Monday, June 30, 2008

Encyclopedia Brittanica

Games 82 through 84 – Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Astros, 1
Astros 11, Red Sox 10
Astros 3, Red Sox 2
Record: 50-34


So the second-place Boston Red Sox limp out of Houston in the wake of a pair of disappointing losses. On the bright side, the entire team contributed to the weekend’s lackluster results, so the finger-pointing will likely be kept to a minimum. Good thing, too, because one of the starters would probably sprain a digit, given the way the first half of the season has played out.

On Saturday, mediocre starting pitching gave way to a dreadful relief effort, as the Sox wasted 4-0 and 9-6 leads – not to mention 10 runs from the offense. Then, yesterday, the batsmen held a middle finger up to their mound-bound mates, leaving 13 runners on base to waste yet another solid performance by Josh Beckett. Though the arms weren’t completely blameless, as the bullpen’s seemingly incurable Okajima epidemic claimed another victim.

Now that the interleague interlude has blissfully ended, the Sox head to Tampa to face their closest rivals in the AL East, bringing with them a midseason report card for Mr. Francona to sign that’s largely positive, even as it describes at least one area where improvement is a must.

On offense, the Sox rate a solid B+, especially given David Ortiz’ lengthy absence. Their .806 OPS is a mere .001 behind the Rangers’ for the league’s top spot, and 424 runs (5.05/game) a clear second. J.D. Drew has been a revelation, raking at a nearly 1.000 OPS clip, hitting 15 HR (more than all of 2007) and almost, almost, making Papi’s hiatus bearable. Kevin Youkilis turned in another terrific first half, posting a .926 OPS with 13 HR. Mike Lowell is Mike Lowell, another in a reasonably long line of dependable, professional Red Sox third basemen. Jacoby Ellsbury has slumped after a quick start, and could probably use a few days off, but he’s on pace to break the league’s all-time rookie steals record. Dustin Pedroia’s red-hot June lifted him out of an early-season funk. Even Coco Crisp hasn’t been completely useless, his .747 OPS almost exactly the same as Ellsbury’s. And while he’s only 3rd on the team on OPS, Manny’s almost been Manny, except when he’s been beating up traveling secretaries, which is as annoying as it is out of character.

Only Julio Lugo (.708 OPS) and Jason Varitek (.688) take up the negative side of the ledger, struggling being a kind description of their performance to date.

The bench has been decent, too, with Sean Casey meeting expectations, Alex Cora providing needed defensive depth and the occasional single, Brandon Moss overcoming emergency surgery to deliver several key hits, Jed Lowrie looking the part of a big leaguer in his short stint, and Kevin Cash posting career-high offensive marks (which, admittedly, is not saying anything at all). No real complaints in the depth department.

Like the offense, the starting pitching has done its part, overcoming injuries to all but 2 of the projected rotation to post above-average marks, another B+ from the stern graders at MLC for the league’s second-best starting ERA (3.83). Justin Masterson’s been a godsend, even as I continue to hold my breath every time he takes the hill, putting up a 3.43 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 7 starts. Daisuke Matsuzaka started out like a house afire before getting hurt and probably coming back too fast. He’s still 9-1 with a 3.21 ERA (despite a scary 1.39 WHIP). Jon Lester threw a no-hitter for chrissakes. Josh Beckett’s been brutally unlucky, both in terms of run support and bullpen backing, but I’d still rather have him take charge than anyone else in the league in a land war in Asia. Tim Wakefield, like his similarly gray-haired colleague Lowell, is Tim Wakefield, quietly and effectively doing his job to the tune of a 3.88 ERA in 100+ innings. Even Bartolo Colon tossed quality innings before straining his fat swinging and missing during interleague play – if nothing else, the Sox should feel good that his arm is back in big league shape.

Only Clay Buchholz could be classified as disappointing, and the sample size is probably too small to make that claim stick. With a little luck, the Sox will have 7 decent to very good starters down the stretch – a luxury that may enable them to solve their biggest problem…

…that being the bullpen, which despite its seemingly adequate 3.89 ERA (good for 9th in the AL), keeps coming up small when it counts, allowing a staggering…um…well…I can’t find the actual statistic for inherited runners while here at work, but let me tell you that it’s impossibly high. Why, Hideki Okajima alone is responsible for 137% of the league’s inherited runs scored this season. And worse, the pen’s maddening inconsistency has been a constant hobgoblin. At various times thus far, Manny Delcarmen, Craig Hansen, David Aardsma and Javier Lopez have all been dominant in back of the Sox’ starters. And on an equal number of occasions, the same quartet have vomited upon themselves in spectacular and team-crippling fashion. Only Jonathan Papelbon’s quiet, understated elegance lifts the bullpen’s grade to a Whitney-friendly D.

As Uncle Ben famously remarked, with great power comes great responsibility. The corollary for the 2008 Boston Red Sox is, to whom much is given, much is expected. In a vacuum, a 96-win pace is more than acceptable. But it’s hard to play in a vacuum, what with all the noise and the flying particles. In the real world, the harsher calculus is this: second place isn’t good enough for a team as deep and talented as this one.

Man, am I spoiled.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Little Big Man

Game 81 – Red Sox

Red Sox 5, Diamondbacks 0
Record: 49-32


Since I already assigned Clay Buchholz the ‘Little Girl with a Curl’ moniker, we’ll need a different analogical nickname for Tim Wakefield, who was magnificent last night. While I was out broadening my horizons, Wake tossed 7 innings of 2-hit ball at the Snakes. Meanwhile Brandon Moss and Kevin Cash (!) combined to drive in 5 runs on 1 hit (Cash’s first homer of the season – double !) to give the Sox more than enough offense.

And while we’re on the topic of cartoon characters and unlikely heroes (poetic license), let’s take a moment to marvel at Dustin Pedroia’s recent prowess. Last year, the Nation was up in arms as the Yosemite Sam act-alike started the season miserably on his way to the AL Rookie of the Year trophy. In 2008, the grumblings reached their apex after the kid’s 1-for-4 against the Reds on June 13 left his season line at .260/.311/.365, his .677 OPS hovering dangerously near Lugo territory. His verbal response: “When I get hot, I get really fucking hot.” His on-field response in the 11 games since: 22-for-48, 5 2B, 3 HR, good for a .458/.480/.771. So, okay, we get it.

The Sox have an off day today, so I’ll save my pithy first half analysis for later. Suffice it to say that I’ll gladly sign for a duplication of the 81-game record and take my chances.

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Games 78 & 79 - Phillies
Philadelphia, nee Kansas City, nee Oakland A's 5, Phils 2
Phils 4, Philadelphia, nee Kansas City, nee Oakland A's 0


Record: 43 wins, 36 losses

The losing skid has ended. I am relieved. We still have a 2 game lead on those pesky Marlins who are taking a beating from their cross state rivals. Slumps happen and this team was in a royal one scoring only 9 runs in the 6 game losing streak. It seems like Utley is back to normal with his 4 for 5 performance last night. I just want to get this interleague bullshit over with so we can go back to beating up the National League.

Now for some fun. What do these dolts have in common other than being the lesser brother in famous baseball brother duos (or trios?) (Please don't say none of them were ever in your living room.)

Ken Brett, Mike Maddux, Jeremy Giambi, Vince DiMaggio, Juan Bell

Quaker Oats




Look, all I am saying here is "do the math." In 25 years or so, Jason is going to harvest quite a nice stack of cash replacing a certain someone (hint, look to your left) doing commercials for Quaker Oats and all manner of products geared toward the AARP crowd.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Very Short Story

Game 80 - Red Sox
Red Sox 5, Diamondbacks 4
Record: 48-32

Well, well, well, the tone of this post certainly changed dramatically in about 5 minutes. When I came home from a meeting to see the Sox down 4-1 against the immortal Doug Davis, the draft language here was, shall we say, overseasoned.

And then, baseball delivered. 3 consecutive 2-out hits turned a fizzling 8th-inning rally into a come-from-behind win, with the final blow administered by the dreadfully slumping Jason Varitek. All told, the Sox batted around in the inning, plating 4 runs to take the lead. When Jonathan Papelbon hushed the irrational whisperings of concern regarding his recent performances, all was well in my neighborhood.

Sonnets from the Portugese

Game 79 – Red Sox

Diamondbacks 2, Red Sox 1
Record: 47-32


After a rousing and thoroughly enjoyable meeting of the MLC editorial staff (sans the Mets’ representative, who was too busy jabbing himself in the eye with sharp objects after the first 2 innings of his team’s game last night), I settled in for a quiet evening of, well, of excruciatingly frustrating baseball.

How doth (didth?) the Sox annoy me? Let me count the ways:
  1. Dan Haren-induced offensive anemia ran rampant in Fenway last night. The D-Backs’ starter kept the Sox off balance all game long, allowing only 2 hits in 7 innings and piling up ineffective and just plain ugly at-bats like we piled up Guinness at the Dubliner.

  2. Kevin Youkilis got hit in the eye by the ball. While warming up the freaking infield. That’s like a bad rec-league softball injury. Not to worry, though, because the Sox have a more than capable backup, except that:

  3. Sean Casey (and the team, I suppose) chose last night to begin serving the 3-game suspension he earned during this month’s Sox/Rays donnybrook. Which led to:

  4. Brandon Moss making his big league debut at 1st base and fumbling a sharp grounder to allow the D-Backs 2nd and winning run to score. Which, of course, resulted in:

  5. The pissing away of a really strong effort by Josh Beckett. Except for the fact:

  6. That he walked the immortal Conor Jackson to open the 7th inning, leading to the D-Backs’ only real rally of the game. All of which was capped by a:

  7. 5-pitch, 2-minute capitulation against Brandon Lyon in the bottom of the 9th. See #1 above – seems the anemia was contagious.

The Sox have now lost the first game of 5 consecutive series. I’m beginning to lose my sense of humor about that particular item. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

Games 66 through 76 - Los Jankees

A's 8, Yankees 4
Yankees 4, A's 1
Yankees 2, Astros 1
Yankees 8, Astros 4
Yankees 13, Astros 0
Yankees 8, Padres 0
Yankees 8, Padres 5
Yankees 2, Padres 1
Reds 4, Yankees 2
Reds 6, Yankees 0
Yankees 4, Reds 1

Record: 41-35

Welcome back to the Yankees Sidney Ponson, you big fleshy waste of life. Here's hoping you and Kei Igawa are simultaneously maimed in a horrible kiln explosion. Just for the record, Ponson's first stint with the Yankees, in 2006: 16.1 IP, 10.47 ERA and 2.02 WHIP. So, relatively successful, if you're using The Love Guru as your measuring stick. Honestly, look to the left at this douchebag...this is really a guy you want on your team? The Texas Rangers, a team so bereft of starting pitching that Vicente Padilla is considered their "ace" (I bet Nick just loves Senor Padilla), had to cut Ponson two weeks ago because he threw some sort of locker room temper tantrum, most likely because Ian Kinsler drank the last Capri Sun. This will work out swimmingly I'm sure.

In a related story, GM Genius B. Cashman has signed Bucky LaGrange as a utility infielder. Both signings should pan out equally.

Yeah, I know I'm never around, giving "10 game at a time" recaps, neglecting you like Mel Silver neglected David for a decade. I'm sorry...but can we talk about it later? I need to crank this latest drivel out before meeting Nick and rob at the Dubliner for some serious blog discussions...sans Whit of course. That guy will destroy a tab if given the chance.

Some more words, random notes, non sequiturs, if I may (all stats lifted from the good folks at espn.com and the Elias Sports Bureau...am I the only one who likes to imagine ESB is run by Willem Dafoe's character in Platoon?):

Andy Pettitte, who I wrote off for dead last time I was here, won again last night, and is now 5-0 in his last seven starts. He also happens to fit the definition of that made-up announcer term "stopper", improving to 75-37 after a regular season Yankees loss. Well, that's fine and dandy, because with the Chairman basically done for the year there will be many Ponson/Igawa/Giese losses Pettitte needs to follow with a win.

The Moustache Warrior continues to rake. As does that sexy beast Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon. Offense should not be the issue here, though it appears young fireballers with nasty change-ups give the club problems (Edison Volquez and Daryl Thompson made the Yanks look silly Friday and Saturday...and actually, Cueto was owning them yesterday, but luckily for NY the Reds are (mis)managed by one Dusty Baker, so thank you Dusty for the Sunday win).

Mariano Rivera is awesome as always. He has yet to allow a run in a save situation in 21 straight games to start the season. Does that really mean that much? Nah, but it sounds cool.

Kyle Farnsworth, or as I like to call him, "7th inning Cy Young", gave up a bomb to Junior Griffey yesterday. He is apparently the 384th pitcher to give up a home run to Griffey. I want to say he is the worst to do so, but we know that's not true. He's the second worst.

Nick, rob...see you in an hour.

Irish Whiskey

Games 76 through 78 – Red Sox

Cardinals 5, Red Sox 4
Cardinals 9, Red Sox 4
Red Sox 5, Cardinals 3 (13)
Record: 47-31


In a glass tumbler, place several cubes of ice.
Pour Jameson Irish Whiskey to preferred level.
Drink slowly and enjoy while looking out over the ocean.
Repeat.
Too many times.

And so, in a nutshell, the recipe for my weekend. Note that it does not include the watching of any baseball, though I did catch the final 5 innings of yesterday’s game on XM Radio as I struggled home from the Outer Banks. The Sox led off each of the 10th, 11th, and 12th innings with doubles and failed to score in any of those frames. Their discombobulation matched my own quite nicely.

Gloom, Despair, and Agony On Me

Games 75 through 77 - Phillies
City of Angels Angels of Anaheim 7, Phils 1
City of Angels Angels of Anaheim 6, Phils 2
City of Angels Angels of Anaheim 3, Phils 2

Record: 42 and 35

Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Finally, some measure of misery! Now I am starting to feel more comfortable here. The Sox are humming along rather nicely despite their injuries whilst the two teams from Gotham are starting to inch their way back up the standings of their respective divisions. Meanwhile, at the southernmost tip of the Commonwealth of Misery, the Phillies are doing their best to make sure no one will count them among baseball's elite teams given their woeful effort these last four series.
In case you don't avidly follow Phillies baseball, the lads were 1 and 2 vs the Marlins, 1 and 2 vs. the Cards, 1 and 2 vs. the Sox (red variety) and 0 and 3 vs. the Angels. That's making a statement alright.
The lineup has gone into hibernation. Utley is in a 1 for 27 funk which is by far his career worst. This offensive "juggernaut" continues to be feast or famine. They are second in runs scored with 398 but remarkably they also have played 30 games in which they scored 3 runs or fewer.
One thing is for certain, they need a fundamentally different approach to hitting should they make it to the postseason. To date, I haven't seen any evidence from them that they even understand the problem "begging the question, what are these boys thinking about, 'cause it sure ain't baseball!"

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Late Late Show

Games 70 & 71 - Mets

Angels 6, Mets 1
Mets 5, Angels 4 (10)
Record: 35-36

It's interesting. I've stayed up the last two nights to watch the Mets game in its entirety, both times lasting till around 1:00 AM EDT. This I was decidedly not doing a few weeks ago. After I'm sure they're cooked, after I have taken to lambasting the Mets' front office with venom I usually reserve for that of the Washington Redskins, now I choose to lock in?

While they were looking clueless and getting drubbed in every aspect of the game Tuesday night, it was a train wreck that sucked me in but more of a desire to watch Jerry Manuel at work that kept me hanging in there. As much as I lamented his insertion into interim manager status a worthless endeavor, I will be more than willing to offer a mea culpa if he continues to show some of the fire you could see traces of that night.

Last night we saw something we haven't seen the Mets do very much -- find a way to win. Oh, they've found plenty of ways to lose ballgames this year. Elizabeth Barrett Browning couldn't keep up with the number of ways they've lost -- the team was losing games in new and creative fashions like it was their job. And though last night was but one win, it was a good, solid win over a very respectable Angels team that the Mets stole by getting to their relatively untarnished closer and making a Damion Easley 10th-inning tater hold up. Well worth a groggy morning for that.

The denial that ever-lovin' sports fans like me engage in is pretty silly, but I am staying as attuned to the Mets now as I have thus far in '08. Mets Township: rational thinkers need not apply.

Building the Perfect Beast

Game 74 - Phillies
Sox 7 , Phils 4

Record: 42 and 32

At least we didn't get swept at home.

We got some work to do if we hope to advance past the NLDS. (Assuming of course, that the Marlins aren't for real, the Mets are ruined and the Braves too banged up to make a serious run at the East title.)

The Sox demonstrated why they are baseball's best. No Manny or Youk or Papi and still they hang 7 on us. Clearly, Kyle Kendrick is good enought to chew up innings against the dregs of the National League but he is going to be fairly useless in the postseason. It's imperative that Myers gets with it and reclaims his frontline status. Myers back to his old self, Hamels, Moyer and Eaton might be able to pitch this team past the NLDS and perhaps into the WS but to beat Boston (or LA for that matter)...I tell ya, I don't see it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Disclosure

Games 74 & 75 - Red Sox

Red Sox 3, Phillies 0
Red Sox 7, Phillies 4
Record: 46-29

Nice little division you got there, Nick and Whit. Shame we have to mess it up like that.

Crowing's not usually my style, but when you go and malign the President of Red Sox Nation* like my colleague in blog did yesterday, the rules go out the window. Jerry Remy, he of the dulcet tones and prodigious lip duster, represents all that is good and right with the game of baseball, and by extension, America. And J.D. Drew isn't gonna stand for any casual defamation of America.

Those are two pretty good wins for the Olde Towne Team, highlighted by two prodigiously studly performances by Jonathan Papelbon, good to very good outings by young starting pitchers, a timely piece of relief wizardry from Manny the Carmen, and the bad-assery of the aforementioned Mr. Drew, whose 4-for-5 this afternoon raises his average to .327 and pushes his .OPS over 1.000. The talk show morons on WEEI still hate him, though. Got no haaaht.

Nick, I look forward to your earnest apologies regarding the sainted Mr. Remy, and to finally meeting you in person on Monday. Guinness all around.

* Note - For the record, I find that designation and the non-stop flogging of the Nation egregiously distasteful.

The Fall Guy

Much has been written, much has been uttered about the way the New York Mets organization handled the dismissal of Willie Randolph yesterday morning at 3:15 in the AM. Some of it's been dead-on accurate criticism, some of it's been piling on and high-horse condescension. All of it's been embarrassing.

What we have not seen -- until now -- is a closed-circuit camera interpretation of the smooth dexterity on the part of the Mets' front office.

This, to me, encapsulates the way the think tank that is the Mets' executive staff handled the firing of Willie Randolph:

"I see dead people."

Game 73 - Phillies
Red Sox 3, Phils zip
Record: 42 and 31

Finally, something to carp about!

Sorry Whitney, I know you're in no mood to hear my whining high upon my lofty perch here in the NL Least. It's just that all this warm and fuzzy success crap is turning my brain to mush. I need a little dose of pain and suffering and by golly that young kid Lester served it up last night. No mas! No mas!

Look, I knew going into this game the odds were against us. This is a hard throwing lefty and the Phils are notorious for trying to hit 5 run home runs and that is precisely what happened. It's no mystery that this club will feast off mediocre and bad pitching and heaven help you if they get to your middle relief. John Lester is, from what I can tell, a tough and smart pitcher. He would have none of that middle relief crap. The kid labored the first few innings through some long at bats but he hung in there long enough to get this thing turned over to someone capable, not named Timlin. Sure enough, the Phils kept trying all game long to hit the 5 run homer even though they were down only 2 runs for much of the contest.

Much has been made about Ryan Howard's at first, dreadful and now peculiar season at the plate. I was reading yesterday that we shouldn't get too upset that he strikes out so much and that striking out is not measurably worse - statistically speaking - than any other type of out. Well, that may well be the case. I don't dare delve into the mundane world of sabermetrics where the fun in baseball goes to die a slow and hideous death. However, I think the argument pitting strikeouts vs. other types of outs is a bit askew. It's not that I mind the strikeouts, it's that they often come at the expense of walks. Charlie Manuel has said it - Ryan Howard gets himself out. He rarely sees good pitches. He needs to pick up some video of Barry Bonds from 2001 to 2005. He'd learn a thing or two about patience. I honestly believe he could approach the Bondsian pace of walks from that 2001 to 2005 era. Perhaps not in the high 100's but certainly he should be racking up 150. Howard is currently on a pace to walk 86 times. That seems awfully low. Conversely, Howard is on pace for a new record of 224 strikeouts. If he were to convert 64 of those strikeouts to walks...

...well who knows but he might just get a rally started or keep one going along the way instead of meekly walking away from home plate shaking his head. I could see Papelbon drooling in the 9th last night.

Anyway Rob, good win for the Sox. I naturally chose the Philly broadcast so as to avoid 1) Jerry Remy's annoying voice and 2) hearing any updates from the irrelevant NBA Finals.

Today features Masterson vs. Kendrick. The ball might be flying. 1PM start. To bad you know who couldn't make it to the Dub today. It could have been fun watching the end of this one at the bar.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Good Times

So here's how the Jerry Manuel Era begins in Metville...

Jose Reyes leads off with a base hit to center. Somewhere in the at-bat, run to first, or casual turn-and-look, he tweaks something in his knee. He leaves the game.

If I had a nickel for every time we've heard "as Reyes goes, so goes the Mets" . . . I'd have an assload of nickels. (Just like our friend "Piggy Bank" Withers.) And Reyes has gone into the tunnel. Stay tuned on where the Mets are going.

Chances are he'll be okay. I mean, he was okay enough to throw a little tantrum as he got yanked. I'm sure that won't be overhyped at all.

Ain't we lucky we got 'em . . . good times.

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite

Game 72 - Phillies

Phillies 8, Red Sox 2

Record: 42 and 30

A. Pat Burrell & Ryan Howard

Q. Name two Phillies who are the least likely pair to hit a triple in the same 9 inning game.

I will take the win. Still to cautious to say anything more than that.

Beast

Game 73 – Red Sox

Phillies 8, Red Sox 2
Record: 44-29


So all this hue and cry about Ryan Howard? I don’t get it. Seems to be swinging the bat okay to me. In fact, he appears to be a freaking monster.

Add a dollop of solid to very good starting pitching from Cole Hamels, mix in a skosh of ineffective mound work from Bartolo Colon, crumble in some toasted Mike Timlin, garnish with an injury to Kevin Youkilis and some outfielding adventures by Jacoby Ellsbury and you’ve got a tidy victory for the Philadelphia 9. And a pint of Guinness for Nick.

Not much to say after this one, other than, “Hey, fellas. When that big kid playing first base comes to the plate, how ‘bout we keep the fastballs up in the zone to a minimum?”

Bozo's Big Top

Well, by now you've heard that the New York Mets have utterly ignored my letter below pondering the upside to relieving Willie Randolph of his managing duties. Oh, well.

As always with this ownership, the move itself was superseded by the PR equivalent of falling down a marble staircase with a Bloody Mary in your hand. Every organizational move in recent years -- from Art Howe's dismissal to Scott Kazmir's trade to Mike Piazza's move to first base and now this -- has been overshadowed by the bunglings of a executive office that is the antithesis of big-city savvy. There's a right way, a smart way to do these things so that everyone saves a little face and you don't look like you're pulling the day's agenda out of a hat. As it is, as it continues to be, the legacy of ignorance the dunderheaded puppeteers of this franchise repeatedly demonstrate gives Mets Township nothing even remotely resembling confidence in the team's future well-being.

Omar, Jerry . . . I just want to tell you both good luck. We're all counting on you. Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue, though.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Games 69 through 71 - Phillies

Phils 20, Redbirds 2

Redbirds 3, Phils 2

Redbirds7, Phils 6

Record: 41 - 30

  • Ryan Howard has an astonishing 95 strikeouts in 263 at bats.

  • Ryan Howard has is having a typical productive year as a cleanup hitter with17 home runs and 58 RBI.

  • The Phillies lost the last two series - 1-2 @ Florida, 1-2 @ St. Louis.

  • The Phillies went 5-4 on their recent road trip and continue to be one of only (now) 4 teams to have a winning road record.

  • The Phillies are 41 and 30, in first place by 3 games over the Marlins.

  • Of those 30 losses, 11 came came when their staff "ace" Bret Myers has started.
Not sure what to do with all that. I guess I will count my blessings and pray for more of the unusual if it means we are in first.

Today is the long anticipated match up with the Evil Empire II. Some are billing this as a Fall Classic preview. That means some people are idiots.

Hamels on the hill vs. Colon tonight. I have to like Philly tonight.

Here it is boys. I don't want to overemphasize the series (as a safeguard against catastrophe - gotta have a Plan B.) However, there is no denying how much this means to the Phils.

Three Days to Never

Games 70 through 72 - Red Sox

Reds 3, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 6, Reds 4 (10)
Red Sox 9, Reds 0
Record: 44-28

Three times in the last 10 days, the Sox have lost the opening game of a series to an inferior opponent. And three times they've come back to take the final 2 games of the series. I'm quite sure this has some meaning, but I'll be damned if I can divine it.

This weekend's run-back of the 1975 World Series will pass quickly into the ephemera, at least in my mind. Saturday's game was televised nationally, but it was up against one of the great afternoons in U.S. Open history, and it featured a Papelbon hiccup that annoyed me to the point where I changed the channel. On a much more pleasant note, it also sparked the following text exchange between Teejay and me:

Teejay: Fuck you papelbon
Me (a half inning later): Coco says, 'eat a dick, teejay'
Teejay: Indeed

If nothing else, Teejay's a pragmatic partisan.

After feasting (sort of) on the Mariners, Orioles, and Reds, the road gets a fair sight more challenging for the Sox, with games against the Phillies, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks over the next 10 days. I'll try to pay better attention.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dear John

Game 66 - Mets

Mets 7, Rangers 1
Record: 32-34


An Open Letter to Omar Minaya

Dear Omar,

Hey, how's it going? Sorry for the small talk, I know it's been going terribly. I know your spring was disappointing, and the upcoming summer is starting to look long, hot, and unhappy. Your bosses aren't pleased with your performance, and now that school's out a lot more little kids are around to give you the finger. I know you're squirming a bit these days. And I know you damn well should be.

Here's something else I know: I know you're going to fire Willie.

Of course you are. You don't want to, but you will. This is New York, where sports teams must win in the near term. You knew that when you took over, and little has changed about the expectations levied upon you since then. When someone has been given the raw materials to succeed and a mandate of success but fails to bring it about, negative performance reviews ensue and the usual conclusion is dismissal. It's how these things go.

But here's the thing . . . has Willie Randolph so surely been given the materials to succeed? Willie wasn't given the $140MM payroll, you were. You were provided the clay -- tons of it, and the really good kiln-heated stuff, not that Crayola bullshit. Then you handed Willie the constructive tools that you made out of it, and when he made some crappy-looking lean-to instead of a new estate mansion -- at least in part because the damn hammer head kept falling off and the nails were all slightly bent -- everyone's after his job. I think we all know, though, that the culpability doesn't begin and end with Willie Randolph, and you signing his termination notice feels like what my psychiatrist would call "projection." Touches of hypocrisy, scapegoating, and at least partially misdirected blaming. It's why you've resisted the outcry to fire him thus far, and you'll continue to fight the good fight up until the end. Which is coming soon.

It's not that Willie's doing a bang-up job, mind you. To skipper this fairly well-stocked ship to a 32-34 record actually takes some doing. Things have got to be going wrong in almost systematically freakish fashion. And they have. The round-robin of "who's going to screw it up tonight?" has meant equal opportunity bungling abound; this makes things very difficult for Willie to address, of course, but it also demonstrates a lack of managerial glue pulling everyone together as a unit. Talent meeting concentration and focus makes for success, and I don't think there's a dearth of talent on this team.

So I won't lose too much sleep if Mr. Randolph finds himself on the unemployment line. Guys like Fredi Gonzalez are solving Rubik's cubes while Willie's struggling with Dominoes. It won't be an outrage, it'll just be "unfortunate" and "disappointing."

It will probably also be worthless.

To cut the manager loose right now is to insinuate two things: the roster isn't the problem, and there's somebody out there who can right this ship right now. I'm not sure either of those insinuations is true. Hey, maybe there's a Jack McKeon in the candidate pool who can offer old school fire-lighting with a touch of grandfatherly sage. You tell me. If there's someone who can get Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, and Wagner to meet their expected statistical output, go get him. Of course it would also require that folks like Brian Schneider, Oliver Perez, Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis, and others seriously overachieve and avoid their usual pitfalls. Maybe your managerial candidate is that good. Oh, and he'd also need shaman-like powers to ensure that the injuries to Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez, Ryan Church, Luis Castillo, Ramon Castro, now Trot Nixon, and everyone else on the 25-man cease and desist once and for all. Hey, maybe Pedro Cerrano's looking for work after his playing days. I don't know.

Please don't send Willie packing just to "shake things up." Willie tried that with the lineup. It had excellent short-term (7 games) results. Then reality set in; what, was he really going to play Damion Easley over Carlos Delgado for the rest of the season? Sure, you can shake things up by canning the manager. Guys will be pissed at themselves that they cost a nice guy his livelihood. They'll go out and bust their asses . . . for a fortnight, if all goes well. As a little time passes, this will evolve into extreme disappointment, casting a larger pall over what quickly becomes a lost season.

It's also not fair to the lucky soul/poor bastard whom you bring in to take the reins. How can he say no to managing the New York Mets -- one with a roster of high-priced, superstar talent, no less? Then, barring the miraculous, he'll pilot the team to its .500ish destiny. The world will see what the Township already knows, that this wasn't a skillfully crafted collection of players bound for championship dreams, but a bloated bevy of broken-down ballplayers with a few bona fide studs giving us all false hope. And that neither Willie Randolph nor his successor nor Doug Henning (not even Dan Henning) could have engineered the fate that you sold us (and we sold ourselves) on over the winter. And either you -- or your own successor -- will replace him in December.

Of course, I could be way off. Maybe bringing in Wally Backman or promoting HoJo or wooing Keith down from the booth will give this team a That Championship Season feel. Or maybe an outside guy like Phil Garner or Ken Macha is the answer. Perhaps it's time to give Ken Oberkfell a major league shot.

You know what's really going to happen, though, right? Jerry Manuel will get the job. The closest facsimile to Willie Randolph among anyone associated with the organization. He even does Willie Randolph impersonations at parties. It nearly cements the future of this season as anything but a detour. "More of the Same" will be the new team slogan, that or "If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It, And If It's Broke, Don't Fix It, Either."

But why am I telling you? You know this by now. You're the old man at the end of Jurassic Park overlooking what he has wrought with that "Mon dieu!" sort of epiphany. I suppose this letter should be co-addressed to Mr. and Mr. Wilpon, but you're the GM, at least for now.

I wish I had the answer for you, my friend, but the only thing that's clear is how fuzzy everything is right now. I just thought I'd offer my two cents and insist you stave off the lynch mob (inside and outside the organization) until you have something more than a Band-Aid solution and a notion of making a change for change's sake.

Oh, and good luck with all that.

Yours in Metness,

Whitney

Resident, Mets Township
Contributor, Misery Loves Company (Est. 2003)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Jamie's Got a Gun

Games 67 and 68 - Phillies

Fish 6, Phils 2
Phils 3, Fish 0

Record: 40 and 28

Well , not really. What Jamie's got is more like a pea shooter but oh, what he can do with it! By the way, who is older looking - Steven Tyler or Jamie Moyer?

I was going to post yesterday on the heels of the crushing blow delivered by Dan Uggla. Time got away from me however. Damn, the possiblities were endless starting with the obvious "The Good, The Bad and The Uggla."

The Phils managed to salvage the third game of the series at Dolphin Stadium bringing their record on this highly anticipated road trip to 4 and 2. They are one of only 3 teams with a winning road record - the City of Angels Angels of Anaheim and the Redbirds being the others. Given how the Marlins series started and continued through game 2, the Phils can be quite thrilled that their elder statesman delivered his finest performance to date for his boyhood team to keeping the Marlins at 4 games back.

I think it's safe to say that as of this moment - 12:35 on June 13th, 2008 - the Florida Marlins are for real. I just don't understand it. In their short existance, they have had 3 owners, several GMs, several managers and precious little fan support playing in a football stadium in oppressive and possibly inhumane South Florida summers. Yet they have twice as many championships in 15 years as my pathetic team has in 124 years and are on their third iteration of building a winner. When they shipped Beckett and Lowell and sent Pudge packing (keep it clean TJ,) one would have thought they were doomed. Then they proceed to dump the D-Train and Miguel Cabrera last season and again, we thought "what a shame."

Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill must know a hell of a lot more than just about everyone else in baseball. It must be so. When I made my season predictions, I never gave the Fish a serious thought as a contender. This game continues to remind me of just how little I know. Bully for them even if it annoys me. What scares me is the idea that this team will soon have an retractable roof stadium soon (opening in 2011) and a bevy of stars (Ramirez, Uggla and Jacobs) to trot out before a sizable Cuban expatriate community who surely are in for some cooler version of baseball indoors. I mean, if you can't sell baseball to Cubans.... This new stadium will be in Miami on the site of the old Orange Bowl where, you guessed it, Cubans live. Anyone who has been to Dolphin Stadium nee Pro Player Park, nee Joe Robbie Stadium can attest to the fact that it is a world class football stadium placed in the middle of nowhere convenient only for tailgaiting. I am telling you, done correctly, this new park can make the Fish a juggernaught. Up and down the NL East, you are going to have 5 clubs with considerable revenue streams.

Now hopefully all this talk will do them in.

We are on to St. Lou tonight taking on the 2006 champions who, though they no longer resemble that squad what with the departure of Scotty Rolen, David Eckstein and Jim Edmunds, is still a pretty good club. Pujols is on the DL so there is that. Get your wins in now boys because Monday you will be hosting the 2007 world champs.

Mercy me.

The Bet

Game 69 - Red Sox

Red Sox 9, Orioles 2
Record: 42-27

(Backs slowwwly away from Whitney, turns to Nick)

Soooo, Nicholas. Our squads do battle at the intersection of Broad and Pattison next week. In the grand tradition of the late, very great Evan Lloyd - Phillies fan, Harley aficionado, world-class leghound, and all-around brilliant dude - I proffer to you the following wager:

Each game in the series is worth 6 malted beverages of the winner's choice. There is no offsetting, so a 2-1 Phils series victory would mean that I owe you 12 cold ones and you owe me 6. A series sweep means a bonus half-dozen for the victor.

You in?

(Note that the aforementioned Mr. Lloyd used to require this wager be conducted for full cases of beer, but the worldwide hops shortage and localized dollar shortage in my house have created a recessionary condition in the betting industry.)

Also, Sox win. Lowell, Drew, Youks go yard. Lester looks great. Jon Lester, not the eponymous MLC version. Yay, good guys.

Hatches are being battened for an epic onslaught of Boston-hating after Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Please be advised that while I am somewhat fond of the Celtics, I really don't care all that much about the NBA anymore and direct your hatred accordingly.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jackass

Game 65 - Mets

Diamondbacks 5, Mets 4 (10 inn.)
Record: 31-34

To all the people who didn't appreciate the belly-aching I delivered after a walk-off homer win last night: I invite you to walk outside and slam your car door on your hand.

Oh, and the tire iron thing I mentioned, too.

The Gunslinger

Game 68 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Orioles 3
Record: 41-27

I've been gently urging Mike Timlin to accept the gold watch and settle into a well-earned retirement routine of blasting varmints from the back porch of his ranch for some time now. Once more into the breach, then, this time with feeling, 'cause a 6.16 ERA and 1.79 WHIP in 21 games are evidence enough of weapons of mass destruction for me to proceed.

With apologies to John Belushi, was it over when the Orioles bombed Timlin in the 9th inning of a 5-run game to the point that Terry Francona had to get Jonathan Papelbon to put out the fire? Um, well, yes. Yes it was. And it was over when he game up 6 earned in 1 1/3 innings over 2 games against the Yankees in April. G'nite, sweet prince - may your targets stand still and your shotgun never jam.

Oh, and the Sox won, which is nice, but since I missed the first 6 innings of the game and nearly all the Boston offense, all I got to see was Timlin's implosion. I had a lot more fun following the Mets game. That Whitney dude is a basket case right now.

F Troop

Game 64 - Mets

Mets 5, Diamondbacks 3 (13 inn.)
Record: 31-33

Gary Cohen and Ron Darling repeatedly described the events of last night's ninth inning as a "punch in the gut." Boys, I know that the FCC dictates that you keep it above-board on such depictions, but let's be honest. I think my oft-used "punt in the groin" is within the confines and a more accurate assessment, don't you? I mean, in truth, it was more like a tire iron to the testicles, but I've got just enough decorum to avoid unveiling such an expression. At least I thought I did.

I settled in for some Metball early on last night, not wanting to miss any good parts in case, like the night prior, they were few and far between. What I was treated to was a stellar pitching performance by Mike Pelfrey, the best of his young career. Of all the candidates to be a stopper with a 4-game losing streak sending us down that unpleasant path again, he was perhaps the least likely -- at least when matched up against Brandon Webb. The D-backs are a fastball-hitting team, and Pelfrey beat them at their own game, mixing speeds nicely but giving them a healthy dose of heaters they couldn't work with. And it was great to watch.

Scratching a few runs across off Webb was an equally pleasant surprise. The Metmen knocked him out early, then went silent against the Zona pen. No matter, Pelf kept the shutout intact through eight impressive innings. No matter. No . . .

Well, now, fellas, were you so confident in that robust 3-run lead that you needed to run yourself entirely out of the 8th inning? Not one but two would-be base-stealers were gunned at second in the 8th, leaving David Wright stranded in the batter's box. Honestly, we might have wanted to see what Wright could do with a couple of runners. Reyes, whose (as of yesterday) 25-year-old legs have looked a little tired in this 96-degree heat, has been caught stealing more than Perry Farrell of late. No matter. Willie lets Pelfrey bat for himself in the 8th; he's giving the kid a chance. I like it.

Well, after Pelfrey allowed a leadoff single, Willie consulted his internal conventional wisdom rulebook.

Young pitcher takes shutout game into 9th inning. If 1st batter reaches, yank him.

Like clockwork, Willie Randolph strode to the mound after that. I'd have bet all the money on my pocket on it (roughly $11, in the interest of full disclosure). And following conventional wisdom is often prudent, but robotic, knee-jerk managing only gets you so far. Pelfrey's pitch count was still manageable, he'd thrown a masterful 8th, and . . . well, you always have faith in Billy Wagner, but on any given night, you never know what a reliever's got. You knew what Pelfrey had. Have confidence in your Pelf, they used to say.

Anyway, hindsight's 20/20 but I was saying all this to my television in the moment. And after a double and a couple of outs, with Mark Reynolds, the third most prominent SEVA 3B star in the bigs at the plate (behind Dee-Dub and Ryan Zimmerman), the pessimism began to well up inside me. After Reynolds was hit in the toe with the 2-2 pitch and not awarded first base, Gary said, "Well, the Mets caught a break there." I replied to him (for some reason, I'm pretty sure they can hear me in the booth), "Oh, just you wait . . ."

It was if I'd already seen the play happened. Home run to left. It was some kind of déjà vu, some sort of extrasensory perception network, some form of childish, negative, "I knew it, I told you so" pessimism extraordinaire come to bear. I sent a message to Rob with a flurry of expletives the FCC would deem wholly inappropriate but at least somewhat original.

The bullpen, or BP for short, has been serving up half-baked taters like the Wendy's on Lee Highway in Arlington, VA. In each of the last four games, a Met reliever has surrendered a homer late in the game to tie or lose the game. That's not . . . uh, that's not good.

And so I had to decide whether to cash in my chips or stick it out for extra innings. The good people from Anheuser-Busch helped influence my decision, and it all worked out fine. The bullpen actually held fast, and in the bottom of the 13th, Carlos Beltran ended it with a two-run blast. It was worthy of a quick (for me) leap from the couch and gooberish fist-pump, but it's not worth much more discussion. Shouldn't have had to happen, and the exciting conclusion to the much-needed W only slightly outweighed the frustration, disappointment, and bitterness we experienced from more ineptitude by this squad.

Game time's 1:00 today. I know you're all taking off work like the Met PR people told you to.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Just Shoot Me

Game 63 - Mets

Diamondbacks 9, Mets 5

Record: 30-33

Skipping past Rob's magnificent eulogy to his Grandpa and obnoxiously focusing on Nick's negativity, I nominate these players as my Least Favorite Mets of All Time:

C through Manager: The 2008 New York Mets

Okay, not really, of course. But last night didn't make me like these bastards any more. You know you're grinding through a rotten season when your team sports a 5-1 lead in the second inning and the overriding thought is, "They'll blow this. I know they'll blow this." A quote from one of my all-time favorite films keeps coming to mind during this season:
It's over, don't you get that? Your time is over and you're gonna die bloody, and all you can do is choose where.
Obviously, nothing is over at this point. It just feels like these Mets have nothing near the mettle to get the job done. Don't blame injuries; I saw an article lamenting the fact that they haven't had their true starting lineup intact all season. Not buying that. Unless you count Pedro -- and I don't think anybody in their right mind had elevated him out of wait-and-see status this winter -- the Mets have avoided the huge, devastating injury. Ryan Church is missed, but the true Mets superstars are on that field night in and night out.

Sucking.

Last night I actually missed the quintet of Mets runs, making it all that much more fun. I saw the D-backs scrape a run across after John Maine spit his dip out with a 3-2 count on Orlando Hudson. He seemed to be distracted by it, like maybe he'd swallowed some, maybe gotten the sweats a little, maybe was staving off mound-barfing. Anyway, it surprised me that he chose then to take an extra few seconds to eject the wad, run tongue 'twixt teeth and gum, eradicate the remnants, and take an extra second to regain his composure. Really, a 3-2 count with a man aboard? Now?

And then he walked Hudson, natch. That didn't surprise me at all. And then he gave up a single, of course. 1 run in. It's the Met way these days.

I was called away for fatherly obligations for the next hour, and since I'd been watching and not recording, only 30 minutes would be saved by the time I returned. The back end of the delay featured David Wright touching home plate to record Run #5. Like I said, 5-1, Mets, second inning.

So what I'm saying is that I got to enjoy seven or eight innings of a Mets baseball game last night in which the Arizona Diamondbacks plated nine runs and the New York Mets scored none. Thanks, boys, next time I'll just punch myself in the eye and get some sleep.

Mike Pelfrey vs. Brandon Webb tonight. Ugh. And then I get this e-mail from Mets.com:
Take Off Work This Thursday
Play Hooky from Work - this Thursday at 1:10 PM. Job got you stressed? Come to Shea instead. Johan Santana is set to take the mound against Dan Haren and the Diamondbacks. Buy tickets now!
1 part irony, 2 parts audacity. Stir. Guzzle. Repeat.

In Memory: Ted Robinson

On the morning of June 10, 2008, in the presence of his daughter, sister, and son-in-law, Theodore Bliss Robinson slipped quietly over the border dividing this life from the next. He passed simply and peacefully, a fine coda for a man who lived his nearly 90 years in the same manner.

My grandfather loved my grandmother, his family, science-fiction books, his well-worn recliner, sailing, sports cars, Cape Cod, Manhattans, and the Boston Red Sox. He was an engineer of some reknown during his professional career, channeling his keen intellect and technical savvy in later years to any number of electrical mashups (before the term was invented) and computer programs. He was quiet to the point of shyness, unfailingly reserved and polite, his only commentary when things were going poorly for the Sox (or his grandson was doing something reckless) a mild 'tsk, tsk' of disapproval.

MLC is nothing if not a vanity project, but it's a vanity born of a deep love for baseball. Every fan's path to the game is unique; we get here because of geography or history or random accident. Me, I got here because of family. Grandpa Robinson took me to my first Red Sox game and he taught me how to sail. One of the two passions stuck with me.

Every night, after dinner, Nana and Grandpa would retire to the study of their suburban Boston home and settle into a pair of his-and-her recliners. In the summer, sometimes the scene changed to Cape Cod, but the accompaniment never did - when the Sox were in season, they were the background. And that's how I'll remember my grandfather, the most gentle man I've known: with a book in his hand, his wife by his side, the Sox on the television.

You're 10 seconds away from the most embarrassing moment in your life.

Game 65: Yankees

Yankees 3, A's 1
Record: 33-32
"I saw Rivera stretching and that gave me an idea," said Girardi, who considered going with Kyle Farnsworth in the ninth. "I wanted him to tell me."
Thank god Rivera picked up the phone and told Coach Joe he was fine to pitch, or I assure you Farnsworth would've blown this game. Two run lead, on the road, against the 6, 7 and 8 hitters = patented Kyle Dickface meltdown.

Rivera's save also allowed C.M. Wang to get his first win since May 2.

I think this random stat I found in the recap nicely sums up the season so far:
The Yankees (33-32) moved back above .500. They headed into Tuesday's game at .500 for the 22nd time, matching the 1959 Chicago Cubs for the most times at the even mark in major league history through 64 games, according to The Elias Sports Bureau.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to create my list of least favorite Yankees. Nick, you're a genius.

I Hate Everything About You

Game 66 - Phillies

Fish 5, Phils 4

Record: 39 and 27

Ok, no big deal. Have to lose sometime. Wish Myers would have pitched better but, baby steps.

Hamels on the hill tonight. A great outing would speak volumes about just who is in charge here in the NL Least.

So, to kill time until some event generates visceral emotions, I will manufacuture some emotion with a little list of my all time least favorite Phillies.

C – Lance Parrish. Parrish was a 6 time All-Star for Sparky and a colossal bust in Philly. Then again, signing a free agent catcher at the age of 30? You get what you pay for.

1B – Gregg Jefferies. I wanted to put Travis Lee here. Lee was one example in the long line of players who were cursed with the “sweet swing” tag. (See Von Hayes below.) He was supposed to help assuage the loss of Curt Schilling with that swing. Expectations were too high and he appeared too aloof, at least for this deranged town. He was an excellent fielder though. We can’t blame Travis. We can blame Gregg Jefferies. Where do we begin? He was a Met. Okay, so was Tugger and Lenny and Roger McDowell but they were funny, gregarious and certainly cool enough to slide down I-95 and not miss a beat. Jefferies always made you feel like he was doing you a favor by donning your uniform. The kid had talent but you just knew it was all about him. It didn’t help that he was the best player on the worst Philly teams in the 1990s. His biggest offense of course, was the gratuitous extra “G” in his first name. By the way, Jefferies actually split time between left field and first base but he wore his stirrups like a first basemen so he goes here.

2B – Mark Lewis. This was the toughest position to pick. Philly has always enjoyed sold second base play. While Marlon Anderson never really panned out, I had to pick Mark Lewis simply because I had completely forgotten he played for us. He played one season in Philly (1998) and hit .249 while kicking 16 balls in 140 games. That made him slightly less than average and wholly forgettable.

SS – Steve Jeltz. Go look up Steve Jeltz at baseball-reference.com and tell me how the hell he managed 8 years in the bigs. Can you imagine him playing 8 seasons in this century? Remember the term “light hitting middle infielder?” That’s right son, back in my day, shortstops and second basemen rarely hit more than 20 home runs a season – combined!

3B – Tie Rick Schu and Todd Ziele – OK, Schu was awful but in his defense, he could have been Scott Rolen (the Midwestern mannerly, dutiful and no-nonsense version) and he still would have been hated for not being Mike Schmidt. His name did begin with Sch- though. Nice try Rick. Todd Ziele was Greg(g) Jefferires’ best friend. (Why didn’t he just marry him if he loved him so much?) For that, he gets on the list.

LF – Phil Bradley. Bradely was a great young outfielder in Seattle where he had all the tools. Power, speed, average and arm. He came to Philly and posted his worst season hitting .264 with 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases (vs. 9 CS.) I swear, after we made a deal with the devil to get Pete Rose, players since have gone to Philadelphia to die.

CF – Wendell Magee. Like second base, the Phils have had some success here with Garry Maddox, Len Dykstra and most recently Aaron Rowand. However, during the dark years of the late ‘90’s the future genius Terry Francona had to trot out this guy on opening day, 1997. Wendell played only 38 games and hit .200. He was gone before the loathing set in.

RF – Von Hayes - Do you know from which motion picture this dialogue has been hi-jacked?

Nick: It's not your fault.

Von: [Softly, still staring off] I know...

Nick: No you don't. It's not your fault.

Von: [Serious] I know.

Nick: No. Listen to me son. It's not your fault.

Von: I know that.

Nick: It's not your fault. [Von is silent, eyes closed]

Nick: It's not your fault.

Von: [Von's eyes open, misty already] Don't fuck with me Nick. Not you.

Nick: It's not your fault. [Von shoves Nick back, and then, hands trembling, buries his face in his hands. Von begins sobbing. Nick puts his hands on Von’s shoulders, and Von grabs him and holds him close, crying]

Von: Oh my God! I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry Nick!

Leave your guesses in the combox.

Von Hayes was not Ted Williams. Then again, he never claimed to be. Other, less serious minds tagged him with that. Von Hayes also never asked to be traded. He certainly never said he was worth 5 major league players, one of which was Philly favorite Manny Trillo. Oh, and one of the throw-ins was minor leaguer named Julio Franco whose career spanned 23 years and produced 2500 plus hits with a .298 average. Hayes lasted 12 seasons collecting 1402 hits while batting .267.

He never said he was Teddy Ballgame though. It wasn’t his fault.

SP – Joe Cowley. Cowley, along with battery mate/partner in crime Lance “Perish” came over in the off season of ‘87 to help the Phils make up the 20 game deficit to the ’86 Mets. What a joke that notion was. Cowley had pitched a no-hitter in ’86 but in doing so, issued 7 walks. That should have been an adequate warning for the Phillies’ brass. Cowley became the first pitcher in history to throw a no hitter and never win another game. His brief stint in Philly featured 5 starts, 0 wins, 4 losses, 11 2/3rd IP and a 15.43 ERA.

Closer – Billy Wagner. Look, Wagner is one of the greatest closers ever. How he can uncork 100mph fastballs from his slight frame is mind boggling. I remember how much fun it was when his pitches clocked triple digits at Citizens Bank and the crowd would go nuts. That first season, he spent a little time on the DL but he pitched well when he was healthy. The second season though, he started the mumbling straight from the Curt Schilling/Scott Rolen Free Agent To Be Handbook about the front office not being committed to winning and so he left town and promptly began whining and bashing Philly, its players and its management.
This line score from the 2006 NLCS…

0.2 4 3 3 0 0 1 16.20

…was poetic justice for those inclined to partake in schadenfreude. Brad Lidge saving 3 games in a World Series championship would be icing.

Manager – Terry Francona. Tito was an all time good guy. He piloted some shameful Phillies squads woefully short on talent. This was not his fault. Had he slipped away in relative anonymity as the third base coach for the Twins, he wouldn’t be on this list. Certainly others – Lee Elia, John Felske, Nick Leyva – belong here. We know why Tito makes this list. I am too petty to be happy for him. In fact, that applies to Schilling and Rolen and any other lucky bastard to escape Philly and win a championship.

What If?

Game 67 - Red Sox

Orioles 10, Red Sox 6
Record: 40-27

In 5 1/3 innings over 5 games against the Baltimore Orioles this season, Hideki Okajima has allowed 9 hits and 8 ER for a tidy 13.50 ERA and 2.25 WHIP (and looked exceptionally awful). In 22 2/3 innings against the rest of the league, Jeemer's allowed a single run on 15 hits, for a 0.40/0.93 ERA/WHIP rate.

In 17 2/3 innings over 3 starts against the Baltimore Orioles this season, Josh Beckett has allowed 23 hits and 11 ER for a tidy 5.60 ERA and 1.64 WHIP (and looked a lot like circa 2006 Ebby Calvin in the process). In 61 1/3 innings against the rest of the league, Captain Kick-Ass has allowed 26 ER on 51 hits, for a 3.81/0.98 ERA/WHIP rate.

What in the name of Kiko Garcia is going on here?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

In the Heat of the Night

Games 59 (redux) through 62 - Mets

Padres 2, Mets 1

Padres 2, Mets 1

Padres 2, Mets 1 (10 inn., for a change of pace)

Padres 8, Mets 6

Record: 30-32


There wasn't much about the series in San Diego that you'd classify as anything other than "annoying." Even the bright spots -- the pitching, basically -- were sullied with the label "wasted." (I've been sullied with both of those epithets lately, or maybe just been just annoyingly wasted with Sully. Can't really recall, and the end result's about the same.)

A 2-1 loss, three games in a row. And then the finale, a bow rake to the abdomen, Tony Clark . . . Junior, right, gotta be Tony Clark, Junior? No?? Tony Clark is still playing baseball? And homering off Billy Wagner to win the game? He was left for dead by the Red Sox six seasons ago (.207/3/29), then went slummin' with the '03 Mets. He enjoyed something of a mild resurgence at Shea -- oh, he still hit .232, but his 16 homers were enough to elicit this snide blurt from across the aisle:
Felt the backlash on that one Sunday. It was actually something of a relief to lose by a score not 2 to 1. And now for something completely different . . . a dead person belting a Baltimore Special off our star closer.

'Round these parts only one thing's known for sure on June 10: I've already blown the Case Bet with Rob. The Mets may get to 91 wins by Earth Day next year if all goes well. And the guy we've been most eager to root for just went on the DL with concussion-related problems, and there's nothing even remotely cool about that.

It's blazing hot, the Mets aren't, and that's about all I have to say about that.

Well, Coach...what you're doin' with my dad. I'm not seein' it.

Games 54-64: Yankees

Yankees 6, Twins 5
Yankees 7, Twins 6 (12)
Twins 5, Yankees 1
Twins 6, Yankees 5
Blue Jays 9, Yankees 3
Yankees 5, Blue Jays 1
Yankees 9, Blue Jays 8
Royals 2, Yankees 1
Yankees 12, Royals 11
Yankees 6, Royals 3
Royals 3, Yankees 2

Record: 32-32

Hey look, the Yankees are .500. What a big, f'ing shock (for Nick and Whit I'll work PG-13 today). By my Enron math 92 wins will be good enough for a playoff spot in the American League. So fellas, I need you to go 60-38 over the rest of the season. Much obliged.

I picked that title so long ago I almost forgot what it was about...oh wait, no, there goes Kyle Farnsworth blowing another late game lead to jog my memory. Obviously, the Joba move to the rotation has been covered ad nauseam by the mainstream media and the blogosphere, so it's not like you're about to read anything new or enlightening from this guy (I mean, unless you consider content like this enlightening). Kyle Dickface has allowed eight runs in his last nine appearances...luckily he's been hurt the past three days so I haven't been subjected to his "1IP, 3H, 2ER" lines. Joba will be fine eventually as a starter, but why create a gaping hole in the bullpen in the middle of the season?

How in the hell does Carlos Mencia still have a show on the air?

Whether you like him or not (full disclosure: I would run over Ellen and Portia on my way to the alter to marry him in Cali), Derek Jeter passing The Mick for third place on the Yankees all-time hit list is mighty, mighty impressive.

Does C.M. Wang plan on winning another game anytime soon?

The Moustache Warrior is carrying these guys. Well, him, and Frozen Caveman CF, who is now hitting .326 and on pace for over 100 runs scored and 26 steals.

How come Jose Guillen decided to take out all his anger issues on the Yankees?

Anyone seen Robinson Cano? I heard he's still cashing a paycheck, which at this point might be a criminal offense.

I hate nothing more than when restaurants put a generic form of ketchup in a Heinz bottle and expect you not to notice. It really makes my blood boil.

Sure, I threw Mike Mussina under the bus as the year began, only to see him now posting a 9-4 record and 3.82 ERA. But that's not going to stop me from asking an obvious question right now: do I look fat? Kidding, of course I do. The real question: Is Andy Pettitte finally done? He's giving up hits and home runs faster than I give out Pez at a social function. He's already given up 10 bombs...he allowed 16 all of last year.

During yesterday's game Yankees fans booed the sun. Impressive.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Games 64 through 66 - Red Sox

Mariners 8, Red Sox 0
Red Sox 11, Mariners 4
Red Sox 2, Mariners 1
Record: 40-26

My friend Tom is a long-time Seattleite and staunch Mariners fan. I emailed him Friday evening, exasperated with the Sox' abysmal performance against the woeful M's, saying, "Your boys pick tonight to show a little spine?"
His response, "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while."

While that's a reasonably good explanation, it has a corollary that might fit even better, as I refer back to my collegiate nickname and behavior, to note that even a sighted squirrel gets hammered and pukes on itself every once in a while. Game 64 was $1 jello shot night in the Sox' locker room, as far as I could tell.

Fortunately, sobriety and normalcy reigned on Saturday and Sunday, as the Sox first stomped and then outlasted the M's. The latter game was yet another testament to the Sox' patience at the plate, as they forced uber-tough lefty (and Sox-killer) Erik Bedard from the game after 5 innings and 99 pitches. Not at all coincidentally, J.D. Drew homered in the Sox' first at-bat against Bedard's replacement.

The same J.D. Drew, by the way, who leads the Sox in OPS and paces all regulars in batting average and on-base percentage. Raise your hand if you predicted that before the season.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Bizzaro World

Games 60 through 65 - Phillies
Phils 3, Redlegs 2
Redlegs 2, Phils zip
Phils 5, Redlegs zip
Phils 4, Braves 3
Phils 6, Braves 2
Phils 6 Braves 3

Record: 39 wins, 26 losses

I am feeling a little sheepish these days. It's a feeling I had throughout my ignominious days at Dear Ol' State U. It's this sense that I am a fraud, a poseur, a pitiable wannabe. I certainly do not belong. The best evidence I can offer as a testimony to this phenomenon I am experiencing is that while I am giddy that my boys in red pinstripes are in first place at 39 and 26, Mr. Rob seems slightly annoyed that his Sox are "only" a half game better at 40 and 26. Ones man's trash...

However, statistics - they never lie - bear out that this is a pretty decent baseball squad taking up residence it that Pony League stadium at the intersection of Broad and Pattison Sts., Philly. They have been getting very solid (adjusted for 2008 in said Pony League stadium) starting pitching as I outlined in my 1/3 season report a few posts ago. Today, I read that they lead all of MLB in innings pitched by the starters - a monumental (again, by today's standards) 389! The current 15-4 run features 12 quality starts including the last six running. There is your difference between this year's team versus the editions of recent years past. It comes down to the starting rotation. To date, no one has missed a start. 65 games, 13 starts for each pitcher. They pitch into the seventh and they keep it close.

So let's get back to that feeling. It's June 9th. there are 97 games left. Surely something bad is going to happen. I've got to be psychologically ready to trade in this luxurious coach for that rotten pumpkin. Cole Hamels is made of Waterford crystal. Surely he'll crack. Is Myers back on track or is he ready to stink it up again? Jamie Moyer is 92. 92 year olds usually fall apart when they are asked to chuck every 5 days. What about this alien who has inhabited the body of Adam Eaton? Isn't it about time he vacated this host for someone just as worthy - say Oliver Perez? About the only thing I see as a sure thing is young Kyle Kendrick chugging along at his pedestrian but reliable pace. Of course, if some of the other guys start pitting, young Kyle may be forced to lead and then we'll know of what stuff he is made.

You see, I just feel like I don't belong. I am like a heroin addict who feels like he's done so much bad during his years of addiction - you know, like stealing his mom's Social Security check or raiding his niece's piggy bank or stealing from the St. Vincent dePaul collection box in the vestibule at St. Anthony's - so much so that he deserves to rot in the alley behind the liquor store on 98th Street. Somebody slap me. Wait a minute, I just glanced at the schedule - Marlins, Marlins, Marlins, Cards, Cards, Cards, Red Sox, Red Sox, Red Sox, Angel, Angels, Angels, A's, A's A's.
Oh Cindarella, your stepmother is calling.