Auld And Brittle, Young and Brittle: Sound the Alarms!

SI reports rather ominously considering the Mets roster:

"The past five world champs combined have used only four regular position players older than 32. (This excludes DH's, considers the player most frequently used at each of the eight fielding positions and uses July 1 of that season to determine a player's age.) That's 40 players, and only four of them were older than 32: Tim Salmon, then 33, of the 2002 Angels, Bill Mueller, 33, of the 2004 Red Sox, and Jim Edmonds, 36, and So Taguchi, 36, (largely a reserve in October) of the 2006 Cardinals."

Perhaps based upon this, SI have also slotted the Mets 5th in the MLB power poll, predict they will win the NL East again this year but lose in the NLCS again this season, this time to the Dodgers. G'won. A Freeway Series, they're calling it. Pshaw. Dream on.

******Duaner Throws Off Mound, Throws Off Shoulder*****

Meanwhile, the reliever who is only 27, Duaner Sanchez, appears to have broken a bone in his shoulder in his first pitching outing of the season.

No cabbies to blame this time

Although he went 5-1 with a 2.60 ERA last season, following his season-ending taxi cab accident injury, Duaner took it a little too easy and reported to Spring Training a little too apathetic and a little too overweight. Although he redeemed himself later with apologies and renewed enthusiasm, the damage was already done. The baseball gods have paid his shoulder a visit and the hairline fracture a few could see coming all along has now come to roost. Moral of the story? Don't let your head get too big lest it get so heavy it breaks a bone in your body and renders you useless for the rest of the season.

No one needs to cry over this. The bullpen is still chocka with arms like lefty Scott Schoeneweiss and demoted and disgruntled righty Chan Ho Park so I'm sure the bullpen which will need to pitch on average about 4-5 innings a night is still in just fine shape.

"We'll continue to get guys ready to pick up the slack until he gets back," We overheard Manager Willie poetrically wax the other day. Until WHO gets back? Sanchez? The steroid-infested Guillermo Mota? Pedro?

There's always Jorge Sosa, with his 8.53 Spring ERA, ready and waiting to inflict some damage down in Triple-A New Orleans.

Something tells me there is alot of slack picking up that is going to have to be done, not only in the starting rotation but now the bullpen - and just wait, the fabled meltdown of Billy Wagner has yet to materialise!

But let us not focus merely on the I-told-you-so's and the smacking of the foreheads. There are bright moments at hand.

For one, there's Joe Smith's surprising 1.46 ERA in 10 games Spring start. Schoeneweiss, after all the pissing and moaning still has a miraculous 0.93 ERA after 9 games pitched. Pedro Feliciano? How about 5 hits and a lone run over 11 Spring innings pitched for an 0.82 spring ERA? And yes, the last subtle surprise of the pen this spring has been Lino Urdaneta, quietly Yes, Burgos, Sosa and Adkins all big busts so far but even that doesn't mean they won't find themselves midway through the season and spark some life into a tired bullpen by July.

Urdaneta, by the way, has a baaaad history we won't hold against him. According to The Post, only Doc Hamann, a pitcher on the 1922 Indians, has ever faced more batters in his major league career (7) than Lino Urdaneta (6) without retiring any. On Sept. 9, 2004, as a Tiger, Urdaneta allowed five hits, one walk and six runs, and since he retired nobody he was left with an infinite ERA.Only Doc Hamann, a pitcher on the 1922 Indians, has ever faced more batters in his major league career (7) than Lino Urdaneta (6) without retiring any. On Sept. 9, 2004, as a Tiger, Urdaneta allowed five hits, one walk and six runs, and since he retired nobody he was left with an infinite ERA.

Former Mets Pitchers On Trade Wheel

I say shocking that the Marlins would give away Yusmeiro Petit so quickly before his Scott Kazmirish potential was fully realised. And to think, they gave him up for Jorge Julio and Jorge Julio is slated to be the Marlins closer! Well, maybe they're crazy like foxes down there. After all and despite potential, Petit has done sweet FA in a Marlins jersey (1-1 9.57 ERA) and he didn't exactly tear it up at the Triple-A team either.

Jorge Julio on the other hand, will provide inning after inning of comic relief for Marlins fans. Julio allowed 52 homers in 3572/3 innings (1.3 per nine innings), including 10 in 66 innings last season with the Mets and Diamondbacks. In comparison, Armando Benitez, Doug Jones and Joe Borowski, who all had their careers rescued by stints with the Marlins, have allowed a combined 0.91 homers per nine innings over their careers.

And worse news still for both the Marlins AND the Mets is that the Boston Globe has reported that a veteran baseball official predicts the big trading deadline deal will be Florida ace Dontrelle Willis going to the Dodgers for prospects including outfielder Matt Kemp. If the Mets aren't able to swing a deal for D-Train, whom the Marlins have insisted all along isn't available, and he goes to the stinkin' Dodgers instead, well, it might be time to consider Brother Omar is losing his golden touch. An offseason of mishaps and no starting pitching and the best big name on the block goes elsewhere? Let's hope this is just some misguided wishful thinking on the part of the Dodgers.


If there's one thing we shouldn't have to worry about too much this season it's hitting the damned ball. But what surprises me most this Spring is how the man whose we pshawed all offseason, the magical, mystical, elderly Jose Valentin is simply running amok, hitting .341 and leading the team in RBIs for the Spring. This from a guy managed to injure himself sleeping.

And well, let's not be too sure about hitting buckets o rain coming out for the season. After all Carlos Delgado is batting .200 thus far and battling. The well documented Alou Saga (not to be confused with the vegetable dish Sag Aloo) is hitting a mere .173, Shawn Green is still hovering around .145 mark, Lo Duca .205 and hell, even Beltran is hitting only .245 and he hasn't even starting playing in Shea yet!

When you look it all over, a collective slump. Or a collective slow start. But think about this as well - those guys are all going to start hitting lumps as the season heats up and mebbe jes mebbe once they do, once the meat of the order gets going, those spring losses are going to seem mighty unimposing.

All wishful thinking of course. No one knows what the Spring means, what the regular season holds. That's why they play the bloody games. But ah, the brilliant (or dim-witted) speculation roars this time of year and Duaner me lad, it was fun whilst it lasted...


April Planning

6-14-1 in the Spring, that's how the "meaningless" Spring Training reads to date.

The Mets teams that have won championships have been moderately successful in Spring Training -- 14-10 in 1969, 11-13 in 1973, 13-13 in 1986, 19-10 in 1988, 15-16 in 1999, 14-12 in 2000 and 16-14-1 last year. Their record in 1994 was 21-13. (that's nicked off the mlb site, not my own research, ha!) - Pernt is, there is no history for the Mets to take that kind of losing record from Spring Training and turn it into NL East magic.

Spring Training Come Hither Consolation Prize...

No one is pushing the panic button and of course even if they were, the panic button is broken this time of year. Willie isn't showing his sweat. "We'll tighten things up a little bit," he says as though the ship is steady and on course. "We've got another 10 days to go, and we'll tighten up a little bit. We will."

Well, tighten up as in not so many mistakes or tighten up as in jesus gawd the pressure of repeating the NL East Champs is going to snap us like twigs in the mouth of a panda bear?

If the starting pitching continues to worry it might not be suprising to see Brother Omar finally make the move for an established starting pitcher that we've been waiting for all winter, especially Lastings Milledge's value on the upswing again. How would you feel if he were able to score some one on the Mark Buehrle scale of starting pitching just before the season begins? (mebbe not too good considering his Spring to date; 3 starts and an 11.00 ERA.)

Read via two papers yesterday that Billy Wagner said,
"The Phillies have the best team, but there's a lot of pressure playing in Philly. It's just a tough environment. Nothing is close. That team's biggest challenge will be playing at home. Their personnel is great, but it's a tough city to play in. They can't get off to a bad start."
Well, don't forget Billy, even though you don't play FOR them any more, you're still going to have to go there and face them. Is that why you've developed that tempting new the split-finger changeup?

Of course, he isn't the one to worry. That's down to Phillies' 39 year old loser closer by default, Tom Gordon. To bring you up to speed, Gordon has appeared only thrice this Spring with injury worries plaguing him. He went up to Philly with shoulder whingeing last week and in his return hegave up a ninth-inning triple to B.J. Upton that scored Ben Zobrist and gave Tampa Bay a 5-4 win at Bright House Networks Field yesterday in a split-squad game for both teams.

So if you think we've got worries, try and fathom Gordon as your team's closer.

In any event, thinking about fast and slow starts, I took a look at what April has to offer for the NL East top three:

The Mets, as we know open at St Louis. Apropos of course, against the reigning World Champs. (Jesus, the whole post-NLCS is such a blur I wonder if the Cards really did win the World Series until I read that the Tigers were in it too - and the natural thought that follies is wow, had Beltran just stuck his bat out there across the plate just that once...)

The Phillies have to open against the Braves, but it's at home.

Thereafter, the Mets go to Atlanta and the Phillies travel to Florida to beat up on the Marlins. So far, the advantage is distinctly in the Phillies' favour.

That is followed by the Mets playing host to those Phillies and the Braves hosting the Nats. So in the first trio of series' all three top teams will face each other and each will have at least one of those matchups at home. Only the Mets have no powderpuff NL East team to beat up in between.

The crazy part is, right after the Mets host the Phillies, the Phillies then host the Mets for a series of their own. In the meantime, the Braves will be playing the Nats again, this time in DC.

Beginning on 18th April, the Mets move from Philly, to Florida but the Phillies get to travel to DC to beat up on the Nats and the Braves will be hosting the Cubs.

Moving right along with no breather in sight, the Mets then host the Braves whilst the Phillies will be at Cincinnati (and the Reds might be a tougher nut to crack than in years past but this doesn't make up for the kind of interdivision fratricide prescribed for the Mets this April.)

But then the schedule makers give us a wee break.

The Mets will host the Rockies beginning 24th April, the Phillies get to host the Gnats and the Braves travel to Florida for the Marlins. It's almost like the NL East leaders get an off week.

And how does April close, you ask? Well, finally another break for the Mets, traveling to DC against the Gnats but by then perhaps the damage will already perhaps be irrevocable. The Phillies will host the Marlins and the Braves travel to Colorado to face the Rockies.

The April schedule appears slightly weighted against the Mets but you might expect that considering they are the reigning division Champs. Nothing to cry about and the back to back home and away series with the Phillies will be a good look at where both teams might be headed this season.

So far Willie's Mets have done a runner the first season (oh, forgotten that losing streak to open the season already?) and took off running the second. It might just be somewhere in between this time around. Not bad enough for the panic button but not easy enough, as it was last season to stand there by the end of April kicking competition off the top of the hill.


I'll Start With...

What's that greyish matter in the middle of that pan Babu is eyeing? Intestine? The Chef's vomit? A giant worm?

In certain circles they are alleging that the Number Five spot in the rotation is down to Park or The Pelfrey. Not to be confused with bats in the belfry.

"He was especially charmed with the phrase 'bats in the belfry', and would indubitably substitute it for 'possessed of a devil', the Scriptural diagnosis of insanity."

Oh yes lads, this will be one meandering post today which I will try over and over to reign back to the topic at hand, i.e. The Rotation.

The first thing I think is hang on, let's not get ahead of ourselves - 5th starter? Who are the others? Glavine, five shutout innings yesterday against the Marlins, sure. El Duque is a muscle injury waiting to happen. John Maine, yes, whilst the auld boy Mr Anna Benson is out for the year with shoulder surgery, the sly move by Omar is still paying dividends. And hey, where's Aaron Sele>

The Mets won't need a 5th starter until April 16th. What's the rush to worry?

But then, what are we saying Oliver Perez is number four? Based upon striking out David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez twice each in Spring Training? What happens when he walks 6 in his next outing? Does the number 5 candidate move up another rung? Is he back to his 2004 Pirates form? He had a 2.98 ERA with the Pirates that year. Imagine with a good bullpen behind him and the Mets mighty batters to bail him out and that kind of ERA, why we could get starry eyed and imagine Perez winning 20.

Ah, spring. Time for dreaming.

But back to Number 5. Who is preferred, Mr Chan Ho or Pelfrey? Is this a process of elimination, pick of the litter or worse case scenario?

Pelfry has a smart 1.00 ERA over 9 Spring Innings, spring innings being of course, no indication of reality.

Park, a 7.11 ERA.

What competition?

I believe this Mets rotation is going to be a constant nip and tuck between inconsistency, injury and moments of bedazzlement and that trying to project the Number 5 starter is as pointless as trying to find Scott Boras' agent fees in Gary Sheffield's stools.

Pointless Stat Trail

Jose Reyes leads the team in homers this Spring and is hitting .375. That batting average by the way, is higher than the combined batting average of Moises Alou (.179) and Lo Duca (.174). He's had only two strikeouts in 40 at bats. 4 walks and 7 stolen bases already. Is he hinting at heights? The next superstar? Boy, are we lucky he finally got his hammies sorted out.

Can we give up on Anderson Hernandez yet?


"To a pitcher, a base hit is negative feedback." - Plato John Maine

"There are so many players out there who are better than me talent-wise, but I like to think I'll outwork all of them." - Duaner Sanchez David Wright


Oh yeah, almost forgot:


Urgent Questions To Unprovoked Answers

You might have been wondering like myself, where the hell are all the articles on Spring Training? Where are the promised positional comparisons with infinite, meticulous, forensic examinations of each team and each player in the NL East?

No birthing articles on Mets prospects to date...

Well, to use metaphors, the rite of Spring, I will not admit to not actually writing these columns much in the way that players will not admit they are actually hurt and their seasons are probably fecked. No, I will continue to string the fans along with a performance here and there willing my writing arm back to strength, nursing it through bottles of pino grigio and belgian witbeers as the planes fly overhead from Gatwick airport and tinge my outdoor evenings with memories of Shea Stadium and LaGuardia flight patterns.

But this is to be about the Mets, not the Army in it's preseason embryonic form.

And so we can start off with a few observations to date about the Spring:

1. Maybe Lastings Milledge Isn't the Anti-Christ after all: Of course, I'm not there to view it first hand, just as I wasn't there first hand to view the bad attitude (although the poor plate performance was visible and not a fancy of imagination,) but the early reports would seem to indicate that he has shed about 15 pounds of pariah during the offseason and has come back to the Mets following a winter of trade innuendo and disappointment, with a new and improved attitude.

It is rumoured that he's more open and engaging. That he isn't skulking around the clubhouse putting the Prima in Dona and doing like what, a Gary Sheffield impersonation? That is comforting news. If Lastings can prove the sceptics wrong, those sceptics who watered down his trade value to virtually nil this offseason it's another potent bat, another young kid, another bright future to look forward to.

As of this post he is hitting .345 in the Spring albeit with 7 Ks in 11 games. The only available spot for him is pushing Shawn Green aside in Right Field and Shawn Green who is on the other hand, struggling mightily with a .143 batting average, might not turn out to be very much to push aside in the end. Shawn Green an overpriced bat coming off the bench with no tangible fielding skills anyone? Well, let's not get Lastings-Style cocky just yet. The Spring is young.

2. Speaking of Bad Attitudes and Alarm Clocks - My, my. The controversy of the Spring has been Not Being Duaner Sanchez's Alarm Clock. Glad I'm coming into this late. You don't really have to observe too much about fat guy coming off a lazy winter and then not jumping into camp ready to tear up the rehab centre with enthusiasm, getting evicted from camp instead. Duaner, me lad, what were yea thinking?

The most noticeable thing about this entire episode was how unified the Mets were as a team in condemning the apathy. It's a sign of something, I believe. The first sign I've seen this Spring that the Mets are going to be special again. Group Therapy. Did you read how many teammates came out against the laziness, the tardiness and came out for the team? To a man they were indignant like, how could you do this to us Duaner, we're bloody well counting on you to set up the Hillbilly and there you are flushing your season down the terlet. And a few high marks to Manager Willie for nipping this problem straight in the bud, no nonsense, no fluttering. Spot on.

Well, happy endings, provided he doesn't reinjure himself with his new-found enthusiasm and team-centred attitude. Duaner Sanchez has rehabbed his attitude. I'm Berry, Berry Sorry.

we're so sorry, uncle albert,
But we haven't done a bloody thing all day.
We're so sorry, uncle albert,
But the kettle's on the boil
And we're so eas'ly called away

Chan Ho in Scarier Days

3. Chan Ho No!: Look, I've got to admit, I too harboured delusional sequences of Chan Ho Park providing us with the starting arm that puts the rotation over the top. I too hoped that last season's 7-7 record and the potbelly 4.81 ERA was a miserable hangover that evolved out of the original sin of letting Scott Boras sign him for billions in a crappy ball park in Texas.

But it was a bad omen when his visa didn't go through. It was like someone in the State Department, a Mets mole in the State Department was whispering sweet nothings - psst - don't sign this guy, don't let him come to camp. He's a cancer

No one has anything bad to say about his personality but thus far, Park's pitching sucks. Two starts and two very unflattering outings. Yes, biting sinker. Yes, strong against lefties, according to LoDuca anyway. But that's the catcher's job some days, to rub lotion into the pitcher's tits and try not to let his confidence wobble.

Will Chan Ho stun and amaze us some day down the long dustr road of the season? It's still a possibility but with John Maine giving batters a bollocking so far, Glavine already established, and well...what, El Duque's impressive 22.50 ERA shadowing him like a Saturday afternoon monster movie and Aaron Sele not exactly shocking people with his ineptitude and Mike Pelfrey maybe being ready maybe not, well, the rotation looks as wide open as ever and no matter what Park does, he might have a long season to try and redeem himself regardless. Here's hoping that sinker gets nastier and he holds a few more suprises that don't comprise of making analogies of his pitching and defecating.

4. It's almost officially time to get excited about The Future. Well, I suppose you could waste time getting excited about the future but what the hell, the present seems so curious and inviting. I'd rather think about my preseason pick for quasi surprise arm of the year, Ambiorix Burgos, the man with the golden fastball and little control. Thus far his promise is worse than his bite. 0-1, 4.91 ERA in 5 Spring appearances. Yeah, 8 Ks in less than 8 innings pitched but also 8 hits allowed. Who knows? The truth of the matter is he just might be supplanted by a guy who wasn't even on the 40 man roster, Joe Smith. 5.1 scoreless innings this spring. He might be the new surprise guy, let's keep an eye out and hope someone out of this miserable lot, or perhaps two or three arms, surprise us in April. Pleasantly. Feliciano has also pitched a scoreless Spring thus far, as have Maine, Pelfrey, Schoeneweiss and who? Senor Collazo, that's who. The man with no statistical profile on his own team's website.

5. Adios, Muchacho: Alay Soler, we hardly knew yea. Well, the truth is, I remember waaaay back when the Mets first signed this guy because I remember the painstaking research back in October 2004, of Cuban sportspages online to find out who this guy was:

Why, this must be the Cuban Roger Clemens, isn't it? Exhaustive searching found these 2002 Cuban League Stats which show Soler appeared in 18 games for Pinar del Rio, started 6, went 7-0 with a 3.72 ERA, walked 18 and struck out 47 in 55 2/3 innings. In case you were wondering where the interest was for him in the pitching-famished world that is MLB, the rumour is that the big fish were scared off by what a crap pitcher Jose Contreras has proven to be after all the hype, after a bidding war which resulted in the Yankees being dubbed The Evil Empire and no one wants to take a chance to repeat the mistake.

Well, kiddies, it does appear by examining these stats that Soler's teammate on Pinar del Rio was none other than, you guessed it, Jose Contreras, who defected right after that season in which he went 13-4 with a 1.76 ERA. In case you'd forgotten that story of lost potential and perhaps before Mets fans start hyperventilating into paper bags at the thought of Kazmir and Soler in the same rotation, here is what was said about Contreras when he made for greener pastures:

"A 6-foot-4, 224-pound righthander with a 93 mph fastball and a darting forkball, Contreras is best known in the U.S. for the eight shutout innings he pitched against the Orioles during a nationally televised exhibition game in Havana three years ago. In that game, Contreras allowed just two hits and struck out 10, including Albert Belle twice."


As for Mets news, well, Pedro is back lobbing balls it appears but July seems no nearer. Probably the most interesting item was fuel being added to a fire - the man spurned by the Mets because he cost too much, Barry Zito appears to have made some statements which one might twist into meaning he found the Mets brass arrogant.

Right. Arrogant as in, no we won't pay absurdist sums of money to a pitcher just waiting to flare out with injury simply because a desperate team like the no-go Giants are willing to add another mistake to the resigning Barry Bonds mistake?

Blah. I'm glad Zito was "turned off" by the effort the Mets organisation made for him. It shows two things: one, the Mets organisation is not as stupid as it once was or as desperate and two, Barry Zito is a classless little muppet. Barry Zito wanted his hands held, hits chest hairs curled and caressed. He's accustomed to having his arsed kissed. Did the Mets management, did Brother Omar not pucker up in the right position?

Barry Zito? Pissant. You never read on this blog hey Mets, go sign this twat at any cost! I was always skeptical about this man. Oh yes, I could provide you with reams of documentation. But the gist is, you got your bloody man jerk off - what's with having to knock the Mets organisation? Bitter because you ended up in a second rate city with a second rate team just because you got greedy? Guess we won't be seeing you in the postseason. Twist your panties in a bunch whilst the Giants fumble through a lost cause season whose main headline all year will be about Barry Bonds and Steroids. Nice environment. At least there is no ego there.