Sunday, January 30, 2005


There are two distinct levels of fan immersion in a team's fortunes. At the more casual level, a fan of the 2004 Red Sox will remember Big Papi, Manny, Johnny Damon, and the Man in the Bloody Sock. This level might be called the Rung of Awareness, Historical (RAH). You don't have to have a day-to-day experience of the Red Sox to know these guys and have some sense of their contributions.

At a more intense level of devotion, what might be called the Rung of Obsession, Outrageously Tenacious (ROOT), a fan knows a team beyond its main characters. Who picks up the at-bats when the stars are in the dugout? Who eats the innings between the fourth starter and the closer? The names of these players don't often make it into the sweeping assessments of team history, and yet they often tell the story of how it feels to follow a team on a game-by-game, year-by-year basis. The meat of the 1997 Red Sox was Nomar's outstanding rookie year; know that and you probably know enough about that bumbling edition of the Fenway nine. But you don't really get the full savor of that year without remembering Jeff Frye playing a little bit of everywhere except for pitcher and catcher. For the RAH Red Sox fan, the grim year of 1992 is scarcely memorable as the last great Boston season for Roger Clemens. For the ROOTer, the year picks up a little extra (and much-needed) zest as the hey-day of Greg "I just might pitch lefty today" Harris.

Why tax you with these increasingly obscure names from recent Red Sox lore? A prime test case for the difference between RAH and ROOT fans, Rich "El Guapo" Garces, was rumored kidnapped this week, a report that to everyone's great relief has proven to be unfounded. El Guapo, from 1998 to 2000, was the guy you wanted to see coming out of the Red Sox bullpen in the seventh and eighth innings. It's not like he was hard to miss. And if you didn't see him the first time, you had two minutes to pick up his unmistakable form between the bullpen gate and the Fenway hill. He gave new meaning to "around the horn." The right fielder used to come to the mound after Guapo covered first base, just to give him the necessary recovery time.

If all these lazy zingers about Garces' obvious girth seem a little mean, you weren't there when it was happening. Garces became a fan favorite because he was so agreeably nonplussed about his apparent limitations. He often strolled out to the bullpen around the third inning, occasionally with something looking suspiciously like take-out in his hand. No one got a louder salutation from the right field bleachers, and no one seemed to take more delight in returning the greeting with a wave and a nod. In a way, he seemed in on and resistant to the jokes that were supposed to belittle him. He was a fat guy playing a lean guy's game, but he never failed to chase a bunt, and he never failed to cover first. History, with considerable justice, will remember the last Red Sox teams of the twentieth century as the squads of Pedro and Nomar, rah rah, RAH. But if you were rooting, really ROOTing for those teams, Guapo was part of the story too.

Anyone else want to name guys who show us the difference between RAH and ROOT?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Roster Schmoster

It's twenty five miles from home
Girl, my feet are hurting mighty bad
Now I've been walking for three days and two lonely nights
You know that I'm mighty mad .
But I got a woman waiting for me
That's gonna make this trip worthwhile
You see she's got the kind of lovin' and a kissing
A make a man go stone wild -- Edwin Starr

We're almost across the finish line! Only three weeks until pitchers and catchers. Now that the offseason is pretty much over, how about some twenty five man roster predictions? Granted it's really only the bench and bullpen but it's fun to predict the lineup too. Here's mine:


Jose Reyes (S)
Kaz Matsui (S)
Carlos Beltran (S)
Mike Piazza (R)
Cliff Floyd (L)
David Wright (R)
Mike Cameron (R)
Minky (L)


Pedro Martinez
Tom Glavine
Kris Benson
Victor Zambrano
Steve Trachsel


Braden Looper (CL)
Mike DeJean (R)
Orber Moreno (R)
Heath Bell (R)
Blake McGinely (L)
Dae Sung Koo (L)

I predict TRF is going to implode in spring training and be released outright. And if he isn't, well, I hear Tonya Harding is looking for work...


Jason Phillips (C)
Miguel Cairo (MI)
Eric Valent (OF)
Victor Diaz (OF)
Andres Galarraga (1B)
Jeff Keppinger (MI)

Again kind of optimistic, but I have a funny feeling that Miguel Cairo spells the beginning of the end for Super Joe. And I can't see Ron Calloway making the team over Victor Diaz and Eric Valent. I'd rather see Danny Garcia than Jeff Keppinger but I have a sneaking suspicion that he's gone too since many in the organization don't seem to like his attitude. Can't win them all, I guess.

Thoughts? Questions? Queries? Bueller? Bueller?

Thursday, January 27, 2005


I've been meaning to throw a few plugs out for a while now but I just haven't had the time. Procrastinating is a lot more work than you would think. Anyway, here's some of the stuff I've been wasting time with/looking forward to:


Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
: 42

Fantastic Four: I so want this movie to be good but alas. I'm going to see it anyway.

The Corpse Bride: Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Danny Elfman. 'Nuff said.

The Ring 2: Naomi Watts, *drool*

Sin City: This movie looks incredible. Frank Miller is god. And he helped direct it.

Cursed: Think 'Scream' meets 'The Howling'. With Christina Ricci too.


Sinfest: Think if Calvin grew up and became a horny, perverted teenager. That's the main gist. The comic is actually fairly heavy, taking on a lot of theology that I often resonate with. It's funny, incredibly well drawn, thought provoking, and, at times, touching.

Check out all the archives too. Tatsuya Ishida can literally imitate any style -- look for some of the back strips that feature multiple styles. It doesn't matter what they are; Peanuts, Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes, Cathy. It's like they were drawn by their creators. Amazing.

Zebra Girl: OK, this is a serial so if you want the whole story you have to start from the beginning. Basically, it features a young woman who was accidentally turned into a demon and now is trying to cope in today's modern world (everyone thinks she's just a weird goth chick) and find someway to get back to normal. Joe England's art gets better and better as the strip progresses and this latest storyline just has some beautiful black and white panels.

I've linked Sinfest over at the sidebar and I'll be adding Zebra Girl very soon. Keenspot has dozens of strips you've probably never heard of -- I still haven't gone through them all. Check 'em out!

Lastly a small plug for Newmoanyeah, the pop-culture site run by Stephen Lin, a Boston friend of mine. The 2004 staff picks are up (including my own) -- it's one of the more fun things I get to write and read. That's all for now, enjoy!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Art Of The Deal

OK, let's say you're a GM and you had to choose one of two players:

Player A is an excellent defensive player, an average hitter, and would cost you cash and a very good minor leaguer in addition to his salary.

Player B is an excellent defensive player, an average hitter with the potential to be above average, and would cost you just his salary, probably slightly more than Player A.

If I were GM, I would choose Player B, largely because the cost:benefit ratio of acquiring him is less than that of Player A. We would still have the minor leaguer in our system and, regardless of whether he ever makes it to Shea, he would still be available for future trades.

The bottom line here is this: There was no reason to make this trade when a less costly option was still out there. Blade may not become a big time player but he's still a chip, a chip that could be used in the future to get something better than a replacement level defensive specialist. Furthermore, every chip you have serves as a buffer against your top prospects; the less you have, the more likely it is that you'll have to throw in a Yusmeiro Petit or a Lastings Milledge to get a deal done.

This has also been the Yankees problem the last few years, trading away every prospect they have for easily replaceable players. And their well has now run dry.

I got a ton of e-mail over at AA on Minky and Blade. We can argue until the cows come home over who is better Minky or Lee, but the bottom line is that Travis Lee was the better deal and Omar passed it up.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Overwhelming Questions

Been a while since I posted over here -- largely due to my schedule, the lack of Mets news, and lack of inspiration. Not to mention, there are so many uncertain things about this team, it's hard to predict or comment on them...that is, unless you're commenting on the questions themselves!

Here are my top ten questions about the Mets that need to be answered between now and opening day:

1. Who's On First?

Hopefully this will be decided in the next day or two. If it's not Carlos Delgado (and I hope it is), it will probably be Travis Lee. At this point, the Mets are simply trying to keep Delgado away from the Marlins as much as they are trying to get him for themselves.

2. Will Cliff Floyd be traded?

My gut feeling is "no", simply because the Cubs seem to be the only willing trading partner should Omar Minaya re-open the Sammy Sosa talks. However, the siging of Carlos Beltran changes things significantly; the Mets are now trying to shed salary this year to stay under the luxury tax threshold. Any trade for Sosa would likely involve taking on salary this year (Sosa's $18 million+) to save next year (Floyd's $6.5 million over two years). They can't do this and sign Delgado; there's just not enough wiggle room.

If Deldago turns them down however then, as Bob Klapisch writes today, "Plan B is Sammy Sosa." And that would likely mean Floyd is gone.

Even without Delgado, however, I still have a hard time seeing how Omar could work such a deal. Of course, this also makes one wonder...

3. Will Sammy Sosa be coming here?

Again, unless the financial obstacles can be overcome, I really don't see it happening, regardless of whether Pedro "recruits" him or not. It really depends on how desperate Chicago is to unload him and whether or not they're willing to take on all the difference in salary.

Remember that Omar is under no pressure here, even without Delgado or Sosa, he has had a successful offseason and the Mets will be a better team. All the pressure is squarely on the Cubs shoulders and Sosa won't be coming here unless they flinch.

4. Will Mike Cameron be traded?

Klapisch also pretty much put the nail in the Cameron-Byrnes deal last week and one has to think that Cameron's trade value is fairly limited due to his injury and salary. Should the Mets fail to sign Deladgo however, this little scenario could rear it's ugly head again, especially since Omar will almost definitely include Magglio Ordonez in 'Plan B'. In addition, no matter what Billy Beane says publicly, I find it hard to believe he's totally given up on getting Cameron.

You know what happens once he puts his mind to something -- someone else gets screwed.

5. Will Joe McEwing be traded?

This is something that's been bandied about in the media that just makes too much sense not to happen. The addition of Miguel Cairo makes him expendable and despite the fact that Super Joe has posted OPS of .538, .600. and .609 the last three years, he still would have value to a team due to his 'versatility'.

There's no guarantee here but given the way Omar's been purging the team of the 'old guard', I wouldn't be surprised. Tony LaRussa, Super Joe's #1 fan, may be getting a call between now and opening day.

6. Will Felix Heredia be released?

Sadly I think the answer to this question is also 'no', simply because Heredia will be making $3 million this year (although $1 million of that has already been paid to the Yankees). Still this is a move that I wouldn't put past Omar should Heredia stink it up in spring training and should one of the kids, say Blake McGinley, step it up.

Come March, pray for TRF suckiness to ensue.

7. Will Victor Diaz make the team?

This is actually the question I'm the most interested in. While Omar has publicly stated that he's been very impressed with Diaz, he's also said that he needs to work on his plate discipline in AAA and is likely to start the season there.

However, right now the Mets aren't expecting Cameron to be able to play until late April/early May. If everything stays as it is right now regarding the outfield, then V-for-Victor could get a one month trial in The Show until Cameron returns.

Of course, this is also dependent on the composition of the bench and who gets traded/released by spring training. Sadly my best guess right now, assuming a gang of six, is the following:

Phillips, (R), c, 1B
McEwing (R), whatever
Valent (L), OF, 1B
Cairo (R), 2B, SS, 3B
Calloway, (L), OF
Galarraga (R), 1B

Not only is there no room for Diaz, there's no room for Ramon Castro (sad), Danny Garcia (bad) or Jeff Keppinger (good) either. I really think Galarraga is going to make the club unless he's physically unable to play. That means the only way a spot will open up is if Super Joe is traded (a possibility) or if Calloway sucks it up in spring training (a likely possibility).

If Super Joe goes, this likely opens a spot for Garcia or Keppinger. If Calloway goes, Diaz may get his shot.

In his last mailbag, Kevin Czerwinski also mentioned that the Mets were trying to trade Jason Phillips but have been unsuccessful so far. Obviously, if Phillips goes, it would open up a spot for Castro.

8. How do you spell R-E-L-I-E-F?

Big, huge, enormous, behemoth of a question. Many questions really. Right now, Braden Looper, Mike DeJean, and *shudder* Heredia are the only ones guaranteed spots. Hopefully Orber Moreno will be ready, Tyler Yates will be under control, and Bartolome Fortunato, Heath Bell, and Dae Sung Koo will fight it out for the last two spots.

But all of them have question marks and we really won't know anything until they start pitching to batters. Don't rule out on Omar trade for relief later on, especially with Chad Bradford still being dangled for Cameron.

9. How will Yusmeiro Petit and Philip Humber do in spring training?

While this isn't likely to affect the Mets on opening day, it could affect them at the trading a good way.

Easy now. Breathe. They aren't going anywhere but if they perform well and advance quickly this year, we could see them in September. This could give Pedro some extra rest and if they pitch well, convince the Mets that Trachsel or Glavine is expendable for the following year.

Plus if anyone gets injured this year, the Mets might give them a midseason look (although that role is more likely to go to the forgotten man, Aaron Heilman). Speaking of which...

10. What happens to Aaron Heilman and Jae Seo?

Sadly I think they're both trade bait. I'd really like Heilman to get another shot, as he had a great strikeout rate in both the majors and minors last year. But, barring injury, I think he goes to AAA and is traded within a year. Seo seems to have worn out his welcome entirely and has certainly burned all his bridges with Rick Peterson. He's toast, one way or another.

This will be a better team next year. But the answers to these questions could be the difference between .500 and the playoffs. Just 69 days to opening day and, god help me, I can't wait!

Friday, January 21, 2005

Texas Hold 'Em

If you're in the Houston area, and you're selling pork rinds, Jimmy Dean Sausage, or Jock Strap Ben Gay (specially formulated for groin pulls), I suggest instituting an immediate 360 percent mark-up.

Trust me. The market will bear it.

Some of us had been beguiled by an apparently kinder, gentler, less bat-throwing Roger Clemens pitching at less than market value for his hometown team. One last hurrah to try and put an adored, veteran roster featuring Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio over the top.

I shouldn't have said "us" just then. I wasn't buying it.

I still remember November 1996, when Clemens claimed to be leaving Boston for Toronto because he thought "the Blue Jays had a better shot at the World Series." The 1997 Red Sox without Roger Clemens won 78 games. The 1997 Blue Jays with Roger Clemens won 76. He wasn't telling the truth in 1996, and all this "hometown" crap in Houston was at best a veneer for the Rocket's true motivation: the care and feeding of the outsized ego of Roger Clemens.

He wants to pitch another year? Fine. Just don't pretend, after trying to hold up the Mom and Pop store, that you're still chasing a ring. You want to bring a championship to the home folks, you don't try and sandbag the available funds for recruiting talented teammates with a 22 million dollar arbitration claim.

I concede that Clemens is the most successful pitcher of his generation. His longevity is a testament to a profound work ethic and something closely resembling competitive desire. But the past year, Clemens has been shooting for something more, a kind of fondness from the observers of the game that has eluded even his considerable achievements. He has attempted to make the claim that he's not just one of those guys, in it for the bucks. He's represented himself as one of those rare figures who just can't say no to a sport he loves.

Who knows? Given the same opportunity, I might well try to cash in as extravagantly as Clemens has. I hope, though, that I'd be sufficiently honest that I wouldn't give such a decision a loftier rationale than it deserves.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Matt Versus New Year's Resolution Versus Potato Chips Versus Matt


Sometime this summer, I got hooked on potato chips. I think it was the ups and downs of an ultimately rewarding but frequently ulcerrific baseball season. I eat all kinds of garbage, but it had been years since I craved potato chips with any regularity. Tortilla chips? Absolutely. Fritos? Sure, once in a while. Potato chips? Practically never, until this summer.

See, I know potato chips are gratuitously bad for me. Something about the crunch and the salt, though, nursed me through that peckish corridor between the end of the Sox game on the radio and my eventual, nightly cotton-mouthed oblivion. I tried to justify it by eating the baked Lays chips (less fatty than what I really wanted to munch), but I quickly graduated to Cape Cod's Sea Salt and Vinegar. Cholesterolicious.

As the elation of late October to mid-November gradually waned, however, I found myself incapable of forgoing what had become a quasi-ritualistic snack. When, one especially frigid and soggy night in December, I drove out to Store 24 at a quarter past midnight for a bag of chips, I knew I had a problem.

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. To the extent that I've previously undertaken them, they've been either deliberately vague or simply impossible. Deliberately vague: "get more serious about my academic work." Right, I'll check that daily with the Seriousometer that no home can do without. Simply impossible: "charming Jennifer Connelly into dropping the restraining order and marrying me." This year, however, I have a goal that is modest, specific and attainable. Get off the chips.

I've held to this pledge admirably, dare I say heroically, so far. The refusal of potato chips has left me with a much clearer conscience in pursuing the thirty-seven other horribly unhealthy things I regularly ingest. I could have doughnuts for breakfast, a buffalo chicken sub for lunch, pizza for dinner, and wash it down with a tall, smooth glass of bacon grease (shaken, not stirred) and still feel like I'd eaten healthy, so long as I didn't trespass the forbidden cellophane. The drink, by the way, is called a Clemens.

The first real challenge to my resolve came today. Today I've got a sore throat. Where I grew up, there were three accepted ways of treating a sore throat, short of actually seeing a doctor. Treatment the first: hot tea. Treatment the second: butterscotch hard candy. Treatment the third: anything salty. The last one, as you might imagine, is proving a severe temptation.

The place where I buy fruit juice also just happens to be the place where I was wont to indulge my sordid spud habit. The sidewalks are crunchy with snow and ice this morning, and (in some places) salted for traction. I'm clomping to the convenience store with crunch crunch crunch in my ears and the crystalline glisten of salt in my eyes. I pause for a long time outside the door, mustering my feeble will power against the barking 0f my tongue and the shrugging of my arteries.

I make it back out, with my resolution intact. Barely. The sore throat's settling in, though, and I'm going to need more juice...

Monday, January 17, 2005

A Tale Of Two Quarterbacks

Sometimes the pictures say it all (From the NY Times).

Of course, if you want some words, Scott Long has some good ones.

The Face Of A New Generation

I'm alive
I'm being born
I just arrived, I'm at the door
Of the place I started out from
And I want back inside
All because of you - U2

In 1983, a nine year old boy on vacation with his parents in Wildwood, NJ glanced up at a TV screen in their hotel. He didn't have a great deal of interest in the sport, at the time being more concerned with the exploits of Spidey, the Hulk, and the Hardy Boys.

But the figure at the plate gave him a pause and a chuckle. After a moment of disbelief, he asked his mother, a die-hard Mets fan since 1969, who it was at the plate?

"Darryl Strawberry. He's the Mets' new outfielder and he's amazing!"

"His name's really Strawberry?", said the skeptical little boy.

"Yep. And he can hit the baseball a long, long way."

The boy nodded in quizzical admiration and went back to his books. He didn't watch but he remembered the name.

Upon returning from vacation, he began checking for this Strawberry fellow in the papers and, before long, began following the Mets in earnest.

Since then, I've been through a lot with this team. Not as much as the young woman who introduced him to Darryl Strawberry, who as a little girl was so sick during the summer of '69 that she had nothing to do but watch a miracle unfold on TV. But certainly enough so that I can appreciate where certain events fall with the history of Mets baseball.

I can remember being so disgusted that the Mets traded Hubie Brooks, my favorite player at the time, for some freakin' catcher named Gary Carter. I can remember coming so close in '85 only to be finally beaten out by Herzog's redbirds. I can remember '86. I can remember '88, the year Orel killed the Mets. I can remember the Coney years, the Pirate rivalries, and how much I always hated Willie McGee (and, god help me, I can't believe he got 5% of the HoF vote).

It has been over a decade since then. A decade ago, the Mets signed Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman, and traded for Juan Samuel and lost all the magic they generated in the '80s. Generation K collapsed, Jeff Kent was traded, and the Mets sank in the standings and in the minds of New Yorkers as they watched a young shortstop come up with the Yankees and take Manhattan by storm.

Since the Bonilla trade, since the collapse of the great Mets teams of the eighties, the Mets have been struggling against themselves. People may say they're just trying to compete with the Yankees, but it's really something more than that. Somehow, the failure of Bonilla and Generation K made the Mets afraid, and it seems like they've been running ever since.

Now, with the additions of Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran, the general feeling is that the Mets are poised for another run similar to the one in the mid-eighties. While that may be getting a bit ahead of ourselves, some of the similarities are striking:

In 1983, the Mets finished 68-94 but the lanky rookie Strawberry took home Rookie of the Year honors, a young (really) Jesse Orosco won 13 games in relief with a sparkling 1.73 ERA, and GM Frank Cashen made one of the deals of the decade when he acquired former MVP Keith Hernandez from the Cardinals for Neil Allen. Then, on October 13th, Davey Johnson, who had never managed a major league game in his life, was named their new manager.

In 2004, the Mets finished 71-91 but super stud David Wright hit 14 home runs in just 263 at bats, shortstop Jose Reyes dazzled when healthy, and GM Omar Minaya made the deals of the offseason signing both the top pitcher and hitter in Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. Then, on November 3rd, Willie Randolph, who had never managed a major league game in his life, was named their manager.

Spooky eh? It certainly tempts one to jump onto the Mets World Series bandwagon but, as with most things, reality often intervenes. Let's look at what happened the next couple years to those eighties Mets:

In 1984, the Mets finished in second, 90-72, behind the new core of Strawberry, Henandez, and the trio of rookie pitching in Doc Gooden, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez. On December 10th of that year, GM Frank Cashen made the second trade of the decade, acquiring catcher Gary Carter from the Expos and pissing off a young lad in Albany.

In 1985, the Mets finished in second again, 98-64, behind Carter's Mets and Doc Gooden's MVP year. If not for Darryl Strawberry missing seven weeks of ball with a torn thumb ligament (in which the Mets went 20-23), they probably would have won the division.

And 1986, well, we all know what happened then.

Those Mets teams got really good in a hurry because of:

1) Young pitching. Specifically, young pitching that came up and succeeded immediately.

2) Davey Johnson turning out to be a genius of a rookie manager

3) The Carter and Hernandez trades that put them over the top

Taking them in reverse order for the 2005 Mets, #3 corresponds with the Pedro and Beltran signings (and Delgado, if it happens). Willie Randolph could be a genius but we really don't know yet. And #1 parallels the young core, only this time it's on the field rather than on the mound. If that core succeeds (and stays healthy), we could see an '84 redux next year. But without them, this will be another .500 team in the NL shuffle.

I'm already on the bandwagon. I've drunk the Minaya kool-aid. I haven't been this excited going into a season since 1986 after the Mets came so close the year before. But let's remember that an awful lot has to still go right before we can return to the Mets' glory days.

But methinks a lot of young kids in New York are going to be putting down their comics this year.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Omar Minaya And The Metropolitan Redemption

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. - Andy Dufresne

I want you to try something with me. Think back to September 29th, a 6-3 loss to the hated Braves with the Mets coming home for their (literally) final series against the Montreal Expos.

Think back to how you felt on that day. Al Leiter was still with the team, likely to return for another year. John Franco still hadn't officially mentioned retirement (in fact, he still hasn't) and there were no indications that the front office was going to bar his return. Victor Zambrano was hurt, Kris Benson wasn't signed, and Scott Kazmir had shut down the future world champions twice. Carlos Beltran was destined for the Bronx and the names being associated with the Mets offseason -- Magglio Ordonez, Richie Sexson -- were the same types of names associated with the Mets in past offseasons, i.e. injury risks the Mets could take a flier on, cheap.

Think back to how you felt going into the offseason. Depressed? Indifferent? Hopeless?

I certainly did. This team had no direction and no hope for the future. We had a lame duck GM who didn't have any power, an owner of one of the wealthiest franchises in baseball in one of the biggest markets who refused to spend money on his team, and a roster filled with a few too many powerful and influential personalities. I think it's safe to say that my morale as a Met fan was at an all-time low.

Then along comes September 30th. Then along comes Omar Minaya. Then along comes hope.

What Omar has done this offseason is nothing short of remarkable given that he came back to this organization just three short months ago. First, he hired Willie Randolph as manager and re-signed Kris Benson (and Anna, we can't forget Anna). Then he cleaned house, ridding the team of Franco, Leiter, and Mike Stanton and stunned the baseball world by luring Pedro Martinez away from the world champs.

All of a sudden, a glimmer of summer sunshine appeared. Hey, maybe the Mets weren't going to skimp and save this year after all. And the way Minaya got Pedro, not just with money but by going to the Dominican and having dinner with him, a full court press on his part, was something we haven't seen out the Mets in years. On that day, I think I started to mentally heal as a fan.

A few months ago, I wrote the following on Always Amazin' in regards to Carlos Beltran:

The Mets have to recruit him and make him feel wanted. They have to commit themselves one hundered percent to getting Beltran and make him come here. Sell him on hitting behind the young core of David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Kaz Matsui. Sell him on having protection in front of Mike Piazza. Sell him on us, the fans, who would love to see him patrolling the outfield of Shea. And finally sell him on the fact that, believe it or not, the Mets as currently composed are better set up for the future than the Yankees.

The Mets can get Carlos Beltran. All they have to do is to try and commit themselves to going all the way.

There was no reason for the Mets to act like a small market team, afraid of competing with the big, bad Yankees. They're in the same town, they're in the same market, they have one of the highest payrolls in the game, and they're much better positioned for the future with their lack of long term contracts and homegrown youngsters. But for some reason, Fred Wilpon became scared the last couple years, afraid of being one-upped by Steinbrenner, afraid to commit to any sort of plan or player.

And that fear of commitment is largely what has held the Mets back. It's what has kept them from getting A-Rod and Vlad Guerrero. And it's seriously depressed many a Mets fan, as I'm sure you all well know.

By signing Beltran, Omar has not only won the ultimate prize of this offseason but he has manage to rid Met fans (and the Met ownership) of this inferiority complex they slowly developed in the 90's. He's given them reason to believe in this team, not only that they can win on the field, but that the ownership can win off of it. He's given all of us a reason to hold our heads high in this town, able to walk with our Irish Night Met caps and David Wright jerseys without feeling defensive. He's given us hope.

I find I'm so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I imagine it's the excitement only a baseball fan can feel. A fan at the start of a new season, whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope David Wright continues to improve... I hope Pedro Martinez can dazzle the crowds like he did at Fenway... I hope Carlos Beltran someday becomes a world series MVP... I hope...

And hope, my friends, is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And we owe all our hope this offseason to Omar.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Physical Graffiti

Soon to be seen on buildings throughout all of Queens

(With apologies to Eric Clapton, who is still a god as well.)

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Failure of Duty

I realize that as an American citizen of the twenty-first century I'm required to have an opinion (however fatuous and ill-informed) about everything, up to and including the personal lives of celebrities I've never met. It is with considerable embarrassment, then, that I must confess the following shortcoming.

I don't care about the ball that recorded the last out of the 2004 World Series. It doesn't bother me that Doug Mientkiewicz has kept it. It doesn't bother me that the Red Sox want it. It also doesn't matter to me in the least who prevails in this matter.

Amazing things happen to some baseballs. In 1954, a baseball ended up in the glove of Willie Mays, streaking full tilt from home plate in centerfield. In 1960, a ball off the bat of Bill Mazeroski, not known for his clout, ended up over the fence in Forbes Field, completing one of the more improbable upsets in World Series history. In 1986, a ball trickled...excuse me, I've got to throw up in a bucket and mail it to Charlie Sheen. Amazing things happened to these baseballs, and I'd pay good money to gawk at them.

The ball currently in the possession of Doug Mientkiewicz bounced once, landed in a glove, and was then tossed into another glove. Its progress concluded something remarkable, but what happened to the ball itself was pretty mundane. I can't imagine a group of school kids, twenty-five years from now, being stung by its absence in a display on the 2004 World Series.

If I have an opinion on any of this, it's that the writer who broke the story is an embittered, muck-raking troll, gratuitously interfering with a matter better conducted in private. But then, that largely squares with my pre-existing opinion of the writer in question, so I'm returned to my original sense of the story. It's a non-event.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Rogues Gallery

(Special thanks to my co-blogger for retrieving the majority of the images below.)

The Yankees are getting Randy Johnson for Christmas, albeit belatedly. Me? I was fortunate enough to find the first season of Batman: The Animated Series on DVD under my tree. I'm not here to suggest that the two acquisitions are comparable, and yet the intersection of these respective changes in fortune is suffusing my mind in a peculiar way. The Yankees have always been the bad guys, but which bad guys are they, exactly?

Jason Giambi would have to be Bane: steroidally fuelled, and only fleetingly if sensationally relevant to a larger pop mythos. Memorable Batman villains need reasons for their actions other than "I'm a Batman villain," and this crucial ingredient was left out of Bane's recipe. Like Bane, Giambi's place in the rivalry will seem odd, quaint even, before too many more years have passed.

Randy Johnson
is about to become the Scarecrow: lanky, sinister, and fear-inducing. One of the few Batman villains who was successful in other endeavors before turning to crime, the Scarecrow devotes considerable talents to a needlessly malevolent purpose. In migrating to the Bronx Johnson (as Eric Neel has so eloquently contended) is doing the same.

Gary Sheffield is Killer Croc: strong, violent (just check out that swing), intimidating, but somehow completely uninteresting. A prototype of Bane, debuting roughly ten years earlier, with slightly more staying power.

Mariano Rivera most resembles the Riddler. The Riddler bases crimes around hokey puzzles that most of us have solved or seen solved by the time we are ten, but he somehow makes us forget that we know the answer. Mariano Rivera bases his success around one pitch, but somehow makes hitters forget how he's successfully retired them the last seventeen times in a row. They're both brilliant within carefully delineated parameters, and they're both a lot more trouble than they should be.

Jorge Posada
is the Penguin, pre-Danny DeVito and with apologies to Ron Cey. An underrated member of the rogues gallery, the Penguin is both more dangerous than you think he is and less dangerous than he thinks he is. Suits Posada to a T.

I'm tempted to assign A-Rod and Jeter to Scarface and the Ventriloquist, respectively. Scarface is a loud-mouthed wooden dummy/"crime boss" and the Ventriloquist is his mild-mannered "assistant." Whenever A-Rod talked last year, it seemed like Jeter's lips were moving. Plus A-Rod played the last four games of the ALCS like he had a hand up his ... anyway, much as I loathe them both, I decided this parallel would be too reductive to insist upon, although not too reductive to mention.

, on *snicker* second thought, is Two-Face. He's the greatest shortstop to ever play the game! He's a greedy egomaniac! He's a former 40-40 man still in the prime of his career! He's a glove-slapping weasel who can't back up the trash he talks! Eh, flip a coin.

Derek Jeter, as might be expected, is the Joker, the first face you think of when you think of evil in Gotham. To be honest, this might be higher praise than ol' Blanche DuBois deserves. Menacing as he is--he was the only Yankee still putting up a fight in the last two games of the LCS--Jeter simply can't match the Clown Prince's macabre and inspired zaniness. Still, a history of inflicting pain counts for something. Besides, just look at that smirk. Tell me you haven't seen it on a Visa commercial.

The Bronx Zoo has closed, kids. It's Arkham Asylum now.

Beltran A Met?

I'm posting this here because this little corner of the internet has "less credibility" (whatever that means) than Always Amazin' is supposed to have, despite the fact that they're both written by the same hack of a blogger.

NYFS is reporting that the Mets have reached a deal with Carlos Beltran. I really, really want to believe this is true but considering how wrong they were on Moises Alou, this is just too big a story for me to comment on over at without any additional confirmation (and since I'm not a reporter, I really don't have the time to follow this up).

I hope they're right, not only for the Mets' sake, but because it would finally give NYFS, a site I dearly love for their minor league coverage, the credibility it needs to compete with the big boys of the NY media.

If they're wrong, however, they're going to need a Mo Vaughn sized towel to wipe all the egg from their faces. And I'm going to mourn from now until spring training for my team.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

"All of this, all of this can be yours"

This from today's Denver Post, with gratitude to the ever vigilant Hardball Times for the tip-off:

"The Red Sox want to unload [Byung-Hyun] Kim and are willing to eat about 80 percent of his $6 million salary. They are seeking multiple mid-level prospects, thus far preventing a match with the Rockies."

Byung-Hyun Kim's place in Red Sox lore, such as it is, results from his involvement in one of the best "addition by subtraction" trades of recent years, though it was not thought to be so at the time. Kim was supposed to be the point of the deal, brought in to shore up a bullpen that was crazy like a Chad Fox. Which he did, until the Red Sox really needed him, at which point he started giving up runs like he was channeling John Wasdin . The real enduring positive of the trade turned out to be the deportation of Shea Hillenbrand, whose absence cleared the way for David Ortiz to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting American League.

Had his Red Sox story ended in 2003, Kim might yet be remembered a little fondly. Instead, he shrewdly flipped off his home fans during pre-game playoff introductions, and the specter of the bullpen he failed to steady spooked Grady Little into Pedrogate. This was further compounded by Theo Epstein giving him what has proven in hindsight to be a terrible contract. To top it all off, Kim's recalcitrance about altering his workout routine in spite of a troubled arm cost him his spot in the rotation this April. Kim is still relatively young, and he might yet have a reasonable facsimile of a major league career in front of him. It is nevertheless apparent that no part of this hypothetical career will develop in Boston. (Nor is it likely to develop in Coors Field, I suppose, but as a Red Sox fan that's not my problem.)

Once again, Kim's greatest contribution to his present club would be to take his place in an "addition by subtraction" trade. Consequently, if I'm Theo Epstein, I'm not sure I'd hold out for "mid-level prospects," plural. I'd settle for a mid-level prospect, singular. I'd settle for an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. Heck, I'd even settle for an autographed photo of Aaron Miles, provided it wasn't accompanied by Aaron Miles himself. I'd just want Kim off my roster. If the Rockies want him, I say pay for the shipping, if that's what it takes.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Spreading "No Question"

Compliments and apologies to James Thurber for the title.

I think I first noticed it about a year ago, during the NFL playoffs. Troy Aikman began nearly every other sentence of his commentary with two simple words: "no question." I didn't like it, in much the same way that I dislike any phrase that gets repeated a little too often. Then again, Troy Aikman is hardly our National Barometer of Eloquence. Maybe it was a concussion thing.

As football season eventually (thank heavens) turned into baseball season, I noticed that the same spores of unvarying diction clinging to Aikman's palate had spread to Tim McCarver as well. There was "no question" about a great many things: the desirability of dropping a sacrifice bunt, the necessity of slow runners trying to go from first to third on sterling outfield arms, the indisputable holiness of Blanche DuBois. I gritted my teeth a bit, and then I settled down into a shrug. Maybe it was just a Fox broadcasters thing.

Now, though, my ears were acutely tuned to these increasingly obnoxious two words. I was hearing them everywhere, from anyone who had an opinion about anything. Phrases like these come and go, but the spreading "no question" I find particularly objectionable for the following reasons.

1) Anything you say following "no question" is, by your own admission, stating the obvious. If there's no question, why do you need to make the point?

2) The phrase is often heard at the beginning of a response to a question. If someone asks you about something and you begin your answer with "no question," you are implying that your interlocutor is ignorant of well-known realities.

3) The phrase, as used in discussions of certain controversial policies, is a way of pre-empting a conversation about important issues of public life that are genuinely in dispute.

This third incongruity in the use of the phrase is, I would suggest, especially irritating. The people claiming there is "no question" about such matters are sufficiently well-spoken to know what they're doing, and sufficiently intelligent to know better than to do it.

Perhaps my sensitivity to this phrase is an occupational hazard. I don't think so, though, inasmuch as I have lacked a real occupation for quite some time. I have many wishes for 2005, some of them extravagant and likely unattainable, some of them so curious and petty that I won't task you with them here. Between these two extremes falls this wish: I hope to hear a vast reduction in the use of "no question" sprinkled throughout broadcast discourse. In return, I will gratefully become less of a hectoring word-badger, and expend my peevish wrath elsewhere.

There are a variety of words available for asserting the absolute correctness of one's position. A great many of them end in "ly." Let's use them.