Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Forget the measured logic of my Santana post below. This would be huge.
It’s not inconceivable that the ever dwindling core of die-hard baseball aficionados in the US will relegate the Sox' star-crossed history to some dusty hard cover book on the National Pastime in the children’s section of the local library. I don’t know any children who even casually follow baseball so as Doris Kearns Goodwin’s brain cells slowly dry up and get absorbed into her bloodstream to be disposed of each time she visits the loo, so will the legends of Teddy Ballgame, Pesky’s Pole and Billy Buckner’s battered and bruised body’s betrayal in Game 6. As a result, today’s generation of fans whose attention span is less than the time it takes Jimmie Rollins to leg out a triple are probably under the mistaken notion that the Boston Red Sox are THE GREATEST TEAM EVER! However, dear Rob knows better. He still proudly bears the scars that will always make the notion of him knowing misery seem quite reasonable.
The concept of misery is a relative one and that probably explains TJ. The past 7 years in the Bronx equal roughly the last 99 on Chicago’s North Side. It’s amazing but I really believe what I just typed. TJ knows misery. He has much loftier expectations. Each of us on this blog has known for the past 4 years, that the Yanks aren’t built for the postseason but dammit, they press on anyway, fooling Yankee lovers until October.
Whitney’s Mets are an altogether different story. One season, it’s Flushing’s foolish largess spent on trying to keep pace in the Borough wars. The next year, it’s the inexplicable injuries hobbling the team all season long. Recently, it’s the humiliation of losing to a middling Cardinals team in the NLCS and of course, Last September.
In many ways, Whitney’s misery trumps everyone else’s. Rob’s is salved by the recent success. The Yanks will always THE team on Baseball Tonight so at least TJ has that. (TJ, do you even know what it’s like to wait all the way until the end of BBTN to watch your team’s highlights?) My own personal misery has reached numbness. In fact, it’s not misery at all. It is after all, fait acompli, no? I cannot be fooled.
There is however, another dimension to misery. (Finally, I get to my thesis!) It is the concept or rather the reality that one is irrelevant. Heck, TJ has as much admitted it in his opening opus on MLC. He does not give the Phillies a second thought whatsoever. We don’t exist. Rob probably only cares inasmuch as the Phils usually provide the Sox the 3 extra wins they covet each year in trying to outpace the Yanks. Whitney only cares because of the shared ineptitude of each club’s front offices and that to a lesser degree, the Mets know what its like to be relegated to page 14 of the sports section.
What I know as a Phillies fan is a dimension of misery that is quite unique. I exist in the gray region that no one else can see. Giddy Red Sox fans drunk with glory stop to take a piss on me. Yanks fans are so much taller and they never deign to look down at the muck below their knees. Cubs fans get to be THE story whether they win or lose. I think I only have friends on Chicago’s South Side and Pittsburgh. Those are the only places where the teams don’t really matter. I am speaking historically of course. We all know the two franchises in F-L-A are irrelevant to Sunshine Staters. How you fail to sell baseball to Cubans in Miami mystifies me.
What got me thinking these gloomy thoughts about my team and its absence from the American baseball conscience was a question Whit posited to me regarding my feelings about the recently retired Mike Lieberthal. Leiby labored for 11 seasons in South Philly donning the tools of ignorance for the first half of his career for a hapless bunch of losers and in many ways, he was the soul of the team. I suppose Curt Schilling was the soul of the team to some degree as well but he spent most of the latter part of the decade, before his deliverance to the promised land in the desert, constantly whining about the front office and its inability to turn the club around. Not so Lieby. He was the silent, dutiful son. Lieby was solid both offensively and defensively but never brilliant. On those late ‘90’s Phillies teams, he remained the hope for the future. Then the Phils started to bring up some talent from a revitalized farm system and coupled it with some shrewd front office moves (Bobby Abreu for Kevin Stocker) and lo and behold, they were annually earmarked by all the baseball punditry as the team on the rise. The problem with that team was that they were loaded with guys like Mike Leiberthal who were professional to a nauseating fault. They were emotionless and gray, content with putting in a day’s work and then adjourning until BP the next night. These were not gregarious carousers and lovable vagabonds like Dutch, the Dude and Krukker of the Phils of ’93. They didn’t hang around the clubhouse ignoring their familial responsibilities while pounding Buds and Mooseheads. They put up decent numbers, notched 80 to 85 wins and punched the clock in ever so quietly in September.
To me, unfortunately, that is what I think of when I think of Mike Lieberthal. This guy started more opening days and squatted behind the dish for the most games of any catcher in Phils history. More than Dutch Daulton, Bob Boone and Andy Seminick to name three outstanding backstops in Phillies history. (Stop snickering TJ!) Yet I all can think about is those underachieving, hypnotic, robotic drones. No October highlights. Hell, not even a September highlight! Oh, I am sure Whitney recalls some oppressively humid August evening where, in a game thrice delayed by rain and pushed into extra innings after 1:30 AM, a dripping, soggy Mike Lieberthal deposited a weak fastball from some journeyman reliever over the left centerfield fence at Shea to put the 17 remaining fans out of their misery.
So tell me, how sad is it that I can’t properly eulogize Mike Lieberthal’s career in Philly? He should be lionized as an all time Phillies great. But he and the rest of the 2000 to 2006 Phillies crew are a painful reminder to the city of Philadelphia about what the city is not and what it will never be. They marched perfectly to the drumbeat notion that Philly will always be an afterthought. Philly will always live in the gray. Even the highway signs on I-95 begrudgingly report the distance to Philly and only then with much embarrassment. Glory does not recognize Philadelphia. It left town about 200 years ago. Last year’s improbable run to the NL East crown cemented Lieberthal's and his fellow automaton's image in Philly forever. They left and then we won something – even if it disappeared in early autumn dusk in Denver.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Oh, and there’s one other minor reason for this increasing apathy towards my NFL mistress, chronicled in high dudgeon by our friends at Jerry’s Wheelhouse. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has systematically eroded my love for the team through his money-first policies towards fans, his fantasy-football roster stylings, and his megalomaniacal insistence on involving himself in nearly all facets of the team’s football operations. This month’s coaching traveshamockery is but the latest evidence of Little Danny Starfucker’s abuses.
It occurs to me that my tolerance for Snyder’s wanton incompetence would be greater but for the fact that I’m a Sox fan. The differences between John Henry’s organization and that of Snyder are so stark as to be polar in their distance. I’ve had the unique and distinct pleasure of watching my favorite baseball club become a standard-bearer for organizational excellence, using deep pockets to fuel an extraordinarily disciplined and focused pursuit of every advantage. In the meantime, my football team has used similarly deep pockets to fuck up in every way possible, overspending on players, gleefully milking money from fans, and creating discontinuity as an organizational strategy. The camel’s back has been broken, the final straw shredded, the Rubicon crossed. I’m done with the Redskins, at least while Snyder remains in control – and he’s a very young man.
So I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Theo Epstein and his staff for helping me through this difficult period. Breaking up is never easy, but I think the Redskins and I will both be better off. At least I’m certain that I will, and, at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
As we near the limbering-up stage, however, all eyes and ears are fixated on the emanations from the rumor mill as they pertain to one Johan Santana. Snippets of idle speculation on Santana’s future home have been popping up on our collective radar for two months, and by now the frequent, meaningless blips all sound the same and signify the same amount of nothing. Comments from officials of any club involved in a potential trade consist of close-to-the-vest hollowness or shrewd misdirection. The supposed insight into whether the Mets will acquire the top-tier lefty is rampant, but it’s dwarfed by the volume of opinion on whether the Mets should acquire Johan Santana, at least at the current Minnesota asking price.
That current asking price is reportedly a five-player package that includes Fernando Martinez, Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey, Carlos Gomez, and Philip Humber. For those who didn’t get their copy of Baseball America’s Top 10 New York Mets Prospects in November, that’d be prospects # 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7 in the Mets organization. “Yikes,” blurt the more conservative-minded residents of Mets Township.
For everyone connected (officially or emotionally) with the Mets, the worst-case scenario here is a Herschel Walker outcome – the trade, not the split personality thing – where the Twinkies ride our youngsters to World Series trophies in 2010 and 2011 while the Mets get 13 wins and a 3.85 ERA out of Santana for a few years while failing to plug in key holes with free agents as our farm system becomes the subject of a Mellencamp song. But a lot of unforeseen circumstances would have to come about for that to happen. A slightly less remote – and still quite worrisome – result would be vaguely akin to the Kazmir-for-Zambrano debacle; only one of the five would have to rise to the elite while Santana suffers an injury that keeps him from remaining there. Not a probable expectation (there was waaaaay more handwriting on both walls of Kazmir-Zambrano), but not outside the realm of possibility. And it’d be another punt in the groin for a group of fans that are still exhaling deeply and walking off the last one.
As I type this, it occurs to me that leading off with the most negative of outcomes probably tips my hand about my mindset during these Santana deliberations. The intent of this post was to outline both sides, point out that the definitive, assured statements about what the trade would inevitably incur are foolhardy, and proudly, ignorantly proclaim that I have no idea what the best course of action is for the Mets. Clearly, however, I’m a little snake-bitten thanks to some past gaffes, and that can skew logic at times.
In truth, there are plenty of points (strong or otherwise) for making such a trade. Just as many for walking away. Here’s a single-conversation encapsulation of some of the arguments that have been posited.
Johan Santana is arguably the best pitcher in baseball; there’s no argument that he’s at least in the conversation.
True. Of course, he didn’t quite look up to his usual form the last month or two of last season. He looked tired, and with all of the innings he’s logged in the last four years, you can see why. Makes you wonder.
He actually pitched fewer innings last year than he has since becoming a full-time starter.
Right, he was 6th in the league in IP instead of 1st or 2nd; oh, and his HR’s Allowed went from 24 to 33. His ERA was his highest yet, up half a run. If it’s a trend, it’s a problematic one.
Two months aren’t a trend. And he was still good enough to finish 5th in Cy Young voting. In the hitter’s league. And some speculated he was unhappy after nothing was done at the trade deadline.
Oh, that attitude will get many accolades in The New York Post.
Most significantly to the matter at hand, he was as good or better (or vastly better) in every statistical category as compared to any full-time starter on the Mets. Even the ones having (possibly) career years at Shea, a pitcher’s park.
It’s true, the Mets desperately need him to give themselves a real shot of postseason success. But is his potential value worth the self-inflicted hamstringing of the best parts of the Mets’ farm system?
In any other professional league, no. But in the mixed up, muddled up, shook up world that is the economics of baseball, the Mets don’t have the same high costs for mismanaging prospects. Prospects? We don’t need no stinking prospects! We buy players up here, El Hefe. Prospects are for the Royals and A’s.
Ah, the 2002-06 New York Yankees game plan. The Type A free-agent signing. It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.
Like the system or not, the Mets are a big-market team, and there is simply no reason for them to sport a starting rotation like their current one. They won’t even lose draft picks for it – and they can re-stock the pond with a relatively decent collection of picks coming to them next go-‘round.
But 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7? Seems a bit steep.
But we're talking about prospects, man -- we're not even talking about major league players, who actually matter, we're talking about prospects. We're talking about prospects. I mean listen, we're sitting here talking about prospects, not big leaguers, not big leaguers, not big leaguers, but we're talking about prospects. Prospects, man.
Seriously, though, I think we take Baseball America’s lists as too much of a given. Although it’s the best resource going, let’s look at the Mets Top 10 up-and-comers according to BA from a couple of years ago:
1. Lastings Milledge, of
2. Yusmeiro Petit, rhp
3. Gaby Hernandez, rhp
4. Ian Bladergroen, 1b
5. Ambiorix Concepcion, of
6. Alay Soler, rhp
7. Shawn Bowman, 3b
8. Victor Diaz, of
9. Jesus Flores, c
10. Matt Lindstrom, rhp
Knowing what we now know, would you give up Milledge, Petit, Hernandez, Bladergroen, and Bowman for Santana? Of course you would.
I can’t disagree. Still… though you might hop on your Jump To Conclusions mat and see another BA list (the Mets #1 prospects since ’95) as a dismissal of “prospects”...
1995 Bill Pulsipher, lhp
1996 Paul Wilson, rhp
1997 Jay Payton, of
1998 Grant Roberts, rhp
1999 Alex Escobar, of
2000 Alex Escobar, of
2001 Alex Escobar, of
2002 Aaron Heilman, rhp
2003 Jose Reyes, ss
2004 Kazuo Matsui, ss
2005 Lastings Milledge, of
2006 Lastings Milledge, of
2007 Mike Pelfrey, rhp
I see Jose Reyes amid all of that carnage and think that if but one of these five could evolve into a gem that could change the face of the franchise – and you can’t tell which one – why not hold off on this deal?
Because Johan Santana is the culmination of that prospect turning into a superstar. And if you wait until he hits the open market next year, which he may not, you risk losing him altogether, or at the very least . . . wait for it . . . losing a draft pick (a prospect).
It’s just that the single most compelling argument why the Mets should make the deal is not that the price is right, nor that they can afford him, but that they need him the most. They’re desperate because of last year, because of the moves (and lack thereof) of yesteryear. But the pressure to succeed in New York with a high payroll and a roster that needs to win now . . . that doesn’t justify selling the farm for the merits of one great pitcher.
Nor can you justify clinging to minor leaguers who don’t grade out particularly well simply because you see Scott Kazmir in your nightmares. Plus, I think you’re overestimating “the farm”; outside of Martinez and maybe Guerra, it’s wishful thinking. And neither of those two are a lock.
I see your Scott Kazmir and raise you an Alex Escobar. Seeing his name thrice in that list is a painful reminder of the 5-tool phenom who never was. How many All-Stars did the Mets turn down for him? But you can’t trade away your future simply because you hung on too long to one dud.
Touché. But I raise you one Robby Alomar. That may be the closest parallel to this potential trade, and you’re afraid of another sure-fire Hall of Famer flaming out in two short seasons. I think we have to agree that Roberto Alomar’s singular disemboweling of not only the 2003-04 New York Mets (a.k.a. dues-paying time at MLC) but also the future general management of the Metropolitans organization as a whole is an anomaly and an unfortunate, unpredictable rash on the inner pelvic region of trade-makers from here to Binghamton and back. It was not a lesson in the making. Just because one former megastar’s transition from AL Central to Shea time lasted several seasons and many, many . . . okay, The Big Lebowski’s worth of F-words . . . you don’t walk away from a once-in-a-tenure opportunity.
Ah, fuck it. You make good points.
So do you.
Wel’p . . . let’s get drunk and rehash this six or seven more times.
Done and done. Thanks, Herschel.
You bet, Herschel.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
He might have been almost as (in)famous for being the only player to miss time in the bigs for "flicking sunflower seeds to a friend in the stands."
And finally, he was semi-known as one of two Greg Harrises throwing in the bigs in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Not that interesting, but it was kind of annoying.
That said, he is singularly noteworthy 'round these parts for being the only player in major league history to do what???
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Join the Mets in sunny Port St. Lucie, Florida, on an Amazin' Getaway!!
All packages include:
Your choice of 3, 5, or 7 nights accommodations with optional additional nights available
Air-conditioned, 4-door compact car with unlimited mileage
Meet and Greet with a Mets player or coach
Custom Mets sports merchandise package, including a deluxe travel bag, tee shirt, Mets Spring Training cap and team collector pin
All hotel and rental car taxes included
The following package options are available:
• Airfare between New York and Florida
• Optional nights to extend your stay and rental car upgrades
Just Made Available! The 7-day Amazin' Getaway tribute to the 2007 New York Mets!
- 6 nights at the posh Port St. Lucie Hilton, and the last night you get to enjoy a "Mets"-emblazoned lean-to in the parking lot of the Motel 6!
- 6 days rental of a Chrysler Sebring convertible; on the 7th day you will arise to find either a 1981 Dodge Colt hatchback or a semi-refurbished Razor scooter (second wheel not always available)
- The Custom Mets sports merchandise package you've been promised arrives on the 7th and final day! It includes the Mets Spring Training cap (junior miss sized), the deluxe travel bag(gie), a team collector pin featuring outfielder Herm Winningham as a 1982 Lynchburg Met, and a brand new Mets* all-cotton T-shirt in the size of your choice.
- * It's actually printed "Mest" on the T-shirt; factory error.
- Airfare between New York and Florida: flight down is first-class on United Airlines from LaGuardia to Ft. Lauderdale (drinks and chummy conversation served up by lingerie specialist Laetitia Casta); return flight is from Pensacola to Islip Regional Airport in "almost coach" on TWA (enjoy the free tea!)
- On your final day of this deluxe Mets getaway you get the long-awaited meet-and-greet with a Mets player! Enjoy the keen insight, smooth batting stroke, and comedy stylings of David Newhan!
- After seeing five convincing wins in the first six days of this amazing package, your last day you are treated to a 13-1 drubbing at the hands of the split-squad Pirates. In the drizzling rain. And unseasonably chilly weather. And the fat guy behind you will dump his chili dog with extra kraut down the back of your new Mest T-shirt.
Sign up today! Like the success of the 2007 Mets, this offer won't last!!
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Now, as the admirable Admiral Stockdale once said, "Where am I? Why am I here?" The short answer: MLC's Statler & Waldorf (Rob and Whit, in whatever order you choose) were kind enough to extend the fig newton branch to me here at MLC, and it looks like Nick and I accepted our assignments with the crack commando unit you call Misery Loves Company. If you've missed any of Rob's veiled shots at me over the years (and trust me, it's easy to do, what with him shouting at your shins the whole time), yes, I am the New York Yankees fan of this group. I despise Rob's team, I am apathetic towards Whitney's team, and short of my disdain for Brett Myers and his wifebeater (t-shirt) I don't pay the Phillies much mind.
Don't expect my posts to even remotely approach the length or quality of what Rob and Whit have regularly offered (and what Nick hinted at in his welcoming Mr. Manuel's Opus). If you've ever seen the "content" I deliver over at Gheorghe, you know what I am capable of: laziness, plagiarism, nonsensical pictures, non sequiturs galore, piss poor spelling, alliteration, plenty of parentheses, and of course my specialty, the YouTubes. In fact, before I continue, let me just say MLC has had way too few YouTubes (and asinine pictures) over the years, and editors be damned, I plan to change that. For instance, I'm here because I'm a Yankees fan... so, I used the Googles and Ebays, typed in "New York Yankees", finished the aforementioned job description, got a coffee from Starbucks, ignored any real search results, and voila, my inaugural MLC YouTube:
See, now aren't you glad I'm here? (Wow, that might be the worst song I've ever heard.) But before people (and by people I mean the five of you reading this) start bitching about me and my Yankees fandom, I can at least let you in on where the love of the pinstripes (and pin-ups...va va va voom) comes from. First of all, I am a diehard baseball fan. You can have your college football and NFL, your NBA, your cricket even (stupid cigarette), but to me baseball is still the greatest sport in the history of ever (as you can see I'm also very very good at hyperbole). Always has been, always will be, despite all the ridiculousness that has gone on in and around the game in recent years.
Back to me... I was born a poor black child (for Nick's sake, kidding, I'm the whitest guy you'll ever meet) in upstate New York, more specifically, Latham. Latham is a suburb of Albany, which I was convinced was the worst state capital in the Union until I cast my eyes upon Richmond. The first Yankees team I can remember backing starred the likes of Butch Wynegar, Bobby Meacham, Ken Griffey (that's right kids, Ken Griffey the father), Dave Winfield and Donnie Baseball. Before we go any farther, I'll just let you know my idol and hero growing up was Don Mattingly. If there was ever a player, past or present, who I would want to meet, it's Mattingly. (It kills me to think he'll be wearing Dodger Blue this year, but that's neither here nor there.) That '84 Yankees squadron finished a respectable 87-75, good for third in the American League East. And it gave me the Mattingly/Winfield batting title race, which was pretty cool at the time. My pre-teen years, '84 to '88, all saw respectable Yankees teams finish with 85 to 95 wins (yeah, yeah, they had 97 wins in '85, whatever), but there would be no playoff appearances. As my Topps and Donruss card collections grew (the '86 Topps Traded set still sits in my parents house) I was sure it was only a matter of time before my team, the mighty New York Yankees, won a World Series. As that senile old dude who covers college football is apt to say, "Not so fast my friend."
A brief aside: It is not a coincidence my Yankee fandom grew throughout my youth - we had a minor league affiliate just miles from my home to fuel the fire. The Albany-Colonie Yankees, a AA affiliate in the Eastern League, played in the shadow of Albany Airport at Heritage Park from 1985 to 1995. It's not often a kid gets to see Deion Sanders, Bernie Williams and of course Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens lace 'em up before a crowd of 1,100.
OK, back to this long and rambling walk down memory lane. My teenage years at first saw the middling Yankees become the atrocious Dallas Green-led bottom feeders of the late 80s. Asshats and douchebags like Mel Hall and Jesse Barfield roamed the hallowed Stadium's outfield, while Andy Hawkins (nice loss in a no-hitter, chief) and Dave LaPoint were considered the aces of the staff. Gary Glitter fan Luis Polonia managed to make some news for all the wrong reasons in 1989. Mattingly's prime was being wasted, yet he remained the consummate professional, continuing to piece together what I was sure at the time was a Hall of Fame resume. As I headed off to college in 1994, the Yankees were tops in the A.L., destined for a meeting with the Expos (remember them?) in the World Series, or so I thought. That's when the ad wizards behind Major League Baseball decided to cancel the rest of the season and the World Series. Still pisses me off to this day.
You've hung in long enough, let's wrap this up quickly. I finally experienced World Series bliss in 1996, when the Yanks managed to come back from an 0-2 deficit to beat the Atlanta Braves (I will choose to remember Mr. Leyritz for his signature home run in Game 4 rather than his most recent day in the sun). Then it got really ridiculous, with the Yankees also winning titles in 1998, 1999 and 2000. All of a sudden I was a front-running Yankees fan, spoiled by the success of an evil franchise who bought their way to titles. I consider myself a fairly rational fan, and I readily admit baseball's structure is severely flawed and the Yankees took full advantage of that system to put themselves in position to win. But who cares, I finally got to see my team win. I'm a fan of a team; there is no better feeling for a fan than to see his team win the ultimate prize in their sport. Good enough for me. We can debate baseball's economics some other time. Plus, the good times soon came to an end, but you're not going to hear me bitch and moan like Sal from Canarsie about "the Yankees having not won a title since 2000." It's been an up and down run in the Aughts (is that what we're calling the 2000s?) as far as playoff success goes, but I still enjoy every inning of it (well, almost every inning... I can think of a few, hi Kevin Brown, that made me want to murder someone). I still hate Rob's team, the current uber-franchise in baseball, and I'm not sure when I'll be ready to rationally discuss the recent past between the Sox and Yanks, but I have a strange feeling MLC might be the Jackie Chiles' balm for these ills.
My name is TJ, and I'm a Yankees fan. I'll see you back here in two fortnights (if not sooner, say when The Rocket does indeed sprout that third ear), when Pettittes (oh, man) and Posadas report to Legends Field in Tampa for the start of Spring Training.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Now that we've seen that Roger Clemens can look any person, any camera, any God in the eye and lie through his Texas teeth without batting an eye (and yes, I believe he's lying, to sound like a Rhett Miller song) . . .
. . . you think McNamara was telling the truth?
I've always granted that the Rocket is many things, but a quitter he probably wasn't. And perhaps this pitiful charade he's engaging in now -- one which may well provide the hangman all the rope he needs -- is Exhibit A for the kind of pure stubbornness that would never have let him ask out of Game 6. Still, once you see him continually, casually emit utterances that would leave the rest of us with trousers ablaze, you can't help but consider tossing out his 21 years of sternly refuting Johnny Mac's story as yet another whopper.
Just a thought.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
In these quiet days before pitchers and catchers begin shedding rust in earnest, Youks is demonstrating a Hall of Fame caliber sense of humor and/or cementing his reputation as a lunkhead neanderthal, depending upon your point of view. They're not mutually exclusive positions. Our good friends at Gheorghe: The Blog would approve the silliness inherent in Youks' efforts.
Oh, and Happy New Year and all that.