Remember this? June 14th, 2008. The game would ultimately be rained out and the Texas Rangers would play Slip ‘N Slide on the tarp. Some WFAN callers would then criticize the Mets for not getting out there.
Here’s a dose of nostalgia for you: Random photos from the last game at Shea Stadium 9/28/2008.
It was a horrible game. The Mets played sloppy baseball all around the diamond, and didn’t hit the ball with runners in scoring position. Niese didn’t throw enough curveballs and was forced to get too many outs in one inning, but survived through five.
This game was not a result of comments made by guys in suits. This game was the result of play on the field, which wasn’t better than the Cubs play on the field. Ruben Tejada was not thinking about what a meanie Fred Wilpon was to Jose Reyes when he failed to catch a pop-up going back.
Jason Bay is not done. He’s not very good, deserves all sorts of criticism, and is killing the lineup but he’s not done. Just like Carlos Delgado was not done in 2008. Remember him? I always laugh because there’s a blog out there called Ketchup On Your Ice Cream, whose last post was a frantic call for Mike Carp to replace him. This blog still stands, nearly three years later, as a monument to not overreacting. Yes, Bay looks horrible. Luckily he’s a hard worker and a hustler. He can come out of it. No better time than right now, when the Mets need offense the most.
Justin Turner is not “regressing to the mean” as I saw one beat writer note last night. Rookies do not regress, because the idea of regressing suggests a baseline value. Justin Turner does not have a baseline value, because his major league sample size is ridiculously small. Even punching in his Buffalo numbers to the extremely questionable minor league equivalency calculator gives him a respectable .743 OPS in the majors. Obviously it’s unlikely he’ll hit like Albert Pujols and drive in a run every game, but that doesn’t mean he’s trash.
The Mets are not done. Yes, they’re in a tough spot with the offense. Justin Turner helped some, but when he cooled off no one else stepped up to get big hits. When the offense is struggling the defense needs to make the plays and avoid costly mistakes that extend innings and make things tougher. The Mets had been pretty good at that, but they’ve gotten sloppy again lately. They’ve got one of those “turning point” series coming up this weekend with the Phillies. Everyone overreacting right now will likely be overreacting in the other direction if the Mets win that series.
The pitching is not horrible. The bullpen is actually very good, but the starters are what’s in question here. Yes, Pelfrey and Niese fell apart around some sloppy play and bad luck, but they’re not crap. Pelfrey is a solid above average workhorse type pitcher and Niese is still learning the league and the craft. Dickey put up a good showing on Friday and hopefully that means he’s back in command of his knuckleball. Gee’s a rookie and Capuano’s pretty solidly average. I’ve long been saying the good part of the Mets rotation, and the team in general, is that they all around don’t suck. There aren’t any huge black holes and automatic outs or gimme pitchers. Every pitcher is capable of pitching very well, and most of the time they’ll keep the team in games. The lack of an ace, for now, is mitigated some by having an above average back end of the rotation. I also suspect Sandy Alderson is looking for a couple of pitchers that could help out a little, for depth purposes, but it’s hard to find much in May.
So in the end, it’s just one game. You can’t overreact and point to every three game losing streak as confirmation that all the negative gibberish spouted about the Mets is true anymore than you can take a three game winning streak as evidence that I’m correct in my prediction of the Mets clinching the division on August 25th against the Phillies. It’s a long season, and lots of things change week to week and even day to day.
The Wheel of Time turns, and Mets seasons come and pass, leaving games that become legend. Legends fade to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called 2010, an Age yet to come, an age long past, a press conference started in Flushing. The conference was not the beginning. But it was a beginning.
Okay, the quote barely makes sense, but the cyclical nature of the Mets history reminded me of Robert Jordan’s epic series. The Mets are again faced with a reboot of sorts, shedding some dead weight and redirected the franchise that has run off course.
So far I feel Fred and Jeff Wilpon said the right things. I’m sure some of it’s probably saying what we want to hear, but they’ve given the right answers and seem to have the right goals and motivation. I’ll take it. Words are all we have right now, until after the World Series when we can start signing guys, and even that’s nothing until we play, and win, some games.
This season wsn’t a total waste for me. The Mets made a lot of strides in appeasing and interfacing with fans and bloggers. They created a Twitter account and started interacting. They invited a group of bloggers ‘into the fold’ and gave us an opportunity to stand on the field and talk to players during batting practice. They’re aware that there are a lot of intelligent people that spend a lot of time focusing on the Mets and thinking about them in detail. Giving us that opportunity this year was an amazing thrill and one I’m extremely thankful for. It also gave me a chance to meet some of the fellow bloggers that I’ve been interacting with for a while.
You may have noticed, or not, that I’ve been posted a lot less. It’s not the Mets, although them being mostly irrelevant for a month didn’t hurt, but me. I’m getting married this weekend and things have been rather hectic. The Mets did not reward me with a wedding present of a NLDS game to miss, and David Wright did not respond to my wedding invitation . I probably won’t be updating much over the next couple of weeks, but I suspect once things settle down I’ll get right back into it. I’ve got some stuff planned in the offseason including some sabermetric debates that I’ve been putting off as well as some trying to match up the title of the blog with the 2011 season and the direction of the team. In other words, a couple of spin posts trying to justify believing the Mets can and will win the World Series in 2011. (Hey, it’s more fun than predicting doom and gloom. Aren’t you tired of that?)
The Oliver Perez Situation and the 24 Man Roster.
Oliver Perez will not go to the minors. I know most of us think he probably should, and some irrationally want him released, but if he’s not going to go the Mets need to figure out how to proceed.
Burying him in the bullpen is not a recipe for success or a solution. This is systematic of the problem that Omar and Jerry created with how this roster is constructed. You could call it managing scared, or managing not to lose. Putting him the bullpen and not addressing the reason he’s there in the first place is basically playing with a 24 man roster.
I want to clarify here that I’m not excusing Oliver Perez here. He’s pitched poorly, failed to execute his pitches, lost his velocity, and is actively hurting the team by refusing to go to the minors to get it straightened out.
Oliver Perez is talented. He has ability to throw the baseball and get guys out, and win baseball games. He did this the last year he was healthy, in 2008. He did it the year before that, in 2007. His greatest success was with Peterson, and he continued that for a period after Peterson left. He has steadily declined the longer Warthen was the one guiding him, including this year when new mechanics seem to have sapped not only his control, but his velocity. There were times this year when Perez was throwing four pitches, at four different speeds, and was able to throw them for strikes. Maybe he just hasn’t had enough time to get a handle on this new way of pitching, maybe just a mere 1-2 mph on the fastball would make a world of difference. This is not something I, or anyone else, can figure out from the other side of the television set.
So what is Dan Warthen doing? Has he buried Perez in the bullpen and doesn’t know what to do with him? Is he actively working on getting Perez to be better with those strikes? Tinkering with his mechanics so he’s more comfortable? To me, it’s always seemed like Perez has lacked a fundamental understanding of pitching, of when to throw strikes and when to throw balls, on when to go for a strikeout, and when to pitch to contact. These are things that can be taught, if you could get through to Perez, and I don’t feel like Dan Warthen is. Coupled with this is John Maine, who tried and failed to pitch the way Warthen thought he should. When John Maine went back to what he was most comfortable with, he was successful more often than not.
I see no pitchers that have actively gotten better since Dan Warthen has been the pitching coach. No reclamation projects, no continued bouts of success. Whatever Dan Warthen brings to the table, it doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of the Mets pitchers. Oliver Perez, for better or worse, is here with the Mets. He’s not going to take a demotion, and that means the Mets need to find the tools to get the most out of him.
Greg over at Faith and Fear likes to go on about the ‘almost’ seasons like ’97; years that express the Mets rebirth from the basement into a competitor. These are usually seasons that have little or no possibility of horrific disappointment because you expect nothing and know it’d be a crazy long shot for anything magical to happen.
No one is looking at 2007 with anything but disgust; At least not on this end of the Jersey Turnpike. There was very little ‘good’ to take out of last year. Even something that might have been something, Glavine’s 300th win, was forever marred by..well you know. I’m sure there were some fun and memorable moments from 2007, but I find myself at a mental block whenever thoughts stray to that year.
2008 will be better, because it’s not like those other years where we expected nothing and got something. Not because it can’t possibly be worse. In a way it combines that magical trait of moving from nowhere to somewhere with the expectation of something exceptional. Much like ’83 or ’96 were worthless years leading into something bigger, ’07 will be the same way. The difference with 2008 is that it’s not coming off an era of irrelevance. Disregarding all the Shea Goodbye and other off the field stuff, 2008 is a recovery year but not just one where we look at the team and enjoy watching them because there is hope and good baseball for once. 2008 has endless possibilities all the way to the end, but even if it were to end as horrifically as any other season there is still that ‘97/’05 quality to it that will keep it in our minds.
For us younger fans (And by that I mean under 30 or so, which is a sad statement in it of itself), I imagine this is how it felt to watch Gooden in 1984. Pelfrey has blossomed into something every team dreams of, a home grown Ace. Even if he might never be the Ace on the Mets because we already have one, even If the Mets never win another game this year, there is something rather exciting coming out of 2008 that makes most of us rather giddy. Can you imagine what the future holds with a 1-2 punch of Santana and Pelfrey? How about how solid Daniel Murphy looks at the plate, coming seemingly out of nowhere? And of course I don’t need to express how wonderful it is to have two franchise ‘veterans’ in Wright and Reyes continue to shine. They hopefully haven’t even reached their prime yet, and they already hold places in the Mets record books that will have them mentioned for decades to come. These are only some of the moments that make 2008 already memorable. From as simple as sweeping the Yankees in the final Subway Series at Yankee Stadium to the possibility of winning it all, 2008 has something for every Mets fan to remember fondly.
Where will this chapter of Mets history take us? That’s yet to be determined, but it’s safe to say that the season will be full of successes no matter how it ends. Step back from the internal strife, the bullpen woes, and the late-inning offensive slumps to appreciate the good aspects of the season. Whether it’s Reyes’ or Wright’s all around good play, the joy of watching an emerging Ace or an already dominant one, the discarded player in Tatis making a comeback to have an excellent year, or any of the other exciting secondary stories that are playing out this year. Then brace for the next four to eight weeks as I expect this season could jump to near the top of the list of best seasons ever for both young and old fans alike.
Tomorrow is the day. At noon tomorrow the moment we’ve all been waiting for since Glavine walked off the mound that Sunday afternoon. His upgrade, Johan Santana, will report to Port St. Lucie and officially start the 2008 baseball season. It’s not quite the regular season games we’re waiting for, but having daily news, even if it isn’t much, to look forward to everyday will be a much needed joy.
David Wright will be showing up this weekend, as ready to get started as we are for him to get started. Wright is the player I think we have the most confidence and faith in. He played his heart out last year, all year. He truly cares, truly wants to win, and plays the game the right way both on and off the field. I would rank the players I have the least questions about going into next year like this. David Wright, Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran. I also have few worried about John Maine, or even Pedro Martinez.
I know most people probably think I’m insane for not worrying about Pedro, but I’m not. As the time came for him to return last year, I thought he’d have a good couple of starts, and that he could really contribute in the playoffs. We never got there, but Pedro did pitch well. Now everyone is saying you can’t count on Pedro, but I don’t think that’s true. His pitching in September proves that the injury he recovered from isn’t going to inhibit him, and he’s only recovered more from it now. He’s still an ace pitcher, he still knows how to pitch, he still has that ability. And he’s healthy. Sure he’s brittle, but he’s always been brittle, whatever that means. It’s possible anyone can get hurt in 2008, but I don’t think Pedro Martinez is more likely, and certainly not a given, to get injured. Plus Pedro is a competitor. I think he’ll truly thrive on this come back of his, plus I think he’ll thrive on the friendly competition he’ll have with Santana. They are going to feed off each other all year. A thriving, strike-out thirsty 1-2 punch of Santana and Martinez is going to have opposing batters at Shea Stadium whiffing so much it’ll change the wind patterns.
However, this team did come off a horrible collapse, and we’re going to need to see something from them to really regain our confidence in them. One thing that comes to mind would be to see a combined 3-22 stat from Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell during the opening series. That would really make us feel good, although we can’t forget that Rollins and Burrell had a pathetic showing during the opening series at Shea in 2007 also.
A quick word on the former player Roger Clemens. I listened to some of the hearings today, and I was actually laughing at Clemens. He comes off so badly in my opinion, that I’m absolutely convinced he did steroids. It’s no longer a he said, she said situation, it’s a he said, THEY said situation. From the little I heard, McNamee, Pettite, Pettite’s wife, and Mike Stanton all have said Clemens has taken steroids. Clemens countered most of this with garbage like “I don’t remember that.”, or “Pettite must have misheard”. It doesn’t look good, and I’m done with all the attention this is getting, it’s time to talk about baseball now that spring is finally here.
I’ve been thinking about this, and it has a lot to do with David Wright and how he’s easily the captain of this team.
The Mets maybe be an 85 win team next year, but I don’t think so. I think they’re going to be angry about last year, angry and ashamed.
You know how the the Patriots played after being caught cheating in week 1? That’s how I see the Mets next year. Up 9-2 going into the 9th? Why not go for another run? There will be no ‘taking it for granted’. And I don’t care if it pisses off Hanley Ramirez or anyone else. I want them to take the confidence of 2007, but not think they deserve anything. They should go out and play the Phillies(and the Braves and Marlins and Nationals) like they punched their mothers.
Last year they had what I felt to be a good attitude, but they seemed to lose it on the field. 2008 is going to be a good year.