johnson this week; Ty Wigginton is the kind of good guy and overachiever you hate to ship off to Pittsburgh; both of the big acquisitions are rife with question marks, something the Mets need no more of; if and when Peterson and Kazmir excel, that's all we'll hear about for while.

As Brer Russell alertly indicated in his half-drunken Larry King monologue, it's go-time for pitching coach Rick Peterson. Supposedly he said that he could fix Zambrano's wildness "in ten minutes." We won't even hold him to that. If he can do it by next March, we'll be thrilled. And if he can get Benson to avoid getting demolished by the Braves . . . that'd be good, too.

One note on the actual ballgames from the weekend (oh, yeah, they played baseball): Tom Glavine has owned the right to punch his teammates in the mouth for most of the season, thanks to their fielding debacles and hitting travesties. On Sunday he owed a pair of eye-jabs to the official scorer in Atlanta. First inning, Braves on second and third, two outs. Julio Franco dribbles one to third, and David Wright charges and bobbles, then fires the ball to Mike Piazza, or somewhere about four feet away from him. Piazza is pulled off, a run scores. Somehow this is ruled a hit. As Braves announcer and HoFer Don Sutton note, disappointedly, if it's a makeable play and you don't make it, it should be an error. He and Pete Van Wieren go on: sure, it might have been a tough play, but these are Major League ballplayers, not Little Leaguers. They are hired and compensated handsomely for being able to make tough plays. Anyway, right in the middle of their hushed mini-rant -- unlike the YES-men, they speak more loudly with insightful, calm utterances than hollered hyperboles . . . [uh oh, I must insert a boisterous, idiotic full-on-rant here]

Wait, am I defending something Atlanta Braves?! Huh, I guess I am. Perhaps it's because TBS has scaled back Braves coverage to 10% of what it once was. I know, the thinking man's game can't draw the masses like cerebral hemorrhage-inducing excrement like Outback Jack can, but the Braves on the erstwhile Superstation was one of those things the baseball addict could put in the bank, even if it caused a few mixed emotions. (Is watching a team you loathe win game after game just to feed your baseball jones really worth it?) Look, for as long as I care to remember, it was the Braves on TBS, the Cubs/White Sox on WGN, and the Mets on WWOR. Whoops. Anyway, my acknowledgment of the Braves' worthy commentators isn't a case of absence making the heart grow fonder. Van Wieren, Sutton, and anchor man Skip Caray (whose nasal chirp might've kept him from being the next Jon Miller, but is great fun, and whose absence from any Atlanta telecast just doesn't feel right) are better than most, and if you've watched any number of guys doing games across the league, you know this. I detailed the good and the bad on this site when I had the Extra Innings gig last year. I understated the boys in TurnerTown, but they're solid. It was/is always a comfortable feeling rooting against their homering broadcast; I appreciate that hometown bias, and when I'm calling Mets games (coming in 2010), there will be no mistaking my slant.

Anyway, enough of that. Screw the Braves. Back to my other digression . . .

. . . right in the middle of their hushed mini-rant, Andruw Jones hits a sharp grounder to Mama Kaz Matsui, who doinks it off his glove for another run. When this is ruled a hit, we almost heard raised voices from the guys in the booth. And this is from the Braves crew! Wright's ruling was mildly excusable, but this one was a putrid call. Of course, Julio and Andruw benefit from the scoring skew, and ex-Brave Glavine is dinged for it. And I'm not saying this entered into the mind of the scorer at Turner Field. I would never insinuate that. If you make that leap on you're own, I can't control that. I'm just stating what happened. I've detailed all that is wrong with the official scoring going on before (wow, two self-links in one post -- someone's pretty proud of himself), and it still holds true. Just awful. So three runs are earned instead of none.

Of course, further moaning on this subject diminishes the point that terrible D cost them again, and really the only stat Tom Glavine should be looking at is Wins . . . which his buddies ruined as well. Of course, Tommy facilitated that end by surrendering a three-run jack to Andruw later, in a show of "Boys, not that's what earned runs look like!" But the first three felt preventable, and it's the kind of first-inning pall that only great teams crawl out from under. The Mets, who in no way qualify for that description gave it a go, but fell short and lost by a run. Winnable losses, precluding meaningful wins yet again.

Today's an off-day, which, in the new era of cutting our losses, means no losses today! Tomorrow the Mets square off in Milwaukee, and with no game to recap, I can take on the not-very-daunting task of rebutting Robert Russell's affronts below.

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