Saturday, May 30, 2009

So Far Away

Games 49 & 50 - Red Sox

Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 3
Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 3

Record: 28-22


You might think I'd be annoyed that the Sox have lost 4 of 5 to fall out of first place. Well, how 'bout that? You're a freaking genius. What gave it away, the pissy grimace after Brad Penny gave up a homer to Adam Lind? The quick turning off of the radio when J.D. Drew grounded out to the pitcher to end the game? Maybe the rueful headshake/mouth pursing when Ramon Ramirez decided to finally show that he might be human? In any case, congratulations - you're a perceptive and highly-evolved man (or woman) of the world.

In 27 road contests this year, the Sox have scored 114 runs, just over 4 a contest. That's mediocre, nearing the exit to abysmal. In their 23 home games, they've averaged 6.3 tallies. Consequently, the Sox are 17-6 in Fenway, 11-16 everywhere else. Most teams play better at home than on the road, but the size of this early-season discrepancy is cause for at least a smidge of alarm.

Sure is better to focus on that than the designated hitter's .581 OPS. Or the identity of the team that's currently in first place.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Cap'm

Games 46 through 48 - Red Sox

Twins 5, Red Sox 2
Twins 4, Red Sox 2
Red Sox 3, Twins 1
Record: 28-20

A search of 'varitek corpse' in the MLC archives yields dozens of results. (NOTE: this is not true. Poetic license, though it would be true of a search of my mental archives. You'd also find the word 'melonfarmer' and a cache of Mary Lou Retton photos there. Please leave them be.) There's not a Sox fan in my acquaintance that had any expectations for the Sox' captain this season.

Yesterday, Jason Varitek blasted - and I do mean blasted - a pair of homers off of Twins rookie Anthony Swarzak to carry the Sox to a 3-1 win in their last regular season game in the Twins' freak palace. The longballs were Tek's 9th and 10th of the season, raising his OPS to .861. We're nearly a third of the way through the season, and the Sox' catcher is on pace for 30 homers when nobody who was paying attention would have predicted more than 8. So, yeah, we're pleasantly surprised.

Josh Beckett quietly closed out a strong May with 7 innings of 3-hit ball against the Twins. After a dismal April, the once and future rockhead was unbeated in 5 May starts, posting a 2.38 ERA over that span to lower his season mark from 7.22 to 4.60. The rotation has been fairly and oft-maligned thus far, but Beckett appears to be adding some much-needed stability.

In a Tim Kurkjian wet dream, both starting catchers and each manager received early showers courtesy of home plate umpire Todd Tichenor, who ejected first Mike Redmond and Ron Gardenhire before running Varitek and Terry Francona, all in the 7th inning. Baseball's version of a Gordie Howe hat trick for Tek, perhaps.

Off to Toronto for a weekend set against the reeling Jays, where the Sox will miss Roy Halladay. Trap series, no question, as it was the Sox 3-game sweep of Toronto in Boston that kick-started the Jays' current skid. At least we've got Tek.

I can't believe I just typed that.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hey, Hoops, you ever notice how people die in alphabetical order?

Game 47: Yankees

Yankees 9, Rangers 2 

Record:  27-20
Tied for 1st in the AL East

A.J. Burnett, so nice of you to show up.  Last night's win was his first since April 14th.  Money well spent I say.  Ugh.

Howevah, the real star of the game was leather-faced Hideki Matsui, who went 2-4 with two HRs and three RBI.  MLC was able to obtain some footage of Matsui's performance for your viewing pleasure:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My philosophy: a hundred-dollar shine on a three-dollar pair of shoes.

Games 9-46 (Jesus I suck): Yankees

Yankees 4, Devil Rays 3
Indians 10, Yankees 2
Yankees 6, Indians 5
Indians 22, Yankees 4
Yankees 7, Indians 3
Yankees 5, A's 3
Yankees 9, A's 7 (14)
Red Sox 5, Yankees 4 (11)
Red Sox 16, Yankees 11
Red Sox 4, Yankees 1
Tigers 4, Yankees 2
Yankees 11, Tigers 0
Yankees 8, Tigers 6
Yankees 7, Angels 4
Yankees 10, Angels 9
Angels 8, Yankees 4
Red Sox 6, Yankees 4
Red Sox 7, Yankees 3
Rays 4, Yankees 3 (10)
Rays 8, Yankees 6
Yankees 4, Orioles 0
Orioles 12, Yankees 5
Yankees 5, Orioles 3
Blue Jays 5, Yankees 1
Yankees 8, Blue Jays 2
Yankees 3, Blue Jays 2
Yankees 5, Twins 4
Yankees 6, Twins 4 (11)
Yankees 3, Twins 2 (10)
Yankees 7, Twins 6
Yankees 9, Orioles 1
Yankees 11, Orioles 4
Yankees 7, Orioles 4
Phillies 7, Yankees 3
Yankees 5, Phillies 4
Phillies 4, Yankees 3 (11)
Yankees 11, Rangers 1
Rangers 7, Yankees 3

Record: 26-20

Well then, after reading what amounts to an entire year of Yankees scores (I seriously think this is but my second "post" this year, and the first one was really Ghostbusters 2-focused), I am sure you're already exhausted and bored.  But fear not fateful readers, I have returned from the 69 Day DL to enlighten and impress you...perhaps tomorrow (perhaps never).  

Basically, I had to get this post up or fear never getting a post up at all this year.  My time on the DL did not properly prepare me to jump right back into the posting flow, but I'm trying: doing some cardio work in the pool, jogging with Apollo on the beach, swallowing handfuls of PEDs , you get the idea.  In my absence, the Bronx Bombers have done just fine, amassing a 26-20 record after a rough and slow start to the year (let's call that the Cody Randsom Period).  Is this recent hot streak a fluke, or have the bats finally awakened with the return of the Narcissist Lex Luger?  Is Phil Hughes ready to contribute all year long, or will the league figure him out in short order?  Is my unhealthy love of Nick Swisher being replaced by an unhealty love of Frankie "Call Me Francisco And I'll Kill Ya" Cervelli?  Is the use of mundane questions to lengthen a post the most annoying type of writing ever?  Or is that terza rima? 

Answers to follow in short order.  Lucky for you there's still over 100 games left this year for me to recap via nonsensical pop culture references and youtube clips.  Game on Garth.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Games 41 through 45 - Red Sox

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 1
Mets 5, Red Sox 3
Mets 3, Red Sox 2
Red Sox 12, Mets 5
Red Sox 6, Twins 5
Record: 27-18

I plead guilty to both of the sins (and I count travel, given that I put nearly 800 miles on my gas-chugging SUV) detailed by Whitney as excuses for my lack of posting intensity this week. I spent the holiday in the Myrtle Beach area with my folks, wrapping a trip to see the Myrtle Beach Pelicans and a Sox/Mets telecast into the beach, booze, mini-golf, and child-chasing package. My kids got to run the bases after the Pelicans game, which was as much a highlight for me as it was for them. Watching my tiny 5 year-old sprint her little heart out and her older sister conscientiously touch all the bases (with an homage to Mark McGwire's 62nd homer as she missed first) was worth the price of admission (free, thanks to Mom and Dad, but you get my point).

So forgive the following half-assed catch-up/recap/comeback. And get used to it, as I'm strapping on the work boots tomorrow for a business trip to Cape May, NJ. Might hear from me again sometime next week.

All of these things have happened thus far in 2009:
  • David Ortiz has 1 homerun and a .600 OPS on May 26 and was demoted to 6th in the batting order effective today (aside: huzzah, Tito).
  • Jonathan Papelbon has given up 2-run homers in consecutive outings this very week, losing a winnable game.
  • Starting shortstop Jed Lowrie has played 5 games, meaning a whole lot of Nick Green and Julio Lugo.
  • The Sox' starting rotation carries a 5.31 ERA and 1.53 WHIP.
  • Kevin Youkilis and his 1.181 OPS has missed 14 games.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka has thrown 11 1/3 innings. With a 10.32 ERA.
  • Omir Effing Santos. Omir. Effing. Santos.
And when play began this evening, the Sox were in first place in the AL East by a game over the Yankees.

Hell if I know.

Hurt

Games 41 through 44 - Mets

Mets 5, Red Sox 3
Mets 3, Red Sox 2
Red Sox 12, Mets 5
Mets 5, Nationals 2
Record: 24-20

The Red Sox play the Mets for the first time in years, and we have nothing to say about it. Huh.

I think Rob and I are both still recovering from a long weekend of traveling and drinking . . . and following that series the best we could while doing so. What a difference one swing of the bat makes. Without Omir Santos's deep fly that eked over the Monster (and an umpiring crew whose TV's backed it up), we're talking about the Mets dropping 2 of 3, losing another series, and Mets Township is fearing mightily for the future.

Okay, we're still fearing for the future, but we are glad to have taken a pair from one of the league's premier clubs -- one that's playing at a high level these days. No rest for the weary, however, because . . . well, here's tonight's lineup:

1. Angel Pagan, CF
2. Luis Castillo, 2B
3. David Wright, 3B
4. Gary Sheffield, LF
5. Fernando Tatis, 1B
6. Fernando Martinez, RF
7. Omir Santos, C
8. Ramon Martinez, SS
9. Livan Hernandez, P

Oh, my.

If you saw this in March, you'd have fallen off your couch . . . into your own vomit; as it is, only knowing that Omir Santos might possibly be the best catcher on the roster is heartening. The rest is just as troublesome as we would have feared.

Reyes & Church are on the DL with Delgado now. Beltran is bruised and will miss a few games. Daniel Murphy is . . . I don't know why he's not playing, maybe because Jerry Manuel really, really hates platoon advantage. All I really know is that playing the lowly, craphazard Washington Nationals gives the Mets a puncher's chance of managing a few wins while the meat of their lineup sits out, and even that might not be enough. Yikes.

And what I've glossed over thus far, what Wheelhouse Jerry gleefully (okay, so it was as gleeful as he gets) e-mailed to me today, is the fellow currently manning the 6-spot and right field. Fernando Martinez. Prospecto numero uno. Time to give the team a boost, kid, so here's an inspirational message from an old friend:
You know, you never handle your luggage in the Show, somebody else carries your bags. You hit white balls for batting practice. The ballparks are like cathedrals. The hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brain. They're really hot, and so are pitchers. They throw ungodly breaking stuff in the Show, exploding sliders . . .
Best of luck, FMart. (Terrible nickname lifted from MetsBlog. He needs a new one, and God, I hope it's not "KMart." Ramon Martinez may have trademarked that one.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead

Game 40 - Red Sox

Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 3
Record: 24-16

I just got done reading a terrific piece by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker on the phenomenon of the underdog. In it, the author postulates that, "David can beat Goliath by substituting effort for ability."

In news that's related, but only tangentially, the Sox' erstwhile Goliath (ironically named David) finally matched effort to ability last night, and in so doing elicited a Nation-wide cathartic exhaling.

David Ortiz drilled a 3-1, 5th inning offering from Brett Cecil deep to left-center, and the Fenway crowd erupted in relieved joy, showering the big man with applause. His teammates gave Papi the mock-silent treatment, and the sheepish slugger gave a mini-curtain call. Ortiz capped his 2-for-5 day with a late double.

I don't think this represents a breakout, nor am I convinced that the Papi of old has walked through that door. I do think, though, that the schneid-breaking longball gives the Sox and Papi a lot of options now in terms of helping him find his stroke. Tito can move Ortiz around in the order if he continues to struggle without humiliating him, and Papi can relax, which may be all the psychological balm he needed.

Lost in the media melee, Jason Varitek hit his 6th and 7th homers of the year, reaching a tally that a great many Sox fans would have accepted as full-season totals for the captain. Mike Lowell ripped his 7th and Jason Bay his 12th (on a ball hit so far that even the taciturn Bay opened his mouth in awe). Hell, it was like Yankee Stadium had up and moved to Boston for the evening, what with all the balls flying out. Finally, Youks celebrated his return to the lineup with a 3-for-5 effort.

All that's left now is for Jon Lester to join the mojo-rejuvenation parade this evening to key a sweep in advance of the mighty Metropolitans' trip to Boston. From my keyboard to the young lefty's arm.

West L.A. Fadeaway

Game 40 - Mets

Dodgers 2, Mets 1
Record: 21-19

I'm getting sick from the Mets. Not sick of them -- I am coming down with illness because of this road trip. I am staying up night after night until 1 or 2 in the AM to watch our lads. There was something about watching them beat up on the SFO-mo's for three nights that staved off the repercussions of sleep deprivation. Now that the Mets are dropping game upon game, I'm falling prey. Sore throat, makings of a cold, perpetual headache . . . all on the eve of a holiday weekend. Swell.

Jose Reyes. Hurt again. When he gets dinged, you can cue up The Cranberries. If this calf problem does indeed linger, that coupled with the Hipster's issues may just make this team a .500 ballclub. The rotation was never slated to be top-notch beyond Santana. With the roster down two of its four core guys, the prognosis is not . . . well, it's not good.

Poor Ramon Martinez. Pressed into action because of roster limitations (hi, Omar!), he looks for all the world like he's swinging with the wrong end of the bat. 0-for-12 now, and it may be worse than his stats would indicate.

On the plus side: Daniel Murphy played a stellar first base last night. We'll take that. I mean, he's never looked more lost at the plate, but anything Kong/Piazza-like at fielding the position might've been more than we could stomach at this point. The next Keith? We'll hold off on that label. But in last night's small sample size, he looked like a 1B-2 at least, up from the LF-4 he'd been posting for weeks. Baby steps, light-hitting glove man at 1B. We'll take it.

Timely hitting . . . p'shaw. Who needs it? Timeliness is next to godliness, and the Mets have displayed an ungodly amount of untimely hitting. They strand so many damn people, I've taken to calling Met games "three-hour tours."

So . . . three craptacular outings in L.A. I can't stand that city, anyway. Like Rob might say, bite me, Randy Newman. After a much-needed day of rest, the Mets head up to Fenway for the aforementioned MLC showdown. The Mets are sharpening their Bowie knife for this gunfight as we speak.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Worst Day Since Yesterday

Game 39 - Mets

Dodgers 5, Mets 3
Record: 21-18

Now this loss was more like it.

Wait . . . what?

I guess what I mean is that it was a step up not to see the Mets inflict a humiliating implosion of a defeat on themselves. This game came down to John Maine pitching okay for the most part but making a few crucial mistakes. He allowed a double to the opposing pitcher (bad) and a three-run difference-maker to a pretty good hitter (acceptable). It was a tolerable, tidy loss to a good team. Baby steps, don't make the papers with your semi-retarded gaffes. Baby steps, don't get compared to the biggest laughingstock in modern baseball history.

I am, of course, increasingly perplexed by Jerry Manuel doing things like starting -- and sticking with -- Ramon Martinez despite the writing on the wall (and on the dugout wall, and mowed into the outfield grass, and on the overhead blimp) saying that Martinez is a bit out of his league these days. Ramon had some nice moments for the Mets last fall, but once he'd gone 0-for-8 in his first two games of the season, including striking out (badly, like miss-by-a-foot badly) three times last night, he came up with a couple of runners aboard in the 8th. All signs pointed to the Mets' last gasp, all signs pointed to a pinch-hitter. Nope. G. I. D. P. Inning/threat over. Pretty much game over. A minor complaint.

At least Martinez didn't have two errors again last night. Baby steps.

And ah, Daniel Murphy, embarrassing me for having ever mentioned "Golden Boy II." He got picked off in the first inning, but that doesn't tell the tale. While the pitcher was very much still set, he took off for second base. Chad Billingsley looked over as if to say, "Really? Okay," and casually threw him out at second. Five whole minutes later, Murph drops an easy fly ball (like he wanted to fit in with the clowns from the night prior) that ends up becoming an unearned run. Unreal. This team gives away runs like it can afford to. Note to the Mets: after surging into first place, you became the pirate looking at forty and pissed it away so fast, never meant to last. Good song; bad idea.

Where the momentum of the Giants series went is a mystery. The truth is that this team is talented enough to compensate for some botched plays and mental mistakes in many cases. The sad fact is that if they're going to keep making those botched plays and mental mistakes, it will cost them in enough other cases to keep them from being an elite contender. Feeling some satisfaction in an old-fashioned loss that wasn't completely embarrassing is embarrassing in and of itself.

Right the ship. Be better. Stop sucking.

Slowly, Oh Slowly

Game 39 - Red Sox
Red Sox 2, Blue Jays 1
Record: 23-16

The little girl with a curl has been really good this season, and yesterday was no exception. And when she's good, the Sox blister through games. Tim Wakefield went 8 strong innings last night, the Papi-led [:-(] offense squeaked out just enough runs to back his effort, and vintage Jonathan Papelbon quelled the grumbling for a night. The result, a tidy 2-1 victory that helped a certain pinstriped squad just as much as it did the Sox.

We'd know more about that last sentence except for the fact that Teejay's been incarcerated for some shenanigens involving a bathroom contractor, home-grown sensemilla, and a hairless Mexican dog. Our attorneys are efforting a resolution.

And in honor of Wake's quick and clean performance, that's all I've got to say about that.

Find Your Way Back

Game 37 - Phillies

Phillies 4, Reds 3
Record: 21 wins, 16 losses

It's been about 13 days since I last posted. In all that time, not a word of concern of my whereabouts was posted by my brethren here at MLC. There are likely several reasons for that.

1 - My posts are boring. No one noticed I was gone.

2 - My posts blow. Something about letting sleeping dogs lie.

3 - I am being confused with TJ.

4 - Nobody likes me because I'm the ungracious asshole whose team won the whole enchilada during his rookie year at MLC.

5 - Maybe they're thinkin' "He's got 4 friggin' kids, he'll post when he comes up for air!"

I suspect a combination of #1 and #5 are the reason no one has hassled me and it's just as well since I seriously have been pinched for time. As a result have not exactly followed the Phightins as closely as I did last August-September-October. I'm the sucker er, dedicated father who volunteered to coach 3 - count 'em - 3 baseball teams this Spring. So here we are almost 1/4 of the way through the 2009 MLB season and I am sitting on probably my 4th or 5th post all season long.

You see? I already back to my boring ways. Sorry folks.

The Phillies are back in first conveniently enough for me. I don't hold any delusions that it will be for long nor am I concerned they won't pop back up on top a few more times this season. This might just be the season long dog fight between the Phils and Mets that probably only Whitney, I and a few other miserable losers have long waited for. Two good but flawed clubs with a bit of psychological jockeying going on. It ain't Sox-Yanks but it'll be a little jazzier than that sorry excuse of a rivalry between the Cubs and Cards - a rivalry only in the sense that perhaps Mr. Rogers would have deemed it. There's only one real rivalry in flyover country and that's Ohio State-Michigan. Before anyone says anything about hockey - shut up and move to Canada.

But before the Phils and Mets play again, the Phils have a date with that other team from New York. That upstart franchise almost 30 years younger. You know them as the team with the most world championships in the 20th century but sitting on a big fat oh-fer this century. The Phillies come into a series with the New York Yankees as the reigning world champions. Bizarro world indeed!

While the Phillies are in Gotham not playing the Mets, the Mets will traipse up to Beantown to face the Sox. MLC will have its first full weekend of interleague matchups since the 2008 expansion. Are there any wagers to be made? Any lame predictions? Any venom to be spewed? Probably not. The Phils-Yanks should make for some interesting baseball. Nobody in the NL puts together such a potent lineup as the Yanks do. Well the Phillies do but they can't play with themselves - keep it clean TJ! It should be interesting which means it will probably be boring. Remember, the opposite outcome follows any prediction of mine.

With that note, I think the Dow will drop 350 points today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Missing

Games 35 through 38 - Mets

Mets 8, Giants 6
Mets 9, Giants 6
Giants 2, Mets 0
Dodgers 3, Mets 2 (11)
Record: 21-17

It's really hard to know where to begin this morning. Okay, we'll go with the obvious one. Really?? You missed 3rd base?

Here's when you know that as a collective, though you are in first place (until tomorrow) and you make millions of dollars, you should hang your heads for a moment in miserable embarrassment: Nearly every publication that recapped the game has made at least one comparison between your team and the 1962 New York Mets. Oof.

Here's one reason.

"Marvelous Marv" Throneberry: in June of '62, while trying to run down a base runner, he collided while attempting to tag the runner without having the ball. Interference was called, and Chicago then scored four runs. Later in the same game, Throneberry lined a triple down the line but was called out for failing to touch first base.

When Stengel stormed out to protest, the umpire cut him off, informing him that Marv had missed second base, too.

"Well," Stengel replied, "I know he touched third base because he's standing on it."

The baserunning this season has been downright wretched. Was anything actually instructed in Spring Training? I know at this point in their careers, guys shouldn't need extended tutelage to know to slide when there's a close play, but they're not doing it. They consistently do not slide. (Church was picked off when he didn't slide earlier in the game, but the ump blew the call badly.) When they slide, it's head-first (see Cora, Alex AND ligament tear) and never in danger of knocking someone over who's blocking the bag/plate. They take the extra base at all the wrong opportunities. Their game situation savvy is shockingly limited. They are stealing bases at a record clip of late, and yet they seem to know nothing of baserunning. It's staggering.

That said, Church missing third is simply an embarrassing, untimely mistake that -- on rare occasion -- happens. What has ensued is even worse, so says I.
Jerry Manuel:
“Uhh, a guy missed third base. That’s unbelievable. I can’t explain why or how or anything. But, he actually missed the base… To me, it’s just hard to miss third base. I’ve known some guys to miss first, because they’re looking for the ball and misstep, but I have rarely, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a guy miss third base in a situation like that. I don’t know, I don’t have any explanation.”

Why he did not go out to argue the call of Church missing the bag:

“I asked Razor and he said he missed it.”
Failing to stick by your men when they need it most is failing your men. Manuel has never seemed to take to Ryan Church for some reason. Throwing him under the bus sends one message -- you'd better be one of Jerry's guys (Jerry's Kids?) or he's not going to back you when you fuck up. Thanks, dick. I know it was mind-numbingly bad what happened, but you're the manager. You know he's going to get hammered in the press. You stand by him in a show of suppport. Way to go, Jerry. Stand up guy.

And this starts to spread like mildew in a grimy shower. Here's Carlos Beltran's quote about Angel Pagan, who in his eagerness to make a play, did break a cardinal outfield rule but did nothing warranting further embarrassment:
"I called for the ball like six times," Beltran said. "But Pagan stood in the middle and I couldn't put my glove on the ball. On a ball like that, I have priority. If Pagan would have called for that ball, my job is to get out of the way. He's been in center field before, so he knows that when the center fielder calls for the ball, everyone has to get out of the way."
That's it, Carlos. Cover your ass, ensure everyone knows it wasn't your fault, chastise the guy who just got back up here yesterday. Well played.

But then, Jerry did stick up for Pagan:

"Angel, as talented and as quick as he is, he can be underneath a ball and really not know it, because you’re so used to covering that ground, but you’ve got to give way to the center fielder.”

That's the proper way to deflect the criticism. Talk about his merits, spin it positively, let him off the hook. He feels bad enough, he's going to get some abuse in the papers. No need to pile on.

Somewhere in the City of Angels, Ryan Church reads/hears these quotes in succession and delivers a hearty "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" . . .

Hey, uh, Omar? You paying attention here? I understand that sometimes General Managing isn't that easy. You figured this gig was all about constructing a team with virtually limitless payroll (unless you want to give Derek Lowe a fourth year, and then it snaps shut) and kicking back for six months, right? We're sorry, but you might need to actually do some in-season dealing and strategery. It shouldn't be that hard; your predecessors' midseason trades were the stuff of Rob Zombie's daydreams, so the bar is low. But if Jose Reyes is going to miss any more time (please, please, no), Ramon Martinez may not be the answer. (Small sample size, but 0-for-5 with 2 errors is glaring.) And the Delgado situation, while unfortunate and not your fault, has exposed a lack of a true Plan B. Make one. Lickety-split.

You see, Mr. Minaya, they don't just give them fancy Manager of the Year trophies to the guy whose team collects the most W's. That's nice and all, but in these economically unbalanced times, what's more impressive is the fellow who takes a not-so-luxurious situation and applies his managerial skill to will his team to overachieve. They're recognized as people who really did something.

Same goes for GM work. Theo Epstein has excelled in his role because he understands the dynamics of a baseball organization and people in general, but he'd be the first guy to tell you that he's also blessed with a fat payroll and ownership support, and that GM's in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and the like who can manage to break .500 are no less impressive. So now that you have to actually put your mind to this -- your mind, your foresight, your powers of persuasion, and your faith in the baseball minds that surround you -- let's see what you've got. Because the way things are headed, it's like one more quote goes:
See, you may be the biggest thing that ever hit this area, but you're still two-bit outlaws. I never met a soul more affable than you, Butch, or faster than the Kid, but you're still nothing but two-bit outlaws on the dodge. It's over, don't you get that? Your times is over and you're gonna die bloody, and all you can do is choose where.

Monday, May 18, 2009

About the Weather

Games 36 through 38 - Red Sox

Mariners 5, Red Sox 4
Red Sox 5, Mariners 3
Mariners 3, Red Sox 2
Record: 22-16

Jon Lester's baffling implosion on Friday notwithstanding, the gray overcast of the Sox' early-season starting pitching broke briefly this weekend, with Josh Beckett and Justin Masterson both providing warm-enough rays of sunshine. Unfortunately for the Sox, the offensive cold front that's been looming in Pawtucket finally blew into the lineup.

Though I haven't really focused on the issue, it was only a matter of time before the gray clouds of injury teamed with the recent Papi-induced gloominess to slow the Sox' offense. Kevin Youkilis, Ortiz, and Jed Lowrie are all hurt or ineffective. Jason Varitek, Rocco Baldelli, and Jeff Bailey are suffering through what may be characterized as either nasty slumps or generally localized not-very-goodness. Jacoby Ellsbury's struggling. In truth, Jason Bay's been carrying the Sox since Youks went down with some help from J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell.

The Sox haven't scored more than 5 runs in 10 days, going 3-5 in that span. And if starters aren't gonna pitch and the offense isn't gonna hit...well, even as good as they are, the Sox' terrific bullpen may be hard-pressed to generate runs.

But, as the cliche goes, it's a marathon, not a sprint. Also known here as some variant of 'lotta ball left'. Grey skies are gonna clear up. Put on a happy face.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Late Greats

Games 33 & 34 - Mets

Braves 8, Mets 7 (12)
Mets 7, Giants 4
Record: 19-15

Day games, late night games, we've got it all lately, and I've been able to watch a whole lot of Metball. For once, when I am on a tear of tuning in, the Mets aren't thoroughly rewarding me with fork-in-the-eye play. They still make enough aggravating mistakes every game to keep me cursing and mocking, but they're getting involved in exciting games and playing well enough to keep it interesting until the end. All in all, Whitney likee.

Case in point last night. I'd just hunkered down for a late, long haul of west coast ball. Unlike Rob, I care enough about my team to actually stay up and watch. (There may be some other mitigating factors, too, but never you mind.) But by the time Johnny Maine took the hill at AT&T Park around 10:30 ET . . . well, it was already 3AM ugly. Hideous opening frame, shaky second, kicked into overdrive by the 3rd and 4th. Nice battling by Maine.

It was stolen base city for the Mets last night. I commented on the irony of the Mets stealing 7 bases with Jose Reyes out of the lineup. (Before I bitch about Reyes's sloppy D again, show me the videotape of Alex Cora's range. Before I bitch about his baserunning again, show me Luis Castillo not getting on.) Then Gary Cohen made the same comment on TV. I'm just saying. Once again there was a close call at 3B on Beltran that looked to go the other way. I say keep sending Beltran to third until he actually gets called out.

Dee-Dub has been a bit maligned this season thus far by some of the fair-weather residents of Mets Township. And me. In truth, his swing has been all-pull, hips and shoulder flying out, slugger style, K-friendly. And yet he's hitting .331. Don't ask me. It's when he settles down and returns to his opposite field swing that he's the superstar we've come to demand. We'll stop slagging and pay respects, Dave, but please keep reining it in.

Quick and sloppy today, I'm tired and it's 5:15 on a Friday. And I gotta rest up for tonight's late show. Earning my stripes all over again . . . Let's Go Mets.

The End of the Innocence

Games 34 & 35 – Red Sox

Angels 8, Red Sox 4
Angels 5, Red Sox 4 (12)
Record: 21-14


Willie Mays stumbled around in the Mets’ outfield for a season. Johnny Unitas hung on to take a beating in San Diego. Even the sainted Yaz didn’t have anything left at the end. When it’s over, the thunderbolts are usually the last to know, reminded as they are of just-yesterday’s glories when their body was willing, their bat quick, and the mere suggestion of their presence changed games.

Today’s melodramatic overwriting is brought to you by David Ortiz and his painfully sad 0-for-7, 3K, 12 LOB performance in yesterday’s eminently winnable loss. Papi left the bases loaded twice against the Halos, finally closing the book on the Sox’ chances in the top of the 12th with a whimper of a bases-full check-swing dribbler that was fielded by Angel catcher Jeff Mathis. It’s come to this: Papi needs a Wiffle Ball-style circle drawn around home plate.

The men that rise to the highest plateaus in sports are, by nature, proud, even arrogant in contemplation of their skills. For nearly 6 years, Papi’s self-confidence was warranted in spades, even as he balanced it with a winking mirth. And now, because of a still-suspect wrist, or the absence of Manny’s comforting specter behind him, or the inexorable demand of time, or (never above a whisper) something less savory, the big man seems to have run up against the reality we all face.

It is my great hope that I’m wrong, mind you, that Papi’s public scoffing isn’t masking the pain of a bewildered giant, that the dog days of summer spark a resurgence. That’s how 2008’s script played out, after all. And we’ve learned for 6 years here that Whitney’s certainly not the only idiot writing futilely about a kid’s game. But I really don’t think I am.

And that makes me sad.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rally Round

Game 32 - Mets

Mets 4, Braves 3 (10)
Record: 18-14

A twisty cone of mixed emotions was served up in last night's Met game. It was as frustrating and irritating a game to watch for seven innings as I can remember. The Metmen played a miserably poor game of fundamental baseball (or as Keith calls 'em, "fundies"), making mental mistakes and "doing the little things" to create opportunities for their opponent while squandering their own. And just when I was ready to explain why this team will never truly contend, hammering them for their lack of baseball insight and instinct while mentioning their utter inability to rally and win when the chips are down . . . well, they made that last clause moot.

The baserunning, the decision-making, the sliding, the manager's moves, the situational hitting: it was all for crap for seven innings, and it wasn't the first time we've seen such problems. Dee-Dub tagged from third on a pop to shallow center (deep short, really) and was gunned at the plate. He was tagged out for the second time this game going head-first when a hard feet-first slide might've sent a message, if not changed the outcome. Jose Reyes doubled home two in the eighth to cut the lead to 3-2. Awesome. His decision to try for three bags and get throw out easily reeked of "rookie mistake." (He's not a rookie.)

Two flares to the outfield dropped in, one for the Mets, one for the Braves. Each time there was a man on first. When the Braves did it, the baserunner deftly moved to second and scored on a single. When the Mets did it, Alex Cora's indecisive cha-cha meant he'd be pegged at second and the ensuing single would be for naught. Kudos, Braves OF; nice try, Mets. Just a little thing, but the Mets seem to perpetually end up on the ass end of these things.

Jerry Manuel once again yanked a pitcher prematurely. (TJ, get your mind out of the gutter.) Big ol' Mike Pelfrey had thrown all of 96 pitches and was getting into the groove. Boy, you've got to prove to me why the situation necessitated pulling him after 7 so that (predictably) J.J. Putz could come in and allow two hits, two walks, and one run. Jerry, what you're doing with the starters (by far your greatest asset at the moment) . . . I'm not seeing it.

Better to be lucky than good, some say. Last night was Rabbit's Foot Night for the Mets. The new park prevented several extra Braves runs from scoring, first with a bomb from Chimper Jones that went 410 feet and was gloved on the track, then with a ground rule double that kept an added run from being plated. The men in blue also gave the Mets a break; the key swipe of 3B that allowed Carlos Beltran to score on a sac fly? Yeah, he was out, though it was a very close play. If that gets ruled properly, the Mets are toast.

But it didn't, and that paved the way for all of the negativity and lack of fundies to be washed away. In the 10th, Reyes scratched out a single and stole second. Jeff Bennett then walked three dudes to end it. Not quite a Hollywood ending, but who cares? This is what the Mets have been unable to execute all season long! And these things tend to spill over, breeding more where that came from. Getting off the late-inning-comeback schneid is huge.

This was a losable win in its textbook definition form. That the Mets made this game so losable is reason for long-term concern, but I'm willing to put my head in the sand for one more day and go along with the 18-14, 1st place, what, me worry? bandwagon.

24 Hour Party People

Game 33 - Red Sox

Red Sox 4, Angels 3
Record: 21-12

West Coast games are like the modern Republican Party: out-of-sight, out-of-mind, largely irrelevant in terms of mindspace, but ultimately worth at least a small bit of attention, if only for the entertainment value. In this case, the entertainment came at 6:45 this morning when I checked MLB.com to find out that Jason Varitek's run-scoring 9th-inning double plated J.D. Drew with the game-winning run.

Future Mississippi Governor (or dogcatcher, whichever) Jonathan Papelbon closed the game as the bullpen equalled starter Justin Masterson's 1 run per 3 innings pace, a tempo that I can dance to any time. The recent run of infield injuries (Youk went to the DL for 15 yesterday) necessitated a Spring Training split squad lineup that managed to squeak out just enough runs for a win. Not necessarily change we can believe in, but in keeping with the fashionable description of our current President, pragmatism has its benefits.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Take It Back

Game 31 - Mets

Braves 8, Mets 3
Record: 17-14

It still works. I can still talk about the Mets' strengths, only to see them fade away instantaneously. Last night was a Bob Lanier-sized punt in the crotch, Atlanta Braves-style. I was sure that the unearned run Atlanta scratched across in the top of the first would hold up. I almost wish it had.

Instead, we aren't (merely) lamenting Fernando Tatis's inexperience at 1B and how Derek Lowe is just so much better than Oliver Perez. Both of those things are reasons for concern, don't get me wrong. It's just that last night we have a handful of other culprits.

Culprit #1: Jerry "I Misplaced My Manager's Instruction" Manuel

The skipper pulled Santana after 108 pitches. 6 1/3 IP, one on, one out. Not egregious, but it was a 1-1 barn-burner and the 7th inning options aren't as sure as 8 & 9, especially when you stick to formulaic bullpen usage. Long-term, I get it. I was still irritated.

Culprit #2: Bobby "Sub" Parnell

Parns let his first batter reach on a single, then got an out. Also not egregious, but part of the miserable equation.

Culprit #3: Me

"Even Pedro Feliciano has been not-terrible." 5/11/09
What in Sam Hill was I thinking? Just moronic. Hear me now and believe me later, this will never happen again. Ever. He is wretched refuse. And the lesson, as always, is that I am an idiot.

Culprit #4: Jose "Nothing's Unbootable" Reyes

Jose could have ended the inning when the first batter that Pedro Feliciano (who is terrible, by the way) threw to, against all odds, did not hit a home run or a line drive down the line but instead dribbled one up the middle. I'm not kidding you, if this ball had been rolling any more slowly, it would have been sitting still. Jose, obviously befuddled by the fact that a guy hitting off Feliciano didn't walk or crush one off the right-field wall, somehow, someway misplayed it. This was egregious. Playmakers make plays. Hell, even A-ball shortstops make these plays.

Culprit #5: Jerry Manuel, Redux

What do we all know about Pedro Feliciano? Other than that he is horrible and bad for a bullpen, he's a lefty specialist. Not that special, I realize, but the point is that he's worse against righties. What do we know about Matt Diaz? He sucks against righties to the point where he's platoon-only. So why let him bat against Feliciano? Because Jerry doesn't believe in platoon advantage!!

Culprit #6: Pedro Feliciano

You had to know this was coming, right? Just because Reyes inexpicably kept the inning alive and your manager & pitching coach leave you out there in a tough spot doesn't entirely let you off the hook. The 2-run single to Diaz was utterly predictable and foreseen by everyone from Gary Cohen to Gary Coleman. But the subsequent 2-run single to Casey "Kick In the" Kotchman was just more fuel to the eternal flame that shall forever burn for you, Pedro. I shall never extol your virtues as a big-league reliever ever again. You are forever entrenched in the . . . uh, trench . . . where Armando Benitz, Dan Wheeler, and a host of others wallow. Enjoy.

Culprit #7: The hitters

Yeah, I know, Derek Lowe is awesome. His sinker is a rally-killer. He'd induced all of one GIDP in 30 innings of work coming into last night. The Mets did it three times. Boys, if you expect to contend, you're going to have to eventually win a game in which you trail after seven innings. Otherwise, just rest everybody after the 7th and let Pedro Feliciano mop up 8 and 9 every game. Granted, last night wasn't egregious, what with the 'pen leaking more runs away late and the Mets managing 3 runs in a Santana start (actually quite a big number, relatively speaking). Just come on.

Culprit #8: Me, again

17-13 isn't so comfortable, and even a seven-game winning streak isn't impressive enough to forget about the 10-13 start. My optimism . . . it's annoying.

So there was plenty of blame to go around. But let's just blame Feliciano and move on.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Better Things

Games 27 through 30 - Mets

Mets 7, Phillies 5
Mets 7, Pirates 3
Mets 10, Pirates 1
Mets 8, Pirates 4
Record: 17-13

I love winning. You know, it's like . . . better than losing? And despite the Red Sox' and Phillies' recent formulae for success, the Mets are doing it with the normal recipe -- better starting pitching. Using actual quality starts or at least six strong innings rather than Ollie Perez's brief outings ("O.P. Shorts" for those in the know) and the like, the Mets have strung together seven wins in a row. Better than losing.

It hasn't been all about the starting pitching. Well, in part it's been about playing the Pirates over the weekend. That team is struggggling. It's also been about getting Delgado and Castillo back -- and having them pick up where they left off. It's been about Brian Schneider staying injured, so Omir Santos can keep playing.

It's been about the Golden Boys Reyes & Wright playing through some periods of suckitude and coming out the other end, performing more in line with their usual levels. It's been about Gary Sheffield doing a lot of clapping and chatting in the dugout. So long as he doesn't start barking about PT, keep on keepin' on.

And it's been about the bullpen, with the exception of Sean "Shufflin' Up to Buffalo" Green. Even Pedro Feliciano has been not-terrible. I still wince when he enters a tight one, but less emphatically and with fewer expletives.

And it's been about playing the Pirates. Braves come to town now, with Derek Lowe figuring to make the Mets rue the day (who talks like that?) they lowballed him.

Yeah. It's less funny when the Mets are winning, but I'm sure it won't be long before comic relief hits MLC once again.

1999

Games 30 through 32 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Rays 3
Rays 14, Red Sox 5
Red Sox 4, Rays 3
Record: 20-12

Fortunately for me, we party for real on Mother's Day at my house. So hard, in fact, that I slipped beyond the boundaries of consciousness precisely as Jonathan Papelbon put runners on 1st and 3rd with nobody out in the top of the 9th last night. The last thing I remember thinking is, "I hope they only get one here".

I'll let Terry Francona tell the rest of the story. "Pap really turned into Pap," said the Sox skipper after the game. Indeed he did, punching out Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton, and Sox-killer Carl Crawford in succession. SoSHer AgentOrange put it succintly, saying, "After that inning, all I can do is laugh. And go change my underwear." Really glad I had that last glass of wine.

Lost somewhat in the bullpen's once-again game-saving heroics is yet another middling effort by Sox starters. Sure, Josh Beckett only gave up 3 runs, but he also only went 6 innings, and he gave back a 3-1 lead. As of today, the non-Wakefield contingent of the rotation carry ERAs more commonly associated with softball pitchers: 6.42 (Beckett), 6.31 (Lester), 6.90 (Penny), and 5.28 (Masterson) - not to mention the tidy 12.79 that sent Daisuke Matsuzaka to the DL.

All that, and the Sox are 20-12. This can't be a bad thing. Though the groin injury Dustin Pedroia suffered last night and Kevin Youkilis' lingering maladies may prove to be. In the beastly Jason Bay we trust.
Last night's win kept the Sox from their 5th consecutive series loss to the Rays, delaying Tampa's final payment on their ownership option. The Sox don't see Joe Maddon's boys again until August, and I know I'm not the only Sox fan grateful for that.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bitch

Games 28 & 29 - Red Sox

Indians 9, Red Sox 2
Red Sox 13, Indians 3
Record: 18-11

We interrupt our regularly scheduled inanity for a bracing dose of the real world. Cancer, friends, is a motherfucker.

Jerry Remy's been absent from Sox telecasts for the past few weeks. Speculation about the cause has ranged wildly. Yesterday NESN posted a statement from Remy regarding his situation. It seems that the RemDawg's cancer was caught early and treated effectively, which is a blessing, but he tried to do too much, too soon and is suffering the consequences. I hope and believe my favorite broadcaster this side of Bob Costas will be back with Don Orsillo, laughing at dumb jokes and shilling Wally merchandise soon.

I've got a real bone to pick with cancer. It's way too prominent in my family, and in millions of other families. Baseball's easy - lose one, and there's always tomorrow. Your guy gets drilled, you knock down one of theirs. Real life gets messy.

So while there's a lotta ball left, metaphorically and literally, you still gotta take a minute and tell the people in your life how much you love them. Rolling that particular ball out isn't something that should wait.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Sugar We're Goin' Down

They got Manny. 50 games. PEDs. I don't believe any of them at this point. Time for an ollie-ollie-oxen-free moment from the league - admit it now with full immunity, or risk permanent ban from the game. Overkill? Yes, absolutely. Necessary? Sadly, probably. The game's a laughingstock in the midst of a once-in-a-generation economic turmoil. They'll never lose people like Team MLC, but the league runs the risk of losing everyone at the margins, and that's a revenue source that'll be very difficult to recapture in the short term.

There's a rational, sober post on this topic to come, with a discussion of the incentives driving risk-taking behavior, incentives that we as fans create. This ain't it. To hell with all of them.

Take Off!

Game 25 - Phillies

Mets 1, Phillies 0
Record 14 wins, 11 losses - 1st place

Last night I watched hockey. Specifically, game 3 of the Caps-Pens series. Now I have long conceded that I know nothing about hockey and I often annoy hockey fans by proudly proclaiming this fact. Its not that I dislike hockey. Seems like a cool sport. I give into my natural lust for violence now and then and hockey offers up ever lovin' spoons-ful of bone crunching violence about every 35 seconds. My aversion to the sport is based solely on my admittedly obnoxious ethnocentric idea that we don't import Canadian culture - we shove ours down their throats. OK, there was the brilliant John Candy, Dan Aykroyd and Mike Myers but it seems for every Canadian funny man who came out of the cold to make us laugh so hard we peed our pants, there are annoying Canadian divas like Celine Dion, Shania Twain and Anne Murray whose recordings were used at GTMO to break Khalid Sheik Mohammad. (For the record, I don't support torture.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yea, I don't really watch hockey because I don't want Canadians to think I dig something they hold sacred. I resist hockey even more this time of year when Caps fans (suddenly, everyone's a Caps fan) start asking me if I watched the game. I usually reply with something like, "yeah, that Zimmerman sure is on a tear lately." These new found canuck-ophiles don't know a two line pass from icing but now I am supposed to get caught up in "rocking the red?"

Last evening, a friend invited a bunch of us to watch the game at his house and although I had the urge to say "but first pitch isn't until 10:05 - the Nats are in LA", I decided its time to stop being such an annoying prick and just hang out with the guys, have a beer and make odd references to Bryan Trottier to bolster what little actual hockey knowledge I possess. That's poetic, isn't it. A baseball guy trying to stay relevant amongst a group of hockey fans hours after posting how you need 8 earned runs to beat my first place ball club. You want to read a good post from someone who knows a lot more about baseball than me and who happens to be a lot funnier and able to cram a lot more arcane cultural references than I? Go read Whit. You want to laugh at an idiot? Well, do check back from time to time. I promise to post more frequently that every 3 weeks.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Second Guessing

Games 25 & 26 - Mets

Mets 4, Braves 3
Mets 1, Phillies 0
Record: 13-13

My friend Nick knows a lot about the Philadelphia Phillies. He does. He's been a fan since he wasn't old enough to know better. He follows them, watches them, peruses their boxes (not boxers, TJ, you perv) daily, and actually provides a good bit of insight on them.

But please . . . please don't read his post from earlier today if you want confirmation of this assessment of Nick.

It included, verily posited, the following tidbits of observation about the '09 Phils:

"The starters ERA is 6.49! The pitching staff has surrendered 46 home runs!"
"Through 24 games, the Phillies have kicked only 5 balls. 5!"
"All 132 runs surrendered by the Phillies staff are earned. That's gotta be a record, huh?"
"a defense that gives away absolutely nothing more."
"These dudes are on a tear . . . The team averages 6.49 runs a game"

"So the early line on the Phils is this: You can beat them but you're gonna need about 8 runs - all without out any help."
"enjoy scores reminiscent of a great Steelers vs. Ravens game."

Within hours of Nick's snapshot of what to expect from his ballclub, we saw this:

- The dudes on a tear getting shut out
- The Phils starter (the worst on the staff by far) throwing six scoreless innings in fine fashion
- The Philly D committing three errors, allowing an unearned run, and losing the game
- A 1-0 final score never seen in the AFC North

Uncanny. Nick does know his team and he knows this game. It was simply as if the Phillie cosmic forces attempted to say, "Yo, dude . . . you don't post for three weeks and now you come back talking all definitive-like? Get a little of this, why doncha?"

Here's all you need to know about this game. Carlos Delgado walked, then Fernando Tatis hit a dribbler to third that scored him. Oh, perhaps I should have mentioned the spazzy-mcgee throw from Pedro Feliz that went north and wide of first, then Jayson Werth quadruple-clutching before throwing home to just miss Delgado.

Nickstradamus, tell us what's going to happen tomorrow night!

Lucky Town

Game 27 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Yankees 3
Record: 17-10

We've a time-honored ban on cape-tugging 'round these parts, and I'm certainly not going to violate it. The forces of karma long ago won the argument with Team MLC. Case in point: Peter Angelos and his decade-long wandering in the wilderness.

That said, given the choice to have the Sox win their first 5 games of the season against the Yankees versus any other start, I'll take the 5-game winning streak. The Sox dented Joba Chamberlain for 4 in the first last night and Josh Beckett and the bullpen made it hold up despite allowing a whole gaggle of Yankees to reach base. Style points, last I checked, were not a column in the standings.

The torrid Jason Bay hit his 7th longball of the season to cap the opening frame, and Team Japan closed the Yankees out in short order in the endgame, as Hideki Okajima and Takashi Saito spun 3 hitless innings to back Beckett. Also noteworthy, last night's win marked the Sox' 15th consecutive triumph with rabbit's foot Nick Green starting at shortstop.

The lesson is obvious: karma hates Julio Lugo. I hope the front office is paying attention.

One Way or Another

Game 24 - Phillies

Phillies 10, Cardinals 7
Record: 14 wins, 10 losses - 1st place

24 games are in the books. That's about 15% of the season completed. The Phils are in first. If you weren't following them day to day, you'd be inclined to say "sounds about right." Ah, but if we were to look at if from different perspectives - perhaps say, statistically - then you might say "how the hell did they manage to win 14 games?"

Consider this:

The Phils starters have logged only 130 1/3 innings pitched over 24 starts for an average of just over 5 1/3 innings a start. The starters ERA is 6.49! The pitching staff has surrendered 46 home runs! It's as if they are pitching every game against the 1961 Yankees.

Those statistics usually translate to a won/loss record more familiar to Nats fans.

There must be some yang to this ying. So there is. Through 24 games, the Phillies have kicked only 5 balls. 5! Simply amazing. Ryan Howard usually has that many all by himself when May rolls around. As awful as the starting pitching has been, the club enjoys its present perch in the rankings thanks to a defense that gives away absolutely nothing more. You beat these Phillies because you earned it. All 132 runs surrendered by the Phillies staff are earned. That's gotta be a record, huh?

Here's some more yang for you. The Phillies pen, despite the loss of Brad Lidge for a period of time, is still pretty sharp. The pen ERA is at 3.99. Not exactly superb but good enough to keep the Phils in the game. That's important because the final piece of the yang pie is the offense.

These dudes are on a tear. Raul Ibanez, yes Raul Ibanez leads the club in home runs with 8. Pat who? Ryan Howard has cut down on his strikeouts - he had only 20 in April compared to 38 a year ago. Shane Victorino has been hitting the ball like Lenny Dykstra on really good vitamins. Chase Utley has returned to pre- hip injury form. The team averages 6.49 runs a game which is about a run more than they surrender. Hence, 14 wins against 10 losses.

So the early line on the Phils is this: You can beat them but you're gonna need about 8 runs - all without out any help. I don't believe this is a good recipe for defending a championship but I am optimistic that the Phils are in good shape. Myers, Moyer, Hamels and Blanton are good enough to start eating innings and honing their ERAs down to a collective 4.5 and did I mention Jimmy Rollins is hitting .208? I suspect that the more conventional approach to winning games (solid starting pitching) will end up carrying the club. Until then, enjoy scores reminiscent of a great Steelers vs. Ravens game.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

It's Like That

Game 24 - Mets

Mets 6, Braves 4
Record: 11-13

Whatever corner of the bullpen Oliver Perez was sitting in last night, let's hope he was watching. John Maine started down the steps to Ollie Hell, then made the necessary adjustments and reversed course. Three second-inning walks led directly to three runs for the Braves and had Mets Township collectively groaning. (Groans replete with f-words.) That was all the damage, however, that Maine would permit.

Ollie Perez's inability to make such adjustments is why he's no longer in the rotation. His mechanics are on strike. He's beyond in-game tweaks. He blames a knee injury, which I hope is legit. That can heal, and lost velocity might be recaptured. Without it, Oliver Perez is not a $36M pitcher. (With it . . . so you're telling me there's a chance.)

And frankly, why we want a mad walker in the pen as anything but mop-up is beyond me. The manager's nightmare is relievers who walk the first batter. Wanna bet what happens in his first appearance? I think we're seeing the power of a five-year guy who doesn't want to spend time in Buffalo.

Anyway, last night was about Carlos Beltran. A pair of two-run dingers off his blue-flame bat (for once, not a slag on his masculinity) carried the Mets to the win. He's still prone to Cerrano-style flailing at that elusive strike-three curveball, as in his second at-bat, but his first poke against Javier Vazquez immediately altered the game's momentum in a sport where that can be hard to do. Carlos is now sporting a tidy little .400/.500./611 clip. Nifty.

Dee-Dub also chimed in with a two-run job of his own. Just to say, "Hey, let's hold off on Daniel Murphy's coronation for just a spell, eh?"

All in all, a pleasing performance against one of the teams I wish horrible ill upon at all turns. Let's run it back tonight.

Hooray Mets (in a Jamaican accent).

Behind the Wall of Sleep

Game 26 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Yankees 4
Record: 16-10

I see you, Papi. I see you.

Or, more pertinently, I read about you. Rain in New York combined with an abundance of compelling sports action last night to ensure that I saw only the slightest bits and pieces of the Sox' first ever game in the new Yankee Stadium. For the most part, I greatly enjoyed what I saw.

I managed the remote effectively enough to get from the Caps/Pens game (and what a glorious display of star power that game brought, with matching hat tricks supplied by the incandescent Alex Ovechkin and the pouty Sidney Crosby) to the Sox/Yanks tilt often enough to see the Sox' first 4 runs. Coming as the did by way on single tallies in each of the first 4 innings, I count this a fairly impressive use of infrared technology. Papi's pair of doubles contributed significantly to the first and third of the Sox' runs, and had me nodding along with the big fella.

Sleep overtook me somewhere in the middle innings, though I did wake up just in time to hear/see Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira hit back-to-back homers to take a big chunk out of the Sox' lead. Fortunately for my heartrate, I did not wake up just in time to catch Jonathan Papelbon's high-wire act(s) in the 8th and 9th innings. In every rain cloud, a shiny silver lining.

No Paps tonight, then, so it'll be up to Ebby Calvin to put his particular train back on track. Don't make me go all Papi on you, Josh. I'll do it. Don't think I won't.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Point/Counterpoint

We've worked hard here over the past 6 years to build a sustainable brand. Blood, sweat, tears...all that crap. Also, alcohol. Today, though, comes confirmation that we've made it. Just hours after my lamentations about David Ortiz' woeful, pitiable, worrisome (stop me at any point, really) start, Papi himself responded directly to MLC:

"This is my seventh year here. If you don't know me at this point, [expletive], what can I tell you? Who you been watching, the Anaheim Angels? You know what I'm saying? It will come. It will come."I'll be back. Write that [expletive] down."

Awesome. Consider that [expletive] written down. You had me at the first '[expletive]'. And who the hell are the Anaheim Angels?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Oddfellows Local 151

Games 23 through 25 - Red Sox

Rays 6, Red Sox 2
Red Sox 10, Rays 5
Rays 5, Red Sox 3
Record: 15-10

The Red Sox' 25-game records since 2003: 16-9, 15-10, 13-12, 14-11, 16-9, 15-10. So no particular solace or sorrow to be read into this year's .600 mark. I daresay, though (because I won't be researching it) that none of those seasons featured 2009's 2-6, 11-0, 2-4 stretches all in the first month. And so odd is the order of the day, odd and vexing. Consider:

The Sox' starting pitching has been among the very worst in the league, dead last in ERA (5.75), as a matter of fact. They've given up the second-most walks in the league and carry the third-worst WHIP (1.57). I don't even want to consider how bad the numbers would be you take out Tim Wakefield's 3-1, 2.91 start. (Also, I don't have a calculator handy.) The rotation is averaging just over 5 1/2 innings per contest, placing an inordinate amount of stress on the bullpen.

Which, in accordance with 2009's confounding thematics, has been rock solid. The pen carries a 2.93 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP, good for 3rd and 4th in the league, respectively, despite pitching 83 innings, the circuit's 3rd-most. Ramon Ramirez has been a revelation, authoring 15 scoreless innings. Oft-maligned Manny Delcarmen has been only slightly less terrific, giving up a single scratch in 14 1/3. I'd like to see how good the numbers would be if you take out Javier Lopez' 0-2, 9.39 start. (Still, no calculator.)

Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ledger, the Sox are getting strong to spectacular performances from a goodly chunk of the lineup. Jason Bay leads the AL in walks, in addition to clouting 5 HR and carrying a 1.053 OPS. Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, Nick Green, and Jason Varitek have all delivered .800+ OPS numbers (2 of these are not like the others). And Kevin Youkilis has arguably been the AL's best offensive player, clubbing 6 HR and driving in 20 runs while amassing a nifty 1.253 OPS, and providing world-class protection for the #3 hitter in the order.

Who, in accordance with 2009's confounding thematics, has been finger-chewingly, wince-inducingly, remote-hurlingly awful. Last night, with 2 out in the top of the 7th and the Sox leading, 9-5, the Rays intentional walked Pedroia to get to David Ortiz. That's a little bit of statement about the defending league MVP, but it's a Tolstoy-worthy epistle about the once-feared Papi. Ortiz walked, and that's about the best the result the Sox could've expected. The Large Father totes a sweet .600 OPS through 25 games, with 0 HR, 12 RBI, and one more extra-base hit than Nick Green in 40 more ABs. Worse, he looks lost, overmatched by pitchers who he used to treat as nothing more than appetizers.

I wrote this about Papi in 2004:

David Ortiz is a big, giant stud. Tizzle's .954 OPS is sparked by 23 HR and a league-leading 78 RBI. He's a threat to hit the ball out of the county every time he comes to the plate, and his swing is a joy to behold - bat head dropping into the slot, ball just disappearing as if pulverized before reappearing in a majestic arc behind the rightfielder. On top of all that, he's a terrifically silly man who appears to realize that he's playing a little kid's game for an assload of money.
None of those descriptors are remotely apt in this odd season. And this, chief amongst the concerns, is my single greatest worry. The production, sure, but even more, the joie de vivre. Because without Papi, the Sox just aren't the same.

Fingers crossed, brow wrinkled, counting on small sample sizes to explain things my eyes don't want to believe.

Money for Nothing

Game 23 - Mets

Phillies 6, Mets 5 (10)
Record: 10-13

I enjoy music. I mean, I really like music. From the era of LP's to cassettes to CD's (I was fortunate enough to miss 8-tracks by 3 or 4 years), I perpetually invested money I didn't have into the various music media. And then the first format came along that might have some semi-permanence -- the mp3 file. It still remains to be seen how I'll be listening to Give 'Em Enough Rope or Summerteeth in 2018, but it was pretty obvious even in MLC's inaugural season of 2003 that the digital media was going to last longer than, say, the Sony MiniDisc.

And somehow, defying every budgetary bad habit I had, when it came time to make the investment on the mp3 player, I looked squarely at this little product Apple had produced -- you might have heard of it: the "iPod" . . . and bought something else. Cheaped out. I wasn't sure if the iPod was worth the investment, although the truth is that I spent plenty on the player I bought. Seemed like I was actually being prudent.

I was actually being an idiot.

What I bought was a slightly less expensive piece of equipment that became utterly obsolete very quickly. It held all of 128MB, so like 25-30 songs. The software was clunky, the earphones hurt, and the operation of it wasn't all that user-friendly. Dammit.

It was the right idea to spend a little less, given how much I'd already dumped into my music collection. It was a cool little product for a very short period of time. But given the prominence of music in my day-to-day, spending a chunk of change on something that was below top-grade just wasn't all that bright. And I had to wait it out a while, painfully, until I could eventually pony up and (convince my wife to) buy me the real deal. The iPod.

New York Mets
PitchersIP H RERBBSOHRPC-STERA
O Perez2.154462077-369.97

Friday, May 01, 2009

Live for Today

Game 22 - Mets

Mets 7, Phillies 4
Record: 10-12

Doing a little liveblogging from the MLC satellite office in Norfolk. And in the time it took me to type that, Jose Reyes grounded routinely to first. Nothing like setting a tone and sending a message. 26 outs left.

Chan Ho Park on the mound?? I . . . I'm gonna shut up. I want to say something, but I know it's gonna come back to haunt me.

After a four-pitch walk to Alex Cora, here comes Daniel Murphy. Really? Awesome. Love this kid. On a related note, David Wright has changed his at-bat music to Old 97's "The New Kid."

Home run, Daniel Murphy! 2-0, Mets.

I tell you again
Don’t get too settled in
Oh, you will be replaced
You will be replaced
By the new kid

Beltran walks, Dee-Dub walks on 4 straight. Good to hear you, Phillie phaithphul.

As an aside, I have the Phillie booth on Extra Innings tonight. They're fine, not bad, but not close to Harry Kalas. Weird not to hear him . . . and to know he's not just taking the middle innings off.

3-0 on Church. Makes you wonder what the hell Reyes was swinging at.

Two gifts from the man in blue. 3-2 count. Please, give to UNICEF instead.

And now a 3-6-1 DP. Only the New York Mets could get a mere two runs out of that debacle of an inning from Chan Ho. No, we couldn't possibly. All right, if we have to, we'll take 2. But that's it, okay?

Pelf on the hill for the Metmen, returning to the rotation after being injured/sucking. Pelf, in case it hasn't been made obvious, we need you.

And the Phils announcers show that a DW baserunning quirk helped the Phils turn the DP. Sweet, Dave.

Philly gets 1st & 3rd on an Utley plunk (heh heh) and a Howard hit, but Jayson Werth grounds out easily to third in the spot in the PHL order Pat the Bat used to occupy. Boy, am I glad Burrell's in the AL now. Inning over.

Tatis singles. Santos doubles. Ramon Castro gets on Orbitz for one ticket to Oblivion (airport code: OBL). 2 sac flies (including a near-the-wall shot by Pelf), and it's 4-0. THIS IS A LEAD OUR TEAM BLOWS.

Sorry.

But it's true. Up four runs early is like being down four late for the Mets.

Beltran walks (keep taking, lads), Wright offers a bad swing at a worse pitch and double to left-center. Booth boys illustrate that a half-decent curveball would've left D-W flailing.

Intentional walk to Tatis to get to Omir Santos. Wow. Castro now on Expedia. Nothing round-trip available . . .

Sac fly to shallow right. Awesome baserunning by Beltran to score, but he has the worst body English in baseball. He was clearly safe, but just got the foot in by a fraction of the second, then popped up and looked at the ump as if to say, "Was I safe? I honestly do not know." Get up clap your hands, make it no mistake that hell, yes, you were safe. Come on, dude. 5-0.

Shpeedy Shane Victorino singles. Pelf throws it away on a pickoff move for his first career error. Tatis looked as though 1B was not his natural position, although, to be fair, at this point in his career, I'm not sure he has a "natural" position any longer.

And Pelf gets dinged for three runs in bottom 3. Free passes hurt, but Pelfrey just wanted to fit in with the rest of the Mets' staff in the clubhouse. 5-3. The whole lead-blowing thing now seems pretty obvious, eh?

Mets come right back and go 1-2-3. A clockwork orange and blue.

Beltran doubles, and while stealing third, Dee-Dub singles him in. Bad acting job be damned, Carlos Beltran is starting to carry this club on his back, and I'm not sure I'd ever thought I'd say that. 6-3.

Raul Ibanez makes a second catch in left that Pat the Bat Not Glove . . . hmmm, no way.

David Wright tagged out trying to steal. Hey, gotta keep Chan Ho in this game somehow. Doing the little things, as they say.

And Tatis doubles again. Dave, what you're doing on the basepaths . . . I'm not seeing it.

The Phils walk Santos intentionally, reading the lineup card right this time. Pelf comes up, and Uncle Charlie yanks Chan Ho. Not a lot of faith.

And Pelfrey knocks one into right off Chad Durbin for another RBI! Ha! Charlie Manuel will explain it later with a fishing analogy that has no analogous merits. 7-3.

Jose Jose Jose proves that he doesn't just open up innings with outs (twice tonight), he ends them, too. That is versatility, friends.

Did You Know??? Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. used to be the Phillies' batboy. How about that?

Top 6, Beltran walks and steals with two down, DW grounds to third. Have a bad feeling about the bottom of this inning.

The Mets' 5-4-3 machine is missing 3's like Rob in our intramural days. Now with one out and runners on first & second, Jerry Manuel comes out and pulls Pelf.

. . . for Pedro Feliciano. Now I really have a bad feeling about this inning. Crap.

Weird play, and the Mets got lucky. Grounder to Reyes, who bobbles it and throws it hideously in the dirt near D-W and the sliding runner, skipping on by towards the dugout. But it stays in play, and Santos expertly snags it, so the runner can't score . . . unbeknownst to Greg Dobbs, who'd rounded second and found himself within a few feet of Chris Coste at 3B. After a horrible-looking pickle with nearly wild throws that was reminiscent of T-ball and followed not a single one of the fundamental rundown rules (let it suffice to say that they ended up tagging Coste out at home), the Mets are very fortunate too get that out.

And the Phils dribble that opportunity away. 7-3 after six, and only their dunder-headed play keep the Mets from proving my uneasiness more than just withdrawal symptoms.

Jerry Manuel bats Pedro Feliciano with one on and two gone in the 7th. Hmmm. And he walks! It brings Jose Reyes to the plate, who launches one to deep left pitcher's mound. 3 down. Jose knows how to book-end an inning tonight, baby.

Feliciano rewards Jerry's faith by hanging an 0-2 cheesy poof that leadoff hitter Chase Utley deposits in the right-field seats.

Did You Know??? Mets manager Jerry Manuel is going to be the Mets' batboy. How about that?

In Feliciano's defense, like Murph's HR in the first, that ball doesn't leave many parks in the majors, minors, or our men's softball league. In my defense, Pedro Feliciano does this to us seemingly all the frickin' time. 7-4.

Feliciano settles down and gets the Mets out of the 7th. Now someone get him out of the game before the 8th.

Uneventful 8th and top 9. Here comes Frankie. And down they go. A very nice lack of drama.