Monday, September 24, 2007

The Ohio Players

Games 153 through 156 - Mets

Mets 9, Marlins 6
Mets 7, Marlins 2
Mets 7, Marlins 6
Nationals 13, Mets 4
Record: 87-69

The Mets are sandbagging it. Gotta be. Nobody can look this bad against the Washington Nationals every time out. There's a master plan afoot, not as well documented or as much lamented as the one in the other half of the MLC camp, but some kind of a strategy wherein the Mets are going to limp into the playoffs under the radar, then rally like the cohesive unit they haven't been since two (calendar) seasons ago. Gotta be. Because if they're really this bad . . . lord have mercy.

Over the four-gamer against the Marlins, the Mets looked this dreadfully ordinary from time to time, but they did what it took to snag three of four. Ugly wins are still wins, and to rebound from the Thursday night ipecac they way they did was noteworthy.

Almost . . . too noteworthy. It was too comfortable, that little cushion between them and the Phillies -- and we're talking I-AA football game promotional local hardware store free giveaway seat padding "little cushion." Still too much easy breathing for the Met in royal blue and blaze orange, I guess. We've mentioned how the 2006 World Series teams stumbled down a flight of stairs at the end of the regular season en route to postseason success. Were the Mets so stunned by their NLCS defeat that they've taken to utmost emulation?

The Nationals. The Nats. The Gnats. The esrtwhile Expos. The team put together by MLB's executive office, a superstar crew that couldn't assemble a toddler Lego set, much less a baseball roster. Once again they looked like a dominant force, compared to our New York Mets. Staggeringly so.

Mike Pelfrey made quick work of the Nats early, then faltered as if to say, "I'm really more of a four-inning guy." Keith Hernandez has made his displeasure about the coddling of young pitchers well known; by keeping their pitch counts very low, managers ensure these guys'll have neither off-season surgery nor any capacity for throwing more than six innings on any given night. There's a happy medium somewhere, but Pelfrey and several others on this staff seem to tire at breakneck speed somewhere in the middle frames.

Which leads us to . . . the bullpen. Guillermo Mota is a guy whose 2007 Topps baseball card actually has crosshairs on it, and his allowance of three runs in an inning of work surprised no one; meanwhile, old friend Dave Williams threw a 15-pitch ninth in which he surrendered a three-run jack to Ryan Langerhans -- which, if I am reading the rulebook correctly, means he must sit out the next two years of organized baseball of any kind.

Moises Alou hit safely for the 28th game in a row and helped turn a first-and-third base hit to left-center into a man-on-second, two-runs-in situation with only a slight glove gaffe. That's veteran smooth.

Remember José A. Reyes? The other José Reyes in the organization? The guy who never gets on, never steals bases, is good but not great with the glove, and who hits AA-caliber pitching at a .214 clip? I'm tired of watching him lead off for the Mets over the last month. It's really getting annoying.

Speaking of annoying, the Nats' TV booth -- Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton -- is startlingly abrasive for fans of either the Mets or announcers with just enough impartiality to still dwell in the factual. Sutton's not terrible, he's mostly just . . . there, and it may be some lingering distaste for the former Braves color guy that makes me lump him in with Carpenter. But the latter is a play-by-play guy that somehow incorporates more skew into his fairly straightforward job than seems possible. Tonight we learned some valuable information:

1. Ryan Zimmerman's league-leading 23 errors would be in single digits if it weren't for his throwing errors. He has softer hands than David Wright, who has 21 of his own. (That they can say this definitively based on the 17 games they've watched Wright -- who seemingly makes every snare but delivers some wild throws -- is mind-numbing.)

2. The ball Austin Kearns misjudged badly and ran by as it fell in for a double? Well, he doesn't have the benefit of slow motion out there, folks. (You don't have to crucify a power-hitting corner outfielder for misplaying a ball, but at least let the viewing audience know it was actually a mistake. Is Kearns running for office?)

3. For the second time in a week, Bobby C called a deep Nats fly and let loose the "See! . . . You! . . ." but before the "Later!!" could make its way past his lips, the ball dropped onto the warning track, so he finished it with "At the wall!" Tonight he even led it all off with a "Popped to left," then inexplicably overcorrected with the premature tater call. Because for the second time Moises Alou made a less-than-dexterous play on said fly, I couldn't appreciate the broadcasting ineptitude with a chuckle. When the aged Phil Rizzuto used to do the same thing with regularity, I enjoyed it with the same levity that made me laugh when my kooky grandfather couldn't spit out my name until the fourth try. When Mr. Carpenter does it, I don't enjoy it at all; he just seems like an amateur.

And more than anything, it's the aversion to anything even slightly negative about the hometown nine that drives me nuts. The team is 17 games under .500, but you'd never know this team wasn't playoff-bound by listening to a broadcast; on the surface, that's admirable, keeping fans into it and extolling a truly overachieving team. What makes up the nightlines on MASN, however, is a series of exaggerations, embellishments, and outright incorrect statements about what's going on between the lines. All too many one-sided questions raised about the umpiring, official scoring, and every play made or not made.

What is it about Washington, DC play-by-play guys that they're babbling, bumbling homers? (Wizards caller) Steve Buckhantz and Bob Carpenter need to call our softball games sometime; we'll never feel so good about getting slaughter-ruled ever again. I enjoy quite a bit of hometown bias, don't get me wrong. Sonny & Sam never let there be any question whose side they're on as color guys, and I'm for that. But the ability to maintain objectivity about the quality of the team's performance is essential to maintaining credibility, and too many guys shelve that and don the rah-rah blinders.

Meanwhile, Riggo and I think this current Redskins team is closer to 6-10 than 10-6. Keith and I think there are some problems to be worked out with this by-many-accounts top-notch Met team before they even think about the playoffs. Rob and I call our teams' fortunes like we see them, neither pie-in-the-sky nor sky-is-falling. At times we are swayed towards either polar extreme, but we've usually got a little slab of the concrete to point to in our defense. Generally speaking, we try to issue blatantly biased realism. We don't always succeed, but with every game I watch that's called by the Prozac Pair in Washington, I feel better about what we do.

Anyway, tomorrow is yet another turn in this rollercoaster finish. I think we've possumed it enough for now, boys. Let's turn the jets back on.


TJ said...

You just called Austin Kearns a "power-hitting corner outfielder" must've been drunk when you wrote this.

Whitney said...

For the Nats, that's what he is. For the Nats.