23.11.06

The Ashes



Whilst the Mets are getting older by the day and waiting desperately for yet another 40+ regular in Tom Glavine to make the choice between Hell and Queens, whilst baseball fans across the pond are shoveling turkeys into their gobs and watching an unprecedented THREE NFL national holiday games, the Army will be trudging miserably through the gale-force winds and rain comfortable in the notion there is yet another cross-planet sporting occasion to stay up all night for.

That's right, The Ashes.

As baseball is rumoured to have be slightly older, the Ashes have been around since 1877, the traditional tournament between The Barmy Army and the hated Sheilas.

This year it's Australia's turn to host and as such, the inaugural match of this test series began, (predictably perhaps, considering all the late-nights spent up watching the Mets) at 11 at night and goes on all through the morning. (Back from the tea break now at 6 am with the English getting a wee bit pounded at the minute...)

Here's the low down.

If you're interested in listening, missing baseball (well, cricket isn't the same but it's an odd variation...) you can likely catch the live commentary via the BBC's porthole.

21.11.06

Getting Older By The Day



Ah yes, so we all remember the little controversy about the guy who urinates on his hands to toughen the skin and theoretically at least, improves his hitting. Well now he's a Met.

So, the Mets made a little "splash" signing the oft-injured and rapidly ageing Moises Alou to replace the oft-injured and rapidly ageing Cliff Floyd in left field.

Soon-to-be 41 year old for left field? (well, he'll be ONLY 40 until the All Star break...) I don't mean to be alarmist but didn't having a rotation of old timers come apart at the seams in time for the post season learn yea something about the fragility of the ag├Ęd?

Yes, I unnerstan' - a bat against the lefties, something the Mets were alleged to sorely need late last season, is what Alou stands for. In fact, a .349 average against lefties last season. I see the logic in that sense. Another saavy veteran on the bench, I see that, yes. 98 games played last season due to injury. I see that too. On the heels of 123 games the season before that and 155 the year before that. At the current rate of decline that means Alou will play about 62 games for the Mets next season.

This is an ooooold team getting older. Hell, even Cliff Floyd was only 33 and look where that got him. Ok, we had to sign the 41 year old El Duque and we want to sign the soon-to-be 41 year old Tom Glavine to anchor the rotation but then we've resigned the 37 year old Jose Valentin to go in the lineup with the 35 year old catcher Paul Lo Duca (tell me again the average lifespan of a MLB catcher?) but then we compound matters by signing the 37 year old back up infielder Damion Easley to add to the old timer's bench with the 48-year-old Julio Franco.

*****

Two Young But Questionable Lefties For Two 26 Year Old Past-Their Prime Righties

Mets got from the Marlins, not The D Train but:

1. Lefty Jason Vargas was 1-2 with a 7.33 ERA in 12 appearances with the Marlins, including five starts, as we will all know from reading. He started off the season starting, was demoted to the bullpen and then demoted to split time between Triple AAA and the Majors.

2. Lefty Adam Bostick, meandering through the minors with his career (yawn) highlights.

The Mets gave up:

1. Righty Henry Owens -- a Miami native -- who appeared in all of three games with the Mets last season, plus went 2-2 with 20 saves for Double-A Binghamton. This would be impressive if he were 20 years old but the clock is ticking on Mr Owens.

2. Righty Matt Lindstrom who didn't even make it to the majors at his advanced age and instead went 3-4 with 13 saves and a 3.38 ERA in 46 games last season between Binghamton and Class-A St. Lucie.

Winnah: Mets, by a vote of apathy.

Under the Radar

Keep an eye out for this Omarish move: The Mets claimed the right-hander Jason Standridge off waivers from Cincinnati and added him to their 40-man roster. Lefties hit only .200 off his last season even though his overall numbers were something to sneeze at. (like 18-14 K to BB ratio) This has all the markings of a surprise mid-season. The markings? Never heard of the guy, it's nearly winter and nobody cares. I can thing of similar moves over the last two seasons that blossomed later.

16.11.06

Trades In A Minor Key

"IT is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere:
A lily of a day 5
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night;
It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures, life may perfect be."


from Ben Jonson A Part Of An Ode



Now that the naming of the stadium controversy has subsided, blindsided as it were by a "bold" pair of roster moves involving our Mets and the Padres, I can happily proclaim the Mets to have just traded for a major English Renaissance dramatist and poet...

Aha, not Ben Jonson but Ben Johnson.

This is all so confusing. Not CitiPark but CitiField. CitiPark, unlike the new Mets stadium, is a parking facility in Vancouver. CitiField, unlike the parking facility in Vancouver, is a blueprint befitting a millenium of Mets domination to come. (and having spewn a rant about corporate sponsorship once already on the naming of the new Mets home, that is all I have to say on the matter other than Let's Go Mets...

So onward to Hermano Omar's recent deal which on its face appears to be minor and insignificant but given a handful of other transactions which he has handled, it would appear any new Met is a potentially significant Met just waiting to sail under the radar and make us think in July or August, damn, that Omar is a clever git.

Losses

Two relievers of questionable authority. Royce Ring who will forever be linked in my mind with the better-late-than-never dumping of Roberto Alomar and who spent a schitzophrenic season between the Big City and Norfolk recently, was already left unprotected at least once in the Rule V draft so giving him yet another change of scenery is no shocking news.

The other reliever, Heath Bell, however disappointing he was this season past, was once renowned for the empathy he invoked (see Save Heath Bell), a poignant schrie for a once-potential "first rate set-up man" joins his bullpen brother and at least two other former Mets (Cameron and Piazza, tho Piazza may be plying his charms in the American League next season) in the dull lustre of San Diego for the mini Mets.

Verdict - although this doesn't quite reach the scope of "Addition by Subtraction" it is a sign that the Mets bullpen is going to aspire to even higher peaks next season, shedding dead weight like an ageing athlete in search of one more fleeting moment of glory.

Gains

Although not the English Renaissance dramatist and poet, Ben Johnson, the outfielder, the Xavier Nady-in waiting, is another prospect whose prospects have never quite reached the dizzying heights once expected.

Ducksnorts once mused:

"Johnson is an excellent athlete who has a good mix of power and speed. He will take a walk but hits from behind in the count too often; also, his swing sometimes gets a shade long. In the field, the former high school football star features a strong arm and decent range, although he is sometimes erratic, which is not unusual for such a young player. If he gains better control of the strike zone and settles down in the field, Johnson could be a fixture in right field and the #5 hole for the Padres by late 2003. His upside is roughly a cross between Andruw Jones and Brian Jordan."


Well, it's no longer 2003, not by a long shot and time has sifted through Mr Johnson's disappointing episode with the Padres to deem him at the moment, at worst, a platoonish sort of outfielder and at best, the second coming of Xavier Nady, which he probably already experienced once in his career and how many outfielders can really say that about themselves?

To his credit, he once decimated the Pacific Coast League, something neither you or I can claim. His other claims to fame:

"Ben was selected as the 1999 Memphis area high school Player of the Year. He was drafted in the 4th round by the Cardinals (along with Albert Pujols) and His granddad (Jimmy 'Jimbo' Johnson, a catcher with the White Sox), his dad (went to college on a football scholarship and played other sports as well) and his uncles (all of whom played some sports, including fast-pitch softball)." from the Madres luncheon.

The other tomato can in this deal was reliever Jon Adkins.

By all accounts, Adkins is well, another version of the two relievers just jettisoned. He's a righty, like Bell and his claim to fame just might be that he played an initial roll in last season's much-hyped Dodgers Amazing Comeback against the Padres by giving off a lead off homer to Jeff Kent and then following that up by giving up another homer to JD Drew.

Verdict - Wait and see. On the surface this is a very unexciting trade. But if you can recall back to 23rd December last year when the Mets made a very tiny splash by announcing the signing of Endy Chavez and look how that ended up.

*****

El Duque - at $12 million for 2 years this is hardly a steal for a guy who didn't even put in a postseason appearance for the Mets. But he would have started Game One of the 2006 World Series had the Mets gotten that far and frankly, that would have been a welcomed relief so unless the starting rotation is massively boosted by a series of off season signings, this was pretty much a no-brainer. In May we may be moaning about how auld he is when his ERA sits at 7.45 and he's 0-2 with a sore calf but if the Mets harbour aspirations to return to the postseason, even at his advanced age, the Duke is a savvy vet to lean on provided his aging muscles don't break down first.

Jose Valentin - $3.8 million to return to the Mets for 2007, another man potentially prone to age and fatigue even though Omar sez "Jose Valentin is our second baseman today" and that Valentin will play "pretty much every day," let's hope that "today" is GMese for "until we find a more promising replacement" and "every day" means "when necessary."

*****

It's the beginning of a bad off season for Willie Randolph. Firstly, we're well into November and he hasn't had his contract extended nor does it appear there is interest in giving him his coveted three year deal. That's what following chum like Art Howe, whom the Mets were paying more NOT to manage the Mets than they were paying Randolph to manage the Mets last year, gets you.

To make matters worse, he was beat out by Joe Girardi, who is no longer even a manager, as the NL Manager of the Year.

But, he might find some schadenfreude in the news that the man who beat him in the NLCS, Tony La Russa, the man who managed the World Champions, didn't even get a single vote for Manager of the Year. (Explained of course by the fact that such votes were tallied on the heels of the Cardinals' illustrious fade that nearly knocked them out of the postseason altogether rather than after his team shocked the pundits by winning it all.)

14.11.06

CitiPark CitiField, Where The Rich Come To Spend

"There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.
There is no greater guilt than discontentment.
And there is no greater disaster than greed."


--Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu

I think it was the photo of Mayor Buffoonberg trying desperately to look blue collar with a shovel of dirt in his hand that set me off this morning. The ONLY guy/gal out there who wasn't wearing a hard hat. Whatsamattah Mikey, afraid you'll muss up those gorgeous locks of grey and your gorgeous age-spotted scalp?



What we can note about CitiPark (CitiField), which is a deceptively catchy name with far less dignity than Jackie Robinson Stadium - (I mean if we're standing on history here, Jackie Robinson has alot more to do with baseball and the Mets than bloody Citibank, doesn't he? But Jackie Robinson wasn't a kazillionaire unfortunately for him and his family, so he'll get a nice little rotunda instead.) Yeah, let's celebrate the Mets for being capitalist whores like the Yankees because well, we can see how many World Series the Yankees have won over the last half dozen years employing the greed is good philosophy.

What we can note about the new stadium is that the number of toilets will increase, to 646 from 568. The new stadium store will be 7,200 square feet; the store at Shea is 2,600 square feet.

More importantly and far less imaginative in a baseball sense, the evil Citigroup name will be integrated into the team’s marketing and publicity campaigns and appear on walls, scoreboards, videos and automated teller machines throughout the ballpark.

In other words, you'll stand less time in line to take a piss, (because you'll then have more time to spend money instead of watching the game) have more room to sell overpriced merchandise and will hear and see big brother Citibank (whose cash machines will be everywhere to facilitate buying more overpriced merchandise) everywhere around the stadium, the whispers: citibank, citibank, citibank.

Mr Met will be replaced by a walking, singing Citibank cash machine with a mouth that spits fake dollar bills into the crowd (replacing the high powered tee shirt tubes) and Meet the Mets theme song will be replaced by I Love Citibank Mets, whose lyrics cannot be revealed this early in the planning because its authors are still researching new vocabularies to obfuscate and sugarcoat the growing chant of greed and corporate filth that is spilling all over the architects blueprints of the new stadium.

What I would have liked to have seen was discussions on how each section could be themed after a neighborhood in Queens or to the rich and diverse culture of Queens rather than the simplistic and automotonic paen to the rich and corporate. Is that baseball's message? I suppose it is, sadly so. Nonetheless, I would like to have seen a rich, carb and fat-laden Dominican menu, as unhealthy as it is, in honour of all the Dominicans who work for the Mets both on and off the field. For example, instead of the Boog's BBQ like they have at Camden Yards, a job for retired Pedro, like Pedro's Pastelones and long lines for the sancocho, aspopado or chicharrones de pollo. In fact, why stop at the Dominicans, why not a whole Latino section, right next to the Jackie Robinson rotunda, dedicated to Hispanic culture generally?

Because they don't make enough fucking money that's why. They can't stuff Wilpon's gob with dollar bills and turn this into a fat and sadistic revenue producing bonanza to lead them into the 21st century of modern baseball, that's why.

All I can say is Wilpon and Citibank had better put the best bloody team in baseball on the field after this blatant pandering to filthy money. And CitiField should be about winning and winning is about money. The Mets should change their jerseys to white and Citibank green with the sort of pinstripes going through the jersey numbers like lines going through the S of a $ sign. Yeah, I like that. A team with class. More toilets, bigger restaurants and more money machines to buy it all with. They've got their new stadium, their own revenue-producing baseball channel, and the wind of soul-less capitalism at their sails. They'd better start winning every World Series for the next decade because otherwise, I'm going to have to start rooting for a team like the Mets that I root for used to look like - a simple, every day working man's baseball team. Not a cheap history-poor version of the Capitalist Pig Yankees.

*****

Just say SoriaNO - a wonderful little piece on the evils of Soriano by one of my favourite American sportswriters, Bill Conlan.

12.11.06

Catching Up On The Mets

Well alright, the postseason burn of Carlos Beltran leaving his bat on his shoulder with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 9th is officially history. Yes, I've been lamenting quietly these last few weeks but the true rationale for the paucity of posts is that frankly, I didn't know what to say next. Nor do I now but I reckon for anyone who has been visiting this site in the interim, we're all getting rather sick of seeing Roger Clemens so it's time for something new:



The winter.

Now the last two winters have been pretty good to the Mets. We signed Pedro and Beltran in one winter and then got Billy Wagner, Carlos Delgado and Paul LoDuca the next.

(yes, there were other significant additions and subtractions but this isn't a bloody roll call or a body count, it's the Superstah we're pondering here...)

So after these last two flurries of activity in the offseason, what does Brother Omar do for an encore?


Possible target Barry Zito pickin' and a grinnin' with Chris Isaak, lefty pitching playing righty...

Yes, everyone can identify with the ease of a somnambulist the weaknesses: starting pitching and left field with second base straggling behind in the distance. There is at least one A-Level starting pitcher out there called Barry Zito and my guess is most everyone who favours the Mets want him signed toute suite, without wasting any bargaining time. If you've got the money to plug the hole, why not? A lefty former Cy Young winner going back to the warm embrace of his former pitching coach, what's not to like, right?

Except I don't see any full on moves to overwhelm him just yet.

Why because the first order of business is to sign the 41 year old Tom Glavine, the 50 year old El Duque and the dazzling Chad Bradford for the pen, that's why.

Whilst I've been away, a few bits of information changed the landscape ever so slightly.

1. Guillermo Mota's 50 game suspension. All I can say is that his defence against performance-enhancing drugs should have been spirited and all he really needed to say was look at his post-season performance. So there's one less arm in the bullpen but Duaner Sanchez will be back so it's hardly a concern. Willie might be concerned because he used Mota more in the playoffs than a chronic masturbator uses his hand but losing Guillermo Mota, believe me, is a blessing in disguise. To Mota's credit, he pled guilty all the way down to the apologies so whilst no one is building pedestals in NYC for him, at least give him credit for being honest about his dishonesty.

2. Tom Glavine's uncertainty about where he'll go. I thought this was in the bag. I mean, Mets on the way up, Braves on the way down. The life of NYC versus the life of Atlanta. Sure, his family is in on the decision because they're still marooned in the cultural wasteland of Atlanta but really, I'm struggling to anticipate what the hell would be more interesting about pitching for a half-empty stadium of redneck zombies for a franchise with a goon like Chipper Jones disgracing its lineup than pitching for the Mets. Is he secretly hankering to return to Massachusetts?

3. Pedro Martinez's public contemplation of retirement. "To go back I have to recover. I have to be healthy. But if God doesn't want that, then I would have to think about giving it all up," he said. Well, Pedro has definately given us bang for the buck, even if he never pitches another game. The impact he has had on the Mets franchise is immeasurable but the Mets could stand on their own now if they needed to and for at least the first half of the season they will need to regardless so even though I find it difficult to take this sort of offseason pondering from Pedro seriously, it wouldn't be the end of the world.

4. Naming the New Shea - CitiField. The sponsorship deal will be worth $20 million per year. That should pay at least one new free agent a season. I'm not sure I like the name, certainly William Shea can't be too chuffed after all, according to some groups, Citigroup is one of the largest foreign investors in Colombia. Citi was the lead arranger on the main loan to the Colombia government last year, $250 million split between debt repayments and "infrastructure" investment. In reality Citi's loans amount to nothing less that a privatization of structural adjustment. Infrastructure in Colombia means fossil fuel development. The money is not being invested in community improvement, health or education but rather further resource exploitation efforts that will increase violence, human rights violations and environmental destruction. Yes but will it bring us Colombian superstars?!

5. Adios, Manny Acta - This, I like. I've never been a fan of Manny Acta, third base coach, I have to admit, so I see this as a plus, not to mention that he goes to the Nats instead of the Nats getting someone dangerous to manage them like say, Joe Girardi they get the guy who what, blew the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic? Ok, that's simplistic. He actually didn't do a bad job managing the DR with all those egos on board. And he's part of a trend what with another third base coach, Ron Washington getting the call for the Texas Rangers. What is disturbing are rumours that Willie might be interested in getting another Yankee in the clubhouse to replace Acta, namely, Luis Soho. Then again, Soho's middle name is Beltran, believe it or not.

6. Aloha, again Carlos Delgado - Ok, maybe it's not big news that he didn't exercise an option to demand a trade after all the post-season excitement but try and imagine last season with oh, Mike Jacobs' bat in the lineup at first base rather than Delgado's and well, let's just not go there.

QUESTIONS

As for answers on the free agent and trading front, I confess to not having any just yet.

I can say I'd like to see the D Train pitching for the Mets more than I'd like to Zito or Moulder or Schmidt, if I had to chose, that is.



Frankly, the Mediocre Starting Rotation versus the Deep and Formidable Bullpen scheme worked well for the Mets all last season, why shouldn't it again?

Should we sign some big splash free agent only to hurl curses at him all season long when he doesn't live up to massive expectation? Signing Pedro was as near as can't-miss as it comes for free agent starting pitchers because so long as he didn't blow out his body on Opening Day, the Mets won on the positive publicity alone.

None of the available free agent starters in the current crop would be such a sure thing. Yes, Zito has massive upsides but if he really is asking for a 6 year deal, well look at Mark Moulder and Tim Hudson both former A's and former can't-miss starters. I'd like to see us obtain someone big as our Opening Day starter but practically, who, among any of the available possibilities would guarantee it? Nobody.

So focus on resigning Glavine and El Duque and find an innings-eater, like D-Train, for the right price (yes, on top of being a great hitting pitcher at Shea and a great starting pitcher, he also ranked 6th in all of MLB for innings pitched). What's the right price for D-Train? Well previous negotiations are sure to be tainted by Lastings Milledge's market value down turn. That makes the deal a little tougher than it was half way through last season. The Marlins need help just about everywhere but what would entice them to surrender a star pitcher with still two years to go before free agency? Cash and cheap players with plenty of upside. Would you do it for Heilman AND Bannister and Milledge? I think so. In fact, let me say yes, in a second and throw in lots of dosh to make them really salivate because let's face it, that's what the Marlins are all about. In summary, NO To Zito and Pray for D Train.

*****

I'd like to see Alfonso Soriano playing for the Mets next season. Sure he's a free-swinger (bet his bat wouldn't have been on Carlos Beltran's shoulders...) and yes, a defensive liability either in left field or at second base but you can't deny the excitment he would bring.

Those are the blockbusters I'd bust. D-Train, as the rightful heir to Pedro and Soriano, a sort of Reyes-Lite. Worthy of the previous two season's blockbusters.

1.11.06

Speculation Of A Rotation Spinning To The Hall of Fame

We've already (probably) got two Hall of Fame pitchers coming back again next season to our rotation, why not a few more?


Bienvenidos al estadio de Shea


Come and sniff my 8-4 2.93 ERA post-All Star break numbers...

Couldn't help but rub my chin with a cosmogenic stare into the space of hyperbolization when I read the headlines this morning that Clemens, Pettitte File For Free Agency, and allowed mad scientist's thoughts to manifest themselves.

These two, traveling as a pair, just as they were signed with Houston a few years back, on the way to Shea.

Yes, far fetched, isn't it. Firstly, if they were going to do something crazy like leave the comfort homes of Texas for the mad-dash media feeding frenzies of New York, they would likely return clothed in pinstripes, not the auld Dodger Blue and Giant Orange of debauched Queens.

But because this is early morning conjecture it doesn't have to be much based on reality, freeing one from the nagging constrictions that reality often brings with her.

So just think that the enticement is the Hall of Fame Quartet (which of course, is more an enticement to Pettitte than Clemens at this stage,) sold and billed as the first starting rotation in baseball history with at least three Hall of Fame pitchers. And perhaps the auldest starting pitching rotation in the history of mankind (toss in El Duque just to be certain...) and voila, unique marketing points that perhaps only the Yankees, who already have like half the starting pitching free agents over the last three years on their side, could match.

Clemens, Pedro, Glavine and Pettitte. Not bloody likely. But as Halloween fades and the chilly November winds prevail, it is as they say, effin ponderable.