Where Will Mets Finish?

With Opening Day just a few ticks away in the auld Daylight Savings scheme, (noting that we in the UK have already set our clocks ahead last weekend and remain at the moment, six full hours ahead of EST,) we thought it might be useful to have a brief overview of how others are assessing the Mets chances this season...

El Hombre, CBS Sportsline's baseball version of Andy Milonakis, is out with his preseason predictions with a special rant against the Mets:

"It's bad enough that Yankees fans have been riding high for more than a decade. But what's worse than a stadium full of Dese and Dose types trying to have their insipid chants of "Let's Go Mets!" heard over the din of the 7:45 to Chicago gunning it out of LaGuardia? Only a 21st century Ben Affleck film festival, that's what." Ohhhh, you funny, Joe. But that's one vote for the Mets as NL wildcard.

Baseball Perspectus has the Mets winning the NL East.

"New York's winning percentage has increased each of the last three years and the Mets' 83 wins last season were the most since 2000, the last time the Mets were in the playoffs."

Another hopeless unfunny muppet, John Donovan opines that "The Mets spend money like Ivana Trump and the Braves still are the team to beat."

Armchair GM has the Mets finishing third behind the Braves and Phillies.

Dana Perry at Fox Sports predicts a more realistic wild card for the Mets and further, names Carlos Delgado MVP.

Gotham Baseball gets even jiggier with the NL East, going as far to ponder a postseason with the Mets for the first time since 2000, the Phillies for the first time since 1993 and minus the Braves for the first time since 1991."

Jeffrey Pohlmeyer of E sports has the Mets winning the East but losing to the Cardinals in the NLCS. That'd be a nice step forward.

Only 2 of 6 at Mets Geek think they will win the NL East though the other four all picked the Mets to take the Wild card. The Army considers this to fall under the category of realistically managed expectations.

Over at It's Mets For Me says the Mets will beat the Yankees in another Subway series.

Certainly no bigger wet dream for a Mets fan than that.

Not to be outdone, Metsradamus has also predicted first for the Mets.

The Metropolitans isn't buying the auld picking the Braves until they lose. I agree. In fact, my pet theory over the last half dozen season has been to keep picking the Braves to lose until they finally do. After all, this isn't the Tausendjähriges Reich we're contemplating, and even that turned out to last less time than the Braves stranglehold on the NL East.

As for Archie Bunker's Army, we predict a riot.

I'm not one for "fair and unbiased" sports journalism when it comes to predicting the Mets' season. Alot of baaad things could happen this year but let's face it, when you're one of the few teams in MLB with a realistic chance at winning the World Series, how can you pick anything else but the Mets beating the Yankees in the World Series?


April's Schedule:

The battle for a .500 April looks to be fought with a weekend in Atlanta but nice to get 6 games with the Braves out of the way before May.


Wednesday, Tom Glavine warmed up for his Opening Day start against former teammates, the Atlanta Braves. Supported by a skeletal starting lineup which contained only battery mate Paul Lo Duca, who was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in Tom's favour (his third consecutive Spring Training getting ejected,) Chris Woodward, Victor Diaz, Endy Chavez and Jose Valentin among Mets expected to head north, the Mets predictably lost 4-1.

Glavine allowed 2 runs on 3 hits over four innings facing the more-or-less real Braves lineup containing the likes of Marcus Giles, Edgar Renteria and Larry and Andruw Jones.

Glavine is 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in his career Opening Day starts. One might optimistically expect against the Nats, 5 IP, 6 hits, 3 runs and no decision on Opening Day.

Speaking of Opening Day, Metsville helpfully points out that:

"QUEENSRŸCHE frontman Geoff Tate will sing the national anthem at the New York Mets/Washington Nationals game Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York on April 5 at 7:10 p.m. According to a posting on QUEENSRŸCHE's official web site, the anthem will be aired live during the radio broadcast and after the anthem, a mention will be made of the group's new album, "Operation: Mindcrime II".

*****No More Mrs Benson?

From the Department of Schadenfreude, Metsblog reports that Anna Benson is taking her big mouth elsewhere, putting Kris on irrevocable waivers. Is this an early April Fool's joke or just wishful thinking?


Roster Moves Show Mets Hand

"I'm certainly disappointed," Mets starter reliever Aaron Heilman, upon learning he'd been demoted moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen.

(And the winner is...)

The Mets made the rumour official yesterday, awarding the fifth starter in the rotation to Brian Bannister whilst Aaron Heilman was moved back to the bullpen despite his wishes, in order to strengthen what is bound to be an overworked bullpen.

This again underscores the poor offseason decisions with regard to pitching, made by Omar. By all rights, Bannister should be seasoned at least half a season at Norfolk and Heilman should be starting rather than shoring up a questionable bullpen. The offseason moves clearly have not strengthened the bullpen sufficiently to avoid having to shuffle a legitimate starter into purgatory and having a glance at the starting rotation, one isn't necessarily overcome with goosebumps of excitement.

But even though it looks bleak at the moment, I have confidence that these bullpen moves will prove handy in the long run. Duaner Sanchez and Jorge Julio both would appear to be legitimate set up men to Billy Wagner and one wonders where Heilman's work is going to come from if that proves to be the case. Set up man? Are they not telling us something about the vulnerabilities of Sanchez and Julio or is there just an overhanging lack of confidence? I guess when you spend as much on a closer as the Mets did for Wagner, you do everything in your power to make sure he's got a win to save when it comes his time in the 9th inning and this move of Heilman is just a precautionary measure.

Meanwhile, in celebration of yesterday's decision, Heilman gave up two hits and a run in two innings striking out three against the Marlins in a 12-7 loss to the Marlins which was marked by a 5 run first inning during which time we identified two Mets doing themselves no favours:

1. Roster hopeful Jose Lima took a step away from the team when he ran into two-out trouble in the first against the Marlins yesterday, giving up five runs on five hits, all after the second out was recorded. Lima worked two innnings, allowing six hits and five runs.
2. Yusaku Iriki who started Spring Training off so brilliantly, continued his rapid downward spiral towards Norfolk or worse when he allowed three runs and three walks in his continued struggle with the funny-feeling baseballs of America.

It might also be noteworthy that despite Pedro's encouraging outing, the Mets starting rotation is still very much a shambles.

40 year old Glavine will be the Opening Day starter but other than Pedro, the Mets haven't got much in the way of encouragement when starting down into the starting pitching barrel. Number three starter Steve Trachsel allowed 8 runs in 4 innings of disasterous pitching against the Dodgers on Monday, including a three-run homer to Dodger pitcher Brett Tomko, making his full comeback rather dodgy. Victor Zambrano, despite an impressive outing against the O's after Pedro's start, is still considered more of a liability than an asset and at best, a career .500 pitcher and now we've got an unproven rookie closing out the starting five. As noted above, both Iriki and Lima hardly appear to be qualified replacements.

Another poorly kept secret made official yesterday was the winner of the second baseman's job: Anderson Hernandez. Jeff Keppinger was reassigned, along with Lastings Milledge, Tike Redman, Todd Self, catcher Sandy Martinez and left-handed relievers Royce Ring and Juan Perez to their minor league camp.

His double play partner, Jose Reyes is now hitting at a .538 clip, proving perhaps, that his lack of playing time in the WBC didn't appear to have hurt him. Meanwhile, although his batting average plunged to .250, Xavier Nady drove in yet another run against the Marlins to give him a team-leading 13 for the Spring. But wait, didn't six of those RBIs come in one game? Is there anyone battling for the right field position anymore?


St Pedro's Day

"Anytime he pitches, it's St. Pedro's Day. It's a celebration." Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson showing a little too much leg.

I wouldn't exhale just yet, but perhaps the heart palpitations will ease after months of wearying, anxious speculation now that Pedro's back in town, mowing 'em down with typical Pedro verve.

Yeah, it's only March and yeah, it was only the Orioles, but in a first spring outing, retiring 8 of 10 batters in 3 shutout, shout-about innings during which he gave up only one hit. And of course, a few questions about the once-indominable toe answered in succinct fashion. Discomfort but not the pain of the second half of last season. Diligence pays off, foam gel pads and all.

But what, that's not even the shocking part.

The shocking part was the infamously inconsistent Victor Zambrano finishing the game for Pedro with six shutout innings, four hits, four strikeouts, two walks, no wild pitches and no hit batsmen.

Or maybe this should just make us question the quality of the opponent this time around. Pedro's next start might well come against the Cardinals on Friday, a considerably more formidable foe.

Also bringing comfort was the disjointed outing by Mrs Benson allowed six runs (four earned) in 5 1/3 innings. His throwing error with two outs in the third let one run score.

However, the grimace of optimism was present in the Orioles' dugout.

"I thought this was [Benson's] best outing," manager Sam Perlozzo said, straining his vocabulary for positive misdirection.


Rumours are still afloat that Heilman might head to the bullpen, giving Bannister the nod as the fifth starter instead.


Steve Trachsel's deliberative, hours-killing pitching style will be on the mound this afternoon for the Mets against the Dodgers tonight.


The Smell of Pedro In The Air

In the midst of waiting for the WFAN broadcast of the Mets-Astros game this morning, just before the game broadcast went on air there was a small snippet of the hazardously caustic talk show chimp, Russo Maddog in mid-rant, foaming at the mouth about Carlos Beltran bunting whilst batting third.

I have a feeling this is some of the Spring Training warm ups for the Carlos Beltran Hate Club licking their lips with anticipation over the possible disappointment of Beltran, whose salary is usually highlighted in any criticism of Beltran unleashed in these sorts of backseat driver tirades.

Is it true that Beltran has an incentive clause in his contract, an extra $50,000 if he reaches the 25 bunt benchmark in a season or is this merely emblematic of the situationalist, one-run-at-a-time hitting philosophy?

"It's about winning," Beltran cautioned to his critics. "If I do that and we win, then I will continue to do that. If I do that and we don't win, then I'll change. What I did today, if it would have been the season, I would have done the same thing. I wouldn't change anything."

See? It has nothing to do with contract incentives. And who can argue with such a broad stroke rationale? Winning can justify almost anything short of steroids and wife beating in baseball. Even if a marketpiece cornerstone of the Future Mets decides to bunt instead of swing for a fence-busting line drive to clear the bases.

Is Beltran enforcing a continued audition for the number two slot in the lineup?

He hits for average almost 20 points better from the number two position, not to mention a higher OBP and slugging percentage.

Manager Willie swallowed hard after the game.

"There'll be times where he won't do it. But in a situation like that, and a good pitcher like Carpenter, it's not a bad play. If you get it down, no one says anything. You pop it up, it's a story."

Somehow, I get the feeling it's a story regardless of the result. At least while everyone seems pleased to savour the chewing over Beltran's salary v bunt ratio.

"I've been playing the game like that since I got to the big leagues," Beltran continued defending. "Some people like it, some people don't. But the thing is for me to help the team, and there's nothing better than that."

Except winning.

Or bunting.


Tom Glavine's next start will be his first start as a 40 year old. Jamie Moyer went 21-7 as a 40 year old in 2003. Same season David Cone was 40. And Al Leiter would appear to have retired at 40.

Oh alright, let's just get right to it:

Pos. Pitcher, Team T Age Team Year W L ERA

SP Grover Alexander R 40 Cardinals 1927 21 10 2.52
SP Gaylord Perry R 40 Padres 1978 21 6 2.73
SP Warren Spahn L 42 Braves 1963 23 7 2.60
SP Cy Young R 41 Red Sox 1908 21 11 1.26
SP Nolan Ryan R 42 Rangers 1989 16 10 3.20
CL Hoyt Wilhelm R 42 White Sox 1964 12 9 1.99
CL Dennis Eckersley R 42 Cardinals 1997 1 5 3.91


Jorge Julio has yet to give up a run in his four outings this Spring.

Fortunately, we can begin to feel the sway of the feeling that he isn't going to have to serve as the closer. At least if the Billy Wagner Throws Without Pain headline barks in the right key.

In theory, the Mets could have a devastating bullpen trio of Julio, Sanchez and Wagner and in theory, Xavier Nady could have a break out season. Omar's wet dream of vindication.

Following Brian Bannister's outing in an effort to fortify his claim to the starting rotation, Aaron Heilman's stock must have gone up with every one of Bannister's five walks. However, he gave up only one earned run in all of that and continuously demonstrated an ability to fight through tough sitations. I guess that's the best you can say for someone issuing 5 walks in five innings. But nearly everyone has days like that and even Heilman's, with his 1.29 ERA in four spring starts, could be just around the corner.

Before Lastings Milledge is painting into the starting lineup, let's not try and look past his 15 strikeouts in 54 at-bats. Yes, somewhere we must find the glitter fading.

Tike Redman deserves further consideration to make the roster despite the growing overcrowding of prospective outfielders this Spring. Recently dumped reassigned Julio Ramirez was the sole disappointment of the group but Redman has a certain je ne sais quoi he brings both in fielding and in clutch hitting. Only David Wright and Cliff Floyd have more RBIs in fewer at-bats.

Milledge is also the only outfield candidate with an error this Spring. Not that it's necessarily a damning fact, I merely thought it interesting that not even Victor Diaz, who occasionally plays like he's doing his Ray Charles in right field routine, has missed a fielding opportunity this spring.

A few days ago I read an article about Xavier Nady's first name and the long history of Xaviers in the family. What I didn't know until it was just handed to me a few moments ago is that Everybody's Favourite Punching Bag, Fran Healy, also hides the name Xavier in his history.

That's right.

Francis Xavier Paul Healy.


Finally, Pedro and his Toe make their 2006 debuts today against the Baltimore Orioles and Anna's Husband, Benson getting his second chance to show what if anything, Leo Mazzone has taught him against the Mets.

This is of course the pinnacle of the ongoing saga thus far. I pity those of you who will be watching the game on television presuming there will be a bare minimum 6 zillion shots of Pedro's mound footwork and 14 katrillion references to his toe made during the broadcast.

Well, there's an oasis in one corner - Bill Parcell wingman and O's manager Sam Perlozzo is more interested in seeing how Nick Markakis does against Pedro.

I haven't finalized the lineup, but it will be interesting to see if he's throwing really well, to see how [Nick] Markakis does in there," Perlozzo chanted thereby becoming the first person in three months to mention the name Pedro and not the word toe in the same sentence. "If he's throwing really good, it don't matter who's up there, usually. It will be interesting. I would look forward to that."

What do we expect from Pedro today but two innings?

"My body will tell me what's next," Martinez boldly predicts. "It will all depend on how I feel."

Look for more exciting chapters forthcoming in Pedro's Body Controls The World, coming soon to an off license book dealer near you.


This is Japanese for open a beer.

The Kaz Man is on the barby.

That's right, Mr Matsui still isn't ready to begin baseball-related workouts and is still getting his cardio on an exercise bike.

And now you too can join the Matsui Bicycle Club.


Former Mets

Excellent reflections on the man, Davey Johnson.

How's Seo doing since we traded him? Well, other than the WBC, he's having mixed outings with the Dodgers.

"I didn't make enough of an adjustment facing big league hitters after facing the Asian hitters [in the WBC]," Seo noted about his WBC success on first pitch fastballs. "The Asian hitters are more patient. It takes away from their power, but they are better at making contact. The major league hitters are more aggressive."

At least he isn't blaming the ball.


How's Mike looking in a Padres kit? You decide.

Batting Tip 101 from Rickey Henderson: "Open your eyes when you swing, Mike."

In Piazza says

"At this stage of my career, coming back to Southern California should be beneficial for me in that I won't have to deal as much with the cold weather at the early and late parts of the season. Colder weather can make it difficult trying to keep loose and healthy over the course of the season. It takes a little longer to get ready these days, but I feel good right now. We'll see how that works out."

Must've been the bloody Ice Age at Shea then, judging by the bouncing throws to second base...


Hey kids, remember that guy who blew last season's Opening Day?

Braden Looper is another, like Mike Piazza, playing with his eyes closed:

They say Looper is going to work out as the set-up guy for La Russa and his lads.

"Looper fell into bad habits mechanically in 2005, when he battled a sore shoulder for nearly the entire season. It took several bullpen sessions and those aforementioned few rough games before he was able to straighten things out."

Sore shoulder. Ok. Cold weather and sore shoulders. That's what Piazza and Looper have spent all winter coming up with for why they failed the Mets dearly last season? If I were a former Mets player trying to come up with a good excuse for why I sucked last season but this season will somehow, magically be different, I'd keep my excuses a little less specific, just in case the truth is there isn't any more in the barrel and their Mets seasons weren't mirages.

"I'm on my last legs so let's all pray I can make an improbable comeback," Piazza could have encouraged.

"I can't stand the pressure of closing," Looper could have admitted. "I got dumped as a closer by the Marlins in mid-season of a World Championship and sucked with the Mets as a closer so if you want me to have a chance to pitch well, keep me in comfy mode as a set-up guy."


If this collection isn't the epitomy of tokenism, I'll eat my Brooklyn Cyclones cap with mustard. Does this mean there will no Japanese language broadcasts for the three remaining Kaz Man fans?

(Just so you know, Ron Darling is in there allegedly, keeping with the former Met theme...)

Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling will serve as analysts for the new network's coverage of the Mets. Gary Cohen will provide play-by-play, and Siafa Lewis will serve as the pregame and postgame reporter on all SNY-produced Mets telecasts.


I just had to google Siafa.

"Siafa Lewis joins SportsNet New York as the Mets pre- and post-game reporter for all SNY produced Mets telecasts. During the Mets off-season, Lewis will contribute as a reporter on SNY's three nightly "SportNite" shows.

Prior to joining SNY, Lewis most recently served as a sports studio anchor for CSTV. Lewis began his television career in Philadelphia working for the NBC affiliate, WCAU, before moving onto Baltimore's WMAR. Lewis is a graduate of New Jersey's Rowan University."

No Saturday Night Live credits.



Uncle Tom Goes For Number 276

"Mercifully, whatever faint Opening Day optimism might have been allowed to germinate was quickly killed when Glavine gave up enough runs to lose within the first ten minutes of the game. Some people say he didn't sound, after the game, like a man making excuses so much as a man who knew exactly why and how he failed. So cheer up fans. Glavine isn't washed up. The reason he just looks like he is was because yesterday was cold and windy. He couldn't feel his fingers to feel his change up he says. So let's remember that when it's sunny and 90 degrees outside and Glavine is throwing no-hitters every afternoon."

Ah yes, the self-referential quotes and memories of Tom Glavine's inaugural Opening Day start for the Mets in 2003.

Actually, there shouldn't be much to fear this time around. Ideally of course, Pedro is 100% fit and starts Opening Day with a bang and this time around the closer doesn't blow it. But Tom Glavine isn't necessarily the worst guy to have slinging on Day One.

Just imagine Tom Glavine the Tom Waits of 40 year old starting pitchers and the season will seem infinately more interesting.

At least more than this:

And look on another bright side - the soon-to-be-40 Glavine won 9 games in his first season with the Mets, 11 in his second and 13 last year. Perhaps that means in an improbable world of consistency, Glavine might win 15 for the Mets this season. Then again, if Pedro's Toe delivers a might blow to the Mets, Glavine would have to win 25 for it to matter.


Admittedly, I'm not an ultra fan of überstatistical output but Hardtimes does have some statistical tidbits in their Five questions about the Mets that trickled down the mind this afternoon, to whit:

On Pedro's success in the NL:

"Pedro faced 75 pitchers or pinch hitters in 2005. He struck out 33 of them, walked just one and gave up zero home runs."

On 1B production:

"Mets first basemen have been downright woeful at the plate. In fact, they've been below the NL average for first basemen for the last six years in a row."

On Jose Reyes getting on base this season:

"Various commentators are talking about Henderson helping Reyes learn the ropes with regards to base stealing, pointing out the positive effect that Henderson had on Roger Cedeno when the two played together on the 1999 Mets. But does that really make a lot of sense? Reyes led the NL with 60 stolen bases last season and had a fine success rate of 80%. No, what Rickey is going to be preaching to Reyes is the gospel of on-base percentage. Reyes, as you probably know, does not excel at getting on base; he had a .300 OBP last season."


Imagine a season with half-a-Pedro.

"Pedro's Toe delivered
a mighty blow
to Met hope early in the season.

The Toe was the show
and all we had left
was half-a-Pedro to
crow about against the legions.

Pedro's Toe delivered
a mighty blow
to men and women believing in Shea Stadium.

The Toe was our home
and all we had
was the Pedro flag
flying sadly at half-mast."

--by Arturo Semontologo, Sad Toes and Sour Grapes, Devondale Publishing Warlords, 2006.


Mrs Benson Returns

Oh, ironic twists.

The two pitchers the Mets traded for at the 2004 deadline, Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson were facing each other yesterday when the Mets took on the Orioles in an exhibition game fraught with quasi-celebrities.

First of all, it was the return of Rickey "Deal Me In" Henderson, acting this time, in the capacity as a "guest coach" for the Mets for the last 11 days of Spring Training, ostensibly, to turn Jose Reyes into a better version of the aulder man.

Dr Goofy Shows His Poker Hand

Apparently, Henderson will also have little pearls of wisdom to impart upon Mets main cog, Carlos Beltran as well. Beltran said of Henderson: "I'm waiting for the opportunity to work with him, both as a base stealer and as a center fielder. He probably has something unique about him that we don't have, and I want to see what it is."

Something unique indeed. Poison to team character? Self-involved attitude? Teaching Mets how to refer to themselves in third person?

Also spotted in the crowd were Cowboy coach Bill Parcells and former Packer GM Ron Wolf. Parcells is evidently mates with Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo.

Bill Parcells deserves to be in the Hall of Fat.

As for the matchup of current and former Mets, Benson gave up three runs (two earned) in four innings. He allowed six hits and a walk, and struck out three. Victor Zambrano worked five innings for the Mets, allowing just Mora's homer and Conine's hit-and-run. The Mets lost, 6-5, when Bartolome Fortunato gave up four runs in the bottom of the ninth.

Reyes, Beltran, Delgado and Endy Chavez all doubled for the Mets whilst Beltran and Reyes both had a pair of hits in all. Anderson Hernandez started at second base and had a hit in three at-bats but Keppinger, a late replacement, also had a hit in his lone at-bat. Currently, Hernandez is hitting .289 and Keppinger is hitting .286.

Of course if the Mets trade for malcontent Alfonso Soriano to play second base, it's a moot point. However, much like the big rumoured trade for Manny Ramirez, the Soriano trade has been rumoured for more than a year and would definately not be of benefit to the Mets, regardless of offensive stats.

Victor Diaz went oh for on the night playing both left field and right field although obviously not simultaneously and X Nady went 0 for 4 to drop his batting average to .333.


Of course, no reference to Kris Benson or the Orioles would be complete without the requisite referral to Anna Benson. There were no memorable utterances at yesterday's game so we'll leave you with the obligatory shot:


Meanwhile, casualties remain the buzzword in the Mets camp. Along with Pedro's dodgy toe, there is also the question of Carlos Delgado's improving elbow.

It's feeling better," Delgado said. "Hopefully that will continue to be the case."

Hopefully? Yeah, like if not, the season could be down the tubes before it even starts.

Not only that, but adding key injury to key injury, how many groans went out when you read that Wagner shut down until the Weekend?

Allegedly not a big deal, (I dunno how the fulcrum behind your offseason free agent moves and one of the key members of the team being pulled is not a "big deal" but there you go, information management,) but Billy Wagner's finger is irritated and sore.

The diagnosis the Mets made public on Tuesday, following Monday's negative MRI, was "tendon sheath stiffness." You might wonder how long the Mets would have waited had the MRI been positive like torn tendon in finger, etc. Although the club acknowledges that Wagner hurt his finger on Thursday night while pitching against the Braves, the injury's cause remains unspecified.

However, one might be able to take comfort in the fact that this isn't the first time Wagner's finger has acted up. He endured a similar problem to the same finger in Spring Training 2004, when he was a member of the Phillies. The injury is to the same area, about 1 1/2 inches from the fingertip. That year, Wagner missed two weeks of Spring Training -- in early March -- but he was ready for Opening Day.

Keep your "fingers" crossed and remember that former Met John Franco once lost more than two months of his season when he suffered a partial tear to the sheath of the flexor tendon in his left middle finger while pitching against the Braves.



Cry On, Mr Jones

It isn't the regular season yet and already Larry has tears in his eyes.

Omen of a season to come?


At least we know our new closer isn't afraid of the Braves.

Billy Wagner earned the victory for the Mets last night in their 6-5 victory over the Braves.

Jose Lima, yet again, shows he's one of the best three inning pitchers of the Spring. Now if only he could make it into that pesky fourth inning he might be useful for something other than Pedro's comic relief.

The delicious battle continued for right field. Xavier Nady had two hits and Victor Diaz drove in the game-tying run in a two-run ninth inning with a sacrifice fly.

And of course, if you thought that news was a relief, just think about how the Kaz Man Hate Club are feeling this morning knowing that Matsui can't even get the bit right about staying healthy so he can be traded...

In the never ending soap opera that has been the battle for second base, Matsui will have an MRI exam on his knee today after he Matsui made an strange slide into second base. (Yes, it's true, the Kaz Man can't even slide properly...

The diagnosis was a sprain of the medial collateral ligament.

The injury, he commented, has "kind of put him back."

Put him back implies of course that he had been moving ahead which is about as far from the reality of the Kaz Man's spring as anyone might dare imagine.

Fittingly, he had a single in his lone at bat prior to the injury...yeah, just getting started on that 56 game hitting streak no doubt...


Puerto Ricans and Venezuelans Coming Home

Now that the Puerto Ricans have lost to Cuba in the WBC and are hereinafter officially eliminated, we can finally look forward to having several Mets back in uniform, trying to look familiar, still sweaty with excitement and perhaps grey with disappointment over their WBC experience.

Carlos Beltran hit a predictable .286 in the WBC and last night included an amazing 12 pitch duel with Cuban pitcher Yunieski Maya which ended in an RBI single.

Carlos Delgado, making his appearance despite a cranky elbow, had a single in his lone at-bat keeping him perfect for the spring.

Also making their returns will be Jose Valentin, who hit .238 in 5 games and Pedro Feliciano and Ivan Moldanado (who gave up two runs in an inning's work). As we know, Juan Padilla was tragically felled by a right elbow injury that will sideline him for the season.

So, we've almost got a team...

Endy Chavez, who hit only .167 but blasted a pair of homers for Venezuela, will also be back in an outfield contest that is largely decided already. Also back will be Victor Zambrano, who appeared in two games, walked one and struck out 3 with a 3.38 ERA. Jorge Julio is on his way, visa problems aside, after a less-than-impressive WBC show wherein he appeared in four games and finished with an 8.10 ERA. Sure he struck out 5 in 4 innings work but so far, he isn't showing much in the deal for Mrs Benson.

Duaner Sanchez got ex-Met Edgardo Alfonso to fly to right to end it before 13,007 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium the other night. Sanchez of course will stay with the Dominicans because he has done so well pitching four scoreless innings so far in four relief appearances.

Also staying away from our Mets at least until the end of the weekend will be Jose Reyes, who has seen limited action behind Miguel Tejada: one hit, a run scored, and two stolen bases in 5 official at-bats.


Pedro Faces Batters

With almost as much fanfare was the World Series or hell, let's say it, even the World Baseball Classic, Pedro took the mound yesterday and faced live hitters for the first time.

Well, not high quality hitters, mind you. He pitched to a pair of Class A players --outfielder Corey Coles who hit .307 for Hagerstown last season and 5'9 170 pound catcher Rafael Arroyo, the 24th round 2004 pick who oddly enough, is named after a town in Puerto Rico (well, that bit we don't know for a fact but coincidence is a funny thing...)

Anyway, Pedro essentially broke his work into three innings of 20 or so pitches.

The verdict, more or less, success and catching up.

"The way he threw today," Triple-A pitching coach Randy Niemann said, "I wouldn't put it past him (to still start on Opening Day). He didn't look like somebody just starting out. He moved the ball in and out, threw all his pitches [except for the cutter] and changed speeds. He has so many weapons in his arsenal."

Well, not to piss on anyone's parade but I'm not holding my breath on Pedro starting Opening Day. In fact, I don't care if he starts until May so long as he's healthy the rest of the season.


Meanwhile, the Mets continued beating up on the hapless Nats, last night to the tune of 8-5. Five of the Mets runs came in the top of the 8th inning.

Starter Aaron Heilman matched Brian Bannister's three strikeout shutout outing but gave up three hits to Bannister's one. Let's not forget of course that this is hardly Big League stuff they are facing. Jose Vidro, Matt LeCroy and Tom Goodwin were probably the only verifiable, name-recogniseable players in the Nats batting order.

Kaz Man dazzled with another Oh for 3 performance to drop his batting average back down into the doldrums at .184.

I love this question: What To Do With Kaz?

However, I admit disappointment there is no mention of a wood chopper although comparing him to Wayne Morris was a real slap in the face.

In the RF battle, Victor Diaz hit his first homer of the Spring and X Nady was hitless in three at-bats to drop his average down to a more terrestrial .394.

*****Spitting Practice*****

The Mets will host the Braves tonight.


Little New of Note On Mets Front

Looks like Uncle Dwight is back in the news again, arrested this time for allegedly failing his drug test.

One of the conditions of his probation was regular drug tests and he was sent to the Hillsborough County Jail after he tested positive for cocaine.

On Tuesday, he went to a regular meeting with a probation officer where he admitted to using cocaine,she did a drug screen, and he tested positive for cocaine. On Wednesday he was ordered held without bond and faces up to five years in prison for violating the terms of his probation. Baddabing, baddabang.

Meanwhile, something Dwight and Darryl Strawberry might have in common other than using their nostrils as hoovers, is that Strawberry said he never used steroids during his playing career.

"I've done a lot of things I shouldn't have, but I didn't do steroids," said Strawberry in this interview. "That's one thing I can't be accused of."

Way to "draw the line", Darryl.


"I need to have my legs in good shape. Without a leg, there is no arm."
-- Pedro Martinez, preaching the gospel of the human anatomy.

Meanwhile, Pedro's plot thickens and the fact that he isn't having toe surgery is now news for some reason.

More of that "Pedro Pitching Face" reveals the real story behind all his successful years of pitching: batters have to turn away from the mound whilst batting so as not to see the Pitching Face and go blind. Thus, batters never really have a clear look at the pitch being thrown by Pedro.

Meanwhile, there's no less than six stories relating to Pedro and his toe and his not getting surgery, all with a varying degree of predictable headline grabbers.


Is anyone else struck by the dearth of information on Carlos Delgado and his sore left elbow?

After taking Spring Training by storm with a 5 for 5 opening, we haven't seen hide nor hair of him. However, he is rumoured to be taking part in Puerto Rico's must win game against Cuba.


Nice to see Brian Bannister keeping his Spring Training scoreless streak alive, now up to 9 innings after a 4 inning one hit outing that continued to impress.

The Mets pounded the O's 11-4 and don't look now, but is that Kaz Matsui coming up late on the inside?

The Kaz Man had a hit and drove in a pair of runs to elevate his batting average this Spring all the way up to the magical .200 mark.


All The Best Mets Are Hurt or In The WBC

Due to incessant coverage blogging over at Sports Amnesia, the Army has taken a knee with the Mets these last few days.

But it does seem difficult to get excited about watching this season's Norfolk team parade around in Mets uniforms whilst the real Mets are mostly off injured, recovering, resting or playing in the WBC...

(Happy times for Carlos Beltran in a Team Puerto Rico uniform...wonder if he'll be sliding head-first into first base for the Mets any time soon...)

You've got to admit, the WBC, despite everyone's initial skepticism, is a wee bit more interesting at the moment than watching split squad games in Spring Training.

Some developments on the homefront however:

Despite three errors in seven games and a batting average hovering in the neighborhood of Mediocre and Embarassing, manager Willie has conceded that Kaz Matsui has the "upper hand" in the competition for the second baseman's job. The only hand? The hands of stone?

C'mon. This is ridiculous.

But apparently, with Jose Reyes away, sitting on the bench at the World Baseball Classic, (what a useful way to spend Spring Training,) manager Willie whinged that he probably will not get to see Anderson Hernandez enough at second because he's filling in at shortstop. So with split squads, why not have him playing second base? Why not let some single A guy get his chops at short? Why play your potential starting second baseman out of position all Spring??!!

In a little bit of better news, Steve Trachsel started and threw four scoreless innings on Sunday against well, it was just the O's but what the hell. Trax allowed just three baserunners -- all in the second inning -- and erased one on a 5-4-3 double play. He retired the final seven batters he faced.

The O's later beat the Mets in extra innings, 3-2.

A few things over the weekend we noticed:

The Saga of Spring Continues

1. Pedro is making a leetle progress. Saturday's 81 pitches, 60 of which were thrown "hard", zero of which were thrown against live batting, were a high for Pedro this Spring.

2. Mets still LOSERS against Braves, even in the bloody Exhibition Season! Yeah, split squad, sure, that's the spirit. Anderson Hernandez, Keppinger, Milledge, Diaz, Castro Ramon, not Fidel), Martinez (not Pedro), Tejeda, Gomez, Ramirez(not Manny) and Ventura (not Robin) - not much of a batting order although a killer lineup for perhaps Norfolk. And Mets starter, John Maine allowed six earned runs in two innings of work.

3. Watch out world, here comes David Wright: After a slow start, Wright hit his first homer of the Spring on Saturday against the Marlins, with two runners on base and the Mets scored 7 runs in the 5th to disable the Marlins 10-6. Even Kaz Man had an rbi double! Jose Lima, doing his Victor Zambrano imitation, held the Marlins hitless through three innings but allowed four runs and four hits and two walks in the fourth.

The Mets will return home to Port St. Lucie for a Monday night game against the Washington Nationals. Tom Glavine will get the ball for New York, and he'll be matched up against Washington's Pedro Astacio at 7:10 p.m. ET.


Health Watches Grow Weirder. Today's Lesson: Kidneys

Well, we were looking more at possible knee, shoulder or hamstring malfunctions, not kidneys, but here we are, Cliffy's Kidneys on the Blink?

Yes, first Pedro's toe and now Cliff Floyd's Kidney to distract us.

New York Mets left fielder Cliff Floyd is awaiting results of kidney tests after abnormalities were found in his urine.

Floyd has a family history of kidney problems, which triggered concern among Mets doctors.

Floyd’s father had kidney failure and needed a transplant.

Hopefully, for his sake if not the Mets, tests will come through brilliantly but beware.


Meanwhile, Aaron Heilman started yesterday against the Astros, giving up one run on two hits in three innings of work.


Enough Already With The Toe Watch, Chop It Off!

Any truth to the rumours that the Mets are going to replace Shea pitching mound clay with 100 dollar bills and the flesh of virgins in an ongoing effort to appease Pedro's insatiably cranky big toe?

I'm finding it somewhat implausible that with all the miracles of modern science and with all the efforts the Mets have gone to already to placate this toe which is threatening to undermine their entire season that they couldn't have come up with an easier solution during the off season or just chopped off Pedro's toe after they were mathematically eliminated from the NL East last season and replaced it with an artificial one that doesn't require more nurturing and attention than Mariah Carey. Or a bionic toe, or let Jose Lima donate his.

I mean was this toe issue really so unsolvable over the offseason or did Pedro and the Mets all just rely on God's will and a special rubber foam to miraculously heal what is obviously a massive problem?

Is this poor planning, stupidity or a test of fate?

There's no denying Pedro is an integral piece to any puzzle the Mets attempt to assemble resembling a postseason berth this year but I'm growing a little fatigued with the daily melodrama about Pedro's toe. The worst part is this is a problem this obviously isn't going to be solved this season to anyone's satisfaction and is destined to hang over our collective heads like a cloud of anthrax vapour all season long.

Just think, all this talent assembled, all this money spent, everything pissed down the toilet over a toe. How ridiculous is that?


On a happier note, the rest of the Mets are not letting Pedro's toe hold them back.

Yesterday they continued their winning ways, this time by pounding the Cleveland Indians, 7-1.

Pedro's possible rotation replacement (he notes, tongue-in-cheek), Yasaku Iriki allowed only one run and one hit over three innnings but tantalisingly Zambranoesque, also managed to walk three.

"I had no feel for my slider," Iriki said. "The baseball here is horsehide and more slippery than the Japanese ball, which is cowskin."

Perhaps Pedro's toe should be replaced with horsehide so that it is more slippery and gives way more easily in this "violent toe" pitching motion we all love to hear about and sing about in nursery rhymes.

Anderson Hernandez, continuing to play shortstop whilst Jose Reyes is off screwing around with another country's team, continued to wrestle the second baseman's job from an inert Kaz Matsui by going 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI. Meanwhile, the man emerging as the number two second baseman, Jeff Keppinger, was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. Wunderkind trade bait outfielder Lastings Milledge drove in two runs whilst going 1 for 2 in attempted steals as though proving he were capable of making the Mets track team. We get it, Lastings. You're fast. Now start hitting the ball for crissakes!


Oh uh, here's a shot I love to see; a miserable and rapidly balding Republican zealot choking down a loss for Team America because they were desperate or dumb enough to let him on the roster to begin with:

Still, amazin' that the American team could be eliminated before they play another game, isn't it? Certainly no Dream Team but then again perhaps it is just the perpetual loser karma in A-Rod which is bringing the team down. Or the fact that it stinks with Yankees. That almost guaranteed a losing proposition from the start.

More funny news as this WBC morphs into a third world classic, Italy's Mike Piazza struck out three times against Venezuela and briefly argued a call at first base after grounding out in the ninth inning. No word yet on how many Venezuelans he allowed to steal. They're probably still laughing and counting them down in Caracas.



Mets Win and other Mets win as well....

Perhaps difficult to focus on the Mets 7-1 win over what in essence amounted to the Astros B Team yesterday with all the hoopla of the WBC raging it's every hormone around us.

I suppose the biggest news was the Kaz Man's first two hits of the Spring to raise his average all the way up to a remarkable .143. Either that or Trachsel allowing four hits over three scoreless innings against what seemed a batting order less imposing than that of Team Australia. I mean, Brian Gordon, Hector Jimenez, Eric Bruntlett, Chris Burke, Mike Lamb, etc.? This was less than an intrasquad workout for Trachsel.

Trachsel, proving he can throw out Little League batters...but what about the rest?

I know that rightfully, Victor Diaz and X Nady are getting all the outfield battle press but Tike Redman is very quietly putting up numbers. Yesterday he drove in his 6th RBI of the Spring. Certainly food for thought. Not as a starter but as a backup outfielder once Cornelius Floyd goes down with a bum hammy or knee and nady and Diaz are starting the outfield corners. Nady, by the way, felt tightness is his left hamstring on Monday and soreness in the muscle on Tuesday. He didn't play against the Astros and won't play on today against the Indians.

(That is of course unless Carlos Beltran suffers some freakish injury in WBC play...) Did you happen to note yesterday in PR's 2-1 victory over Panama that he slid headfirst into first base trying to beat out a hit? I mean c'mon Carlos, save that heroic bullshit for Game Seven of this year's World Series for the team whose paying you a gizillion dollars to hit .270 all season, eh? Not some ridiculous little charade of a tournament game between Puerto Rico and Panama for crissakes like the history of civilisation is hanging in the balance.

As for the Mets making their various appearances for a variety of countries it should be noted, that other than Beltran's craziness on the basepaths and going hitless, newly acquired Julio Jorge gave up a 9th inning homer pitching for Venezuela to Adrian Beltran. Manny Acta, the world's worst third base coach and manager of the Dominican Republic, earned a win in his inaugural WBC managing appearance.

Victor Zambrano, pitched 2 1/3 innings, coming in for Venezuela in the 7th inning, promptly allowed a single to Albert Pujols. However, he then struck out David Ortiz before throwing, predictably, a wild pitch before walking Moises Alou. And then typical of the Who Knows Where He'll Throw? style, then struck out Adrian Beltre before retiring Juan Encarnacion to end the inning. But that wasn't it. He later threw another wild pitch in the 9th before being replaced by Carlos Hernandez and finished by pitching 2 1/3 innings, allowing two hits, a run a walk and struck out three in all.

Jose Reyes didn't play.

Former Met Mike Piazza had a double and a run scored as Italia easily poached Australia 10-0.

Former Met Edgardo Alfonso had three hits for Venezuela and a homerun with 2 RBIs.


For more breath taking details about the WBC and Bond's latest bimbo, crank and steroid scandal, visit our obligatory sponsors and reprobative imitators at Sports Amnesia. (well really just more of the Bunker household, but wtf, eh?


Whirlwind of Games Leaves My Head Spinning

With split squads, Puerto Rican Mets against Non-Puerto Rican Mets, and Mets playing three games in two days, the Mets finally won a game, this time led in part by the 40 year old man who will likely be their Opening Day starter, Tom Glavine, whilst they beat the Indians 6-3 after scoring three times in the sixth off reliever Kazuhito Tadano. Glavine gave up a run in three innings in his debut and Cliff Floyd slammed a homer.

The tempo on my changeup is a little off right now because I was gung-ho being out there and trying to make pitches. I needed to relax a little bit," Glavine said. "When you're facing a team other than your own for the first time, your competitiveness gets going a little bit."

Wonder how many NY tabloids will be writing Ground Control To Major Tom if Glavine ends up starting the season opener in place of Pedro...

In another tantalising slice of news, Paul Lo Duca made his Spring Training debut for the Mets he was hitless but hit the ball hard both times, narrowly missing an extra-base hit down the left-field line that went foul in his first at-bat and lining out to third base the next time up.

On defence, Lo Duca threw out Cleveland's Grady Sizemore trying to steal third and made a quick grab of a tapper down the third base line to get Ben Broussard at first and end the third inning. Clearly not the Kung-Foo grip catcher Mike Piazza was. Our pitchers should be grateful.


After the B Side were handed a 16-2 pasting on Sunday by a Dodger team which had Derek Lowe and Odalis Perez pitching one after another as if this were the NL Playoffs (which it might be later on...) rather than a Grapefruit League game, the Mets were also humiliated playing against Team Puerto Rico as Beltran had a two run single off our new Wunderkind Closer Billy Wagner to lead the PRs to a 6-1 victory. Of course, on the good side, Wagner struck out Bernie Williams, a hated Yankee, so perhaps he was just helping Carlos out, giving him a little preferential treatment and a confidence booster in a meaningless game. We even got a glimpse of our new upandcoming pitcher of the future, the dazzling Mike Pelfrey who shut the PRs out for two innings, striking out Pudge Rodriguez in the interim.

Most interesting aspect of the Puerto Rico game was that Carlos Delgado chose to sit it out because of tendinitis in his left elbow.

“I’m going to get some treatment for it and see how it goes.

“If I’m not healthy, I will be honest to myself and to the team and take some time off. I will definitely be smart about it.”
--- Have to say, didn't see that one coming. But that's probably do to all the braincells I've lossed thinking about Pedro. I forgot Delgado was sidelined by the same elbow tendinitis last March and missed the first nine spring training games for the Marlins, so perhaps this isn't as tragic as it first sounds.

Lost in the hoopla of Puerto Rico and the hideous loss to the Dodgers was that John Maine, who may one day bear fruits from the Mrs Benson trade, threw down two scoreless innings against the Dodgers in his first appearance.

Last night, Jeff Keppinger got the nod at second base whilst Anderson Hernandez played another game at short. Keppinger had two hits, including a double but Anderson was a quiet 0 for 4 to drop his Spring batting average to .357 and got thrown out trying to steal While X Nady was having an 0 for night playing in left field, Victor Diaz continued to stake his mark going two for three and hitting his third double of the Spring. Hard decisions for Manager Willie in both rightfield and second base but you've gotta be happy that the choice is tough because the competition is so good, not because it's so bad.

In the meantime, regardless of his chances of making the team, Jose Lima has already shown that he has a pitching face every bit is hideous and misshapen as Pedro's:

Lima had a rough debut, allowing 2 earned runs and 4 hits in less than three innings of work including a homer, but also struck out three while walking three. Pretty much the kind of performance you'd expect out of Jose Lima, I mean, he isn't going to take off his jersey to reveal Cy Young out there, is he then?

You make the call:

Who's got the uglier pitching face?


Spring Training In Full Bloom

"He's ready when he's ready. I don't want to kill a braincell thinking about it" - Rick Peterson on pondering Pedro's Opening Day status...not unless you're smoking bong hits whilst you think about it Rick, you won't kill braincells thinking about it. So think away, without fear. Think having the 40 year old Tom Glavine as your likely Opening Day starter. Let Pedro come back as slow as his delicate little toe needs him to.

Pedro's "Pitching Face" Is Enough to Scare Any Batter...


Had a chance to listen to Friday's game at Tradition Field against the St Louis Cardinals. Yusaku Iriki, another Japanese reclamation project and standing only 5'9, going against NL Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter. Iriki is battling for a spot in the rotation and impressed against a watered down Cardinal lineup with two shutout innings, six consecutive outs after a leadoff hit, two strikeouts. Carpenter was in midseason form, pitching three shutout innings allowing two hits and striking out 4.

The other Japanese reclamation project did nothing to himself or those few of us still rooting for him to assert himself - Kaz Matsui, who desperately needs a fast start this season to avoid a devastating and fierce oppositional booing campaign at Shea, went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and is still 0 for Spring Training.
To boot, (ha, no pun intended,) he also allowed a ball to glance off his glove, allowing St Louis to score their first run in an eventualy loss. So far, Anderson Hernandez has looked better at short AND at second than Kaz has anywhere on the field. Doesn't bode well.

The WBC is taking its toll on the Met Spring Training roster which might well be a good thing to allow them to have a look at some of the borderline players who will be fighting for roster spots.

Five players are going to San Juan (of a 30 man roster!), 2 are going to the Dominican Republic and 3 are going to Venezuela. (Nota bene to those of you unfortunate to be rooting for Venezuela in this Classic: with Jorge Julio and Victor Zambrano on your pitching staff, unless they're just there to warm up the bullpen catchers, you haven't got much of a chance...)

Meanwhile, provided he doesn't burn himself out early, Carlos Delgado is looking in form now having gone 5 for 5 in his two Spring Training appearances to date.


The Saturday game against the Nats promised some exciting moments with Aaron Heilman, a defacto starter in the rotation after the questionable offseason moves to deal Seo and Mrs Benson for not-so-certain bullpen help, starting against the Nats to be followed by Brian Bannister who might well be in the Mets rotation by the end of this season.

The Nats of course, will be our Opening Day opponents so it was a good chance to scout what should likely be a team battling the Marlins to stay out of the NL East basement.

Anderson Hernandez, playing short and leading off indicated that the Kaz Man is getting every opportunity to prove himself as the starting second baseman. Friday, Matsui batted leadoff ahead of David Wright in the second slot. Satruday, Hernandez leading off and Kaz Man batting, appropriately enough, at the bottom of the order.

You can't help but wonder, with the Nats needing an outfielder and knowing Alfonso Soriano is miserable and unhappy with the Nats, what extra player we might throw in with Victor Diaz to get Soriano to play second at Shea. This is my way of wondering aloud if X Nady has the right field starting spot sealed already and whether or not the Kaz Man is going to be worth the jersey he plays in by the end of the opening homestand.

In any event, Hernandez is making quite an impression early on. Whilst the Kaz Man wallows in an eddy of uncertainty, still hitless for the Spring, now 0 for 9 and counting. This has all the markings of a landslide no-brainer for Manager Willie who has watched Hernandez go 5 for 7 this Spring by comparison. Yesterday he singled and scored in the first,third and fifth innings. At this rate, he could be Jose Reyes' replacement as leadoff hitting shortstop, forget about this "battle" for second base.

The rightfield battle has not shifted at all. Playing left field again, Nady made an impressive sliding grab robbing Jose Vidro of a hit in the 3rd inning, perhaps underscoring Victor Diaz's rather trepid fielding. Nady also had the presence of mind to kick the ball out of Vidro's tagging glove to avoid a sure out trying to steal. Diaz, meanwhile, had two hits including an RBI double.

Heilman's pitching face is only moderately less repulsive than Pedro's but at least Aaron was out there trying to earn his spot Two scoreless innings later and Heilman's debut was boasted as a success. His fastball (first pitch of the game a 94 mpher) was well mixed with a devastating change up. Of the eight batters Heilman faced, he fired first-pitch strikes to all of them.

Following Heilman was another promising Met arm, Brian Bannister, he with the repertoire of the fastball, cutter and a 12-6 curveball (and rumoured to be working on a changeup), also pitched two scoreless innings (albeit, Nady's diving grab may have saved him).

Rounding the Blogs

There will be Spring Game Chatter over at Mets Geek for the game against Puerto Rico. Actually, it appears there will be two games going on simultaneously as they Mets will also be playing the Dodgers...

Sharp photo of Jenny Finch at Metsradamus who appears to advocate her pitching for Team USA. Not a bad idea at all. Why not bikini baseball as well?

C'mon, pout for me, baby.


Waiting For The Penny To Drop

Well, we can all thank the Baseball Gods rooting for the Mets on this one. We hope.

One bullet dodged and only about another seven months more worth of bullets to keep dodging but we can all breath a little sigh of relief that Pedro has called it quits on pitching in the World Baseball Classic.

"They're better off finding someone who can help them rather than taking me, out of shape, risking my career," Pedro explained. "It would be totally unfair to the Dominican. I haven't even thrown a breaking ball yet."

Of course, this doesn't mean we're out of the woods merely because Pedro is doing the sensible thing. Behind schedule can sometimes be code. It can sometimes be merely a harbinger of doom just around the corner. It has to begin somewhere. One day it's the World Baseball Classic, the next it's no more Opening Day starter. The day after that it's Oh noooo, Mr Bill!

Not to be alarmist of course, it's only the entire season riding on this.

Then again, if you're Dominican, this sucks. Manny, Vlad and Pedro, the Three Horsemen of Dominican domination fading off into the Spring sunshine, abandoning country to get in shape for earning the paycheck.


Mets Win Opener

X Nady, who sat in place of Victor Diaz in the intrasquad opener, had four hits against the Cardinals and 6 RBIs including a grand slam starting in left field as the Mets topped the Cardinals in the Spring Training Opener, 12-7, pounding out 17 hits.

Diaz continued to start in right field, but went 1 for 5 with 3 strikeouts.

Carlos Delgado went 3-for-3 with two runs scored. Jose Reyes and Tike Redman each tripled.

Kaz Man, destined to fulfill my dooming prophesy of faith, went 0 for 4.

Of the pitchers, Trachsel opens the season with a 36.00 ERA, 4 runs, 4 walks and 2 hits allowed in an innning of work. Well, that's what Spring Training's for? His counterpart, Jeff Suppan, 16-10 with a 3.57 ERA last season, allowed NINE earned runs on nine hits and a walk in one inning of work so it's not like the aces were throwing flames out there.

Mitch Wylie, the righty the Mets picked up just after Xmas in the Rule Five draft from the San Francisco Giants, pitched two shutout innings. In 22 games with Fresno, the Giants AAA team last season, he compiled a 3-5 record with a 4.50 ERA and two saves. Another aberration, no doubt - no new clues picked up in Wagner's scoreless one inning outing.

All in all, a bright beginning, the palaver of five months inactivity...


It's Official, Kaz Man Sucks?

Costello: What's the guy's name on first base?

Abbott: No. What is on second.

Costello: I'm not asking you who's on second.

Abbott: Who's on first.

Costello: I don't know.

Abbott: He's on third, we're not talking about him.

From Who's On First?

Well we certainly know who is on first by now, unlike last season but just like last season, second is still a question mark.

In a review of weaknesses, SI's Jacob Luft paints the Kaz Man a new arsehole. Well, sort of. He appears to rely heavily on David Pinto's cabbalistic syrup for justification.

"For perhaps the best measure of how poor he has been on defense, check out where Matsui ranks on David Pinto's 2005 Probabilistic Model of Range for second basemen. (It's worth taking the time to understand Pinto's metric. It's the best way of evaluating defense that is freely available.) Taking into account groundballs only, Matsui's efficiency rating of 0.00599 ranks well near the bottom of the list, behind two guys not known for their fielding prowess -- Todd Walker (-0.00456) and Mark Bellhorn (-0.00473)."

Allow me please to go on record as saying I'm no fan of this kind of valuation hocus-pocus. In fact, I think it's harmful. Rather than crunch numbers and try to imagine fantastic new formulas to rate models and create measurable continuity on probability scales or lack thereof, I'd much rather watch such players on a daily basis, assess with mine own eyes what to think of a particular player, what he does in a particular situation. I don't need David Pinto's particular brand of dehumanising statistical knotheading to figure out that the Kaz Man was been a crap second baseman last season.

He played out of position and was hurt all season - where is this mentioned? The more bashing of the Kaz Man I read, the more I'm beginning to feel like 2006 is the year he's going to smash those probabilistic models and all those scientific little mice counter theories with a fantastic season, both at the plate and with the glove.

Anderson Hernandez may be rightly regarded as the gloved saviour in succession but he didn't look too overwhelming in his late season at-bats last season, hitting .056. What is the Amazing Pinto Factor Probability Scale on that? Potentially, the Kaz Man is far better suited to play a steady role on a pennant winning Mets team given his experience and his familiarity, not unlike the team itself, with needing to overcome adversity this season. Until he proves that this season will resemble the last, I'm sticking with him, rooting for the Kaz Man, not wither away in the cold, harsh analysis of Pinto-ites.

Of course, now that Bret Boone has retired, the competition has already thinned significantly.

And just think, if the Kaz Man hits near potential, he might actually properly fill that second spot in the lineup and end all the speculation on both fronts.


Intrasquad News

Some surprises:

1. Reyes walking twice (a bigger comment on the quality of Met pitching or Reyes' new patience at the plate?) Well, one at-bat in particular against Heilman was well encouraging and included a patience-laden, foul ball heavy session that eventually landed the walk. Very encouraging indeed. The more Reyes gets on base, clearly, the more dangerous and exciting the Mets are going to be.

2. David Wright, batting second. Obviously, not much can be read into things going on in the first intrasquad game of the season where experimentation is the key to attempting to sort out what will work once the real season starts, but it IS an intriguing possibility. Personally I'd rather see him hit lower in the order where he might have more impact impact but if not, just think of how many games can start 2-0 in the Mets half of the inning and how many two-run homers Wright could hit and how many fewer stolen bases Reyes will have in this scenario.

3. Starting in right field, Victor Diaz, not X Nady. Like the above slotting of Wright as the number two hitter, not too much can be read into this. But let's face it, if Nady can't win the spot outright in this allegedly free competition, the Cameron trade will be confirmed as little more than a salary dump.

4. Woman spectator hit in the stands by Reyes' bat flying out of his hands, not an errant Victor Zambrano pitch sailing in the upper backstands. Not only that, but Zambrano managed to throw two scoreless innings. We're not in Kansas any more, Toto.

Another thing not to read too much into was Pedro's most recently encouraging news tossing from the mound despite deploying his "violent" toe-to-rubber movement. Obviously, Pedro's health will be the story of the season so if you're bored with this kind of news already, take a deep breath, it's going to be a long season, either way.

Not exactly Richter Scale revelations, Billy Wagner, much to everyone's relief, announced he's skipping the World Injury Classic.

Just like we feel about Pedro's participation, we'd like to see an ageing arm saved for maximum units for the home team who pays him rather than wanking out potentially damaging pitches for some second-rate international baseball tournament. Every pitch is precious this season for key starters and relievers and the less energy wasted on such a fool's errand, the better.

Perhaps even more of a relief, Koo Dae-sung, Mr Koo-Koo-Kachoog himself and his 8.54 ERA against righties have returned to Korea sounding a wee bit bitter for the experience.

“MLB is different from the Korean league. Your salary kind of determines how much you can play in the team, so sometimes you play really well and have to go to the minors to give way to the less-performing but higher-paid. It’s one of the reasons for my comeback to Korea because I wanted to play more,” he fondly whinged.

However, how can we ever forget his infamous double off Randy Johnson in the Subway Series?