Mike's Mets

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Stop the Insanity

I was listening to Willie Randolph's report on WFAN this afternoon. Willie didn't give Joe and Sid the answer they wanted on Trachsel and Zambrano. Sure enough, afterwards we had to endure all of the conspiracy theory crap about how the Mets still have to justify the Scott Kazmir trade, and there is pressure from the top to keep pitching Victor.

I'm so tired of hearing this stated as if it is indisputable fact. Most of us agree that this was a bad trade. I like and respect Steve Trachsel, who has easily been our most consistent pitcher over a couple of dreary seasons. But, unlike some Met fans, I remember a lot of starts by Trax where he didn't have it. The game slows down to a crawl, he starts nibbling with his pitches and gets whacked around pretty good. To me, there's not a huge difference between the two. Trachsel is a more polished pitcher, while Victor has better pure stuff. I'll let Willie and Peterson make the decision which of them to start.

As for the conspiracy theorists out there who believe the Mets as an organization would rather justify the Kazmir trade than go with their best chance of winning, think about it. The Mets have a huge investment in their new cable network next year. What do you think it will be worth to them getting it off the ground if they can make the playoffs this year or at least stay in the race until the end? I think it might be worth a lot more to Fred, Omar and the gang then saving face on a trade that Omar had nothing to do with. The Mets' management understands their best bet to distance themselves from the stench of last year is simply to win now.

What a Fool Believes

Mets 6 - Phillies 4

I'm so skeptical. I love the Mets, but I never allow myself to get unrealistic about their chances. If anything, I'm probably a little too much of a pessimist - it's a self-defense mechanism beaten into my psyche by too many bad teams, bad seasons, bad management and bad players. Going into that last road trip to Arizona and San Francisco I felt comfortable, based on how this season has gone, that the Mets were going to quickly fade out of the playoff picture.

Then they finally learned how to take care of business. Arizona is a fairly bad team, but you had to be impressed with how the Mets jumped on those Diamondbacks and never let them up. That's what a real contender does. I felt an unfamiliar sense of optimism that lasted right through the 2 losses in San Francisco. But the way they lost those 2 games, and a day off Monday to think about it, brought me back to my usual skepticism. And certainly the way last night's game started did nothing to change my mind.

Then something strange happened to me. When the game was still 4-1, I found myself abandoning my protective skepticism and just rooting for the Mets to come back. I won't take credit for any type of premonition or psychic vision. When you're down 4-2 in the 7th against the strength of Philly's bullpen, you understand that your team is likely to lose. But I didn't care. I was just living in the moment, enjoying my team fighting to remain in the race. That they actually came back and won that game made it just that much sweeter. Thank you, Ramone.

I hope that I can abandon all hard-hearted reason and hold onto this feeling for a while. It's the way a pennant race should be enjoyed. Wouldn't it be great if all of us Met fans can toss aside our individual agendas and biases for a while and just enjoy what is such a rare occurrence in Flushing. Trachsel, Zambrano, Matsui, Cairo, Looper... can't we all just get along and enjoy this?

Random thoughts

  • Nice to hear you again last night, Keith Hernandez. My only regret was that Ted Robinson was away covering tennis rather than Fran Healy. I'm sure tennis fans would love to hear a lob described as a can of corn...

  • When Looper struck out Rollins leading off the 9th, it was his first K since August 19. Not that Looper has ever been a strikeout stud, but he's definitely down in that stat this year. He has 25 Ks in 53 innings this year, and 11 of them have come in 5 of his 53 appearances.

    There's more than one way to skin a cat or save a game, my point in sharing this is that it's amazing that he saves as many games as he does with fairly unremarkable stuff. As I suffered through Benitez saving 2 games against us this weekend I couldn't help but wonder what you might have in a closer if you combined Benitez' arm with Looper's head and heart.

  • Speaking of Rollins in the 9th, is anyone else out there annoyed by players that strike out on a ball in the dirt, then just stand there and let the catcher tag them? Run it out to first, force them to make a throw to get you. Everyone does this now, and I find it inexcusable, especially in important games like last night's.

  • Finally, on Ugueth Urbina: I know a lot of Mets fans were disappointed when we didn't get this guy, and it's easy to jump on someone after a poor performance. Still, I'm glad we didn't give up a top prospect for this guy. He walks a lot of guys - 19 in 36.1 innings since coming to Philly. He pitches like a guy that doesn't really trust his stuff anymore. Do we really need another reliever like that?

  • Tuesday, August 30, 2005

    I Don't Want Manny! Part Duex

    Yesterday I wrote why I didn't want Manny Ramirez on this team despite the obvious need to upgrade the offense. After I finished my post, I gave some more thought to this subject. I considered what I might say to Fred Wilpon and Omar Minaya if I had the chance. Since I know that will never happen, I hereby resort to a somewhat pretentious literary device...

    An open letter to Omar and Fred


    Thanks for making this season actually fun again. I had almost forgotten what it felt like. You've done a remarkable job of turning this franchise around in one year.

    I know that there are a lot of Met fans out there that make their voices heard by calling into talk radio shows and demanding that you do whatever it takes to improve this team. They want you to trade for Manny Ramirez or Alfonso Soriano. They question your commitment to the fans when you fail to make the marquee move that they desire. Even radio talk show hosts that have nothing but contempt for the Mets lobby endlessly for such a move.

    I hope you understand that there are many loyal Met fans out there that have no desire to make their voices heard in this manner. We have strong feelings too, we just don't wish to wait on hold for hours for the chance of 15-30 seconds to express those opinions.

    I'm one such fan. I've rooted for the Miracle Mets of 1969, the "Gotta Believe" team of 1973, the 1986 champions, and dozens of mostly awful teams in between. I've maintained a loyalty to this team from youth into middle-age. I care.

    If there has been one constant I've seen through all of the years, it is the failure of the farm system to provide impact players for this franchise. Sure, we're excited about Wright and Reyes (thanks, Fred, for firing Steve Phillips before he had the chance to trade them), as we were with Doc and Daryl back when. Still, the sad truth is that these guys and a handful of others were the exception to the rule. To me, this is the single biggest reason why the Mets are bad far more often than they are good.

    Omar, I agreed with the moves to bring in Pedro and Beltran. This was a team badly in need of bold strokes. I do question the need to tie up tons of money in overpriced players on an ongoing basis. Seems to me that's a formula for failure that other Mets teams have followed (ah, but Bobby Bonilla did have a great smile, didn't he).

    They say that you are a creative executive that can think outside the box, Omar. How about finding away to strengthen our lineup for next year without blowing the bankroll and making us markedly weaker defensively? How about finding a way to develop the few prospects in the system? In fact, how about putting money and your expertise into building one of the premier systems in baseball rather than the cesspool it has been?

    As I wonder how the Mets will address the need for a true closer in the off-season, I question why the franchise has such a poor record developing our own closers. Looking back, I find it amazing to realize that the last time we had a home-grown talent closing games for us mullets were still cool haircuts for guys. That was a long time ago, wasn't it?

    As I watch revenue-sharing taking effect over the last couple of years, I see small market teams that used to be glorified farm systems for the rest of baseball are now able to keep their talent. It's going to be tougher and tougher to find key guys via free agency, and you'll pay through the nose for anything worthwhile in a trade. Seems to me it will be the teams that can find help from within that will be the most successful in the coming years. If we had a decent system, we could even trade some top prospects for what we need and not deplete the system as we have done previously.

    Fred, I know there are some that will call you names like "Fred Coupon" when you don't go after the big name that they are fixated on. I don't imagine I would enjoy that much if I was in your place. Yet as disgusted as I've been with this team at times, I never questioned your desire to have a winner in Flushing. The problem is, under your watch the Mets have changed directions more times than a squirrel in the road. I think you have come to realize the folly of trying to buy a winner, but you find it hard to ignore the deafening demands of some fans for the next guy that is supposedly the missing piece.

    In the 70's, I saw this team go from the darling of New York to a sad joke. After an all-too-brief span of time in the '80s, it happened again. We had a couple of good years around the millennium, and then crashed again. This is a team that had become virtually irrelevant in this area after so many bad years. Fred, I'm tired of this team being a punch line for washed up comedians like Billy Crystal and pompous, fatuous radio hosts, and suspect that you are, too.

    Being on the fringes of a pennant race shouldn't be such a rare event for Met fans. How about a commitment to build something that endures for more than a couple of years? How about making pennant races in Queens a regular event? How about making this team into something we can all be proud of?


    Mean Mets Management unfair to Trax

    A lot is being made of Trachsel's demotion to the bullpen after a great start Friday night. I have to admit this caught me by surprise, if only because I felt Victor Zambrano could actually contribute something out of the bullpen. For those of you out there that are so convinced that Trachsel is getting screwed, please keep in mind that most of us have to endure much worse things than this at work for a lot less money.

    Also, keep in mind that last year we had to endure two starts each from Scott Erickson and James Baldwin, and fourteen from the great Matt Ginter. I like this year's pitching problems a lot better.

    Tomorrow: off of the soap box and back to the pennant race.

    Monday, August 29, 2005

    I Don't Want Manny!

    Giants 4 - Mets 1

    I spent some time thinking about what I would write about yesterday's stinker by the bay. I still don't know what to say. I think, along with the Mets, I just want to turn the page on this weekend and look to what's coming up.

    One thing the Mets proved this weekend is that their lack of consistent offense has a decent shot to sink their playoff hopes, running neck and neck with their bullpen. And I know as well as any Mets fan that the lack of one more consistent middle-of-the-order bat that is their most pressing offensive need. I know there is a lot of buzz that the Mets can get Manny during the off-season. I should probably be excited by this, but I think it would be a huge mistake.

    Don't get me wrong, unlike Alfonso Soriano (let's leave him for another day), I think Manny would actually dramatically help the offense. He'll take a lot of pressure off of Floyd, Wright and especially Beltran. He hits good pitchers. We'll score more runs and endure fewer dreary games like the last two. Pedro will have his sidekick back. It's all good...

    Well, except that he's going to be 34 next year and he's not exactly devoted to physical fitness. You're betting a lot of payroll against Father Time that Manny is still worth anything close to what he's getting over the remaining years of that contract. We've seen with Piazza how dramatically fast the fall-off can happen when the bat slows down.

    Except that Manny is a terrible outfielder. The Mets pitchers don't throw a lot of strikeouts. They rely on their fielders a great deal. Not only is Manny a much worse fielder than Cliff Floyd, when you moved Floyd to Right Field to accommodate Manny you hurt the team in 2 positions. You're going to be giving back quite a few of those extra runs you score.

    Except that even if the Red Sox eat a lot of the money, the Mets are going to have a lot of payroll tied up in Pedro, Beltran and Manny. We're not the Yankees, after spending that much money on 3 guys you're going to have to do it on the cheap in other places (see the Florida Marlins). Don't look for much help from your minor leagues, as you have traded top prospects to acquire Manny.

    I've seen this before, folks. Too many times the Mets give lip service to growing their own talent and then spend it on other teams' problems. Forget about building from within, even though that's the only sustainable model for success in any place outside of the Bronx - and where would they have been during that run without Jeter, Bernie, Posada, Rivera and Pettitte? Let's keep chasing those big names so we can repeat the success of the past 15 years.

    Or could we maybe find creative ways to improve our offense next year without Manny or Soriano? Could we look to acquire players that don't hurt our defense, and that we don't have to overpay to get. Then maybe being in the playoff picture could stop being a rare treat and be the norm instead.

    Sunday, August 28, 2005

    The Cruelest Time

    Giants 2 - Mets 1

    I'm not going to kill myself over yesterday's loss. I can't second guess any of Willie's moves. The simple fact of the matter is that the Mets had an opportunity -- a Phillies loss, a well-pitched game by Glavine and chances to get the runs to win this game. They didn't.

    There are 33 games left in the season now, and opportunities at this time of year are a little more precious, a little sadder when they slip away. With apologies to T.S. Eliot, in baseball September is really the cruelest month, especially when you are involved in a race with multiple teams. Each game is a war, and all that counts is the result.

    For the most part, the Mets have spared us loyal fans this cruelty. Going back the last 15 years, we haven't had much to sweat about:


    In the 36 years that I have rooted for the Mets prior to this year I figure they have been in true September pennant races about a dozen times. 10-year-old me first jumped on the bandwagon during the '69 miracle season. Since then they have made the playoffs five freaking times, which if nothing else proves I'm not the front runner I seemed to be back when.

    Point being: the "new Mets" won the first five games of this trip and injected themselves into this year's race. Pardon me if I feel a little greedy and want to see them hang around for a while. We need to change the culture of sleepy Septembers, and give Wright, Reyes and the rest of the kids their first look at what I hope will be a not uncommon experience in future years.

    The whipping post

    If there is one criticism of Willie I've heard from yesterday's game, it was in starting Matsui over Cairo. Forgive me if I missed something here, but Cairo hasn't been setting the world on fire lately, has he? He's not hitting, and he never walks. I think he's proven to be what everyone thought he was: an excellent bench player and a great teammate. I really like him, and I hope he's still here next year, but not as the starting second baseman.

    As for Kaz, I think Willie sees him as a player that might get hot for a while and give him something. Probably ain't gonna happen, but a worthwhile try. The Mets made a huge mistake with Matsui - first in moving Reyes to accommodate him and then over-hyping him during a dreary off-season. I think Kaz has actually gotten to the point where he is a decent second baseman. I don't hold my breath every time a ball is hit to him anymore. If he could produce offensively like he did last year he would actually be a decent contributor, but I think it's just too late.

    Unlike a lot of fans, I don't blame Kaz for this whole debacle, I blame the Mets, who let their farm system disintegrate to the point where they were forced to overreach for a player like Matsui just to try to get some talent on the field and some off-season buzz.

    Saturday, August 27, 2005

    Just Call Me Mr. Sunshine

    Mets 1 - Giants 0

    At the end of last night's Mets win several random thoughts passed through my mind:

    • This was the kind of game they would have surely lost a month ago.
    • Thank God no more 10 pm games.
    • Willie would have gotten killed by the disgruntled faithful if sticking with Trachsel in the 8th had backfired.
    So many of the weaknesses of these Mets were on display last night: inconsistent offense, a manager still trying to figure out how to manage his bullpen, and a closer that's really a set-up man. Yet you can't completely discount the chances of a team that has six solid starters, developing superstars like Wright and Reyes, and is growing in confidence each day as the calendar turns towards September.

    I am and will probably always be a fan that is pessimistic rather than optimistic. As my bleary eyes watched that 8th inning last night, I knew Willie was making a mistake when he let Trachsel pitch to Winn after walking Tucker (although, in fairness, Hernandez had pitched 2 innings last night). Trachsel was obviously struggling with his location at that point, I didn't know whether he was going to grove one or walk the bases loaded. But he got out of it.

    Then Looper starts the 9th and gives up a double -- not exactly creamed, seemed like I was watching the game in slow motion as if fell between Beltran and Diaz. I've seen this before, yet I surprise myself by believing that things could still work out. Sure enough, they did. My team is a true contender, and I can actually watch the end of a tight game with hope. What a strange trip this season has been.

    Friday, August 26, 2005

    The Other Side of Mediocrity

    Mets 3 - Arizona 1

    I was exhausted watching the game last night. If I possessed the smallest amount of sanity and common sense I would have just gone to bed, but I was curious. After all the months of clinging to .500 like a security blanket, were the Mets finally ready to legitimize themselves as contenders?

    I have to confess that after 35 years of rooting for this team I've come to look at hope as a dangerous thing. I doubt that makes me unique among veteran Met fans. I try to keep hope reigned in as much as possible to avoid disappointment, but I know it's there -- you can't root for a team like this for so long without the capacity to hope that things might change for the better.

    There were times this year that I thought the Mets might be ready to take the step they took this week. In June when they won the Cliff Floyd game against the Angels I thought they were on the verge, but they lost the next day and then had that awful trip to Oakland and Seattle. At different times since then they have dropped opportunities like they were hand grenades. In sports, the biggest leap is not from bad to decent, it's the next step from mediocre to winning contender.

    The game last night was eerily reminiscent of some truly awful losses from earlier this year. Pedro struggled early, the offense scored a couple of runs and then went to sleep, and then Heilman was awful when he came in. Hernandez gives up the homerun to Tracy that hit the top of the fence and bounces over -- and yet they won. For a change, the big breaks are going their way.

    They're still facing a brutal stretch of road games that might yet kill this season. The bullpen is still suspect, Beltran disappoints, the offense is up and down, and we worry about Pedro and Benson holding up physically. Most of the teams that Mets are chasing are arguably better than they are. Hell, they might not make it out of San Francisco with our optimism intact. For all of that, I can see this team really contending down the stretch, and I'm going to enjoy this for however long it lasts.

    The voice on the milk carton...

    Matt Cerone at MetsBlog had an opinion piece this afternoon about how hard it is to listen to Fran Healy on Mets telecasts, and asks the question "did someone tie up Keith Hernandez and hide him in the basement at Shea"?

    Fran Healy aside, the continued absence of Keith from the broadcast booth is more than just inexplicable, it is offensive to me as a Mets fan. When I turn on a Mets game and find Keith on the telecast I know that my viewing experience is going to be better. He not only makes the game a better listen, his presence makes the other broadcasters better.

    He did a game with Seaver one weekend a while back on channel 11. As an old Mets fan, I have a high regard for Seaver from his playing days, but face it -- Seaver just sleepwalks through those weekend games, picks up a check and goes home to California for the week. I'll be damned if teaming with Hernandez didn't pick up Seaver's game. It was the best weekend listen of the year by far.

    I don't know what the Mets have against Keith Hernandez that keeps his appearances in the booth so rare. It's hurting the telecasts, and it's a disservice to fans.

    Thursday, August 25, 2005

    Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming

    Mets 18 – Arizona 4

    I watched most of the Mets - Diamondbacks game last night although I was falling asleep off and on as the game got further and further out of reach. You need adrenalin to keep you up for those western road games, but even the most nervous of Mets fans had to feel fairly good about that game by the 5th inning. I'd drift off, and every time I'd wake up Mike Jacobs or David Wright was hitting another home run. I have to check the box score, but I think they must have hit 5 0r 6 each.

    I've been a Mets fan for a lot of years now, and offensive explosions like the last couple of days have been mighty rare. 32 runs was a good couple of weeks for some of those teams. Just think, last week the lads got shut out by yet another rookie on Thursday and then won a 1-0 nail biter the next night. Was that really last week? Seems like longer ago than that, somehow...

    Easy to let yourself get giddy about something like this, but I think most of us Mets fans are trying to keep our expectations reasonable. We've already been on that rollercoaster this season. Still, I had a bad feeling that this series against the Diamondbacks was going to look a lot like those games in Colorado from late July, and now no matter what happens today I give them credit for taking care of business against a team they should have beaten. If they had done that all year, they might have been sitting in first place right now despite all of their flaws. So although I'm not making my plans for the playoffs just yet I appreciate the fact that this team has grown from their struggles this year. Going into this August, I have to admit I feared a repeat of last year's sad dog days collapse, by avoiding that this team has proven to me that they've turned a corner.

    Still, I don't want to get carried away with optimism. I don't want to set myself up for disappointment yet again this season. If the Mets don't come crashing back down to earth against the Giants I'll have to find out when Richard Neer is on this weekend on WFAN. He'll find about 20 ways to let us Met fans know that our team still sucks, while being just so nice, so reasonable, and so darned fair about it...

    Boo birds, warm up those chords...

    To those of you out there who live for the chance to go to Shea and boo the hell out of Kaz Matsui and Victor Zambrano, don't forget that next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will be your only chance before mid-September to do so. Please don't let the fact that both have accepted demotions (Kaz to the bench, Victor to the pen) with grace and willingness to do what it takes to help the team win. After all, it's your right as a fan to boo.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005


    I think a lot of Mets fans were hoping for a scenario last night where Victor Zambrano would get shelled pretty good but the Mets would manage to score enough runs to win. Surprisingly enough the offense came through and did their part, scoring 14 runs against the shell-shocked Diamondbacks, but Victor pitched 8 solid innings, complicating things now that Trachsel is back. Now there is no "easy" solution to the problem of six starters for five spots.

    I have to admit that when the Mets traded Scott Kazmir for Zambrano last year I felt really betrayed. To me, it smacked of the type of dumb move that the Mets became famous for during the 90's and through the evil days of the Steve Phillips era at Shea. But unlike a lot of Mets fans, I'm not going to hold Zambrano personally responsible for the trade. Kazmir is gone, Victor is here, so lets all deal with it.

    Having said that, I'll be interested in seeing how well Trachsel pitches and I do agree that of all of Mets starters Zambrano is legitimately the most vulnerable right now. I think he has made some good progress under Rick Peterson (funny how you don't hear so many WFAN callers bitching about Peterson lately) and I think in the long run past this season I think I'd rather see the 30-year old Zambrano over Trachsel (who turns 35 in October). You wonder how much Trachsel has left in his career, and Zambrano does have really good stuff and should benefit from continued work with Peterson.

    However, despite the good performance last night, Victor has been shaky and disturbingly hittable over the past month or so, after being arguably the Mets most consistent starter for a couple of months. Yes, Virginia, there is a pennant race and the true potential of actual "meaningful" games in September, and whoever is most effective out of these 6 guys should pitch - period. In the long run, though, as much as I love and appreciate Trachsel I think the Mets need to favor youth and potential, and in 2006 I think Zambrano fits better. In the unlikely event that the Mets find a taker in the off-season for Glavine, perhaps there will be room in the rotation for both.

    Willie loves those kids...

    It's refreshing as a Mets fan to see young guys from our organization actually helping the team. A combination of trading away any decent prospect and poor scouting and development has really hurt the Mets over the years. The AAA affiliate in Norfolk in particular has tended to look like a graveyard of has-beens over the past few years than a source of actual help to the big club.

    Calling up Mike Jacobs (from AA Binghampton no less) to help out was an inspired move, whether or not he continues to hit or winds up being overmatched in the bigs. If the Mets are ever to build a real contender that is able to sustain itself over more than a year or two will depend very much on the ability to find help from within the organization. Trying to build a club with expensive free agents or trading for overpriced problems from other organizations (Manny, Soriano et al) is not going to do the job. Look at the cost of players like David Wright (some of you were hot to trade him away while he was still in the minors - remember...), Jose Reyes, Victor Diaz and Jacobs and figure out how much it would cost to replace their production with similar numbers from veteran players. There's only so much money to spend, money saved with the salary of productive young players can be spent on improving scouting and development and acquiring some veteran players that can really help. Have a real plan rather than just trying to find lightening in a bottle with the Mo Vaughns of the world.

    Sure, I don't believe that Willie loves the kids as much as he professes to right now. It's easier to know what you're getting when you slot a veteran into the lineup. Victor Diaz in particular with all of his potential is a problem child. The thing is though, Willie, if you aspire to be a great manager, you'll learn to get the kids to contribute. The Mets don't need to be the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and can afford to spend money on getting and keeping talent, but can only be stronger and more exciting if there is a blend of youth and experience.

    I should probably feel guilty about this...

    Speaking of kids, when I woke up this morning I was surprised to see my girlfriend spending some of her precious pre-work time watching the replay of the Mets game from last night on MSG network. She turned to me and said, "this kid Jacobs is amazing!" The thing is, my girlfriend always hated baseball - she thought it was boring. After pinching myself to confirm that I was indeed awake, I realized that thanks to me, my girlfriend was on the fringe of becoming a full-fledged Mets fan. And to be honest with you, though I got a kick out of it, I wondered if I am doing her a favor by facilitating this.

    But then I realized that I am giving myself too much of the credit (or blame). Sure, I was the one who put the game on, but it was the team itself that sold her. They might be flawed, but they are fun to watch, and she really gets a kick out of Wright and Reyes. For the first time in a long time the Mets have a team that sells itself, and I think the young players are a huge part of it.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    Here We Go

    Just what the world needs -- another blog dedicated to the New York Mets. It just begs the question "why?"

    It's simple really. In this day of sports talk radio, there are all too many people willing to talk for the fan. I'm tired of hearing some pompous radio host or loudmouth Mets fan saying that "the Mets fan feels this way" about something pertaining to the Mets.

    I've been a Mets fan for over 30 years, I have an opinion about much that happens with this club, and it seldom agrees with what the loudmouths or "experts" say it is. Sure -- I know that this blog isn't going to be read by many, probably no one but me at first, but I want to speak for myself. That's why this blog is here, and I can only hope if you have stumbled across it you will find something of interest.