Sunday, October 31, 2004

Armchair GM

Since there's not likely to be much Mets news over the mext couple days how about we play a game of Armchair GM? You get to be Omar Minaya for a day and get to make three, and only three, transactions. These can be simple roster moves (release a player), trades, or free agent signings. What would you do? Where would your priorities lie?

You can make any move that has not already been made yet by the Mets but let's, for the sake of arguement, assume that John Franco is already gone (which he probably is, especially after the Mob stories came out) and that any free agent you go after will automatically sign (how about giving the size and length of the contract you offer though).

In a few days, I'll give my three moves. Go to it! Inquiring minds want to know.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Foulke Hero, or Manny of the Hour?

For a while in the late nineties, before he became the exclusive property of ESPN, Peter Gammons and the baseball column he wrote in the Sunday Globe was the closest thing I had to a religion. It is therefore with no small reluctance that I must respectfully disagree with the following declaration in his latest column:"If Major League Baseball actually took such things seriously, Foulke would have been the MVP of the World Series."

Gammons is not alone in this opinion, and it's easy to understand why so many Sox fans share it. The most obvious difference between the Yankees and the Sox the past five years (for that matter, between the Yankees and the rest of baseball) has been Mariano Rivera. Further, it was the conspicuous lack of someone like Rivera in the Sox bullpen last year that set the stage for Gradygate. Foulke out-Rivera'd Rivera in the LCS, the reasoning goes, and since he got the last out in all four games of the Series sweep, he should be MVP.

Look, I'm really impressed with what Foulke did against the Yankees, and I agree with Gammons that Foulke was even better than expected this October. But the World Series MVP doesn't have anything to do with the previous round, and it doesn't have anything to do with expectations. Foulke pitched five innings in the World Series, earning a win and a save. He would have had a save instead of a win in Game One with reasonable defense behind him. He protected four-run leads in Games Two and Three, and a three-run lead in Game Four. This is not negligible; I'm not saying Calvin Schiraldi or Chad Fox could have done it. But it wouldn't have taken Mariano Rivera to do it, either.

Manny Ramirez didn't dazzle us during the Series by lashing homers in Beltranesque fashion on a daily basis. He did, however, lead the team in slugging and OPS. He was part of a three-way tie for the team lead in RBI. It might be a little foolish to talk about a "turning point" in a sweep, but if there was one, it was the first inning Manny had in Game Three. Slugging a homer in the top of the inning and cutting down a runner at the plate in the bottom of the inning indicated that the Cardinals, previously unbeaten at home in the postseason, would need more than the toasted ravioli version of Mystique and Aura to save them.

There have been some questionable World Series MVP choices in the past; it boggles my chips-'n'-salsa craving mind that Livan Hernandez was deemed more valuable than Moises Alou in 1997, for example. The 2004 World Series did not present a clear-cut choice. There were many solid contributions, and no spectacular ones. The writers had to pick someone, though, and I think that on this occasion they got it right.

Can The Mets Compete In 2005?

Whomever the Mets pick as manager will have an enormous task ahead of him for next year. He will inherit a deeply flawed team with a odd mix of very young and inexperienced players side-by-side with some veterans on the ripe side of 30. It's that weird intermediate stage only found in sports franchises and guys trying to grow their hair out. So what has to go right in order for the Mets to compete?

Here are the five keys to the Mets in 2005:

1. No Stupid Moves. In light of the recent rumors Heyman and Lennon floated about in Newsday, this has to be the #1 key to next year. While it may seem like common sense not to trade for aging sluggers making $18 million a year or trading away potential All-Star youngsters making $300,000, after the Scott Kazmir trade I'm taking every crazy rumor seriously.

In order to be successful this offseason, Omar Minaya needs to obey Jay's Three Laws of GMing.

  • The GM shall spend his available funds in the most efficient manner possible by first plowing as much of it into low-risk players in their prime before making any high-risk transactions.
  • The GM shall not trade away any major league player under 25 without getting back equal talent of a comparable age and salary.
  • The GM will give a young, unproven player a shot at earning a roster spot before giving the spot to a "proven" veteran on the downside of his career.
You think these rules would be common sense from a purely business standpoint but apparently not in the Mets case, who really are inefficency personified. That's the really painful thing about our team, we have all this money and spend it in the worst way possible. I look at the $23 million freed up by Mo Vaughn and Al Leiter's contracts and I see Carlos Beltran, Kris Benson, and Tino Martinez. The Mets see Sammy Sosa and veteran du jour. This has to change.

Oh, and as for all the "Beltran will never come to the Mets. He's going to the Yankees" comments. To that I say, bullshit. If the Mets commited themselves to getting a star player, they could. They're in the same town as the Yankees and, while their payroll will certainly be less, they have the capital this year to afford them if they spend it wisely. Fred Wilpon needs to stop making half-assed offers and commit to going all the way. It's okay to overbid for some players if you know they're going to perform and if they have no history of injury -- Beltran certainly falls into both of those categories.

2. Jose Reyes must be healthy. One has to wonder what would have happened to the Mets season if Reyes hadn't missed half of it with hamstring problems. He's 21 years old and despite his injuries, he has demonstrated that he can hit major league pitching and has a cannon of an arm. He may still fail but if he does, he won't cost the Mets anything other than the minimum salary. Trading him is simply ludicrous.

3. The Youngsters must show improvement. While I want as many of the kids to play as possible, I also fully realize that they have to perform and continue to get better. David Wright will almost certainly improve, that's a no-brainer. But if Reyes is healthy, he needs to work on his plate discipline, Victor Diaz needs to keep hitting, and Jason Phillips needs to have a bounce back year. Gogs earns my vote as the biggest diappointment from last season and really, while I think he should be given another shot this year, if he hits .200 again, the Mets should start looking elsewhere.

4. Rick Peterson must work his magic on Victor Zambrano. It's imperative that Zambrano turns into the #2 (or #3) starter we were promised when Kazmir was traded away. He and Benson (assuming he signs) will have to anchor this rotation for the next couple years and leading the league in wildness just won't do.

5. The Bullpen must be stabilized in front of Looper. This is one of the shakiest bullpens I've seen on this team in years. I believe with a year of experience under their belts that Orber Moreno and Tyler Yates could become the new late inning anchors and should be given a shot. The Mets desperately need to get rid of Mike Stanton (who they're probably stuck with) and get a dependable lefty or two. Until next year, that is, when they should go and sign Tim Hudson and let him throw 30 complete games.

(Kidding, kidding, although I would love Hudson. As a free agent. Just don't trade Reyes for him.)

As you can see, that's an awful lot to go right. It's not out of the realm of possibility though and, to be honest, I would be thrilled with a .500 season and a late shot at the wild card. In fact, I would rather see the Mets have a .500 season and miss the playoffs than see the Mets trade away Reyes, Petit, or Milledge in order to "compete" this year. Improvement and hustle is all I ask.

It all comes down to good business practice. Spend your money wisely. Give cheap players a chance. Replace players who don't perform. And if you build it, we will come, come often, and cheer.

Friday, October 29, 2004

An Open Letter To The Mets

Blogger's Note: I'm reprinting this post I put up earlier on Always Amazin' (in response to this Newsday article) so it will get more exposure. The Mets are on the verge of having another disasterous offseason and I simply can not, will not, sit by and watch it happen this time.

I seriously cannot believe Minaya would consider Sosa, this coming just a day after we finally rid ourselves of Mo Vaughn. The worst thing about Vaughn's contract was that it hindered the Mets from using that money to improve themselves in other areas. Now we're going to take that freed up capital and plow it into another aging, risky former slugger and count on him having another bounce back year? Ridiculous! If this was any reasonable business the mere mention of a proposal like that would be enough to get someone fired.

And as for trading Reyes, it just further demonstrates that the Mets are willing to show no patience with young, cheap prospects. Taking chances with prospects is low risk; if they fail, you can easily go out and find a replacement (possibly even another prospect) and you won't be handicapped financially. Taking a chance with an expensive veteran is high risk; not only are you stuck with them on your roster (Mo Vaughn had to be kept on the 40 man for all of last year) but if you release them, they still get paid. The Mets inability to grasp this fundamental concept is why they have failed for the past three years and why they will continue to fail if they continue down this path.

There's my rant for today. I'm going to have more of this over the weekend but for now I encourage every one of you to write a letter to the Mets with the following short, simple message:

To Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon, Omar Minaya,

As a long time Met fan and customer, I am concerned about the rumors in the media on the Mets possibly trading for Sammy Sosa and trading away Jose Reyes. These are the same types of deals that have failed so miserably for the Mets over the past few years. I would prefer that you keep the prospects we have and let them play rather than spending my hard earned cash on yet another risky, expensive veteran.

I love coming out to Shea and rooting for my team but not when it's stocked with expensive players past their prime. Please, this season, let the kids play and I'll gladly come and cheer them on.


(Your Name Here)

How about we send several hundred of these to the Mets front office? Send this to all the Met buddies you know. And maybe, just maybe, we can make our voices heard.

I'll copy this post and put it up on Doc Baseball too so it gets into Baseball Blogs. My other post will be up there this weekend. TGIF y'all.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Dirtiest Water of All!

A lot of the talk about what the Red Sox have just given to their fans has been phrased, quite understandably, in terms of release rather than in terms of gain. Free from the Curse. Free from the chant. Free from a peculiar dread about dying without having seen what we've just seen. Free from a certain kind of guilt about raising children to belong to a cult so persuasive and yet so pitiless.

All of that makes good sense; I won't pretend that it doesn't. While making my pedestrian rounds this afternoon, I felt like I kept clearing the curb by six inches everytime I crossed the street. Derek Lowe and Trot Nixon have transformed me into Bob Beamon circa 1968. There's a lightness, the intuition that some intolerable weight has been shed forever.

So there's nothing wrong with release, but I'd also like to think for a minute about what we've gained.

We've gained a deeper well from which to draw the waters of Good Knowing.

We've finally seen with our own eyes that teams, not stars, win championships. We knew this already in the abstract, but feeling it from the inside out, not just from the skull but from the gut, is marvelously different. We don't need to glue goat horns on any one guy. We don't need to hold any one guy to an impossible standard.

There's a certain pleasure to be derived from thinking that baseball is a lot like life. There's another sort of pleasure to be derived from thinking that it's not like life at all. One's a pursuit; the other's an escape. Both of these pleasures have always been with us. Up until yesterday the former had a way of overshadowing the latter. Now, Red Sox fans have the option of choosing between the two from day to day, and this is an auspicious development. We can choose for ourselves how much baseball matters, and it will be all the sweeter if we decide that it matters as much as it ever has.

We've gained a way of looking at the world in which a few more things seem possible today than seemed possible yesterday.


A couple more thoughts.

It's different rooting for a team when you're roughly the same age as the players you're cheering. You see them as people rather than as icons. You know how hard it must be for them some days. You respect what they've achieved that much more.

Most days I'd be willing to bet that the happiest person I know is Maddie Landaker, turning three this January. Long may she hold the title, but for now it's delightful to sit back and think about just how much competition she has these days.

Death Of A Curse

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

"Reg-gie! Reg-gie! Reg-gie!"

There are two kinds of basketball players that scare you if you have to guard them. The scariest of the scary is the guy who can get his own shot. He beats you off the dribble, he slithers through double teams, he gets the ball in his hands even when you're working your tail off to deny him a touch. In short, Michael Jordan.

There's another kind of player that's appreciably less scary, but still deadly effective: the catch and shoot guy. He can't work you off the dribble. He needs plays drawn up for him and screens from his teammates to get open looks. If he gets that open look, though, if you give him a smidgen of daylight, he'll knife you again and again and again. In short, Reggie Miller.

Baseball is a long way from being the same sport as basketball. It's harder to create solo opportunities, and I've only seen three players in my twenty-odd years of watching baseball who could "get their own shot." Rickey Henderson, in his walk-drawing, long-ball-popping, base-pilfering prime. Barry Bonds, blasting forty homers a year with only eighty pitches to hit.

The third? Pedro Martinez, 1999-2000.

As many writers, including yours truly, have noted, that guy is not walking back through that door. Pedro wasn't Michael Jordan last night. He needed an outfield assist from Manny Ramirez and an incomprehensible base-running gaffe from his opposite number to open the door. Once he saw daylight, though, he went off in a Reggie Miller "7 for 8 from the arc, 12 for 13 from the line" kind of way. Playing the percentages, never throwing the same pitch at the same speed in the same spot twice, trusting his defense to make the plays behind him.

To put it bluntly, Pedro dished out a big, heaping plate of sh'up to the whisperers and the doubters, including yours truly. (Note: sh'up is a registered trademark of college buddy Cara Ewell Hodkin.) Thank you, Pedro, for turning back the clock.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Tipping Point

I was on the phone with my friend Missie during the seventh game of the ALCS when Pedro Martinez came out to pitch the seventh inning.

"If he asked into this game," I said, "I'm through with him."

I've been sticking up for Pedro for a long time now. It's wrong to question the man's heart, and it's wrong to compare him to the guy we had in 2000. The question shouldn't be "how much has he lost?" The question should be "who would you rather have?" It is a testament to the erosion of his skills that there is a list. It is a testament to his talent and competitive desire that the list is still so short.

However, as much as I love his heart, as grateful as I am for the memories of a spectacular pitcher at the absolute height of his powers, asking into the seventh game in New York epitomizes what has become so infuriating about him. His pride, no doubt, has contributed to his greatness, but it is also eating away at his effectiveness. He wouldn't give up a hit in Game Five of the LCS to the team he hates the most, so he nibbled his way into unnecessary walks and a prematurely inflated pitch count. He wanted to stick it to the Bronx faithful inquiring after his paternity in Game Seven, so he made an unnecessary and inflammatory appearance that could only jeopardize his status for the World Series.

I've heard people say that this wasn't Pedro's decision, that it was never part of the master plan for him to start Game One of the World Series anyway. Such foresight, I propose, is not Terry Francona's forte. Bob Ryan's assessment of the situation seems to me likelier: "Pedro pitched [in Game Seven] because Pedro wanted to pitch."

And so I wait for the most exciting player of my rooting life to take the hill tonight with decidedly mixed feelings. I hope to see him turn back the clock, to shackle an imposing Cardinals lineup as he once shackled an even scarier Cleveland Indians batting order. I will settle for the kind of start he gave us in Game Two against the Angels, not overwhelming but intelligent and effective. In either case, I find myself feeling something I never expected to feel: a wish that this really will be Pedro's last start in a Red Sox uniform. I want him to make his mark before he goes, to remind us of why he meant so much to us for so long. But I want him to go when this is over just the same. It would be better for us and, I suspect, it would be better for him.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Snippets for a Travel Day

It's funny what sticks in your head, waiting for the right time to resurface. After watching the two Red Sox victories in the opening games of the World Series, I was reminded of the Boston Globe baseball preview for 1996. Its feature on the Sox displayed a headline that was both succinct and apt: "Good vs. Evil." On the left we had Mo Vaughn standing in a batting cage, looking his formidable, pre-bloated self. On the right we had Jose Canseco with a *shudder* glove on his left hand, looking like a guy trying to do the Times crossword puzzle with a pizza cutter instead of a pen. Seven letter word for prevention, beginning with d? Hell if I know.

There are two ways you could go after seeing the Red Sox make four errors in each of the first two games and win anyway. The optimist sees a team invincible even to itself, and wonders if they could get away with kicking five routine plays away. The pessimist quite plausibly assumes that the Sox can't keep turning left field into Craaazy Manny's Discount House of Outs without it coming back to bite them.

Me? Well, I don't want to underrate defense, but it seems to me that the real story so far has been the mismatch between Sox hitting and Cardinal pitching. Cardinal pitchers need to get hitters to chase to be effective, and the Sox have so far been too disciplined to bite. All of this can change, of course, now that the venue has shifted and the Cardinal hitters figure to be more productive. Even so, I suspect the Sox have sufficient firepower to carry the day, provided they get respectable starting pitching.

One last note on defense. Bill Mueller was charged with three errors last night. He also picked two absolute seeds, turning one into a double play, to keep the Cards off the board early. David Ortiz playing first base aside, we're going to be okay with the leather more often than not the rest of the series.

Jesus Heals The Red Sox

(Via Fark). Sublime Directory's Picture of the Day. Taken from a Fark Photoshop contest too.

Deja Vu All Over Again

What a great weekend! Pats 6-0. Red Sox go up 2-0. And nothing but negative press regarding the Yankees in all the papers. My roommate showed me a couple of NY Post pages with nothing but letters from Yankee fans. The best was a short one that went something like this:

What can Brown do for you? Nothing.

There was also one from a distraught woman who whined about the Red Sox being poor role models and that she was so proud that she raised her children like the "well-groomed Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, etc." Gag me with a spoon. She obviously has never seen Prehistoric Caveman Lawyer.

But seriously, I do have to admit feeling a little bit of trepidation towards the upcoming games. Not only because St. Louis is 6-0 at home this postseason. Not only because the Red Sox were also up 2-0 in their last world series and, back in '86, they were heading home instead. But quite possibly the only thing that could take the luster off this year's ALCS for the Sox is if they went up 3-0 in the World Series and somehow managed to lose.

Yeah, I'm crazier than Nomar, but I've seen stranger things happen to this franchise. We all have. And if that isn't a Stephen King ending, I don't know what is.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Unfinished Experiments, Vol. 2

For those of you who haven't heard, Stephen King has been writing a book on the current Red Sox season, due to come out sometime next year. It's to be called "Faithful" and, obviously, it doesn't have an ending yet. But boy, it's already going to be one heck of a bestseller thanks to the ALCS. Ka-ching!


Silly Spankees, even on the verge of collapse they were cocky enough to think the whole thing was a big joke. Trotting out Bucky Fucking Dent to throw the first pitch.

Yeah, and offering Warner and Henry the Babe Ruth suite to watch the game. So fucking smug. How's that shit working out for you now, Georgie?

If you haven't read Soxaholic's coverage of the Sox in the playoffs (heck if you haven't read Soxaholic period) you're seriously missing out. You can start with the playoff strips here.


Is anyone else just a tad bit concerned that the seventh game of the World Series is on Halloween? If there is a seventh game, King should get to throw out the first pitch. How great would that be?

I think all Mets fans should all start writing in to Fox praising Al Leiter for his witty, insightful, and photogenic commentary so the Mets don't resign him next year.

Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong was one of the funniest baseball TV ads I've seen since the Randy Johnson dodgeball spot. The Sox Fan/Yankee Fan Dunkin Donuts radio ad was pretty funny too.

People joke about Boston erecting a giant, bronze David Ortiz statue in Kenmore Square if the Sox win the series but Ortiz should seriously start practicing his poses. Every single player on that team will be canonized if they win.

Ball-Wonk has a pick a new name for the Expos poll up. How about the Washington Interns? Washington Wonkettes? (kidding, kidding)

Maybe it's just me but does anyone else out there think that Jeanne Zelasco desperately needs a new co-anchor. Seriously. There is no-one more annoying on the face of the earth than Kevin I-managed-the-Red-Sox-once Kennedy. Yes, Kevin, we know and you sucked so get over it. The only thing that would have been worse than having Kennedy in Boston is having the Sox play the Astros and Roger Clemens (who he also managed). Thank god for small miracles.

Ahhhhh....remember this scary thing I posted to last time? It's not quite so scary anymore, is it? It's soooooooo wonderful when the arrogant and obnoxious fall. For full effect, go back to the start of the ALCS and soak it all in. Make sure you check out all the comment threads too. It's kind of like watching a car crash in slow motion; you fear to watch and yet you cannot turn away.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Brit Lit 101

The slings and arrows of outrageous Red Sox fortune have frequently been described as "Shakespearean," mostly by people who wanted to feel a little less bad about enjoying the misery of Red Sox fans. Some of these people, it should be admitted, are Red Sox fans and wanted to kid themselves about the fact that they were enjoying their own misery. Well, I've got news. This year's Red Sox team is working from a script even older than Shakespeare. The oldest script in English, to be precise.

Beowulf, strapping young hero with something to prove, crosses the ocean to come to the aid of King Hrothgar of Denmark. Hrothgar's glorious mead hall Heorot has become synonymous with desolation, as a murderous beast named Grendel keeps breaking in and chewing up the guests like so much chips and salsa. Beowulf sets about avenging those deaths and rips off Grendel's arm in single combat. The monster gets away, but lurches off into the fetid mists to die, swinging his remaining arm in girly-fiend fashion to knock eggs out of birds' nests as he goes. (All right, I made that last clause up. Or did I?)

For those of you keeping score at home:
Heorot=Fenway Park
Hrothgar=Red Sox fans
Grendel=the Yankees
Beowulf=Red Sox

This is as far as the Classics Illustrated version of the poem goes, and this is as far as the Red Sox have come to this point. Beowulf and Hrothgar are whooping it up in Heorot, which is full of bad hair and pine tar and sheer joy, dancing around the severed arm of the evil thing that terrorized them for so long. All well and good, but the Sox need to follow the script a little further.

As the Danes are sleeping off unprecedented amounts of mead, Grendel's mother shows up and chows down on one of Hrothgar's oldest and dearest friends. Who knew monsters had mothers? Beowulf, to finish the task he thought he'd already accomplished, must track the hag back to a spooky swamp, swim to the very bottom, and kill the she-demon in her lair.

Beowulf's first battle establishes a reputation, and guarantees that his name will be forever sung. This second battle, perhaps less glamorous and even more dangerous, is about more than just glory. It's about the possibility of breaking the cycle of vengeance once and for all.

You can see where I'm going with this, I hope. Tomorrow night, we dive into that swamp.

The Hilarity Of Defeat

East Coast Agony's running commentary on Game 7 is really, really funny.


I'm gonna fight 'em off
A seven nation army couldn't hold me back
They're gonna rip it off
Taking their time right behind my back
And I'm talking to myself at night because I can't forget
Back and forth through my mind behind a cigarette
-- Unidentified Yankee Fan (okay, not really)

Now that I've had a couple days to digest all the ins and outs of this series (and finally getting a good night's sleep), I thought I'd just give my two cents on the ramifications of everything that happened.

If you want an interesting take on the series, check out Curt Schilling's interview on Mike and the Mad Dog from yesterday afternoon. He's a fascinating person to listen to and, in addition, it's actually a civilized and thoughtful interview to boot.

I had numerous discussions yesterday with Red Sox fans in ecstasy, Yankees fans in denial, and fellow Mets fans simply taking in the sheer delight of it all. I moved to New York City in August 2000 (after spending eight years in Boston) and watching the Yankees celebrate in Shea Stadium was quite possibly the most painful moment of my lifetime. And, god help me, the Mets have simply gone downhill from there.

*pauses* *winces* *sighs*

But I digress. The most common response from most (but not all) of the Yankee fans I spoke with was:

Well, who cares, we still have won 26 world championships and you haven't won bupkis since 1918.

While it's true the Red Sox still have some work to do, it won't change one single solitary fact:

The Yankees are now the proud owners of the Greatest Postseason Collapse in History.

And there's nothing, nothing, they can say to that. Let me make a comparison here.

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, for as long as I've known it, was kind of like having two boys living alone in a house with no parental guardians. Being the oldest of three brothers, I know a little something about this dynamic within a family. Big brother pounds on little brother, little brother runs and tells mom, mom grounds big brother for the better portion of his adolescent life. For years, Yankee fans could pound on Red Sox fans and there would be no definitive comeback, no protection for the weak (or unlucky).

Bucky Dent. Silence.

Aaron Boone. Silence.

1918. Silence.

Now two of those taunts have been effectively nullified by this offseason. We finally got some parental guardianship here! Want to talk smack about Bucky Dent? Well at least he didn't sissy-slap a pitcher to try to get on base. Want to bring up Aaron Boone? How about we talk about David Ortiz instead? The Red Sox have proven they can beat the Yankees, in their own house, with their backs against the wall and all the ghosts flying overhead. Sox fans finally have some ammunition to fight back with, something they've been denied for nearly a century.

And more importantly, the 2004 Yankees will always be labeled as the greatest choke team ever. Every single time a team falls down 0-3, this series will be brought up. The A-Rod play will shown over and over again, and if the Red Sox win the World Series, it could eclipse Buckner in replay value. The Aaron Boone dinger? Pffft. Old and busted. A-Rod's slap is definitely the new hotness.

The Sox still have work to do. A Yankee fan called into WFAN yesterday, basically saying something along these lines:

Okay, so Boston beat us. So what? Next year, the first time the Red Sox visit Yankee Stadium, there are going to be fifty thousand people chanting '19-18' for the entire game. We still have 26 world championships. Blah, blah, blah.

To be fair, many Yankee fans I spoke with and have read on line have been very fair, gracious even, granting respect to gritty team that came back like the Yankees of old. Some even, like Larry Mahnken, are even hoping that Sox fans will finally be able to enjoy a championship of their very own.

But a vast majority of them are like the WFAN caller above, defiant and cocky to the last. And the only way the Red Sox will ever silence them is by finishing the job this offseason, this year, and putting the Babe to bed once and for all.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Cashman Or Minaya?

Baseball Crank says that, in the wake of the Yankees collapse, we should take advantage of George's impending wrath:

It's gonna be a long, angry and expensive off-season for the Yankees. If George fires Cashman, the Mets should immediately sack the rest of their front office and hire him.

And, y'know, I happen to agree. As upset as I would be to have the Mets turn over their front office twice in an offseason, I would hire Cashman in a heartbeat if he became available. It's going to be a long couple weeks for the Yankee execs. Stay tuned...

Just Do It

Fabulous, fabulous, Nike ad for all Red Sox fans. Brought a tear to my eye actually. *sniff*

(Hat Tip: Thanks Mom)

Good Morning, Mr. Steinbrenner

I bet the NY beat writers have been waiting their whole lives to pen this story. I bought one of each NY paper today to save for posterity. I was going to scan them in and post the front and back pages in all their glory but apparently I don't have to.

(Hat Tip: David Pinto)

Yeah, the Daily News cover rules.

Dear Red Sox Nation

Congratulations. No one, no one, deserves this more than you.

Now let's get rid of that fucking '19-18' chant once and for all.

Bubbles in the Champagne

"These...are for you!"
--Johnny Damon

Up until the second inning of the game tonight, Johnny Damon had been wearing the Brian Daubach Memorial "Out of Order" Sign around his neck. This seemed especially unfair, considering how much he'd done to get us into this series.

One swing, a 316 foot fly ball over a fence 314 feet from home, almost a photographic negative of another small fly that made a big difference 26 years ago, only with one more man on base.

On a related matter: Aaron Boone, you're old news. If the Home Shopping Network calls, I suggest you hear them out.

The rest of this will be pretty haphazard, guys. Thanks in advance for your indulgent eye.

A leftover from game 6. Alex Rodriguez and Austin Powers...separated at birth? "Judo Chop!"

I was actually bouncing up and down on my toes a half hour before the game started, unable to keep still. I couldn't tell if it was a kind of effervescent hubris, a manic reaction to sleep deprivation, or what. But my legs thought we were winning tonight, and they wouldn't listen when I told them not to jinx it.

Derek Jeter, trying to rally the troops in the third. Jeter's a very good player, but even very good players can be overhyped. He's had his day. Now, though, he's Blanche DuBois, more dependent than he knew on the kindness of strangers all along.

A dispatch from Captain Obvious: Pedro never should have come in to this game. He brought hate juice to the Yankee hitters, and drew the crowd back into the game. More on Pedro some other time.

I'm talking more smack than I mean to. See, hate's bad that way, and I'm not proud of it.

A tip of the cap to the quiet guy batting third. The numbers won't look that good, especially the zero under RBI. But Big Papi got some of his chances because Manny extended innings, and that shouldn't be overlooked.

Alan Embree on the hill, Ruben Sierra rolling it squirrely to Pokey Reese, Doug Mientkiewicz to take the throw. Thanks, guys.

My mom called a couple of minutes after the last out. She's never up at that hour.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Pre-Game Thoughts

While I don't quite have as much of a stake in tonight's ALCS game as some, I still desperately want the Red Sox to win for no other reason than it will silence the Yankee fans who surround me in every aspect of my life.

Thinking on tonight's game, however, one wonders which team really has the 'edge'. The Yankees have an advantage in that they're at home, their closer is rested, and they're, well, the Yankees.

On the other hand, the Red Sox have the big 'mo', the pitching matchup probably slightly favors them, and, with the exception of their closer, their bullpen is ready to go.

I really can't make a prediction about tonight's game. Tom Verducci, on Mike and the Mad Dog this afternoon, gave the Red Sox a slight edge but really it's too close to call.

Regardless, there's going to be some history made this evening and I'm happy just to be able to watch.

They say football has eclipsed baseball as America's favorite sport. Pffft. Nothing, nothing, in football can ever come close in drama or excitement to what is about to happen this evening. Whoever 'they' are will never understand that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Well this is the last time I hype a prospect for doing well in a limited performance. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you Royce Ring's line from last night's AFL game:

NYM R.Ring (L,2-1) 1.1 6 5 5 1 0 0 6.43

Fug-ly. I'm going to be quiet now and go back to my science.

Monday, October 18, 2004

A Question of Conscience

"Bad news, Mom. I sold my soul to the devil this afternoon."
"Really, that recently?"
---Calvin and Hobbes

When last we left the Sox fan, he was whinging away in the grips of an 0-3 deficit incurred by his team. All he wanted, he claimed, was to get the series back to New York.

That wish had been granted. He considered what to do next.

Technically, he could not ask more of his team after his own faith in them had wavered as it had. Could he? He had to admit that he was sorely tempted to ask for more. During the last at-bat of David Ortiz, the fan could have sworn that Big Papi was wearing a yellow motorcycle suit underneath his uniform. How damaging to his spiritual integrity would it be, he wondered, to forestall his gratitude a while longer? He set about inspecting the transgressions he had already incurred while supporting his team, focusing exclusively on the seven deadly sins.

Wrath? In thought, if not in deed, he was guilty.

Sloth? Hard to say. The fan ruefully acknowledged that this was a pre-existing and more or less chronic condition with him, and so refused to lay that at the door of his team.

Pride? Check.

Lust? Thankfully, Nicole Kidman had not been sighted rooting for the opposition. His conscience was clear on this one.

Greed? Well, yes, he had to decide. A quick glance at gluttony (precluded by the tension of two extra-inning games) and envy (nothing could make him wish he were a Yankees fan) filled out the tally. One pre-existing offense, two incurred in the course of the last week. In the clear on three.

He took a deep breath. He decided to be greedy. He wanted another win. And another.

Joe Beasley, 1936-2004

I got to work fairly early today, around quarter to eight, to get a head start on what's going to be a busy week. Getting there early also allows me forty five minutes of waking up time in grouchy silence before Joe's rock solid clockwork arrival at 8:30.

By 8:45, I was puttering around the lab, getting a few things started and planning out my day when I noticed Joe hadn't arrived yet. I wasn't overly concerned because Joe has a huge family and would often take a personal day to spend with them and he usually called, again like clockwork, at nine when either Fumiko or I would be in.

Around 9:15, my PI (primary investigator, a geeky science title), Charles, comes in a rather agitated manner for the early hour and asks, "Did you see Jeff?"

Jeff Silverstein is the Head of Anesthesiology at Sinai and, technically, Joe's boss although Joe tends to do more work for us on a regular basis.

I replied that I had noticed Jeff stop in and go through Joe's desk but he hadn't said anything to me and, honestly, I was still puttering about when he had stopped in.

Charles looked at me with an expression I hadn't seen from him before, a strange mix of sadness and bewilderment. "Then you probably haven't heard. Joe passed away over the weekend. Heart attack."

I was floored. Joe was 68 years old but looked fifty. He did have hypertension but knew of the problem and saw his doc regularly. Last Friday, at 5pm, like clockwork, he said "Alright folks, goodnight."

I said goodbye with a casual wave of my hand and it was the last thing I ever said to him.

Joe was practically an institution at Sinai, working here for (I believe) 30+ years. He was someone who knew everyone, everyone, from secretaries in departments you never heard of before to the maintenence crew that would come by once in a blue moon. I you ever had a question about how to get something done in Sinai, you would ask Joe. He would then wander over to his filing cabinet, open a drawer, and pull out exactly the number, or code, or name that you needed, all labeled and dated from the last time it was used. He was one of the best workers we had in the lab and one of the best people in the hospital, period.

The oddest (and most frightening) thing about this whole day is the sheer randomness of it, something that has weighed on me all day long, following me around like a dark shape you can only see out the corner of your eye. I think everyone in the department took stock of themselves today as they pondered this. I certainly did.

So now I'm sitting here, thinking on the future of my Mets, listening to the fate of the Red Sox, trying to root for them, and all I can think about is Joe.

But I also think that if Joe were here, reading this, looking at the message I was trying to draw from today's events, he would come up with a totally different interpretation. And I can see him speaking it, smiling, chuckling, in his own casual comfortable drawl:

It just goes to show, anything can happen.

So right, Joe, so right. Thanks for all your advice, knowledge, and friendship.

Go Sox.

The Plan, Part 2: Who I Want, Who I Really Really Want

A few quick notes on Part I before we get started:

A few people have e-mailed me about being unrealistic about a few things, namely 1) Minaya being able to trade Cliff Floyd 2) The Mets casually handing left field over to Victor Diaz and 3) the Mets allowing Al Leiter to go free.

Now I fully realize given the Mets track record the past few years that all of these things coming to pass are not necessarily likely. They are, however, possible. Taking the three in reverse order, we know that the Mets are not simply going to pick up Leiter's $10 million option. Therefore not only do they have to decide whether to bring him back at all but they have to find a mutually agreeable price to do so -- not the easiest thing in the world. In addition, I do feel that Al himself can read the writing on the wall, especially in this article that came out back in September. Given the age of the rotation, the Mets have to be able to give some of the youngsters some starts to get them ready for 2006 (and Yusmeiro Petit will probably be up by next September as well). This is why I honestly think there's a decent chance the Mets will let Leiter go.

As for the Floyd/Diaz situation, the Mets are definitely shopping Floyd (especially after his comments earler this year) and all indications are that they're willing to pay a good deal of his salary to ship him off to an Amercian League team. Floyd still has value with 69 runs created this season, not spectacular but good for a player who missed over a month of the season and good for second on the team behind Piazza. The Mets may not get much in return but I'm willing to bet they could free up the roster spot.

Saying that they do manage to trade Floyd, the question then becomes would the Mets turn over the starting left field slot to Victor Diaz? Given the Mets track record with playing time for youngsters, my gut instinct is to say "no". However, remember that just two years ago the Mets turned the starting third base job over to Ty Wigginton who not only performed admirably but became a fan favorite to boot. In addition, let's say that the Mets go out and sign a big name free agent to fill the right field hole. All of a sudden, giving the left field job to a rookie looks less risky. It all hinges on who the Mets manage to sign but I really don't think that giving the job to Diaz would be totally out of the question for next year.

Now onto the additions:

1) A Right Fielder. Here are the primary outfielders on the market this offseason:

Carlos Beltran (age 27) 128.9 RC, 7.56 RC/27
J.D. Drew (age 28) 130 RC, 9.40 RC/27
Magglio Ordonez (age 30) 32.9RC, 5.93 RC/27
Jermaine Dye (age 30) 78.3RC, 5.10 RC/27

So what we have here are a superstar with no history of injuries, two players with supertar potential who are injury risks, and a low budget option who could be a fill in for a year (I threw Dye in the mix since Jeremy mentioned him the other day although the consensus seems to be a big thumbs down). Notice there's no Lance Berkman in there since he's not eligible for free agency until 2006. In addition, if Beltran goes bye-bye the Astros just may decide to take that money and lock up Berkman for a long time.

Now obviously Ordonez's 2004 numbers pale in comparison to the others but his 2003 season, 117.3, 7.15, is very comparable to Beltran and Drew. The striking thing here is how well J.D. Drew compares to Beltran with a healthy season (something Eric Simon over at SaberMets suggested a while ago). The question is with his history of injuries do you want to take a chance at giving him a long term contract (and he has Scott Boras as an agent as well). Going after Drew also has the added bonus of weakening the Braves, a fringe benefit not to be understated.

Honestly looking at these choices, you have to go after Beltran in this situation for the simple reason that he carries less risk than any of the others. If negotiations fall through and the Yankees snatch him up, go after Drew as your backup plan. One of the Mets biggest problems the last couple years has been taking chances on players with injuries in the hopes that they will have bounce back years and then having them break down once they get to Shea. This, more than anything, has really sapped the morale of the fan base away. It needs to change. It has to change. And the Mets can start by doing everything in their power to get Beltran to Shea.

Have Piazza and crew call and woo him. Sign Kris Benson and have him and his wife take him out for a night on the town. Do everything possible to make him feel wanted and he'll come. C'mon Fred, you can wipe away three years of bitterness with one stroke of the pen. The Mets need Beltran more than anything. They need to get this done. The cheap fill-in route just won't cut it this year. Pick: Beltran

2) A First Baseman

Now here's where the Mets can go on the cheap. What they really need is an everyday first baseman who's primary role will be to anchor a young infield, being able to pick balls out of the dirt and out of the air above his head. Furthermore with Cliff Floyd gone, another lefty bat in the lineup would be a plus.

Now I know that Carlos Delgado and Richie Sexton have both been mentioned many times by the media but honestly I think the Mets resources would be better spent on an outfielder than on a first baseman. Saying that, here are my five defensive first base candidates (with defensive stats, put outs, assists, fielding percentage, range factor, zone rating):

Tino Martinez 114GS, 876PO, 67A, .997FP, 8.84RF, .878ZR
Doug Mientkiewicz 124GS, 924PO, 62A, .995FP, 9.43RF, .851ZR
Travis Lee 141GS, 1223PO, 101A, .998FP, 9.58RF, .890ZR (2003 stats)
J.T. Snow 100GS, 801PO, 55A, .995FP, 9.72RF, .840ZR
John Olerud 124GS, 917PO, 77A, .998FP, 8.56RF, .849ZR

For those of you unfamiliar with defensive stats, range factor is PO + A divided by nine innings and zone rating is the percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive "zone" (measured by STATS).

All these guys are lefties and all, to some degree, can help with the bat. Lee was injured pretty much the entire season and had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder back in May. Ordinarily I wouldn't even consider him but he's such an excellent first baseman I thought I'd add him too the list.

Honestly with the exception of Lee, who's a question mark from surgery, any of these guys would make a fine anchor for the Mets infield and could all probably be signed to a reasonably cheap 1 or 2 year deal. From a PR standpoint, Tino would probably be the pick of most so let's go with him for now. Pick: Martinez

3) A Fifth Starter

The fifth starter should come out of our youngsters, using spring training as yet another competition. If he weren't so inconsistent, Jae Seo would probably be given the nod given his experience. However the Mets seemed to sour on Seo and I wouldn't be surprised to see him traded before the start of next year. So who are the candidates (with minors ERA and K/BB ratio).

Aaron Heilman (4.33 ERA, 123/66 K/BB, 7.32 K/9IP)
Bob Keppel (4.71 ERA , 42/22 K/BB, 4.06 K/9IP)
Neal Musser (6.25 ERA, 24/17 K/BB, 6.00 K/9IP)
Matt Ginter (2.95 ERA, 49/8 K/BB, 6.89 K/9IP)
Randy Keisler (3.81 ERA, 110/45 K/BB, 7.62 K/9IP)

Now here are Heilman's and Ginter's major league stats:

Heilman (5.46 ERA, 22/23 K/BB, 7.07 K/9IP)
Ginter (4.54 ERA, 38/20 K/BB, 4.93 K/9IP)

I included Keppel and Musser even though they both were injured last year and had a limited amout of playing time. However since they both have AAA experience I imagine they'll get a spring training invite and probably will have an outside shot at the rotation. (The real question, however, is whether Yusmeiro Petit will get an invite. He better).

If Leiter is let go and there is a third annual Mets fifth starter competition, this is all kind of moot; the pitcher who has the best spring training will be the fifth starter and Heilman, Ginter, and Keisler will be the primary candidates. However I just want to point out one thing, namely if you look at Aaron Heilman's strikeout rate from AAA to the majors you'll notice it's practically identical. Heilman's problem is that he thinks too much, makes some mental mistakes, and gets hit as a result. He had a good September though, striking out almost a batter an inning, and holding opposing batters to a .216 batting average.

Again, it will likely all come down to a competition, but if I had to pick a guy, I'd Pick: Heilman.

4 & 5) The Bullpen

In an ideal world, the sun would be shining, the birds would be singing, and Mike Stanton would be pitching somewhere else. This is Flushing, however, and we're going to be stuck with him for another year. Now the castaways from the rotation competition will likely join the bullpen competition as well although the Mets have plenty of additional candidates:

Heath Bell (R, 27): 3.33 ERA, 27/6 K/BB, 9.99 K/9IP
Vic Darensbourg (L, 33): 2.87 ERA, 54/21 K/BB, 9.00 K/9IP (minors)
Jose Parra (R, 31): 3.21 ERA, 14/6, 9.00 K/9IP
Bartolome Fortunato
(R, 30): 3.86 ERA, 20/13, 9.64 K/9IP
Pedro Feliciano (L, 28): 5.40 ERA, 14/12, 6.87 K/9IP
Royce Ring (L, 24): 3.63 ERA, 22/12, 6.16 K/9IP) (AAA stats)

Dan Wheeler, if you remember, was traded to the Astros in August. Ricky Bottalico and Mike DeJean, if they aren't released, will also be in the mix although I really hope the Mets cut them loose. While they were surprisingly effective for the Mets last year, I don't think the Mets want to have to count on them repeating their performances in 2005.

The lefty battle will likely come down between Darensbourg and Feliciano but Royce Ring is currently having a decent Arizona Fall League, pitching five scoreless innings while striking out five, and is someone to keep in mind. At this point, I'd probably go with Darensbourg simply because I've seen enough of Feliciano and am quite underwhelmed. Pick: Darensbourg

The righty battle will be much more interesting. Heath Bell really impressed with his stuff but don't forget how good Jose Parra was before he got injured. This will be a competition as well but let's give the slot to Bell for now. Pick: Bell

So what does our 2005 roster/lineup look like then (with 2005 ages):

Reyes (S, 22)
Matsui (S, 29)
Wright (R, 22)
Beltran (S, 28)
Piazza (R, 37)
Martinez (L, 37)
Cameron (R, 32)
Diaz (R, 23)

Rotation: Glavine (39), Benson (30), Trachsel (34), Zambrano (30), and Heilman (26)

Bullpen: Looper (30), Moreno (28), Yates (28), Stanton (38), Darensbourg (34), and Bell (28)

Bench: Phillips (29), Wilson (32), Valent (28), McEwing (32), Brazell (25), Garcia (25)

The average age of this team next year will be 29.84 which cuts about a year and a half off the average age for the majority of last year. Notice how we have five players in our lineup under thirty too.

Will the team end up this way? Probably not. Is this the ideal team the Mets could field? Absolutely not. Is it a step in the right direction though? I think so. I hope so. But now everything's in the hands of Minaya and the Wilpons.

Tomorrow I'll have a postscript with some thoughts on the future of the team and the organization in general. So what do y'all think? Is this a good plan? A reasonable plan? Who would you rather sign/promote/trade for? Inquiring minds want to know. Cheers!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

America's Team

Stephen King
said last night that the Red Sox are "America's Team", a phrase I wholeheartedly detest because it's commonly associated with some of the most nauseatingly successful teams in professional sports.

The guys over at Page 2, while agreeing that King is a tad bit off base here, do point out that nothing unites people behind the Red Sox like a viceral hatred of the Yankees. After all, nothing is more American than people coming together to watch a team crumble under the weight of it's own expectations.

So perhaps America's team is really whatever team stands up to (and finally takes down) the great sports franchise of the time. Maybe it's simply whatever team people will rally behind in the defense of the common good.

Regardless if there actually is an America's Team or not, to the Detroit Pistons, Anaheim Angels, Florida Marlins, and anyone playing the Cowboys, this Bud's for you.

"Can I have a glass of water, please?"

In Kill Bill, Vol. 2, Beatrix Kiddo, bent on an elaborate and bloody vengeance, is buried alive by one of her would-be victims, with only a tiny flashlight to console her in her last, suffocating hours.

I'm not sure the Yankees even left us a flashlight last night.

Consequently, I'm not too proud to admit that I've revised my expectations for what I hope to get out of this series. I'm not hoping for a big finale, in which Mariano Rivera, playing the part of Bill, gets taken deep into the reeking Bronx evening by Manny Ramirez swinging a Hattori Hanzo bat. All I'm hoping for is that, flashlight or no flashlight, the Sox find a way to punch themselves out of their grave, gasp the open air again--however briefly, however futilely--and make an agonizing lurch back to Yankee Stadium, trailing cemetery sod all the way. A bit of spooky and unrelenting defiance is all I'm asking for here. If we must go down, and for reasons I fail to comprehend it seems we must, let's not settle for being buried alive.


There's only so much to be said about a night like last night (or, for that matter a week like last week), and I haven't been reading around much for rehashings of the gruesome details. Of the few pieces that I have seen, Bob Ryan's column in today's Globe seems to me the best, the most successful balance of anger, grief, and sheer exhaustion, with little of the ugly pride in one's own misery you might get from other sources.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Plan, Part 1: Assumption Junction

"I like this plan! I'm excited to be a part of it!" -- Dr. Peter Venkman

This is the first of a two part post (it was going to be one long one but it kinda got out of control) on my thoughts of what the Mets should try to accomplish in the offseason. It's certainly easy to be an armchair GM and say this and that should be done but it's another to be the actual GM and make the moves for real. Therefore, I've tried to skew this article away from what I think should be done and instead towards what I think it will be possible to accomplish. Naturally this make not make for the most ideal team but hopefully it will approximate what the team will look like on opening day 2005. In order to do this, I have to make a few assumptions and, well, that's where it gets tricky. And we all know what happens when you assume. *sigh*

That being said, here are my three major assumptions:

1) Mike Piazza, Joe McEwing, and Mike Stanton will all be back next year.

While we can debate the pros and cons of trading Piazza until the cows come home but the simple fact is that he ain't going nowhere. Piazza makes $15 million next year, Stanton makes $4 million, and Super Joe, he of the sterling .609 OPS, will make $500,000. These are contracts that will be impossible to move given their current rate of production unless Minaya truly suckers someone or pays all their salary. Piazza has 10-5 rights to boot.

2) John Franco, Al Leiter, Cliff Floyd, and Richard Hidalgo will NOT be back next year.

Here are the big assumptions that may or may not pan out. While Franco will certainly not be back next year, Leiter and Hidalgo could both re-up with the Mets at a lower salary and Minaya may not be able to trade Floyd. Regardless though, I do think that these are all things that have been bandied about and are certainly within the realm of possibility next year.

3) The Mets will be able to sign Kris Benson.

This should be a done deal already and it certainly seems that it will get done before he hits the free agent market.

I think these are all fairly reasonable assumptions to make. They may not all necessarily happen but certainly could all be accomplished in the offseason if the Mets are so inclined. So what does this leave our initial roster at?

Starters: Jose Reyes, Kaz Matsui, David Wright, Mike Piazza, Mike Cameron, Victor Diaz

Rotation: Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel, Kris Benson, Victor Zambrano

Bullpen: Braden Looper, Mike Stanton, Orber Moreno, Tyler Yates

Bench: Jason Phillips, Vance Wilson, Joe McEwing, Eric Valent, Craig Brazell, Danny Garcia

20 players total, leaving room for five more. Obviously if we could excise Stanton and McEwing it would open up two more slots but I'm fairly convinced they aren't going anywhere for one more year. Likewise I also think that Victor Diaz should be given a shot at left field and that Danny Garcia should be the primary backup middle infielder. Notice the absence of Jeff Keppinger. Probably the least likely assumption I'm making in this whole piece is that Danny Garcia will beat out Keppinger for a bench spot next year. Given how high both the management and Gary Cohen are on the guy I really don't see it unless Garcia hits .500 with power in spring training. We'll see -- I'm going to be optimistic on this one though.

Notice that the bench is enormously weak with three catchers and McEwing. Ideally the Mets should try and trade Vance Wilson (and he may be able to go because he still has value) but I'm going to leave him in the mix for now. Craig Brazell may not make the team in spring training either but he is a lefty so I'll leave him in there for now.

So what do we still need?

1) A Right Fielder. Keep in mind, Mike Cameron is not moving from center.

2) A First Baseman. Presumably one who's slick with the glove and a lefty to boot.

3) A Fifth Starter. Presumably from our farm system.

4 and 5) Two Bullpen Arms. A righty and a lefty (and I'm assuming that Tyler Yates will be the long man)

I'll address who we should add for these slots in Part II.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Obvious

"Hello, hello, I'm at a place called Vertigo.
It's everything I wish I didn't know."

Tell me about it, Bono. Tell me all about it.

For once, the key opportunity for the Sox was so obvious even Tim McCarver didn't miss it. Runners at second and third in the top of the eighth and nobody out. Plate them both--you don't even need a base hit to do it--and the ninth inning gets verrrrry interesting, Rivera or no Rivera. Instead, Cabrera pulls a pitch he could have shot the other way, and Varitek has to hang at second as Nixon scores. If it's a one-run game instead of a two-run game in the ninth, Manny's double means that Ortiz and Millar don't have to swing for the fences...they've got a better chance at least.

As long as we're stating the obvious, let's look at Jon Lieber's pitch count through four innings: 37. Let's look at his strikeouts after seven innings: 3. Admittedly, the figure's so low in part because a lot of Boston batters couldn't be bothered to look at more than two pitches, but Lieber's strikeout rate during the season was ordinary at best. The Sox should have known that he can't throw the ball past them, so why insist on hitting his pitch? Even behind in the count, they might have been able to foul off what they didn't like until they saw something they did. What Johnny Damon did in the top of the sixth could have--should have--happened more often.

No disrespect intended to Lieber, who came up big in a big spot. But the approach the Red Sox took tonight was not the approach they took while scoring over 900 runs during the regular season, and Plan B was utterly ineffective.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

I'll See Your Goose Egg and Raise You A Double

The Red Sox cost me $20 in poker.

Last night was my Tuesday night poker game, a weekly ritual consisting of mostly graduate students taking a weeknight break from the lab. We started around eight or so and I was actually doing pretty well early on, building a decent stack of chips and dividing my attention between both games. The Red Sox were getting pounded and I kind of resigned myself early on to the fact that they were probably going to lose. Hence over the first hour of the game my focus was primarily poker.

Then, as I casually took stock of my towering pile in between hands, I casually glanced up at the screen while the FOX cameras flashed a picture of the Yankee scoreboard.

The Red Sox didn't have a hit yet.

Suddenly panicked, I asked out loud what inning it was. "End of the fifth" came back from the table and hit me like a bullet. All of a sudden, poker didn't really matter anymore. The Yankees couldn't, couldn't, no-hit the Red Sox in the playoffs. I wouldn't hear the end of it for the rest of my New York days.

As Mussina kept throwing moose eggs, I suddenly, unconsciously, changed my playing style. I started betting in bad hands, calling to the river on hands I knew I was behind on, and eventually, mercifully I suppose, was wiped out. At that point I slunk down on the couch clutching a beer as if it were a life preserver from a sinking ship, all my attention now devoted to baseball.

When Bellhorn ripped his double, I was at the same time relieved and annoyed. On one hand, at least this game wouldn't go down in history a la Don Larsen. On the other, I suddenly realized just how badly I played my last dozen or so hands of poker. Baseball hangover became poker hangover and I decided to call it a night.

It was probably one of the most unsatisfying evenings I've had in a long time, if not ever. Let's hope the Sox can wash away those memories with a win tonight.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


From Sports Illustrated:

Bring it on.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Beyond the Ceiling

"Well I for one am v-v-v-v-very interested to see wh-wh-what's going to happen next."
--Franklyn Madson, Dead Again

For one insufficiently merciful moment, as my eyelids fluttered open on the morning of October 17, 2003, I forgot the events of the previous night, and looked forward to Game 7 between the Red Sox and the Yankees. The insufficiently merciful moment passed.

I couldn't deal.

The ceiling, then. I started with the ceiling. Off-white, as many ceilings are. Stippled, as many ceilings are.

The ceiling I could handle. Anything else would have to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Why, given how long I stared at that unremarkable stretch of plaster, am I so eager for tomorrow night to be here? Is my memory so short? Is my thirst for vengeance so relentless? Am I so brazenly confident that this year will be different?

Call me foolish. Call me doomed. Call me grossly mistaken in my priorities.

Thing is, no matter how long I stared at the stipples in the ceiling, they never looked like angels comin' for to carry me home. They never assumed the cold, twinkling shape of a malevolent constellation, delivering me an ungracious destiny through the cynical agency of syndicated horoscopes. They didn't even resolve themselves into the crudely effective reverse "L," descending on my forehead where it still is sitting, still is sitting.

I didn't really expect the first two. The third, well, maybe I'm a little lucky, if only a little. At any rate, I don't feature myself staring at the ceiling with the same eyes this year.

You heard me. I didn't stutter.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Unfinished Experiments

So, Lord Helmet, at last we meet again for the first time for the last time. - Lone Starr

Red Sox. Yankees. ALCS. It really doesn't get any better than this, despite my rather naive predictions (for which I was severely chastised afterward, mea culpa). So where does this leave us? With the Yankees winning in four games, they can set up their rotation any way they want. With everything staying the same (and El Duque remaining unavailable), the matchups will probably be (with ERA and BA against each team, from ESPN):

Game #1: Curt Schilling (4.82, .239) vs. Mike Mussina (3.50, .268)
Game #2: Pedro Martinez (5.47, .245) vs. Jon Leiber (4.19, .240)
Game #3: Bronson Arroyo (5.25, .271) vs. Kevin Brown (5.93, .322)
Game #4: Tim Wakefield (1.83, .189) vs. Javier Vazquez (5.56, .287)

Hmmm...methinks one of these things is not like the other. And to think he could pitch back-to-back games if needed. Just no extra-inning, on-the-road relief appearances, please.


Ron Gardenhire completely lost the series for the Twins. Remember the scene in Ghostbusters where they're all confronting Gozer and she asks Ray if he's a god? He says "No" and she zaps their asses to oblivion. Winston then says the now-classic line, "Ray, if someone asks you if you're a god you say YES!"

That's a bit how I felt every time Gardenhire made a pitching change. "Ron, if your pitcher has nothing left you bring in a fresh arm!" or, conversely, "Ron, if your pitcher is throwing lasers don't go to your bullpen or bring in Juan frickin' Rincon!"


It's pretty sad when the presidential debate is more entertaining than Game 3 of the Yankees-Twins series.

Lima Time is back! Who would have thunk it? Now, hopefully, there will be significantly more coverage of his, er, talented wife.

This is scary, both for the content itself and the sugary-sweet commentary that accompanies it. Not for the faint of heart if you're a Red Sox fan.

If Al Leiter is let go this offseason, the Mets will save about $20 million/year in payroll (losing Mo Vaughn's contract, including buyouts). With this cash freed up, the Mets should easily be able to sign Kris Benson and actively pursue Carlos Beltran hard, no namby-pamby Guerrero like offers this year.

The batting averages of Mike Stanton, Joe McEwing, and Tom Glavine with runners in scoring position were 1.000, .355, and .316 respectively this season.

When are the Mets going to sign Philip Humber, their first round pick from this year's draft? He had to be left off the Mets now-pathetic Arizona Fall League Roster because he hasn't signed yet.

In the absence of Da Ali G show, the Venture Brothers is the funniest thing on television right now.

Don't these trailers for The Incredibles look, well, incredible? If the new Fantastic Four film next year is half as good looking, it's going to be dynamite (although I'm not holding my breath from what I've seen so far).

Now if you'll excuse me, there's the ceremonial breaking of a long standing NFL record that requires my attention.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Bad Knowing, Good Knowing, and a Consolation Prize

As soon as Guerrero stepped in to face Timlin in the top of the seventh yesterday, I knew we were looking at a tie game. Things had been going a little too well for Timlin, a reliever admirable and effective but far from bullet proof. Things had been going a little too poorly for Guerrero, this year's MVP. Beneath the crowd noise at Fenway Park, beneath the hopeful cries of tadpole fans too young to have developed the hard-earned instinct that grants the dubious boon of bad knowing, beneath the whoosh from Vladi's swing on that first pitch, there was this sound.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

Then, as sure as the thunder follows the lightning, we had a tie game.

I used to beat myself up about bad knowing. I worried that I was one of those perverse fans who helps make bad things happen to his team through sheer lack of faith. As you grow familiar with the mystic practice of rooting, though, you realize that there's a difference between bad knowing and a failure of confidence. Bad knowing is like the ache old timers get in their joints when rain's coming. It doesn't cause anything. The front's already gathered and on the move. You've just been clued in a little early. Lack of faith you can work on; bad knowing just is.

Besides, there's also good knowing.

As Cabrera fielded Chone Figgins' high chop and put a merciful end to the Derek Lowe Experience in the top of the tenth, I actually spoke to the television. I do this hardly ever. No one can hear me, especially not the umpires. As Cabrera whipped a throw to nab Figgins by a running step or less, however, I found I had this to say: "That's the out we needed, boys!" Good knowing isn't as emphatic as bad knowing. We don't brace for sunshine; we just assume it's going to be there, and appreciate it when it arrives. I wasn't convinced, but I was pretty sure there would be no top of the eleventh.

Heroes galore from yesterday's tilt. David Ortiz, walk-off artist. Keith Foulke, wrenching check swings from Angels hitters bent on glory. And, though his effort gets lost in the limited book-keeping of history, Bronson Arroyo. His six innings will be fondly remembered, but he gets no victory. There will be no replays of the guy staring down his first playoff start, and leaving with a better line than either Schilling or Pedro in the previous two games. In lieu of the victory that he should have had, I propose that Bronson Arroyo has earned a nickname.

Think first about that leg kick, high and then perfectly creased. Then consider that breaking ball, the way it loops like a balloon and then finds its spot like it's got a point. Finally, take into account that other breaking ball, the one that looks like you've got a whole wing to swing at as it crosses the plate, when really all you've got is a pinprick nose cone you can't make yourself wait on long enough.

After careful inspection of his application for a nickname, I hereby dub Bronson Arroyo the Paper Airplane. He doesn't blow you away, he just keeps nicking you tiny, leaving that disproportionate sting. Ow, quit it. Ow, quit it. Ow, quit it.

Friday, October 08, 2004

One Red Sox Fan's Response

(See Jay's post just below for the question.)

It's Fenway Park, September 2001, and David Cone is pitching the game of his brief Red Sox career. He's on the hill in a scoreless tie in the eighth, with runners at the corners and one out. It doesn't look good, but he's battling. And then something marvelous happens. Cone gets a ground ball right to second. It's an easy double play, and he's out of the inning.

Wait, no. No, he's not. See, the second baseman is Lou Merloni, and the other team is the Yankees. Lou is from Framingham, MA, and so not only a Red Sox utility infielder but also a lifelong fan of the team that he plays for. The excitement of starting the double play that will preserve a scoreless tie AGAINST THE YANKEES is too much for Lou. It's not just a ground ball. It's a chance for Lou, in his own small way, to give Bucky Dent the finger. He boots the grounder, and the winning run in a 1-0 game crosses the plate.

What's my point? Lou's not alone. All of us, mostly fans but even occasionally the players, get caught up in who's in the other dugout instead of just focusing on the task at hand. The task at hand in October of 2004 is winning the World Series. Period.

If the Red Sox show up in the League Championship Series and the Yankees don't, that's not Boston's problem. Yankees fans might think so, but if you care even a little bit about what any Yankees fan thinks about anything ever, you're not a Red Sox fan. At least, not a good one. If the Yankees show up in the League Championship Series after all, it's still not Boston's problem. More precisely, the Yankees showing up is not really a different problem from the Twins showing up. There are still four games to be won, and then four games to be won. Who's in the way is ultimately irrelevant. That's how I see it, anyway.

Question For Red Sox Fans

I was actually thinking about this the other day, shortly after the Twins took a 1-0 lead in their series with the Yankees. Dan Wetzel, writing in Yahoo sports:

Would finally winning the World Series somehow be lessened if Boston never directly vanquished its chief nemesis and archrival? Are Red Sox fans actually rooting for the Yankees?

My gut instinct would be no, in that a World Series win is a World Series win and nothing will be able to change that as the chants of "19-18!" vanish into the ballpark wind. In addition, I really have trouble seeing Red Sox fans rooting for the Yankees in any context at all (even though some did after 9/11).

However, I could easily see how Yankee fans could dismiss the accomplishment, saying that the only way the Red Sox could finally win a World Series was by sidestepping the Yankees, a statement that would certainly grate on Sox fans. However, not being a full-fledged Sox fan myself (even though I would love to see them win this year), I really have no say on the matter.

So what say you? Do the Sox have to go through the Yankees to legitimatize a World Series win or do the Yankees not matter at all?

No Baseball? It's Milla Time!

Long day, no Yankees game, no Red Sox game, no Mets news, and the frickin Braves win again.

So I head down to the school gym to blow off some steam, pump some iron, and run a bit. Now our gym is small but it does have a few redeeming features, not the least of which is a subscription to MAXIM, the soft porn mag you don't have to hide. And, god help me, but who should be gracing the cover this month but Milla Jovovich (click for larger pic):

Now I fully admit to being a sucker for cheesy ass horror flicks and I loved the first Resident Evil film. I tried to convince many of my friends to go see the second one but it got such horrid, horrid reviews (Roger Ebert gave it half a star) no one, not a single solitary sucker, wanted to go.

However, I can imagine that now, armed with this magazine, I may just be able to bring a few of them around. RE: Apocalypse, here I come. Bwah, hah, hah!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Mac and Tosh

Last night, the Angels and Red Sox reminded me of those two hyper-courteous gophers from the old Warner Brothers cartoons.

"Why don't you go ahead and take Game Two?"

"Oh, heavens no, I couldn't possibly. Please go ahead and take Game Two."

"Oh, but I insist. Game Two really ought to belong to you."

"I wouldn't dream of it. You are so much more deserving."

"It seems that there's only one polite solution to our dilemma."

"I'm all ears."

"We simply must play such an excruciating botch of a game that a Shoney's kids menu will look like a Monet by comparison."

"I was about to suggest that very thing."

I've managed to cull four coherent observations out of my bleary-eyed, post-caffeine-bounce perusal of another welcome if ugly Red Sox victory.

First, no baseball player has ever needed a hockey-style "plus-minus" stat more than Mark Bellhorn. I guess that would be VoRP, but in Bellhorn's case something even more calculating, and with an eye more acutely trained for strangeness, is in order. Bellhorn not only strikes out by the truckload, but he strikes out looking on more right-down-the-pipe pitches than anybody I've ever seen. Not as bad as a double play, I know, but nevertheless subtly infuriating. Then again, there are those valuable walks that result from such patience. Manny doesn't drive in Damon in the seventh last night if Bellhorn makes a jittery, incautious out in front of him. But then, there's the way Bellhorn treats throws from the outfield as if he's waiting for a skywriter to finish an ad. Still, to be fair, he does pivot fairly well on the double play. Finally, though, and honest to God, how do you get picked off second (by the catcher, no less) with the bases loaded and Ortiz at the plate? It's that kind of lapse that makes me think he's hearing "Smoke on the Water" instead of "Dirty Water" after every home win, if you know what I mean.

Secondly, that rally in the sixth inning was a really pleasant surprise. Ortiz's infield hit made you think it would happen. Nixon's double-play grounder squelched the hope. Millar's single diluted the disappointment, but, much as I like Varitek, he hadn't looked good against Colon, who was only one batter away from turning a two-run lead over to K-Rod and Co. So the charge he put into that first pitch yanked me right off the couch.

This leads me to Observation the Third. 'Tek's home run was one of those occasions where I wished I'd been listening to the radio for Jerry Trupiano's "Swing and a drive! Deep right field! Way back!" instead of accepting the disinterested approximation of enthusiasm that you get on a national telecast. Because I insist on dwelling in the outer darkness of cable-less TV, the radio guys usually bring me my day in, day out experience of the team, and I always feel a trifle disloyal for ditching them in October. Chris Berman's "back-back-back" works better in studio than it does in the heat of the moment, and it's not well-suited to the kind of screaming liner that 'Tek launched over the fence.

Finally, effective though he was, Pedro wasn't his normal postseason self last night, judging by the inevitable DRAMATIC FACIAL CLOSE-UPS. Pedro in October usually gives you that Hannibal Lecter kind of vibe; he unnerves you because he doesn't blink. Last night, he was almost punch-clock in his demeanor, leaning in over his glove and working his gum like a guy changing spark plugs in an ill-lit garage. I'm not sure what to make of this difference; I'm inclined to feel relieved about it. Goodwrench Pedro strikes me as less likely than Hannibal Pedro to turn into Sylvia Plath if he has to face the Yankees again.

An Evening With Stephen King

A couple weeks ago, I attended a Q&A with one of the most visible Red Sox fans around, Stephen King, at the 92nd St. Y here in New York. King, who really does come across as an aw-shucks everyman, took questions from Charlie Rose for about 45 minutes or so and then fielded questions from the audience.

Naturally, most of the dialogue focused on himself and his books, particularly his final installment of the Dark Tower series (that I just finished and it was spectacular). However, throughout the interview, baseball constantly kept creeping into the conversation.

First off, the interview was conducted on Sunday, September 19th, and King himself had just come from Yankee stadium after watching the Sox get pasted, 11-1. Not surprisingly, he wasn't thrilled after watching his team lose not only the game but the series as well, with any hopes of the Sox taking the division flushed down the toilet. Despite this, when the majority of the (Yankee loving) audience applauded upon finding out where he had just come from, he shrugged it off with a good-natured wave and a smile, the kind you often see from someone who doesn't want to enter an argument he can't win.

The interview was pretty superficial -- talking about his books in general: "I still have more stories to tell"; the car accident he was in a couple years ago that nearly cost him his life: "Every day is just another day that I'm happy to be alive"; his battles with alcohol and drugs: "If my family and friends hadn't intervened, I wouldn't be sitting here right now"; and his politics: "I think you could call me fairly left-of-center." He also mentioned that he's actually writing a book on the current Red Sox season. As the playoffs are still unfolding, it's up in the air as to whether it will be a horror novel or a fairy tale.

This segment did produce a few King gems. In talking about his various addictions, he said that generally "anything you regret you tend to suppress" and this "contributes to the bump under the blanket theory: every time you push it down, it pops up somewhere else." The single book question Rose asked was "where he got his idea for Misery?" King responded that his original idea was to ask the question "What if there was a woman who kept [an author] until he died and bound his last book in his flesh?" The audience got a good chuckle out of that one. (In some ways, I suppose this is probably more information than we needed to know but it's very cool nonetheless)

While the Rose portion was largely personal, the Q&A tended to focus more on King the author, not King the man, especially considering most of the audience was composed of Dark Tower fanatics (like myself). One person simply stood up and thanked him for writing, a sentiment which generated thunderous applause and seemed to catch King slightly taken aback as well.

This portion produced some of the funniest responses as well. One person asked him if "there were any stories he never published because they were simply too shocking," following it up with "and where are they now?" This produced a hearty round of laughter. King responded by describing one story where someone chopped off a person's thumb then put it on his birthday cake as a candle. "It was a nice touch," King said with a large evil grin.

Another person asked him about how a young author can constantly deal with getting his work rejected and have the fortitude to keep on submitting it. King admitted that it can be pretty tough but recounted how one day, as a young man, he noticed how the majority of author photos inside the back flaps of books were significantly older than he was. Said King, "They're old and I'm young. They'll die."

The best moment of the evening, however, came when a snotty young woman in a Yankees cap stood up and asked him about The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Basically she went on about how great Tom Gordon was for the Yankees this year, asking how he felt that Flash was pitching for the Yankees, and how he felt after watching the Sox lose to the Yankees again. King admitted that, yeah, the Red Sox did suck this weekend and that, yes, Red Sox fans were pretty down about it. Then he looked straight at her and said with more than a touch of vitrol:

"Yet, without us, what the FUCK would you be?"

The audience exploded with laughter. The girl was several rows in front of me so I didn't get to see her face but I can imagine it was a shade of crimson never before seen. It was glorious.

The evening ended with a standing ovation for King, to which it seemed he really didn't know how to respond. It was kind of like giving your morning coffee vendor a random ovation for simply shilling out his caffeine day after day. I'm sure, being one of the addicted myself, one and all were grateful for their frequent fix and were delighted to have some insight into the mind of their prolific Red Sox-loving barista.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Gardenhire Pulls A Grady

So...very...angry. But not as pissed as BatGirl is going to be...


PR Problems

We have a guest blogger today, Michele Blom, a Mets fan from Minneapolis who points out something that I can't believe hasn't gotten more press in the media. Without further adieu, here's Michele:

The Mets need to get rid of their publicist, Jay Horwitz, if they are going to return to being a media savvy organization. I simply cannot understand how this guy has a lifetime job. He was better suited to be a publicist when the Mets were the nice little team in town. After Mike Piazza's arrival, this all changed. The media spotlight intensified and the fans were back. Horwitz has clearly proven again and again that he is not capable for this larger spotlight.

Let's take the biggest blunder: when Art Howe had time to tell the media that Piazza was going to start playing first base, but no time to tell Piazza himself. This is what would have happened if this were the Yankees. They would have been monitoring the interview, if not Steinbrenner himself. Upon hearing the gaffe, they would have had everyone in their entire organization trying to get a hold of the player before the media did. They would have met the player in the player parking lot if need be.

Here is what the Mets did: nothing. The MSG network had time to fax all local media and radio outlets. The media high tailed it over to Shea. Piazza arrived and no one cut him off at the pass so to speak. He was shown in a live interview surrounded by about 20 reporters and no one from the Mets office intervened, not one frickin' person.

Granted, we might say "Piazza is a big boy. Big deal." Here is why it is a big deal. I bet that every friggin' person in that Met locker room was on the phone to friends and fellow players saying "Do you know what they just did to our franchise player?" Players talk. These same players will think "If they did that to Piazza, what will they do to me." Players always stick together even if they're wrong. This kills our ability to sign free agents when the Mets are viewed as an organization that screws over their own players.

Once again, I guarantee you that if this had happened with a Yankee star player that the publicist would have tackled and cut him off in the player parking lot before the media ever got to him. They would have coached him before the media hit his locker. The whole thing would have been a pebble. However this is the Mets where Jay Horwitz, their publicist, has a lifetime job.

Piazza still has not been told what position he will play next year or if he is in the Mets plans. Christ, this must look real good to free agents who will simply say: "If this is what they do to their franchise player, why should I sign there. I would be treated worse."

Let me get this straight: Piazza could be traded but John Franco can stay until he's 44 years old. Are you freaking kidding me? If they piss Piazza off enough where he wants a trade, I hope he gets his revenge. I want him to only accept a trade to the Yankees or an NL East team. After all, if they continue to piss him off so he considers a trade, they will then turn it around and blame it on him saying that he waved his own no-trade clause. At this point, given what he knows about the way things work, why should Piazza care about their feelings.

Normally, the publicist has to act as a buffer from the organization to the media, usually making the publicist fairly hated by them. However, Jay Horwitz is beloved by Mets beat reporters. This never happens. It makes me wonder if Jay himself isn't the source of some media leaks. After all, one player was anonymously quoted two years ago as saying that "Jay works for the media." Very strange. Also, how many publicists have the media ever campained for to get a raise and promotion? One, Jay Horwitz. Weird isn't it?

Any organization that continuously has such PR gaffes would look into what the PR Dept. isn't doing to stop them. I spent 8 1/2 years working in the music industry for The Musicland Group, Inc. Granted, in Minneapolis it was a smaller music market. However, I knew of a publicist who worked for a PR firm that was fired after one gaffe. It wasn't even her fault. She was let go because the company thought that she didn't "have the musician's back." There was zero tolerance of that. If it was perceived that if you didn't have the musician/artist's back, you were considered a traitor or a potential media leak. You were let go. It didn't matter how long you had been with the company or how many friends you had. We had to take secrets to our grave. Otherwise, you were blacklisted even in the Minneapolis market. Heck, after I was laid off, I was not able to get another job in the music industry. This was because my former company, The Musicland Group, had too many enemies in the Minneapolis area, Therefore, I was shunned because of it. It had nothing to do with me. I would have had to leave town to get a job. Obviously, I couldn't afford to do that after being laid off. However, in the sports industry, the Mets sports industry, you have a lifetime job. Go figure.

Mets employees continuously leak things and discredit their players, coaches, and former managers. I can guarantee you that if this was the music industry that they would have looked under rocks and threatened people to find out where the leaks where. Heck in Los Angeles, in the music industry, they have even put mob hits out on people for lesser things. You would be scared to death to leak stuff out there. Piazza even commented the other day about how can you fire someone through the paper? Granted, they didn't exactly fire Art Howe "through the paper" but this is how the players perceive this. If the players cannot even believe what goes on in their own organization they won't be able to recruit free agents with a clear conscience.

Fred Wilpon needs to look at the whole organization, not just the players, from top to bottom. If the players perceive the Mets as having a publicist who would sell them out, they will not sign here. Players work with the publicist more than they do any other front office member even the general mananger. This is why we need one that will support the players, not stab them in the back.

Food for thought.