Friday, April 29, 2005

TV Also Giveth

While I share the views of management regarding Major Asshole Scam Now, as always (MASN) as posted below in their entirety, I come here to celebrate cable television's magic. Specifically, I get to watch Tim Hudson face Mark Mulder this evening on TBS, while flipping to NESN to catch the Sox and Rangers.

So, I got that going for me, which is nice.

Blacked Out Again

Remember how I pondered a conversion to membership of "Nationals District" during the offseason? I know, in retrospect it seemed a little half-hearted, but among my arguments for the big switch I mentioned the enjoyment of getting to watch my team night in and night out on local TV -- a sure "pro" in favor of the Nattys. That particular point is not only moot at this point, it's bizarrely contradictory.

There has been a very peculiar parallel between the increasingly publicized struggles of New Yorkers unable to watch Mets games and the until-recently under-vocalized absence of Nationals games on DC TV. They aren't the same situation, but the coincidence is still odd to me.

Mets fans in the tri-state area are left in the dark thanks to a tête-á-tête between Cablevision and Time Warner, but at least their plight has an end in sight with the Mets Network set to ramp up next year. That's not making it any more palatable for the radio-doomed Townshippers in '05, who don't see either side budging any time soon. If more national press could expose the greed, stubbornness, and corporate antics of the parties involved, one or both of the guilty parties might do the right thing and give the addicts their fix of Metball. Until then, Bob Murphy is missed even more than usual.

Meanwhile, down here in Nat-ville, there are more corporate cretins to blame . . . ostensibly. Comcast Sports Net and the newly formed Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) are at odds over MASN's arrival as the regional network to cover both Nationals and Orioles games. How can one channel air games for two teams, you ask? Good question, and while today's glut of channels at our fingertips may make you think that it's feasible, we're already seeing the effects of this shady, shoddy, shitty arrangement.

MASN (if only this slapped-together "network" could air on channel 9, since the punny connotations of MASN-9 are just too perfect) is supposedly airing Nationals games this year, with the O's projected to leap to MASN next year. That's where the big business brouhaha comes in -- Comcast is suing to keep the Orioles on their station. In theory, this would be the only year to see all the Nationals games, as next year the station might be forced to choose between the Baltimore and Washington games. Ah, yes, and in theory, a major sports league's front office couldn't possibly justify owning one of its franchises for three years while it foundered in limbo. Instead, roughly half of the Nationals games are airing on television in the Washington metropolitan area, and I'd be surprised if it's been 50% thus far. Today's Washington Post fleshes out the problem nicely and spells out the obvious problem with the current set-up: how is a brand new team supposed to gain a foothold in the new market without a TV audience?

It's not.

Which is why knowing who the brokers of the deal are takes this whole episode from simply stupid to sketchy, borderline criminal. The perpetrators: Major League Baseball and Peter "Diablos" Angelos. It all makes sense now, doesn't it? Angelos has a 90% stake in MASN, the Nationals' TV channel. So not only are they not going to air very many baseball games for his competition, but also -- who'd want to buy this franchise at MLB's MSRP of $400 million+ with these battleship-bowline-sized strings attached? Some arrogant buffoon with more money than brains, I guess. (Daniel Snyder, is that your phone ringing?) As it stands, the whole scenario has the ownership deal on hold for the time being, which only bodes ill for the Nationals. Unlike the Mets' quandary, though, there is no timetable for the situation's reparation. If MLB operates at its normal pace (if you squint, you can see the tortoise quickly pulling away), next winter will come and go without a resolution to this hideous mess, leaving the Washington franchise destined for another 5th place finish.

This has to be Bud Selig's last straw. I'd like to see the market for the Nationals plummet, based on this numb-skulled giveaway to Angelos and see the other 29 owners enraged at the front office's further bungling of this ludicrous chain of events. Honestly, at this point my faith in Gary Bettman to get things done right is twice what I'd invest in Selig.

The bottom line is that you can't watch the local club on any given night. And while that's senseless and infuriating to local fans, it -- coupled with my acquisition of the baseball package, enabling me to see more of the Mets than many NYC locals -- has made my decision to stick to my guns and hoe the road of a Mets fan seem infinitely wiser.

Gotta tell you -- it still pisses me off, though.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Trouble With Tom

Game 22 - Mets

Braves 8, Mets 4
Record: 11-11

Friends, New Yorkers, residents of the Township, lend me your eyes;
I come to bury Glavine, not to praise him.
The evil that Mets do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Glavine.

The alternate version of Marc Antony's words ("Shakespeare at The Met" with a new meaning) lacks the ironic tilt of the original text, i.e., this won't be a shout-out in shout-at's clothing. It's more literal, and miles less literary.

Countless words have been written and uttered about how Tom Glavine gets hammered by the Braves every time out, and they're not wrong. I contend, however, that Glavine, in this stage of his career, isn't merely bad against the Braves but bad against any team with even a middling level of talent. So far this season he's had good outings against only the emasculated Astros and the next-stop-5th-place Nationals, 22nd and 28th in the league in run production, respectively. Beyond that, he's been shelled by the Reds, Marlins, and Braves, and looked pretty shabby doing so. You can theorize all you want about familiarity breeding three-run-jacks and the Braves simply having his number, but when (a) greenhorn Wilson Betemit collects his first career home run off the guy and (b) other clubs get to him at will, it appears there's more to it than that. And there is.

Granted, there was plenty of discourse on the woes of Tom Glavine two years ago when his Opening Day start played out like the first scene of Saving Private Ryan, and a season of 9-14/4.52 didn't silence the critics who called him "mediocre," "bait and switch," "a giant waste of money," and even "total crap." (And that was just on this site.) Truth be told, however, if you were to magically eradicate his games against his former team that season, he would have had a much more respectable year. Minus the five outings versus the Bravos, his numbers would have been 9-9/3.80. On that 2003 team, the record is outstanding and the ERA is more than serviceable. That year, the scribblings detailing Atlanta owning old #47 were dead on.

Fast forward to last year. (You can do that at Misery Loves Company because we don't write squat in the offseason.) Glavine's 11-14/3.60 campaign -- yes, record and ERA are sometimes just the tip of the iceberg, but in this case, the old school numbers tell the tale just fine -- would have been 10-12/3.32 sans scalpings by the Braves, just marginally better. Though he was certainly still shaky against Atlanta, he wasn't that much worse against them than everybody else.

Now fast forward to . . . now. Tom Glavine still hangs out in that "Property of Atlanta Braves Baseball Club" T-shirt, but a higher and higher percentage of the league is getting to him every time out. He's getting peppered not only by former battery mates (Eddie Perez hit a crucial two-run tater off TG yesterday) but by random journeymen, utility guys, and futureless rookies of every squad. More and more guys will have personal highlights to tell their grandkids, "I hit a home run off a Hall of Fame pitcher." It's starting to get very ugly for Tom Glavine, and not simply because the Atlanta Braves hit him consistently hard.

In truth, Glavine may well have some gas in the tank, as the stats of the last couple of years contend. But worth noting is that Glavine, like many an aging veteran, was significantly stronger in the early months of the past two seasons and seemed to tire as the season played out. In '03, his ERA went up in every month but one, and in '04 he seemed poised to battle for the ERA title in the first half of the season, closing June with a 2.16 mark, but threw up (or was that me throwing up) monthly averages of 4.31, 5.79, and 6.69 over the last three months. He wears out. Duh. But if he's getting roughed up throughout April, as his current 5.67 ERA and my constant cringing throughout his starts seem to indicate, August and September might be bloodbaths the likes of which we haven't seen here in some time.

I guess I just wanted to dispel the SportsCenter-deep notion that Tom Glavine's troubles lie mostly within Atlanta, aka the city Peter Angelos should have targeted as being void of "real baseball fans." (Nice nasty aside with zero relevance, I know, but the opportunity to slag Angelos and Braves fans in one phrase cannot be resisted.) Somehow, though, this has come across as an assault on Glavine. So be it. His veteran presence, somewhere between that of the noble sages some other teams sport and the clubhouse carcinogens of last year, isn't worth the damage to the Mets' chances and the dollars it's costing them -- this year and especially next year, if that happens. Andrew at Chuck 'n' Duck mused a couple of weeks ago whether Tom Glavine is a Met, and he concluded that by now he is one. If May goes like April, it won't be for long.

Just to bookend utter drivel with sacred verse, let's hope April is indeed the cruelest month for the pitcher. I'm not so sure it will be, though. Prove me wrong, Tom Glavine. Make me look ignorant, and bliss will follow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Shaking Off the Coma

Games 15 through 21 - Mets

Marlins 9, Mets 2
Mets 10, Marlins 1
Mets 3, Nationals 1
Mets 10, Nationals 5
Nationals 11, Mets 4
Mets 5, Braves 4
Braves 4, Mets 3
Record: 11-10

Whew. My apologies to the MLC faithful for my prolonged absence, but today is the first day of feeling even halfway human after a bodily devastating bout with New Orleans nightlife. When simply continuing to breathe takes all of my concentration (not to mention praying for death), blogging gets back-burnered. Fear not, folks, for I'll not darken the doorstep of Igor's or the like for at least another year.

Adding insult to injury is that fact that I have to little comment upon for the stretch of games I missed. The Crescent City might as well be on the moon, and save for catching sight of a few Mets scores along the way, my insight into the highs and lows of the five games from Wednesday through Sunday is as shallow as the Canal Street mud puddle I used for a pillow. They might as well have been played on some college kid's Strat-o-matic board 'twixt pizza deliveries. Thankfully, I can direct you to the rest of the Mets blogosphere for those recaps and remarks.

I did catch the past two games against the Braves, and by and large I liked what I saw. There were things to dread along the way, of course, like brief lapses in David Wright's defense, Braden Looper looking even less dominant -- after Roberto Hernandez looked vaguely reminiscent of Armando Benitez, the Mets being baffled by John Smoltz again, and Jose Reyes -- I could swear -- swinging at a ball over his head. Still, there were more things to applaud, like Aaron Heilman's bookend of a bad outing with another gem, that same bullpen bending but not breaking, Mike Piazza's bat taking to the smelling salts, and the continuing ability to rally under fierce two-out pressure.

There was also a handful of purely entertaining sights, including some skillful/gutsy/okay, pretty damn lucky plays in the field. First, a crazy play happened when a ball caromed off Heilman, was scooped by Wright and fired to first for one out, then gunned back toward third by Chris Woodward where Jose Reyes snagged the heave while diving and tagging Brian Jordan, who'd tried to advance on the throw. Well, he almost tagged him, but the ump saw fit to reward the remarkable play. Innings later, a grounder at Wright shot off his shoulder for a sure error, but ricochet rabbit Jose Reyes scooped it up and fired to first to save the play. The young third baseman's glovework eroded further as the night wore on, but the Mets did just enough to stave off a bad loss.

Last night's game did end in a losing efort, but "effort" is the key word there. The ninth-inning rally was as exciting a turnaround for the Mets' dormant bats as possible without notching a win. Things to take away from this loss included another two-out surge to match Monday's barrage, another wretched appearance for the Braves current and nearly former closer Danny Kolb (he's allowed 8 ER in 9 IP), and 12 more hits from a rapidly improving offense. Look, there are things to lament, but like I said, I'm feeling better today than I have in what seems like an eternity (but is several days), and that's spreading to my take on the Mets.

So, what do we know about the Mets that we didn't a week ago when I left off? Over the last seven games, the team was just slightly above .500, Pedro impressed, the bullpen didn't, the exciting defense was liable to make great plays and costly blunders, and it generally seemed like everyone on the team played a fair bit better than I'd have figured them capable of or a fair bit worse -- never exactly at their preconceived levels of talent. Seems like a microcosm of the 2005 Mets thus far. This team still hasn't quite figured itself out, but I'll give the Mets this -- they've shown an abundance of spirit and energy when it has mattered, which is more than Rob can say for his club across the aisle.

Raining and Pouring

Games 20 & 21 - Red Sox

Orioles 8, Red Sox 4
Orioles 11, Red Sox 8

Record: 11-10

There may have been more disgusting losses than last night's over the past 2 years, but I bet I could count them on 1 hand. Mike Timlin was the only pitcher who remotely did his job, and it wasn't enough to prevent the suddenly reeling Sox from blowing 5-1 and 8-3 leads to the Orioles.

As if that wasn't bad enough, this morning's Boston Globe reports that Curt Schilling is headed to the 15-day DL with a bone bruise in his ankle. This right on the heels of David Wells' 4-6 week shelving for a sprained foot. The John Halama Era will commence Tuesday.

I just found out about the Schilling news as I began to type this entry. I was fully prepared to come in here swinging, dropping f-bombs about the Sox' underachieving, about their laissez-faire attitude, about how Keith Foulke is toast, and about how gut-level infuriated I am right now that I spent $160 on the MLB Extra Innings package to watch the Sox lay turds all over the AL East. Instead, I find myself strangely possessed by the thought that the Wells/Schilling injuries could be a net positive.

Mind you, 'could' is the operative word in the preceding sentence. Logically, though, it would be hard to conceive the Sox having a more sluggish start to their championship defense. Whatever the reason, be it lack of focus from an offseason spent hobnobbing with the glitterati (I'm looking right at you, Johnny Damon - though your .350+ start is nicenice), or some sense of entitlement borne of the greatest 2-week stretch in baseball history, the 2005 Sox have to date ho-hummed their way to a record that defines underperformance. (I mean, hell, they have the same record as the Mets, for chrissakes.)

Now, the twin injuries to the Sox' overweight, overaged aces may serve to catalyze the squad's heretofore slumbering competitive instincts. Now, nothing less than full committment and grit gets this team through mid-May with anything better than a .500 record. Now, Foulke and Embree and Mantei (cripes, throw a strike, will you) and Clement, et al can't give away a game knowing that Schilling will pick them up tomorrow. Now, Terry Francona has to manage as if the games in April and May matter, because they do. Now, blowing a 5-run lead at home to the motherfucking Orioles isn't something to be shrugged off under the 'it's a long season' rubric, goddammit. And one more thing. Mark Bellhorn, you bat-holding ninny, if I watch you look at another meatball down Main Street for strike 3 with runners on 2nd and 3rd, I will not be responsible for my actions.

Ahhh. That felt good. Make me a genius, boys.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Lost Weekend

Games 17 through 19 - Red Sox

Devil Rays 5, Red Sox 4
Devil Rays 6, Red Sox 5
Red Sox 11, Devil Rays 3

Record: 11-8

You'd think that 15 hours in a cargo van in a span of 36 hours would afford a body enough free mindspace to get some clarity on the first 3 weeks of the baseball season. And it should have, but instead, I spent most of those 15 hours trying to find a radio station broadcasting anything but Creed, Kenny Chesney, or This Week in God.

Just as well, I guess, as I've taken an early detour into my can't-figure-these-guys-out phase of the season. I've been here at various points in each of the 2 seasons we've chronicled the Sox and Mets, but it usually takes me half a season or so to get there. In the past 2 seasons, I've been cautiously optimistic - but really uncertain - early, then drifted into ennui before the team found a spark and made a run.

This year's got a different sort of feeling. I know this team is good, and they've even acted like it on several occasions. They've been in nearly every game thus far, wearing out opposing closers even in losing efforts. Unlike the last 2 seasons, though, they seem completely aware of how good they are, and their sense of urgency suffers as a result. They've shown the ability to come back time and again, so their heart isn't in question - just their motivation. It's almost as if they expect - they know - that they can come back at any point in any game, so what's the big deal. Well, nothing really, until an Alan Embree meatball becomes a massive walk-off blast by Eduardo Perez, or Curt Schilling's 3rd rehab start turns into a blown lead and another loss. Extrapolate that over a season - hey, we're idiots, 11-8 can turn into 24-12 in 4 weeks, so why are you wasting your time worrying in your little blog?

Problem is, left unchecked, that sort of confidence bordering on hubris becomes a tortoise and hare problem. Teams like the White Sox and the Orioles get on enough of an early roll that they get confident, which breeds more confidence, and the Sox piss away a few more 1-run games because - hey, we're good, we can turn it on anytime we want, and all of a sudden it's September and the Sox are fighting for their playoff lives. And a team as good as these Sox should be spending September shoring up their playoff rotation.

Not for nothing, the Sox showed some spark, getting their backs up on Sunday after an exchange of beanballs with the Rays. Though they led 5-2 heading into the 7th inning, I had a baaad feeling that they were preparing to gack another one to the Rays and usher in my first real blognutty of the year in the wake of a sweep. The Rays picked the wrong time to feel froggy, and jumped right into the wrong end of a 6-run beatdown. Almost reminiscent of the Sox' season-turning 11-10 win on July 24, 2004. Almost.

Not for nothing, too, the fact that my blogging has kept pace with the Sox thus far - perfunctory, steady, and just nothing much else. World Series hangover? Perhaps. Adjusting to the full immersion of the Extra Innings package? Doubtful, but I'm reaching for excuses. Relying on Whitney to carry the load, as the Mets' season promises to at least be more interesting than that of the Sox? Hey, now we're on to something. Here's hoping that NOLA didn't take too much out of my colleague.

As for the Sox, it could be worse, I guess. I could be a Yankee fan.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Blankety Blanks

Games 15 & 16 - Red Sox

Red Sox 8, Baltimore Orioles 0
Red Sox 1, Orioles 0
Record: 10-6

We were about 30 minutes away from going on an early-season 5-day no-posting streak, as my afternoon is shaping up as a disaster and my weekend will be spent exploring I-95 between D.C. and South of the Border, while Whitney's already 2 Hurricanes deep at Pat O'Brien's. Lucky for you, gentle reader, I'm capable of cranking out paragraphs of barely cogent thoughts in a matter of minutes.

The Sox dropped double bagels on the Sons of Peter Angelos, which has my cockles all a-warmed. As those of you that are paying attention may recall, the Orioles have been a thorn in the Sox' side over the past 2 years, while rolling over obediently to their masters from the Bronx. It's early, but we're on pace for an overdue reversal of those trends in 2005. The O's have taken 5 of 6 from the Yankees, while dropping their first 2 to Boston. Last year, the O's single-handedly kept the Sox from winning the AL East - it'd be nice to actually get something of value from Peter the Greek in 2005.

Appears that the rumors of David Wells' demise, and the cringing induced by Matt Clement's mound presence were, um, slightly overblown. You'd think that after watching baseball for 30-some years, I'd learn to stop extrapolating truths from a single game, or even a handful of games. Good to see that the Sox' championship has added a modicum of rationality to my fandom.

Peter Gammons waxed breathlessly about Jason Varitek's influence on Clement during this morning's Mike & Mike show, claiming that the Sox catcher has completely changed Clement's mental approach. 4 games doesn't necessarily make a trend, but 2-0, 2.13 is a nice starting point. If Clement keeps this up, and if Varitek is truly the reason, the contracts both batterymates signed in the off-season will be bargains.

Old friend Nomar Garciaparra suffered a gruesome injury to his man region this week. I'll always hold a place in my personal athletic pantheon for Nomar, but his injury record over the past several years really raises the ugly issue of performance enhancement. I'd prefer to believe that he's clean and always has been, but my eyebrows are certainly raised.

On behalf of Whitney, I'll add the following: Pedro Martinez is a freaking stud.

Nothing more from here until Monday. Try to find something to do with your hands.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I'm taking my first vacation of the season, just a few weeks into it. I'm headed to New Orleans tomorrow morning for three days of music, sun, and hard livin'. Two years ago when I made the same trip, the Mets were already mired in last place, and it was a nice break. Not so this time around, when they're showing significantly more spark. A quick rematch of Heilman/Beckett and Martinez/Leiter followed by three against the Nats at Shea. (Here's betting I have a better chance of catching some Nationals action on the tube in Louisiana than in DC.)

7-7, one game out, technically in last place. I want to have double-digit wins by the time I return. You hear me??? (Just in case my harassment worked last night.)

Rob, man the fort until the end of the weekend. With the O's and D-Rays on the slate for the Sox, you should have plenty of incentive to recap.

'Tis Better to Have Led and Lost...

Game 14 - Red Sox

Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3
Record: 8-6

Short and sweet this afternoon, as the demands of the real world intrude.

The Sox, by all rights, should have been out of last night's game early. Roy Halladay was dealing, with the notable exception of one curveball that caught too much plate, then caught the Mass Pike after stopping for a split second on the fat part of Manny Ramirez' bat. Bronson Arroyo was allowing multiple baserunners every inning - almost like he was bored with bases empty situations - then slamming the door on the Jays.

The Sox, by all rights, should have won last night's game going away. After Halladay became human in the bottom of the 7th, and David Ortiz drilled one to the cheap seats, the Sox led 3-1. Arroyo finished with 7 solid innings - throwing 73 strikes in 100 pitches. Alan Embree, theretofore stellar on the season, came in to get the Sox through the 8th.

The Sox, by all objective evaluation, gacked the ever-lovin' hell out of last night's game. Embree allowed the first 2 batters he faced to score, then Keith Foulke presided over a messy 9th inning that should have yielded more for the Jays than 1 run. (Sidenote: I'm going to have an aneurysm the next time a Sox pitcher does something stupid with an 0-2 count - in Foulke's case, he hit Frank Catalanotto with a slider with 1 out, nobody on.) In between, Jay Payton had to bat with runners on and 2 out in the bottom of the 8th because Terry Francona took out Manny Ramirez for defensive purposes after the Sox took the 3-1 lead. Dumb, and noted as such by Jerry Remy - even before it came back to haunt the Sox. New rule: No defensive substitutions for the game's hottest hitter until the final inning, unless the Sox lead by more than a touchdown. And, yes, I stole that gimmick from Bill Mahar. Sue me.

All in all, a terribly unsatisfying effort by the Sox in almost every aspect of the game. Here's hoping they take it out on Peter Angelos' boys over the next several days.

Alrighty Then

Game 14 - Mets

Mets 16, Phillies 4
Record: 7-7

You're welcome. Any time.

Okay, maybe my outburst didn't have anything to do with the Mets' record-setting night of seven HR's and 16 runs against the Phillies. Maybe it had more to do with the softball field they call a stadium up there, where flicks, pops, and flairs reach the seats. Maybe it had something to do with Vicente Padilla's rocky first start of the season and some scuffling middle relief. Maybe it was more about some contagious offense and some good hitters shaking off a recent bad stretch. Maybe, just maybe these games inevitably happen over the course of a season, and it has nothing to do with what some doofus with an Internet connection types about his team.

Or maybe not. All I know is that you Mets fans who scoffed at my inane ramblings yesterday, wondering what happened to the last vestiges of sensibility and cohesion at MLC -- you want me off the wall, you need me off the wall. You're welcome. Any time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Conspiracy Update

Caught last night's Marlins/Nationals game on ESPN. Though the crowd was substantially smaller than Friday's - by more than 15,000 fans - the crowd noise was noticeably more audible and crisp. ESPN: lively Washingtonians reveling in the joy of having a baseball team. MASN: dead crowd.

I'm not kidding about this.

Ok, not much.

Reality in the Rear-View

Game 13 - Mets

Phillies 5, Mets 4
Record: 6-7

While I appreciate the praise my colleague has issued in lieu of philosophical musings of his suddenly surging Sox, I need pressure to write like I need (another) hole in my argument. As it turns out, I don't think we're looking at any "comedic gold" today, just some gilded stuff today from your favorite comedic gelding.

According to the team, Kris Benson got a little action on the side yesterday, which should please his teammates.

Now on to the serious stuff. The Mets are back in sole possession of last place in the National League East once again. Feels like home, doesn't it?

They're on the verge of another streak, and it's just wearing me out. All of this streaking is giving the fans whiplash, as I used to say in college. Now, it's well documented, especially on this site (in the form we title "Blather. Rinse. Repeat."), that to put too much energy into the innumerable highs and lows of a season will quickly and surely drive you mad. I've spouted a thousand times about the necessity of maintaining an even-keeled approach to the Mets' season, one in which the jagged peaks and valleys look like my polygraph when I talk about my minor in English, and yet the damnable Mets won't permit it. Losing five in a row to start a season is wretched, and their doing so cast a pall that had even the lobotomized Buddhists on Valium in the Township freaking out a little. (You'd be surprised.) Then they stormed right back with six impressive wins, earned the label "the hottest team in baseball" from the national media, and presented the image of a squad that, while unable to boast a surplus of pure talent, is more promising and thoroughly solid than we'd figured. They seemed to be meshing as a unit well beyond the number of games they'd logged together. They were finding new and creative ways to win, whereas the Mets of yesteryear were the innovative losers. A strangely positive vibe infiltrated even the most fatalistic of fans. In short, the Mets made it pretty damn hard not to get fired up.


At this point, the Mets Township Balloon of Enthusiasm (okay, this post is starting to read like Pink Floyd lyrics) is slightly deflated, down from the full-blown vigor of last week. Two more losses could induce a shriveling effect that rivals airings of The Crying Game at Polar Bear Club functions. The return to earth for me is more sobering for me than most (figuratively, natch), but it was a pretty quick trip for my mates in the Mets blogosphere. It's apparent that they have a more suitable mentality for this journey. Kaley at Flushing Local seems to have it, writing of "stark realism" and how 81-81 is still the most likely destination for this team. (How I got strong-armed into wagering on 85 wins remains a mystery.) Meanwhile, Joe at the Pancake House makes some very good points about some very bad trends that bode ill for the boys in royal blue and blaze orange. Tempered optimism or pessimism is the order of the day in baseball fandom, but for someone never known for mood swings, I'm somehow bipolar in my rooting for this team. Such a rookie demeanor -- everyone knows that the baseball season is a long and bumpy road. In fact, it's a lot like the dart game Bumpy Road, where the running gag is mock overenthusiasm over early success or failings. It's a bumpy, bumpy road . . .

A grizzled veteran Mets fan like myself has seen this all a thousand times by now. Is it that the Mets' shoddy play leads me to drink, which leads me to forget? (Blacking out means never having to say you're sorry.) I don't think so. Rationally, I am right there stride for stride with the rest of the level-headed die-hards. A man's got to know his team's limitations, Harry Callahan (a big Giants fan) once said, and I definitely do. It's just . . . it's just that . . .

It's just that the last few years of dashed hopes, ruined plans, and redundant letdowns were so ugly that by now I'm overeager for something better. It's just that dammit, the Mets should be better than this, and yet so obviously they're not. It's just that pulling for your favorite club shouldn't always be about maintaining perspective, mollifying reactions, and keeping a steady eye on the big picture. Sometimes it's okay to ignore those pesky facts, get pissed off about another itinerary limited to stays in fourth and fifth place, and try to will the team to victory with a "Come on, you bastards! Get your heads out of your asses and start playing like you mean it!"

Monday, April 18, 2005


Hey, just checked the Sitemeter stats and noted with puzzled approval that we're officially averaging over 100 visits per day. *To which I say, who the fuck are you people, and don't you have anything better to do with your time?

*Alternate ending: To which I say, thanks Mom and Dad.

** Second alternate ending: To which I say...and boy am I wearing out the refresh button on my browser.

Thanks, We'll Take It

Game 13 - Red Sox

Red Sox 12, Blue Jays 7
Record: 8-5

The Sox outlasted the Jays this afternoon, winning the annual Patriots Day game in somewhat ugly fashion, giving up 17 hits, committing 2 errors, and trying hard to squander a 9-1 lead.

In truth, the Jays never had a chance in this one. Toronto had to travel from Texas yesterday after their game against the Rangers, and then get to Fenway at an ungodly time this morning to prepare for an 11:05 am start. Bud Selig just keeps giving and giving to John Henry and his merry band. Thanks, again, Bud. Can you do something about the audio on Nationals' telecasts?

Heckuva tradition, Patriots Day. Where else can you tie one on before lunch in a socially acceptable manner, then wander out into a crush of sweaty, also-drunken humanity just in time to watch the Boston Marathon come through Kenmore Square?

Curt Schilling struck out 10 today, which is the good news. He also needed 118 pitches to do so, and only lasted 5 innings. The bats certainly picked him up, notably Messrs. Ramirez (2 more homers), Nixon, and Damon.

In the spirit of Schilling's abbreviated outing, I'm done with this entry. Didn't see the game, barely had a chance to follow it online, and have nothing even remotely interesting to say about it. All you Metbloggers that seem to be flooding this site should be happy - less Sox stuff for you to have to wade through to get to Whitney's comedic gold.

Nothing to See Here, People

Game 12 - Mets

Marlins 5, Mets 2
Record: 6-6

So endeth the streak. After six games of improved play, fortuitous unfoldings, and timely rallies, the Mets came out and laid the egg this farmer had been expecting to drop for several days. Nothing horrible to undo the striking turnaround, mind you, just a quick reminder of the looming potholes in the road ahead.

Tom Glavine re-established himself as the least liked teammate, if you judge it by the continued amount of run support and defense behind him. The hitting, which in recent days had been clutch but never white-hot, was mostly absent. The sweet spots of bat and ball crossed paths but once, on a Victor "Buenas" Diaz home run. This dearth was largely due to A.J. Burnett's sheer dominance; of course, it's an unpleasant coincidence that the Mets traded Burnett for Al Leiter once upon a time. Still, at no point was I openly frustrated with the Metmen. They'd simply built up too much good will in the week prior. Boy, that's weird to type.

The Mets won this series, evening not only their overall record but their series record. They prolonged the odd pattern of a weekly losses-wins-losses seesaw, but a quick win tonight in Philly will stop that nonsense. The Phils have been staging their own rendition of the late-inning heroics -- coupled with opponents' futility -- over the last couple of days. (Always nice to see the Braves implode, if only for a game or two.) It will be interesting to see which direction the Mets head now that their momentum was halted. They're at 6-6, alongside four other teams in the NL East; they all trail your Washington Nationals by two games, which just reinforces the notion that this season is just plain stupid so far.

The Mets could have lost in a handful of ways that would have deteriorated the promising progress they made last week. Another closer collapse, a Glavine disaster, a hideous drubbing, or a Burnett record-setter, anything that would have the press declaring last week a flukey exception to Week 1's standard of Mets suckitude. Didn't happen, though, and it was merely a harmless, inevitable dip in a long ride. We'll have plenty of time to lament the lingering problems here. Just not today.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

Games 11 & 12 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Devil Rays 2
Red Sox 3, Devil Rays 1
Record: 7-5

As my weekend draws to a close and I bang away at the keyboard to the dulcet tones of Jon Miller (and the grating inanity of Joe Morgan, but I'm in a good mood, so we'll let that go), I sit here and wonder how I ever called myself a baseball fan before this weekend. Indulgence, thy name is MLB Extra Innings.

By my count, I saw significant parts of 12 different games over the past 2 days (Rays/Sox - twice, Yankees/O's - twice, Marlins/Mets, D-Backs/Nationals, Angels/A's - twice, Braves/Phils, Giants/Rockies, Cardinals/Brewers, Dodgers/Padres), without even trying hard. I accomplished this without being a complete couch potato, squeezing all that hardball action in amongst spending significant time working on the yard and attending a local music and art festival with the family. Extra Innings might well be the greatest thing that's ever happened to me.

The package also allowed me to uncover a shocking conspiracy. I was flipping between Saturday night's Sox/Rays game and D-Backs/Nationals contest from RFK Stadium in D.C. The crowd noise in Fenway, even during lulls in the action, was clearly audible, and painted an aural picture of an engaged, excited fanbase. In D.C, though, the noise in the stadium - even in the midst of a 7-run inning - was so muffled as to create the impression that the Nationals' fans were asleep. The Nats' game was aired by the newly created Mid Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). MASN is owned by...wait for it...Peter Angelos. The same Peter Angelos who has significant motive for portraying Nationals games as boring, lifeless affairs. And if you think Angelos is above a sleazy trick like filtering crowd noise to take away from the atmosphere in Washington...well, I'm very sorry to break this to you, Mr. Selig.

All that said, I purchased the package to watch Sox games, and I saw all of both of this weekend's contests against the Rays. Forget the action on the field: I had no idea that Jerry Remy was this good. During the pre-game on Saturday night, Remy isolated Manny Ramirez' last at-bat from Friday's game, predicting that the Sox' slugger would break out of his early-season slump because of the balance he demonstrated in singling against Casey Fossum. 4 innings later, Remy looked prescient in the wake of Manny's 6 RBI on 2 no-doubt rockets over the Monster. The former Sox second-sacker is droll, knowledgeable, and appropriately biased (read: a Sox fan but not afraid to point out their failings). I'm looking very much forward to spending the summer with the Remdog.

Another non-game-related note: Devil Ray infielder Jorge Cantu tucks his ears under his cap. It's the damnedest thing I've seen in a long time. Is he a Vulcan? How do they measure his cap size - do they wrap the tape around his ears, too? Does anyone else do this, or is he the bleeding edge of a trend that'll show up on teenagers in my neighborhood by July? And if so, am I being just an old dick if I laugh at them for this, too? Cantu ends the same way as Nosferatu - is he perhaps a vampire, and if so, are they bat ears?

Matt Clement was effective on Saturday night, and Tim Wakefield continued his scorching start this afternoon. And the similarities between the two of the are the only thing that has me second-guessing the Extra Innings purchase. I've pretty much guaranteed myself of extreme levels of nervous agita 40% of the time when I turn on a Sox game for the next 6 months. Clement is Wake-lite - capable of making batters look silly nearly every time out, and capable of walking every single man he faces and grooving 0-2, 2-out meatballs to start opposing rallies (hello, Jorge Cantu, you weird-eared freakshow) with annoying regularity.

The rest of the Sox are firing on all cylinders at the moment, hitting the ball hard and often, fielding as well as I can remember a Sox team fielding (recall, if you will, that this team committed 8 errors in the first 2 games of the World Series), and getting solid pitching from everyone on the staff. Edgar Renteria's had some key hits, Manny's bat woke up in a big way this weekend, Mark Bellhorn took a break from striking out to get a few big knocks, Alan Embree's made big pitches when he's been called upon (which, frankly has been just about every game), and even Jay Payton's driven in 6 runs already this season. 4-game winning streaks cure just about all ills.

And 4-game winning streaks on the same day that I get to hear Vin Scully (!) call a Dodger game are simply sublime.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

Game 11 - Mets

Mets 4, Marlins 3
Record: 6-5

The Mets won't be a presence in the National League relying solely on Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran, but once again we saw how integral those two high-profile acquisitions will be to the Mets' success. Meanwhile, if the names that don't draw much ink outside these parts continue to come up big -- almost taking turns game to game -- well, look out. It's incredible to watch this team, one week removed from being unilaterally labeled the "same old Mets," playing utterly as a unit, picking each other up in key spots, and excelling in the clutch -- generally, the antithesis of what we'd come to know from their recent predecessors. We're not even 10% of the way through this adventure, so it's important to be able to differentiate "look like" from "are," but dammit, the New York Mets look like a real baseball team. If they can manage simply to keep me believing that statement for the remainder of the season, we may see what remaining "Misery" there is around here fade quietly into the night.

I know. Lotta ball left. Stay on target.

Backup catcher Ramon Castro provided the highlight today, knocking in the increasingly valuable Victor Diaz from second with a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth. It should be noted that the starting catcher -- and a guy who's caught more crap than balls in the dirt of late, most recently by my newly linked up cohort -- came through with the second huge RBI double in as many games since I openly pleaded for his "reputation reclamation." There can be a great number of defensive failings we'll look the other way on when he's drilling balls off and over the wall with the game on the line.

The Pedro vs. Al tête-à-tête delivered as promised, mostly, with a Martinez's only damage being Piazza-aided and Leiter looking as solid at Shea as he ever did. Just a word on Al Leiter -- I dig the guy and wouldn't wish him ill except as a rival, but I've already heard a few mentions of the suggestion that right about now the Mets are ruing the decision not to bring back Big Al for another years at $7M+. It's just not so. When the Mets turned their back on Leiter's seven years of service, they were saying "nothing personal, just business," but they weren't saying he's a bad pitcher. This (7IP, 1ER, 3H, 2BB, 4K) they knew he could do. For seven innings in April and maybe May. And six in June. And five in July. And probably not at all in August. Look at the avalanche that was last year. The first few months played like a highlight film, while the last few like a Jerry Bruckheimer film. Again, Al Leiter will surely help this Marlin team with his pitching and his leadership, but we saw today that Florida's biggest weakness, like the Mets', might be its bullpen. If Al Leiter were an 8- or 9-inning starter, which his age and his pitching style preclude almost completely, this game's result likely would have been very different. The Mets simply decided for that price they'd be better served looking at younger talent that might go deeper into games. Someone like, oh, Aaron Heilman, for example. (Two days ago my point wouldn't have had nearly that kind of fuel.)

I just caught the talking heads (including Steve Phillips) at Baseball Tonight spending five minutes breaking down a play from today's game by Doug Mientkiewicz to throw out a runner at home, and why a left-handed first-baseman has a natural advantage over a righty. Two things wrong with it: (1) Doug is right-handed and still made a fine play, so why'd they show that clip? (2) They highlighted that play but failed to mention that the runner was, very clearly to all who saw it at any speed from any distance at any angle, blatantly safe. Another game-changing flub by the man in blue, but such in-depth analysis missed it.

The Mets caught a big break there, but they were on the short end of some unlucky bounces earlier. In the fourth inning, with Miguel Cairo (yet another one of the lesser-known keys) on second, Beltran laced one off 3B Mike Lowell's glove. The ball bounded toward the stands and seemingly would have landed in them, with Cairo plated and Beltran ground-rule doubling, were it not for a teenage girl with a baseball glove and Kaz Matsui's eye-glove coordination. By reaching over the needlessly short wall and thunking the ball, the young lady ensured that Cairo would remain at third and, more significantly, Beltran at first where Piazza could double him up. It's just another instance of the only major sport where the spectators can have a hand -- literally -- in the outcome of the game, and that's not one of the many unique things that make baseball great. Andy Van Slyke used to joke that the home fans catching or dropping foul balls and home runs should be counted somehow in the game. He was kidding, people.

Another unfortunate bounce arrived when Piazza's late-inning wallop one-hopped over the wall in left-center. Beltran (I am relishing typing his name ten times a post) would clearly have scored from first with two outs, but he had to hold at third because of the ground rule. The run he didn't score would have given Braden Looper a cushion even he might not have botched.

Ah, what to say about Looper? He was lousy for the second time in three tries in this embryonic season. More than simply not getting it done -- today, despite getting some help on that horrible call at the plate -- Braden Looper has looked unimpressive. Closers -- the good ones -- instill, if not fear, something uncomfortable in the batters he faces, and not a Marlin seemed uncomfortable today. Not uncomfortable, not confused, not worried, and certainly not afraid. It may not be time to retool the position yet, but I'd just like to see opposing batsmen not look like they're taking BP off Looper, both in the result and their batter's box demeanor.

In the meantime, notch another losable win for the Metropolitans. The top row of the April calendar was all losses, while the second week was all wins. Tomorrow begins Week 3. Let's break the pattern and keep this streak rolling.

How the Other Half Lives

Game 10 - Red Sox

Red Sox 10, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 0
Record: 5-5

There was a consensus that the Sox would probably take a breather last night after playing 6 of the first 9 games against the Yankees. The same grizzled scribe postulated in this space that David Wells may be an old, fat, expensive mistake. The lesson, as always, is that I'm an idiot. And that David Ortiz is a big, strong man.

As of this morning, though, I'm an idiot with the MLB Extra Innings package. Last night's game is the last one that I'll not be able to catch from the comfort of my living room. I can't tell you how thrilled my wife is about this development. I'm trying to argue that it's better than me going out and chasing other women, but a) she knows that I'm too lazy to talk to other women, and b) that even if I weren't too lazy, no other woman in her right mind would give me the time of day. Yessir, my wife is one lucky lady. Good thing for her I'm rich. Er, funny.

Moving right along. I'm using my newfound satellite TV powers for good, taking in the Mets/Marlins matchup from Shea, with Pedro against Al Leiter. You think that Pedro might have reconsidered his offseason decision if he'd known that Mike Piazza would be "catching" him every 5th day? I've read Whit's descriptions of Piazza for some time now, but I just had no idea. Pedro's only given up 3 hits through 7 innings, but 2 of those guys came around to score as a direct result of Piazza's inability to a) block balls in the dirt and b) throw out runners. The DH was invented to keep guys like Piazza off the field. I bet Pedro dreams of Jason Varitek's soft hands when he closes his eyes at night.

Sox/Rays at 7:05 from Fenway, with Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo calling the action - not Rick Sutcliffe and Chris Berman. Better kiss the kids this afternoon, because I may not see much of them until October.

Friday, April 15, 2005

. . . And I Didn't Even See It Coming!

Game 10 - Mets

Mets 4, Marlins 0
Record: 5-5

I've been to Amsterdam, New Amsterdam, and Framingham, Iceland twice, Hong Kong and Hungary, two Mardi Gras, a Preakness, and seen goats drink beer in the marketplace, but I ain't never seen no shit like this.

Other than the bastardization of a rustic colloquialism, I've got little to say about tonight's win. I'm too stunned. To all the people who saw Aaron Heilman's one-hit shutout against the Marlins coming, I simply say, "Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Heilman. You must be proud." Honestly, six hours ago every look at this match-up was a wince. Somehow, someway, Heilman came out and blew the Marlins away, just one annoying Luis Castillo infield single away from the first Mets' no-no ever. Uh . . . wow.

One nice side note was Met-snubber Carlos Delgado botching one grounder twice, first in his effort to field it and then in flinging the ball into short right field. The play quickly resulted in two runs, thanks to a Mike Piazza double. (Please let that be the beginning of Lazarus-like slap in all of our dubious mugs.) That Plan B Dougie Mientkiewicz not only has shined with the glove thus far this season but also drove in run #1 while Delgado took the oh-fer is pure gravy.

A sage philosopher once said, "Sometimes intangibles make the statistics and their proponents look silly." It was more than number-crunching that cast doubt on the Mets' chances tonight, but it all went right out the window. It's almost unfortunate that all signs point to tomorrow's game as should-win, because not much has gone down according to any logic of late. Still, right now you can't say enough about the confidence with which the lads are playing, and after five wins in a row, the Mets are making more than the statheads look silly.


The Mets square off against the Florida Marlins this weekend in an early season match-up against an NL East opponent who's looked great out of the gate except in record. The Mets sit at 4-5, a game and a half behind the division-leading Washington Nationals. In case that never gets typed again this year, let me repeat the exercise: the division-leading Washington Nationals. Oddly, the Marlins are a mere half-game better than the Metros, despite having scored 44 runs and allowed a paltry 15 (!) in their nine contests. (The Mets have scored 35 and allowed 39.) Those numbers don't seem to make any sense; the Marlins should be 8-1, but they're squatting at 5-4. All of which is to say that despite's voluminous dissertations to the contrary, quite often the numbers don't mean much.

Not ragging on -- it's an awesome amalga-blog that serves the Mets blogosphere very well. For the unfamiliar, it's a Mets blogging supergroup of eight guys who'd been formerly associated with their own separate Mets sites but joined forces in sort of a Justice League of America kind of way. The result is one of the most complete and definitive places to land when jonesing for something Mets-related. Their complete list of every player in the Mets' organization is beyond handy.

The nature of supergroups, as least in the music business, is usually transitory, but it's in the best interest of us readers if the guys at hold it together longer than, say, Blind Faith did. They've already surpassed Temple of the Dog in quantity, the Power Station in quality (let alone Arcadia), and they're on pace to outlive Cream, Asia, and the Traveling Wilburys. Who knows -- they could be the next Crosby, Stills & Nash. In fact, and I'm not saying you should do this at work, but if you sing Andrew Hintz's fine preview of the Mets-Marlins weekend matchup in David Crosby's high-pitched lilt, the prospect of losing two of three becomes imminently more pleasant.

Tomorrow's showdown between new and old (Pedro Martinez vs. Al Leiter) has me really excited. (Tonight's lopsided affair between Aaron Heilman and Josh Beckett, however, does not.) Will Senator Al get booed at Shea? I wouldn't bet against it. It's really too bad; he was one of my favorites for a long while, but we're a fickle bunch, and he's the enemy now. Not to mention he made periodic PR gaffes before he defected and some open-handed slags since. On our side of the match-up -- besides age and recent performance -- is that Leiter's daytime ERA in recent memory is about a run and a half higher than his nighttime ERA. (1:00 EST start time.) Unfortunately, the motivation factor is on his side, and sometimes, like in the case of the Marlins' record, intangibles make the statistics and their proponents look silly.

A Momentary Diversion

Game 9 - Red Sox/Home Game 1 - Nationals

Red Sox 8, Yankees 5
Record: 4-5

Washington Baseball Fans 1, Peter Angelos 0

As Whit noted below, I attended the Washington Nationals' franchise home opener with 45,000 of the giddiest sports fans in history last night. After coming home to see SportsCenter, I'm inclined to believe that the best thing about the evening was the fact that I got to miss the latest teacup-contained tempest in the increasingly farcical Sox/Yanks rivalry. And after listening to ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike bludgeon the dead equine this morning, I'm even more convinced that I'm glad I missed the live broadcast.

Just a moment more on the Sox before dealing with the hometown Nats. Chris Berman got it right last night (don't act so surprised - even Mario Mendoza was successful 20% of the time) when he noted that the Sox and Yankees can now exhale deeply and get on with their seasons. The Sox needed to win last night, and they did - in an apparently gutty manner. I'd not be terribly shocked to see them gack one tonight against the Devil Rays, simply because they're emotionally drained.

As for my experience last night, it was one of the great thrills of my spectating life. Not because the game was particularly great - though it was entertaining, nor because I'm a big Nationals fan. No, it was unique because the crowd wore its emotion openly and honestly - real, heartfelt, joyous emotion. The 4 seats in front of me were filled by middle-aged gentlemen - maybe 52-55 - one of whom wore a tattered satin Senators jacket. They giggled and yelled and carried on like - well, like the 19 year-olds they were when they last saw professional baseball in that stadium. Their joy at having a team to call their own once again overcame the learned moderation and fear of embarrassment that we all carry. Powerful stuff, this baseball, and a fundamental rebuke to those in Baltimore that decried D.C. as a non-baseball town.

Among the many highlights, some of which I'll surely forget:

  • As the strains of the 'Field of Dreams' soundtrack issued from the (very loud and very tinny) stadium speakers, 8 former Senators walked from the dugout to assume the positions they manned 4 decades prior. From Frank Howard to Roy Sievers to Dick Bosman and the others, as they strode to scenes of their former glory, their once-youthful gaits replaced by age-worn and purposeful strides, the dust started kicking up inside the seating bowl. Then the new Nats bounded from the dugout, sprinting along the same paths just carefully carved by their predecessors. 8 hugs ensued as the old Senators passed the torch to the new generation, and if 45,000 people could smile a single smile, it happened at that moment. One of the classiest and most pitch-perfect displays of sentiment I've witnessed.
  • President Bush strode from the dugout purposefully, walked directly to the pitcher's mound, toed the rubber, took a real windup, and fired a seed the full 60'6" (from his right hand, natch). Though I don't often (ever?) see eye-to-eye with the Commander-in-Chief, there's something reassuring about the fact that our President probably has the best throwing arm of any world leader. I bet Tony Blair throws like a girl. And I'm not sure, but I think that Hillary Clinton actually is a girl.
  • The RFK fans had the old stadium rocking once again. And if you've never been to RFK, I'm not using that as a metaphor. The seats at RFK literally bounce up and down when the crowd gets animated. I'd experienced the phenomenon several times at Redskins games, but I'd completely forgotten about it. When Vinny Castilla's 4th inning triple plated the game's first 2 runs, the lower bowl was kicking and bucking like Whitney's stomach after 2 Giovanelli's cheesesteak and egg sandwiches. Tom Boswell reported in this morning's Washington Post that Nationals' President Tony Taveras - who'd never experienced the RFK Sway - said, "Holy Shit!" when it first happened. Cool moment.
  • The crowd was completely into the game, and highly knowledgeable - despite the Baltimore Blowhard's contrary opinion. (Sidenote: I saw literally dozens of TV cameras while waiting outside the stadium to meet my colleagues. I was hoping to be asked for a comment, because I'd prepared a cutting monologue on Peter Angelos, which was certain to be my springboard to an analyst position on Baseball Tonight. Alas - not to be. Tim Kurkjian already fills the role of elfin baseball junkie, anyway.) For example, there was very little alarmist din on routine flyballs (something that bothers the ever-lovin' shit out of me about Camden Yards). When Vinny Castilla was thwarted in his attempt to complete a cycle (he'd already doubled, tripled, and homered) by an errant Lance Cormier fastball, the crowd knew it, and made sure that Cormier knew it, too.
  • When Chad Cordero induced Tony Clark to fly softly to center (again, natch) to end the game, the crowd reacted as if the Nats had won the World Series. I may have been in louder sports arenas, but not many. It was among the happiest roars I've heard.

And that's what I'll take away from the first home game in Nationals' franchise history - the unmitigated sense of glee from the fandom. Sure, it wasn't perfect - there were long lines to get in due to Secret Service inspections, the scoreboard didn't always work very well, the concessions stands ran out of stuff - but the fans, the baseball fans of Washington D.C., ignored all of the glitches and poured their emotion out to each other and to this band of young men in whom they've now invested their hopes. I was thrilled for the players, who must think they've died and gone to heaven after their erstwhile peripatetic existence. And I was thrilled for the 4 guys in front of me, who shouldn't have had to wait 34 years to have that kind of fun. And a little part of me laughed and laughed at the mental image of a miserly, dessicated old gasbag 40 miles up the road, for whom this day must not have been much fun.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Small-Ball, Big Win

Game 9 - Mets

Mets 4, Astros 3
Record: 4-5

Okay, so I panicked [below] when Willie Randolph opted to use Manny "Aybarf a little bit every time he comes in" in the 8th. As it turns out, Aybar was unspectacular but did just enough to leave the reins in Roberto Hernandez's steady palms without the carriage careening off the road. Roberto finished the 8th as if to say, "I'm not sure what the big deal was here." Braden Looper did the rest, assuaging a fair number of fears still kicking around from the season opener.

And the Mets swept the Astros. Just like that.

Victor Zambrano looked exactly like a typical 5th starter does; unfortunately, he's currently in the 4-spot. He didn't go out and give it away, but he did enough wrong that the Metbats had to come through for him. Down 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Zambrano came to bat with one out and a man on third. He flailed. The very next inning, Zambrano faced the Astros pitcher, Brandon Backe (who'd already tripled and scored), with a man on third. At that moment, the not-quite-venerable Fran Healy [***I promise to cease defending this man if the masses let up on him***] implored Zambrano not to simply throw fastballs as if Backe were a lousy hitting pitcher like himself. (For a former infielder, V-Zam hits like a former pitcher.) Naturally, Monsignor Healy was ignored, none of the requested sliders were hurled, and Backe smacked a laser into right-center for an RBI to make it 3-1.

Soon thereafter, about the time I was groaning about another Jose "A Swinging Bat Gathers No Moss" Reyes whiff, they announced that the two relievers warming up were John "BS Only Partly Stands for Blown Save" Franco and Dan "Give 'Em L" Wheeler. Surf & turf on the Met menu, I concluded. The reality was that Franco induced dribblers from both batters he faced, and Wheeler got a grounder to third. The result, however, was that they entered up two runs and exited down one. Marlon Anderson, Reyes, and Miguel Cairo eked out just enough with their weapons to score three runs. The announcers kept referring to "little-ball," but I always heard it called "small-ball." Doesn't really matter what it's called, it's the Anti-Art Howe strategy, it's fun to watch, and it's working for now.

It is getting weird how the ex-Mets seem to crumble when they face their old squad. Memo to Omar: please trade Manny Aybar to Atlanta and Felix Heredia to Florida. Pronto.

Three quick (pseudo-)parting thoughts:
1. The bench seemed fungo-thin at the season's outset, but they all seem to be contributing. Cairo, Chris Woodward, and the ever-producing Marlon Anderson made a difference tonight in their own quiet ways. I'm a fan.
2. Mike Piazza, oh, Mike Piazza. It's just all falling apart. His work behind the dish is going from bad to worse, or from worse to holy mother of mackerel. Another throw into center to advance a future run-scorer tonight, plus some mightily awful swings. I have my fingers crossed for an unlikely reputation reclamation. I hope I'll be able to see it with my head in the sand like this.
3. Pedro vs. Al Leiter on Saturday. Yikes.

* * *

To Rob, the Nation, and especially the masters of overstatement at ESPN: the Sheffield incident tonight is not an incident. Nothing worth watching in replay form happened. Steve Levy just made a comparison to the Pacers/Pistons disaster, which in my mind is the saddest attempt to draw viewers with a non-story I've seen in years. Please stop overhyping . . . well, just about everything you air, but especially baseball games between the Boston and New York American League franchises. They are baseball games, not the Days of Our Pinstriped Lives. The perpetrator of the offense to Gary Sheffield appeared to be your typical New England Massengillian, but until MLB stops placing the onus of restraint on the fans and makes walls just high enough and seats just far enough removed so they can't interfere with balls or players, this is going to go on indefinitely. More than one park introduced new seats closer to the action this season; when these moneymaking, play-interfering additions result in a brawl or, worse yet, a line drive death, it may be time to quit celebrating proximity to 100-mph projectiles and frightened million-dollar athletes with chips on their shoulders.

Of far more interest in this game was (a) another putrid, stank home plate umpire calling balls and strikes with all of the composure of a seizure victim; (b) Terry Francona mouthing, "that is just so f-ing bad" and being run, but being right; (c) Randy Johnson looking like he'd swap all that run support for a chance to face a pitcher again; (d) Jason Varitek coming right back after the blow-up and drilling one out of the stadium. Rob was at the Nats' home opener tonight, but he would have been proud at his boys' resilience. Of note is my ever-enforced belief that one-sided screw-jobs from the ump seem to help a team find its mojo.

* * *

The Nationals opened up RFK tonight, and it was pretty amazing to watch on the tube; I'm sure my colleague has a significantly more worthy series of thoughts from the experience, so I'll just say that I'm breathing easy after bitching ad inifinitum for so many years about baseball here in DC. It's a nice place to be. Oh, and plunking Vinny Castilla when he needs a single for the cycle in this historic game? I guess along with those 100+ games they lost last year, the Diamellebacks also lost their big-league professionalism. There was no nasty rivalry to uphold here with that move, but someone's getting drilled tomorrow, and I like it.

Three great games to juggle between tonight. Worth every cent of the Extra Innings package, for you cats out there forced to watch Los Mets en Espanol.

Manny Aybar???

Really? Manny Aybar??? After all that it took -- great play and good fortune -- to get the lead, you throw Manny Ay-pitch-like-I-spent-all-afternoon-in-a-bar out there? When it was suggested that you've got to find out what the kid has, the piled-on Fran Healy countered that this April game means just as much as any September game and winning it comes first. Always. Damn right, Fran. Win this thing, Willie. Quit screwing around.


Game 8 - Red Sox

Yankees 5, Red Sox 2

Record: 3-5

The Sox were poised yesterday to shake free from the early-season doldrums that have plagued them to date. Curt Schilling taking his turn in the rotation, big crowd still pleasantly abuzz from Monday's ring ceremony, and in hard-throwing but erratic Jaret Wright exactly the kind of pitcher that the 2004 Sox chewed up and spit out as a matter of course.

Best laid plans, and all that. The Sox will look back at this one with regret. Wright was wild and hittable in the first 3 innings, and the Sox let him off the hook repeatedly, squandering opportunities for big innings in the 1st and 3rd as Wright labored. After the Yankees scored 3 in the top of the 6th against an obviously tiring Schilling, the Sox simply took a nap.

Schilling was really the only bright spot for the Sox, at least for 5 innings. He had good command, seemed to be comfortable, and -- with only a few exceptions -- made his pitches when and where he needed. The rest of the team -- feh. And that's where the first seeds of worry are beginning to find purchase.

The season is now 5% complete, with miles and miles to go before we sleep. Presumably. Except that last year's merry band of idiots have a real Rip Van Winkle vibe at this early juncture. We're not far from needing Terry Francona to recreate the Bull Durham shower scene. Lollygaggers, indeed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Few Thoughts While Verbally Abusing My Television

Game 8 - Mets

Mets 1, Astros 0 (11)
Record: 3-5

Actually getting to see a Mets game this evening . . . life is good, regardless of what happens here. In case you haven't noticed, I've been pretty into the Mets' season this far.
  • Roger Clemens could throw the ball into a dugout and get a called strike. It's the sure sign of a greenhorn sports fan to blame your woes on the fellow calling the game, but that doesn't mean said fellow is excused from his responsibility to execute the most fundamental of assigned tasks. Clemens struck out the side on five actual strikes -- even the first-base ump got in on the fun, taking the check out of a David Wright check-swing. Seriously, Enrico Pollazo seemed to take less pleasure in ringing guys up on balls way wide of the zone.
  • Roger Clemens could throw the ball in the dugout and Jose Reyes would swing. Reyes is not a rookie any more, and it's time to show at least traces of plate discipline. "Go ugly early" was great as Rob Russell's hook-up mantra sophomore year, but it's not much as the leadoff hitter's tendencies. The way he steps in the bucket every time is vaguely reminiscent of . . . deep breath . . . Roger Cedeno. Seriously, in the time it took me to type this paragraph, he struck out again.
  • Roger Clemens is still the same guy who won all those Cy Youngs. Of course, he's still the same guy who gets called "Dick" more than the vice president, but that's part of the gamer persona, I suppose. Once he realized tonight's home plate had love handles resembling his own, he got into a serious groove and just made the Mets look silly.
  • The powers that be have reduced the overall time of a baseball game . . . by trimming it down in all the wrong places. The time in between innings is nearly nil now. It's impossible to grab a beer, make a quick phone call, hit the head -- I can't even clean up the shards of beer bottle glass that mysteriously appeared on my floor after a particularly egregious strike call. Meanwhile, it's still acceptable to step out of the box after every single pitch to undo and redo your batting gloves. Why is that? If tennis players were allowed to untie and retie their tennis shoes before each serve, the four majors would intersect.
  • Just when you thought Doug & Wendy Whiner were locked up in Lorne Michaels' basement (have you noticed he won't allow the '80-'85 Lorne-less SNL years to air in syndication?), Misery Loves Company presents this special tribute to the tragically underappreciated Joe Piscopo with: "The Whiners Whine About the Umpire" skit. Not nearly as funny, but with every bit of the overlong tedium and resultant awkardness of that era of the show.
  • Marlon Anderson is the new Rusty Staub, minus 50 pounds, a restaurant, and a silly French nickname.
  • As soon as I tout him, Marlon is picked off first. Except, as the replay clearly shows, and I screamed out like a six-year-old girl in real time . . . he wasn't. That's first-base ump Gary Darling, called out by name by Keith Hernandez for the second time tonight. Keith is currently busy looking up Darling's address and phone number to post in case any irate fans would like to give him their own performance review after the game.
  • Speaking of Darling, former Met fave Ron Darling is doing color commentary for the Washington Nationals these days. Caught some of his work last night; he's still pretty raw at it, and I can't seem to get past the fact that he sounds exactly like James Woods. Darling is nicer than every character Woods has ever played put together, so it's even weirder . . . for me and only me, I'm quite sure.
  • Speaking of announcers (at MLC, it's the segue or the highway), I, for one, dig Fran Healy. Always have. I'm not sure what all those people have against him, but folks, honestly, go have a listen to a YES broadcast and see what you ears could be subjected to every night.
  • Biggio just got plunked in the forearm bone; they keep showing his arm and it's inflating and turning purple as we speak. Looper just threw over to first and made Biggio dive back in a show of "You think your pitcher's an a-hole?"
  • Looper just got squeezed on the same pitch Roberto Hernandez got squeezed on and the same pitch Clemens threw 17 times for a strike. Keith now mentions Paul Nauert (he's thisclose to actually spelling it for us), the home plate ump who is making Armando Benitez look extremly consistent.
  • Bottom of the ninth, no score, brilliant pitching and D by both teams. But the Yankees-Red Sox game is on ESPN. I have, at long last, no further comment.
  • Enter Dan Wheeler. [A dinner bell rings in the distance.]
  • The Mets win on a Jose Reyes single to plate Victor Diaz from second!
  • The Mets have won three in row in starts against Smoltz, Pettitte, and Clemens, reminding me of the competitive stretch the Mets ran last May in five games in a row against All-Star starters. No letdown tomorrow against Brandon Backe, I hope.
  • Dan Wheeler wasn't as atrocious as, well, as he was for the Mets last year when his nickname was "Lead Poisoning." He did, however, take the loss to extend the uncanny but thoroughly welcome recent pattern of ex-Mets getting abused by their former team. Wheeler, Weathers, Alfonzo, Franco and others -- pretty much everybody except for Armando Benitez, which makes me ask Rob to pass the fork.

What a good win. There were plenty of opportunities for the Mets to blow this one, but they simply didn't. It took 10+ innings to score, thanks to an "on" Roger Clemens and an "off" Paul Nauert (his information is available here thanks to Keith Hernandez), but this was a losable win in the face of those winnable losses, and that alone is reason for optimism.

Fork, Meet Eye

Does anyone at ESPN actually listen with a critical ear to any of their Major League Baseball broadcasts? It's bad enough tonight that the Sox have stranded multiple prime scoring opportunities against the Yanks, and trail 2-1 in the 5th, but my blood pressure's taken much more of a beating from Rick Sutcliffe's assault on logic. To be sure, he's ballwashed the Sox and Yanks equally - a nice departure from years past. Consider, though, this gem - delivered while Chris Berman nodded and clucked in perfect time:
  • Derek Jeter is a winner, and here's the proof: Jeter's never missed a postseason in his career, while Mickey Mantle missed 6 in 18 years, Lou Gehrig missed 7 in 17 years, and Babe Ruth missed 8 in his career. Makes sense, sure. Except for the fact that 300% more playoff spots were available to Jeter's teams every fucking year of his career. I damn well bet (I could look it up, but c'mon, that's not why you come here) that all of those legends would have compared with Jeter's stats had wild card playoff spots been available in their lifetimes. Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

And the 2-run bomb Schilling just gave up to Giambi doesn't help. Neither does that one to Bernie Williams' corpse. Fuck.

Hey! First "fuck" of the season. Guess the honeymoon's over.

Yeah, What He Said

Just a few thoughts in response to my colleague's well-aimed harangue about the major media outlets' quality control processes. The recent and growing backlash against the Red Sox stinks and it sucks and it stinks. Stinks like the Fenway Park press box after a mid-July doubleheader where baked beans, sauerkraut and sausage were served as part of a theme.

The media that built the Curse of the Bambino into a cottage industry - one they used as a built-in excuse to mail in tens of thousands of column inches over the past 30 years - is pissed that they can't take the easy way out anymore, enraged that they're forced to generate some original thoughts, and so they take it out on Red Sox Nation. The institutional laziness that's built up around covering the Red Sox now manifests itself in hackery like that linked below, faux-clever attempts to milk the last possible Curse angle. It's sad, and it's lazy, and it makes me appreciate guys like Tom Boswell and Bob Ryan all the more.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Things That Make Me Shake My Head

1. Consistently shaky bullpens.

2. Grand Marnier shots.

3. Reading this and this, likely to garner 100,000+ viewings apiece, on on April 12 after writing this on April 1, which was read by roughly 37 people. I'm definitely not saying I came up with some brilliantly original idea here, or that I put it that much better, but it just seems like those two writers didn't even try that hard here. It always humors me when I see my fellow bloggers show greater insight and cleverness than their high-profile counterparts, but when I just feel like I put more into a post on MLC than a guy writing for a headliner link on the world's largest sports website, it's as if I just gulped down a shot of GM with Manny Aybar.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Dogs and Cats, Living Together

Game 7 - Mets

Mets 8, Astros 4
Record: 2-5

As you know, Misery Loves Company is nothing if not thematic. You fondly recall "F-word Day" from last year, as well as "AWOL Week," "Typo Time," and "Drunken Post Night" at various intervals. Well, for one day only, it's "Compliment the Yankees Day" at MLC, a short-lived and probably soon-to-be-rescinded event where we speak of the Evil Empire and its hordes of minions without using terms usually reserved for human rights violators. Don't get too used to it.

Fed up with trying to follow the Mets on this new-fangled "Internet" thingy (someone explain to the scheduler of Mets games that since 1935 you can play at night), I stepped across the street from my office in hopes of watching some of the game. Naturally, I was denied. I did, however, get to see most of the Yankees/Red Sox contest described below. Not mentioned in Rob's notes was another bad error by A-Rod to extend an inning, plus a subsequent flub by Sheffield to put it nearly out of reach. A highly enjoyable second choice to watching the Mets win.

While seeing the Sox take down the Bombers, I caught ticker updates of the Mets/Astros, which we've noted before is easily the most agonizing method of "following" a baseball game. Especially this one -- the seesaw scoring had me both anxious about the outcome and annoyed that I was missing a good game. Assuaging my anxiety were seven things: six Guinnesses and Pat, the gentleman I met at the bar who represents the continuation of our theme here today. He's a die-hard Yankee fan, but somewhere during his initiation he missed the seminar on being an unmitigated douchebag. Knowledgeable and objective about baseball well beyond the Bronx, his existence really made no sense to me. Between his tales of woe from the Donnie Baseball Era, calling out Mo Rivera as an overly lionized, underperforming stiff of late, and blasting Michael Kay as the airhorn earwig of the airwaves that he is, it was almost unnerving how he dispelled my increasingly solidified belief in Yankee fans -- at least the ones outside my circle of friends -- as cretins worthy only of hollering trite vulgarities within earshot of impressionable youths. (Clearly I went to too many O's/Yankees games at Camden Yards once upon a time.) It was almost like he was human.

Pat and I enjoyed watching the game (he watched, I enjoyed) while tossing around such topics as Pete Rose, Bud Selig, Peter Angelos (three men not allowed in my kitchen), big-market payrolls, and steroids. Among the conclusions we came to were the fact that Charlie Hustle will get into the Hall of Fame about the same time he has a good hair day, that the mid-90's Yankee free agents with stats, salaries, and personalities of solid but unexciting quality will always be better than this batch of signings that break the bank but can't mesh as a unit, and that Bud Selig's legacy is somewhere between that of Richard Nixon and George Custer. (Pat's quote that Selig "could fuck up a wet dream" is letter-perfect.) All in all, a highly enjoyable afternoon watching the Yankees look like the Mets.

Among the highlights that trickled into view were a two-out bunt single by Kaz Matsui to plate a run, the same oft-maligned Matsui singling home the go-ahead run two innings later, and Cliff Floyd extending the lead with a two-run single off former Shea hero John Franco. In between all of that was a run-scoring error when two Astros collided, supposedly unable to hear because of the sellout crowd. Franco himself complained of hearing issues himself, as his ears were apparently ringing from two guys in a DC bar using a diverse array of words such as "Franco," "sucks," "Franco," "sucks," "Franco," "really," and "sucks." (Okay, not all of our discussion was enlightened, highbrow stuff.)

2-5 now. Somehow, it just feels like things are getting back on track. Theoretically, baseball should not lend itself to momentum, streaks, and emotion-driven play, but it does. It's a complex, deliberate game that keys on so many seemingly minor individual accomplishments, but it really does rely on the concept of team play more than the casual observer might realize. Right now, today, the Mets seem to be playing as if the five-game bed-wetting and the heaps of premature (not unwarranted, just premature) abuse they collectively took represent some sort of rite of passage, some initiation ceremony that united them in the name of the cause. And just as it seems implausible that such a notion could apply to baseball, the thinking man's game, it's just as silly to think that spoiled millionaires might be capable of investing this kind of battleground emotion usually reserved for life-or-death experiences in foxholes. From what I've seen in the last 36 hours, though, these guys are a hell of a lot closer to that kind of commitment and energy than I'd figured possible just a few days ago.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Game 7 - Red Sox

Red Sox 8, Yankees 1
Record: 3-4

Let me begin this entry by stating the obvious: I hate the Yankees. Now that we've established that (again, ad nauseum), you should probably sit down and brace yourself, because I come here not to bury the Yankees (the Sox took care of that), but to praise them.

The Sox got their rings today in an emotional pre-game ceremony that drew Sox alums from Johnny Pesky all the way to Derek Lowe and Dave Roberts. Not only did most of the Yankees stand and watch what must have been an excruciating scene, but Joe Torre graciously doffed his cap to Terry Francona as the Sox skipper received his ring. According to one account, Francona was overheard to tell Torre, "That was the classiest thing I've ever seen", as the 2 exchanged lineup cards before the game.

In a rivalry that has been recently characterized by nothing as much as excessive vitriol - between fans, players, and certainly media members - today's events served to remind us that sometimes the hard thing to do is the right thing. It's one of the great lessons all of us that grew up playing sports were supposed to learn - play hard and fair and then afterwards shake the hands of the guys on the other side of the field, regardless of the outcome. Good stuff from the Yankees today, and from the Sox, who staged a respectful, joyous celebration that hit all the right notes and then went out and beat the snot out of the Yankees.

Mariano Rivera was on the receiving end of one of the afternoon's loudest ovations, and he took the good-natured ribbing in the manner in which it was intended, acknowledging the Fenway crowd with a tip of his cap and broad laughter. Almost makes me wonder if these 2 teams can finally play some baseball without endless trumpeting fanfare and freighted consequence. And because I know you're wondering, yes, it is sooo much easier to say nice things about the enemy after the events of last October.

It's also easier to say nice things about Tim Wakefield after his second stellar performance of the young season (both against the Yankees - he's apparently taken out a low-interest mortgage to secure the deed to New York's AL franchise). 2 earned runs and 8 hits in 13 2/3 innings for the longest-tenured Sox player in 2 starts against the Yankees this season, and I didn't have to watch any of it. God bless you, Timmy Wake, and God forgive me for doubting you - in both the past and the future.

A few other random blatherings on this long-awaited day:
  • It was great to see Derek Lowe and Dave Roberts get their rings in Fenway with their former teammates, but I wonder a bit about how their current teammates feel about their presence in Boston. Roberts, especially, as his Padres had a game today.
  • I'm watching the hometown Nats take on Whitney's nemeses from Atlanta this evening. Pretty cool to see 'Washington' writ large on a major league uniform. Not so cool to watch Zach Day implode in the bottom of the 5th. I'll be taking in the Nationals' home opener on Thursday night, and I'm fairly well excited, to be honest.
  • Curt Schilling starts tomorrow, not the 18th, as erroneously noted below (sue me, I'm not a major media outlet - I don't have to get facts correct. Okay, bad example.). Wonder how jacked up that guy's gonna be.
  • And for Whitney - did you get to actually see Pedro pitch on Sunday? For all his exasperating Pedroisms, he's still pretty goddamn electric. Enjoy.

Emergency News Bulletin

Mike Piazza just threw out a would-be base-stealer at second base. A press conference is scheduled for after the game to discuss the rare feat.

True, it was Morgan Ensberg, who stole only six bases in 10 chances last year. True, at the plate Piazza has made the third out twice in two trips to the plate today, both with a runner aboard, dropping his average to .167 at this early juncture, poor enough for lowest in the starting lineup by 50 points, but . . . wait, I'm pretty sure I had a point here.

Meanwhile, the Mets are trailing the Astros, 1-0 in the fourth. The Mets have five hits without even a play at the plate, much less a run, while Houston scored in the first (part of the Mets' Standard Operating Procedures, it seems) and have one run on two hits. This is the kind of everyday baseball that tempered the joy of yesterday's win.

Did I mention Mike Piazza threw out a base-stealer?

One-Inning Wonders

Game 6 - Red Sox

Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3
Record: 2-4

From the Silver Lining Department: the Sox have yet to allow an opposing closer to record a save against them in 3 chances, and they've come from behind to tie or take the lead in 4 of the 6 games they've played thus far.

From the That Silver Lining is In the Middle of a Grungy Cloud Department: they've only managed to win the game after 1 of those 4 comebacks after Mike Timlin gave up a game-winning double to Orlando Hudson yesterday.

It would be tempting to argue that the Sox are in the midst of a post-Series hangover, but that doesn't really fit the fact pattern in this case. They've played with a fairly high level of urgency (though not great success) in all 6 games, and they've shown the same never-quit attitude that was so successful last season. Frankly, I'm calling the first week of the season a period of inordinate bad luck, and moving on.

And if it is a hangover, no better place to prove it than this afternoon's emotional home opener, where the 2004 World Champs receive the jewelry that commemorates their achievement. In fact, the ring ceremony is taking place right about now in friendly Fenway. Wakefield against Mussina follows at 3:00, and we'll see if the hair of the dog is an apt expression, or just a description of Bronson Arroyo's bizarre Flobie accident.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

San Pedro Opens the Gates

Games 5 & 6 - Mets

Braves 6, Mets 3
Mets 6, Braves 1
Record: 1-5

Phew. I was a little worried they might lose every game. Pedro stepped in, went toe to toe with a thoroughly back-to-his-old-self John Smoltz, and battened down the hatch. Gale force gusts of relieved exhalation made Mets Township a very windy place this afternoon. Here's the thing, though: just as each of those painful first five losses was "just one game" to the quoted sages, so, too, was this win. And the problems that led to the Mets being the last team in baseball to notch an '05 win (by days, not hours) are still kicking around the clubhouse. A few looming injuries, at least one shaky spot in the rotation, some lineup eyesores, and a roster with all the depth of a Braves fan's commitment -- these didn't evaporate with San Pedro's heavenly outing. If the Mets don't address these woes and quickly, another five-game skid could be lurking around the corner.

Still, today is not the day to lament what's going wrong with the Mets. Today is the day for Willie Randolph to smoke his stogie, Pedro Martinez to get a much-deserved pat on the back -- and then likely say something snide and unnecessary to the Red Sox for "lowballing" him with a third world nation's GNP, and Rick Peterson to relax and keep assuring people to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." Today is for Carlos Beltran to know that he is the man, and for David Wright to see more reason to believe he may one day be the man. (Man, oh, man, what a bomb he hit.) Today is for us, the restless crowd, to think perhaps the ticket we're holding entitles us to entertainment better than the Gallagher equivalent we'd been witnessing for almost a week.

Tomorrow we can worry about how bad the Mets stumbled out of the gate, starting with a 1:00 game against the Astros back at Shea, but today we sit back, refreshed, and say, "Oh, yeah. That's what a win feels like."

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Games 4 & 5 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Toronto Blue Jays 5
Blue Jays 12, Red Sox 5
Record: 2-3

Today's by far the most beautiful day of the year in this part of the world - mid-60s, clear, robin's-egg blue sky - and I'm taking advantage of it... by watching David Wells give up back-to-back-to-back no-doubters to the middle of the Blue Jay order. I'm not enjoying the David Wells Experience much, nosiree.

I've never cared much for Wells, probably because he's spent most of his career pitching for teams that I despise, and because he strikes me as a bit of a dick. That said, I was mildly optimistic about his acquisition this winter, mostly because he's been pretty successful even in the later years of his career, and he fits the Sox' control-the-plate pitching philosophy. Mildly optimistic, but ready to careen wildly from the bandwagon at the first signs of Wells' decline. 7 innings and 9 earned runs later, that's me you see tumbling off into the dust, ass over teakettle, growing smaller and smaller as the Wellswagon skitters into the distance, spraying basehits and towering homers from its prodigious coach.

I enjoyed last night's game in the company of the most recent Atlantic Monthly and a couple of frosty Tupper's Hop Pocket Ales. (Sidenote for beer fans: if you can get your hands on some Tupper's, rush out now and do so. If you don't live in the Mid-Atlantic region and can't find Dominion Brewery products, make a trip to the Dominion Brewpub in Ashburn, VA and stock up - you'll thank me later.) I was watching the game out of one eye while reading about how advances in genetic and medical technology may well mean that the first modern human to live to 150 has already been born (at the moment, I'm wondering if it's David Wells). Then, after 8 2/3 innings of somnambulent baseball, Keith Foulke turned a snoozer into a thrill ride.

Bronson Arroyo pitched 6 sharp innings for the Sox, even while battling the effects of a curiously bad hair day. Alan Embree and Mike Timlin got through the 7th and 8th, despite the rocket round-tripper that Embree allowed to Eric Hinske. Foulke took the ball with a 6-3 lead, courtesy of homers by Varitek and Nixon, a bad error on Jays reliever Brandon League, and a couple of timely knocks. 2 runs later, with the bases loaded, Foulke finally got Orlando Hudson to ground to Bellhorn to end the game, and elicit the season's first standing fist pump in my living room. Thanks, Keith...I think.

Curt Schilling makes his first start on the 18th, and boy, does it look like the Sox are going to need him. 2 bad starts by Wells does not a trend make - necessarily - but my cockles aren't exactly toasty, either.

(Edit: I love it when you call me Big Papi. Roy Halladay went 2-0 on David Ortiz with 2 on and 2 out in the top of the 6th. I stood up and said, "Oooh, you don't want to have to give him something to hit," to no one in particular. Well, to no one at all, as I'm alone. Halladay did give him something to hit, and Papi pulverized it, crushing a low fastball over the centerfield wall to bring the Sox back to within 1.)

(And one more: Sox scrapped back to 5-5, then gave up a touchdown to fall below .500 again. Wells did retire 8 in a row before getting yanked. Whatever.)

0 for 4; Oh, for the Love of God

Game 4 - Mets
Braves 3, Mets 1
Record: 0-4, in sole possession of MLB's cellar

I stumbled upon a critical discovery last night. The best way to watch these losses racked up by the 2005 New York Mets is not to watch at all. On location on the outer edges of Met country in central New Jersey, I learned of the Mets' fate last night in Atlanta whilst stuffing my face with a pair of late-night sandwiches (1 gyro, 1 "Fat Bitch"; tonight I'll visit an old friend named cheesesteak & egg). I spotted a fellow in Mets garb at the other side of the eatery, gave the not-quite-Gallaudet-worthy sign language for "How'd they do tonight?" and got the emphatic thumbs-down and a disgusted shake of the head. That was it, and compared to the relative agony of watching or closely following Games 1-3, it was a minor pin prick. So there it is: shooting pool, throwing darts, and guzzling cheap beer as if the secret to life is in the bottom of the next pint glass is a far more enjoyable -- and actually, based on my fellow bloggers' recaps, far more exciting -- night's activity. Please, Mets, don't make me start recapping my bar games instead of your baseball games. In truth, the thrilling saga of my friend Dave and I coming back from the brink to steal a game of billiards against the crusty local ringers was an thoroughly more appealing yarn than the Mets continuing their Opening Act slide.

Up tonight:
1. It appears Aaron Heilman will get the start in Atlanta. He gets to face the Braves in front of the worst fans in baseball history instead of Jose Santiago because Mike Cameron is headed to the DL. The typical glass half-full/half-empty scenario for the Mets, which I am calling half-full right now because I think it takes this game out of the "unwinnable loss" category discussed earlier. Of course, it's when you realize the Mets' vessel is a dribble-glass that you understand that no amount of bright-siding really matters.

2. I am going to an Elvis Blue Hawaii party tonight, complete with group karaoke, followed by a bar crawl through New Brunswick. Here's betting that #2 is more recap-worthy than #1 tomorrow.