Friday, November 19, 2010

A Threat I Don't Want to Carry Out

Jeff, our friend Chad, Charles, Jeff Wilpon, Me, My Father, and our friend Gianni at Citi Field, March 2009.

A few minutes ago, I got off the phone with the Mets ticket office. I had called a few weeks back in order to request an upgrade to the Saturday ticket plan I've had since 2001 (when I was 17). That Saturday plan started out in Loge Reserved, Section 28 at Shea. By 2008, we had moved closer to the infield and were in Section 22. After the 2008 season, after my friends (Jeff and Charles, pictured above) and I had spent nearly all of our disposable income watching the Mets falter down the stretch again, we had to sit on the sidelines like pieces of trash while the Mets decided if we were going to be allowed to purchase a Saturday package (or if they were even going to exist) at Citi Field. Thinking back now, it's absurd that the Mets nearly shut all of the plan holders out. Back then, they still had a bit of leverage...something to sell. Right now, it's time for us to have leverage.

To get back to today's phone wasn't about a potential upgrade for my Saturday package. It was to very politely inform the Mets that if they hired Bob Melvin to be their next Manager, my friends and I would not be renewing our tickets for next year. This isn't a choice I would've ever made on my own. The other two guys who purchase the package with me are the ones who informed me of their choice. I can't afford the tickets by myself, and even if I could, sitting there alone doesn't really appeal to me. We're not looking for adequacy, we're looking for excellence. We expect the front office to have the same mindset.

So, I made the call. It was h0nestly one of the toughest phone calls I've ever made. One of the hardest conversations I've ever had. The guy I spoke to was a ticket representative, not the type of guy who can directly impact Sandy Alderson's decision. What I asked him to do, for the sake of the organization, was to tell everyone in his department about my phone call. To have them tell employees who would filter that information to the people in the organization who care about losing millions of dollars after tons of other fans who are in my situation do the exact thing I'm threatening to do. The Mets employee informed me that he and others in his department have been getting lots of calls similar to mine, that they know how the fans feel.

Let me be clear: I do not want to cancel my tickets. I, alone, would not cancel my tickets if the Mets re-hired Art Howe. I would be furious, but the only thing that could make me cancel my tickets is if my friends pull out. And if the Mets hire Bob Melvin, that's exactly what they're going to do. Bob Melvin, from everything I've heard, is a good man. He's a smart man. He has experience Managing in the Major Leagues, but the best thing his supporters say about him is that he's average. AVERAGE? That's what this team is shooting for? Melvin would be an absolutely abysmal choice for this team at this point in time. He's been fired from his last two Major League managing jobs. People close to him say he doesn't want to deal with the media scrutiny in New York. People close to him also say he's not a fit for the New York market in general. Before the Mets job opened up, Bob Melvin interviewed to be the Major League manager for three other teams. No one hired him.

The Mets, from 2007-2010, have been a team that's lacked discipline, lacked a certain hunger to win. They've made mistakes on the field, and made mistakes off the field. They've had a serious leadership void. After 2009, the fans started to stay away. 2011 will most likely be a transition year, and that's fine. However, the fans need something to grab onto. They need someone in the dugout who offers them hope. Wally Backman does that. And to a lesser extent, Terry Collins and Chip Hale could as well. Bob Melvin? He's the only one of the remaining four candidates who would cause fans to CANCEL their tickets. Choosing him would cause, although a bit unfair, the fans to believe that nothing has really changed. The Mets cleaned out the front office, and fired Jerry. They replaced Omar's group with three brilliant individuals. If those individuals hire Bob Melvin, it will be seen as not just a safe and uninspired choice, but a slap in the face to the fans who support this team monetarily. For those who ask how we can be happy with Alderson being hired, but unhappy with his Managerial choice, this is my response: Even smart people make bad decisions.

During the conversation I had with the employee from the Mets, I was as calm as could be. I apologized several times for the fact that he had to take the brunt of my anger. I informed him that it's not the fairweather fans who the Mets were going to lose, it's the fans who have been there in good times, bad times, and awful times. Like in 1993, when I was 9 years old and the Mets were horrendous. I wanted to go to a game to see Sid Fernandez pitch because I loved the team and the season was about to end. So I begged my father and we went. I told the employee from the Mets that I would never stop being a Mets fan, that I wouldn't care any less. I would simply not be contributing one cent to the team.

These tickets mean a lot to my friends and I. Going to a Mets game isn't just about sitting there and watching the Mets. It's a way to hang onto our childhood. In 1983, I was born into being a Mets fan. Most of my earliest memories are Mets related. Aside from moments with my family and friends, most of my fondest memories are Mets related. My Grandfather is the reason everyone in my family is a Mets fan. He was born in 1913, and became a die hard Brooklyn Dodgers fan. When they moved to Los Angeles, he was devastated. In 1962, the Mets arrived and he was whole again. I learned to love the game of baseball and respect the game by observing him as he watched the Mets, by listening to all of his stories. He passed away in 2008. Like my Grandfather, I will never stop being a Mets fan. I will never stop caring about them. I will never stop hanging on every pitch, waiting for that next incredible moment.

Now is the time for the Mets to go all the way, to take a chance. The fans, who have been there no matter what, need something to grab a hold of. We know it's the players who have the greatest influence on wins and losses, but it's the Manager who is responsible for keeping those players focused, firing them up, standing up for them. Art Howe, Willie Randolph, and Jerry Manuel didn't do that. We don't think Bob Melvin will either. Don't hire the person who you know will do things adequately, hire someone who you think can do something special.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why Mets Fans Want Wally Backman

The search for the next Manager of the New York Mets has been lengthy (the last candidate interviewed on Monday). It's been analyzed to the point of dizziness, and everyone seems to have a strong opinion regarding which direction the team should go. The fans have their favorites, and if you've read anything written by Bob Klapisch (pro-Backman) or Ken Davidoff (anti-Backman), it's quite apparent that the writers have their favorites as well.

Along the way, there were rumors that only two men would receive an invitation to sit down with Alderson and Co. for a 2nd round interview. Then, it was mentioned that three guys might get a 2nd round interview, or four,
or five. Finally, it was revealed yesterday that Wally Backman, Terry Collins, Chip Hale, and Bob Melvin would be receiving 2nd interviews. What did all of those conflicting reports mean? Likely, that no one has a clue which way the Mets are leaning. People can cite eight year old quotes from Moneyball in order to push their argument that Alderson wants a puppet, or they can use two week old quotes in order to push their argument that Alderson wants someone who, in his words, could be "a fiery manager. And I think a fiery manager is actually quite desirable. I think that in some cases a manager is not only representing an organization, but the fans in maybe frustrating situations and acts as a proxy for all of us."

A "proxy for all of us." Sounds like someone who cares as much as the fans do, not just inwardly but outwardly. It sounds like someone who would be able to deal with the media and the scrutiny that comes along with managing in New York. It doesn't sound like
someone who quit his last two managerial jobs that were in small markets, and it doesn't sound like someone who may not be a a good fit for the New York market. People like to point out that when the Yankees hired Joe Torre in 1996, he had pretty much only failed as a manager to that point, and he wasn't known as much of a "personality." However, Joe Torre was from New York. And Joe Torre stepped into a situation where his team's payroll was so astronomical that trips to the Playoffs were basically guaranteed. No one really knows what Sandy Alderson wants, except for Sandy Alderson. It is why the rest of us sit around arguing with eachother over who the best fit for the Mets will be. We argue because we care deeply about the future of our favorite team. We argue because we're almost frighteningly passionate about the Mets. Whoever is hired to manage this team needs to not only realize how intense the market and the fans are, but be able to deal with it.

Which takes us to Wally Backman, who has been regarded as both a favorite and a long-shot to manage the Mets in 2011. Backman's past is well known by most. He was arrested for driving under the influence 11 years ago. Tony La Russa and Terry Collins have also been guilty of that transgression, so let's bury that one. His other main offense was being involved in a domestic dispute where HE was the victim. That was the past. No one (not Sandy Alderson, not you, not me), is perfect. And it's been mentioned that the Mets are viewing his candidacy strictly from a baseball point of view. Like most, they don't care about supposed transgressions that happened over a decade ago - stuff that could've happened to nearly anyone.

Why do many Mets fans want Wally Backman to manage the Mets in 2011 and beyond? It's not, despite the ramblings of some, because he was on the 1986 World Champions. If that was the case, fans would be clamoring for Tim Teufel or Lee Mazzilli or Ray Knight. It's not because he's fiery. If fiery - and fiery alone was what Mets fans wanted, they'd be on board with Terry Collins. It's certainly not because of a Youtube video of Backman going off on an umpire. That video is incredibly entertaining, but being able to go off on an umpire who just ran your player for no reason (before running you for no reason) does not make someone equipped to be a potentially great manager in the Major Leagues.

Lots of those who are attempting to discredit Backman and his chances, note how no other Major League teams have come after him hard for their managerial opening. To that I say the following: Who interviewed Ryne Sandberg for big league Manager besides the Cubs? Who came after Don Mattingly besides the Dodgers? The point? Just because someone isn't being sought after by other clubs (who obviously know much less about the man than the club they're employed by), doesn't mean they're not qualified. And it certainly doesn't mean they're toxic.

Mets fans want Wally Backman because of the way his players talk about him. Most players will always back up their manager, but the way Backman is spoken about doesn't fall into the same vein of most of the politically correct praise you hear players heap upon their manager. Mets fans want Wally Backman because they relate to him. They get the sense that he cares as much as they do, that he'll do anything in his power to help the team succeed. Mets fans want Wally Backman because of the way he relates to his players, the relationships he's formed with them, and the way he communicates with them on a daily basis regarding their role and how to improve. Mets fans want Wally Backman because of the style of baseball he's known to teach and push. Yes, he bunted a lot in the minors, but research has shown that players who bunted last year under Backman reached base safely nearly 50 percent of the time (hat tip to Acer from NYFS). Which means he was bunting for hits, not to give up outs. Mets fans want Wally Backman because they feel he can handle the New York market, that he won't shrink at the sight of 50 microphones in his face day after day after day. And damn right, Mets fans want Wally Backman because he's hungry and a bit combustible. Backman won't sit back and watch his team or any individual player get screwed by the umpires, as Art Howe and Willie Ranolph and Jerry Manuel often did. We don't want him to throw things on the field and get ejected, we want him to stand up for the players, for the team, for us. Which he would do. Mets fans want Wally Backman because of everything that was mentioned above. All of those qualities meshed together would (we think) make Backman a near perfect fit for this team.

Wally Backman doesn't have experience managing in the Major Leagues. How many days of major league managing experience did Gil Hodges have before he was hired by the Senators? How many days of major league managing experience did Bobby Valentine have before he was hired by the Rangers. How many days of major league managing experience did Tony La Russa have before he was hired by the White Sox? None, none, and none. Without first chances, no one (let alone major league managers) would be employed. No one would get the opportunity to make an impression, to prove themselves, to do something special.

I've listened to Wally Backman manage (on the radio). I've watched Wally Backman manage (on TV). I've seen Wally Backman manage (in person). I know first hand how he operates on the baseball field. I've seen the type of strategy he utilizes, I've seen how he's constantly pumping his players up and offering advice. I've seen how, before every inning starts, he stands behind home plate analyzing the opposing team's pitcher before he jogs over to 3rd base (where he coached last year on top of his managing responsibility). I know how I feel about Backman. Here's how his players feel about him:

Dan Uggla- He’s one of my all-time favorite managers -- just people in baseball, bottom line. He really cares about the game. He really cares about his players. And he cares about winning. Wally, I know he’s been through some tough times, but he is seriously one of the best guys I’ve ever met in baseball. He helped me out a ton. He’s very passionate with protecting his players.

I’ll tell you what, if you play for Wally Backman, you’re going to be able to run through a brick wall, because we have the same emotions toward him as he has toward us. I mean, I would have run through a brick wall for him. Everybody is playing hard -- I think playing above their ability -- when they play for a guy like that."

Jeremy Reed - 'He’s definitely the best manager that I’ve had throughout the minor leagues. He puts people in situations to succeed. He’s a fiery guy, a hard-working guy and a guy that when you play for him, you want to succeed so much because of the way he goes about his business every day. Every day we had to work tremendously hard to get better before the game. And then after the game, if things kind of didn’t go our way, he was still the same way and still respected the player. He didn’t bash the player. Sometimes you get a cold shoulder from a manager. He was the same every day, and it was fun to go to the park every day. I played every day for him, but he would let me know ahead of time if I wasn’t in there.

You could just have conversations. He’d call me into his office and ask me if there was anything I felt like I needed to do differently, if I needed a day off. Just the communication was very solid. You just don’t get that at a lower level. You get that a little more at the big league level because I think guys kind of know their role a little more. At the minor league level, you don’t really get that, because for the most part they have their guys they have to play. But he found a way to get every guy in there regardless of what their situation was. To be honest -- and I’m not a pitcher -- I think it was the best I’ve ever seen a minor league manager run a bullpen."

No one knows whether or not Wally Backman would succeed in New York with the Mets, just as no one knows whether or not Bob Melvin or Terry Collins or Chip Hale would succeed in the same role. What we do know is that he's had success at every level he's managed. We know what his style is. We know how pretty much every man who's ever played for Wally Backman feels about him. We know how he motivated them. How, unlike Collins, who was apparently unable to "relate to his players as human beings," and unlike Melvin, who most feel isn't suited for the New York market, Backman seems like someone who would thrive in a market like this, for a team like this. Someone who was born to lead. Someone who if given a chance, would have the opportunity to prove it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

6 Hours and 53 Minutes of Insanity

Even though the Mets lost the night before (4-3, due in large part to Jerry Manuel's curious decision to use Raul Valdes in the 7th inning), I still found myself counting down the hours and minutes to yesterday's game against the Cardinals. It's what a Met fan does. We come back for more, no matter what the latest result was - joyous or painful.

And so it began yesterday at 4PM with a beer - a Peroni to be exact. The Mets were 3-7 and were getting it from all angles. By the 2nd inning, McCarver and baby Albert had become unbearable, so I turned to the radio. When Howie Rose gave way to Wayne Hagin, the radio broadcast also became unbearable. It was then that I turned all the sound off and simply enjoyed the game in silence.

Watching the game in silence is an interesting thing to do. You don't have to shake your head at what the announcers are saying, you're not forced to listen to irritating commercials that become even more irritating on the heels of a bad inning. There's no crowd noise (not that the Cards fans generated much anyway), and it makes your thoughts bounce back and forth in your head as the game goes on.

After Johan recovered brilliantly from his arduous first few innings, and put to rest all of the chatter about his diminishing stuff and velocity (9 strikeouts and closing the game with a 92 MPH fastball will do that), the silence became too much. When the 8th inning began, I kept the game muted and turned to The Lovin' Spoonful and a host of other groups from the 60's to get me through the rest of the game. The optimistic and sunny tunes of the Spoonful acted as the perfect counter to Tim McCarver's biting words.

By the time my girlfriend arrived in the Top of the 13th inning, the game had started to spin out of control. I gave up sitting in the 13th, and put my road grey jersey on for good luck. For the next 8 innings, I was a ball of nerves. I kept moving until I found a spot that I thought worked. When I found myself standing in the same place I was standing last year when Luis Castillo dropped the pop-up, I retreated and stood against the wall. When Hisanori Takahashi put runners on 2nd and 3rd with no one out, I started muttering to myself that the game was over. In an effort to re-assure me and to silence my ramblings, my girlfriend told me to stay positive. She insisted that "she had heard" that each Cardinal that was about to come up "sucked" or "was crap." And she was right. Takahashi K'd the side and the game went on.

I continued to pace back and forth, nearly pulling my hair out...layed down on the floor at some points, stood with one leg up, peeked out from behind my hands, sat on the floor by my couch, and crouched down like a catcher...among other things. And the game went on and on. All the way through Jenrry Mejia's dazzling display and Raul Valdes' tightrope walking. When Felipe Lopez - the infielder - was inserted to pitch in the 18th inning, the game got out of control. Valdes was called out at 2nd base after trying to move up on an error - even though he was clearly safe. CB Bucknor's strike zone was absurd - one of the worst strike zones I've ever seen. It's as if he wanted someone to have to groove something so the game would end - and that's probably exactly what he was going for.

When the Mets finally took the lead in the Top of the 19th, it just didn't seem like the game was destined to end there. Not with Albert Pujols coming up, and not with Francisco Rodriguez (who had thrown over 100 warm up pitches) coming in. And when Yadier Molina arrogantly strode to the plate with Pujols on 3rd and 2 outs, I was suddenly transplanted back to my Seats in Section 22, Row Q of the Upper Deck at Shea. That's where I sat for Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006. Any time Yadier Molina comes up in an important spot, Game 7 is what I think of. And I suddenly felt uncomfortable. When Molina tied the game with a liner that went over the outstretched glove of Luis Castillo, I sunk down in despair.

Of course, the Mets would retake the lead in the Top of the 20th and turn it over to Mike Pelfrey. Mike Pelfrey, who had thrown a 70 pitch side session earlier in the day, had demanded the ball from Jerry Manuel. When Pelfrey induced a soft roller to 2nd base with 2 outs and runners on 1st and 2nd, I didn't have the energy in me to scream. I instead assured myself that the game was indeed over. I knelt down, smiled like a raving lunatic, and immediately began to reflect on the incredible game that I'd just witnessed.

The Mets are 4-7. Last night's unbelievably gutsy and hard fought win doesn't change that fact. What it does, though, is offer hope. Johan Santana was again untouchable. The bullpen, that's been incredible all year, was incredible again last night. Jason Bay looked horrible, and so did David Wright...but who cares? Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday looked just as bad. It was just that type of day/night.

Games like yesterday are what separates National League Baseball from every other sport. Everything else is has to end or pause at a specific time. Even NHL Playoff games that go to overtime have breaks every 20 minutes. Yesterday's game had no breaks. Just an endless string of tense moments and unreal plays. When the game ended, and the Mets were exchanging high fives near the mound, I simply smiled. There was nothing to say. And the season is 11 games old. It's hard to imagine a game like that in October, but if the Mets continue to get pitching like they've gotten lately, we just may. Their 4-7 record be damned.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's not Funny, Jerry

While listening to Jerry Manuel give his interview to Mike Francesa this afternoon, I started to forget that the Mets were 2-5 (which would become 2-6 within hours). As Jerry kept tripping over his own words, cackling like he was high, and saying "you right, haha, you right" at least 20 times, the team on the field was all of a sudden not my biggest worry.

Before today's interview, I knew Jerry was a sub-par Manager. I knew he would often laugh stuff off, either as a defense mechanism or in an attempt to endear himself to the tough New York scribes. Today, he finally lost it. And in turn, the Mets fans who listened to his babbling mess late this afternoon have lost it as well...they've lost any last shred of patience they had for Jerry Manuel.

Mets fans are passionate, knowledgeable, and let losses interfere with their mood - often to the detriment of their daily responsibilities. We almost care too much, and having a Manager who lacks any tactical skill laughing his ass off about the state of a 2-5 team is unacceptable. And this determination was made before Jerry Manuel made himself look like a complete imbecile during the 10th inning of tonight's loss to the Rockies in Colorado.

This isn't about the team anymore. The Mets are 2-6, and that hurts. What hurts more, is the fact that they had a chance to win the game tonight, and it was sabotaged over and over again by their own Manager.

With one out in the 10th and Mike Jacobs representing the go-ahead run on 2nd base, Manuel pinch ran for him...after the count to Rod Barajas was 2-2. Instead of pinch running with Alex Cora, he pinch ran with Fernando Tatis - taking the bat out of the hands of the best pinch hitter he had left on the bench. After Barajas made out, the Rockies brought in a lefty to face Cora. Instead of countering that move and using Henry Blanco (since he had already needlessly used Tatis to run), Manuel let Cora hit. And Cora hit it to 2nd base for the 3rd out. Incredible.

In the bottom of the 10th, Manuel turned to Jenrry Mejia, who was pitching on back to back nights. It was the perfect spot for Francisco Rodriguez, who didn't pitch last night, and has the stamina to pitch two innings. Manuel went with Jenrry, though, and the kid served up the game winning homer.

There's nothing to be mad at Mejia for. He's a 20 year old kid who grooved a fastball in the thin air of Colorado and paid for it. There's nothing to be mad at Cora for. He's a backup infielder, and shouldn't have been the go to guy with the go ahead runs on base in the 10th. The anger all goes to Jerry. On a night when the team fought for a win, he put them in position to lose.

If most of the fan base had a choice, Manuel would've been fired after 2008. He wasn't. 2009 and the injuries weren't Manuel's fault, but that doesn't excuse the fact that he's a terrible Manager. The first 8 games of this year prove nothing about the Mets and where they'll end up. But if this team ever managed to get hot and fight their way to the Playoffs, Manuel would be there, ready to sabotage them with his incompetence.

It's time for ownership to step up and fire Jerry. He's a perfectly nice man, but a painfully bad Manager. Wally Backman would be a great replacement, but the Mets probably want him to prove himself in Brooklyn first. Bobby Valentine would be a phenomenal choice, and Ken Oberkfell would be a wise choice as well. A name the fans and media don't seem to be mentioning much is Tim Teufel, who's been quietly moving up the ranks in the Mets' Minor League system. Any one of those four would do.

What won't do, and what will slowly drive the rest of the fans away, is ownership forcing the fan base to watch a team that's run by a Manager who doesn't seem to know what he's doing - who laughs off his problems and the team's issues instead of doing something about them.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hyperbole At Its Worst

I present to you, Captain Hyperbole. The man above represents all of the laughably reactionary fans and writers who have been spewing their incoherent drivel about the Mets over the past 48 hours. I'm not writing this as an apologist, I'm writing this as a realist.

The 2010 Mets are 2-4. If we were to use some 3rd grade math and use these first 6 games to predict the final record, that record would be awful. Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel would be fired, and a complete overhaul of the roster would most likely occur. Watching the Mets lose listlessly to the Marlins in the 3rd game of the season, and watching Johan Santana get smacked up while his teammates were stifled by Livan Hernandez yesterday was not fun. It really, really sucked.

Over the course of 162 games, losses - often ugly, happen. Coming off the 2009 season, lots of fans and writers are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Reacting as if the season is over after 6 games, though, is absurd. The Mariners and Angels are both 2-5, the Dodgers are 2-4, the Cubs are 3-4. Are their seasons over also? 6 games are a tiny sample, a sample that no one should even attempt to draw conclusions from.

The Mets have played 2 crappy games, and 4 pretty good ones. The starting pitching (aside from Johan's bad 1st inning against the Nationals) has been fine, the bullpen has gone nearly 14 innings without allowing a run, and the team has shown fight - both literally and figuratively. In the 2nd game of the season, Gary Matthews smoked what appeared to be a game winning hit in the bottom of the 9th, but Hanley Ramirez was playing behind 2nd base. The Mets eventually lost. On Saturday, Rod Barajas hit a ball with the bases loaded that was ticketed as a game winner (even Gary Cohen thought so), but Willie Harris made what has up to this point been the catch of the any player...on any either league. If those 2 balls found the outfield grass, the Mets would've been 4-2. Instead, they're 2-4.

Even if those 2 balls had found the outfield grass instead of the gloves of the opposition, writers and fans would be calling the Mets' 4-2 start a mirage. "Can't take it seriously after 6 games", they'd say. But the Mets are 2-4, not 4-2. And 2-4 is a record the naysayers and sky-is-falling crowd can rally around. It's extraordinarily annoying, and reading and/or listening to what they're regurgitating over and over and over is a complete waste of time.

Drawing conclusions after the 6th game of an 162 game season is pointless, whether those conclusions are that the team will win the World Series or finish in last place. Would it have been better if the Mets were 6-0? Absolutely. They'd be 4 games better, to be precise. Still, no one would have any idea how that imaginary 6-0 team would fare over the remaining 156 games of the season. Just like no one has any idea how the actual 2-4 team will fare over its remaining 156 games.

Much like the rest of the teams in baseball, save for one Microsoft like operation that spends upwards of $220 million on their payroll, the Mets have issues that may or may not work out. That's what the season is find out just what this group of players can do. To see how quickly Carlos Beltran will return, to find out whether or not the bullpen can keep performing close to the torrid pace they've set for themselves, etc.

I refuse to accept the fact that these first 6 games have shown us anything concrete. Those who mention how none of the starters have seen the 7th inning yet, fail to mention that all of those pitchers (save for John Maine) went 6 innings, and would've gone longer if it wasn't their first start of the year. Facts are for those who actually pay attention, while fantasy and hyperbole is for those who refuse to give this team a chance...those who insist on jumping to conclusions after 55 innings have been played.

If you're a fan who chooses to give up on a season and/or adopt a woe-is-me attitude at this point in the season, I truly feel bad for you. We waited 6 months for the Mets to come back, and the first thing the majority of the fan base is doing a week after the Mets finally started playing regular season games, is forming as one massive cloud, jumping into the sky, and turning their idiotic words and negativity into a thunderstorm of shit that's raining on all of the other fans' season opening parades.

If it's June 1st and the Mets are in last place, feel free to go nuts. Until then, please let the fans who still have faith in this team enjoy a season that's still in its infancy.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Time to Fight Back

According to everyone at ESPN (except for Bobby Valentine), the Mets are going to finish in 4th place this season. According to Bill Madden in the Daily News, the Mets are going to win 77 games. And according to Sports Illustrated, the publication that picked the 2009 Mets to win the World Series, the 2010 Mets will win 79 games and finish in 4th place. Once the pessimism started, after nearly every Met got hurt last year, it ran rampant and it's now become fashionable for every writer on the face of the Earth to doubt/make fun of/unfairly attack the New York Mets.

Negativity sells, so it's no shock that today's New York Post headline screamed "What a Mess," in response to the fact that Jose Reyes would be missing 4 games before returning on April 10th. The sad thing, is that there are people who don't follow the Mets as religiously as some others, who pick up the newspaper and actually believe the stuff they're printing.

When their core was healthy, from 2005 through 2008, the Mets averaged 90 wins per year. Last year, nearly every important member of the team was lost to a significant injury for a significant period of time. If the Yankees lost Derek Jeter, Mark Teixiera, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and 10 others (like the Mets lost Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, David Wright, Johan Santana, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Jon Niese, JJ Putz and 10 others), they wouldn't have done a damn thing last year. That didn't happen to the Yankees, though, it happened to the Mets. And since it did, the Mets (who averaged 90 wins the previous 4 seasons) have become a punchline for no good reason. That ends now.

Spring Training stats shouldn't matter. To writers and talking heads though, they do (but only ones that can be spun into negatives). The Mets' starting pitchers this spring have high ERA's, so according to the writers and talking heads, the pitching will be a mess this season. The Mets are leading the Grapefruit League in HR's this spring, but no one knows that. Why? Because it isn't negative. A few weeks ago, writers were screaming that Jose Reyes would be out until June. Now, the Mets are being extra cautious with him (with good reason), meaning he should return April 10th. Still, the writers find a way to bash the Mets for the 4 games Reyes will miss. It's a joke...enough to make you shake your head so much it'll eventually lead to chronic neck pain.

Here's what the Mets need to do: Starting April 5th, prove to everyone that the team that averaged 90 wins from 2005 through 2008 wasn't a 4 year abberation. 2009 (and the absurd amount of injuries that led to 92 losses) was the aberration.

Take the field a little after 1PM on Monday the 5th, and take it with pride and a touch of anger.

Take the field and have respect for it, and the fans that fill it day after day, night after night.

Take the field, and if an opposing pitcher throws at David Wright, throw at that team's best player and beat the hell out of their entire team if it comes to it.

Take the field and feed off of us. Feel the energy when we chant, when we rise as one, when we scream for a strikeout.

This offseason has been nearly unbearable. All we've heard is that the Mets have question marks, while the other teams have potential. The Mets didn't sign enough players, but the other teams were fiscally responsible. The Mets, with one of the best cores in all of baseball, are a joke and have no shot.

It's been all words until today. Now, the Mets attempt to fight back with their actions.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jose is Back

Tomorrow, Jose Reyes will be released from the exile that lasted a little over two weeks. Omar Minaya announced the news a little while ago - that Jose Reyes' thyroid levels had returned to normal, and that Jose has been cleared to return. It was the best news Mets fans have received in quite some time.

While most writers responded to the Reyes news of March 11th by claiming the season was in peril, Endocrinologists and the Mets held firm to the belief that Reyes would be back in as little as two weeks - and he is. It was on this blog on March 12th, after listening to an interview with New York based Endocrinologist Dr. Mark Hershon, that I pegged Reyes to return (to actual games) between March 26th and April 9th.

With Reyes set to resume baseball activities tomorrow (March 24th), he will have a little over 11 days to get back in shape and be in the lineup for Opening Day at Citi Field on April 5th. Omar Minaya today stated that Reyes could indeed be at Shortstop on Opening Day, but wouldn't elaborate further. The important thing for Reyes is building his legs back up, and not attempting anything crazy until he and the trainers believe those legs to be game-ready. At that time, he can reclaim his spot.

Until then, Mets fans will simply bask in the news of Reyes' return. For once, a Met actually came back from the Disabled List at the short end of the estimate. The debate about whether or not Ruben Tejada or Alex Cora should start at Shortstop can be pretty much put to bed. Even if Reyes isn't starting on Opening Day, he should be right on the cusp. Cora can resume his role as a backup/player-manager, and Tejada can report to the minors and hone his craft.

When the news about Jose Reyes broke on March 11th, all Mets fans could do was hope for the best. Today, the best happened.

Welcome back, Jose.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Bizarre Logic of Jerry Manuel

With Opening Day in less than 18 days, and with the first round of cuts out of the way, a sizable portion of the Mets' future (and perhaps the present as well) remains in big league camp. Ruben Tejada is still there, and may crack the roster to start the season if Jose Reyes doesn't return by then. Ike Davis is still around, and if Daniel Murphy continues to hit the way he has and Davis stays on his absurd pace, some questions will arise as to whether or not Davis can supplant Murphy as the Opening Day first baseman.

The two names that are driving most of the debates, though, are the 21 year old outfielder Fernando Martinez and the 20 year old pitcher Jenrry Mejia. Both players have been incredible so far, with Martinez OPS'ing over 1.000 and Mejia dazzling the opposition, the writers, and the Mets with the ridiculous movement on his pitches and the results those pitches have yielded.

When you go through the players the Mets have, and what their team will most likely look like at the start of the 2010 Regular Season, the logical conclusion is that the Mets are more in need of a center fielder than a bullpen arm - especially considering the fact that the bullpen arm (Mejia), has been a starting pitcher his entire career and has the potential to be an Ace - which is what made yesterday's comments by Jerry Manuel a tad absurd. When asked by reporters if he would consider starting Fernando Martinez at center field on Opening Day, he responded by saying that it would "...Be difficult, in all honesty. That would be difficult. The center field part is very important to us right now. We came in here with the mantra that we're going to catch the baseball, play good defense, that type of thing, so we'll see how that turns out. But right now, we have Gary and Angel slated for that spot."

So, according to Jerry, it's fine to take Jenrry Mejia - a kid who's been a starter his entire career, and put him in the bullpen even though there is no glaring need (the Mets have Francisco Rodriguez, Ryota Igarashi, Kiko Calero, Pedro Feliciano, Bobby Parnell, Fernando Nieve, Hisanori Takahashi, Sean Green, Nelson Figueroa and others all competing for the 7 spots in the pen) - but it's "difficult" to envision Fernando Martinez, who's played center field and the other outfield positions every year he's been with the Mets, opening the year in center field because, according to Manuel, his defense is inferior to Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr?

Manuel's line of thinking here is completely ridiculous. Angel Pagan, for all of his talent, is not a plus defender. He takes terrible routes on fly balls, throws to the wrong base frequently, and suffers through other mental lapses in the field. Gary Matthews, Jr. was once an elite defender, but that time has passed. In his limited time in the Majors last year, Martinez made a few errors, but showed to be no less capable than Pagan.

If Fernando Martinez continues to hit the way he's been hitting, he should make the squad over Pagan and Matthews. There would need to be decisions made when Carlos Beltran returned - Would the Mets send Martinez back to AAA? Would they have him split time in right field with Jeff Francoeur - but Those are questions that can be answered when Beltran comes back. The main goal is for the team to win ballgames, and with Beltran and perhaps Jose Reyes out to start the year, the addition of Martinez to the lineup would bring a potential power boost in their absence. If it's perfectly fine to Manuel to take Jenrry Mejia, the most prized pitching prospect on the team, out of his element and stick him in the pen, how can Manuel not be strongly considering using Fernando Martinez to fill an actual need by playing his natural position?

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Calm (and lack of electricity) After The Storm

This past Saturday night, the New York City area was pounced on and ripped apart by an absurd storm - which dumped 4 inches of rain, brought 70 MPH winds, toppled trees, and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of people. As can be seen from the above picture I took today on my way to work, a tree up the block from my house toppled to the ground, taking out the power lines on the way down before landing on a car and causing a house to catch fire.

While I was able to listen to Johan pitch yesterday on an emergency crank-powered radio, my house (and thousands of others around New York) has been without power for the last 48 hours or so. It is because of this wicked storm and its aftermath that I have been unable to update Rational (sometimes) Mets Musings for the last few days. I'll do my best to post new stories from work, while hoping for the electricity in my house to return.

In the meantime, Let's Go Mets.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Day After - A Doctor's Prognosis

It's been over a day since the Jose Reyes news broke. As was expected, the local writers spit out article after article, usually framing the absolute worst case scenario. The Mets intimated that Reyes would be cleared in 1 to 7 weeks, which somehow led some writers to say he wouldn't be back until June - when he can just as easily return at the end of March. Some writers went with the hGH route, suggesting that Reyes' condition may have been brought on by the use of the illegal drug. Some others bashed the Mets, which is strange since the Mets did nothing to cause Reyes' condition, and did nothing to harm his chances of a quick recovery.

The response by Mets fans was understandable. It's perfectly normal to be upset at what's happened to Reyes, especially after what the Mets and the fans went through last season. However, in this instance, the Mets did absolutely nothing wrong. The people who spoke to soon were Reyes' agents, who claimed on Wednesday that Reyes was basically in the clear, and that he'd be returning to game action within days. That was a mistake, and made the news that Reyes would be sidelined for at least a few weeks sting much more. But it wasn't the Mets who dropped the ball.

In an interview that wrapped up at 4:30 PM on WFAN, Dr. Kenneth Hershon, a well respected New York based Endocrinologist with 30 years of experience, discussed Jose Reyes' diagnosis at length. Dr. Hershon went out of his way to say that he was a Yankees fan - and therefore not biased - and stated that he had called Mike Francesa because lots of what he was hearing about Reyes' condition was inaccurate.

In Dr. Hershon's opinion, the issue that Jose Reyes is dealing with is mild and easily curable. Reyes does not have Graves Disease, and there is no medication for the type of diagnosis Reyes has. According to Hershon, the reason medication is not suitable for this type of condition, is because medication would block the thyroid from picking up iodine. The elevated hormone level that Reyes has needs to be burned off - and Dr. Hershon stated that it usually takes 2 to 3 weeks for the high thyroid levels to normalize.

When Dr. Hershon was asked to address the hGH issue, he said that while it's impossible to rule out hGH as a cause for high thyroid levels (since nothing should ever be ruled out when making a medical diagnosis), it is highly improbable for hGH to cause the type of ailment Reyes has, and would not be something Doctor's would ever look to as a cause. Rather, Dr. Hershon explained, elevated thyroid levels are usually caused by a virus or by supplements that contain iodine. For instances like the one affecting Reyes, once his thyroid levels normalize, the chances of a recurrence are slim to none.

If Dr. Hershon's estimations are correct, and Reyes' thyroid levels return to normal within the 2 to 3 week span (1 to 2 weeks from now), it should only take him another week or two to regain his strength and return to playing games with the Mets. That would put Reyes on track to return sometime between March 26th and April 9th.

I know people will be skeptical until Reyes returns, but I'd trust the opinion of a well respected Doctor over the hyperbole infused ramblings of men who are trying to sell newspapers.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Just One More Thing To Overcome

Like every other Mets fan, I was shocked, rendered speechless, and left completely unable to do my job when the news about Jose Reyes broke today around 1 PM. After being told for the last 48 hours that Reyes would be back at Camp and playing in games within the next few days, the news that he would be out for 2 to 8 weeks was extremely unnerving - especially for a fanbase still picking off the scabs of the 2009 campaign.

Everyone wanted to know why other people with conditions similar to Reyes get treated with some type of medication, and go back to their their regular routine within days. The fact that Reyes' agents were calling this a "best case scenario" was puzzling. To us, the "best case scenario" would've meant Jose Reyes getting on a plane this afternoon, returning to Pt. St Lucie, and playing in a game or two this weekend. The fact that Omar Minaya touted the Alex Cora signing as some sort of saving grace pretty much sapped any sanity I had left - but then I calmed down.

Realistically - not in the baseball World, but for Jose Reyes the person - today's news was the best case scenario. The results of the blood tests Reyes took could've brought far worse news. They could've shown that he had Thyroid Cancer, a tumor, or another serious condition. What they revealed, was that his thyroid levels were high, and that he would rest and watch his diet until they normalized. Once the levels normalize (in as little as 2 weeks, and as many as 8 weeks), Reyes will be cleared to play baseball again.

We all hope that Reyes is cleared to play in 2 weeks - and he very well may be. After the almost unfathomable rash of injuries the Mets dealt with last season, and the way the timetables for the players' eventual returns became running jokes, one would think that the Mets may have elongated the potential timeframe for Reyes' return, leaving them some wiggle room if some things don't go perfectly along the way. And, if that's the case, so be it. The way it's been told, Jose Reyes will be cleared to play ball sometime between March 25th and May 6th. Again, hopefully it's as early as possible.

While the news that Jose Reyes would most likely not be ready for Opening Day was extremely tough to take at first, it isn't a terrible thing. An unfortunate thing, no doubt, but not terrible. And not something that this team can't overcome. This isn't an injury, it's a medical situation. It's not something that was bungled by the Mets and/or the Doctor's, it's something that's being handled with care. By the time I'm finished writing this, the rest of the Mets fans who were rapidly approaching meltdown mode this afternoon will hopefully start to see that this is something the Mets, and more importantly, Jose, will get through.

Since the Mets' pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training nearly a month ago, I've been counting down the days to Opening Day. Whenever the clock passes Midnight, I calculate how many days are left until the Mets return to us...29...28...27...26. Today was day 25, and as the last bits of snow melted and we prepared to turn the clocks ahead, I could feel baseball season getting closer. Me and 3 of my friends have already taken off for Opening Day. We'll be in the parking lot at Citi Field by 10AM on the morning of April 5th, with our gloves on one hand and our drinks in the other. The excitement is there, but it was almost lost this afternoon.

After I took a step back and examined the grand scope of what went on, and understood that Jose Reyes would indeed be OK, everything returned to normal. That is not to say that I and tons of other Mets fans are taking Mets baseball any less seriously. The fact that everyone initially reacted how they did this afternoon should really make us all smile. It's March 11th, and thousands upon thousands of Mets fans were rendered useless to their jobs, wives, girlfriends and whoever else because news broke that Jose Reyes may not be ready for Opening Day. That's how much we care about the Mets. Enough to let news like that immobolize us.

But what makes Mets fans even more special, is how in the midst of the craziness that was this afternoon, we became resilient - together. This franchise and its fans have been forced to deal with so much nonsense over the last year, and now is not the time to put our heads down and give up. Articles will come out tomorrow declaring that the Mets' season is doomed - even though Jose Reyes really shouldn't miss that much time. Irrational people who claim to be die hard Mets fans will call talk radio and surrender. The real Mets fans? We'll shake this off, wish Jose Reyes a speedy recovery, and resume the countdown to Opening Day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Digging Through Out of Touch Journalism: Bill Madden Edition

After opening their Spring Training slate last week, the Mets' record stands at 5-2. Most people are of the mind that Spring Training records don't matter (the '86 Mets finished with a .500 Grapefruit League record), but most fans would also prefer for the Mets to be 5-2 instead of 2-5. Since Spring Training began, no Mets have gone down with injuries. There have been no controversies. The top prospects every New York scribe claimed to not exist before March (Jenrry Mejia, Ike Davis, Fernando Martinez, Ruben Tejada etc...) have opened eyes.

To one man, though, as we sit here on March 8th, the Mets' "Preseason glow has begun to fade." Hall of Fame writer Bill Madden (above with George Steinbrenner) is getting his Wallace Matthews on this morning, with an ill conceived and foolish opinion piece about what he believes to be the slow crumbling of the Mets' 2010 season. Let's take a closer look at his article:

Ever since David Wright's chipper "we expect to be in the postseason" and Johan Santana's "I'm the best pitcher in the National League East" inaugural addresses, the sunny optimism at Camp Met has been muted by Jose Reyes' thyroid condition, Frankie Rodriguez's pinkeye and Kelvim Escobar's idleness.

The optimism has been muted? That's not the way even the most pessimistic Mets fans have reacted to the events of the last week. The majority of the fans are actually extremely encouraged with the growth of the prospects, the fact that no one has gone down with an injury, and the fact that the players seem to be loose and confident. I'm not sure how Francisco Rodriguez's bout with pink eye (he's back at camp today) "muted" any optimism. People get pink eye, they go away for a while to recover, and then they come back - like Frankie did today. No one has been talking about Kelvim Escobar, especially since Ryota Igarashi has looked very good, Kiko Calero has been signed to take Escobar's place, and Jenrry Mejia has looked dominant. The Jose Reyes issue is another story, and while no one can be certain about what will come of it, the likelihood is that Reyes will be treated for his thyroid issue and be back playing games within the week.

We tell ourselves, the Mets tell themselves, it's still early March. Plenty of time left in the spring to get that feel-good mojo (not to mention two key players) back. Things could be worse.

Who is this "we" Madden speaks of? Did he mean to say I? Madden states that there's "plenty of time get that feel-good mojo back." Where did it go? Seems to me (and every other objective person) that the Mets are full of optimism right now. I'll agree with Madden that "things could be worse," since they are actually going extremely well right now.

Amid this ominous backdrop, the Mets chose Sunday to announce that single-game tickets are now on sale for the 2010 season - the same day Ollie Perez was making his first start of the spring. Talk about pressure. And Odd Ollie, who didn't provide a whole lot of reassurance that 2010 is going to be much different than 2009, admitted he felt it.

What "ominous backdrop" is Madden referring to? Does this "backdrop" have something to do with David Wright regaining his power stroke, Ike Davis going 8 for 14, Fernando Martinez hitting close to .700 thus far, Jenrry Mejia's dazzling display, or the fact that nearly every bullpen arm the Mets have thrown out there has been effective? The fact that Madden attempted to tie his imaginary "ominous backdrop" and Oliver Perez's first Spring Training start (where the only objective was to throw strikes) into some mistake by the club to put tickets on sale yesterday is completely moronic. I don't think any Mets fan is going to run out and buy tickets or decide to not buy tickets, based on the first Spring Training start by the Mets' likely third or fourth starter.

For what it's worth, at least Perez was able to throw strikes - 33 in 49 pitches. Unfortunately, in pitching to contact, he allowed the visiting Washington Nationals to make plenty of it. The enigmatic $36 million lefthander gave up three runs in the first inning, including a towering home run to 6-5 rookie first baseman Mike Morse.

Did Madden even watch the game? The home run that Ollie gave up to Mike Morse was a line drive. Does Madden know the difference between a line drive and a "towering" shot? I suppose not...which isn't surprising, since it seems that he doesn't know the difference between optimism and pessimism either.

I have nothing against Bill Madden as a person, but articles like the one he wrote today are a perfect example of why blogs and other online sites may eventually leave print journalism in the dust. In a poor attempt at "the sky is falling" journalism (and in an effort to scare Mets fans), Madden exposed himself as someone who is completely detached from reality. While some of the less than die-hard fans may buy into his assertions, the true ones shake their heads at it - before casting his paper aside and relying on eachother for accurate information regarding the Mets.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Is This A Mirage?

There's a scene in the middle of the movie Goodfellas, where Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci, above in the middle), asks if he's a "mirage." He had been asking Michael Imperioli's character Spider for a drink, but Spider failed to respond quickly enough. For that and other transgressions, Spider was eventually gunned down by Tommy. While following both of today's Mets games (via gameday, message boards, and my friend who's fortunate enough to have a TV on his desk), I started to wonder if Jenrry Mejia was a mirage. And when his name failed to appear between Jon Niese and Ryota Igarashi in the gameday stats (it was a blank space, as if he had never entered the game), the feeling got stranger.

When 20 year old Jenrry Mejia AKA King Jenrry (credit for that nickname goes to the witty posters over at NYFS) entered the game in the 3rd inning, I completely lost my concentration at work. When his two and a third innings were complete, and he had struck out four, walked none and given up no hits, I began to laugh to myself like a crazy maniac. I was only one year old when Dwight Gooden exploded onto the scene in 1984, and although I've seen videos of him at his peak, I never experienced it. The closest I came to "experiencing" Doctor K was when I was in attendance to see him shutout the Rockies on Opening Day of 1993 - when he was a shell of what he once was.

Before anyone screams, I am NOT comparing Jenrry Mejia to Dwight Gooden. I'm discussing the two of them in the same paragraph because since I've been following the Mets, there hasn't been one Ace brought up from the minors by the franchise. Generation K had the talent, but none of them could stay healthy. Scott Kazmir was traded to Tampa. Mike Pelfrey has the goods to be a #2, but not nearly the stuff that Mejia appears to have been gifted with.

The drum started to beat earlier in the Spring, when Jerry Manuel talked about Mejia becoming the 8th inning man. Then, Darryl Strawberry nearly had an orgasm after he saw Mejia pitch for the first time (comparing the movement on his fastball to that of Mariano Rivera). Then today happened. Mejia came into the game and recorded 7 outs - 4 by strikeout. Yes, it's only Spring Training. The pitchers are ahead of the hitters. However, that doesn't change the fact that Mejia's pitches move like no one elses. His 94 MPH fastball has as much action as a slider, and he also features (albeit less often) a changeup and a curveball.

Pardon me and the rest of the Mets faithful as we drool. Jenrry Mejia is 20 years old, and has been blessed with a golden arm. Today in the Daily News, I shook my head as I read an article by Bill Madden that ripped the Mets' farm system. Aside from Mejia, the Mets have close to 10 guys who are ready to break through.

But back to King Jenrry...

I am not one of the people who believes he should start the year in the bullpen with the big club (before eventually becoming a starter). I can't say, though, that I would be angry if that happened. Worried, yes, but not angry. In a perfect World, Jenrry Mejia goes down to Binghamton or Buffalo and dominates - inflicting pain on opposing hitters the way Clubber Lang did to Rocky Balboa during their first bout. Soon enough, if all goes according to plan, his talent will lead him out of the minors and straight to Flushing. If I had three wishes, I'd ask for World Peace, unending riches, and for Jenrry Mejia to stay healthy and harness his talent. If there's a genie out there who wants to grant the last of those wishes, be my guest.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Today, The Mets Will Play A Game

In roughly 30 minutes, about 1,000 miles from where I sit (at work, while the snow melts outside), the Mets will play a baseball game. Sure, it's just an intrasquad game, but it's a game nonetheless. It's been nearly five months since the New York Mets played a baseball game. Today, the winter ends. Today, the offseason that felt as long as a Steve Trachsel start finally comes to a close. Play Ball.

The first day of March always seems like the day we can begin to put the winter behind us. While there still may be some awful weather down the line, the countdown to Opening Day and the Spring has begun. When Jenrry Mejia (pictured above) and the rest of the Mets start their game today, millions of Mets fans will be smiling. Kids who are in school, people who are at work, those who are home - all of them will be happier today because of an intrasquad baseball game. The die-hards who have access to a computer (wherever they are) will be following this game on the internet, hanging on every pitch of a game that means nothing in the standings, but everything for what it represents.

The fact that today is Monday seems irrelevant. In addition to the wonderful game that's about to be played, Mets tickets went on sale today for Partial Plan holders (which I am). While I anxiously sat at work preparing to purchase my Opening Day tickets, I felt the nervousness I feel before and during a big game...the nervousness that sometimes lasts an entire day. After I secured Opening Day tickets for me and my friends, the feeling started to change - going from tension to anticipation.

In 35 days, things get going for real. Johan will be taking the mound for Citi Field's 1st Season Opener against the Marlins. I've already taken the day off, as have thousands of others. That day will be magnificent. Until that day, games that count for the Mets in the standings will wait. Baseball is back, though, and it doesn't seem to matter that today is Monday.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"The Mets Are In Trouble, Buddy"

I'm sitting at work, dealing with a bunch of different matters. I'm answering e-mails that won't stop, rushing from office to office for answers, and trying to arrange meetings around other meetings. Every half hour, when he catches me at my desk, one of my work acquaintances (another Mets fan) walks by, glares, and states with venom and vigor: "The Mets are in trouble, buddy."

The first time he walked by, I mutterred something and shook my head. The second time, I tried to offer a retort but he scurried out. The third time he did it, he sat next to me and added this for effect: "If you don't think the Mets are in trouble, there's something wrong with you. You got Johan and 4 bums." When I responded that a Mets team with a similar rotation and a bullpen that's far worse than the 2010 team should be (the 2008 pen) won 89 games, he started to bash the offense. When I noted that Jason Bay in effect replaces Carlos Delgado's production, he called Daniel Murphy a "liability."

It was then that I paused to take in exactly what was going on here. It's February 24th...all of the Mets have gathered in Port St. Lucie, and Opening Day is in 39 days. 39 days! We've been without Mets baseball for nearly five months and it seemed lately that even the most pessimistic of Mets fans had started to look forward to the 2010 season. However, my work acquaintance isn't one of them.

I then came to the conclusion that it is some fans' preference and wont to relish in the fact that the Mets might fail, instead of hoping that they become Champions -of the Wild Card, the Division, the National League and/or the World. I used to think these fans were simply pessimistic, but now I think they actually enjoy acting this way.

This is perplexing to me. Is someone who claims to be a Mets fan, yet spends his or her day (during Spring Training no less) attempting to make other Mets fans miserable by stating how the season is over in February actually a Mets fan? I say no. I would term these people Mets followers.

A fan (especially one of the Mets), has every right to be aggravated or angry at the state of the team/franchise, but a true fan would never relish the possiblity of his or her team failing - since that result would hurt too much.

Now, I understand that Citi Field (for many reasons) will never have the feel of Shea Stadium. However, we should all hope (and for those of us who attend lots of games - we can make this happen) that in 2010, Mets fans shake off the pain that was the last 3 seasons and focus on rooting and making noise instead of sulking and arguing with eachother. If not, this faction of followers will multiply and then the Mets may actually be in trouble, buddy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Beards, Superstition, and the Mets

A little over a week ago, my friend Jeff called me with an idea..a call to put down the shaving cream. His idea was for us (and any of our other Mets fan friends who agreed) to grow a beard. Having gone down this road before with what we hoped would be Playoff beards in September of 2007, I was hesitant at first - due in large part to the fact that we were forced to shave off our beards in late September of 2007 after we attended a Philip Humber meltdown against the Nationals at Shea (in an effort to reverse the team's fortunes).

Even though the wounds from the 2007 beard-growing fiasco are still fresh, starting today, and continuing through the morning of April 5th (Opening Day), Jeff and I will be abstaining from shaving. Let's call this one the "Opening Day Beard." With tomorrow being the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers, spring training is about to be underway. And as spring training - and the countdown to Opening Day - starts, our shaving stops. I am not a person who experiments with wild facial hair. The only other real beard I grew was for the 2007 fiasco. I do go 4 or 5 days without shaving during the week if I have nothing important to do, but I am usually as close to clean shaven as possible.

When I broke the news to my girlfriend this morning, she was less than pleased. She thought I was joking at first, before realizing how serious I was about the Opening Day beard. I really don't even know what Jeff and I expect to get out of this. After 4 and a half months without baseball, we've started to become delirious. I suppose the beard is many things...

It's a show of unity for the upcoming season, a sort of reverse countdown to Opening Day (the longer the beards get, the closer we get to Opening Day), and eventually, a type of cleansing on April 5th - when we shave our beards and finally wash off the filth and grime of the 2009 regular season.

Superstition and the Mets have always gone hand in hand. Many of us (Mets fans) wear the same jersey to the ballpark over and over if the Mets are on a winning streak, and remove it once the streak ends. If we're watching the game together in certain spots on the couch or the floor and something good starts happening, we don't move. If we're planning to watch a game at a bar, but remember that 3 months ago, the Mets lost a close game while we wathced the game at that very same bar, we switch the locale. No one knows for sure if any of this stuff matters, but it gives us a feeling of closesness with eachother and the team.

With pitchers and catchers set to report to Port St. Lucie in less than 22 hours, here's to a successful 2010 season - and to the continued use of ridiculous superstitious nonsense by fellow Mets fans.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Good Sign for the 2010 Season

As I exited a store a few hours ago, I thought I felt something land on my hat. When I asked my girlfriend to confirm, she burst out laughing. In the picture above, to the left of the Mets insignia, is what landed on my hat. A huge glob of bird crap. It wasn't white, it was brown...and extra disgusting.

I was going to try to salvage that hat, but the car ride home with the bird crap on it would've been unbearable. After I got over the shock of losing my beloved hat, I realized that this is a fantastic omen for the upcoming season. Now, I'm off to get a new hat...

Monday, February 1, 2010

An Injection of Sanity

Let me preface this by explaining a few things: I'm not affected by how the Mets are perceived in the papers/on the airwaves. I have no intention of getting into a debate regarding the Mets' medical staff/injury diagnoses. And when I look at the Mets' 2009 final record, I don't take it seriously. Why? Because those weren't the Mets. Those were imposters, filling in for the afflicted members of the team, trying in vain to stay respectable.

Today is February 1st. The most hellish month in the baseball offseason has come to a close. In 17 days, pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Port St. Lucie for Spring Training. It's so close, you can almost smell the grass and the leather, almost hear the snap of David Wright's glove as he has a catch with Jose Reyes. This should be a time of joy, but most Mets fans are instead miserable. Some of them are miserable for the sake of it, some are miserable because the media has told them they should be, and some are miserable because they honestly feel they've been sold a false bill of goods by the soon to be 2010 Mets.

They're wondering where all their shiny new toys are. They're angry that the team that lost 92 games hasn't completely re-made itself...furious that ticket prices were only lowered by a few percent. These fans are like dogs that have been infected with rabies, foaming at the mouth, running around looking for someone to bite. They refuse to back down, refuse to let common sense get in the way of their misery - or their pointless diatribe.

In 2004 (and 2002 and 2003), the Mets were bad. They were often unwatchable. They trotted out lineups that included Danny Garcia, Vance Wilson, Jason Phillips, Mike Glavine, and Jeff Duncan. The team was an abomination. During the offseason of 2004, things began to fall into place for the Mets. Over the course of the 2004 offseason, and the four offseason's that followed, the Mets continued to add star quality players to the team - but never added more than two at a time. Here's a rundown of the BIG moves (at the time, not moves that were seen as being big in hindsight, like the Duaner Sanchez trade).....

Offseason of 2004 - Signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran.

Offseason of 2005 - Traded for Carlos Delgado and signed Billy Wagner.

Offseason of 2006 - Re-signed Tom Glavine and signed Moises Alou.

Offseason of 2007 - Traded for Johan Santana.

Offseason of 2008 - Signed Francisco Rodriguez and traded for JJ Putz.

In 2005, the Mets were contenders for the Wild Card, but faded in September. In 2006, they dominated the National League and ran away with the Division Title. They would've most likely made it to the World Series and won it, but they lost their setup man (Sanchez) in late July, and then lost their #1 starter (Pedro) and #2 starter (Orlando Hernandez) the week before the Playoffs began. In 2007, they choked - but still won 88 games. In 2008, they lost their closer (Billy Wagner) in August, and missed the Playoffs by a game. Going into the 2009 season, the Mets were expected to contend for a World Series Title. And then...the roof came crashing in.

The 2009 season wasn't the most disappointing season in Mets history - since the players who were left by the time August rolled around had no shot of competing. Instead, it was the most numbing. The injuries started in March, and kept piling until they reached the point of being almost unfathomable. The Mets not only lost tons of players...they lost pretty much every one of their impact players - and lost them for months at a time. On the offensive side, Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado went down in May, then Carlos Beltran started to limp - and eventually went down. Ryan Church (before the trade) was hurt. Then, David Wright got drilled in the head. Around them, the Mets lost backups (Angel Pagan, Alex Cora) and then the backups to the backups (Fernando Martinez, Wilson Valdez). It was absurd. The pitchers went down too. Oliver Perez missed most of the year with knee problems, John Maine missed 3 months, Jon Niese tore his hamstring, Fernando Nieve almost did the same thing as Niese...and then they lost Johan.

There isn't a team in Major League Baseball that could've overcome the amount of injuries that the Mets had in 2009. No shot. The result of all those injuries? 4th place, 70-92.
During the 2009 offseason, much like from 2004-2008, the Mets made one huge move - signing Jason Bay. The rest of the moves were minor. However, coming off of all the injuries, the fans were thirsty for more.
Fans began screaming for major changes. Ownership apologized on WFAN. Writers piled on the Mets every chance they got. Fans failed to renew their season tickets. People criticized Citi Field. Babies cried. There were dogs and cats living together...mass hysteria.

Some of that hysteria can be understood - SOME of it. It's understandable for the fan base to be worried going into 2010, considering what happened in 2009. However, it wasn't the core that failed last year. It was the replacements. Nevertheless, instead of counting on the Mets' players bouncing back, most fans are counting on everyone else's players having career years while each of the Mets sinks deeper into irrelevance. I don't know why, but that's the feeling.

From 2006-2009, the Mets had four all star caliber hitters in their prime who held together their lineup (Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran). In 2010, the Mets will have four all star caliber hitters in their prime who hold together the lineup (Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay). In 2008, the year the Mets won 89 games and missed the playoffs by one game, their rotation included Johan Santana, John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey. The 2010 rotation will include those four pitchers, along with one more yet to be determined name. Instead of overspending on volatile relievers, the Mets spent wisely on two high potential relievers who were rather inexpensive (Ryota Igarashi and Kelvim Escobar). The 2010 team, which has question marks, like every other team in baseball, will be fun to watch. It should be competitive, just like the 2005-2008 versions of the Mets were.

Yet, the fans still froth at the mouth. Instead of being satisfied that Jason Bay signed, they're angry that the Mets didn't get that fifth big hitter for their lineup to play first base. If they relaxed, they'd realize that the Mets haven't HAD that fifth big hitter in their lineup in quite some time...they'd realize that the Mets' top power hitting prospect plays first base. His name is Ike Davis. I wanted the Mets to trade Luis Castillo, but they couldn't. It sucks, you move on.

The bullpen has been solidified.
The Mets didn't hand out any outlandish contracts.

The one thing the Mets didn't do, that I (and most every other fan hoped they would) was acquire a #2 starter. The free agent market outside of John Lackey was extremely underwhelming, and a trade never materialized. Do the Mets have less of a chance of making the Playoffs since their rotation hasn't been bolstered with the acquisition of that #2 starter? Maybe. Maybe not.

Instead of focusing on what the Mets don't have, let's focus on what they do have:

Four of the best offensive players in baseball, in David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Jason Bay.

A bullpen that's anchored by one of the best closers in the game.

A rotation that's anchored by one of the best pitchers in the game.

That's the core.

People wanted to break that core up. They wanted wholesale changes because of one fluky, insanely injury ravaged, hellish season. They didn't get their wish.

The Mets fans (some who seem like Yankee fans), well they wanted some shiny new toys - even if they weren't very shiny. They didn't get their wish.

What we have, is an immensely talented that should contend as long as it stays relatively healthy - which isn't a far-fetched idea.

17 days until Spring Training. Mets Baseball is almost here. Don't miss out because you've been brainwashed into believing your team isn't good enough, or because you think you've been duped. This team IS good enough.

Just sit back and watch.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Left Field at the Citi? We'll Call it BayRut

If Peter Gammons had any idea what he was talking about when he bellowed that Jason Bay would rather play in Beirut than in Queens, the scene that unfolded late this morning at Citi Field would have never taken place.

Those who believed Gammons were the same who had already given up on the Mets' offseason. The rest of us took it for what it was: A crock from a bitter Red Sox fan who resembles a turkey. Sorry Peter, I had to.

The Jason Bay who emerged from his seat and calmly and confidently fielded questions this morning, bore no resemblance to a man who didn't want to play in New York for the Mets. He stated repeatedly that the Mets were always on his list (of 3 to 4 teams). He mentioned that the deal had been struck right around Christmas, and that the supposed hold-up had nothing to do with a desire not to play for the Mets, and everything to do with the fact that the important parties were out of the Country until recently(Bay himself and Omar Minaya).

Bay looked comfortable, and it was easy to envision him sliding into the #4 or #5 slot in the order and starting to rake. All of the naysayers and downers who questioned the Mets' motives, Bay's desires and the state of the Mets need look no further than this quote from Bay: "Like I said, record-wise, I know what happened here on the surface, with guys getting hurt. I think that I offer a perspective where, if you look from a talent standpoint...the lineup, if you have everyone healthy you have an amazing lineup and arguably you have the best pitcher, fresh perspective, I don’t see how that can’t be good."

Could it be that Jason Bay sees a team that averaged 90 wins for 4 years in a row before being decimated by injuries? There's always a certain amount of BS that has to be cut through at press conferences, but the above quote from Bay seemed genuine and on the money. Like lots of fans had been repeating ad-nauesum, Jason Bay was able to see past what was a freakishly miserable 2009 and fix his eyes on the big picture.

And here is that big picture:

The offensive core of the 2010 Mets will consist of Jose Reyes (26), David Wright (27), Jason Bay (31) and Carlos Beltran (32). That's a damn good core. Bengie Molina will probably be signed as well (not a huge fan of that potential move, but if it's for 1 or 2 years it's not terrible). Then, the Mets will either find a platoon partner for Daniel Murphy or take a chance on Carlos Delgado on a low-base salary. Offense shouldn't be a problem for this team in 2010, and the bullpen shouldn't be a problem either.

The starting rotation...Johan and ????...An ace and 4 other guys...

The starting rotation is the last item on Omar Minaya's agenda as we sit here on January 5th (along with maybe, finally finding a deal that rids the Mets of Luis Castillo).

Johan Santana, Ace, will be in the rotation. Oliver Perez (who was injured and aloof all of last year and who is attempting to rehab his body and mind in Arizona) will be in there as well. Those seem to be the only two certainties. Jonathon Niese could turn out to be the #5 starter, but that remains to be seen. Mike Pelfrey and John Maine are being dangled as potential trade bait that could net the Mets Carlos Zambrano. The Mets could always sign Ben Sheets - a huge injury risk, but the most talented guy out there (via trade or free agency). I pray that they stay away from Joel Pineiro, and his price tag will hopefully help to answer that prayer.

In 44 days, Pitchers and Catchers will start reporting to Port St. Lucie for Spring Training. In addition to Johan, Ollie and the relievers, what other pitchers will be there? January, to me, is the last hurdle in the too long winter of baseball-less discontent. It's the last month until November 2010 where we won't see a picture or video of a Met in uniform on a field - with a glove, or a bat, or just standing there in the sun on the grass. If I was Marty McFly, I'd jump in the Delorean and head to mid-February. Unfortunately, that's not an option. Mets fans will again be forced to be patient, or cause riots, while we wait for our #2 starter to arrive. Who will it be?