Friday, November 30, 2007

Trading Places

Well, today the New York Mets made the off-season blockbuster trade to put the final piece in the Wold Champion jigsaw puzzle.

Scratch that. They just traded away Lastings Milledge for Ryan Church, Brian Schneider, and a rosin bag.

At least it's a nice rosin bag.

As with any trade, there's the gut reaction, the three-days later feeling, the three months later outlook, and the official verdict a season or several later. Gut reaction is mostly indigestion amid the Township. Here's hoping for some antacid corollary trades or subsequent information that eases the rumbling down in the belly.

Lastings Milledge had almost a Kazmirian fall from hot prospect to doghouse-dweller. Nothing but youthful indiscretions, a little worse than turning up some bad music in the clubhouse but no worse than a sassy strut or two, an obscene rap album, and some surly comments here and there. Not a reason to send him packing for two overachieving yet underwhelming Nats. 'Stings may be quite the appropriate nickname if he develops into a marquee player.

For those who weren't with us in 2004, here's an MLC recap of some of the more significant trades in Met history. We'll see where this one ends up, but the early sentiments don't bode well.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hey... glad to be here.

First entry disclaimer: This is a long one. It will never happen again. I hope this achieves what Rob had in mind.

At last, I have arrived!

This is my first official entry as a blogger. Is it natural for me to suddenly be experiencing an inflated sense of self worth? Should I start contemplating the magnitude of being me? Am I the straw that stirs this drink? Does Reggie read this blog?

Seriously, as a long time reader, I am honored that Whit and Rob invited me aboard. I hope I can earn my keep around here by bringing a Phillies’ fan perspective that’s fractionally as humorous as my counterparts’ usual witticisms. I will make only one promise – I shall never use “ph” in the place of “f” except when typing the name (and all its variations) of the lovable inhabitants of Broad and Pattison Streets.

I now will provide some vital information about me which will hopefully engender pity and charity.

I grew up nowhere near Philadelphia. Pittsburgh was the closest team (about 40 miles away) but rooting for the Battlin’ Buccos was not an option in my house. Pops forbade it. He never actually had to speak this rule but I remember vividly his reaction when the Pirates came from behind to clip the Orioles in 1971. I think he hated the Pirates more that he loved his Cubs. Not entirely sure why he was a Cubs fan but the story goes that all his schoolyard mates were avid Pirates fans in 1938 and the Cubs were Pittsburgh’s nearest rival for the NL pennant that season. It seems my dad did what contrarians by definition always do and he cast his lot with the Cubs who went on to win the pennant. Poor bastard never had a chance.

I came along relatively late in my fathers’ life – I know, I know, this sounds too much like Ray Kinsella’s life but it’s true. My rationale for picking a team was rooted foremost in fear and then in fascination. One day after work, my dad dropped a pack of Topps 1976 baseball cards in on the living room floor between the TV and my body posited roughly 2 feet away. I opened it up and the first thing I remember was the swirly white P with the baseball in the hole. That did it for me. My dad saw history repeating itself in its cruel way yet did nothing to stop me. Apparently, he saw a kindred soul and let things progress as if he was abiding by the Prime Directive.

1976, 77 and 78 were three of Philly’s most successful if not glorious seasons in their history to date. Each season ended in a gut wrenching NLCS ouster. In ’76 of course, no one was stopping the Big Red Machine, one of history’s all time greats. In ’77 and ‘ 78, it was the Dodgers turn to lose to the Yanks.

1979 brought free agent Pete Rose to Philly. It was hoped that he would bring his inimitable brand of hustle to a talented team of underachievers. Pete was my brother’s favorite player. The Reds were his favorite team. My brother’s team selection process, while different in kind, was not different in its whimsical nature. My brother’s name was Pete. He shared an April birthday with Charlie Hustle and was born in 1963, Rose’s rookie season. We never made fun of my brother Pete because his Reds came through 3 times which makes him a sharpshooter in our gang that couldn’t shoot straight. At least one of us got it right even though it wasn’t exactly a well researched decision. Pete's dead now so I am hoping I can catch him if I live to my '90s.

The 1979 version of the Phils were hampered by injuries and by August, they had sacked manager Danny Ozark and replaced him with an organization man – Dallas Green. Green humiliated those supremely gifted yet woefully underperforming Phillies into the franchise’s first and to date, only world champion. The very thought of such a managerial style seems so anachronistic today. No matter, Green delivered the title and I was forever cursed.

After 5 seasons as a fan, I witnessed 4 division titles, one pennant and one world championship. 1981 was a year to forget. The Phils were going strong until the strike and when they returned, baseball instituted a split season playoff format which meant the Phillies had already clinched a spot in early August. They mailed it in the rest of the way and got dumped by a great, young Expos team featuring Tim Raines, Gary Carter and Andrew Dawson.

A second place finish in ’82 was followed up by the improbable title run in 1983 when the Wheeze Kids of Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Pete Rose lost to Baltimore in five games.

At this point, I am eight seasons into my fandom and I am sitting on a dynasty of sorts.

1984 was a .500 season for an aging club. 1985 was the first losing season and although I was familiar with this club’s history, I never imagined those days would return. Little by little though, this club aged and fell apart. First it was Luzinski going to the White Sox. Then Bowa to the Cubs. Manny Trillo and Bake McBride to the Indians. Pete to the Expos. Steve Carlton to 13 different teams in one of baseball’s all-time most pathetic twilights. They were all gone and so was the savvy organization that procured top notch veterans to go along with their home grown talent. The Phillies returned to their historical form. 1986 was a minor blip. The Phils would experience losing seasons in 1987 through 1992. 1993, of course was a team for the ages but was most definitely a statistical outlier. We stunk up the 1990’s and by the turn of the century, I had long accepted that I made a big mistake a quarter century ago. I will now share a dark secret. In 1997, in a fit of frustration, I briefly flirted with becoming a Red Sox fan. The rationale was that I would not be accused of being a bandwagon fan given the Sox history. All the while I knew something had to give with the Red Sox and very soon. The Cubs of course, were never considered.

So far, this first decade of the 21st century has been numbingly mediocre. Not too bad. Good enough to keep me interested but never seriously. There are gaping holes everywhere and its only the wild card format that makes it interesting after Labor Day.

There you have it. Equal parts misery and mediocrity though I am not certain which is worse. A couple fantastical Cinderella seasons capped by a lost slipper. And one shiny, glittering, glorious, incomprehensibly ecstatic foray into baseball nirvana.

Misery loves company indeed! Glad to be here.

(Oh, before I go, I have one question for the venerable MLC founders, are we going to change the name to reflect the numbers? I put forward the idea that like the Big Ten with its 11 teams, MLC: Two Guys has brand name quality and recognition that cannot be replaced simply to reflect the changing mathematics. (If my newly obtained membership affords me a vote, of course.)

American Legion Post 274: MLC Press Conference

(formerly entitled "New Kids on the Block")

Tap, Tap . . . Is This Thing On?

Fellow bloggers, blog-readers, commenters, lurkers, stray Googlers, mistypers, daredevils who clicked on Next Blog>> atop some other pitstop in the blogosphere, and dear friends:

It is with great anticipation and some apprehension that the founders of Misery Loves Company, Inc., LLC, WTF, announce the next chapter in the storied saga of our little blog. After five long years of an MLC juxtaposition between Rob's Red Sox and my Mets -- which, as you might not have noticed, evoked a bit of lopsided misery 'round these parts -- Misery Loves Company is undergoing its first foray into expansion. As with any addition of Young Guarde franchises into a long-standing organization, there will be purists who stand aloof and rebuff the introduction of new blood and new ways into what they have known and loved. We hope, however, that you will embrace this new pair of scribes in much the same, silent, stoic way that you've embraced us with tough love for five seasons of baseball.

I hereby introduce "TJ" and "Nick" as our two latest voices amid the clatter of MLC chatter. They represent the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, respectively, and they've accepted posts alongside Rob and me in broadcasting our collective misery (Rob excepted) to the Internet world. Please welcome them.

Yes, it has occurred to us that this saturates our message and splinters our readership and blog-linked allegiance even further. Yes, it's also occurred to us that we just cut our external readership in half. Yes, it's even occurred to us that to incorporate proponents of our teams' rivals is to stain our otherwise pure Red Sox and Mets content with some of the enemy. Hear us out.

First of all, bloggers are like sharks. If we stay in the same place, we will die. (And nobody outside our species understands or likes us.) Second, every good writer knows that incorporating some conflict into every scene is integral to entertaining the audience. Third, what's in a flu shot? A little bit of the flu, that's right, and so we introduce a bit of enemy poison into our collective body with this move. And finally . . . I don't know, hell -- it seemed like a good idea.

Avid MLC readers may recall a number of lengthy, bitter diatribes on the Phils in the comment section here, usually filed under "Phightin'-lovin' Nick." Another frequent commenter, TJ (aka Teejay, Teej, Taj, or Tajikistan) has worked with us over at Gheorghe: The Blog for years. The Misery Machine has now absorbed both of them, and you will be able to reap the benefits.

Now is the time to begin amassing some serious banter from some pissed-off fans with the baseball intellect, the literary savoir-faire, the comic acumen, the available time, and even the occasional point to make. It begins here, it begins now. Okay, uh, actually, it begins at the end of March, but you get the point.

Let's all drink to Nick and TJ. And change that obsolete header above.

Whitney & Rob

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Huey Lewis & The News, Really

The Misery Loves Company management team has scheduled a 4:00 EST press conference for Thursday, November 29. A major announcement regarding the future of the enterprise will be made at that time, in conjunction with the 274th post of 2007, which will break the all-time MLC record for posts in a season. Despite public outcry regarding Whitney's alleged substance abuse habits, there is no current plan to append an asterisk to the record.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Random Idiots

Since we're only 2 posts away from setting an all-time record for posts in a calendar year (you knew this already, of course, because of the incessant media buzz around the milestone), and because I'd like to knock some of the rust off the old MLC masthead, I'll stumble around for a few moments, if you'll indulge me. Who knows, like the proverbial blind squirrel, I may find a handful of acorns that please you.
  1. Now that the Sox have re-upped Mike Lowell, it appears that all the major pieces of the 2007 World Series Champions (cue swelling strings and drum crescendo...annnnnd stop) will open the 2008 campaign in Fort Myers. In some cases, standing pat is synonymous with getting stale. In the Sox' case, though, 2007's careful mix of youthful energy with proven veteran leadership looks to be at least decently insulated against the ravages of the year after. Jacoby Ellsbury will likely start the season as the Sox' centerfielder. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz will get a chance to step into the rotation, with Tim Wakefield's flexibility and Julian Tavarez' rubber arm serving as buffers against overuse. The Killer P's, Papelbon and Pedroia, return with another year of big game experience and maturity. Okay, experience.
  2. Speaking of Lowell, while my belief is that he's not likely to "earn" his whole 3-year, $37.5m contract on the playing field, his signing despite reported longer-term offers from other clubs reinforces the notion that a certain breed of player likes performing in Boston. There's value in that perception in terms of future negotiations, and there's intangible value in Lowell's clubhouse presence. He's also got a swing made for Fenway, so it's unlikely that he'll completely tank. And frankly, he was the second-best available 3rd-sacker (single sacker?) and the Sox got him for 40% of the top guy's annual salary.
  3. With the heavy lifting done, the Sox turn to the bullpen and depth. Sure would be nice to have someone credible backing up Jason Varitek's increasingly aging bat. As fun as Doug Mirabelli is to have around, I'd be perfectly content to wish him well and bring in a younger receiver. Coco Crisp seems not terribly pleased to be the Sox' 4th outfielder, and I can't really blame him. The Sox may have trouble getting full value for a guy that lost his job in the postseason, but Crisp was arguably the best defensive outfielder in baseball last season, which should be worth something to Minnesota and Atlanta, both of whom lose stellar defenders in center (assuming Andruw Jones doesn't slink back to the Dirty South after nobody else wants him).
  4. Word comes this week, as it inevitably would, that the Yankees have opened negotiations with the Twins aimed at bringing Johan Santana to New York. We'll set aside, for a moment, the question of why this was news when presumably 6-9 other teams have also "opened negotiations" with the Twins. Focusing on the Red Sox angle, this is the one offseason possibility that gives me pause. A-Rod resigning with the Yankees was a) not surprising and b) doesn't solve New York's glaring pitching problem. Santana is a horse of a far different and more terrifying color. The Yankee rotation would be immediately and massively improved, even if they had to send Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain to the Twins as part of the deal. And Santana's young enough that he could be in pinstripes for 7-10 more years, assuming his early-career arm troubles don't return. Some pundit somewhere speculated yesterday that Santana was bound for the Mets. Make it so, please.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

C&C Music Factory

C.C. Sabathia received the AL Cy Young award yesterday, and I have no idea why a segment of the Red Sox fanbase is arguing about it - he quite clearly deserved the award. His regular season rate stats (W, ERA, K, K/9, BB/K, etc.) were very similar to those of Josh Beckett, but Sabathia logged 40 more innings than did the erstwhile Ebby Calvin. Basically, he and Beckett were the same pitcher, but Sabathia gave his team 5 more games. Those extra innings may have contributed to C.C.'s postseason ineffectiveness while Beckett's more moderate workload kept him fresh enough to dominate as he did in October. If that's the case, Sabathia can have all the awards he wants.

The always-brilliant Mighty MJD nails it this morning, saying, "The appropriate response from a Red Sox fan here isn't, "We were robbed!" It's "Hey, cute little trophy you got there, CC. Put it next to your TV while you're watching Beckett beat your ass on the Red Sox championship DVD."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hot Hot Heat

My stormtroopers have effectively quelled the coup attempt disguised as a blog post immediately below this one, and the immediate thrill of winning the World Series has receded into a generalized sense of awe and gratitude, so it's time to toss some kindling into the old potbelly and warm our hands on the venerable hot stove.

Now that a few weeks have passed, I think I like the 2007 Sox even more than the 2004 club. While the Idiots will always hold a special place in my heart for slaying the dragon, this year's squad has a more appealing character. Maybe it's as simple as Jonathan Papelbon > Kevin Millar as the goofball face of the franchise. Perhaps the youth movement in 2007 makes them more likable. Could be Papi's "Bad Motherfucker" moment. Or it could be the fact that the 2007 team seems more like the beginning of something durable than a case of catching lightning in a bottle. I'm not paid to ponder these things. Go see Red and Denton if you want deeper meaning.

Midnight tonight marks the opening bell for open free agency, when players are free to negotiate with teams other than their 2007 employers. Despite reportedly productive negotiations, Mike Lowell has yet to agree to terms with the Sox on a new contract. The Sox, as per their normal position, seem willing to spend money but only over 3 years. Lowell wants 4 and will probably get an offer in that range from someone else. It's the Johnny Damon question all over again - which is more important to Lowell, straight cash, homie, or comfort level in a town that adores him? It's not an easy question to answer. I'm unabashedly, if not unbiasedly (not a word) hoping he loves being loved.

Although nobody loves being loved as much as Curt Schilling, who comes back for one more run at the ring at bargain dollars (if $8m can be framed as a bargain). I see nothing but win-win in this scenario, especially if the contract's conditioning provisions goad #38 into whipping himself into shape. Says here his awareness of his own legacy is all the incentive he needs.

Related to Lowell's situation is the trade rumor involving some combination of Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Craig Hansen, Craig Bowden and a bag of balls for Miguel Cabrera. This may be the unrepentant fanboy in me talking, but I look at Cabrera and his growing waistline at the tender age of 24 and see red flags waving from here to Miami. Frankly, if the Sox were good enough to win it all with the team they've got, I don't see a real need to trade 2 or more of the terrific young pieces - even for Cabrera's potential.

Finally, Dustin Pedroia was named the AL Rookie of the Year in the same he announced that he'd played the season's final 2 months with a broken hamate bone. Studly little bastard.

Oh, and Theo, if you sign Alex Rodriguez, Nick can have my keyboard.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Huey Lewis & the News

Well, it's been several years, it seems like, since I darkened the hallowed halls of Misery Loves Company. Really, though, I've been getting my fill of Mets-related content when "friends" send me news bits like this:
WESTBURY, NY (Associated Press) - A seven-year old boy was at the center of a Nassau County courtroom drama yesterday when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him. The boy has a history of being beaten by his parents, and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with child custody law and regulation requiring that family unity be maintained to the highest degree possible. The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his aunt customarily beat him even more than his parents, and he adamantly refused to live with her. When the judge then suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy began to cry, explaining that that they also beat him. After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him. After two recesses to check legal references and confer with the Child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to the New York Mets, whom the boy firmly believes are not capable of beating anyone.

Thanks, thanks very much. I've got some thoughts on the way it went down for the Metmen this year -- and boy, did it go down. Those thoughts are forthcoming, and I'd better be quick about it; the Mets have already re-upped with a pair of their '07ers for next year, so the Hot Stove time is creeping in.

In the meantime, I would also like to include a recent electronic mail transmission from the occasional MLC commenter referred to as "Phillie-lovin' Nick":
You need to have a sit-down with Rob and break the news to him. You have to let him go. I think I would be your ideal co-writer in MLC.

The Sox World Series sweeps of 2004 and 2007 have disqualified them indefinitely for any right to share in misery. Put Rob on notice now. If the Sox can manage to go without a single championship and limit their next World Series visit to no sooner than 2022, he can come back to Miseryville. In the meantime, he can enjoy sipping champagne with all the winners of the world -- just have him call us the Deacon Blues

Seriously, 2004/2007 erases history. Aaron Boone, Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner were never born. 2003, 1986, 1975 and 1967 have been erased. The Babe never played in Beantown. Joe DiMaggio was an only child. Ted Williams’ plane was shot down over Pyonyang. Johnny Pesky was a lumberjack and was crushed by a redwood one tragic morning. Wade Boggs contracted HIV from a toothless redneck part time prostitute/part time night shift manager at a KFC in Pawtucket and as a result, never made it to the Show.

It’s me and you now, Whit. We are misery. What does Rob know?

Let me know after you have told him.

The thoughts of the MLC literati on whether a blog called "Misery Loves Company" can really exist with what's gone on in its midst are appreciated. Questions of whether five years in the same place is enough, whether I can abandon my little buddy over sour grapes, whether I can tolerate sharing space with someone who supports the Phightins, whether adversarial pairings make for better copy, or whether we oughtn't just expand MLC into a free-for-all with multiple writers touting their team on the same turf . . . these are all worth discussing at some length.

Over beers next Monday afternoon at The Dubliner in the Nation's Capital would be best, but over the blogwaves would suffice.