Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Games 99 through 106 - Mets

Mets 8, Pirates 4
Mets 6, Pirates 3
Pirates 8, Mets 4
Nationals 6, Mets 2
Mets 3-5, Nationals 1-6
Mets 5, Nationals 0
Brewers 4, Mets 2 (13 inn.)
Record: 59-47

It's been an abysmal fortnight for blogging for your heroes at Misery Loves Company, but a damn good time, let us assure you. There's about six days worth of hangover in the past two weeks, which tells you something about the back-to-back long weekends. Lots of gamesmanship, not much sportsmanship, and enough cold lager to turn a battleship around.

We come to you live from Miller Park, appropriately enough -- not literally, but the magic of satellite television has us going pitch by pitch as Tom Glavine makes his bid to be the latest, and perchance the last, 300-game winner in the major leagues. Game on. I'll do what I can to fill in the gaps of the last week and cover the trade "deadline" (as accurate as the "second half") as we go on. In truth, it'll be all I can do to stay on topic. The fog from FlynnFest 2007 in Bethesda, MD is just now lifting. Stay tuned.

Crap. The daggone Milwaukee booth is calling the game on Extra Innings. If only Uecker could take the telecast tonight instead of radio.

Not exactly ominous for either a milestone win for a Met or an enjoyable evening for a Met fan. They led off with the tone-setter that this homestand was big because the Brewers were blowing their lead on the Cubs. Oh, and something about 300 somethings or something. Crap.

Facing Jeff Suppan. Vague recollections of wishing him drawn, quartered, and socked in the nuts last October. Off-season hypnotic therapy wearing thin...

New Met Luis Castillo batting second. I'll have more to say about him, but before he takes his first swing for our guys, let me just say that I'm not a fan. He hits for average. Power, speed, range at second are either diminishing rapidly or were never there. But I was very wrong about Oliver Perez last year, so let's have a look-see before we naysay too much.

One frame gone without much to report. Suppan once again seems rather Rubik's-like to the Mets, and TG is throwing too many pitches early. Color me unsurprised. Time for another beer. Color my wife unsurprised.

The spotlight on Glavine was sponsored by the Piggly Wiggly, now there's an ad that says "Tater Talk" with a head chef named Jerry Garcia. God bless the Midwest.

Walking Tony Graffanino to get to the pitcher is like going commando in a mild acquaintance's borrowed burlap britches when you've got a drawer full of skivvies. You didn't need to do it, and you may well get what's coming to you.

Glavine evades any damage, however (it helped that Suppan bunted foul with a pair of strikes), and we're scoreless after three. Onward we go, Castillo leading off.

And Castillo blasts one to the on-deck circle for out number one. Sweet.

Who's the black private dick who's a sex machine with all the chicks? Shaft!
Who's the only guy that's gotten on through twelve batters for the Mets -- and done it twice -- and just went first-to-third on a wild pickoff attempt that culminated with a head-first slide? [sigh] Wright!

Mr. Green . . . with the very slow bat . . . in the conservatory. Three outs.

Walks will always always always cost you, but what am I telling Tom Glavine that for? He's issued close to 1,500 free passes in his career, and every one of them cost him. Well, almost. A double and a groundout after the walk give the Brewers the lead.

Here's what constitutes a "great at-bat for Kevin Mench," according to the announcers:
Ball 1
Ball 2
Ball 3
Strike 1 (looking)
Ball 4


Home plate ump Brian Gorman is squeezing Glavine just a tad -- make no mistake, when Glavine was a Brave I'd have applauded it. He did miss a couple of calls on earlier pitches, now TG and Castro make grimaces about a ball that looked fairly outside. Gorman gets angry -- not the most fearsome Gorman ever to get mad at a Brewers game, but not what we need. As Piazza would say, "Just play baseball."

Oh, and if you want to see a very silly cartoon that mentions Gorman Thomas, go here.

1-0, bottom 5.

Teege settles down for a 1-2-3 inning, culminating with a swinging strikeout by Corey Hart. It was like Hart was wearing . . . oh, I just can't. The guy could make the Hall of Fame, and I'd still think of the Canadian rocker; a little like that Browns wide receiver Michael Jackson, it's just hard to make a name for yourself with that name. (He did make a nice charging dive earlier -- he never surrendered.)

Might as well take a second to mention the other deals in the division. The Phils got Kyle Lohse and Tadahito Iguchi; I like the latter guy a lot better than the former, though I'm not sure where he goes when Utley returns. Meanwhile Teixeira to the Braves is big-time trouble for those of us in Metville, make no mistake. That's a huge acquisition, and we can only hope for an Alomarian plummet down the stairs, though the manhole, and into the sewer. Meanwhile Octavio Dotel seems to have impressed people once again, but I remember the former Met prospect as a guy who, when it's most on the line, crumbles like a . . . crumb cake. Benitezese, if you will. And yes, clinically speaking, I am projecting my own horrific memories in a very obvious way right now. Somebody, somehow, has got to pay.

Reyes doubles, Castillo bunts him over, and Dee-Dub comes through once again, tying the game with a chopper over the drawn-in infield. Nice.

Delgado singles to left, Wright makes it to third (as if trying to single-handedly carry Tom Glavine to 300), and Alou sac flies him in. 2-1. Nicer.

I was just wavering between "Mr. Green . . . with the creaky swing . . . in the conservatory" and "There's a rumor making its way through the Township that Shawn Green's bats are actually emblazoned with 'Lousiville Tapper'" when he belted one to right-center. Alas, though Delgado's batting average has quietly crept northward, so have his time trials. Gunned at the plate on a ball that missed the cutoff. Ugh.

2-1, though. So you're sayin' there's a chance.

Well, shut my mouth. Shawn Green just dove headlong into the side of the stands to make a terrific catch -- on a ball that, if the ball landed fair, would've been at least a game-tying hit if it'd dropped. He might not know where the hell he is right now, but that there is some guts.

Tom Glavine lines a 2-2 pitch to third that gets knocked down and thrown awry -- first and second, one out. A nice piece of hitting by any standards.

Then Reyes sends the first pitch to centerfield, and here's part of why we love this kid. He gets to first to load the bases, and the first thing he does is break a huge grin, point at Ramon Castro at third base, and laugh heartily at Castro's ice wagon wheels for not scoring on the play. Mirrored my thoughts, and I laughed out loud. Love that guy.

Of course, if Castro had anything resembling footspeed, I would have gladly forgone the moment of levity for that run. He gets stranded when Luis Castillo rockets one to deep, deep shortstop and David Wright proves imperfect, if only slightly. 6-4, short to second. 2-1, Mets to Brewers. 6-1, beers to ballgames.

Just a follow-up on Octavio Dotel. Check out the sponsorship on his Baseball-Reference page. Yikes.

Oakland Committee to Impeach Octavio Dotel sponsor(s) this page.

You can sponsor a page.
Page Expires: 2007-09-30 Alert Me!
Our stance is that Octavio Dotel is the worst closer of alltime and a disgrace to the Green and Gold. September 23, 2004 - the day the 2004 season really ended for Oakland.

Note that the link goes to an e-mail account named dotelheartattack@aol.com. Uh, dudes . . . if there's really a "committee" and not three dropouts doing whippets in Aunt Ruth's basement in San Leandro . . . you might want to look for a more positive message in all that you do.

Oh, boy. Damian Miller singles to lead off the seventh and Glavine is gone. A fine outing for his first bid at the big number, and the Milwaukee faithful tip their caps. Nice, Milwaukee.

In comes Aaron Heilman, and this beer is suddenly giving me a headache.

Wow! Heilman induces (and Delgado executes perfectly) the 3-6-3 DP, and there are quickly two down. Craig Counsell, whom I've always wanted to go away, beats out a bunt thanks to Ramon Castro's caterpillar-like quickness behind the dish. But Corey Hart . . . well, he just grounded out. To the 8th we go . . .

Well, that didn't take long. Heilman gets screwed when he jams the hitter and Reyes nearly makes a great play in the not-that-shallow outfield over his shoulder . . . and the outfielders aren't even in the screen. Then Feliciano hits Prince Fielder and Mota throws a meatball to Bill Hall, who ground-rules Tom Glavine out of his 300th win.

Nice work, pen. There will be nights that matter a lot more than this, wins we need rather than individual accomplishments. Let's hope at that time that you look moderately serviceable. Tonight . . . not so much.

Luis Castillo has a chance to deliver the go-ahead run with Reyes on 2nd and 2 down in the 9th. Eh. He doesn't.

Enter Jorge Sosa. Relieving. This should be interesting. 4 pitches, 1 walk. On the first pitch I swear you could hear Uecker call, "Juuuust a bit outside."

Laughable -- the announcers, after destroying Brian Gorman when -- well, all night but especially after he rung up Damian Miller on a supposed foul tip when the ball clearly hit the dirt, just made the correction: Chad Fairchild is behind the plate tonight. Gorman is at first. Brian Gorman should meet these guys after the game tonight and settle it with some bare-knuckle brawling.

Oh, my. The Mets, by all rights, should have lost that game, but Jorge Sosa, the defense, and some bad swings gave them new life. Milledge dove for what was termed "an unbelievable catch" by our esteemed play-by-play fellow, but what amounted to a good grab on an iffy dive on a questionable jump. No matter -- he made the play.


Wow. Milwaukee reliever Matt "Putting Me In Was Not" Wise came in and threw 10 straight balls. A Bronx cheer to Ned Yost, who yanked him before we at home had a chance to do the "Ball Four / Ball Eight / Three Walks on 12 Straight Pitches" bit. Woulda fit so perfectly with the earlier Harry Doyle moment.

Sonuvabitch. Moises "That B"Alou just swung on a Ball 4 that would have loaded the bases, instead giving the Brew Crew a 6-4-3 inning-swinger. Not veteran. Veterans Stadium, maybe.

For the second time in the game, Lastings Milledge has Kelly Leak-ed Alou. He called for a routine fly right at Alou. Alou may be old and just blew the offensive chance, but Lupus he ain't. Inning ended. To the 11th we go.

And to the 12th. Close calls by David Wright and then Prince Fielder, but nothing doing. Another diving catch by Milledge. And most surprisngly, a single by David Newhan. (When did he . . . ? Never mind.)

Come on, boys, I only came here to do two things, watch a Mets win and drink some beer. Looks like we're almost outta beer.

Looks like I came here only to drink some beer. Aaron Sele gives it all he's got but gives up a two-run, game-ending jack to Geoff Jenkins. Good night.

Four and a half hours for that?

Hmmm. Get the feeling that if the schedule had dictated that this game be played Monday night we might be seeing Dotel or Gagne shoring up the pen? As it is, we have a third-place bullpen and a fourth-place knack for timely hitting. And a guy who pitched a game good enough for his 300th win, only to be let down by his (current) teammates. And the Braves put up 12 tonight without Teixeira.

Can I take another week off?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Games 100 & 101 - Red Sox

Red Sox 1, Indians 0
Indians 1, Red Sox 0 (in progress, top of the 8th)

The Sox look quite likely to lose tonight's game, sweet payback for the Indians and their starting pitcher Fausto Carmona. The young lad's deal with the devil was cemented after David Ortiz and the Sox tormented him in the late innings on consecutive days last season. This year, he's been dynamite, and watching him this evening, it's easy to see why. 96 mph gas, and otherworldly sinker, and an exploding slider. It's one of those tip your caps evenings. Except for Dustin Pedroia, who barked at the 6'4" 220-lb. Carmona after a fastball zipped under the little second baseman's chin. I love that little bastard.

Not for nothing, Josh Beckett's been almost as dominant, making one mistake that Franklin Gutierrez dumped into the seats, and otherwise silencing the Tribe sticks. More payback for the Indians, as the Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka kept C.C. Sabathia from winning his 13th game of the year last night, just like Cleveland seems on track to do to Beckett.

Both games have been the stuff of Halberstamian legend - phenomenal pitchers on top of their games for both teams. The offenses are bit players in these twin dramas, dinking a bloop single here and there, trying to manufacture runs against diffident, brilliant moundsmen. It's nights like these that I'm glad I've got the Extra Innings Package.

With the blistering Yankees in Kansas City, it sure looks like the lead will be down to 6.5 when you read this. I'd spend time worrying, but I'm off on another weekend of silliness followed by a week of business travel in Northern California. I'll just cover my eyes and ears and channel Animal House-era Kevin Bacon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Beach Boys

Games 94 through 99 - Red Sox

Royals 6, Red Sox 5
White Sox 4, Red Sox 2
Red Sox 10, White Sox 3
Red Sox 11, White Sox 2
Red Sox 8, White Sox 5
Red Sox 6, Indians 2
Record: 60-39

Seems only fitting that I recap my annual debauched (and by debauched, I mean bloated and lethargic from too much fresh seafood, in case my mother is reading) hiatus on the anniversary of one of the great baseball-related moments of our 14 beach-bound years.

Just as I spent the afternoon of Saturday, July 24, 2004 engrossed in a Sox game, I spent this past Saturday happily watching the good guys pound the snot out of the long-since disinterested Chicago White Sox. And just as Whitney and several other guys spent that afternoon three years ago inventing a legendary new drinking game, they returned to the scene of their greatest triumph to berth Beerball, a combination of lacrosse, billiards, golf, and competitive eating (in this case, drinking). Thanks to Terry Francona and the boys, I wasn't present at the creation...or for the inevitable decline into stumbling incoherence. My incoherence that evening paled in comparison. Thank God for the Red Sox.

And thank God for far less silly reasons yesterday, as Jon Lester made his return to a major league mound after recovering from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. In a week where Barry Bonds, Mike Vick, and Tim Donaghy dragged sports into a deeper malaise than these innocent eyes recall seeing, Jon Lester salvaged a small bit of dignity and pure human joy. His 4th-inning strikeout of Grady Sizemore with the bases loaded brought shouts of glee from his parents in the stands, and goosebumps to my arms. Lester went 6 innings, giving up only 2 runs despite a handful of bouts with wildness - I'll give the kid a break on those.

Not a ton to say about the rest of the games, limited as I was to following them on the small screen of my PDA's web browser. And like every year, I was more than happy not to care all that much, especially as the Sox managed to sneak 4 straight wins into my OBFT mix.


Games 92 through 98 - Mets

Padres 5, Mets 1

Mets 7, Padres 0

Padres 5, Mets 4

Mets 13, Dodgers 9

Mets 4, Dodgers 1

Dodgers 8, Mets 6

Mets 5, Dodgers 4

Record: 55-43

Scroll back to the midsummer posts of Years 1, 2, 3, or 4 of this vehicle, and the lull from which Rob and I may or may not be emerging at this moment should have been expected. Every July or August for the past 14 years we've rounded up a dozen or two of our college compadres, made the pilgrimage down to Nags Head, NC, and entered a cosmic warp that sends us back to 1990 Williamsburg, VA. Our latter-day scraggly visages and portly figures remain, but the minds, souls, and livers all revert to heyday form. It's really a beautiful thing, according to this beholder.

And like every good hangover, the one we're currently fighting through is predominantly physical withdrawal and exhaustion, with a dash of melancholy that the fun has quieted for another year and a tablespoon of peace that we lived through it and have another chapter of silly memories. The bottom line, however, is that cognitive thought and productivity are laughable notions at this point.

A little text from this time in seasons past:
Didn't see a ton of ball while struggling to recapture my youth... 2 losses to the Twins stung slightly, but the fact that I found out about them reading the Sports section of The Virginian-Pilot on a porch overlooking the ocean dulled the pain to a near-imperceptible level.

And, as nearly always, I spent the whole time in blissful ignorance of the Sox progress, save for a few minutes perusing the box scores in The Virginian-Pilot. As a result of my coastal meanderings, I only caught one of the Sox’ previous 6 games, and boy, did I choose poorly... Fortunately, I was so tired and hung over that I couldn’t muster enough energy to be more than mildly irritated.

Thank God I was drunk for the past 6 days, because I would have been one pissed off mofrackie if I had to watch the Sox self-destruct while sober. I didn't actually watch any of these games, except the 5-3 loss to Baltimore (in which the Sox raised hopes by loading the bases in the 9th before dashing them on Nomar's wild swing on strike 3). In hindsight, that was a good thing, because watching 3 losses in 4 games to the O's would likely have driven me to the destruction of something valuable.

Much like Mr. Russell, I was neck-deep in nothing remotely connected to the New York Mets: sunny skies, warm ocean waters, and cold beers, without the sunny & warm parts. Hung over SportsCenter recaps of wins and losses (equally proportioned, for once) were the unnecessary updates to the season. Discussions with the one other Mets fan at the beach ranged from cynical to hopeful and took potshots and solace intermittently.
All this, just to prepare you for the ill-informed, incoherent blah-blah-blah that follows.

As if waking from a coma, the box scores, highlights, and Sunday afternoon win left me with the following questions:
  • Marlon Anderson? When...?
  • Wait -- Jose Valentin got hurt again?
  • Where is Damion Easley?
  • Who the hell is Chip Ambres?
  • Holy cow, Anderson Hernandez is back up?
  • Where is Paul LoDuca's bat?
  • Where is Moises Alou's quad?
  • Will Tommy Glavine ever reach 300?
and finally:
  • Is this team actually good enough in its current iteration to contend?
As I sift through the microfiche, old wire reports, and back papers for answers, here's an obvious but firm assessment of what we have to look forward to:

It's going to come down to it.

The Braves and Phillies have been mirroring the Mets' every dip, soar, free-fall, and re-ascension for months. Right now the Mets are Maverick and Goose and there's a pair of MiGs shadowing them at every turn. Can't shake 'em. You don't have time to think up there. If you think, you're dead. Well, okay, that's a little more extreme than the reality, but in truth, it's no time to be checking standings, looking at the schedule ahead, and trying to calculate. (Let the Red Sox do that: the Yankees play 53 of their 73 second half games against losing teams, most of them AA poseurs with names like Devil Rays, Orioles, and Royals.)

It's not time for any of that for the Mets, though. It's simply time to keep piloting ahead, dodging trouble, and fighting to come out on top.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Widespread Panic

Game 93 - Red Sox

Royals 9, Red Sox 3
Record: 56-37

Short and very much to the point today, as I'm scrambling to meet all my work obligations in time to get out of here and head to the 14th annual Outer Banks Fishing Trip, where I intend to not think at all about the Sox...

...who are 4-7 in their last 11 against the Royals. Motherfreakingfucker on toast.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Game 92 - Red Sox

Red Sox 4, Royals 0
Record: 56-36

In today's mega-media sports culture, it's easy to get jaded, to get sucked into the gravitational pull of the superstars that meet some producer's definition of "now". I'm guilty of it as much as anyone else, having long ago fallen in love with David Ortiz' jovial public persona, among others. The brightest in the firmament all started someplace, though, and as sure as they now strive to present a cool indifference to the day-to-day trappings of their superstardom, they had their days of unhidden joy.

It's that unhidden joy, those moments where these grown men remember that they play a young boy's game, that provide me with the most lasting memories of each season. Tonight, as Kason Gabbard closed out the first complete game shutout of his major league career, his beaming face lit up Fenway, his hair tousled by grizzed veteran Jason Varitek's gnarled hand.

In the happy exchange of high-fives after the game, Dustin Pedroia's giddy visage stood out, too, as befitting a guy who'd homered to give the Sox all the offense they needed, then made a stellar defensive play in the next frame to keep the Royals off the scoreboard.

Manny and Papi backed up Gabbard and Pedroia with homers of their own, a terrific sign for Sox fans and an ominous one for the rest of the league, if it portends anything larger than one night of upraised arms from the fans behind the plate.

Old 97"s

Games 90 & 91 – Red Sox

Red Sox 9, Blue Jays 4
Blue Jays 2, Red Sox 1
Record: 55-36

They say the first step towards recovery is to admit you have a problem. The truth shall set you free. In the interest of not spending the next 2 ½ months or so as a complete basket case, I come here today in the spirit of honest sports addiction to admit publicly that I’m nervous about the Sox. Specifically, I’m worried about the pinstriped menace that is now within 9 games. And even more precisely, I’m concerned that the current incarnation of the Sox isn’t strong enough to hold up over the next 71 games against said menace.

Like most Sox fans, I’m predisposed to see the half-empty portion of the beer cup. And yesterday, in the span of less than an hour, the half-full portion spilled messily onto my lap. While the Sox were managing to plate but a single run against yet another rookie starter, despite 11 hits, the Yankees were writing thank you notes to their hosts in Tampa for a gift-wrapped victory.

With the Rays holding a 3-0 lead in the 5th inning, Andy Phillips laced a ball to straightaway center that should have turned into a routine out. Instead, junior birdman B.J. Upton overran the liner in spectacular fashion, flailing wildly as his momentum carried him beyond the ball. Phillips wound up on third with a run-scoring triple and the Yankees plated 4 in the innings. Then, in the late stages, the Rays blew a 5-4 lead by giving up 3 in the top of the 8th. The final run scored when Akinori Okamura double-clutched a groundball from Derek Jeter just long enough to allow Captain Intangibles to beat the throw to first. As it happened, that run was the Yanks’ final margin.

I was watching the Yankees/Rays game because my sister and brother-in-law were visiting with their kids, and my brother-in-law, for all his fine and noble qualities, is a Yankee fan. He’s ruining my nephew, too.

Ultimately, the seeds of my doubt find purchase in a nagging lack of confidence in the Sox, not an irrational fear of their opponents. I really don’t think the Yankees are all that good, especially on the mound. They’ll score a bunch of runs, and they’re capable of tearing off a 14 of 16 streak at any time, but I don’t think they’re necessarily any better than the Sox – if the Sox play decently. It’s that latter clause that’s been troubling over the last six weeks.

With Curt Schilling ineffective and then hurt, the rotation now becomes Beckett, Matsuzaka and three dice-rolls. No pun intended. The bullpen has continued to be sharp, but the effect of an increased workload isn’t tough to predict. On offense, Lowell and Youkilis are slumping, Drew is hurt for at least a little while (quel surprise!), Ortiz and Ramirez haven’t quite been Ortiz and Ramirez, and Pena hasn’t been quite Mario Mendoza, rendering him quite close to useless and perhaps even less than that. At any given time over the past month-plus, more than half of the lineup has been ineffective. The Sox are 1-9 in their last 10 one-run games, and haven’t come from behind in close-and-late situations in a cow’s age - the definition of fan frustration.

1978 was a long time ago, and the era of good feelings ushered in by the 2004 championship put a spiffy new coat of paint on most lingering psychic damage to the infrastructure. Terry Francona’s twice the manager Don Zimmer was, and the Sox pitching staff is still probably better now than the one that gacked the summer away 30 years ago. Still, if I’m forced to spend the next 75 days listening to Mike & Mike, Karl Ravech, John Kruk, and the SportsCenter crew cite chapter and verse of the Bucky F. Dent story because the Sox are slowly allowing the Yankees back into contention, I will not be responsible for my actions. And that possibility, the chance that the mass media’s main baseball hook for the rest of this summer is the Sox fading once again, well, that just makes my stomach hurt to consider.

Ahhhhh. That feels much better.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Red Rockers

Games 90 & 91 - Mets

Mets 3, Reds 2
Mets 5, Reds 2
Record: 51-40

Kudos to the schedule-makers for starting the Mets' post-Break out with four games against the underwhelming Cincinnati Reds. The Mets weren't great, barely pretty good, but the Reds were mediocre, as it seems they've been all season. While the Metropolitans took three of those four, Ollie Perez and Jorge Sosa were re-activated, Lastings Milledge has come charging out of nowhere, and the wheel has spun back towards the top for the Mets.

Here's the problem: those schedulers also gave the Mets a bonus West Coast trip, and seven games against division contending stalwarts in their hitter-unfriendly parks could send the New York nine back downward that quickly. Especially unpleasant as the Braves get a week full of the same Reds and the Cardinals. Sad to say, but the Mets may well be a second-place a week from now.

Meanwhile, the Phillies just lost their 10,000th game in team history, a singularly woeful feat. If you haven't treated yourself to analyzing just how inept a franchise the Phightin' Phils are, have a sample-size look at just how bad they've been in their 125 years of existence. While the media makes note (and light) of their historic plight, the Phillies may try to capitalize on the ignominy and write some new history of a more positive nature. They'll have to face the same foes as the Mets this week, though, and they're still teetering around .500. So for now we'll fixate on the Braves. Again. As usual. Beginning to feel the hate swelling within me, like Luke Skywalker in Jedi. I hope not to find out that Chipper Jones is my father . . . the way many unsuspecting youths in baseball towns across America have. Ba-dum-pum.

Busy week for me, in DC and on the high seas trolling for catch, but I'll try to check back later. In the meantime, enjoy our silliness over at Gheorghe: The Blog.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Ohio Players

Game 89 - Mets

Reds 8, Mets 4
Record: 49-40

And on the seventh day he ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And on the eighth day he was way, way too rested.

Just as I praised the All-Star Break for being a nice diversion from the at-time monotonous routine, it comes back to bite me in the posterior. John Maine took the hill last night on eight days' rest, while Reds starter Aaron Harang took his normal spot in the rotation on the 5th day. That difference might've been subtle, but the result was not. Maine took just five batters to get back to his 1st-half self; after four batters, though, the score was 4-0.

Sometimes "the routine" is what keeps players in their groove, and based on innings 2, 3, & 4, John Maine should quickly resume his steady progress next time out. On this night, however, Brandon Phillips' grand slam and the defensive debacle that was the 5th inning were enough to topple the Mets.

In the aforementioned frame, Ruben Gotay tried to undo all of the recent good that's been emanating from his bat with some shoddy glovework. The first batter's routine grounder became anything but when Gotay bobbled the transfer. The next hit was would have been a challenging but manageable 4-6-3, except that Ruben delivered what we on the rugby pitch used to call a "hospital pass" to Jose Reyes. Indeed, Reyes dropped the throw, was plowed through by Ryan Freel, got dinged up on the play, and was charged with the error. (The scorer ultimately gave the E to Gotay, much to Gary Cohen's satisfaction.) Maine's allowance of a couple of hits later in the inning spelled the end of his night, but with proper fielding behind him, at least a couple of the three runs that took the game out of reach would likely have been erased.

Mike Pelfrey made his first big-league relief appearance, looking better than his line does. Lastings Milledge homered, and the HoJo-led bats (with Rickey at 1B) rapped out eight hits and took four walks. That's the good.

Paulie LoDuca & Carlos Beltran look absolutely lost at the plate these days. There were a ton of opportunities squandered that could've kept the Mets closer. And the defense, as I mentioned, had some ugly moments. That's the bad.

With Tom Glavine going against the eminently beatable Matt Belisle tonight, it's time for the Mets to remember what they are, what the Reds are, and let good beat bad once and for all. If we want an underdog story, we'll watch Major League. Again.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Game 89 - Red Sox

Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 5
Record: 54-35

Is it too much to ask for a walk-off homer once this season?

I'd answer that, but Scott Miller's screaming in my ear, and this empty bottle of wine is making my fingers hit keys I'd rather not hit.

Duran Duran

Photo courtesy of Barstool Sports of Manny and Okajima sharing what appears to be a nice port on the way to the All-Star Game. Papelbon and Lowell stick to Budweiser products while playing cards in the background. Manny's probably flown charter jets a hundred times in his life, and he still looks like he just woke up on Christmas morning - Jeemer seems pretty pleased, as well. Insert your caption in the comments below. Me, I can't stop giggling every time I see this.

Days of the New

Game 88 - Mets

Mets 3, Reds 2
Record: 49-39

Across the last pair of weeks, I've been begging for a spark. Some sort of fire to be lit under these guys, and some sort of fire to be lit among us who take in this six-month melodrama. Willie did about as much as he's capable of with the forthright benching of Reyes. Beyond that, the eyes of Mets Township have been slowly turning toward Omar Minaya with a hopeful look of "Whaddaya got for us?"

And yet, at the same time, there is considerable hesitance. There are still a couple of keywords, certain player names, whose utterance elicit shock-treatment like tremors in us. They're fading, but not quickly enough so that we feel comfortable handing Omar 29 media guides and commanding, "Go for it!" As much as a top-tier starter, an All-Star second baseman, or even a tough middle reliever would be the medicine this doctor is ordering, what's available -- and what the Mets would likely have to get to get it -- might end up being some form of bloodletting. Again.

And so the New York Mets are left with that sort of quandary: improve the team carefully, cautiously, without a whole lot to choose from. Hey, in the off-season Omar's job is cake -- relatively speaking, of course. Wave a bunch of money at guys and you can have them. Lose a draft pick along the way, c'est la vie. Right now it's no picnic: you see obvious flaws without an obvious way to fix them; the team could possible scrape by with what's out there . . . and yet there's as much chance of falling apart with that squad, too. Time to earn that paycheck.

Well, we've already seen a couple of lesser but not insignificant decisions in this second portion of the season. First, as mentioned, Rick Down was given his papers, and Omar was rolling his as he hired Rickey Henderson. The outcome of that shuffle is TBD, but in actuality, it could end up being entertaining and prudent. Maybe.

Second, Julio Franco was DFA-ed while Lastings Milledge was promoted. The Township has been a rollercoaster of emotions on both of these guys. We'll call Franco's unceremonious release "unfortunate," which is also what we'd call his swing over the past two months. Had to happen. Meanwhile, it seems like folks are back to rooting for Milledge -- not crowning him the next big thing, and thereby not placing too much pressure on him, but pulling for him in earnest. I know I am. If he goes in a trade that brings the Mets someone truly critical, I'm okay with it. If he stays around as a cog in the machine that is part of a pennant drive here, I'm glad. If he flails his was to .233 again and winds up doing more time in the Big Easy . . . well, okay, I'm irritated, but I'm neither shocked nor disillusioned. This might be his time.

Last night was a good start for the new changes. Milledge showed some speed and just enough scatted remnants of beginner's luck to get his hand in and graze home plate with the eventual winning run. El Duque was sharp, the pen was flawless, and the Mets began the second "half" with a win.

Yes, it was against the lowly Reds. Yes, we've seen the Mets win plenty of series openers, only to regress in subsequent games. It doesn't matter. There's not the same naive optimism after the Break that there is before the season starts, but those three days away from the ups and downs of the W's and L's were just enough to recharge my outlook, and I'm seeing better days ahead.

John Mellencamp

Game 88 – Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 4
Record: 54-34

(Cue music from Fantasia, softly)

(ORACLE sits calmly at a keyboard at center stage, several cell phones strewn across his desk. ORACLE bears an uncanny resemblance to Peter Gammons. Or perhaps George Plimpton.)

(FAN enters stage left. He is clearly agitated, pale and drawn, hair mussed as if he’d been running his hands through it in exasperation and dismay.)

FAN: Papi’s got a meniscus! Papi’s got a meniscus!

ORACLE: Yes, and so do I.

FAN (breathless): Papi…hurt…leg…surgery…can’t…breathe.

ORACLE: I spoke to Papi this morning around the batting cages. He’s got some discomfort, but he’s been playing with it since last June. He thinks he hurt it fielding a bunt.

FAN: Why was he…? A bunt? Interleague play! Game over, man. We’re screwed.

ORACLE: Papi’s still got a .996 OPS and he started the season’s second half with a 3-hit, 2-ribbie performance. He’s got 30 doubles. It’s a little harder for him to get into his crouch, but he’s still an elite hitter.

FAN (loudly): Little harder? What? I knew it. He’s done. (Puts face in hands, slumps) Oh, man. Oh, man. Oh, man.

ORACLE: Manny will hit. J.D. Drew will hit. Scouts say that Kevin Youkilis is the toughest out in the Sox lineup. And understand this – Papi will be fine. Until it gets cold in October. Then he might have a difficult time loosening up.

FAN (moaning softly): Papi’s got a meniscus.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Rage Against the Machine

Orioles blog The Loss Column (aptly named, indeed) is mad as hell, and they aren't gonna take it any more. Fed up with invading "sewer rat" Red Sox and Yankee fans, they're fomenting a mass movement (and by mass in the context of O's fans, I'm guessing 8-10 doofuses hopped up on Natty Bo) to Take Back the Yard when the Sox visit Baltimore on September 8.

I appreciate the effort, honestly. And I get the frustration. I've written several times in this space about my mixed emotions regarding Sox fans and their behavior in visiting parks. The Nation ain't perfect by a long shot. But my admittedly biased worldview informs an opinion that the protest is targeted about as accurately as Dick Cheney's shotgun. There's a reason Sox and Yankee fans overrun Camden Yards, and it sits in the owner's box.

If Peter Angelos hadn't gutted a once-proud franchise to the point where hometown fans stay away in droves, and erstwhile fans from closer to the Beltway completely ignore his team now that they've got another option, tickets wouldn't be available for Sox and Yanks fans. Were I an O's fan, I'd be bitter, too. But I'd probably be smart enough to target that anger appropriately.

And another thing, Loss Column. Before you go tossing rocks at other cities, consider the glass house in which you live. Despite the nickname, Charm City it ain't. Boston accents are funny? How 'bout Nancy the barmaid, hon? Downa shore from Bawlteeeemore. You probably think The Wire is fiction. You may not want to go down that particular path, lest the Sox fans that almost certainly will outnumber those in black and orange take umbrage.

Slick Rick

It's just been reported that old chum Rickey Henderson is the Mets' new hitting coach, replacing Rick Down. I've pleaded for a better answer than Rick Down, something close to the hitting coach equivalent of Rick Peterson (these are the Ricks I know, I know). You know, someone who can study and tweak and actually turn guys around. Now we have Rickey Henderson, who plans to turn Carlos Delgado around . . . and have him bat righty. Okay, perhaps not, but you tell me: will anything ridiculous Rickey does surprise you? At least his quotes might entertain us.

But I gotta say-- well, let's unearth the old Hoosiers delectable. Omar, Willie . . . what you're doin' with Rickey . . . I'm not seein' it.

Or in Rickeyspeak, Whitney's not seein' it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Living in a Box

If today's not the worst day of the sports year, it's in the conversation. Unless you feel like watching the ESPYs, there's next to nothing to watch. Maybe there's a Major League Lacrosse game somewhere, or an English Premier League repeat on Fox Soccer Channel. Neat.

What a great time, then, for a recap of the Sox season to-date. Except that work has sucked the essence out of me this week, leaving the brittle hull of a man with not even enough energy to pound out 1,000 words on the emergence of Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, or the question marks suddenly surrounding the Sox' rotation and the 3-5 slots in the batting order, or Coco Crisp's otherworldly defense and scorching last month at the plate, or Julio Lugo's disappearing act, or even, even the quietly disconcerting notion that a 10-game lead doesn't feel all that comfortable. (I'm chalking it up to the fact that I'm cranky and haven't had my first beer of the evening yet.)

So that'll have to suffice. I promise to do better at the trade deadline. I do want to thank Whitney's guy Billy Wagner for helping ensure that the Mets will come to Boston for the first two games of the Series rather than vice versa.

That sound you hear is the furious knocking of wood.

Monday, July 09, 2007

P-Funk All-Stars

Game 87 - Mets

Astros 8, Mets 3

Record at the All-Star Break: 48-39

2 games up on the Braves, 4.5 on the Phillies, 7 on the Marlins

5 games back of the Red Sox (3 back in the Case Bet)

Welcome to the All-Star Break. Take a breath. Also busy with work today, so I'll mirror my cohort: a placeholder, a ten-cent synopsis, and a link or two.

The Mets of the second half should prove . . . interesting, even if ultimately unsuccessful. Streaky as hell in the first half, intermittently lights-out dominant and utterly befuddled. Could make for a shaky down-the-stretch state of mind. Starting pitching losing footing, middle relief eroding quickly, and a couple of superstars not looking the part. Wouldn't mind a Nady-for-Hernandez-and-Perez type deal right now. On the plus side: Reyes, Wright, and maybe a little guy named Pedro keep the dream well intact.

Meantime Reading.: a fine piece on the obligatory All-Star selections at F&F and some discussion of a little guy named Pedro at FU. Enjoy, and we'll get you something more very soon.

The Connells

Games 84 through 87 - Red Sox

Tigers 9, Red Sox 2
Tigers 3, Red Sox 2 (11)
Tigers 6, Red Sox 5
Record: 53-34

Boy, does the All-Star break come at a good time for the suddenly broken-down Boston Red Sox. The good guys limped into the hiatus, physically and metaphorically, dropping a tough set to the very, very good Tigers. With Tavarez and Gabbard getting the ball in the first pair of games, winning this series was going to be a stretch, but it would have been nice to slink out of Motown with at least a single scratch. Ah well, at least they kept their lead in the double-digits - the psychological trauma of a sub-10 game lead might've played nasty games with my head over the next three days.

Not many words for me today - this'll be a loooong week at the rockyard for yours truly. I'll try to smash together a season-in-review sometime before the break ends. Here's the synopsis - great pitching, especially out of the bullpen, adequate offense trending towards worrisome, a number of key question marks entering the dog days, and a looming sense that the Yankees have much better ball left in them.


Just a real quick addition here, and a tip of the cap to Joy of Sox for reminding me that I wanted to mention this. The Sox made 4 cross-country trips in 34 days beginning in early June. They're 16-16 over that timespan. They looked for all the world this weekend in Detroit like a tired, bedraggled team, and there's a really good reason for that. I'm even more inclined to cut them some slack. They start the second "half" of the season with an 11-game homestand and only make one more trip to the West Coast all year. After August 10, they won't get any farther from Boston than Tampa.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


Games 85 & 86 - Mets

Astros 4, Mets 0
Mets 5, Astros 3 (17 inn.)
Record: 48-38

The sour, biting taste of bile in my mouth after a Friday night when the Mets played the role of hapless droids to Houston's Obi-Wandy Rodriguez was fairly severe. Jose Reyes lollygagged, the rest of the Mets just gagged. Another pitiful defeat in an increasing succession of them.

Some time back Rob and I expanded the MLC borders to include just a touch of our other passions; while it hasn't even approached triumvirate status, listening to music and drinking beer have been brought into our discussion of watching baseball with some regularity. Thank the Lord for that yesterday morning, as I had nothing to say about the Mets. In the past I might have had nothing good to say about them; now it was just nothing at all.

Enter Live Earth. For the unfamiliar (there was a startling lack of pre-show advertising for such an event, read here for the story on Live Earth from our sister station.

And so yesterday was dedicated to taking in nine international concerts broadcast on a couple of channels for twenty-some hours. While Rob may have muted the music for stretches to watch his Sox' extra-inning performance, I made a conscious decision along the way to forget about the Mets for a day. Lately, they simply haven't been providing the magic, the joy -- hell, even the mild entertainment, or anything not gruelingly painful.

What a mistake.

After a cocktail party in which I spent most of my time in the company of The Margarita Man (a cold character with no more to say than the writer's blocked East Coast Agony boys), I came home in time to catch, say, the 16th and 17th innings.

But I didn't. There was no reason to assume the Mets were still on, and besides, The Police were playing. I caught the last few bits of Live Earth; then and only then did I venture SportsCenter's way, receiving the mixed-emotion news of a Mets win -- and a very dramatic one at that, featuring the undisputed play of the year for the Metmen.

Carlos Beltran's game-saving, falling-down, edge-of the webbing snag in the dumbest part of the dumbest field in major league history (we've had wiffle ball fields with more thoughtful design) can be appreciated in highlight form, but it's really not the same as being on the edge of your seat in the 14th inning with the game on the line. I know -- I can try to tell people about Endy's grab last year, and they can watch the highlight, but if they didn't see it in the context of the moment, it loses a fair bit of dramatic oomph. (The Mets went on to win that game, right? I forget.)

Well, there's a lesson here, of course. (Even beyond "I am an idiot.") I can't rail mercilessly on the legion of non-committal milquetoasts for anything that qualifies as fair-weather or bandwagon behavior -- and I do, I really, really do -- and then turn my back on my team when they stub their toe. Or even when the fall down the stairs. (See the Colorado series.) Or even when they fall out of a window, plummet for a while, hit a tree, get knocked around on a few branches, fall some more, hit a rock, and tumble into a pond. Of quicksand. (See the first two-thirds of June.) I cannot bail out on them if I expect to reap the full reward when -- not if, but when, I pray -- they return to the mountaintop. (By that I don't mean Coors Field. They don't need to return there for a long, long time.)

And so, dear readers, you'll have to find the thrilling ins and outs of Game 86 -- a dead giveaway of must-see Mets, and I didn't even see it coming -- elsewhere in the 'sphere today. I'm too busy setting up my receiver to record today's contest while I squeeze in a round of golf. But make no mistake, if there's a choice to be made between the two, the Mets win.

Well, they'd better.

Friday, July 06, 2007

John Mayor (sic)

Game 84 - Mets

Mets 6, Astros 2
Record: 47-37

I wasn't able to enjoy the same easy-breathing laugher that Rob did last night, but hey -- beggars can't be choosers, and for the last few days I've been groveling in a most unbecoming way. John Maine did it again, serving as the salve to a series of painful wounds for the Mets, both literal and figurative. He went seven very strong innings, only marred by a little bit of trouble that Joe Smith subsequently embellished a little.

Meanwhile, the offense came to play. Jose Reyes re-affirmed his status as the true tone-setter with a leadoff triple, and the bats seemed to key off his opening statement. Ramon Castro had three hits and looked great, Ricky Ledee had two and looked lucky, and Carlos Delgado even went 4-for-4 -- taking his average up to a gaudy .242 apex. Carlos Beltran somehow hit a slicing liner into the left-field seats (of this softball park) after looking utterly lost for four at-bats, and Wags shut the door in a non-save opp.

Tonight Pelf, who's been doing a spot-on Anthony Young impression of late, looks to finally notch a win as the Mets try to solve the magic of Wandy Rodriguez. Optimism isn't overflowing, but . . . you know . . . maybe they can win?

And then this lovely snippet arrives: "Carlos Gomez fractured a small bone in his left wrist on a sixth-inning check swing Wednesday and was headed for surgery Thursday to remove a portion of the bone." Ugh. I myself fractured a small bone in my left wrist a while back and needed surgery. I'm sure Gomez will be more diligent about the rehab, but for me it was a nightmare. Neat!

So here comes David Newhan. And the crowd goes wild, just as they did for Dave Williams and Jason Vargas before him. I actually can't wait until Lastings Milledge makes it back. Until then, the parade of New Orleans Zephyrs into understudy roles for maimed Mets isn't going to raise expectations or even a little buzz.

I find myself feeling a little Met malaise today. I think it has to do with the Rockies series and how it unplugged the notion that, after Philly, we were back on track. Like a few of the players and the team as a whole, I am limping into the Break. Look for me to be back to my chipper self next week. Well, depending on how things go this weekend.

I need a beer.

All-American Rejects

Game 84 - Red Sox

Red Sox 15, Devil Rays 4
Record: 53-31

I love winning. It's like, better than losing. And winning by ridiculous margins is particularly refreshing, as were the Green Flash West Coast IPAs I enjoyed during last night's "contest".

When I'm talking about the beverage choice more than the game, it's safe to assume that my concentration lapsed early and often. After Coco Crisp delivered a first-inning grand slam to give the Sox a 6-0 lead and then Mike Lowell backed it up with a second-inning blast to extend the lead to 9-0, the NESN telecast became pleasant background noise. I even made eye contact with my wife while we talked during the game.

Coco batted with the bases loaded an absurd 4 times in this one, driving in 5 runs. Lowell rapped 5 hits and also drove in 5. J.D. Drew was so tired from batting 4 times in the game's first 3 innings that he was lifted for Wily Mo Pena in the 5th. All told, the Sox had 31 (!) baserunners on 21 hits and 10 walks, good for a .596 OBP. Even Julio Lugo got on base twice.

In All-Star news, Hideki Okajima predictably won the final AL roster spot - c'mon, with the twin forces of lunatic Red Sox fans and even crazier Japanese voters behind him, was it really even in doubt? As noted briefly in the comments below, I'm more than a little ambivalent about 6 Sox heading across the country to participate in the game, especially since 3 of them are pitchers who could use the rest provided by the All-Star break. And, hell, now that I think about it, Manny, Lowell, and Papi are all banged-up to some degree and could also use the time to recuperate. Okay, now I'm totally ambivalent, bordering on hostile to the idea.

Three tough ones in Detroit before the break - be nice to head into the three-day respite with a series win against a very tough opponent, but the pitching matchups don't favor the good guys.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Cramps

Game 83 - Mets

Rockies 17, Mets 7
Record: 46-37

Last night I got home from a 4th of July cookout with a belly full of Aidells chicken-and-apple sausage and Dale's Pale Ale, feeling pleased and all proud-like of this great nation. And tipsy as hell. I'd recorded Game 3 in the Mets-Rockies debac-- uh, series, and I noticed as I went to play it that the game was still going on, three and a half hours into it. "Hmmm... extra innings. Nice." Man, that makes me chuckle darkly now.

So even as Dee-Dub dumped a three-run job in the seats in the first frame, mine was tempered excitement, since my cheatin' ways had given me the unwanted knowledge that there was much ball left to be played. And so as the Rockies plated two, then a third, I wasn't too distraught. Hey, this thing was like going 13 or 14 exciting innings, so just sit back and take it in.

Then the Rocks went up, 6-4. "All right, maybe we've got a dramatic comeback on our hands." 7-4. 8-4. "Wow, big comeback. Very nice." 10-4. "Wait." 12-4. "No . . . no . . . noooooo."

The ale-addled brain finally pieced together why the Mets were still playing at 11:30 EDT. Because they're getting their asses handed to them, silly! As the mudslide tumbled to 17-6 in the 7th, it was exponentially more disappointing for me than it must have been for the live viewer. No dramatic comeback, no extra innings, nothing but a punishing punt in the teeth at the hands of a team on the wrong side of a .500 record. Wish I could've blamed the ensuing heartburn on those sausages.

Usually when you hear "football score for a baseball game," it's 10-3, 7-3, or maybe even 14-7. 17-7 is a bit much, even in high altitude. The New York Mets engaged in yet another contest that was over early, another unwatchable display of ineptitude that takes the spinning wheel of Township confidence back into free-fall mode. Ugh.

20 hits, 17 runs, and a whole lot of whiplash for the pitching staff. Yet another early lead cast aside quickly -- maybe the Mets should try not to score first? Another vulgar display by Met arms in the middle innings; another vulgar display by my fingers about the same time.

Here's one for the scrap heap -- I know his name is Atkins, but must you feed him exclusively meat? (Better play gets you better jokes, boys.) But honestly... 7-13, 2 HR, 5 R, 8 RBI in three games?

David Wright is murdering the ball right now, and it's going all for naught. His mates in the order are hitting at a half-decent clip (4 runs a game this series wasn't hideous), but really, it was hard to keep up with those red-hot Rockies. Red-hot now, I mean; they came in fresh off a 1-8 road trip. Give us your tired, your poor . . .

Next stop on the Band Box Tour, Houston. Wow, what a difference a series can make. On Sunday I wrote: "This week I'll settle down and get to watch a lot more Metball, and for the first time in a while, that fact pleases me a great deal." Well, I'm not that much more pessimistic about the Mets' chances of winning any given baseball game . . . I'm just a lot less excited about the prospect if hunkering down and committing several hours to watching it.

Soul Asylum

Game 83 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Devil Rays 5
Record: 52-31

Javier Lopez, you're on the list. And you don't want to be on the list. Trust me. Greg Wiggle was on the list, and you know what happened to him.

Friend of MLC, Gheorghe: The Blog proprietor, and Yankee fan Teejay O'Boyle and I wagered a six-pack of finely crafted domestic brews (in my case, anyway - if I lose, the palate-challenged Mr. O'Boyle will likely request Coors Light) on the relative accomplishments of Tim Wakefield and Roger Clemens for the remainder of the 2007 season. When the Texas Con Man turned in a lights-out performance against the Twins on Monday, he took the lead on Wake in the categories that matter (ERA, WHIP, and opponent's batting average).

Wake got through 6 innings yesterday in fine fettle, allowing only 1 run and 4 hits to the Devil RAAAys. Then he allowed 3 singles in the 7th and left the game with 1 man out and a 7-1 lead. Purported lefty-slayer Lopez then proceeded to give up a ringing double to lefty bat Carl Crawford and a rope single to fellow southpaw Carlos Pena to allow all 3 of the runners he inherited from Wake to score. Manny Delcarmen had to clean up Lopez' mess and a laugher got far closer than my ticker needed. And Mr. O'Boyle took a healthy lead in our wager. As I said, on the list.

I sure hope we get a post from the Mets side of the ledger today - the best writing comes from the most emotional places, and my friend's gotta be about ready to throw something through a window right about now.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Game 82 - Mets, I guess

Rockies 11, Mets 3
Record: 46-36

Yikes. A mile high and crushed, it's the Mets once again last night. And every other pitch Jason Vargas chucked. And Joe Smith's "obstetrician's nightmare" (the granny-inducer). And Rob's and my friend Redeye, but that's another story.

Not much to say about the offense. Again. The desert wind has invigorated the Metbats in recent years the way the altitudinous air of Colorado has not, and I'm solving that riddle as well as the Mets solved another pitcher with a less-than-impressive track record. Aaron Cook's quality start stood in stark contrast to the premature 4th of July Roman Candle that was Vargas's start. Just swell.

Most annoying? I'm struggling for one of my pseudo-clever, snide nicknames for Jason Vargas. I have gone with a too-obscure Seinfeldian reference ("Vargas!!") once or twice before; while it's fun to say with a fist-swoop during games when he leaves one up and over the plate, it's not much in print.

Taking obscure to a whole new level, here's what goes through my creaky brain when I try to get clever with his surname, a la Jaime "Thank You" Cerda "May I Have Another" or even just Kaz "Door" Matsui -- whose quintet of base hits last night hurt more than a little. When I was in Hungary about 15 years ago, I bought a cassette of covers of classic 70's songs by Hungarian artists. To my delight, I realized at first listen that they had translated all of the words into Hungarian as well. Terrifically terrible. First track: "Stayin' Alive," aka "Valaki vár." As in, "Ah, ah, ah, ah, Valaki vár, Valaki vár." Kept our group in bewildered stitches one night over many Arany Ászok beers. Anyway, the only reason I dedge up that uninteresting inside information is to explain that I keep getting hung up on Jason "Valaki" Vargas, further worthless because clearly he isn't stayin' alive in the least. Hence, no good monikers -- and I know I need to act fast on this guy.

On that note, let's diverge from all things Mettish, since they aren't worth watching beyond the third or fourth inning this series and there's plenty else to celebrate today. Enjoy a little relevant rock & roll lyricism below, and if you can manage to find something that relates to this week's Mets in the words . . . well, you haven't exactly discovered the cure for cancer, or even found Waldo.

"Sandy the fireworks are hailin' over Little Eden tonight
Forcin' a light into all those stoned-out faces left stranded on this Fourth of July"

"Today's the fourth of July
another June has gone by
and when they light up our town I just think
what a waste of gunpowder and sky"

"Well Papa go to bed now it's getting late
Nothing we can say can change anything now
Because there's just different people coming down here now
and they see things in different ways
And soon everything we've known will just be swept away

So say goodbye it's Independence Day
But now I know the things you wanted that you could not say
But won't you just say goodbye it's Independence Day
I swear I never meant to take those things away"

"Oh oh
When a nation cries
His tears fall down like missiles from the skies
Justice look into independence’s eyes
Can you make everything alright
Can you keep your nation warm tonight

Roll a rock across the country
Everybody come along
When you’re feelin’ down, yeah yeah
Just sing this song, yeah yeah"

"What ever happened, I apologize
so dry your tears and baby
walk outside, it's the Fourth of July

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin' fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, baby, take a walk [on a pitch] outside"

Happy Birthday, US of A.

(Wake up, New York Mets.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Game 82 - Red Sox

Red Sox 4, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1
Record: 51-31

Every season, even the miserable ones, has moments that stick with you, that remind you why you care enough to slog through 162 games with a bunch of guys who'll never be in your kitchen.

Last night, bottom of the 2nd, Kevin Youkilis on 3rd, Mike Lowell on 2nd, Scott Kazmir on the hill trying to get the last out of a long, long inning, but only 1 run across the plate. Julio Lugo comes to the plate mired in a much-discussed 0-for-33 slump.

Boston fans have been oft-maligned, sometimes with good reason, for their manic obsessiveness with the Sox. That borderline pyschotic relationship with the team has translated into some ugly treatment of players past and even present. Lugo's slump, coupled with an extremely boneheaded baserunning effort on Saturday night, gave the Nation all the cause it might normally need to turn on one of the hometown nine.

Strange and a bit heartening then, to hear "Let's Go Lugo" from the crowd on Monday night, and again when the struggling shortstop stepped up in a clutch spot yesterday. And when Lugo's soft liner back through the middle found the outfield grass and cleared the baserunners, the standing ovation from the 36,000+ at Fenway was heartfelt, honest, and emotional. Lugo's teammates leapt from their dugout seats and he fought back a broad smile, ultimately unsuccessfully, as the weight of several worlds lifted from his narrow shoulders. 500 miles away, I didn't try to fight it - I was grinning ear to ear.

Lugo singled again later in the game, then managed to get picked off. And none of us really cared. Say what you may about Sox fans - and much of it will hit close to home - this was a signal moment in demonstrating the Nation's passion for each and every guy holding down a roster spot.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was once again dominant, mowing down the Rays for 8 shutout innings to run his ERA over his past 6 outings to 1.29 (6 ER and 26 hits in 42 IP). He won't be going to the All-Star game, but he's been the best pitcher in the American League since the beginning of June.

Yesterday marked the Sox' first game of the season against division rival Tampa Bay. The Sox will play the Rays 17 more times in the last 80 games of the season - 21% of their remaining schedule. That's more than a bit odd, though I'm not complaining. (But I am knocking furiously on wood).

Timmy Wake takes the ball in 20 minutes - I'm going to get a beer and put my fingers over my eyes. Enjoy your holiday.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Game 81 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Rangers 3
Record: 50-31

Land o' Goshen and sakes alive, the Boston Red Sox scored 7 runs in a single regulation contest. And they did it courtesy of two critical 2-out extra-base hits. Praise the Lord and pass the smelling salts.

Dustin Pedroia's double to right plated 2 in the third, and then Erik Hinske's bases-clearing triple with a pair gone in the 5th gave the Sox their final tallies. Hinske's blow was a game-changer, as it stretched the Sox' lead back to 4 after the Rangers had scored 3 in the top of the inning to get within a single run and dredge up painful memories of a blown 4-run lead on Saturday.

Rookie centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury made his Sox debut in that Saturday game, up from Pawtucket to sub in for a banged-up Coco Crisp. Ellsbury, drafted in 2005, has been on the fast track to Fenway, pun very much intended. He's projected to be the Sox' leadoff hitter of the future, and he's displayed a stunning amount of speed in his first few games in the bigs. He legged out a single on a routine grounder to short in his first game, then rocketed home from second last night to score on a wild pitch. He had 2 hits, 2 walks, 2 runs and a steal yesterday - and damned if he doesn't look a little bit like pre-Neanderthal Johnny Damon. I can't remember a Sox player with his kind of wheels - must say that the prospect of an Ellsbury/Pedroia 1-2 combo for the next 10 years has me a little faint.

The win gave the Sox a split against the Rangers and helped them avoid a 3-game skid - good thing, too, because Scott Kazmir gets the ball tonight for the Rays in Boston. Careful readers will be sure to remember that even mediocre lefthanders kill the Sox, and Kazmir's anything but, even as he's struggling a bit in 2007. Daisuke takes the mound for the Sox, secure in the understanding that his mates will likely plate fewer than 2 runs on his behalf.

Finally, from the places we don't like to talk about at cocktail parties file, Papi's not homered in Fenway since April 21. If I put my hand over my ears, close my eyes, and murmur "lalalalala", it's as if that last sentence didn't ever happen.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Clairvoyants

Game 81 - Mets

Rockies 6, Mets 2
Record: 46-35

"Of course, when Glavine gets pounded in Colorado and another no-name call-up dismantles the Met bats tomorrow night, I reserve the right to recant that paragraph and replace it with a flurry of expletives."
-- Anonymous, 7/1/07

"That figures. Predictable really, I suppose. It was an act of purest optimism to have [talked up the Mets] in the first place. . . What a senseless waste."
-- Monty Python's Flying Circus, Cheese Shop Sketch, 11/30/72

Thievery Corporation

It seems that every denizen of Mets Township, from the news hounds at MetsBlog to the maestros at Faith and Fear to prognosticating genius Metstradamus and especially to photographer and blogger extraordinaire MetsGrrl (though definitely not our boys at East Coast Agony), is somewhere between mildly peeved and truly up in arms about the omission of John Kevin Maine from the National League All-Star roster. And not one of them is wrong.

Maine has been steady as a rock, moreso than his mates in the rotation. His numbers -- and we're talking about any of them, from the 9 wins that wow Joe Morgan to the .237 BABIP that impresses the Sabermetricians -- are through-and-through Top 10 in the league, many of them Top 5. He should be in that game before at least one other Met. (Sorry, Charlie . . . Beltran.) He should be in that game, period, and it's disappointing for the guy not to be going.

Who knows why he isn't? Could be that he's not flashy enough, and his numbers are just this side of gaudy, so there really hasn't been a whole lot of SportsCenter time for Maine. Could also be that with Billy Wagner having a lights-out first-half and the new era of All-Star managers possessing soft spots for closers, it's a pretty tough case to give the Mets six entries. (Especially the way they were playing a few weeks ago.) Or, it could be that Tony LaRussa is the douchewhistle many have called him, and he wasn't going to give any more Mets the satisfaction of inclusion than he had to.

Hell, it could be that John Maine eerily resembles the creepy, murderous, rapist character of "Wild Bill" in The Green Mile. I don't know what it is that's keeping John Maine off the roster and out of the gimmicky "Final Vote" poll, but here's the thing: in the end, I have often secretly thought that Mets omissions were for the best.

That's right. Ultimately, I think we'd rather rest this key cog of the New York Mets rotation. Let the Break be a break. Sure, there won't be a whole lot of action for a starting pitcher in the All-Star Game. Sure, there isn't a huge chance of injury. (Somewhere Ray Fosse just rolled over in his grave . . . uh, except that he's still alive, and with his arthritic shoulder, he's not rolling over without a burly bedmate, a downhill lie, and a bucket of luck.) But couldn't any major league ballplayer benefit from a little R&R? I mean, is Huey Lewis the only guy clamoring for a couple days off?

In truth, it's not the nine innings (or however many Bud Selig will allow) that takes it out of the players; it's the media blitz, the made-for-TV tripe-laden interviews, and the overbearing hype of the Midsummer Classic. Compare that to the stress of an unpopulated fishin' hole. It's gotta be a thrill to be a part of the All-Star Game, and you want that for young pitchers . . . but when they get the snub, you have to start to think, "Hmmm . . . extra rest as well as the bonus of a little chip on the shoulder? A little fire in the belly to try to show up the doubters? A little extra special sauce on the out-pitch every time he faces St. Louis?"

Maybe I'm just trying to bright-side this thing, but I'm okay with as many Mets as possible sleeping late, forgetting about baseball, and recharging the battery for a few days. Of course . . . don't anybody else agree with me. We still want the sentiment of the masses to be that John Maine was robbed of his rightful spot on that roster, and just make sure Mr. Maine hears us loud and clear.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Joy Division

Games 72 through 80 - Mets

Mets 10, A's 2
Mets 2, Cardinals 1
Cardinals 5, Mets 3
Mets 2, Cardinals 0 (6 inn.)
Mets 6, Phillies 5
Mets 5, Phillies 2
Mets 8, Phillies 3
Phillies 5, Mets 3
Record: 46-34

Rob was merely on vacation last week. I was on vacation and working my second week on the new job, getting up to speed and visiting the client site in New Jersey 'twixt lounging it up at multiple beach cottages, celebrating a decade of wedded bliss eighteenth-century style, and ringing in my daughter's fourth birthday with a Little Mermaid gala. He's such a slacker.

As it was, for at least part of the time I found myself in a situation very similar to Rob's: geographically much closer to my baseball team, totally plugged into the goings-on with them, yet unable to view much of the action and less able to get my thoughts to you, the reading public.

What you would have heard from this side of the MLC aisle would have echoed much of my last brief post. There's a renewed optimism in camp, and it's just so much nicer to put on the Mets lid these days. I wasn't donning the thing any less two weeks ago, it just seemed to chafe my head and yank out my diminishing follicles a lot more then.

After a 4-14 start to June best described in terms usually reserved for characters Jerry Lewis or Chevy Chase played, the Mets quietly regrouped and finished the month 12-15. Lousy when coupled with their 19-9 May, perfectly splendid when you saw the first fortnight. That the Mets' June record ended up being just a game worse than the Red Sox' (ignore Rob's fuzzy math below) is startling in more ways than one, and I think I'm a lot more pleased by that stat than my counterpart is.

Beyond the statistical rebound, there was plenty to like in how the Mets were winning. Close ones and blowouts. At home, on the road. Clutch, timely, and productive. Oh, and throttling the Phillies on their home turf will always, always result in tremendous gratification.

The troubles haven't all subsided -- not with Ollie Perez aching, Jorge Sosa ailing, and Aaron Heilman flailing. There are still games where the bats fall disturbingly silent, and there are still concerns about whether this team as it sits is good enough to pass the mustard down the stretch.

That said, beyond the dominant outings most of the rotation has interspersed back into the schedule, we've seen the offense reminded that there will be times when it needs to carry this club. Hell, Carlos Beltran single-handedly carried them this weekend in Philadelphia, leaving the Township's most critical without a whole lot to say. Delgado has proved himself really, really not awful of late, Reyes & Wright still make me smile, and Paul LoDuca's exclusion from the All-Star team can only add more coal to his fire. There is rational reason to believe the Mets won't soon return to the doldrums of yestermonth, but my current satisfaction goes beyond that.

Somewhere in the Oakland series, "simply fun to watch" re-entered the vernacular of these New York Mets, and that feeling about this team stayed with me from the Tar Heel State to the Old Dominion to the Garden State to the Colonial Capital and on back home. This week I'll settle down and get to watch a lot more Metball, and for the first time in a while, that fact pleases me a great deal.

(Of course, when Glavine gets pounded in Colorado and another no-name call-up dismantles the Met bats tomorrow night, I reserve the right to recant that paragraph and replace it with a flurry of expletives. Hey, you saw how bad they were just two frickin' weeks ago . . .)


Games 72 through 80 - Red Sox

Red Sox 2, San Diego Padres 1
Padres 6, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 4, Padres 2
Mariners 9, Red Sox 4
Mariners 8, Red Sox 7
Mariners 2, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 2, Rangers 1
Rangers 5, Red Sox 4
Rangers 2, Red Sox 1
Record: 49-31

Jesus, here I was thinking I was the one on vacation. All's quiet on the Metstern front, apparently. For me, everyday sunshine, despite a mediocre go of it by the Sox.

Speaking of that vacation, it's a reasonably good thing that I spent the last 9 days cozied by Cape Cod's timeless charms, ensconced in a 1930s vintage beach cottage with no cable television and only an old transistor radio with which to keep tabs on the Sox. Long days on the beach, lazy mornings with the Boston Globe, and too much shellfish and good, cold beer have a way of softening the edges on what would otherwise be a highly aggravating stretch of baseball.

The Sox missed a golden opportunity to bury their leading rivals, losing 5 of 6 and 6 of 9 while the Blue Jays went 1-4 and the Yankees cratered, losing 7 of 9. Overall, the Sox went 13-17 in June...and still lead the AL East by 10 1/2 games. Doctor Glasshalffull notes that the Sox will be hard-pressed to have another month that bad, while Mr. Glasshalfempty suggests that the pitching is carrying so much of the load at the moment that their due to stumble - and woe be unto the Sox if this offense has to lead the way.

It's not so much that the offense is failing (it is), but when the failures occur. The Sox were a reasonable 8th in the majors in OPS in June, but fell to 15th in OBP and all the way to 23rd in runs scored with 112 tallies in 30 games (less than 4 per, for you liberal arts majors). The terrific blog Yanksfan vs. Soxfan notes that the Sox posted a .318 (!) OPS with one extra-base hit with the bases loaded in June, and a .217/.328/.383 mark with runners in scoring position.

Anecdotally, my notes (drunkenly scribbled, stained with Long Trail IPA) from a week's worth of radio broadcasts capture the same exasperating inability to plate runners in the clutch with a bit more, um, color. After Mike Lowell failed to deliver with 2 outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 2nd last night, I was irrationally pissed - especially since the Sox led 4-0 at the time with Josh Beckett on the hill. As it turned out, my irrational is a lot more cogent than my rational, as the Sox never scored again, despite lead-off extra base hits by Alex Cora and J.D. Drew in separate innings.

Returning to those notes, let's see if I can read my writing well enough to recount the things I think I thought over the past week and a half (and I won't be talking about Starbucks):
  • In the case of Barry Bonds versus the New York Yankees, the jury has returned with a unanimous verdict. To wit, as the Giants' roid-monster stepped into the batter's box against the Pinstripes with the Yankees up by 2 in the late innings, I immediately and instinctively rooted for Head (Pants! Now!) to get a hit. I guess I hate the Yankees more than I do Bonds. Good to know.
  • Shooter died while I was on the Cape. Rod Beck wasn't with the Sox for all that long, and they weren't all that good while he was with the club after reaching the playoffs in 1999, but he had a whole lot of dirt dog in him, even before that term was an overused cliche. Fun to watch, even if I usually did it with one hand covering my eyes.
  • A local television station in Boston ran a 30-minute feature conflating the joint 40th Anniversaries of the Impossible Dream Red Sox and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. In the midst of the special, Dave Roberts stole second in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS and my fist pumped instinctively and automatically.
  • Not to get all sepia-toned on you, but a baseball game on the radio is a pleasure to be savored and enjoyed.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka can't get any love at all - he was a beast in June, giving up 6 ER and 22 hits in 34 innings, and only going 2-2 because his teammates can't hit (see above, and below and below and below). He was the Sox' best starter in the month, and nobody's talking about him. I think he (and I) likes it that way.
  • I went to my grandmother's 85th birthday while on the Cape, and talked Sox with all four of my grandparents. I'm not sure which is more remarkable, that two little old ladies have strong opinions about David Ortiz' struggles with the longball, or that all of my grandparents are alive and in reasonably good health. Maybe rabid Sox fandom is the fountain of youth.
Back to work tomorrow, with Kason Gabbard standing between the Sox and a series loss to the woeful Rangers. And they're still 10 1/2 games up in the East. Smoke, mirrors, and the kitchen sink - or just bad baseball by their competition. As one of Whit's noteworthy colleagues once opined, fuck it - drive on.