Sunday, April 30, 2006

Writers versus Tannenbaum/Mangini

It seems to me that the only people upset about the Jets not getting Reggie Bush are scribes like Steve Serby and Gary Myers. Myers also ripped the Jets for not taking Matt Leinart.
History hardened Jets fans cheered at D'Brickashaw Ferguson's selection. One Jet fan actually pointed at his head to indicate smart choice. Most of ESPN's analyst seemed to understand what Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini were doing, not only accenting the positives, but realizing that the Saints price was beyond what anyone could pay. The second pick of Ohio State center, Nick Mangold signaled the Jets know there are no quick fixes and are indeed building for the future. With a shut-down left tackle and a center perhaps now representing cornerstones of an offensive line that plays in cold weather, essentials could be in place for a decade.
In Oregon's Kellen Clemens the Jets have their quarterback of the future. Although in Rich Cimini's assessment indicates questionable arm strength, ESPN's Ron Jaworski emphatically endorsed the pick and showed tape of the kind of high quality throw Clemen's will be making in the NFL.
It seems that Woody Johnson hired two sober, sharp football guys to run his football team. And they don't read the newspaper.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

One down.....

Readers must notice my frequent utilization of ................Its even in my blog title. I often ask myself why is this so. But I know its intended to add emphasis and drama to the obvious. And the obvious for the Mets and their fans is that even in a series that is not even a month old, a sweep is something that's needed badly to rid themselves of the demons the past.
Last night was a beginning and hope is enhanced knowing that John Thompson and Kyle Davies will be taking the mound for the Braves these next two games at Turner Field. So with the Chipper Jones home run in the sixth which made it a one run game being answered in dramatic fashion by the Carlos Delgado sac fly and David Wright homerun in the ninth, a message was made clear. These Mets won't be wilting in the shadows on the Jones boys in Turner Field and will bring it for a full nine innings.
Willie Randolph may been entertaining thoughts of removing Pedro Martinez after facing both Jones' in the sixth, but the Chipper Jones two-run homer which made it 3-2 changed everything. Martinez answered quickly by striking out Andrew Jones to stem the fresh wound. Then he went on to quiet the Brave bats in the seventh enabling Randolph to put the ball in the hands of his most reliable relievers in Duaner Sanchez and Billy Wagner.
Before Sanchez' easy eighth, Jose Reyes probably went out to short thinking about bunting to lead off the ninth to get his team another run. With Reyes' speed, any ball that is an effort for a pitcher to reach is a hit. Paul LoDuca's unselfish team play continued with a quality bunt to get Reyes to third after his stolen base for Delgado. Delgado delivered his 68th career sacrifice fly in front of Wright's second homerun of the game.
This remarkable performance by the top half of the line-up in the ninth on the road shows focus on winning beforehand and proverbial killer instinct. Done once during the course of a season, it becomes easier and easier to duplicate as it draws on.

Friday, April 28, 2006

All the elements of foreshadowing.....

...are in place for the beginning of tonight's last three days of April in Atlanta. The numerous comparisons to the 1986 Mets are understandable in an anniversary year that's being celebrated and in this writer's points of reference. With hopes and expectations high, both teams had its own kryptonite in an adversary. For the Mets of 1986, they needed to prove they could both beat and dominate the Cardinals after the bitter 1985 campaign. For these Mets its much more painful, with an almost decade of futility behind them.
My friend, Adam Rubin runs the numbers today in his column in the NY Daily News.. A bitter pill loss to the Braves in six games in the 1999 playoffs and a good run to the World Series in 2000 for a loss to the Yankees never has filled the void. The Mets have been a franchise of immeasurable uniqueness with its two championships so endlessly romanticized. Seemingly, this current team, like the 1986 bunch, needs to exorcise its demons.
A wounded and mediocre Braves team arrived at Shea Stadium last week, but left with 2 of three games. Not again. And with the Mets not winning a series in Atlanta since 1997, the numbers aren't, well, encouraging. In 1986, the Cardinals beat the Mets in a bad opening day loss. But the two days of rain which followed somehow soothed and healed before winning five straight and moving on to St. Louis to sweep 4 in dominant form. For these Mets, maybe its a trip to California and a nice day off that will erase the very large monkey on their backs.
Even so, this team's demon is indeed the Braves. And beating them somehow seems a step that needs to be taken before they can move on.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Thats So random for April 27th

Toby Hyde is doing yeoman's work over at Mets Minor League Report . His site is truly your one-stop shopping for day-to-day action in the Mets minor league system. Hyde's spot is part of an inovative idea by Matt Cerrone of Metsblog to host blogs on his site. He indicates which bloggers have recently updated and its easy to join. Matt's going pro and this appears to be a great idea. Make sure you keep Metsblog on your favorites and go there daily............Brian Bannister's injury does not look good and I expect him to be placed on the DL...........I predict that if the Mets decide to place Carlos Beltran on the DL, Randolph and Minaya will summon Lastings Milledge. These two aren't afraid to make moves like these and shouldn't be. Milledge is an immediate impact player, and can provide offense right away. Its rare that this type player is available in your system, and his addition will be like acquiring another bat for free during the season.......The Mets bullpen won that game yesterday, the Wagner homerun to Bonds notwithstanding. I still don't like not using Paul Lo Duca when he's not starting..............Veteran outfielder Michael Tucker wasn't signed just to play in the minors. I'd wondered if the Mets were interested in Lenny Harris. With Jose Valentin continuing to struggle, look for Tucker's name to start being mentioned sooner rather than later. Its imperitive with fewer bench players that a left-handed bat be on the bench that can hit the ball out of the ballpark.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Unwarrated Perception

Two separate realities exist now regarding Carlos Beltran. One, in which are backed up by numbers, is of a player who's demonstrated his resilience and toughness as an everyday player. The other is one in which exists through the fog of talk radio and tabloid snide innuendo. Joel Sherman's story today about Johnny Damon notes the contrasts in perceptions about the two ceneterfielders in New York.


Parole was rescinded over the past week when Beltran hurt his hamstring, found the bench, and the Mets began losing. This quiet, introspective player again is imprisoned by a five-borough debate about his toughness, mental and physical.


I feel as if I'm in the minority of bloggers here, as most colleagues seem to feel that Beltran simply isn't getting it done. Perhaps this is a product of salaries in a historical perspective. Maybe its limited to bad clubs. George Foster and Bobby Bonilla come to mind. Recall Cliff Floyd's relationship during his early tenure. Time will tell with Beltran as both hopes and indications are that this current club is doing well.
Some members of the media have indeed come to Beltran's defense. Most notably broadcaster, Gary Cohen and New York Daily News' Adam Rubin as both sighted Beltran playing with a painful quad injury last season. Cohen brings considerable legitimacy as he's never shied away from criticism for anything Mets. As part of the pajama media, I add myself to this list.
Now to simply make my point. In Beltran's seven year major league career, he's been on the disabled list just twice-in 2000 for a knee injury and again at the beginning of 2003 for an abdominal strain. He never went on the DL last season, either for the quad which hampered him all year of after the still disturbing collision with Mike Cameron. He's averaged If the two month stint for the knee injury is thrown out from 2000, Beltran has averaged better than 155 games perseason. This number alone provides much argument.
In this space here over the weekend, I attempted to detail the reasons why Beltran's current hamstring troubles are nothing to scoff at. Keeping the nature of the injury in mind, Beltran's absence from the line-up has been prudent. Clearly when he attempted to play this past weekend in San Diego, indications were that he wasn't ready. He may have actually aggravated the injury which would explain both the Mets caution and his absence from the line-up.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Political Correctness has reached the dugout

During the 1970's, it became common for female reporters to have access to baseball's clubhouses. It took a court order, but it happened and quite frankly, we all got used to changing in front of our lockers and walking to the shower while there were women present. So at some point baseball was bound to take the next step.
When Mike Piazza homered Saturday night, I'm sure there was more than one person who was surprised to see a female face in the Padres dugout. Count Keith Hernandez among them. His comments and what happened afterwards are covered in Bob Raissman's piece this morning in the NY Daily News.
After I left baseball I had the priveledge of working with students from the University of South Carolina Athletic Training Department. Half were female. So in that number I knew eventually women would find thier way into the highest levels of professional sports. It's here.
Kelly Calabrese is a Certified Massage Therapist and is considered part of the Padres medical staff. Acceptance of her or another professional like her is not actually formal, but is accepteSo d practice. Its true that MLB rules allow for only a head and assistant trainer to be in the dugout during the game. But for some time nowclubs have had strength coaches and physical therapists and they have been in the dugout, too. This argument that she shouldn't be there base on this unenforced rule doesn't apply.
At any rate, Keith Hernandez made his comments in a manner which some may have found offensive, he was called on the carpet and subsequenly apologized. I feel that I know Hernandez well, and feel his comments were based on the fact he indeed has respect for women. A baseball dugout is a harsh place with rough language and men say things and do things that in my opinion can never change. I believe Hernandez is indeed a gentleman and doesn't feel women should be exposed to this. I agree and feel that here is a place where baseball cannot be feminized.
Having said this, from here on as women are clearly going to be part of clubs, they are going to have to accept the natural male competitive nature of the game. And they must realize they cannot and should not attempt to change it.
Kelly Calabrese did not react well in her indignation, making it a gender issue in the manner she chose. She's not off to a good start. And neither are the rest of us.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Twenty years ago tonight.....

...the Mets went to sleep in the Marriott Motel directly next to Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. It was an off day, having flown to St. Louis after a 7-1 win over the Pirates in New York. We'd won 5 in a row after a troublesome start of 2-3, including a bad loss to the Cardinals on Opening Day at Shea. A ball had gotten by Howard Johnson in the 13th. The five wins were healing, but a four game series with a Cardinals team that we'd not yet proven we could beat with any consistency awaited. The winning streak had brought us even at 7-3.
Perhaps other teams were already taking offense to the swagger and were becoming weary at the domination. After taking a five 5-0 lead in the fifth on Tuesday night, Pirate pitcher, Bob Walk knocked down Kevin Mitchell. Bobby Ojeda was making his first start and badly wanted to retaliate. Davey said no. Not now. Maybe another time. Davey always seemed to say no, but never got in the way of letting the staff police as they saw fit.
The winning streak notwithstanding, memories of the 1985 struggle with the Cardinals was in everyone's mind as sleep came restlessly the night before a series that would eventually be the signature of one of baseball's most famous teams.

On Hamstrings, History, and Real Concerns

We had just removed Vince Coleman from a game at Shea during the summer of 1991 and I came over to speak with our manager, Buddy Harrelson. Coleman had just injured his hamstring running out a ball to first.
Buddy asked, "is it day-to-day?"
I replied, "there's no such thing as a day-to-day hamstring."
Met training staffs have long dealt with hamstring injuries. Steve Garland and I witnessed Keith Hernandez' and Ron Gardenhire's problems along with Coleman's during the late 1980's. Scott Laurenson seems to have been the fall guy for Jose Reyes troubles a few years ago. It should be interesting to note that both Hernandez and Gardenhire later had back surgery. This shows just some of the potential complications that accompany hamstring tears for athletes well beyond the isolated leg issue, and are among the many things that are going through everyone's minds with respect to Carlos Beltran's current injury.
One must first be advised about semantics. In laymen's terms, we refer to "muscle pulls" as "strains". Strains are essentially a tearing of muscle tissue. So for the sake of discussion here, I will refer to hamstring injuries as "tears".
We essentially sit on the origin of our hamstrings, a group of three muscles which serve to flex the lower leg(kick backwsrds) and extend the thigh. They are attached to both side of our lower leg just below the knee. One small origin is on the thigh. This bone we sit in is called the ischial tuberosity. Its part of your pelvis and thus closely related to your lower back. Tight hamstrings pull the pelvis downward and can create complications for your back.
Conversely back problems can cause hamstring disorders. Consider the position baseball players take in the field between pitches. This odd, hunched over posture, often with their hands on their knees puts undue stress on your back much like sitting at a desk or driving for long periods of time. There is a good reason why your mother always told you to sit up straight. As this position is taken frequently during a players career, it may explain why someone as young as Anderson Hernandez already has a bulging disk.
Thus often a lower back goes along with the hamstring when considering plans of care and histories. Also, the tear needs time to heal. Keith Hernandez hamstring had a big "S" palpable scar in it after his re-injury. And this is where there is cause for caution as an aggravation or reinjury of an already existing hamstring tear can be devastating. Time frames for return can take two months and even longer. Unlike the quadriceps group on the front of the thigh, one cannot play with a hamstring pull. Beltran played with a bad quad all last season, but this is different. A hamstring injury is painful just to stand on.
So along with knowing these dangers, Beltran's recent MRI which indicated inflammation and an old scar doesn't throw caution to the wind. You can be assured the medical staff of the Mets realize all of these things and more. Certainly Beltran does as well.
I must take my old friend, Steve Phillips, to task after he said on ESPNs Baseball Tonight that Beltran's reluctance to play was motivated by not wanting to play hurt again this year and feel the heat from Mets fans. He should know enough to know he cannot possibly know the whole story. He's not there and not part of the staff who's advising all parties concerned. An MRI can't serve as the end all here.
Keith Hernandez lay prone on the training room table in the old Wrigley Field clubhouse in 1988 when the late team physician of the Cubs, Stan London, poked and probed at his hamstring. Mex had gone down two steps after leaving the batter's box as if a sniper had gotten him the day before. He'd injured it slightly in St. Louis at the beginning of the season. London confirmed the severity.
Hernandez looked up at Steve Garland and me and said, "this one's going to be a long one."
Scenes as this aren't what the Mets want repeated.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Pedro's Greatness as told by The Mex

"When he missed, he missed in," were the words Keith Hernandez spoke in 1989 one evening in Dodger Stadium when observing Frank Viola's mastery in the dugout between innings.
He spoke with the same and more reverance tonight for Pedro Martinez tonight about his outing in San Diego. Hernadez continues to offer the same commentary for you in the same way he spoke in the dugout when he was a Met. I told him as much this spring and hope he continues to. His insightfulness goes well beyong what most analysts are capable of.
And with the good finish by Jorge Julio tonight to seal a 7-1 win, another dominating start by Martinez continues to make Omar Minaya awfully, awfully good.
There are no words at all to describe how it feels to make this team my own once again after a decade of giving up this wonderful game all together.

Oh, Boy...here we go

And aren't we all shocked to find out there was drinking going on at a party for 3rd base coach Manny Acta? And its Jorge Julio's upside down Margarita which gets all the press. Nevermind that Julio's last three outings have been very, very good. Not with visions of Julio's poor outing which contributed to one of the Mets' five losses still dancing in everyone's heads.
And of course the inevitable comparison to the 1986 club comes to mind. Um, didn't they win 108 games? And then another 8 to win the World Series. I don't recall witnessing any recreational shots which required and accompanying stupid human trick along with it, but I'd be shocked if one or two-maybe-had not taken place. This writer admittedly recalls some similar behavior of himself in the past.
I'm going to have a hard time getting all worked up about these revelations. Omar Minaya's reported indignation notwithstanding. Fortunately the piece included Jay Horwitz denial of Minaya's aforementioned indignation.
Can anyone really blame Julio for letting his hair down a bit with all the crap he's gone through of late. Maybe the, ahem, blow-out, allowed him to loosen up the old sphincter enough to find his release point again.
During WWII, British Bomber Command used to ply crews with rum during debriefing sessions after hazardous bombing runs. Outings as described in this Rush and Malloy bit are common place in baseball, have been for some time and will be for a long time to come. Its one way in which camaraderie is established and maintained for a grind like no other. There's certainly no comparison to combat, and I for one give thanks for men as milblogger, Mudville Gazette states, "Good people sleep peacably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." In off duty hours I'm sure many of you have witnessed groups of soldiers and sailors enjoying evening as these.
Drinking to excess on a regular basis is clealy not somthing one would ever want as part of their life. I can personally attest to this. But good men can get together for an evening and be bad boys.

Hit Tip: Ryan McConnell

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Losing something of its magic

The topic for the day was "Reproduction and Development in Vertebrates" in my freshmen Biology classes yesterday. I kept ESPN's Gamecast minimized on my computer so I could sneak a peek from time-to-time between lecture and class management. As the game progressed I realized an old fashioned NL pitching duel was underway at Shea Stadium between two of baseball's best.
There wouldn't be many relivers. (There weren't-only Aaron Heilman for a perfect ninth....and more on that later)
It wouldn't take long. (It didn't: 1:59).
It would be decided by all the best guys on the field. (It was-Tim Hudson, Andruw Jones and Tom Glavine)
It was the way we used to be.
But having said all of this, in losing two out of three to the Braves, this years Mets lost a little bit of its magic before heading for the west coast. A healthy team would find favorable conditions in the large new confines in San Diego. But alas, this is not what awaits them.
Its not often that three everyday players suddenly find themselves hurting and on the bench. These things are unpredictable and can leap upon a mannager. Its why the roster is 25 players. But over the last ten years make-up of rosters have changed in a significant fashion. During the 1980's it was common to carry ten pitchers, even nine. That practice has changed to 11 to 12, leaving significantly fewer players on the bench. Hence situations that persented itself to Willie Randolph this week. Aside from Paul LoDuca, the only available healthy player on the bench was Julio Franco. Thus only one time at bat for a pinch hitter when under more healthy or another roster structure more ways to get this game would have been available.
For example, with a staff of ten pitchers, Randolph would most ceratinly have had another left handed bat on the bench and also the opportunity to hit for Endy Chavez as well late in the game. If Victor Diaz had still been here instead of the luxury of two lefthanders in the bullpen, he would have been in left and Jose Valentine's veteran bat would have been available. If a third catcher had been available, he could have used the exteremly valuable Paul LoDuca at some point.
Teams have changed to desiring the luxury of extra pitching to the hinderance of their bench. Witness yesterday Willie Randolph's Mets.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Duaner Sanchez ......

...is clearly filthy as he was described by David Wright. His strike-out of Brian Giles to end the seventh was huge. And didn't you love the way he leapt off the mound? Randolph's used his pitchers well. Martinex got the first two of the last nine outs. Sanchex got the third and can get the next three, including Andrew Jones. Billy Wagner can have the last three in the ninth.

In game blogging...

I'm limited to the ESPN feed tonight with two old National Leaguers, Rick Sutcliffe and Eric Karros doing the color. Early speculation had been that Randolph would take out Martinez for a pinch hitter, but left him in to pitch another inning. With a one-run lead he was left in to face the bottom of the line-up.
Sutcliffe noted that Martinez had given up hits on the first pitch after giving one up to Pete Orr. Clearly an adjustment was made by the Braves via their coaches.
And how about that response by Pedro on his way out by turning around to acknowledge the fans?!

Taken to the woodshed

Here's something the blogosphere adds to talking about baseball. Two anonymous fans took me to the woodshed for my bloviations about Jorge Julio, fans, the press, and the Bensons. Fair enough. You supported your positions with sense. Good job readers. And thanks. I feel that Minaya made the best trade he could at the time. Perhaps it had been on his agenda to do so. If either Julio or John Maine proves to be serviceable here or with someone else, we'll have to re-assess again. Only time will tell.

Finding Jorge Julio...

Did anyone bother to notice that Kris Benson was beaten yesterday by the Angels? No? Oh, thats right....having too much fun giving Julio the what for at the games this weekend. And you writers were having too fun banging out that same old crap criticizing Omar Minya for the trade in the first place. Lets not let practicalities get in the way of New York negatives.
Shea Stadium has never been kind to relievers. And although I'm not on the side of the fans in this, I know there's no way I can change it. But I think Bill Schroeder from the Brewers' called it as it is. Its hazing. You want to see them do better and will quickly jump on the bandwagon. Perhaps Jorge Julio will find himself. I for one really believe it was worth it.
No writer has really indicated just how much of a problem that Anna Benson had become. No one will go on record. Her public statements most ceratinly caused problems in the clubhouse and nevermind the wives room. Recall her statement about getting revenge on her husband for cheating on her by servicing everyone in the team photo. Nice. Classy. That went over well in the wives room I'm sure. And guys, I'll bet you got an earful on the ride home after the game.
This couldn't go on. Anna would have found a way to diflect attention to herself somehow during this great start by now.
Move on, folks. We'll find Jorge somewhere down to road.

Where's Mex?!

Ryan McConnell raised the question about the absense of Keith Hernandez from the booth on SNY telecasts. When I met with Keith this spring he told me he didn't want to do a whole season and they agreed on 100 games. Ron Darling is to do the rest. Recently remarried, I imagine that this was a weekend that he wasn't scheduled to work. Although I am unable to get all Mets broadcasts- yesterday I received the Brewer's feed on my Cox Cable baseball package- I've seen both Darling and Hernandez work. Obviously having a personal relationship with them both leaves me a bit prejudiced, but I fell their both very, very good. Both of them convey insights about the game much the same as they did when they played. I particularly liked Darlings advise to Jorge Julio saturday of , "Never let them see you hang your head." This was a particular mantra among Met starters of his day. David Cone often yelled at opposing pitchers from the dugout to, "throw it and hang your head!"

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Witnessing History: Hank Aaron's 715th Homerun

In my son's bedroom a large poster of Hank Aaron's 715th homerun still is up. The large photo was taken from the camera box next to the first base dugout at the now torn down Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium right after Aaron hit the ball. You see Dodger infielder's Ron Cey and Bill Russell looking up at the ball as it passes above them. A panoramic view of the full stadium is represented beyond. Two ticket stubs are placed over the seats at field level down the leftfield line. I was there. And with my father.
I usually remember the anniversary of April 8. Now 32 years ago, I still recall it vividly.
In my own personal journey of writing about baseball I have some attempts at creative writing. Maybe its prose. Maybe its just lonely drivel. But hearing from many of you, I've realized how baseball is so personal to us. So I think you'll understand me wanting to share this little brief bit about the event and what it meant to my father and I.
Thanks for reading it.


Father sat on his left. The
innocent boy's image was of the
coliseum and cheering masses. The
dark,
cool April sky was the theatre
ceiling. Four balls went well
away from the
great man. Discontented, the
masses howled and
implied
mockery. A wait for nextxt time.

An
offer
skipped through sandy dirt and was quickly tossed back.
Fifty-thousand
rained indignation at the obvious slight. Yet during the
masked man soft toss
back was a warming felt by the boy. A
knowing

The great man swished a bat back and
forth. A head
cocked. A
blink. A stoppage in time
revealed a ball sailing on a fateful
flight for the great man. His seven, one
and five. A moment shared. A
father and
son,a knowing smile, forever
love, never to be broken by
neither death or
the end of time.

Friday, April 14, 2006

And emerging disconnect

Perhaps history is repeating itself. Ten games have yet to played by any major league team of yet, but already the New York Mets are five games ahead in the loss column of their chief rivals, the Atlanta Braves. One can't help but still say its awfully early, but a team's record and performance is what it is. This team is awfully good and is playing awfully well. And comparisons are already being made to the last two Mets Division Champions of 1986 and 1988.

All indications are in place for a team which may run off and hide. Davy Johnson said during spring training prior to the 1986 season that he wanted to dominate the season. But the 1986 team didn't really get off to a good start at all. It wasn't until the now legendary four-game sweep at the end of April in St. Louis against Whitey Herzog's Cardinals did the route begin. The 1988 team did indeed get off to a terrific start similar to this year's version, yet an almost two-month malaise during the summer was off set by mediocrity among division rivals.

So it must be noted that mediocrity is emerging among the NL East teams this season that may under value actually how good this Mets team may be. Domination has already been demonstrated amongst the divisions lower echelon with the Braves and Phillies already showing early signs of holes. Its is this weakness of division rivals which may shadow to an extent how good this team really is and be disconnected from some acclaim until the post-season.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Around the minors

Scouts in the International League certainly are reporting Heath Bell's dominance for Norfolk He's struck out the side in both outings thus far. Expect to hear his name in trade rumors or for him and Jorge Julio to trade places. Henry Owens still hasn't allowed a hit in three outings and has 10 strikeouts over 4 innings of work. Mike Pelfrey was exteremley effective in his second start last night for Gary Carter's St. Lucie Mets. He's allowed only one unearned run over 11 innings of work and has 13 strike-outs. Remember, all Mets minor league starters are limited to 75 pitches during April. I expect Pelfrey to only make one more stop in the minors before a promotion to Shea. If all goes well for the Mets this season, look for his recall in August so he'll be eligible for post-season play......Cuban pitcher, Alay Soler has been assigned to St. Lucie as well and pitched five scoreless innings in his first start...........Lastings Milledge is batting lead-off for Norfolk and hitting .300

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

In Washington this week,,,Baseball's Special prosecutors: Umpires

As Washington debates and leverages immigration policy on itself this week, baseball will break out in the nation's capital. And in special prosecuted like fashion, umpires will have carte blanche to prosecute any suspected malfescance by pitchers. Much like the Patrick Fitzgerald-Scooter Libby thing going on now that makes one's hair hurt, the word, "intent" will be on the minds of the umpires as to whether or not to take action if even if a pitch comes inside on a batter. Nevermind whether or not it actually hits him or if he actually even wanted too.

Can you imagine if every time contact occurred in a NASCAR race, someone could be ejected? The problem is that Baseball has put too much pressure on the umpires and asked that they judge on the fly a pitchers intent. Too often, a young umpire gets this wrong and a pitcher and manager are tossed and it alters the manner in which the game is called. Its akin to asking umpires to be the Thought Police. The righteous indignation you see managers put in is much about efforting to influence said Thought Police.

The fact of the matter is that all pitchers pitch inside and all batters are moving toward the plate during a pitch. Both need to do this for success. Occasionally a batter will get hit. There's gamemanship on bothsides as both hitter and pitcher attempt to establish ownership of the inner 1/3 of the plate and off the plate for that manner. Recall visions of body armor.

Baseball has attempted to legislate the intricacies of the dynamics that occur when a pitcher pitches inside.

I recall a memorable staredown that occurred between David Cone and Pedro Guerrero in Dodger Stadium. Guerrero was on top of the plate and Cone pitched him inside during the course of the game. When Cone finally hit Guerrero....with a curve ball.....Guerrero tossed his bat at Coney and stated toward the mound before Barry Lyons grabbed him. Even as intense as the Dodgers and Mets rivalry was during the 1980's, the Dodgers knew what was going on.

This is a subtle give and take part of the game that has always been part of the game. What we've witnessed in recent years, is hitters getting more and more on top of the plate attemping to get more plate coverage and being more aggressive with their strides. The body armor era didn't help. Pitchers are equally entitled to any part of the plate and off the plate inside. The increased role of umpires to eject pitchers has only led to more conflict and controversy and fueled indignation by batters.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Thats SO random

The Binghamton Mets won their game in 15 innings yesterday, 2-0. Henry Owens got the win while getting striking out all six batters he faced in two innings of work. Thus far this season, Owens also has two saves and has 10 strikeouts overall in just 4 innnings of work........Heath Bell struck out the side yesterday in his first inning of work in Norfolk.........Go to a MiLB.com for a great way to follow the minors..........Buster Olney was gushing over David Wright this morning on Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio. He said that John Smoltz and Chipper Jones made significant endorsements about Wright this spring. Olney points out that that Wright, batting fifth, is in an advantageous spot in the Mets line-up. And Olney is one of those who predicted Wright would earn MVP honorsthis year....... Bob Watson has signaled that Umpire Supervisor, Steve Palermo will instruct umpires to be aware of any problems this week in Washington.

Thats SO random

The Binghamton Mets won their game in 15 innings yesterday, 2-0. Henry Owens got the win while getting striking out all six batters he faced in two innings of work. Thus far this season, Owens also has two saves and has 10 strikeouts overall in just 4 innnings of work........Heath Bell struck out the side yesterday in his first inning of work in Norfolk.........Go to a MiLB.com for a great way to follow the minors..........Buster Olney was gushing over David Wright this morning on Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio. He said that John Smoltz and Chipper Jones made significant endorsements about Wright this spring. Olney points out that that Wright, batting fifth, is in an advantageous spot in the Mets line-up. And Olney is one of those who predicted Wright would earn MVP honorsthis year....... Bob Watson has signaled that Umpire Supervisor, Steve Palermo will instruct umpires to be aware of any problems this week in Washington.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Its the sum of the parts......

...which matter most.

For some odd reason, I'm unable to get Mets games with the Marlins as I did last season. So I was reduced to following the game on MLBcast. Its pretty cool. One of the features is counting the number of pitches per at bat. So I was able to follow Paul Lo Duca's 11 pitch time at bat to lead of the 7th.

Dontrelle Willis had been masterful through six, only needing 66 pitches. He had a 2-0 lead and the advantage. It would take, well, hardball to snatch a victory from one of the games best and most dynamic starters. Enter Lo Duca to lead off the seventh.

To look at Lo Duca's stats leaves one unaffected, but there's the game within the game that the men who play it know oh so well. Keith Hernandez was one man who knew this game and played this game as well it could be played. And I can imagine his thoughts favored Paul Lo Duca leading off this inning. His reputation as one of the game's finest situational hitters preceded his arrival. Lo Duca didn't dissapoint and singled after laboring Willis through 11 pitches. Carlos Beltran then got his first of two key crucial base hits in rallies for the game-this one, the all-important second hit during an inning and then the lead-off hit in the game deciding ninth.

This obviously brings us to David Wright, who got behind in the count until hitting a triple to right to tie the game. Somehow you knew Wright would deliver in the ninth and continue to establish himself as a player to be recond with in the National League this season. Wright already has 9 RBI this season. He's making those observers who predicted him to be the MVP look awfully good.

Tom Glavine's start was again solid. Duaner Sanchez pitched two innings of solid, scoreless relief. Billy Wagner had a scoreless ninth, throwing 12 of 19 strikes.

But you all saw the game, didn't you? You don't really need a recap. I envy those of you who were part of a full stadium today, and wish I'd been there, too. We would have both seen an example of a team victory, witnessing several parts contributing to the win. And it will be the sum of these parts which will matter most as the season progresses

That's SO random......

....is a an expression I've learned from HS students that they aptly use when one of their contemporaries says something, well, off the wall. I love it. And I've stolen it and made it part of my own verbal and written repertoire. So you can expect to see it when I just want to make some observations about items of interest................Baseball is a team sport unique to all others in that games and its preperations occur daily. Considering spring training and a hopeful run into post-season play, this routine can cover as much as 8 months. The relationships that exists between the team during this grueling, unparalleled grind are paramount to success. People often scoff at the word, "chemistry" when its spoken and linked to a team's fortunes. But anyone who's ever been part of a season can attest the value in chemistry to the point its almost indescribable. This being said, lets consider one Julio Franco. Farnco was batting .437 in Mexico after 110 games when the Braves purchased his contract in 2001. Franco had played the previous season in Korea and had two season long stints in Japan as well. The experiences Franco garnered playing in other countries helped shape this remarkable man into becoming one of the game's most respected players. Witness his efforts at peace-keeping when he personally restrained Jose Guillen last week after being hit by Pedro Martinez. Even Frank Robinson stood aside while Franco consoled the temperamental Guillen. And it was Franco who got Carlos Beltran to acknowledge the Shea Stadium crowd that same night after his 7th inning homerun. And it should come as no surprise that Anderson Hernandez' locker is next to Franco's either. Watch for this man's influence throughout the season. By the way, Franco has never played in a World Series....................Both Billy Wagner and Pedro Martinez struggles can be attributed to the understandable loss of innings in Florida. Don't worry. Note Pedro's strike-outs he registered on the black......Wasn't it a shame to waste that brilliant diving catch by Hernandez last Wednesday?................It seems Adam Rubin agrees with me about fans being unfair to Carlos Beltran. Imagine that, eh? A blog at the Daily News. I met Rubin at spring training and he's a very nice fellow. He actually knew about my blog, too. Hopefully the powers that be at NYDN will allow Adam to link some of the best Mets blogs like Metsblog or MBTN.NET or Faith and Fear in Flushing or the Great Metstradamus or Dave Murray or ME for heaven's sake. (Ed note: Errrrr, Bob. You egotistical bastard. You don't even have any on your own page yet!) True enough. I plead ignorance into how to get it done............. Anyway the best Mets reporting is being done by Rubin and my old friend, Marty Noble. Look for Marty's work at Mets.com. Although he's had a break from the beat, Marty's is the dean of those covering the Mets this year. Good addition by MLB.com and bad subtraction by Newsday...............I'll be shocked if Kaz Matsui wears a Mets uniform this season............If David Pinto can have Curling, I can have NASCAR. I'll be flipping back and forth this afternoon between the Mets and the Samsung-RadioShack 5oo from the Texas Motor Speedway. Baseball could take lessons from the way NASCAR markets itself.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The metropolitan eastern seaboard fan

My first trip to Philadelphia in 1985 stays with me. Mike Schmidt was being booed lustily by Philly fans for getting off to a slow start. A big red-faced fellow screamed at Schmidt from behind the screen at home plate after popping out with runners on base. It was awfully close at the old Vet, and both dugouts and Schmidt could hear, "Schmitty, YOU STINK ! YOU STINK! YOU STINK!"

Probably hearing it all before and perhaps even agreeing in a fashion, Schmidt seemed unaffected. Schmidt's certainly forgotten about it by now, but I will always recall the incident when I think of fan displeasure for athletes. And I have an observation that may give some pause for readers. I've found that these most vociferous examples to be unique to the metropolitan eastern seaboard cities of Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Some commonality exists among the three. All three have histories which date back to American Revolutionary. All are port cities. All three have significant ethnic neighborhoods and identities. All three have more than one widely read daily newspaper. And I believe at least one tabloid exists in each city which contain a full back page for sports and a provocative headline. All three have storied franchises in the four major team sports. All are in close proximity and accessible via train and have been so for generations. The list goes on.

These things being brought together creates a perfect storm for rabidity for pro sports. I've experienced it and have indeed been part of it, too. All's one would have had to do would be to witness me during the Rangers run to the Stanley Cup in 1994. Passion for pro sports teams here far exceeds that of any other area of the country. The only thing which comes remotely close is college football in my native south where an Auburn fan marrying an Alabama fan is still considered a mixed marriage.

So it shouldn't surprise that athletes here are routinely booed in such collectivity. Ed Whitson and George Foster are two who certainly come to mind for performances which left something to be desired in the minds of fans. Consider Carlos Beltran.


Expectations accompanied Beltran when he arrived last season with the Wilpons willingness to make Beltran one of the game's highest paid players. Memories of Beltran's play-off performance the previous season was expected to be duplicated at Shea. The 2005 Mets had glaring holes, yet played hard for Willie Randolph all season. Cliff Floyd played in 150 games and had a career season. In his first full season, David Wright played in 160 games and drove in 102 runs. But Met fans found Beltran's season lacking, but they really did not consider the whole picture.

Beltran played 2005 with an extremely painful injury to his quad. It affected every aspect of his game, yet he gamely still played in 151 games for the Mets. Everything that's done in the game is done on a player's legs. So Beltran's ability to use his legs when hitting suffered greatly. Nevermind what it did when he ran the bases. He played with the shadowy knowledge that any quick movement or acceleration could cause a significant tear in the quad and he would likely be lost for two months. Keith Hernandez suffered a re-tear of his hamstring in 1988 and missed close to 50 games. The Mets played the 2005 season with post-season play a reality. So a less than 100% Carlos Beltran was certainly better than one who wasn't in the line-up at all.

Beltran knew this and so did Randolph and his teammates. This is why you are seeing Mets coming to his defense this year in unison. Athletes in New York rarely will come out critical of a fan base which they realize is so supportive unless they feel it is warranted. And with Beltran it is.

I'd imagine that somewhere in Philadelphia someone is planning a billboard or something with Terrell Owens photo on it in a Cowboy uniform. The caption will be something like' "...just another reason to hate the Dallas Cowboys." Never will we see such hostility that awaits Owens return to Philadelphia in the fall. And its a passion that unique to the part of the country.

Ron Darling remarked to me last week that the Mets of the mid to late 1980's fed off these expectations and largesse, and he was critical of former teammates who didn't seem to realize this. As for the Mets and their fans this season, I sense something afoot. I got on the field prior to three games last week. And an energy was palpable when I sat in the Tradition Field dugout.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Another Opening Day to Remember

It just had to be rainy and overcast, didn't it? As I waited for the Tradition Field elevator with Keith Hernandez after last Thursday afternoon's game with the Cardinals someone commented how beautiful the Florida day had been. But Hernandez aptly added, "Yeah, but Opening Day Monday in New York will be cool and overcast...just perfect."
Indeed, Mex. It certainly was.
And a win, a good way to start out all things 2006. Glavine's solid start. Getting the lead and never relinquishing it. Good first impression by Paul LoDuca and Xavier Nady's 4-4. David Wright's homerun and solid play at third to get the first out in the ninth. And speaking of the ninth, Billy Wagner getting the last three outs, the final on a fine throw from Carlos Beltran to get Jose Vidro at second.
We did a timeline of life on earth today in my Biology classes, and I thought often of how it was going,what it must be like. And I wasn't disappointed by what I found when I arrived home for the ninth.
I saw faces smiling on my television from the stands, many of you using your video phones and showing the game to friends and family who weren't there. ESPN's Jeff Brantley said how loud it was. And its like no other NL park. Besides, its New York. Its supposed to be loud.
Billy Wagner's trip in from the bullpen, Wright's play to get the first out, Wagner's strike-out of Matt LeCroy and Beltran's throw to get the third out a ninth to remember forever.
Happy Opening Day everyone!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The familiar smell......

...of southern pine burning in the northwest Florida woods was welcome as I drove along I-10 with an hour left of my drive. It was calming, a welcome reminder of home that I needed. I waffled about staying another day, but sometime around mid-morning Friday I decided to head home. A full two days of calm seemed appealing after the weeks' events.
The drive offered much time to ponder things. It was nice sitting in the dugout again and rubbing elbows with people of my past. It was nice to be warmly greeted and remembered. But its nice to be home now. I'm grateful to have been part of the game, but equally grateful the place I find myself now.
Ron Darling asked me Thursday if I liked teaching, and I said yes. And without reservation. I don't need to be part of baseball anymore as I had during the agonizing first few years out in the early 90's. I need to do something else now. One of them is to write about the time and the game itself. One might call it closure.
I've found I don't need it anymore, the everyday grind of the season. Building another life near family is what I'm sure most have found beyond baseball, and I'm finding it now. Finally.
Yes, I'll go back again. And I'm a Met fan now, too. I can find it on my own terms though, and determine how it will be. I know I badly need to write and finally have it as a big part of my life and future. I always knew that I would write, and it was baseball which brought me to it full circle.
Off to complete the book. Wish me luck.