Random Spring Cleansing

We're in strange limbo at the moment. With intrasquad games coming up tomorrow and Wednesday, Met followers have been treated to the daily drama of Pedro's toe and the usual pattern of questions about weaknesses and strengths.

The Meat and Potatoes of the Mets batting order discuss the latest Crack whore video...

So far all we know is that the collective wisdom says Mets are good only on paper so far and so much hangs in the balance of not only Pedro's health, but the rest of the starting rotation's dubious but still potentially dangerous abilities and the enormous question mark of whether the combination of Duaner Sanchez and Jorge Julio is going to be sufficient to give Billy Wagner games to save.

You could chew your fingernails over who will play second and who will bat second but these are idle preoccupations of minds wilting with anticipation for what the arms will bring.

When you aren't freezing your arse off waiting for tickets, that is.

I mean dedication, wow - standing in line at 2:30 in the morning in low 20s temperatures just to be first in line, well, I dunno. Get a better job and buy the bloody tickets from a broker if you want them that bad. There's dedication and then there's mild insanity...

(Eyes Without A Face...)

Cameron Update

"Cameron arrived at 200 pounds, 10 pounds lighter than usual, wanting to capitalize on his speed and steal at least 30 bases this year.

His face shows no signs of extensive surgery, though there are nine plates and screws holding bones together. When he raises his brow, you can see a protrusion above his right eye from an imbedded plate. His upper lip and top gum still are numb.

"I'm good, though," he said. "Everything's good."

Nothing 200 strikeouts and a .220 batting average can't change...


Meanwhile, joining Cameron on the former Met turned Padre Caravan, Mike Piazza is looking Strong In San Diego

"When the Padres recently measured the hand strength of all their players, the team's ancient catcher showed the whippersnappers a thing or two.

Mike Piazza, using his right hand, clenched a silver metal handle to send a needle spinning clockwise.


The needle screeched to a quivering stop. Piazza had maxed out the device, a dynamometer, which measures up to 200 pounds of force.

“I can't recall anyone ever doing that here,” said Todd Hutcheson, the team's head trainer since 1997."

Dynometer indeed. Wait til they get a load of his three hop throws to second base.



Nostalgia in Seattle For Auld Boone

"Boone, who will turn 37 in April, worked with his father, former major-league All-Star Bob Boone, on refining his swing.

And he talked to other major-league stars who had gone through a similar crash. Chili Davis, now living in the Seattle area, was particularly helpful, providing the words Boone needed to hear.

"He said that it happened to him at the same age, that he lost that desire inside, and that he thought about walking away," Boone said. "He said I needed to rededicate myself if I wanted to still compete. He said he did, and he came back and had three or four more good years."

We'll settle for one more good year, 2006.


No Second Best This Season

Simply had to include this photograph of Kaz Matsui reaching for the stars in Spring Training yesterday because it's the most athletic move we've seen him make in two years.

Signing Kaz Matsui two years back was somewhat imperative for a limping Mets franchise, or so I we thought. Yes, he's disappointed mightily but now he's come full circle. The expectation is not only that he'll fail where others would have succeeded, but that his season is doomed before it even begins with Brett Boone sputtering along attempting to rebound from a horribly ageing season and Anderson Hernandez looming on the horizan.

The interesting part of this of course is that the Kaz Man is playing in the last year of a thus far wasted contract, Boone is playing for his career and Hernandez is trying to stay in the Major Leagues. All of them are playing a high stakes game from which the Mets can only benefit. One of them is going to have a great Spring and one of them is going to be the starter. Hopefully we won't be subjected to another season of uncertainty. Not now, in this season of high expectations.

As usual, barren of parade of supporting numbers and statistics and charts and spreadsheets, we rely here upon instincts and guessing. And the bet here is that Kaz will win the job outright and will surprise doubters with the type of season he was brought over to produce in the first place. This means hitting at least .280 and not making the type of bone-headed errors which will in turn force him to pressurise himself at the plate to make up for it.

When I'm feeling particular optimistic, (not an easy thing to do with the Pedro Toe hanging over the team like a guillotine,) when contemplating the potential complexity of a Mets batting order wherein a throw-away like the Kaz Man is hitting .280 in the 7th or 8th spot in the batting order and the Victor Diaz/Xavier Nady hybrid doing the same.

Not only that, but Kaz took Wagner deep during live batting practice. Glass empty of half full. Is Kaz getting better or Wagner just getting warmed up?


With Pedro having announced his intentions to miss the first round of the World Baseball Classic, no one is quite sure how to disseminate this information. Relief? Fear? We aren't certain of the motives.

On the one hand, relief that he isn't going to place the added stress and burden on his arm. On the other hand, if he isn't ready for the first round, is this just the first step towards admitting he isn't ready for the round thereafter and then of course, not ready to be the Opening Day starter, etc., etc. This could spiral out of control or this could finally just be a measured, sensible response for an ageing pitcher with a dodgy toe and a dodgy shoulder. Don't place unnecessary stress and strain on the season by trying to do too much for yourself and your country. Just work for dems dat pays you, i.e., the Mets.

This weekend he hopes to throw off the base of the mound and thereafter, who knows, anything is possible.

"Hopefully during the weekend I'll be able to," (throw off the base of the mound,)he said. "I'm going to start doing it on my own, getting off the slope of the mound and seeing how the ground feels. On the grass is not the same as the ground. Grass is tough. The mound is different."


We'd like to see more of this Cliff Floyd smacking balls over the outfield fence but there is one seeming certainty about the Mets 2006 season and that is that Cliff Floyd is not going to make it through unscathed.

I have to admit I was somewhat surprised that in his three seasons here I never knew his first name was Cornelius. Not that it matters really - not as much as him having played in 150 games last season.

But have a look at something - in 1998, Corny appeared in 153 games for the Marlins and then the following year, managed only 69.

In 2002, a year after he appeared in 149 games for the Marlins, he was bounced from the Marlins to the Expos to the Red Sox in one season, still somehow managing to appear in 146 games combined.

In all the years between, Floyd has averaged 120 appearances in his 13 seasons but if you factor out last season, 1998 and 2002, he has averaged only 87.4 games per season or just a little over half the games his team played. We're guessing here that Cliff Floyd will be somewhere in between, perhaps defying the potential of season-ending injury early on because if this is to be the Magical Mets season, they are going to have to be extremely lucky with injuries.

Thus, the Over and Under on Cliff Floyd game appearances for 2006 is hereby set at 100.


No Comment

(gracias to the Waffler

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, better known to the civilised world as toilet paper, report that Chipper Jones might withdraw from the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

His 18-month-old son, Shea, had a serious intestinal virus and was in and out of an Atlanta hospital for a month. The toddler's condition has improved and stabilized, but Jones wants to make sure Shea is OK before deciding whether to go to Phoenix March 2 for the start of the United States' team training camp. --

Awwwww, god speed to Shea. Chippah can break a leg.


Asian Balls Are "Different

It doesn't take much more than a surface examination to see the main differences between the Rawlings WBC ball and the balls used in Asia. Cowhide, Rawlings' covering of choice since 1974, presents a challenge to pitchers who are accustomed to the horsehide balls used in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.

Although a layman may not notice the difference at first glance, a side-by-side comparison of the balls is telling. The texture is different, the size appears different and even the seams aren't the same."


The Big Toe

For lack of any other massive story lines on the first day of Spring Training, there is of course, always time to talk about The Toe.

Pedro did some long tossing and clad in his new, custom-made, toe-cushioned cleats, pronounced himself reasonably fit, under the circumstances:

"It's improving," Martinez said. "I'm feeling more comfortable. It's going to take a little time, but I'm very optimistic about the way things are."

And whilst we’re on the subject, in particular, it’s the sesamoid bone -- a small bone that protects the tendon that flexes the toe – which is the bone of contention, so to speak:

So study hard, boys and girls, this could potentially be the story of the Mets’ season and while we won’t bother worrying too much about it just yet, best to bone up on the area in question once we are overwhelmed with medical jargon to explain why the season is going up in flames…

On an encouraging if not outright sensationalist note, it appears that the number one pick last season, the 6’7 Mike Pelfrey wowed onlookers yesterday and has more than one person speculating on him making the rather incredible leap from Class A to Shea in one season. All good and well in the heat of excitement this early but for crissakes, he hasn’t even thrown a pitch against live hitters yet!

We’ve also learned that Tom Glavine is well adept at jumping cones and vertical and horizontal jumping all around – whether this means he’ll win 15 games this season remains to be seen of course, it’s like trying to pick a kid’s SAT scores before he’s even out of the womb.

One pitcher who didn’t get off too well, whacked by some sort of flu, was Billy Wagner:

Not a pretty sight to see our fire-armed closer looking like he had a rough night in the local pub – we won’t read far into the omens of his first day of Spring Training but well, let's just hope it isn't Bird Flu, ha!

Mere irony that Wagner was assigned Doc Gooden's former corner locker?

For those of you, like me, who aren’t partaking or watching the fun in the sun, here is a little video postcard from camp.

Also nicked off the mlb.com sight was the unusually candid admission from Ramon Castro:

"He unpacked his bags Friday morning, went through the physical and other tests and plopped down on the stool by his locker. "The first day is always the hardest," he said.


After an extended pause, he fessed up.

"It really isn't, but we just say that. I don't know why."


How can you not root for Jose Lima to make the team? I mean, not only is his wife well publicised for being well, unusually fit, but I mean, the guy's just got style - and a sense of humour, a good clubhouse pressure reliever:


Chill Pill For Manager Will

Is it possible? Relaxed rules in the clubhouse, outbreaks of facial hair and salsa music? Is Willie on Chill Pills already?

So says he about how he intends to loosen the reigns a little bit, let hell break loose, not all hell, just bits and bobs of it, or so we think.

"For instance, if I feel like saying it's OK to wear a goatee this year," he says with a deranged twinkle in his eye, "I might even change that eventually. It could be music or whatever. I'm not saying I'm going to change that. I'm just saying if I feel like that, I'll do it. I never feel like I'm a taskmaster, going for the whip. I just go with what I feel for the team."

The first sore hammy has yet to be strung and already Willie is at his mid-season enigmatic best. What if he allows goatees and Crazy Jug Band sounds, but only on the road? At home it's back to the smooth shave and headphones:

There's no telling the lengths Willie will go to relax a clubhouse that's going to riding a crest of high expectations this season. Playoffs are expected, not dreamed of. The whore's been paid for, it's time to put out. If the Braves aren't dethroned by the Mets season, the ceiling on the patience of Mets fans will be tested early and often.

As far as I can tell, these facial hair edicts are just another Spring Training subliminal message to fans. Last season, struggling on with half a team, no closer and a few key underperformers, no facial hair, Steinbrennerian draconian wonderland, discipline trumping talent.

So look, the Mets are confident. Grow some facial hair in solidarity.


On the other side of the mountain, Joe Girardi, who has inherited a virtually empty warehouse in his first season as a Major League manager, is not going to be let the anarchy of careless hair follicles seize the reigns of his team.

Instead, Girardi says he's going to run a hairless camp:

"I've never had a mustache, I've never had a beard and I've never had long hair," Girardi said, declaring that his Marlins won't either. Girardi gets his hair cut every three weeks. He has the barber use a "zero" blade on the sides and usually a "one" on top.

He looks less like a baseball manager and more like a stray in the cast of Jarhead:

Actually, now that I'm thinking of it, wouldn't it be better to make the whole team take on the DeNiro look?

Yeah, that looks more like the Marlins chances this season...


- Is Manager Willie identifying the size of the chill pill he's just taken like a shot of cortisone, or the shape of Tio Pedro's big toe.


You see, it's early in Spring Training - pens and paper haven't even reported yet so the lobbing and limbering has to come through images rather than words - I mean realistically, there's no point in being overly verbose this early on, might tear a typing finger or strain the writer's elbow.

So before things start getting too heavy, have a go at seeing if you belong in the Hall of Fame of Mets 2005 knowledge...not necessarily a challenging trivia quiz but hell, we're all still limbering up our brains, softly tossing out the first words of the season, getting our quips and tips in shape...


Star Writer Returns!

After several months haitus rehabilitating his writer's elbow and typist's fingers, quaffing a significant supply of real ales and tea biscuits, Jaap Stijl announced his return to the editororial staff at Archie Bunker's Army and pronounced himself "One hundred percent healed, one hundred percent healthy and eager to put the past behind us, eager for the season to begin."

Looking as though he had spent the winter months with his fingers in newspaper portions of fish n chips, elbow deep in malt vinegar and mayonaise, Mr Stijl caustically denied rumours of an extensive rehabilitation programme and reiterrated his commitment to being part of the Mets blogsophere that will "revel in the making of history, in the rebirth of the Mets in the NL East and a return to casual domination."

Refusing to take questions from reporters, Mr Stijl asked that readers and colleagues alike "end the endless speculations of the universe and focus on the business at hand. We have a lot of serious business ahead of us and serious business takes serious minds and serious facial expressions and serious eating habits."

Besides, Stijl noted, "If I were, as rumoured, undergoing some sort of extensive rehabilitation programme why would I have been living a mere fourty paces from a place like The Three Tuns,

on the High Street in Alcester?

But enough about the writers and the real ales down the gullets and auld Roman market towns. Now that the Stupor Bowl is finally over, now that the frivolity of another failed Jets camapaign has stung us in the guts like a dodgy curry after twenty pints of gassy lager, it is time, for lack of any other remaining American sporting interest, to make the pilgrimmage back to the Mets and Major League Baseball.

If you're looking for omens, staring up at the sky for shooting stars signifying a brilliant Mets fate this season, look no further than the fact that this season is the 20th anniversary of the Dead End Kids.

Frankly, if a roster composed, in part, of the likes of Danny Heep, Stan Jefferson, Dave Corcoran, Tim Teufel, Barry Lyons and Bruce Berenyi, can win the World Championship, then certainly this season's group has a fighting chance.

Especially now that the National League's weakest arm will no longer be behind the plate for the Mets and subjecting his particular brand three hopisms to the second base bag and allowing basically, every single runner with legs to steal on him.

Awwww, c'mon, enough pelting The Piazza with abuse. He is now the property of the San Diego Padres. Good luck and good riddance:

(gracias, Deadspin)

We couldn't help but notice that at his press conference announcing his signing with the Padres, Piazza termed the decision "the best situation" when in reality it was the only sitation seeing as how the Phillies, the only other team showing even tepid interest in him, actually had the nerve to want him to split some time playing first base in addition to catcher.

Well, we all know how afraid Mike Piazza was of playing first base for the Mets so now he can be happy, slobbering over the last dregs of his dying career, crouched behind the plate, injury-prone and letting the National League run roughshod on the basepaths in front of him.

Was this payback, the Baseball Gods making up for the Mike Cameron for Mr Nady trade?