Opening Exhibition Day

"First things first, but not necessarily in that order." -- Doctor Who

31 seemingly random observations whilst watching the Nationals first-ever game and the Mets Spring Training opener internet broadcast on MLB TV yesterday:

1. Doug Mientkiewicz batting cleanup for the Mets. With Piazza and Cliff Floyd out of the lineup, Mientkiewicz was slotted behind Reyes, Matsui and Beltran. Oddly unimposing but better looking at first than Fat Mo Vaughn in any case.

2. The rage is the new uniforms, new merchandising. Only problem for me is, the way the shirts read Nationals across the front gives me the creepy feeling I'm watching the National League All Star team sans the All Stars. It'd be much less confusing and infinately cooler to have NATS embossed across the front.

3. With the sale of Nats merchandise almost surpassing even the World Champion Red Sox, you have to wonder whether or not the owner intentionally postponed the sale of the team solely so they could cash in on the first year merchandising sales and offset the cost of free agents they signed which would allegedly make the franchise more attractive and thus, worth more profit ultimately for the owners.

4. Space Coast Stadium. Syringe Stadium. Spring Training Stadium.

5. I'm curious to see some groundballs straight away to the new Mets infield.

6. Odd combination, the managers: Frank Robinson, lifetime managerial record: 913 wins, 1004 losses. Willie Randolph: 0 wins, 0 losses.

7. NICE: man on, first grounder to the new infield, Matsui fields nicely, tosses to Reyes who throws a bit low and to the right to Mientkiewicz who digs it out and records the double play. Matsui to Reyes to Mientkiewicz ain't no Tinkers to Evers to Chance but it almost has the same ring. If we shorten Mientkiewicz's name to "Mank" for the season, the double play combo could be Matsui to Reyes to Mank which would be doable as a song for baseball lore. If Reyes doesn't blow out his hammy in the third game of Spring Training or Matsui doesn't start booting half the grounders hit to him, maybe I'll work on the lyrics in time for the All Star game.

8. If only this might be like the '99 infield of Olerud, Alfonzo, Ordonez and Ventura.

9. ESPN's roving reporter, Sam Ryan, corners Omar Minaya. This Sam Ryan doesn't appear to be your average sports bimbo. Her questions are precise and relevant. When she asks Omar point blank (after all the rubbish set-up chatter about what a "team player" Mike Cameron is, which Omar was miraculously able to pull off with a straight face), whether or not Cameron was still going to be a Met on Opening Day, Omar stuttered an explanation with qualifiers as if he didn't really want to be cornered about it later after a trade had gone through. No doubt, if there's a taker, Cameron will be gone and that will be a good day for the Mets clubhouse.

10. Chopper back up the middle over Glavine's head causes some communication problems and confusing between Matsui and Reyes. ESPN commentator Jeff Brantley notes that the shortstop is the "captain of the infield", even if he is only 21. Should have been Reyes' call. Of course, with Reyes a Dominican and Matsui Japanese, there might be a little linguistic barrier. Still, you'd think they'd have both figured out a few code words in English or Engrish or Spanglish to resemble something like "I've got it!"

11. Glavine finishes with two innings pitched, 2 hits, 2 strikeouts, one hit Angry Guillen and 0 runs surrendered. Not bad. At least he didn't get shelled like Pettitte or Dontrelle Willis did yesterday.

12. The announcers spoke with Nats reliever, Mike Hinkley prior to the game and appear to have fallen in love with him. They give shout outs to his family, his girlfriend, his dog, whomever might be listening. Hinkley looks good initially but then falls apart in his second inning of pitching and ends up giving up 2 runs and 3 hits in two innings work.

13. In the third, Reyes singles up the middle off Hinkley but there are already two outs, so chances are, we won't see him try to steal or get picked off.

14. Kaz Man makes a nice charging one handed grab of a bouncer and gets the runner in time. Looks like he's been practicing at his new position.

15. I wonder if Reyes, if he manages to stay healthy, will even have the stamina to keep up for the full slate of exhibition games, PLUS 162 regular season games. He's only played 122 games total in his entire career to date.

16. "Willie Randolph will make his money on how he handles the 6th and 7th inning pitching decisions" - Steve Phillips, former Mets failed GM cum ESPN stooge.

17. Kaz Man makes another good grab: two sharp plays in one inning. This is gonna look good to the lads back home.

18. STEROIDS: I knew they were going to get around to it eventually but I had no idea they were going to talk about it so relentlessly to the point of ignorning play on the field. "Pandora's box is wide open but nobody knows who's in it." - Jeff Brantley.

19. Brantley, Phillips and Dan Schulman continue yammering on about steroids for what seems an eternity. We hear Phillips' self-serving excuses and lies about how he dealt with it or not as the Mets GM. We hear Brantley's woeful tale of finding a syringe in a highschool toilet just "a few days ago", blablabla. Really pathetic pandering as though they've been handed scripts by Bud Selig. Only Schulman dares comment on the toothlessness of the new MLB steroid testing policy and he's smacked away by Brantley who can't stop raving about how testing during the offseason changes "everything". What rubbish. At least one of them points out that it doesn't matter what rules or testing you implement, players who want to are going to find a way around it. The only truthful, unscripted line of the day from these sadistic MLB-serving little mouthpieces.

20. Frank Robinson gets interviewed live with a head set while he sits on the team bench. "Baseball begins and ends with pitching," he says, "and the defence behind it." Of course, Frank is preoccupied with pitching this Spring Training considering how weak the Nats rotation is. Frank keeps his headphones on after the interview, for the most of the game in fact, until he takes them off to argue an erroneous infield fly rule call by the umpire.

21. Jose Guillen hits the first Washington Nats homer ever to tie the game at 2. What sad sack Met hurler surrenders it? None other than Super-Disappointer, Aaron Heilman. To compound the fact that Heilman sucks, in case you missed it the first go-round, he later surrenders another homer to Keith Osik.

22. Comedy of Errors: Nats CF Endy Chavez misplays Kaz Man's fly ball to centerfield. Matsui trips over his own feet as he nears second base, preventing him from reaching third. One batter later, Jeff Hammonds, the old Orioles prospect who never amounted to anything, lets a line drive by Phillips soar over his head as if he's never played leftfield before making it a run-scoring double for Phillips. Frank Robinson says he's chewing his fingernails with annoyance.

23. 5th inning sees a Nats flood of unknowns take the field, like the 4th quarter of an NFL Exhibition game. This leads to Jose Guillen getting interviewed in the dugout about his anger management problems and the subsequent counseling he went for. All along, we've heard what a stand up guy Guillen is, how he's not as bad as last season's misunderstanding with the Angels that saw him kicked off the team in the middle of a pennant race. We've heard how he volunteered to get counseling without any prompting from anyone else, blablabla. Then Guillen drops the bomb that he "didn't really need" counseling. Duh. So why'd you go? Well, the ESPN announcers figure he's mistaken. Of course he needed it and recognised he needed it blablabla. None of them bother to point out the obvious: Guillen's agent told him he had to get counseling and at least pretend to be sorting himself out otherwise nobody would want him. Mark it down though folks, this guy doesn't think he's got a problem even though he's had a problem all career. He'll have another episode this season or Frank Robinson is a miracle worker.

24. IF is the biggest word of Spring Training. As in: IF he stays healthy...this is the mantra of the Spring. The announcers bring it up about 100 times. Yet, it's true. IF Hamstring Jose stays away from the niggling injuries - and you never know when they'll kick in - he's going to be an All Star and the Mets are going to compete for the NL East title.

25. Willie Randolph gets his turn on the headphones. He's got a silky voice, like a midnight DJ. But very serious. He's practically the perfect guy to be managing this collection, especially with the young infield up the middle and his experience as a good major league second baseman. So it turns out these guys can grow moustaches, just not goatees or beards. Dunno the logic on that one. And from the sounds of it, some of this strict rule old school discipline is to set the tone for Spring Training and might not be make it through a full season.

26. Ok, let's jump on the bandwagon. El Gato Galarraga, with two bouts of cancer and 399 career homers, is the feel-good story of the Mets season if he sticks. Just looking at him makes me feel serene. Imagine his clubhouse presence.

27. Felix Heredia and last season's ugly 6.28 ERA hasn't changed it's spots. He gets the loss, giving up an earned run in an inning although strikes out two. He laboured heavily with the Mets 2nd string defence playing poorly behind him.

28. Terrmel Sledge has the best baseball name of the game today. I think I'm going to make one fantasy baseball team based solely upon the oddity of a player's name. Terrmel Sledge will bat seventh.

29. Nats have a reliever named Majewksi who looks like a failed musician waiting to happen. Fortunately, he pitches well. Two strikeouts in an inning's work.

30. Jeff Brantley's questions, especially when former teammate Barry Larkin is in the booth, just seem to wander without point as if in the middle of searching for the question he wants to ask, he falls in love with the sound of his own voice. He isn't as annoying as Steve Phillips however, he spends most of the game whingeing about the fact his trade for Larkin fell through a few years ago. Listening to Steve Phillips talk again just reminds me how much I hated him as the Mets GM. He seems to have no novel insight on any player, on any aspect of the game. Just a pandering jackass who was a really bad GM and somehow made it to ESPN. At least Brantley's southern twinge sounds like a baseball voice. Phillips is just a nagging drone you want to turn off or smash to pieces.

31. Highlights of the Day: seeing the Kaz Man handle his chances at second with skill and efficiency, the admission from David Wright that he talks to his glove, Piazza's absence and not having to guess what hair colour he was going to show up in, seeing the Matsui to Reyes to Mank double play combo in action, and the opening three lineup: Reyes, Matsui and Beltran. IF healthy, bound to please.

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