Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Back in 2005, I attended the Marlon Anderson/Cliff Floyd game against the Angels at Shea. For those who don't remember, Marlon hit an inside the parker off K-Rod to tie up it, before the Mets fell behind again. In the next half inning, Cliffy had 2 strikes on him before hitting a walkoff. It was the greatest Mets game I ever attended in person. That game was in the back of my mind as the Mets' bullpen kept the Angels off the board through the bottom of the 8th. Frankie Rodriguez is a freak of nature, but I sensed that the Mets had a chance.
With 1 out, Reyes swung at some offspeed stuff in the dirt, but was still able to Ray Knight one over the second baseman's head and advance to 2nd on a pitch in the dirt. Then Wright came through. Then Easley gave us a moment right out of early 2007, before all the negativity started to set in. As Wagner trotted it and proceeded to set down the Angels in order, I kept muttering to myself: "Come on Billy, please God (and I don't even go to Church), one more, please."
When Torii Hunter swung through strike 3 for the 3rd out, I screamed and started clapping like a maniac. I then sat back for a second before uttering one word...
I didn't say it because I was thinking of the Mets' nickname. It just came out. It came out because that's exactly what this win was, and I said it because I still feel that it is exactly what this season can be.
Ollie bent, but didn't completely break.
Reyes responded to Manuel, in a big way.
The bullpen was lights out.
Jose hung in there in the 9th.
David brought him in.
Damion sent us home.
Along the way, David Wright made an absolutely ridiculous barehanded play on a soft chopper up the line, followed by an off balance throw to nab Kendrick to lead off the 9th.
Earlier today on WFAN, Chris "Mad Dog" Russo was bellowing to all who could hear that Shea Stadium would be empty in a few weeks. That if the Mets didn't turn it around (and he kept repeating that they were soft, had no fight), Shea would be a ghost town. I just smiled while he was saying it, smiled as the rest of the media kept taking shits all over the Mets all day.
After the biggest win of the year, the Mets now sit FOUR games behind the Phillies in the loss column. Through this storm, they took 2 out of 3 from the Texas Rangers, who had the best offense in basball. They went to Anaheim, and took 2 out of 3 from the Angels, who lead their Division. The joy of tonight can go straight to hell in the thin air of Colorado, but I don't think it will. For the first time this season, I'm not waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I was definitely awake. This had definitely gone down. Like everyone else, I was pretty surprised by the timing (both the time of night and that it had happened after a win). My time getting ready for work was spent thinking about this. I had a strong dislike for Willie Randolph the Manager dating back to when he was hired, but I also respected Willie Randolph the man. I wanted him to get fired, and I'm ecstatic that he did, but I do feel bad for him. I genuinely feel bad for the man.
There are other people involved in this who I don't feel bad for at all - the New York media, and some clowns at ESPN. To them, the way the Mets handled this is another sign of their ineptitude, their lack of class, their disregard for human decency. But the media doesn't really give a damn about Randolph the man, they give a damn that the timing of his firing made it impossible for them to get their stories in before deadline. We keep hearing "Oh my God, it was 3AM!!" It wasn't, it was actually 12 AM. We keep hearing "How thoughtless, they did this after that flight to the coast." Whatever.
No matter how the Mets did this, the media would've found a way to bash it. I bet, though, that if the Mets had announced this right after the game (around 1AM New York time), we wouldn't be seeing nearly as much vitriol as we are right now. Why? Because the NY media would've had their 2nd grade reading level drivel typed and printed for the morning papers.
If the Mets had fired Randolph after last season, the New York media's refrain would've been that he was made the scapegoat, the players failed him. The firing was unjust.
If the Mets had fired Randolph after the meeting around Memorial Day, they would've been bashed for not giving him time to turn it around.
If the Mets had fired Randolph on Sunday, they would've been lambasted as anti-dad because it was father's day.
If the Mets had fired Randolph right after the game, they would've been ridiculed for not giving him any time to gather himself before facing the media.
It was the New York media who said that this situation was eating at Randolph, and distracting the players. It was the New York media WHO SAID YESTERDAY that the Mets should either make an immediate decision or come out and announce that Randolph was being given the rest of the season. Well, they made that immediate decision and now all this. To borrow from John Lennon, it's as if the Wilpons have come out and declared that the Mets are more popular than Jesus.
What has really happened here? A millionaire who was given a chance to manage his favorite team has been fired. He had to make a trip to the west coast for the news, but one can argue that it was better for him. Would he have been happier if this happened at Shea, which would've meant an immediate release to the wolves? Did he want it to happen in New York so the media could follow him and surround his home? I don't think he did.
Willie Randolph is a genuinely nice man. He cared, he has impeccable character. Unfortunately, he was never very good at managing. He was never very good at dealing with the media. While he was under the microscope, he made some unfortunate remarks that accused people around the Mets of being racist (The Mets are racist, the same team that is naming their rotunda after Jackie Robinson). I don't know how I missed that one. He accused SNY of making him into his own star of "The Real World: Flushing," by only filming him when he was lifeless or angry. Did I mention he was never very good at managing? It was time for him to go. Again, the timing wasn't the greatest, but what is a good time to get fired? When is it ever fun?
Monday, June 16, 2008
Really, Willie, really?
The fact that Pedro Feliciano pitched TWICE yesterday should've been the only thing that mattered. There's no way he should've even been warming up. Even if you're showing complete disregard for the well being of the player AND the team, the move made little sense. Pedro Feliciano has had lots of trouble against the 1st batter he faces. That continued. Pedro Feliciano is a lefty specialist, but was brought in to face two switch hitters who are better from the right side.
Because of this, I'm pacing back and forth during a 2 run game in the 8th inning instead of relaxing. Willie's bullpen moves continue to be damning at worst, perplexing at best. Ever since he was hired in 2005, this facet of his managing style has been the easiest to pick apart. Let's hope this one doesn't come back to haunt us.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
With 94 games left in the Mets' 2008 regular season, they sit 5 losses behind the Philadelphia Phillies. It's quite daunting if you look up at the standings and realize that the Mets would have to sweep the California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in order for them to crawl back above the .500 mark. But while the Mets are facing the Angels, the Phillies will be playing host to the Red Sox. If the Mets keep winning series, and if the Phillies' offense doesn't put up 14 runs a game, things will quickly start to get a lot tighter in the NL East.
Lost in the madness of Billy Wagner's meltdowns and Willie Randolph's job security has been the outstanding work of the Mets' starting pitchers. Johan Santana, who had been bashed by journalists and fans alike for not striking out 27 per game, has his ERA down to 2.85. Oliver Perez looks like he's slowly turning into a human being who can control himself. Mike Pelfrey has been a revelation. Pedro Martinez has had 1 brilliant start, 1 good one and 1 average one since coming off the disabled list, but one would think the best is yet to come from him. John Maine has been the only blip on the radar screen, and his ERA is still only 3.87.
The Mets are without Ryan Church because of freak concussions, and they're without Moises Alou because he's been neglecting to soak his legs when he urinates on himself for strength. Billy Wagner just went through one of the worst stretches of his career. David Wright just went through one of the worst slumps of his career, and you've gotta figure that the rest of Major League Baseball has filled their quota of June web gems against the Mets.
With all the crap that has gone down recently, the Mets sit just FIVE GAMES behind the Phillies in the loss column. After this week, the Mets will be done with their west coast trips. After this week, they will have hopefully shaved another couple of games off of the Phillies' lead. Like I've said many times, this team has it in them to start ripping the opposition apart. They need to take care of business on the road before coming back to Church, who will be ready to preach once they step off the plane on June 23rd.
Friday, June 13, 2008
During this roller coaster ride known as the 2008 New York Mets regular season, the lows have been devastating and the highs not nearly high enough. Some times I have felt let down, other times I felt hope and optimism. But there have also been times when I've felt betrayed. I am a Mets fan who lives and dies with my team. I know there are many like me who scream at the TV, who question Willie's moves, and who curse Omar for bringing in older, injury prone former All- Stars. We are also the fans who derive the most enjoyment from a win. I know when an extra inning game is won in dramatic fashion, it is not only a sense of enjoyment I get from my team winning - it's like a complete release of pressure, like I know that I can go home and sleep well now that the team has won.
I have been thinking about how much this team affects my life, how individuals that rely on each other to get a common goal accomplished affects me, and yet not one of them know my name, or that I even exist. Then, I think about how some of them must feel. What goes through Billy Wagner's head when he gives up the tying run in the 9th? What does Joe Smith think about knowing he gave away half of the lead the inning before? How does Damion Easley feel about not covering the bag on a possible force out? What does David Wright feel when he gets robbed of a game winning hit? What do the players feel? Any athlete, in any major league team sport will tell you that they feel a responsibilty to their coaches, teammates and fans. When a player makes, or does not make a play that changes the outcome of a game, what do they think when they see the faces of their teammates? How does it feel when your fans turn on you?
I have been involved in recreational sports league with my friends, and I know to a much lesser extent how terrible it feels when you let down the people who are counting on you. At that level we get over it in a relatively short amount of time. I know that grounding into a double play to end the game won't be on the front page of the paper the next morning. I know that when the game ends there won't be any reporters waiting to ask me what went through my head during the pitch sequence. I won't be bashed on the radio and TV for the next two days. When the game ends, I throw my bat and get pissed. My friends tell me that we'll get them next game, and we head off to drink beer.
I know people will say that I don't get paid millions of dollars to play. Well, they would be right, I actually pay someone else to play a game. But just because the players get paid millions, it doesn't mean that they're not human. These men are not machines. They feel the pain of losing, they feel the responsibilty to the other players and they hurt when they let their team down. People have been saying that the Mets don't care, that they're just going through the motions and collecting a check. I disagree. I think that they are just mentally broken down. I think that the pressure of performing on the heels of last year's collapse has completely worn them out.
Willie will say that the players don't feel that last year has carried over, but this is just a Manager protecting his players. You can see the batters pressing at the plate, you can see the pitchers overthrowing, and you can see the fielders trying to be too fine on every play. It is almost like they feel that each game is Game 7 of the World Series. The pressure is starting to mount, and the season is not that young anymore. This is the time when the fanbase needs to get behind this team and help them get that good feeling back. I don't know what it will take for the team to capture that good feeling and take off, but I know that they're capable of it. They need to believe that it's possible. That starts tonight.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I was certain the Mets were going to win today. Before the game, I was having a back and forth with some Johan Santana detractors, explaining just how good he's been so far and claiming that he'd be great today. He was great. It was his best start as a Met by far. Being at work, I listened to some of it during lunch, followed the rest on gamecast. When the Mets expanded the lead to 4-0, one of my friends (another die hard) called me. I was so confident in the win that when he told me Reyes had just doubled, I wasn't even excited. There was nothing left to be excited or worried about - the Mets had this one.
There was a brief scare when Beltran lost a ball in the sun, Smith came out and Schoeneweis came in to run a 3 ball count to the go ahead run. But he got out of it. During the bottom of the 8th, I spoke to another one of my die hard Mets fan friends, and I was lamenting the fact that Wagner was going right back out there. He assured me that he'd be lights out today, for Wagner would be too pissed off about last night to blow this one. I sat down at my desk, and saw a 1-2 count turn into a leadoff walk. I got up, walked out and put my radio on. I stood in the hallway as a runner on 1st base became runners on 1st and 2nd. Wagner got a 2 strike count, then gave up a double. It was now 4-3 Mets. I still thought he'd get out of it, even though I was cursing him. When I heard Howie Rose exclaim that a ball had been hit to Reyes with one out, I was praying that the relay would be in time. It wasn't. I sank - and then it got worse.
This sucks, I figured, what the hell is wrong with Wagner? He just blew Santana's best start as a Met. He just took all the energy out of Shea, again. He just deflated all of his teammates for the 2nd time in 20 hours. Screw that, though, because Reyes just reached to open the 9th. We'll win this one like last night. With Reyes on 2nd and 1 out, another one of my die hard Mets fan friends called me. He was walking to his car and didn't want to miss a second, so I gave him the play by play. When I heard the crack of the ball off of Wright's bat, I thought the game was over. The fans were screaming like it was, but it wasn't. When I heard the crack of the ball off of Easley's bat, I thought the game was over, but it wasn't. Fast forward to the top of the 10th - a missed strike 3 call, a sac fly and the Mets were dead.
I felt the same way I did last year when Wagner blew the 4th game in Philly around Labor Day. I could barely stand, let alone walk. An hour earlier, I was convinced that the game was over. I couldn't wait to get home to watch the replay. To watch Johan being absolutely filthy. I was ready to hang out and soak it all up. The Mets were gaining some steam, the Phillies were going to lose again. We were going to be 4 back in the loss column. And then Wagner happened. And then Augie Ojeda robbed David Wright of the game winner. And now I'm stunned, and disgusted, and furious. And there's nothing I can do about it but wait for tomorrow's game. This fandom is like the plague, and I can't do anything to shake it.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Now, everything the Mets did right during the previous 9 games has been forgotten. They had heart then, but are now bums who don't give a shit. I won't sit here and try to deny that this team is underachieving. I won't sit here and say that I'm not shaken by what's going on. But this is far from a season ending catastrophe. The Mets are 6 games back in the loss column with 100 games to play. It sure seems like there's lots of season left. There are reasons for hope and reasons for despair. There are reasons to smile and reasons to want to slam your head through a wall.
The problem here, is that this team and season are being viewed like 162 mini championship games. These games aren't all life altering, they're not all Division deciders. However, due to how the Mets finished last year and the expectations after landing Santana, every loss is a disaster - no matter what has transpired around the team the day or week before. No one wants to mention that the Mets played the entire weekend without 2 of their best hitters (Ryan Church and Moises Alou). No one wants to bring up the fact that with a couple of breaks either way, the Mets could've won 2 or all of these games against San Diego. All they want to talk about is that the team has no heart, the season is over. They want to know the best way to smuggle dynamite into Shea so we can destory the Stadium early - since the team obviously has no shot to come back from 6 games in the loss column with 100 games to play. Just like the Phillies had no shot to come back from being 7 games down in the loss column with 17 to play. There's no shot.
Mets fans have been changing their minds more often lately than a high school girl who's pondering whether or not she should give up her virginity. And they've been crying and moaning like little spoiled Yankee fans, who sit at stadiums in pink hats and pink shirts in seats that are paid for by a corporation, or by daddy. They've been making delcarations and then taking them back ever since December:
ON JOHAN SANTANA........
In December, the Mets fans said that our farm system was barren, we couldn't possibly land Johan. In January, we were going to blow the extension and lose him. In February, we were going to the World Series. Johan was the savior. In April, Johan gave up too many homers. In early May, he gave up 2 runs to the Braves and was labeled a choker. In late May, he dominated the Dodgers for his 7th win and was dazzling. He was about to start dismantling the NL singlehandedly. He gave up 1 earned run this weekend, and he's a chocker again. Right?
ON SCOTT SCHOENEWEIS -
He's a bum, let's boo him on Opening Day. It's mid-April and he's turning it around, but let's not anoint him yet. By early May, the cheers had returned. In early June he had a few bad outings. He's a bum again. Huge bum. Waste of life.
ON JOSE REYES -
In April, he's simply over-rated. What a joke, he's the 4th best SS in OUR DIVISION FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! In early June - Wow, have you seen Reyes lately? He's on pace for career highs in homers and RBI's, and his average is close to .300. How can we let Hanley get voted to the All Star Game over Jose? Let's do something!!
.......What's the point here?
Mets fans need to stop all the knee-jerking. In the case of a few, let them keep having the knee-jerk reactions. Hopefully, they'll kick themselves in the face and shut up. Maybe this team just needs to get Church and Alou back before they turn it on. Maybe a team with a front four of Johan, Pedro, Maine and Perez is too good to keep losing so often. Maybe Pedro will get hurt and Perez will continue to change arm angles and alternate between great and awful. Maybe the ground will melt and Shea Stadium will sink into the abyss before tomorrow night's game against the Diamondbacks.
The Mets have shown the ability to come from behind late, look like worldbeaters.
The Mets have shown the ability to play like absolute trash.
I refuse to believe this is a .500 team - there's simply too much talent here. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, and maybe I won't. But the fans need to relax. Put the pitchfork down, open a beer and watch the season evolve. We know the Mets are capable of anything, so why write them off so early?