Celebrating Enemy Milestones

For some reason there is a lot of talk about how Mets fans should treat Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit on the off chance it happens at Citi Field. (I’ll be there Saturday, I doubt Jeter will) I’ll boo. I boo when opposing players get hits.  They’re the enemy.  I’m not a gentlemanly opposing player in the same ‘fraternity’ of baseball players.  It’s more important to me to see my pitcher’s WHIP be slightly lower than it is to see Jeter get a hit. 

Let’s get real here, this isn’t some historic achievement.   He’s not setting a record, he’s not even climbing into the top 10.  He’s looking to become the 28th player to reach 3000 hits, and just because he’s the first to do so as a Yankee doesn’t mean anything outside of the Yankees.  He’s not some all-time legend.  He’s not Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, or the best player on his team.   There is nothing inherently more special about Derek Jeter, or the Yankees.  He’s one player of 750 and the Yankees are one team of 30. 

Jeter doesn’t transcend the sport in any way.   Not at his position, not as a hitter, not as a fielder, and not even as a clutch hitter (which is simply a matter of being there a lot, he doesn’t boast better numbers in clutch situations).   His claim to fame is longevity and being a good player on a lot of good Yankee teams.   I hate the Yankees, therefore Jeter collecting a personal, or franchise, milestone means nothing to me.   Absolutely nothing.

Tip Your Hat, Get ‘Em In July

The Yankees won this round.  Some lucky breaks, grounders that found holes and inopportune walks combined with a rather disappointing offensive performance all around gave the Yankees the series win.  If I had to choose one culprit, it would be the offense.  Still stunted from losing David, Davis and Pagan and from the continued struggles of Bay and Thole , they had opportunities that they just couldn’t capitalize on.  So I’ll tip my hat to the Yankees here; for now they’re the better team as shown in head to head competition.  As a reward I’ll refrain from making Yankees jokes for a week, which is roughly how long it takes A-Rod to get down the line these days.  Oops, a week starting now.


The Mets lost their first series in a while, which was bound to happen.  It sucks that it was the Yankees, but they’re likely a better team, were at home, and have the DH advantage as all AL teams do in these interleague games.    The team is still playing pretty good baseball overall, 3-3 since Wright went on the DL, and is keeping themselves in games and in the playoff race.  Ike Davis and Angel Pagan may return somewhat soon, and hopefully David Wright just behind them.   Until then it’s up to these guys to keep battling, to keep playing good baseball and winning games where they can.

Upcoming is a couple of weeks of weak other-division opponents during the week, and tough divisional opponents on the weekends.  The Mets luck out and should miss Roy Halladay next weekend, which is definitely a boon.  The Mets need to avoid spiraling into a funk and continue to win more ballgames than they lose.  This keeps them in a position to make a run at things as they get healthier, and also helps Sandy Alderson figure out which of his role players and bench guys he needs to keep on this team, and which can be sent away. Z24DR8WQXYQQ

Back to .500

The Mets came inches away from their third straight shut out as Teixeira’s home run just missed Beltran’s glove.  In fact, that would’ve been an easy fly out in every other ballpark in the majors.

You can't see the new building in this picture because it's blocked by that historic structure Babe Ruth once played in...wait, what?

Now the Mets are back at .5oo and 22-22 on the season.  They played poorly early on, but despite injuries have really settled down.  They’ve suddenly got a very potent bullpen.  That’s not an exaggeration either, their bullpen has been as good as you could want for quite a while now.  Beato’s back to try to continue his scoreless inning streak.  Jason Isringhausen, if they considered relievers for the award, would be on his way to comeback player of the year.   Francisco Rodriguez remains one of the best closers in the game, and may actually be the best this year.


The bullpen is meaningless if the starters are going to let games get away, but they haven’t been doing that.  The starters have been keeping them in games.  The offense is crippled without David Wright, Angel Pagan and Ike Davis, but if they can continue to play the way they’ve been playing they’ll find themselves in a very favorable position as those guys trickle back into the lineup.


Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson both deserve some credit for what’s gone on.   Collins has this team focused and playing good baseball, and Alderson hasn’t been shy to shuffle the roster around and reward guys that deserve playing time; like Justin Turner.


I said yesterday I like the way the Mets match up this weekend, and I stand by that. The Mets can hit Burnett tonight and Pelfrey is a better pitcher than Ivan Nova.  Another series win, and perhaps a sweep, is within the Mets grasp.

Why The Mets Have the Subway Series Advantage

The Yankees have righted the ship a little with a three game winning streak, but I still like the way the Mets are playing lately over the Yankees.  With the exception of the battering the Yankees gave the Orioles last night, they really haven’t been hitting the ball very well.  It took them 15 innings on Wednesday to score a second run and they’ve got a lot of aging players that aren’t quite hitting like they did in their prime.


The Mets are without three of their starting lineup, Angel Pagan, Ike Davis and David Wright.  So far Justin Turner has really provided the Mets with some good production, and Ruben Tejada and Jason Pridie have filled in pretty well.   They’ll be bolstered by playing in the hitter friendly Yankee Stadium, and if Jason Bay can have a nice hot streak, the Mets lineup can still score plenty of runs.


So what about the pitching?  If I had to pick the three pitchers in the Yankees rotation I’d want to face, I got them.   The Mets miss C.C. Sabathia and Bartolo Colon.  Friday night is the briefly a Met Freddy Garcia versus R.A. Dickey.  Garcia pitched well to start, but he’s got a 4.63 ERA over his last four starts and a very high WHIP.  Dickey is due to have a good game, having recently reduced his walk total.  However, he has struggled with a high home run to fly ball ratio, and if he doesn’t get the break he needs on the knuckleball, Yankee Stadium might be cruel.  If you’re not going to the game and would rather be close to Citi Field, check out the Apple’s half priced drink special at McFaddens.


Saturday the Mets have Chris Capuano going, who has been pretty solid and consistent for them.   The Yankees have their own personal version of Oliver Perez in A.J. Burnett who has his own definition of effectively wild.   He’s due for a high walk game and the Mets have been a pretty patient team.  This is definitely a winnable game, even if we have to suffer through Fox announcers for it.


The finale features Mike Pelfrey against Ivan Nova.  Looks like a mismatch on paper, although Nova has had the occasional gem.  Pelfrey has looked great lately, although he has given up a bunch of solo home runs.  If he can work the sinker more effectively and keep the ball out of the air, he should have no problem dominating the fly ball happy Yankees.

It’s time to have some fun.  The Mets are capable of having a better record than the Yankees after the weekend is over, and depending on the results of the other games, they could be closer to first place as well.  The Mets have been playing good baseball, and there is no reason for them to be dismissed as a chore for the Yankees.  Don’t believe people when they say it’s a lose-lose for the Yankees because they’re “supposed” to beat the Mets.  They’re just being curmudgeons.  Both teams are supposed to beat the teams on their schedule, regardless of the proximity of the other teams fans.  If the Yankees fall to 24-21 or 23-22, and more importantly fall further behind Tampa and let the Red Sox and/or the Blue Jays past them in the division the criticism and panic will be all over the place, regardless of the opponent.


Likewise the winning team will gain some legitimacy.  The Yankees would be keeping pace in a tough division, the Mets would have shaken off a rough start and injuries to get back above .500.


The people that say the Yankees are “supposed” to beat the Mets are under the illusion that the Yankees somehow deserve to make the playoffs, deserve to be the best team in the city and the other teams exist only as farm teams for their pennant run.   If the Mets were to beat them, which is certainly possibly and perhaps even likely,  they’ll remind everyone that they deserve equal footing and discussion in this city and that cuts into the divine right the Yankees have to dominate the back pages with their petty arguments about which steroid-addled aging star bats in which position in the batting order.


So here’s to a fun Subway Series weekend where everything in the city is about baseball and every player anyone wants to see is on the same field together.  I like the Mets chances, and can think of no better way to get back above .500 on the season than to beat on the crosstown rivals.

Statistics Rising

You can make yourself crazy over-analyzing baseball.   A week ago the Mets rotation wasn’t pitching deep into games, the bullpen couldn’t get anyone out, and people were all set to write the Mets off.  Now they’ve run off a stretch of five wins in a row, the pitchers have pitched well from rotation to bullpen, and they’re scoring runs in all sorts of ways from home runs to errors to simple clutch hits.


The last time a major New York sports team other than the Mets won a home game was last Sunday the 17th when the Rangers and Yankees did it.   Since then the Rangers and Knicks both got bounced from the playoffs and the Yankees are 3-3 including dropping the last two home games against the White Sox with each of their two closers, Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano, blowing saves.


An aside on the Yankees: For a team as old as they are, it has to be a little worrisome that they’ve postponed so many games already doesn’t it?  They’ve played far fewer than anyone else, and in fact only played four games last week.  Those three games will have to be made up, and it’ll eat into days off and rest time for some of these veteran players.


You could make excuses about the quality of the Mets opponents, but I could make excuses that they were a bloop or a lucky bounce away from winning some of those games they lost too.  Regardless of who is in the other dugout, the Mets are playing good baseball right now.  When this team is playing well, they’re capable of beating anyone.  The question has always been if they’re going to stay healthy enough to have the chance to play well, and can they sustain the success longer than the slumps they might go through when guys are struggling?


Also worth noting is that if the only reason the Mets are winning is because they’re playing bad teams, why can’t the Phillies beat the Diamondbacks?

Letters to the NL East, Part 0, Dear Yankees…

To read previous letters, go here.
Letters to the NL East, part 0

Dear New York Yankees,

It’s April again.  It’s time to see how your collection of players that were good in the early part of last decade hold up in 2011.  The offense should be fine with mansion-building Jeter manning shortstop.  Even if he can’t quite man the position, at least he can make fine looking leaping throws since he lacks the arm strength of Jose Reyes to reach first otherwise.

The Mets released Oliver Perez, but if we still want to see his act we can always tune in to Yankees games when A.J. Burnett pitches.  Your bullpen looks good, sure, but Mariano is another year older and has presumably reached the stage where he’ll never have to audition for another contract again; the opposite of a contract year.  Soriano has been said to be a bit of a malcontent, we burned Pedro Feliciano out already, and most of us are tired of the Joba show.  Did you really add Luis Ayala, prominent 2008 collapsee, to the roster?

You’ve got steep competition in that division; the Red Sox are clearly better on paper and I wouldn’t count out the Rays.  The Blue Jays have managed to at least be dangerous in recent years and the Orioles are gunning for you.

Good luck trying to make the playoffs this year…you’ll need it.

You crosstown rival,

Optimistic Mets Fan

Mets Blasphemy List

These are statements that I  think most fans consider to be blasphemy.  What statements are on your Mets Blasphemy List?


Jose Reyes will not be a Met his entire career.


David Wright will not be a Met his entire career.


Yadier Molina is not the Anti-Christ.


It was probably time for Seaver to go anyway.


It’s okay to root for the Yankees too.  After all, this is New York right?


Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden are True Yankees™.


Blue and Orange don’t look good together.


#17 belongs to Kevin Appier, Fernando Tatis, or Luis Lopez.


The tomahawk chant that the Atlanta Braves Fans do is kind of cool.

Is It Time For a New Generation of Mets?

As I sit here wondering if the Mets will extend Reyes’ contract, and how I hope David Wright and Jose Reyes spend their long successful careers only with the Mets, I started thinking the bridge between different Mets generations.  In my eye, generations are roughly defined by the ‘core’ or the handful of top players on a team that stay together for a couple of years.  You had Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo and John Franco leading us into David Wright,Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran.  There was an overlap, or bridge, between these two generations as some of them played together.  One midseason story line was even when Wright would, or should, move ahead of Piazza in the batting order.  What if the bridge between generations was not so obvious?
We are Mets fans because we love the Mets.  We love the Mets because we are Mets fans.  It’s emotional, fanatical, and probably illogical, but it’s what we do.   We have an emotional connection to the team, and to the players.  We all know that you “root for the laundry” and that it doesn’t matter who is wearing the uniform because if it says “Mets” on it, we want them to succeed.

There is talk out there about breaki

ng up the Mets core: If the Mets haven’t won with Wright and Reyes, maybe they are part of the problem and not the solution.  How would the fanbase, the one that includes the millions of fans not on Twitter or in the blogosphere, react to the Mets rebuilding?  Would fans actually be excited for a team that had Tejada at shortstop, Zach Lutz at third, an outfield of Lucas Duda, Fernando Martinez and Kirk Nieuwenhuis with a rotation led by Niese, Gee and Meija? Especially if it took that group 2-3 years to really start to show any talent, if they do at all.  Perhaps Mets fans are too used to a group of players getting only one or two shots at the postseason and now mentally preparing for the next groups opportunity.  

Fans may enjoy a prospect or two, especially one that’s doing well, but watching a group of players lose consistently while going through the growing pains of trying to be a great major league baseball player is not what sells or excites fans.  Half of those guys probably won’t stick around long term in the big leagues, certainly not with the Mets, and they’ll make mistakes and boneheaded plays and go through slumps that will not enamor them to fans.  We love the team, but rooting for lovable losers is not what being a Mets fan is about.  For every fan that loved Ty Wigginton while he

was a Met there are a hundred or more that love Benny Agbayani because he was a part of a run of success.  Rustyjr of The Real Dirty Mets Blog asked for reader submissions of their top 50 Mets of all time, and has been counting down the tabulated results.  If you’re paying attention you’ll notice that the list hardly follows any statistical reasoning.  Ray Knight comes in at #37 for example despite his numbers across a mere 254 games with the Mets not being anything amazing.  Perhaps his baseball-reference sponsor has some insight:

“What a worthy ’86 Series MVP! He embodied those championship Mets. Who can forget his fire, his jubilation scoring the winning run on Buckner’s error?”

We cling the players that come through for us in big moments.  Endy Chavez made an unbelievable catch in a key moment of the biggest Mets game of the last decade.  For his Mets career he was at best a serviceable 4th outfielder and an amazing defensive replacement, which aren’t usually the guys that go down in history and get remembered.  Endy’s catch is immortalized in the left field gate at Citi Field and in the fan walk outside, and it’s one of the few parts of the building that has never been criticized by fans.  We form bonds and connections with these guys, and while winning makes them all look nicer, sometimes it’s just the emotion and effort of one player or series that makes us love them.  Endy’s catch was in a losing effort and Robin Ventura’s memorable Grand Slam Single was the last win the Mets would get in that series.

Would fans really pay to see a team of prospects?  My guess is no.  If the Mets fail to put a winning team on the field again in 2011, it won’t draw any more fans in August and September if they trade off every piece they can at the trading deadline.  While the removal of players that we have a negative association with may sound like a good idea, It doesn’t actually create more interest in watching that players replacement.  Sure there might be a boost in attendance if a fire-balling starter is doing well, or some rookie outfielder is smashing home runs all over the place, but those things will be passing novelties as most Mets fans find entertainment elsewhere that season.  Some cit the early 90s as some of the worse Mets seasons in history.  The ‘86ers retired, moved on, got into trouble and were no longer Mets. There were a couple of flashy prospects here and there that didn’t really pan out.  There was some brief excitement with Generation K, which shows us that a philosophy of “We might be pretty good in a couple of years!” is not a selling point.  There was no clear bridge to the next eneration and a lot of Mets fans in the 90s noticed that there _was_ still winning baseball in New York.  I wonder what the younger Mets fans that are in love with Wright and Reyes would do if they were no longer Mets in the next year or two?

AL Cy Young: Do Wins Matter?

Let us start with a common argument during September that will crop up again soon once the Cy Young awards are given out. How do we value C.C. Sabathia’s win total against Felix Hernandez pretty much putting up better numbers in virtually every important statistic? Sabathia was 21-7 with a 3.18 ERA. Hernandez was 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA. Wins have historically been the benchmark pitchers are judged by, but perhaps that’s not totally fair. Pitchers cannot win games, except in the NL with a bat. On the simplest level a baseball game is won by the team that scores more runs than the other team. A pitcher only can affect half of this.

While the voting for Cy Young is a little less of a sham than the Gold Gloves, there is always big disagreement over who the best pitcher is, and how to figure it out. I’d definitely be in favor of ironing out specific rules as to how the voters should think about the award, or which stats are more important. Should the award go the guy that threw the ball the best? That fooled the most hitters? That was the “most valuable” pitcher? One of the biggest problems is that every voter defines the award differently, and is actually voting for different things.

It should be obvious to most people that the Yankees scored a ton more runs than the Mariners, and as a result C.C. Sabathia had a better chance to win games. If Felix Hernandez had been on the Yankees, he would’ve won more games, but would he have won eight more to match Sabathia’s 21? Does it even matter? I think if these two pitchers swapped team, we’d be having no debate that King Felix was better in 2010, but there is no way to measure that. It’s as fruitless as trying to nail down exactly how a pitcher will do before the season. Hernandez would have to face different batters, with different approaches and with different scouting reports. He wouldn’t have to face the Yankees three times and would be able to face the weak Mariners lineup.

Some, such as Michael Kay, suggest that C.C. Sabathia’s numbers were hurt because of something called “pitching to the score.” It is inferred that Sabathia is capable to adjusting to the game and if his team scores 2, he’ll let up 1, but if they score 8 he’ll be okay with letting them score 6. The idea being that if the Yankees were up 8-1, he was less careful about his pitches. The stress of the game may be less, but Sabathia is not just chucking it down the middle of the plate and hoping a fielder catches it. Run support plays a huge role in whether or not a pitcher wins a game, and C.C. Sabathia got 5.89 runs a game to Felix Hernandez’s 3.07. The Yankees only scored less than 4 runs 7 times during Sabathia’s starts. The Mariners scored less than 4 runs 19 times during Hernandez’s starts.

It certainly makes sense that pitchers will pitch differently based on the score of the game. The margin for error is greater in a blowout, and it’s possible that a pitcher will risk a pitch catching a little more of the plate to avoid possibly walking a batter and giving the opposing team more chances for a big inning. If we look at games Sabathia pitched badly in, do they suggest that he let up a lot of meaningless runs that don’t necessarily mean he was pitching badly? Sabathia was 1-4 in 7 starts when he allowed 5 or more earned runs. Of those games, one he left with a huge lead and the bullpen exploded to give him a no-decision. You could reasonable claim that he wasn’t worried about the score and may have relaxed and let batters put good swings on balls. Maybe. The other no-decision was Opening Day, where he left a tight game with a one run lead and a batter on third that scored. In the game he won against the White Sox he let up all the runs early and the Yankees didn’t take a big lead until later in the game. The numbers just don’t support that he was pitching to the score.

Felix Hernandez had only 3 games where he let up 5 or more runs. He lost all three of them; his team never bailing him out when he struggled. He had one more game where he allowed 4 runs, and lost that one as well. Every other game he allowed 3 runs or less. He left three separate games with the score 0-0, one after 7 innings, one after 8 innings and one after 9. He faced the feared Yankees lineup three times, shutting them out twice and allowing one run over 26 innings and two complete games. He led the league in innings pitched, and in hits per nine innings. He had 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings for a total of 232. He was first in pitching WAR.

Ultimately I do believe that wins matter. They are the very essence of what a baseball game is. I do believe that there are levels of effort, and that it’s possible to take your foot off the gas occasionally during a long season, and that it’s possible to bare down and battle when you need to, in clutch situations. Wins don’t play a part in the 2010 AL Cy Young award however, Felix Hernandez is simply in a different class as far as pitchers go. The next best pitcher may have been David Price of the Rays, who’s numbers come a lot closer to Hernandez’s, but still fall short.

I’ve clearly shown here that I favor King Felix for the award, but what will the writers pick? That it’s even a discussion suggests to me that at least some voters are going to value the wins over Hernandez’s clearly superior stats. I suspect these voters will vote David Price first, Sabathia second, and Hernandez third. Others may look at the stats and vote Hernandez, Price, Sabathia. Or even another pitcher I haven’t mentioned here. I think when the votes are tallied that David Price will come out ahead. So that’s my vote and prediction. We shall soon see.

What Joe Benigno Will Talk About Today

Today will be non-stop “The Mets have no grit” type discussions.  The people that don’t pay attention and think Beltran is soft will come out of the woodwork.  The clubhouse divide comments will come back.  (Michael Kay actually took care of that already today, thanks..) Overly dramatic, pessimistic Mets fans will be all over these things.  There is usually Yankees praise involved.  I can pretty much predict Joe Benigno’s show from 2-6:30 on WFAN tomorrow.

“Write it down, the Yankees are going to go out and get Roy Oswalt.  After seeing Hughes take a step back last night, and Pettitte on the DL, there is no way, NO WAY bro, that the Yankees don’t get this guy.  And what will the Mets do? Nothing.  What a pathetic game last night.  I don’t care what the numbers say, Beltran needs to sit down until he’s up to speed.  They made a mistake bringing this guy back so fast.  I know Francoeur isn’t hitting but he’s too valuable as a leader to mess with the chemistry.  And no one else is hitting anyway!  At least Francoeur you know you’re getting good defense out there.  I really think the Mets made a mistake bringing Castillo and Oliver Perez, and don’t get me started on this bum who should be pitching for Japan right now or something.  All we heard about was how good the chemistry was on this team and then you throw these malcontents back into the mix and look what happens!   And what is Omar doing?  Will you make a trade Omar? What are you waiting for?!”