Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Patience - or Lack Thereof

Much like this agitated cat, Mets fans are growing impatient. To use this picture as an example, Mets fans are the cat and the offseason (thus far) is the empty bowl.

Some fans are still calm as can be and others are edgy. A handful have taken to being negative for the sake of it, and the ones who are buying the doomsday scenarios and reckless vitriol being presented by the media are beyond help at this point. All, however, are waiting to be fed.

Before Roy Halladay was traded to the Phillies and John Lackey signed with the Red Sox on the same day, most fans were in agreement with the following notion: Of all the deals that had been made so far this offseason (trades and signings), there wasn't a single player they were upset about the Mets missing out on. To name a bunch of the major moves - 32 year old Chone Figgins signed a deal with Seattle, Placido Polanco (whose value is as a 2nd baseman) signed a 3 year deal to play 3rd base for the Phillies, the Yankees traded for Curtis Granderson, Randy Wolf signed with the Brewers, and the Braves signed two geriatric relievers (Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito).

If the Mets had made any of those moves, they would've been foolish AND they would've been blasted by the media. Figgins would've been seen as an older player with little power, Polanco as someone out of position, Granderson as someone who can't hit lefties, Wolf as too expensive, and Wagner and/or Saito as too old. Since those players all went to other teams, the moves were praised by the media around here and the Mets were painted as a team that had "missed out." Even though they didn't make an offer for any of those players.

When the Halladay and Lackey deals went down, though, lots of the fans reached their breaking point. Lackey didn't sign with the Mets, so to the media (and consequently the fans), that meant that the Mets were a terrible organization who Lackey didn't want any part of. Does that mean the other 28 teams in baseball besides the Mets and Red Sox are also horrible franchises? Because Lackey didn't sign with any of them either.

Halladay is a different story. He went to the Phillies. Does that move improve the Phillies marginally? Absolutely. However, to acquire Halladay, they traded 2008 AL Cy Young Award Winner and proven Postseason bulldog Cliff Lee (along with some of their top prospects). Halladay made it known that the ONLY team he was willing to accept a trade to and sign an extension with was Philadelphia. The Mets had no shot. Again, though, the media spun it as the Mets missing out (when 28 other teams missed out as well), and the fans got angrier and louder.

Today is December 23rd. As an intense and fiercely loyal Mets fan, here is my take:

The biggest need for the Mets this offseason is to find a corner outfielder/middle of the order bat. Right now, they have the best offer on the table for Jason Bay. People are speculating that since he hasn't accepted the Mets' offer yet, he must not want to play here. That may be true. However, using that logic, by rejecting the Red Sox' offer when it was the only one on the table, that must mean he didn't want to play in Boston either. What this appears to be, is a game of cat and mouse. The Mets want Bay, he wants a five year deal (while the Mets have only guaranteed four). Each side is trying to avoid blinking. I'm aggravated at the pace of the negotiations, and I'll be furious if the Mets miss out on Jason Bay and fallback option Matt Holliday. However, they're both still on the market and their suitors are minimal. One of them will probably be a Met in the coming days.

The Mets needed to address their bullpen, and they found one piece with the signing of 30 year old Japanese Reliever Ryota Igarashi. He throws in the mid to upper 90's, and was snatched up on a 2 year deal worth between 3 and 4 million - a very solid move for the Mets that was almost ridiculed because they haven't yet addressed the offense and rotation. If the Mets add one more power reliever (perhaps Octavio Dotel), their bullpen will be in very good shape.

That leaves the starting rotation. If you're a fan who's angry that the Mets didn't sign Jason Marquis (he of the career 4.48 ERA and 1.40 WHIP), I don't know what to tell you. The Mets need a solid #2 type starter to slide in behind Johan Santana, and Marquis is not that. Neither is Randy Wolf. The only #2 type starters on the market are injury risks (Ben Sheets to name one). And I'd much rather have the Mets take a chance on someone like Sheets, if the alternative is someone like Marquis or one year wonder Joel Pineiro. Low-risk, high-reward is the better bet than moderate risk-no reward.

Again, I'm antsy. I wish the Mets had done everything already...signed that power bat, acquired that #2 starter, finished upgrading the bullpen...but they haven't. I can't guarantee that the Mets will fill every hole. But I also don't believe that a team in New York with a brand new ballpark - a team that won 90 games on average from 2005-2008, only to suffer through the worst injury ravaged season in the history of baseball, is undesirable to free agents and as some writers have taken to spewing "a third place team even with Bay and others." I think that idea is a crock. If we're sitting here in a month and the roster is made up of retreads and R.A. Dickey, I'll have been proven wrong. And I'll be pissed. But it isn't January 23rd, it's December 23rd. Carlos Beltran signed in January, Johan Santana was traded in January. Mets fans should have a little more patience...not tons, just a little. See what happens.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Disappearance of True Sports Journalism

Around the time I was nearing the last leg of my daily morning commute, while I was hustling through the howling winds by battery park on my way to the subway, my thoughts were on baseball.

I thought first of David Wright, since he's a resident of the City, and I wondered what he might be doing today. Was he as excited for the season as I was? With the dawn of blogs, followed by facebook and twitter, the intensity of the fans during the offseason has been increasing.

And as the Winter Meeting have progressed - with little action by anyone, save for the Yankees who dealt a few of their overhyped prospects for a glorified platoon player - lots of Mets fans have become increasingly agitated. They were first bothered by the fact that the Mets wouldn't be spending money this offseason (which was perpetuated by the vast majority of the Mets' beat writers). Then, they were aggravated when a Yankee shill who's about to be honored by the Hall of Fame for some reason, penned an article stating that all the Mets were interested in was signing low-cost Latino's (the inflammatory part of the article was slyly removed by editors from the online edition after fans got wind of it).

When the first actual quote from anoyone but an unnamed source or supposed team insider came out yesterday (from Omar Minaya stating that the Mets would indeed be in on the big free agents), the writers printed it. They didn't apologize for spinning their agenda's in their effort to move papers. They didn't give the Mets credit. Everyone is aware that the object is to sell papers, and interesting negative stories sell. But if you're going to print stories like that, back them up with facts and common sense.

And then it dawned on me...The same supposed journalists who have been damning blogs to hell, are slimier and more fallacious than most bloggers. Worse, they're vindictive and agenda-driven. What else could possibly explain the unbelievable amount of piling on that has been done to the Mets since the 2009 season came to a close? A team who from 2005-2008 won 90+ games per year on average, had suffered a hellish injury marred season. Their punishment for their injuries and the record that resulted, has been writers (mostly local and some national) claiming that the Mets are a loser franchise that won't spend money. A team with no direction.

The fans who follow this team, but aren't as consumed with baseball as some, bought into the nonsense. They started to believe that the Mets were a loser team, even though 2005-2008 proved differently. They feared that the Mets wouldn't spend money, even though they've spent money every season and offseason in recent memory (obtaining Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez, and extending David Wright and Jose Reyes).

So far this offseason, all the Mets have done so far is signed a backup catcher and showed remarkable constraint. It's something I'm thrilled about. While other teams have been handing out contracts to middling players that were excessive in both years and dollars, the Mets have lied in wait. It's the tact they took with Carlos Beltran, who signed in January. And it's the tact they took with the Johan Santana sweepstakes, which concluded around February. As the days have passed, the suitors for Matt Holliday have dwindled (the Cardinals are getting impatient, the Yankees dealt for Granderson, Red Sox officials have indicated they only have interest in Jason Bay).

All the while, the Mets lie in wait. Some of the fans that were perilously close to the edge, due in large part to the rambling and nonsensical hyperbole from the area's baseball writers, have slowly started to back off the edge. Others are still skeptical. The one's who have been level-headed throughout, are becoming even more confident in the direction of the team. One thing, though, is starting to become clear. The area writers (with some exceptions...Dave Lennon of Newsday for one) may want to take a look in the mirror before accusing blogs of being nonsense filled wastelands that are threatening to make newspapers obsolete. With every article that gets pumped out, the disappearance of true journalism is becoming more and more obvious. The writers are doing a fine job of single-handedly making their work obsolete. They don't need any assistance from us.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Why I Won't Cancel My Ticket Plan

I received an invoice from the Mets a little over a week ago. Enclosed was a letter from the Mets, stating the obvious - they knew 2009 was an awful season all around, they knew that we knew, and they pledged to make 2010 better. I didn't believe them. Not because I think they're lying or being disingenuous, but because they can't tell the future.

If the Mets or anyone else could tell the future, the team would've been prepared for the rash of injuries that destroyed the roster last season. I appreciate the team's attempt at apologizing and promising better times, but I knew it wouldn't be something that swayed my decision - since my decision was already made.

I never once pondered the idea of not renewing my ticket plan. I've had a partial (Saturday) ticket plan with the Mets since the 2001 season. No, I wasn't a bandwagon fan who jumped on board after the 2000 World Series trip. I was a 17 year old who had finally convinced my father to purchase a ticket plan (2 seats in Loge Reserved, Row A between third base and left field) and come to the games with me.

For nine seasons, we cherished those seats in Loge Reserved. We made friends with most of the other plan holders who sat around us, and made enemies with the fairweather fans who came into our section and pissed us off. We imitated the vendors - everyone from the guy with the awful toupee, to the soda vendor who pronounced pepsi as "petsee," to the guy who sweated into his beer. The games were sometimes great and sometimes awful, but usually fell somewhere inbetween.

It was more than the games, though. It was knowing that any time the Mets were home on a Saturday, we would be there. For all the arguments fathers and sons have, there would never be one that took place at a Mets game. It was a time to sit in the sun, cheer for your team, curse a little, laugh a lot, and throw back a few. In 2007, when my father eventually got tired of dealing with all the traffic we had to sit in to and from the games, my friend Jeff bought his ticket and we split the plan until Shea Stadium was demolished after the 2008 season. Our last Saturday game at Shea was Johan's masterpiece against the Marlins that kept the Mets alive.

As the offseason before 2009 went on, we agonized over whether or not we would be offered a ticket plan in new Citi Field. We eventually were, but it was different than the one we had at Shea. Instaed of 13 Saturday games, we received 10 Saturday games and 5 weeknight games. This change was a problem for some, but since I work in the Bronx and my friend Jeff works in Manhattan, it wasn't a big deal meeting up after work to head to the weeknight games. We of course decided to get the plan, and our friend Charles came in with us and bought a 3rd ticket.

The seats we were able to secure in Citi Field were in Promenade Reserved, Section 527, Row 2...a far cry from our old seats that were in the Loge at Shea. But even though they weren't the best seats, they were still good. And they were a ton less money than we had paid at Shea (coming out to roughly $300.00 per seat for the 15 games - plus whatever we spend on parking and food). Every Met fan knows how last season turned out, so there's no need to go into that. We went until it was unbearable (which for me came when I was unfortunate enough to see David Wright take a fastball to the head). We enjoyed Citi Field, and even when the Mets were getting blasted, we enjoyed eachother's company.

My friends and I are enormous Mets fans. We follow the team 12 months a year, hang on every pitch, and look forward to every game. Our moods rise when the Mets win, drop when they lose, and go into the toilet when they drop a game in agonizing fashion. Our girlfriends can't understand why we care so much about the Mets, nor do we expect them to. We were born to root for this team, and take great pride in doing so. We DO care this much, and that's all that matters. No matter how bad the team gets, no matter how terrible the losses get, no matter how down the rest of the fanbase gets, we will always be there.

That's not to say that the losing doesn't have a huge impact on us. It affects us tremendously. We get pissed off, we storm around the ballpark by ourselves cursing and shaking our heads. When we're watching the games at home, we call eachother in disgust and throw our possessions at the walls when bad things happen to our team. Through all of it, the Mets remain our team.

We refuse to buy the negativity being spewed by the local and national media about the Mets. We aren't offended that our beautiful new ballpark has a rotunda that's dedicated to the man who broke baseball's color barrier. We aren't mad that the Mets haven't already signed Matt Holliday, unlike the delusional and impatient fans who are already thirsty for blood. We're aware that the offseason will play out slowly, and we hope that the Mets end up with the players they need.

Mets fans are different than Yankee fans. We're conditioned to not give up easily. We aren't spoiled brats who expect our team to win the World Series every year. We refuse to whimper in the corner because the Mets had one brutal injury ravaged season after having four seasons where the team averaged nearly 90 wins.

We will keep our ticket plan. And like the days I spent at the ballpark with my father from 2001-2006, the three of us will go to the ballpark together to cheer for the Mets. We'll sometimes get there early to tailgate a little, head to shake shack for a burger, and then settle into our seats. Every time we attend a game, we'll have our momentary escape from our jobs and our love lives and any nonsense that may be going on at the moment.

We'll enjoy the day or night, enjoy eachothers company, and hope the Mets win. We'll do those things because that is what being at a baseball game is all about. It's not a place to bicker over nonsense (like the rotunda or the media's controversy du jour), it's about enjoying the ballgame. If there are 2 strikes on a batter and Johan is in his delivery, we'll stand up and cheer (the fairweathers behind us can complain all they want). If one of the Mets drives in a run, we'll stand in unison and slap hands and beat the hell out of eachother in celebration. Unlike tons of other Mets fans who have been canceling their tickets in droves, we will be there. And come April, we'll be filled with optimism just like we are every season. That optimism will likely turn to sadness and disappointment sometime between April and late October. But if it doesn't, oh what a season it will be.

Monday, November 30, 2009

What is a Laughing Stock?

Since the Mets' 2009 season mercifully came to a close, there have been quite the number of words/terms that have been used to describe them. They've been labeled pathetic, a joke, second class citizens, and a laughing stock. A great big laughing stock...

What IS a laughing stock? The 1962 Mets were a laughing stock. The Knicks since 2001 are a perennial laughing stock. The Detroit Lions are a laughing stock. But the Mets? Can one unbelievably unlucky injury plagued hell on Earth season make the Mets a laughing stock just like that? Many in the local and national media seem to think so.

The dreadful 2009 season the Mets had has somehow eliminated the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons. Jose Reyes is no longer a star on the rise -he's washed up at age 26 after being healthy for 4 straight seasons (apparently only players on teams other than the Mets recover from injuries in their 20's). The team that was picked by Sports Illustrated before last season to win the World Series is now dead in the water. They apparently have no direction (even though their farm system has been improving and is now around the middle of the pack). They have no hope (even though they sold over 3 million tickets, have pledged to keep a high payroll, and have a brand new ballpark and relatively new network). To the media and uninformed fans of other teams, they're a laughing stock.

From 2005 through 2008, the Mets averaged 89 wins per year. They came back from the dead in 2005, and were one swing away from making it to the World Series in 2006 (but were at a severe disadvantage after losing both their #1 and #2 starters before the NLDS - a fact no one ever brings up). In 2007, everyone knows what happened. In 2008, the Mets lost Billy Wagner in August and ended up missing the Playoffs by a game. Tough endings to seasons? No doubt.

From 1997-2009, the Mets have had 9 winning seasons and 4 losing seasons (three of those losing seasons were 2002, 2003 and 2004). They've made the playoffs 3 times during that span, and missed out on the playoffs by 1 game on 3 other occassions (1998, 2007, 2008). They've consistently been at one of the top spots in baseball as far as attendance is concerned. They've launched their own network, opened a beautiful new ballpark, continued to dwarf the team across town with their charity efforts, and have had no trouble attracting free agents.

But 2009 happened. Apparently, losing Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, JJ Putz, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Johan Santana, Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Ryan Church, Alex Cora, Gary Sheffield, Angel Pagan, Brian Schneider, Jeff Francoeur, David Wright and others for huge chunks of the season had nothing to do with the Mets losing over 90 games. They were a laughing stock again (even though they were contenders up until the point when the injuries got too absurd to combat in June). They were a joke of a franchise (even though they had a brand new ballpark, and a network with some of the best in the business as its voices). Their future was doomed and they needed to rebuild (even though their core of David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez was in tact). Their farm system was brutal (even though they have Ike Davis, Fernando Martinez, Reese Havens, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores, Jenrry Mejia, Brad Holt and others on the horizon). All of these things somehow became fact after ONE injury ravaged season.

Now, according to the same drones in the media, it's going to be impossible for the Mets to attract free agents this offseason (even thought they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran after a brutal 2004). If that angle isn't good enough, the writers (New York Daily News, I'm looking at you) will claim that the Mets are in a financial freeze - that they don't intend to spend this winter...another notion that's a complete crock.

All of this hyperbole is enough to drive a regular fan insane. Since most Mets fans are already insane, my advice is to take all of this stuff and shrug. Laugh if you must, or just crack a small smile. Don't believe the nonsense that's being spewed. Don't let the negativity cause you to scale back your fandom. Don't fall for the trap. The 2010 Mets, barring injuries, will be what the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 teams were - teams that win more games than they lose. If they play up to their capability, they'll make the Playoffs. And if they catch the breaks that are necessary for a Championship run, they'll make one. Laughing stock my ass.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are These Retro Enough?

Today, in an e-mail to fans and in an official release, the Mets announced what had been known by most fans for quite some time: The Mets are getting a new "retro" home jersey for the 2010 season (the old bright white pinstriped jersey is no more).
In its place, is a jersey that is similar but is a lot closer to the orignial Mets home uniforms of the 1960's. The new jersey is a cream color - the drastic difference between the old bright white jerseys and the new cream ones is evident when you look at them side by side. The pinstripes appear to be lighter, while the blue and orange Mets lettering across the chest appears to be darker than the lettering on the old jerseys (which I thought was too bright). However, one thing about the "retro" jerseys is completely 1998.
The jerseys the Mets wore in the 1960's were cream with light blue pinstripes and Mets written in bold across the chest (just like the new "retro" jerseys). One thing those jerseys didn't have? Black drop-shadow encasing the Mets lettering across the chest. To the non die-hard fan, this isn't a big deal. To the fans who almost unanimously relayed their disdain of the black colors that appeared in Mets uniforms starting in 1998 (in surveys that the team sent out themselves). "Retro" jerseys - especially ones that celebrate the teams past- should not have black drop-shadow. Especially when the fans the team polled pretty much all hate the Mets' black hats and uniforms. Black was not an original Mets color. Their colors were blue (from the Dodgers) and orange (from the Giants).
This new jersey is very nice. If it's worn strictly with the blue hats and blue stirrups it will look great. In order to make it look fantastic, the Mets need to remove the black drop-shadow. Tom Seaver never wore a Mets uniform that had any black in it. David Wright's "retro" jersey shouldn't have black either. Make the change.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vomit Inducing Voraciousness

Today, Rational (sometimes) Mets Musings will focus its attention on a report about the team that plays across town -the team that plays in another league, but whose personnel moves profoundly affect the Mets and the rest of Major League Baseball.

In a report for, Jon Heyman relays the news that the Yankees recently reached out to the Toronto Blue Jays to express interest in acquiring their (and arguably the American League's) best pitcher. According to Heyman, in exchange for Roy Halladay, the Yankees are willing to include Phil Hughes and Catcher Jesus Montero (the Yankees' top prospect).

There are two parties I'm disgusted with. One of them is the Yankees...who after a World Series Title that came on the heels of one of the biggest spending sprees in the history of baseball, may attempt to add yet another enormous contract (Halladay will seek a 6 year extension worth over $20 million annually) to stack up next to the rest of their mercenaries. The Yankees cannot be faulted for this. It's disgusting, greedy, and absurd, but it's not their fault. They're simply trying to buy every single marquee player in their quest to eventually make the entire baseball season an irrelevant masquerade. The rules are the rules, and there is no hard salary cap. If the Yankees acquired Roy Halladay, their payroll would skyrocket to close to $250 million (almost double what the Mets' payroll is, and $100 million clear of the field).

Regardless of how recklessly the Yankees are acting during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the party I'm far more disgusted with are the Blue Jays and Alex Anthopoulous. For those who may not know, Anthopoulous is the new General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. In sharp contrast from his predecessor J.P. Ricciardi, Anthopolous has intimated that he has no reservations about dealing Roy Halladay to a team in his own division (namely the Yankees or Red Sox). If the Yankees - and to a lesser extent the Red Sox - were on the same financial level as the Blue Jays, I would agree with lots of Anthopolous' points.

Anthopolous states that if the trade packages are comparable between a team in his division and a team outside of his division, he would almost certainly deal his star player to the team that plays outside of his division. He goes on to say that if the markedly better package is from a team in his division (the Yankees), it's in the best interest of his franchise to deal his star player to that team. While this idea may not be totally absurd if the Blue Jays were the 2nd best team in the Division - making them a contender for the Wild Card each year - it IS absurd since the Blue Jays are also in a division with the Red Sox.

I'm not suggesting that General Managers refuse to deal quality players to the Yankees -that would result in cries of collusion, and create an enormous mess throughout Major League Baseball. My suggestion is that the brand new General Manager of a team in the same division as two financial behemoths, exhausts every single trade option before even considering dealing Roy Halladay to the Yankees. In a perfect world, there would be a hard salary cap in baseball (Maybe $200 million), that would prevent scenarios like Halladay to the Yankees from becoming a reality. With the absence of that hard salary cap, General Managers who outsmart themselves all the way to unemployment must be trusted to not let this situation with the Yankees get any more out of hand.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our Ballpark

With the absence of any concrete team related news over the last few days, Rational (sometimes) Mets Musings will today turn its attention to our glistening new ballpark, and the unfair abuse it has taken during its first year of existence.

This weekend, it was reported that the bullpens at Citi Field would be renovated for the 2010 season. Instead of one being behind the other, the bullpens will be changed to a side by side setup. Both broadcasters and players of visiting teams complained throughout the season about the location of the visitors pen (which prevented broadcasters from seeing who was warming up, and prevented players from having a quality view of the game that was taking place before them). The renovation of the bullpens follows lots of other adjustments/corrections that were made to the ballpark in-season (some with lots of fanfare, some that no one noticed).

For any Mets fan, Shea Stadium was a place that was filled with memories - a place that shook with anticipation and excitement, and a place that was loved even though it was absent of charm and was lacking in most areas. The ramps were steep, the escalators were usually broken. The corridors were cold and dark, the seats weren't angled properly, and the blue exteroir that was unveiled in the mid 1980's turned to purple after a while. Nevertheless, the ballpark was loved despite its deficiencies - treatment that Citi Field has not received.

What is Citi Field? It's a brand new ballpark that was built for baseball. It is the home of the New York Mets, who wear Blue and Orange. Like its predecessor, it is a distinct pitchers park. The outside of the ballpark is beautiful, and is a nod to the exterior of Ebbets Field. The seats, for the most part, aren't absurdly priced, and are angled toward the field (there are some blind spots, like there are in every ballpark). There are lots of advertisements, a tremendous food selection, a train that lets you off at the entrance of the ballpark, and pictures of past and current players that take up just about half of the left side of the exterior of the ballpark. Sounds nice, right?

Lots of Mets fans (and New Yorkers) chose to ignore everything that was great about Citi Field, and attacked everything they felt was wrong about it. The most deafening screams came from those who claimed the ballpark was a nod to the Dodgers, and nothing more (simply because the rotunda was named after Jackie Robinson). Those people failed to take into consideration that the Mets are descendants of the Dodgers and Giants (we'll get to the other old New York NL team in a second), whose fans are in turn descendants of the fans of those late, great teams. The fans complained because the seats were green (ignoring the fact that when Shea Stadium opened, the seats were pastel colors). They complained that the walls weren't blue, but were the black and orange colors of the old New York Giants (ignoring the fact that the walls were green when Shea Stadium opened). They complained that there were (gasp!) seats where you couldn't see every inch of the playing field. The last complaint is a circumstance of going to a ballgame. There isn't ONE ballpark in Major League Baseball that offers unobstructed seats from every location in the joint.

There were a bunch of issues that the fans complained about, and those issues were addressed. It was noted by season ticket holders that the LED Boards that ran along the Promenade Level were blocking the view for some fans in the first row. The Mets responded by lowering the boards. The fans complained that there weren't enough pictures of Mets greats adorning the ballpark (even though there were pictures ringing the entire outside of the ballpark to go along with the enormous mural that covered the left field entrance, not to mention the silhouettes of great moments in Mets history that were at each main entrance). In turn, the Mets added MORE pictures to the inside of the ballpark. After all of these complaints were addressed, the only thing left to yell about was the fact that there wasn't enough blue and orange throughout the park.

Ballparks, these fans claimed, were filled with the colors of the home team's uniform (even though that claim is false). Without those colors, the fans roared, it's impossible to know whose ballpark they were at (just like the fans in Fenway Park who forget where they are because of all of the green). With the fans and talk show hosts continuing to roar through the offseason, the Mets announced that they would add orange and blue to the bare walls that enclose the staircases at Citi Field. This, they thought, would please the fans. Wrong. The same fans who screamed about the lack of Mets colors at Citi Field are now screaming because they're worried that the staircase walls (that they haven't seen, and have no idea how the Mets will paint them) will look tacky. Plain walls were an indication that the Mets didn't care about their history. Walls that contain orange and blue are tacky. Note to whoever builds the next Mets ballpark in 50 years: Don't build walls.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Justice for Wally

After being out of Major League Baseball since his unceremonious firing by the Diamondbacks five years ago, Wally Backman has finally (and deservedly) been welcomed back to manage the game he loves. In a story that was reported online at New York Baseball Digest, it was announced today that Backman has been hired to manage the Brooklyn Cyclones (one of the Mets' single A affiliates).

Although Backman is not immediately returning to manage the big league team, one would think he's relieved today that his five year nightmare is finally over. After ripping through the Minor League managing ranks (drawing raves from future stars Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin - who Backman managed in the minors), Backman was hired to manage the Diamondbacks in 2004. Just days later, citing concerns over certain information they claim Backman didn't share during the interviewing process, the Diamondbacks fired Backman.

Wally Backman isn't a saint. He and his wife don't host game night with other couples. He's had some issues with alcohol, and he's had some issues with his finances. With that said, he did not deserve to be hired and fired by the Diamondbacks in the manner that he was back in 2004. After that firing, he certainly shouldn't have been blacklisted by Major League Baseball.

The reason the Diamondbacks fired Backman, was because he had failed to disclose that he had once filed for bankruptcy (not a crime), because of a "domestic disturbance" he was involved in (an altercation with his wife where she struck him, and where Backman was found to have done nothing wrong), and due to the fact that his struggles with alcohol had let to an arrest for Driving under the Influence.

Again, Backman is not a saint. However, filing for bankruptcy is something millions of people go through. It's not something that anyone would ever bring up in an interview with a prospective employer, and it's not something that should trigger a firing. Being involved in a domestic dispute with your significant other is ugly and embarrassing. However, when it's determined that you have done nothing wrong, it should remain ugly and embarrassing, but allow you to keep your job.

Driving while under the Influence is a whole different story. In that instance, Wally Backman was wrong. He made a mistake, and he paid for it - and he was lucky his idiotic decision didn't cause anything more severe. No one would (and no one should) ever condone getting behind the wheel after too many drinks. Tony La Russa (he of the multiple World Series Titles) has made that mistake, so did Billy Martin before him, and a countless number of athletes. While some of those men have a longer resume than Backman, it doesn't make them better people. And it certainly doesn't entitle them to have the jobs they deserve, while Backman is forced to sit on the sidelines begging for another shot.

After five years, Backman has that shot. It's not in the bigs (for now), but it's his chance to do what he loves again. It's his opportunity to take advantage of. For many Mets fans, Backman becoming manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones isn't satisfying because it reminds us of 1986 (I was only 3 when the Mets won that year). It's satisfying because Backman is one of us. He's a human being, and he's made mistakes (and paid for them in full). If Backman takes over the Cyclones with the same fire he displayed as a player, managing in the minors, and managing in the independent leagues, his potential is limitless. If he loses his temper and falters, he will most likely have ruined his best shot at making it all the way back.

Congratulations Wally. Keep your priorities straight, and go kick some ass.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

To Whoever is Feeding Crack and Assorted Hallucinogens to the New York Daily News Staff: Please Stop.

It's been irritating enough being subjected to moronic trade ideas from both the hosts and the first time caller/long time ignoramuses on WFAN. To them, the cure for a team that is ravaged by injuries is to trade one or both of its franchise's cornerstone players.

Although misguided and generally absurd, the hosts and callers making themselves heard on WFAN were at least hypothetically trading Jose Reyes and/or David Wright for other young cornerstone players who were under contract. They wanted to trade Jose Reyes for Tim Lincecum or deal David Wright for Kevin Youkilis. Those deals are still something I (and most rational Mets fans) would never consider, but they pale in comparison to the idiotic proposal that was spewed today from the mouth of William "The Bitter Bill" Price of the New York Daily News.

Mr. Price's article, he suggests trading David Wright to the Blue Jays as part of a package for Roy Halladay, and then signing Chone Figgins to play third base. Price claims that his proposed trade "makes sense on several levels." He cites Citi Field as a place where "power - especially from the right side - isn't going to get it done in Citi Field." He claims David Wright had a year that was "horrible" overall in 2009. Price goes on to suggest placing Fernando Martinez in a second deal to acquire a "second tier" Left Fielder (even though there are second tier free agents on the open market). It's hard to pick one aspect of this article to pick apart, so I'll deal with several:

Mr. Price thinks the Mets should deal David Wright as part of a package for Roy Halladay...there are tons of things wrong with that idea alone. First of all, if the Mets were clueless enough to even consider doing that deal, it would be a one for one. As it stands, teams are balking at including even one top tier PROSPECT in a deal for Roy Halladay. If the Mets called up and offered David Wright for him, Wright alone would be the price. Second, Roy Halladay will be 33 years old this season...and he will be asking for a 6 or 7 year extension worth over $120 million dollars. If you're trading David Wright, you trade him for a player that is entering his prime, not exiting it. And if you trade David Wright, you do it after a season where he was near his best. You don't do it off a season where his power numbers sagged because of an adjustment to a new ballpark, the complete lack of protection around him in the lineup, and because of a fastball to the head.

Moving on, Mr. Price claimed that David Wright had a "horrible" season. His home run numbers were down, which brought his RBI numbers down. Aside from that, he was at or near his career averages in every other category. If David Wright played an entire season with the proper players around him (Reyes, Beltran and Delgado), he would've most likely ended up with close to 20 homers and 100 RBI's (to go along with his very good average and OBP). Contrary to lots of hyperbole filled uninformed reports, Citi Field IS NOT a place that saps power from right-handed hitters. According to Bill James, it was actually 10 percent easier for righties to pull home runs in Citi Field than in any other park.

Let's recap: Mr. Price wants to trade David Wright AND others (coming off a down - for him - year), for a soon to be 33 year old pitcher who will request a contract extension, then sign a proven complementary player with no power who's never been a star (Chone Figgins) to replace him at third base. He then wants to trade one of the organization's top prospects (Fernando Martinez) for a second tier left fielder, even though there are outfielders available via free agency.

At the end of his article, Mr. Price states that the Mets are a "doomed" franchise, because he suspects if the Blue Jays offered Roy Halladay straight up for David Wright, the Mets would decline. That mindless statement wraps Mr. Price's excuse for journalism up in a nice little bow. The Mets are "doomed" because they would hypothetically not trade their 26 year old franchise player for a soon to be 33 year old pitcher who would demand a 6 or 7 year contract extension worth over $120 million dollars. Right.

Near the end of his article, Mr. Price claims that the Mets "won't even sniff" a championship without a pitcher like Halladay in the rotation. Unless I'm confused from being on the same stuff Mr. Price is on, the Mets already have a pitcher just like Halladay in the rotation (Johan Santana). The one that's already in the rotation is also 2 years younger than Roy Halladay, and has proven himself in New York - much like David Wright has. Wright is a player you build franchises around. He's a guy who's idolized by young Mets fans and beloved by the older ones. He's someone you hold onto. Sometimes I'm worried about the fact that Omar Minaya might make some rash moves, but today I'm comforted knowing that if he ran into Bill Price and heard about his idea, he'd laugh in his face.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Minaya and Boras Meet to Discuss Matt Holliday

Despite earlier reports in the Daily News claiming that the Mets would be focusing on 2nd tier free agents, Omar Minaya and Scott Boras met for 45 minutes last night to discuss Matt Holliday. In Joel Sherman's report in the New York Post, two Mets executives are quoted as saying they wouldn't be averse to going after Matt Holliday full bore (while executives from other teams are quoted as believing the Mets may be more cautious with their dollars).

According to Sherman, a power bat for left field is number one on the Mets' offseason priority list. After the 45 minute meeting with Minaya, Scott Boras did his best to discount the notion that Holliday would be negatively affected playing 81 games a year at Citi Field - going as far as to guarantee that Holliday would be a 100 RBI/100 Run man if he signed with the Mets.

This is just an initial meeting, and Boras wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't paint the Mets as serious suitors. However, as I stated yesterday, it would be shocking if the Mets didn't explore what it would take to bring Holliday to Queens. Boras has likened Holliday to Mark Teixiera (and indicated that he should receive a contract similar to the one Teixiera signed last year with the Yankees). Again, this is Boras' job. If a psychotic team bites on Boras' initial demands, he'll sign elsewhere. If not, the Mets should be right in the thick of things.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't Believe Everything You Read

In a report that appears in today's Daily News, Adam Rubin (with Omar Minaya in the picture at right) cites mine and your favorite, the team insider (or team source), depending on which paragraph you believe more, while spinning the notion that the Mets won't be going after free agents Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. While that's not a completely outlandish statement, it seems to be a complete departure from every indication we've gotten from the Mets since the season ended - specifically Jeff Wilpon's statements about the payroll after the last game.

While the article itself sits under a headline that states that an "Insider says Mets won't pay top dollar for pricey top-tier free agents," the link to the story offers up the more alarming (if you're a Mets fan hoping for a big bat or arm) headline of "Mets won't pay top dollar for free agents." Well, which one is it? Is it a claim being made by a team insider, or is it a fact that was signed in blood by Fred Wilpon? The link to the article suggests the latter, while the headline above the article itself leads the reader to believe the former is the case. Let's give Adam Rubin the benefit of the doubt, and realize that a frisky Daily News editor probably didn't realize he/she was creating two completely different headlines for the same story. Now, let's take a look at the content of the article itself:

In the article, there is not one quote from anyone in the Mets organization that states that the team will be priced out of the top-tier free agent players. The juiciest quote comes from the team insider, who says that he "expected the salary demands of Matt Holliday and Jason Bay to be too high for the Mets." That's it. He expected their salary demands to be too high. He's not relaying information from Jeff Wilpon or Omar Minaya or John Ricco. He's not revealing what the Mets' offseason plan is, and he's not quoting potential salary demands from the two players mentioned. He's simply assuming that two free agents (who won't even be able to negotiate new contracts with the rest of Major League Baseball for another 10 days), will have demands that are too high for the Mets' taste. If you believe something as vague and poorly worded as that, you're probably one of the millions who believed the Mets had no shot at acquiring Johan Santana.

In the offseason of 2008, there was one reason after another that was spewed out by the local and national media alike, hammering home that the Mets had no shot at Johan: The Mets have nothing in their Minor League System; the Mets can't outbid the Yankees and the Red Sox; Johan doesn't want to be a Met; the Mets won't commit the money needed to extend his contract....It went on and on and on. However, one difference between all of those assertions and the assertion in Adam Rubin's article today, is that the Yankees and Red Sox actually DID have better prospects than the Mets. At least some of that nonsense was based in reality.

As recently as last offseason, it was forced down Mets fans throats that the Mets would be priced out on Francisco Rodriguez. How'd that work out? It's November 10th. The Mets have a gaping hole in the lineup and a vacancy in left field. They have over $30 million dollars coming off the books. Matt Holliday seems like a perfect fit for this team, and I refuse to believe for one second that they won't pursue him. His agent is Scott Boras. The second November 19th becomes November 20th, Scott Boras will start bellowing to anyone who will listen that Matt Holliday wants $20 million dollars per year for eight years - as is his right. If any team is insane enough to entertain those demands, he won't be a Met. However, if this offseason resembles the last two, no team will be insane enough to let Boras completely dictate the market.

There will be thousands of rumors, blogs, tweets, and articles between now and the time Matt Holliday signs his new contract. Some of them will paint Holliday as a city boy at heart, eager to embrace the big stage. The next day, an unnamed friend of Holliday will claim that the slugger wants no part of the big city. Boras will float rumors of mystery teams and enormous salary offers. General Managers will float nonsense to their beat writers. Fans will create ideas and circulate them on internet message boards. None of that matters. The only thing that matters is where the players ultimately end up. Until that happens, don't believe everything you read, or hear, or see...

Monday, November 9, 2009

2009 Was An Aberration...In 2010, The Mets Seek Redemption

With the General Manager's Meetings kicking off today, this seems like as good a time as any to begin analyzing why things went so terribly wrong in 2009, and to figure out what needs to be done to ensure that the Mets' 2010 season bears little resemblance to the disaster that came to an end five weeks ago in half empty Citi Field.

Most fans of the New York Mets are die-hards, so the strong reactions that have been echoing from them have been expected. However, it seems that way too many (fans and the media alike) have quickly forgotten that from 2005-2008, the Mets (with their returning core of Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran) averaged around 90 wins a year. Last season was so awful that it's been clouding people's judgement.

According to the fans that have lost all hope, other teams have struggling young players who will reach their potential, while the Mets have washed up 24 and 25 year olds who will never meet theirs. The sentiments have been insanely overly pessimistic. People are so angry at the disaster that was 2009, that they refuse to accept the fact that it was one thing that sabotaged the season. To them, it's much easier to condemn the organization as a whole than to face the facts. Yes, the Mets played sloppy ball at times. Yes, they couldn't hit home runs. Yes, they made tons of baserunning mistakes, and saw a potential game winning single turn into a game ending triple play.

With all that happened to them, the reason the 2009 Mets finished 70-92, was because their players were knocked off the field at a rate that was so absurd that it became comical by August. The Mets didn't get decimated by injuries because they had too many old players, or because of a lack of conditioning, or because players were dogging it. They got hurt in ways that ranged from annoying to ordinary to plain frightening. Let's analyze the afflicted (in rough order of when their injury happened):

Johan Santana - His elbow acted up in March, causing him to miss some time in Spring Training. By most accounts, he pitched hurt the entire year before going down for good in August and going under the knife.

Oliver Perez - Also went down in Spring Training with knee issues. After roughly 3 months, he came back and pitched hurt before being shut down for good.

John Maine - Went down in June, and missed pretty much the rest of the season with shoulder issues.

JJ Putz - The man who was supposed to be the Mets' setup man, went down with elbow problems in late May and never returned.

Francisco Rodriguez - Missed time with back spasms in May.

Jon Niese - After showing promise, ripped his hammy from the bone while covering 1st base.

Fernando Nieve - Much like Niese, went down in July after showing tons of promise.

Carlos Delgado - Hip trouble sidelined him in May. He never returned.

Jose Reyes - A multitude of lower body issues cost him the final 4 months of the season.

Carlos Beltran - Missed nearly 3 months with knee trouble.

David Wright - Missed 2 weeks after getting drilled in the helmet by Matt Cain.

Alex Cora - A torn thumb sent him out in May and ruined the rest of his season.

Gary Sheffield - Missed nearly half the season with various ailments.

Fernando Martinez - I bet most people forgot he was even injured. Missed the last 3 1/2 months of the season.

...I left off Brian Schneider, Tim Redding, Angel Pagan, Ramon Martinez, Omir Santos, Ryan Church and Jeff Francoeur...It was getting too painful to recount these atrocities.

After reading that list, anyone who attributes the Mets' 2009 season to an overall organizational failure is delusional. Any team that loses 5 of its 7 starting pitchers (depth chart wise), 3 of their MVP caliber core players for the vast majority of the season, and the 4th MVP caliber player to a beaning, their setup man, their top prospect, their starting catcher, TWO backup shortstops, 2 different right fielders (Church and Francoeur), and a host of others is screwed. There's not a single team in baseball that would've been able to deal with the amount of injuries the Mets suffered (considering the severity of the injuries and the players they happened too). Any other team would've been just as screwed as the Mets. Say it again. Any other team would've been just as screwed as the Mets.

With that in mind, I'm obviously not of the opinion of some others - which is that the Mets should rebuild. That notion is absurd. A team that has a core of David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez does not rebuild...especially when there's a very taleneted crop of minor leaguers on the horizon. Among those that may be ready to contribute in 2010 or early 2011 are Fernando Martinez, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Jon Niese, Brad Holt, Jenrry Mejia, Kirk Niuwenhuis, Ruben Tejada and Reese Havens. Lots of "experts" continue to claim that the Mets have a terrible farm system. That claim is false.

Since it's 70 degrees today in New York (making me hungry for a baseball game I know won't come for over 4 months), and I'm on my lunch break at work, I'll continue this post instead of cutting it in half. Above is why I believe the Mets can contend next year. Below is what I feel should be their course of action this offseason.

Immediately after the season ended, Jeff Wilpon stated that the Mets would continue to have one of the highest payroll's in the National League. The Mets probably have around $30 Million to play with (before taking into account any potential trades that could bring substantial salary relief). They have declined JJ Putz's option, and are preparing to cut ties with Carlos Delgado.

Now, Rational (sometimes) Mets Musings' Plan:

Catcher: The rumors are that the Mets are looking into Bengie Molina and Rod Barajas. Pass and Pass. Molina is 36, and Barajas isn't good.

Your 2010 Mets Catcher Solution: Platoon Omir Santos and Josh Thole. Some think Thole needs some more seasoning behind the plate, which is an accurate take. However, with Reyes, Wright and Beltran returning, and the Mets upgrading the offense in other areas, there's no need to go after Bengie Molina.

First Base: Adrian Gonzalez is out there. He's young, plays great defense and has tremendous power. There's no doubt that he'd be a tremendous addition for any contending club that's in need of a first baseman. However, there are two big reasons why the Mets shouldn't trade for him. First of all, since he's still under contract for another two years, he'll cost a fortune in prospects - prospects the Mets don't have to deal since there are power hitting options available via free agency. Second, one of the Mets' top prospects (Ike Davis) should be ready to contribute at the big league level by midseason.

Your 2010 Mets First Base Solution: A Daniel Murphy/Troy Glaus platoon, which eventually gives way to Ike Davis around midseason. Yes, I got the Troy Glaus idea from Marty Noble. I think it's a great low-risk option - especially with Ike Davis waiting in the wings. Do I think Daniel Murphy would be better suited being a jack of all trades (1B, 2B, 3B, PH) off the bench? Perhaps...and if Davis continues to hit, that's exactly where Murphy will end up.

Second Base: As of now, the Mets are still locked into Luis (I love bunting more than sex) Castillo. Castillo DID have a decent year - his lack of range and terrible baseball IQ not withstanding - so teams in need of a second baseman could be interested.

Your 2010 Mets Second Base Solution: Trade Luis Castillo for two lower level a couple of million dollars if it's necessary. Sign Orlando Hudson. After becoming invisible in Los Angeles, Hudson should come cheap.

Shortstop: Jose Reyes

Third Base: David Wright

Left Field: The Gary Sheffield experience is over. Fernando Martinez is coming off of season ending surgery (though he still has tons of potential). Moises Alou is peeing on his hands somewhere else. Hideki Matsui is a DH at this point of his career. Manny is staying in Hollywood. The Mets need some more toughness. The Mets need some more power.

Your 2010 Mets Left Field Solution: Sign Matt Holliday (6 years/96 million). Holliday is 29 years old, and he's a perfect fit for the Mets. The vast majority of his homers and doubles were pulled, and according to Bill James, it was 10% easier to hit homers to Left Field in Citi Field than it was in the other National League Parks. Invite Holliday to Citi Field on November 20th. Have David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Francisco Rodriguez and Johan Santana greet him in the rotunda. Get it done.

Center Field: Carlos Beltran

Right Field: Jeff Francoeur - The additions of Orlando Hudson and Matt Holliday should drop Francoeur to 7th in the batting order - which is exactly where he should be.

The Starting Rotation:

1P: Johan Santana

2P: Roy Halladay is a beast. Roy Halladay is available. However, much like Adrian Gonzalez, Roy Halladay will cost a fortune in prospects. He will also be seeking a 7 year contract extension worth $20 million dollars annually. At this point in his career, Mike Pelfrey is not stable enough to serve as a # 2 starter. John Maine has the stuff to do it, but has legitimate health concerns. Randy Wolf isn't a bad pitcher, but he's not a #2. Neither is Jason Marquis. Rich Harden has tremendous upside, but can't be relied on.

Your 2010 Mets # 2 Starter Solution: Sign John Lackey (5 years/$85 million). Lackey will be 31 on Opening Day. He has the same mentality as Johan Santana, but comes at you from the right side instead of the left. His ERA's the last 5 years in the American League have been 3.44, 3.56, 3.01, 3.75 and 3.83. He won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, and has a career Postseason ERA of 3.12. He screamed and cursed when the ball was taken from him in Game 6 of the ALCS. I'd love to see him screaming and cursing while getting taken out of a game by Jerry Manuel in 2010.

3P: John Maine

4P: Mike Pelfrey

5P: Jonathon Niese/Oliver Perez - Here is where lots of Mets fans will start to scream. "You can't trust the 3 through 5 spots of the starting rotation to question marks," they'll say. My response? With Johan Santana and John Lackey at the top of the rotation, you have more room to take chances. There are NO guarantees in baseball. The Mets are NOT the Yankees. They're not going to commit over $200 million dollars to payroll. If the Mets acquire Matt Holliday and John Lackey, they'll be adding roughly $35 million dollars. After that, it's time to get creative and to put some trust in the players you've developed.

The Bullpen:

Closer: Francisco Rodriguez

Setup: JJ Putz - Potential glutton for punishment scenario? Yes. Best option since the Mets will have very little to spend if Holliday and Lackey are acquired? Probably. JJ Putz wants to close. JJ Putz is also coming off back to back injury plagued seasons (that very well may be completely behind him after having surgery this fall). Lock him down with an incentive laden deal, and give him and Frankie the do-over they deserve.

Lefty Specialist - Pedro Feliciano - Ideally, someone will emerge in the Rule V draft or from the Minor League System who can partner with Feliciano.

Middle Inning Righties - Bobby Parnell, Fernando Nieve

Long Man - Nelson Figueroa

The Bench:

Catcher: Omir Santos/Josh Thole

Infield: Daniel Murphy/Troy Glaus

Infield: Alex Cora

Outfield: Angel Pagan

Outfield: Xavier Nady - The final bench spot goes to Nady, who should be affordable coming off an injury plagued couple of years. On days when Troy Glaus starts, Nady would offer some needed pop off the bench, and could fill in for Holliday and Francoeur as needed.

....That's it. That's the plan. Nothing too insane, since nothing insane is really necessary. The Mets need a power bat (Holliday). The Mets need a legitimate #2 starter (Lackey). The Mets need a Major League quality bench. Most of all, the Mets need to be healthy and to have some things break their way for a change. I don't want accolades if the 2010 Mets closely resemble the above idea, and I don't want to be ridiculed if the above idea isn't close to what the team is come Opening Day. The only thing I want is a winning ballclub. The offseason bell has rung...get at it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Choices We Make

Disclaimer: If you are a die-hard Yankee fan (you live and die with every pitch, you don't own any pink Yankee clothing), please DO NOT be offended by the way I'm about to slam fairweather Yankee fans. This is directed at them, not you. I still despise your team, though, and everything they stand for. Now.....

Over the past few days, what has been a potential nightmare scenario for Mets fans has started to seem certain. After a season where the Mets were ravaged by injuries on the field and scandals off of it, it appears that the two teams Mets fans loathe the most (the Yankees and Phillies), are about to square off in the World Series. What to do, what to do...

I've surveyed lots of Mets fans to see who they would root for, and they seem torn. Some are planning on rooting for the Yankees because of City pride or because they have close friends who are annoying Phillies fans. Some are planning on rooting for the Phillies because of a lifelong hatred of the Yankees or because this feud with the Phillies is so recent.

I didn't have to put much thought into who I'd root for. Over the past couple of weeks, strange things started happening. During my commute to work, people were breaking out never worn Yankees caps and jackets. On Facebook, people who never uttered a word about the Yankees were claiming to be crazy fans, when all they were really doing was following the crowd. The New York media and the National media started riding the Yankees like a prostitute. All of these things cemented what I've always felt: Rooting for the Yankees (for me) is like rooting for U.S. Steel or the Cigarette Industry. And as a Mets fan, rooting for them is not an option.

I understand the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans are slimy douchebags. I really do. However, for Mets fans, rooting against the Yankees (no matter who they're playing) is not only a birthright, but a duty we must uphold for the sake of our departed Brooklyn Dodger and New York Giant rooting family members, who passed the love of the Mets and National League Baseball down to us.

What are most of our first memories of baseball, and what stuck with us that made us become fans? For me, it was going to Shea Stadium. It was being able to crane my neck as the Stadium first appeared in the distance off the Grand Central Parkway, the smell of the grass after the usher brought me to my seat, the enormity of a Major League ballpark to a little kid. It was my Grandfather who passed down his love of the Mets to me, and it was being at the ballpark that made it that much more special.

Being at the ballpark...something the Yankees have made impossible for tons of their fans. I won't dispute the fact that Citi Field has its lavish features, but it's not the corporate playpen the New Yankee Stadium is. If you check out that link, you'll see how the Yankees forced out fans who had held season tickets for over 80 years. People who they should've cherished...all because of greed.

The 2009 Yankees are a tremendous baseball team - there's no disputing that. What enables them to be great, though, is what ruined baseball in cities like Montreal and it's what has made proud franchises like the Pittsburgh Pirates irrelevant. No one can spend with the Yankees. Their payroll of 208 million dollars is 90 million dollars more than the teams closest to them (the Cubs, Mets and Red Sox). Even with all of their lavish spending, the Yankees had moved further and further away from the dynasty teams of 1996-2000, until 2009. Eventually, throwing money around at every attractive free agent year after year was bound to work.

Not only are the Yankees a bloated financial behemoth, their team is loaded with mercenaries and steroid cheats. Alex Rodriguez, who was a pariah before the Playoffs started, is a steroid cheat. Andy Pettitte, the man with all of that down-home charm and Postseason moxie used hGH (human growth hormone). The last Yankees team to win a World Series (in 2000 against the Mets) had EIGHT players who would later be exposed as steroid cheats. Those players were Chuck Knoblauch, David Justice, Jose Canseco, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Jason Grimsley, Mike Stanton and Denny Neagle. The pitchers responsible for wins in 3 of the 4 games against the Mets were Clemens, Pettitte and Neagle. And the Title clinching 4th win was celebrated at Shea Stadium. Disgusting.

Now, we have Mets fans who sat through that disgrace, who are considering rooting for the Yankees against the Phillies. The way the team operates is terrible enough, but the vast majority of their fans are what cause the hatred. They get excited for Opening Day, then don't utter a word about the Yankees until late September. They wear pink hats with the interlocking N Y, and #2 jerseys with Derek Jeter's name on the back (even though the Yankees never wear their names on the back of their jerseys). When you try to engage them in an intelligent discussion about baseball, their only retort is "26 Championships"....even though 20 of those Championships came before the Mets were in existence. They post messages on your Facebook wall stating that "David Wright has a headache," just hours after the kid is knocked unconscious by a fastball to the helmet.

Phillies fans are more like gum that gets stuck on the bottom of your shoe. Most of them are developmentally disabled, so it's hard to discern what they're saying when they try to engage in trash talk. They're basically harmless. And even though Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino and Chase Utley and Cole Hamels make me want to throw up, they're all homegrown talents (unlike A-Rod and Tex and CC and Burnett). They play old school National League ball, and although their ballpark is a bit of a bandbox, it's not a place where broken bats and pop-ups end up going over the fence (like the New Yankee Stadium).

If the Yankees win the World Series, Mets fans will have to deal with constant gloating from all of their friends - most who live in the NY metro area. We'll have to sit through hours of endless talk of how great the Yankees are on every news channel, in every paper, on every blog. We'll be commuting to work one day in early November, and end up riding the train with hundreds of drunk Yankee fans on their way to a parade.

If the Phillies win the World Series, it'll mean that the Yankees have not. It'll suck to hear the Phillies fans gloating, but they won the World Series last year so that really won't be anything new. We won't have to turn off the TV for fear of endless replays of the last out or out of fear of flipping on Letterman to see the Phillies doing a Top Ten List. We certainly will not end up commuting to work in the middle of a Phillies parade. And those who passed the love of the Mets and National League ball down to us, the old timers who rooted for the Dodgers and Giants before the Mets, and loathed the Yankees...they'll be proud of us for continuing to follow their lead.

Monday, June 22, 2009

June 22nd...Two Games Out...Perez and Maine on the Horizon?

As blogs and message boards have become more prevalent, and journalists and sports personalities on SNY and WFAN have become even more desperate to make a name for themselves by being more outlandish and ultra-reactionary, I've simply started analyzing baseball by myself. It's really pretty simple. The team that wins has more runs than the other at the end of the game. When a team has lots of injuries, it hinders their chances. When that team is missing multiple key players from the starting lineup, bullpen and starting rotation, those chances suffer more. When the two aforementioned malady's are compounded by the fact that the Manager of that team doesn't think before he makes in-game decisions, well then you've got a pretty big problem.

I don't need to read the Daily News (even though Adam Rubin is the most level-headed beat writer around) or listen to Mike Francesa or watch SNY to know what's going on with the Mets. I don't need the opinion of people who don't follow the Mets as religiously as I do. While I don't doubt their intellect or their credentials, I do doubt the reasoning behind their statements and wonder if they really believe what they're bellowing. I don't need to be told that the Mets are in big trouble if their injured players don't get better. I don't need to be told that the Mets "lack heart" when they've shown more of it over the first 2 and a half months of this season then they did in all of 2007 or 2008. Most of all, I won't read articles or listen to people who suggest breaking up "the core" of this ballclub.

The only thing I care about is the current state of the Mets, and what's on the horizon. Yes, the Mets are only a game over .500 at 34-33. Yes, they've dropped 4 series in a row. Yes, they're dealing with a brutal schedule. However, as I see it, barring any more crippling injuries, the Mets are in great shape. Who do they owe that to? None other than the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies lost Brad Lidge a few weeks ago (he was pitching terribly anyway) and Raul Ibanez a few days ago. They've been a lot healthier than the Mets, but they've done nothing to separate themselves.

Because of the Phillies' refusal to be even close to respectable over the last few weeks, the Mets are only two games out of first. Now, realize that the Mets have played this season with the following injury problems:

Billy Wagner - Out since the season began, on target for an August return.

JJ Putz - Pitched hurt, and is now out until at least August.

Oliver Perez - On the DL for the last 2 months with a bruised ego and injured knee. His return seems imminent.

John Maine - Pitched hurt, and has now missed the last few weeks with shoulder stiffness. His return seems imminent.

Carlos Delgado - Out since May after undergoing hip surgery. On target for an August return.

Jose Reyes - Out since May 20th with a torn tendon in his hammy. Like Walter from the movie "The Burbs," no one knows where the hell he is...

Ryan Church - Missed a month with a hamstring injury.

Carlos Beltran - Has been playing with a bone bruise behind his knee.

Gary Sheffield - Like Beltran, has been playing with an injured knee.

....Now, that injury list isn't an excuse, but I think it's safe to say that this team will fare better once that list slowly starts to become shorter.

If the Mets can get through the next 3 weeks, where they play stiff competition non-stop, while getting guys back along the way, then we can fairly start to judge this team. If someone told you at the beginning of the season that on June 22nd, the Mets would be without their setup man, two fifths of their starting rotation, their leadoff hitter and their cleanup hitter, but be two games out of first, would you have believed them? If the Mets can get healthy, there is a National League East Title out there for the taking. Be patient...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The 2009 Playoff Preview : April 14th Edition

With the 2009 Major League Baseball Season now over, I present Rational Mets Musings' 2009 Playoff Preview. I'm a tad surprised about which teams survived the 7 or 8 game grind (depending on the unbalanced schedule), but these matchups are intriguing and should be classic.

American League-

Kansas City @ Toronto

Baltimore @ Seattle

National League-

Florida @ St. Louis

Atlanta @ San Diego

.......First, try to get over the fact that the Red Sox (Beckett was never the same after the brawl), Rays (year after effect), Yankees (CC ate too many burgers and Wang retired after 2 bad starts), Angels (Torii Hunter forgot how to play CF), Phillies (Lidge blew too many saves), Mets, (Reyes didn't hit any triples this year) Cubs (Piniella threw a base in disgust and broke Rich Harden's arm) and Dodgers (Torre didn't utilize the bullpen enough) will all be watching the 2nd season from home. Now, Rational Mets Musings' LCS and World Series Picks:


Kansas City OVER Baltimore

San Diego OVER Florida

World Series-

San Diego over Kansas City

......................................................And now, we return to reality............................................................

It's incredible how every year, people react to the first week of baseball as if it's the last. The 1986 Mets started 2-3, the 1998 Yankees started 0-3. Those teams ended up doing OK. The last few losses for the Mets have been disgusting. Not because the team lacked fire, or because the bullpen failed, or because they didn't score, or because the starting pitching crashed and burned. None of that happened. They lost one game because an inexperienced Left Fielder dropped a fly ball in the sun, and another because an experienced Right Fielder dropped a fly ball and a pitcher flinched. If Murphy catches that ball, and Felciano doesn't flinch, the Mets are 5-2, not 3-4. They'd be on their way to the Canyon of Heroes instead of the Pit of Doom.

It could be worse. The Mets could've lost 15-5 last night in Tampa.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

We'll Miss You Shea

My Grandfather was born in 1913, about two months after Ebbets Field opened. He died in 2008, about two months before Shea Stadium closed. Over the 95 years he spent on this Earth, he had many passions. He was the most loyal man I ever knew. He was fiercely devoted to his family and his friends, and his greatest love was for the game of baseball. The man was a walking baseball encyclopedia. He saw all the greats play. From Babe Ruth to Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider to Tom Seaver.

He fell in love with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and they broke his heart when they left for Los Angeles after the 1957 season. His heart broke a little more when Ebbets Field was brought crashing down by a baseball shaped wrecking ball a few years later. In 1962, the Mets arrived, and my Grandfather's passion began anew. If it wasn't for him, I would probably still be a Mets fan. I would've probably set foot in Shea tons of times. But he taught me how to be a die hard. He showed me why the game of baseball was so important. Through his loyalty to the Mets, I learned how to be loyal - both to my baseball team and to the friends and family that I loved.

While Citi Field was being built, my Grandfather would say every once in a while how he didn't think he'd be around to see Opening Day in the new ballpark. We'd laugh it off, since we all thought he was invincible. But like every one of us, he wasn't invincible. The night before he passed away, when he was struggling for every breath, he said one last unprovoked thing to me. He lifted his head slightly and whispered "How'd the Mets do?" It was the last thing he ever asked me.

After I watched the final piece of Shea Stadium tumble to the ground today, there were a lot of things running through my mind. I thought of my Grandfather imparting his knowledge of the game to me, thought of my Father bringing me to Shea starting in 1986 when I was 3 years old, and I thought about all of the memories that the magnificent ballpark had given to me.

My story is one of millions. Mets fans are extra special. The vast majority are descendants of old Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants fans who lost their teams, but never lost their love for National League Baseball. Mets fans deal with agony, sit through sunny days and rainy nights. We're full of hope. It's the reason why mid-April games at Shea in the rain with 12,000 people in attendance sounded like there were 120,000 there. Those 12,000 were all die hards, and they were there to scream their heads off.

No matter how old I was, whenever I passed Shea Stadium on the highway - whether it was in the dead of winter or the middle of the summer - I'd stare at it as I passed by, and then crane my neck until it was out of view. I loved everything about it. It wasn't much from the outside, but the inside was a different story. I ran up the ramps, and always had to sit in my seat and take it all in before I went for food. I loved the smell of the beer and hot dogs, the smell of charcoal burning outside the park.

Shea would engulf me. The scoreboard in right field was enormous, the four seating levels were bright and full of life. The field seemed like something out of a dream. Even though the team on the field didn't always live up to expectations, a trip to the ballpark always did. As people get older, they tend to sit at home and watch their big screens. Going to the game is a hassle for them. For me, and millions of other Mets fans, going to Shea was a way of life.

I was there in the summer of 1986, but my Father had to bring me home because the sun was burning the hell out of me. I remember begging to go to the ballpark in September of 1993, when I was 9, and I ended up seeing Sid Fernandez's last game as a Met. I was there during the down years after that, still cheering my head off. I was at Shea for Benny's blast in the NLDS, Bobby Jones' 1 hitter, Cliff Floyd's walkoff homer after Marlon Anderson's inside the parker. I was at Shea when the Mets clinched the NL East in 2006, and I was sitting in the Upper Deck between third base and left field when Endy Chavez made that catch in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. It's my fondest memory of the place. It's the loudest I ever heard Shea, and the Upper Deck was swaying so ridiculously that my father thought it might give out. I told him I'd go down with it if it did, and I meant it.

The Mets lost that game, and they haven't been back to the Playoffs since. But no matter what happens on the field, the die hard fans remain. We're there for all of the wins and sit through downpours and 10-1 thrashings by cellar dwellers. We stay because we love the game and the Mets, and we stay because we have hope. We have hope that our team will win it all this year. We stay loyal to this team because we can't imagine our lives without them.

My Grandfather will never set foot in Citi Field. He won't watch Opening Day from his favorite chair, and he won't be there to talk to me about the game when it's over. Even though he isn't here, he lives on in me. Beyond baseball, he taught me how to be a man. He showed me how to speak with actions, not words. When Shea came down this morning at 11:21, I thought of him. When I go to my first game at Citi Field, I'll silently thank him for being the person who made me love this game and this team so much.