Philadelphia Phillies: Poking The Cracks

The Phillies run of success started cracking last season, and although they hastily threw up some spackling, more cracks have started to appear. This week it’s the Mets turn to start poking those cracks to see if they can make the whole building fall down.


Roy Halladay pitches in the first game, and he’s perhaps the biggest crack of all. He didn’t fare so well in his first start, giving up 5 runs over 3.1 IP, and had a sub-par 2012 too. His velocity is down, which could be a red flag. It’d be nice to see the Mets get to him tonight, symbolically getting the better of a pitcher they’d historically had trouble with. It’d also deny him his 200th win, which would be fun.


The Phillies are an older team, and they don’t appear to have a ton of depth to cover fatigue and injury. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are healthy to start the season, although Howard is off to a slow start, but Utley hasn’t made it through a full season since 2009.


The Phillies are likely on their way down, and the Mets should be looking to climb past them on the road to continued success. That process starts tonight.



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Tonight’s Must-Win Mets Game

Well obviously it’s not a must-win, it’s May 9th and the 31st game of the season!


Still, there’s a certain symbolic worth to winning this game.  It’d be a sweep of the defending division champions.  It’d be beating their second ace pitcher.  It’d be answering a losing streak with a bigger winning streak.


And it’d put the Mets five games above .500, which is somewhere they haven’t been all season, nor all of last season.  They haven’t been five games over .500 since July 19th of 2010.   This was just after the All-Star Break when they rushed Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo back and got steamrolled by the soon-to-be World Champion San Francisco Giants at the beginning of their run.


The Mets should have a fair shot at this.  Dillon Gee hasn’t quite gotten the results he’d have liked, but he’s getting a lot more swinging strikes than previous years and walking fewer.  This should be a good recipe for retiring the weak-hitting Philadelphia Phillies.  They have Cliff Lee going, but he’s going to be limited returning from injury and the Mets have been beating on the Phillies pen the last two games.


So it’s not a must-win game, but it’s still a game you’d really like to see the Mets get.

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Reversal of Fortunes

I don’t usually do game recaps, and I don’t usually buy into “they would’ve lost this one last year” arguments trying to compare this team to that one.  This game was too much fun not to keep talking about though.


Halladay gave up a hard hit ball to lead off the game that required a great catch to turn into an out, but after that he was pretty steady until the 6th when a tight zone and good patience by Andres Torres with two outs led to a walk.  Nieuwenhuis laced a single into left and that brought up our uncrowned Captain.  David Wright rocketed one down the line that Mayberry misplayed off the side wall and two runs scored to tie the game.  Meanwhile Jon Niese battled some control problems but only allowed those two early runs through five innings.


The Mets would battle and fight through the next couple of innings, having runners on base and not scoring and allowing runners to reach base but not allowing them to score.  Josh Thole may have suffered a concussion, which sucks.


If you believe in poetic moments and turning points in seasons there was a huge one in the 7th inning.  With two on and one out Hunter Pence grounded to second base where Daniel Murphy flipped to Justin Turner who threw to first.  Shane Victorino slid a good three feet wide of the bag to take out Justin Turner and was ruled out for interference.   You may recall a similar play in late August of 2007.  It was the top of the ninth in Philadelphia with Marlon Anderson on first and Endy Chavez on third with one out and the Phillies leading 3-2.  Shawn Green grounded out to shortstop and Anderson went in hard at second, keeping Rollins from turning the double play and allowing Endy Chavez to tie the game.  Except Anderson was ruled to have interfered on a play much less clear cut than last nights.  Instead the Mets lost that game, got swept in a four game series against the Phillies, and failed to completely bury them in the division.  That one game may have been the difference between the playoffs and what ultimately happened in 2007.  Who knows how things are different from there.  Now the Mets get one of those calls that helps them win a game and go back to three games over .500 and 2.5 games ahead of the last place Philadelphia Phillies.  Is it karma? The universe correcting it’s course back to one that features the Mets establishing a dynasty and perennial playoff team?  Is it the turning point in a season that the Mets were universally picked to finish last but haven’t been under .500 at any point?


Probably not.  It was a great win culminated by Jordany Valdespin collecting his first major league hit in epic fashion with a 3-run home run off one of the game’s best closers.  It instantly became a Mets classic, but it’s still just one win in May.  The Mets will face so many ups and downs and turning points this season that it’ll be near impossible to pinpoint this game in May when it all started going right.  Would the Mets have won this game last year?  Well..maybe.  After all, many people compared this game to the Omir Santos game winning home run off of Papelbon back in 2009.  2009’s team doesn’t seem like one that you’d describe as resilient, having been the first losing season since 2004.


Still, there’s a lot to like about this game.  The Mets hung in there against a tough pitcher.  Jon Niese didn’t let the wheels fall off.  Except for Torres misplay in the first allowing Jimmy Rollins an extra base, they played pretty crisp defense.  They made pitches when they needed to and exploited the Phillies weaknesses.  They took a four game losing streak and responded with a three game, and counting, winning streak.


Is this season going to be a gusty team that fights and scraps to stay above .500?  A scrappy contender that finds a way to get at least a wild card spot?  An overachieving bunch of rookies that show promise but ultimately revert to what they were predicted to be?   It’s too early to tell, but no matter where it winds up it’s going to be a fun ride.

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The Importance of Adjustments

Citi Field, by CeetarDavid Wright was hitting for three and when he broke his finger it has devastating effects on the Mets lineup.  That’s not to say they can’t win without him, but at the time of the injury he was practically carrying the team and no one else has managed to pick them back up yet.


Regardless of if Wright is back Friday, next Friday, or after a DL stint is irrelevant.  The Mets need to make adjustments and this 50 hour window between games is the perfect opportunity to do it.   Assess the best way to set up the lineup, have guys refocus on the game plan, do their infield drills, and put extra work in scouting the Phillies pitchers.   Those two losses should keep the Mets from getting complacent under a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.  It’s broke, so fix it.


Obviously Ike Davis and Lucas Duda need to hit more.  Jason Bay does too, as he represents basically all of the right-handed power in the lineup if Scott Hairston isn’t starting, but if Bay can simply manage to not double up on career-worst years I’ll be happy.  I’ve never really been a big believer in the idea that lefties can’t hit lefties, attributing it more to a small sample size coupled with the inability for players to get enough reps against them.  The Mets lineup is extremely left-handed, so they really need to start hitting to avoid being exploited by LOOGYs.  Maybe the massive amount of lefties the Mets will see, both in Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, and in the relievers teams bring in face the Mets lefty sluggers, will give Duda and Davis, as well as Daniel Murphy, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Josh Thole, the reps against them that they need to get comfortable with release points and different breaks.  Certainly if they could start demonstrating that they can hit lefties, it will keep Terry Collins from putting lesser players from the bench in key spots.


4-2 is still a good start.  The Mets now need to do the work required to win on this road trip, and continue the good start.   Cliff Lee will be tough, but the Mets can hit Vance Worley and they own Cole Hamels.  Then they get three against the Braves again, who they already swept.   David Wright back would have a huge impact on run-scoring, but they have to find ways to win these games with or without him.

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Letters to the NL East, Part 4, Dear Phillies…

Letters to the NL East, Part 4.

Dear Phillies,


Is Chase Utley enjoying his rocking chair?  Let me warn you now, you’re going to say “Once everyone gets healthy” a lot while the Mets and Braves distance themselves from you in the division.


Good job offering Cliff Lee the most money per year, and keeping him from the Yankees.  You see, they’d score runs for him.  I find it hard to believe that you are  better off with Lee than with Werth.  Ibanez’s power seems to be vanishing and he’s aging quickly.  Rollins hasn’t really been good in three years, he’s batting third in the lineup yet has a .258 AVG, and .320 OBP over the last three years.  You’re using whatever warm bodies you could find for right field and second base.


You’ve got great pitching, but none of them are good hitters.  Also, every year dozen

s of great pitchers have sub-par years, get hurt, or get no run support.  Will Hamels rising walk rate make him ineffective? Will Oswalt’s back hold up? Roy Halladay threw 750 innings over the last three years, not including Spring Training.  That’s a lot of wear and tear on an arm.


Your a talented team, more talented than your fans deserve, but you don’t have a lot of depth and aren’t built to handle injuries.  But injuries happen, and if you play Wilson Valdez for any extended period of time you might as well shoot yourself in the foot now.


And that bullpen! No Lidge, you’ve got Contreras closing for now because you can’t trust Madson.  Contreras, who’s 10 among active pitchers in wild pitches and 20th in errors, is who you’re going to trust in pressure situations.  The bullpen wasn’t good last year and it doesn’t look any better.  What’s your plan? Burn out the starters and hope they hold up all season?  You can only push an arm so much before it breaks.


You know what they say…the bigger they are, the harder they fall.


Your Bitter Rival,


Optimistic Mets Fan

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My MLB Player Prop Bets

I made a couple more single dollar prop bets yesterday.   Nothing real fancy.
Jose Reyes – SB in the 2011 Regular Season
Over 33½ (-125)
Mariano Rivera – Total Saves in the 2011 Regular Season
Under 36 (-115)

Will any of the Big 4 win the NL Cy Young?
Big 4 include Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels
No -180
Cole Hamels – Total Wins in the 2011 Regular Season
Under 16½ (-120)

Carlos Beltran – BA in the 2011 Regular Season
Over .273 -115
Andy Pettitte – Will he pitch for the Yankees in the 2011 Regular Season
 No -200
How many of the Big 4 will win over 20 games or more in the 2011 Regular Season?
Under 1 (-115)
RA Dickey – Total Wins in the 2011 Regular Season
 Over 11½ (-115)
Who will win more games in the regular season series between the 2 teams listed. Must play at least 15 games for action.
New York Mets +240
Competitor: Atlanta Braves

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Debunking Pessimism

I stumbled across this extremely negative post on the Mets through some Google alerts.  At first I thought it would end up being a Philly blog, but nope. So here’s his five reasons why the Mets will suck post is way off the mark.

Spring training games began over the weekend, reminding us all how terrible the Mets will be this year.  Fittingly, Luis Castillo booted a ball at second base yesterday. Way to set the tone for the new season, Luis.


Here are my top 5 reasons why the Mets will be terrible this year.

Yes, I’m sure Castillo booting a ball in practice just doomed the Mets all season. Real players never actually make mistakes in Spring Training. Nevermind that Scott Hairston hit two home runs. This is just an excuse to pick on Castillo, who might not even make the team.

5- Ownership: Between borrowing $25 million from Major League Baseball, looking for minority ownership, and facing a multi-million dollar law suit, it will be a distraction all season. If the Wilpons sell the team, maybe it will make them less terrible, but still not good.

I can’t tell you that the Madoff stuff is a positive in any way, but it’s hardly going to be a distraction that causes the Mets to fail.  Wright’s not going to be worrying about the state of the lawsuit while he’s standing out at third base or at the plate.  They won’t even have to talk about it with the press, they’ve all said what they can say and their business is not finance, it’s baseball.  The state of the finances is not going to have much of an effect on the play on the field.  The only real thing it might do is prevent Alderson from adding pieces around the trade deadline, but so far there is no word that it will.  

4- Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez: It’s March 1, and for some reason they are still on the team. Perez got bombed in his first spring training game and Castillo is abysmal. Sadly he could actually win the starting second base position. It is unbelievable the Mets do not have anyone better than Castillo. Please cut your losses. I would rather have Ike Davis play first and second at the same time.

They’re on the team because they can’t lose the Mets games in March.  Whether or not they make the team will solely be based on merit, and it’s not looking good for either of them.  The players that help the Mets win will make the team, and therefore these two players will not be why they suck.  Reyes and Davis do have pretty good range, but I don’t think it’s enough to cover second base too. Plus, the rules don’t allow for only eight players in the lineup.  

3- Carlos Beltran playing right field: How long until he complains about it? I give it a month. Just imagine if he gets off to a bad start on offense. I know what the excuse will be.

#blamebeltran.  This pretty much debunks the whole post right here doesn’t it?  Never mind that he voluntarily moved there or that he’s not a complainer or an excuse maker.  A more valid question is how much regular rest is he going to need, and how well do those knees hold up?  Still, he’s been taking batting practice, and he should be ready to go as a hitter.  This should help prevent a slow start offensively at least.  Carlos Beltran continues to be underappreciated.

2- The NL East: The Phillies are probably the best team in baseball, which is not even fair, but the Braves and Marlins are better than last year too. The Mets are closer to the Nationals.

Just stating it doesn’t make it so. Probably? What if they’re not?  What if someone gets hurt? Their offense no longer looks formidable, Utley hasn’t even played yet and it’s looking more and more likely that Wilson Valdez may be starting for them, and they don’t even know what scrub or under-prepared prospect they’re going to throw out there in right field.  What if they don’t score runs when they pitch these great games, and what if age catches up with them?   The Marlins are not very good.  They’ve got some pitching, but it’s hardly amazing and they’re fielding a AAA offense outside of a couple of guys.  The Mets are capable of being in the thick of things just with their offense and with Pelfrey, Dickey and Niese doing what they did last year.

1- The Pitching Staff:  With Johan out until God knows when, Mike Pelfrey is the ace of the staff. Enough said. The Mets are depending on RA Dickey to repeat what he did last season, which is insane. I can’t even tell you who the 4th and 5th starters are: Chris Young?, Chris Capuano?, Dilon Gee? Oliver Perez??? Who the hell knows. As for the bullpen, talk about a disaster. Hopefully K-Rod won’t get arrested again or injure himself while beating up an old man. I honestly can’t even tell you who else is in the bullpen, so I have no further comments.

Enough said?  Sure, I could agree with that.  Mike Pelfrey was basically the best pitcher in baseball last April.  He had a horrible July, and it’s important that he minimizes that this year, but to dismiss him as crap is silly.  Why is it insane to expect Dickey to be as good as last year?  Did you really watch him all last year, and listen to him talk about pitching, and deduce that it was a fluke? It wasn’t.  He’s learned and adapted, and crafted his knuckleball to be a dangerous weapon.  It’s certainly possible he’s not as good, but the dropoff won’t be that extreme.  The ignorance in the rest of this ‘reason’ is too large to argue with, but I do have faith that some combination of Young and Capuano can give us some quality innings and keep the Mets in the game.  Losing Santana is rough, but given how many of his great games they let turn into losses last year, I’m confident with a little hitting the Mets can win more games that a lesser pitcher starts than they did last year with Santana on the mound.


I do have something good for Mets fans to look forward to. On Tuesday night (After the Knicks game) MSG will have a 4 part series on the ’86 Mets. Bar fights, sex, drugs, alcohol and more sex, drugs and alcohol- the good old days. Should be interesting. I guarantee it will be better than anything the Mets do on the field.

I’ll grant a pass on this statement since it was written before hand, but most accounts I’ve seen of the show have been pretty negative.  You can take your ‘guarantee’ and shove it, the Mets are going to be interesting this year.  Optimism is not a sin.

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Random Mets Stuff From 2003

I pulled some random Mets stuff out of the attic. Mostly magazines and ticket stubs and such.

Here’s a stub from 2002.  713B was just to the first base side of home plate.  Box B, seat 8 means we were technically the 4th row from the front.  There was probably an annoying red bar in our line of sight as well.   I don’t remember much of the game, but I went to and learned that the Mets lost 9-8.  Rollins was 2/5 with a walk, that bum.  Jeff D’Amico  took the loss to fall to 4-8.

Here’s an interview with David Weathers that was printed in Volume 42, Issue 3 of Mets Magazine in 2003.  Brilliant stuff, like how he came to wear the number 35! (Marcel Lachemann had 53) I always kind of liked Weathers; I tend to like players who have names that are also things, like Weathers, Cook, or Strawberry.  I like how they show Weathers in both a black uniform, and a pinstriped one with a blue cap.  Appeal to the Shannon Shark‘s of the world, and “Generation Piazza”.

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These Mets Are Scary

Mets Win
Mets Win

This Mets team can be pretty scary.  I certainly thought they had a chance to be very competitive coming into this year, but it would’ve been hard for anyone to predict it would evolve the way it did.   The team may be the team you’d least want to face in the National League, because you never know what you’re going to get from them, they can hit you from all angles.  People talk about Philadelphia’s offense being scary, but when you get down to it the Phillies are a team built on offense; if you pitch well against them you can win any of the games.

The Mets can baffle a team’s offense on any day.  It could happen via R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball dancing towards the plate, or it could happen with Pelfrey’s dominate sinking fastball.  The next day Jon Niese could unleash his curveball, or Johan Santana could be on the mound with his two Cy Young awards.   The bullpen has also been very good, regularly racking up scoreless innings.  They’ve got some hard throwers, some specialists, and Frankie Rodriguez.

Offensively the Mets have the talent to beat a team in a couple of ways.  They’re capable of hitting big home runs one day, and the next day battering pitching to a tune of 14 runs without a long ball.  They’re aggressive, steal bases, take extra bases on base hits, capitalize on errors and play hard.  They’re capable of coming back from deficits, don’t quit until the game is over, and even if a starting pitcher is shutting them down, they’re capable of waking up against a reliever and winning a game.

They seem to have the right mixture of confidence and cockiness, and all reports suggest they have great clubhouse chemistry. (Winning will do that) Even if they don’t make a trade, it looks like they’ll be getting Carlos Beltran back to the lineup which would be about as big a mid-season acquisition as you can find.  They’re already in prime playoff position, and they’ve got plenty of guys looking to have a better second half including Johan Santana, Jason Bay, Luis Castillo, and Jose Reyes.   This is a team to look out for, and it’s looking like the final series before the All-Star break against the Braves is going to be a big one.

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First Place Mets Play For Respect

This series against the Phillies, while not that huge a deal in the overall season, is a pretty big deal for the Mets. The Mets have been disrespected and dismissed by much of baseball, and yet they stand in first place.

Most feel the Phillies are the “better team”, but this series is the first opportunity to show that the Mets can hang with them. It goes a long way towards instilling confidence in the players if they could go out and beat Philly this weekend. It will remind Philly, even though it’s still early, that the Mets are not just going to go quietly into the night this year. It will remind fans that the Mets are a serious fun team to watch and will be in the conversation all season. It will remind the national media, as the weekend games are both on National, or semi-National, tv, that there is another team in New York that’s going to be talked about this summer.

Win these games and fans will start coming back to Citi Field. People will feel good about the team. It would go a long way towards erasing some of the feeling of 2009 and hard luck. It will extinguish any real assertion that the Mets are at best a wild card team. The Phillies are not a powerhouse. Their pitching is suspect outside of Halladay and one pitcher does not make a team. Playing this team hard and gaining a little swagger about themselves is the first step towards what can be a championship season for the New York Mets.

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