Sunday Morning Baseball Brunch

Not everyone is bubbling with enthusiasm at the thought of Reyes hitting third, despite a rather exciting debut in that slot the other day against the Marlins.

Here's a bit of interesting insight on Jose Reyes' mindset from teammate Jose Valentin but even more telling was an anonymous source on the Mets quoted as remarking with respect to Jerry's threat to hit Reyes third:

"He's at his best when he's not thinking too much at the plate," was the way one Mets person put it. "He's gotten better at getting on base, but sometimes has a tendency - he takes good pitches to hit and then swings at bad ones. Then he gets frustrated and before you know it, he's in a slump.

None of this speaks very much to Reyes' maturity or intelligence as a baseball player. Not that any of this is really much of a surprise to anyone in any event but one does wonder if Jerry's little mind games are going to be able to soak in through Jose's ADD-addled head.

Even King-of-the-Meaningless RBI teammate David Wright has commented on Reyes' lack of focus:

Wright has seen Reyes' mind wander while playing beside him for the last five years.

"That's a tough hurdle," Wright said. "You're talking about 162 games and staying focused on every pitch. When he is focused and when he has his mind right, I think he's one of, if not the best, all-around players in the game."

Adding to Jose's less than pleasant start to the 2009 season comes the revelation that Jose might not even be good enough to start at shortstop for the Dominican Republic.

It's an interesting concept for someone with Reyes' impact not even to be the best shortstop on his little island with Hanley Ramirez to compete with. Ramirez, of course, is also making a move on his own team sliding down from batting lead off to third in the order and has bulked up in preparation.


Of course prattling on about Jose Reyes' flaws allows us to conveniently attempt to ignore the possibility that Superman Santana might not even start on Opening Day

"We have 162 games," Santana said. "What we have to accomplish takes 162 games. Everything starts April 6, if it's going to be me or somebody else. It's tough to say right now."

Now, it's early days of course and just like the meaningless of the Mets' fast, early and successful start to Spring Training games, Santana's sore left elbow might not be anything to set off the alarms and send Mets fans screaming through the hallways of the asylum, drool dropping from their gaping gobs as they remember that around this time last year that John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Scott Kazmir started having "minor soreness -- and they all started the season on the DL.

On the other hand, every single one of the teams they played for made it to the post-season so maybe it's not as apocalyptic an omen as it appears at first glance.


I'm feeling a little more comfortable now that the Mets followed the euphoria of their first two Spring games with two consecutive pastings against the Cardinals and Tigers respectively.

It's all about getting the kids some playing time, you should remind yourself. That and getting everyone else in shape. September shape, we hasten to ad.

If one outing is any indication, the 5th spot is Livan Hernandez's to lose as both Niese and Fat Freddy Garcia were less than impressive.


I doubt there will be too many dissenters here but for the thousandth time, Mike Fatty Francesa is hands down the biggest douchebag in the NY media now that the previous Champion Douchebag, his former on air partner, Mad Dog Russo has fucked off to potentially bankrupted satellite radio.

Both David Wright and Ryan Church are refusing to speak to Fatty Francesa whose garrulous gob is apparently run on beer farts rather than brain power.

And even their absence was sufficient to get Francesa to shut up. On Church, Fat Boy says:

"I don’t really care if Church comes on the show now or forever. Church is going to be out of New York long before I’m going to worry about whether he comes on my show or not. He’s not a big deal in any way."

Wright, who apparently means a little more, is spared the damning dismissal by Francesa, who only states that he thinks Wright is being very immature because he’s had a straight ascendancy and he doesn’t want any criticism . . . He needs to grow up.".

By the way, Francesa is officially the world's "worst":

And in a completely unrelated tangent having nothing to do with Euclidean space, in one of those articles hyper linked above, there was the following photo of Wright and his missus that caught my eye:

Now I didn't think too much of this but admittedly, as it's Spring and there's alot of free time to kill still wot with the games not meaning all that much yet, I did conduct a tentative search to find out who the mystery missus was and came across this gossip site treating the matter and some sort of bizarre cyber cat fight with the importance of a State of the Union speech.

Wow, what a strange and seriously demented world we live in.


Jazz Master Jerry

"I love the energy that Jose Reyes brings, but I don't always like the anxiety that comes with it. I want to calm that down. He needs to play at jazz time. And he's playing at a hip-hop level. I want him to the best jazz player he can be."

I just couldn't help it, this quote is one of the best quotes from a baseball manager in a long time.

Is Reyes ready to make his move?

And that's not just because Reyes hit a grand slam, another homer and drove in six runs from his new number three spot whilst the Mets were pounding the Marlins 9-0 yesterday.

I mean if anything, beating the crap out of the Marlins in February just underscores the futility of having them drop the Mets out of the play-offs the last two Septembers running. When the Mets win meaningful games in September and drop the stigma of being choke artists will be the time to get excited. Right now, this is just a painful reminder of all they haven't done the last two years.

And whilst these first two results are nice let's hope this isn't just a bunch of metaphorically speaking, premature ejaculation winning-wise, rather an indication that the Mets respect their manager and are ready to really reel off a big, big season.

Two games. Right. Let's keep that in mind. It ain't even March yet.


From the Throwing Stones at Icons Department, Joel Sherman weighs in a question about Piazza and steroids.

Joel must be joking, of course.

If Piazza had been on steroids he could have thrown to second base in less than three hops. Case closed.


Just How Jerry Drew It Up: 1st Game of Season Is Encouraging

Whilst it isn't the intention of the Army to digest and regurgitate every single pitch and at-bat of every split-squad game against MLB teams and university sides this Spring Training, yesterday was, as they say, special doins' it being the very first game of 2009 and all from which the tiniest impressions of the future may or may not be extracted.

And from the 9-3 inaugural victory over the lowly Baltimore Orioles one might allow oneself to feel ever so slightly encouraging. Jerry did. My, how he gushed.

"Very, very huge for us," Manuel effused either with relief or the dementia of a man whose head has baked too long in the Florida sun. It WAS after all, just a Spring Training game.

Ok, the two batters who under the brightest spotlight this Spring, namely Luis Castillo and Ryan Church, both started and shined combining for 4 hits and 7 RBIs, a dream beginning.

Now granted, this is against some sorry Oriole pitching, the majority of which isn't likely to see the light of the Major Leagues this season or perhaps ever. A glorified batting practice if we're brutally honest.

But fast starts, especially in the wake of Castillo's somnambulistic and languorous 2008, cannot be discounted. Perhaps that was why Jerry seemed a disproportionately excited about the result.

And in the shadows of this pressurised pair, Murph had a pair of hits in three plate appearances, even managing an outfield assist just to make the Opener all the more absurd.

On the back of Jerry's demanding 80 pitch, opposite field hitting drills that have left several Mets with sore hands, the Mets hit the ball to the opposite field yesterday 14 times. Ten of their 15 hits were among those opposite field placements.

You might think Jerry is on to something, out-witting the rest of the League with this unique approach but no doubt this emphasis will fade as the season wears on or teams will start employing some sort of fielding shifts to compensate. Then again, if the Mets were getting drilled in both pulling and hitting to the opposite field nobody would know where the hell the ball was going to go and it would be a simple matter of contact for Met hitters.

The winning margin was aided and abetted by frequent Oriole base running gaffes.


Not a single potential starter appeared in this game if you'd like some perspective on the importance and gravity of this Opening Game. Sean Green, who came over in the trade with JJ Putz from Seattle, started the game and left the game covered in question marks when the nail on his middle finger split. Looks like Buffalo for him, eh? Ugh, when you consider it, what a comedown - last season, Mets Triple AAA cast-offs got to go to New Orleans. This season? Buffalo.

Green was followed by Pedro Feliciano (1 1/3 scoreless), a seemingly svelte Duaner Sanchez gave up a run and two walks in an inning of work (guess he'll be on the side of "these games don't matter", innit?) and then a string of other bullpen candidates led by Brian Stokes.


Without Auditions, Murph's the Everyday Left Fielder

One thing for certain, Jerry Manuel isn't waiting to see what's going to happen before reacting.

Whilst it's been pretty much common knowledge all winter that in the absence of Dream Team Left Fielder Manny Ramirez joining the club, left field was going to see a platoon of last season's surprising AA call-up Danny Murphy and last season's surprising out-of-nowhere return of Fernando Tatis.

I mean, barring any horrible implosion by one of them this wasn't simply pencilled in, this seemed to be carved in stone as a good idea.

Not any more.

Jerry dropped the bombshell that Murph is going to be the every day left fielder:

"I don't want him to get into a strictly platoon situation," Manuel said. "I think he's a little better player than that. Also, with Church being a lefthanded hitter, I kind of see Murphy being a better hitter right now at this time, so Tatis could go that way [in rightfield]. It all depends on how well they're doing. If they're not getting hits, they're not going to play.

And just like that, Murph is promoted to Danny Ballgame.

So it's Murph's job to lose, basically. And hmmm, maybe even Ryan Church's job over in right field, if he starts getting concussed all over again. (incidentally, there's a witty little ditty about Churcherella over here.

I'm not going to make any long-winded speeches on the wisdom of calling this out in public before the team's even played its first intrasquad game but Murph had all of 10 at-bats against lefties last season, his career totals so hopefully there was something very determinate and distinguishable in those 10 at-bats. We've all heard what a pure hitter Murph is and now we're going to find out how much of it is theory and how much of it is fact.

I think it's pretty much common consensus that Murph is a great natural hitter and an incredibly hard worker - maybe now he'll develop into a slightly lighter-hitting David Wright of the outfield, who knows.

So Jerry has made the decision early and whilst decisive, he's either going to look smart or people are going to view this as an unnecessary and premature decision that backfires.

In away its the second early shot across the bow from Jerry who is putting his indelible stamp on the club early and often. The other big news of the Spring so far was his effort to transplant a pair of balls on Jose Reyes by threatening him with hitting 3rd in the order instead of lead off. Well, two birds with one stone, actually, as simultaneously, this puts the onus on Luis Castillo to stop skating and start earning those millions he's stealing from the Mets worst than a ponzi scheme.


Anyone else get goosebumps of anticipation reading this article about Bobby Parnell and his new split-fingered fastball?


At least Joel Sherman has a clear head on what he thinks about Jerry, Jerry's tactics and potential replacements for both Jerry should it go tits up and Ryan Church if Church doesn't wow us from the start again

Jaysus, Joel. It's still bloody February and you're considering who the Mets will overpay to replace Church in right and who might be managing the Mets next Spring Training. Go find a paper bag to hyperventilate into or something.

For the record, I don't agree that Jerry needs to tell these muppets what's on his mind before he tests the air with the media. Reyes has not only been a choking dog the last two Septembers but it's time he owned up to being a man and not some bright eyed kid whose going to coast on a goofy, infectious smile and roadrunner speed the rest of his career. Maybe he needs a little shock. And yeah, maybe it back-fired when Willie played his hand too hard with Reyes but that was two seasons ago and Willie was an uncommunicative little phony hard ass who wouldn't even get out there and get tossed out of a game once in awhile. Besides, Reyes' sensibilities are hopefully not quite so soft-shelled any more. Perhaps he too will recognise it's time to get on with the business. Stop losing concentration and focus on the base paths and with the glove.


Who Am I Rooting For This Season? Why Lolita Lopez, Of Course.

Yea, yea. It's all good and well to be thinking about Jose Reyes getting smuggled down to third in the order whilst auld Crazy Legs Castillo is slotted up to the lead off spot and Jose has to hear about it from his homeys in Dominican instead of from Jerry.

It's interesting in a pedestrian sort of way to hear JJ Putz, (which understandably, he prefers pronounced "Puts" like shot puts rather than Putz, like the derogatory noun) likes AC DC but doesn't like bagels...all this little getting to know your team sort of information that fills in all that dead time during Spring Training muscle memory training.

It's also reasonably fascinating to find out how Jerry had them out there hitting 80 breaking balls a piece to the opposite field, promoting hand/eye coordination, hand strength and taking the body out of the swing.

But so far the most interesting facet of this Spring Training coverage is the discovery of Lolita Lopez, who I spotted for the first time seated next to Castillo during an interview and then watched further, thanks to a video link from Long Island Met Fan.

Perhaps its just the exoticism of a young, female Harvard-educated bilingual sports reporter covering the Mets(whilst over here in Ingerland we're still stuck with the same dopey chimp-eared ex athlete hawking Walkers crips whilst hosting the nation's biggest football programme on the side, but I find the advent of Lolita Lopez just as fascinating as any other blurb or tidbit coming out of the Mets Spring Training so far.


Ready To Sup On A Splash of The Castillo Kool-Aid?

Yes, kids, I know, it's only the fledgling days of Spring Training and we shouldn't be getting our metaphorical panties in a bunch just yet with excitement about the potential rejuvenation of Luis Castillo but if you watch, you almost can't help but get excited:

Now, what you want to be aware of, in addition to the gimp knees, is that Castillo has gone to the trouble of LOSING 17 POUNDS from last season.

Sure, you might say, wtf, when you're as fat as Luis Castillo was last season, losing 30 pounds would barely register, but the pernt is of course that he's trying to show us his commitment. He even appears to be wide awake. Mostly.

Hell, I don't want to spend all season making Castillo jokes, I really don't. I'd like to be writing about him being the Comeback Player of the Year, and because it's early well, we can always dream.

And speaking of infields, if in fact I was speaking rather than only referring to them subliminally, you might want to have a gander at this review of the Infields of the NL East.

My only crits are that it doesn't hate the Braves and Phillies anywhere near enough to be credible, doesn't spew enough bile on a douchebag like Uggla, yet manages to confess a hatred of Reyes, for what is grudgingly accepted as the obvious reasons and of Wright for being good (nothing as refreshing as a good bias) and that whilst it does comment on fielding, the stats are purely offence-based. Given the impact a good infield defence has on pitching (particular pitchers prone to inducing grounders rather than fly balls) and ultimately, team performance (just look at Tampa two years ago versus last season) perhaps equal weight could be or should have been given statistically. Then again, no one is ever going to confuse me with a Sabermetrics guru or stat head so as it is, the review is sufficient for a quick overview.

What is unacceptable however is the current 74%-8% lead the Phillies infield has over the Mets infield as being the best in the NL East so if you're going to bother to follow the link, make sure you vote often to swing the influence back to where it belongs!

In any event, the upswing, as always, is just be glad you're not a NatFan.


A novel approach to the destruction of Shea is a hypothetical conversation between Shea and Bankrupt Park. Nice one.


Lastly, if you're interested in what the other muppets in our division are up to, I've posted a little update over here.


The Young And Stupid Defence

Although A-Rod, thankfully does not play for the Mets and the Mets are happily basking in anonymity whilst the massive klieg light of A-Rod's dog and pony steroid show trundles forward, it's virtually impossible, after listening to that comedic little press conference today, to think too hard this early about who will wind up the 5th starter for the Mets and whether Jose Reyes will ever return and leave his newborn daughter behind to bat third for the Mets.

So my apologies for blaspheming these pages with a little tidbit about A-Rod and the Yank-Mees, but today, front and centre, The Young and Stupid Defence simply must take precedent.


late addition: couldn't help but notice Beltran's public exhortation to "kill" Cole Hamels.

Presumably he intends that metaphorically but the spirit is exciting. Can't wait for Hamel's first Bankrupt Park appearance.

Speaking of Bankrupt Park, came across these very chilling Chopper 800 photos of the destruction of Shea by Tom Kaminski which seem eerily evocative of 9/11.


Spring Training Warm-Up Edition

My, my. How time flies.

Seems like only yesterday we were watching the Mets stumble with a lead we always sort of assumed they would lose, watching the bullpen disintegrate night after night, watching the NL Playoffs for a second season in a row with no real rooting interest other than for anyone who was playing the Phillies.

Now here we are, Spring Training camp open, the fun about to begin all over again. Or the misery, depending on how optimistically you are capable of performing in these early days despite the last two Septembers.

So let's go to the video tape, so to speak and hash it out, John McLaughlin-style:

Issue One: Is Jerry Taking The Piss Or Is He Really Thinking About Dropping Reyes Down to Third in the Order and Moving Senor Somnambulism into the Leadoff Spot??!

- there's a wide ranging lack of consensus on this from hmmm, so weird it might actually work to are you fucking kidding me? schools of thought.

Here's the Army's take: Firstly, it might not be a bad time come September if Castillo is still awake considering the choke job Reyes has done the last two seasons running and the fact that the choke jobs were integral to the collapse of the Mets offense two Septembers running. Question is, do you do this in March or wait until things are dire? Bonus question is - Reyes and maturity and being force fed team theory, which gets regurgitated first, the ego or the team? Will he take what seems like a demotion of sorts like a man or pout like a child? Consider this: What would David Wright do? We all know of course and the fact that we don't really know for sure how Reyes will react speaks volumes of his own maturity.

Secondly, I can almost sense the oddball theory in action: Castillo has been told this is it, hermano, now or never. Presumably, he's not going to be the same fat, pensioner-knee'd somnambulist he was last season because what, he's got pride and he's fighting for a contract? Nyet. Apparently the thinking is he's got to get a quick start and why not give him a quick start at the top of the order where he'll get the most at-bats, etc. I believe this method-thinking is akin to saying hey, I've got a great idea, let's take our least productive and least enthusiastic employee and put him in charge of productivity! Whoop! Again, nyet. Whilst it's not a bad idea, dropping Reyes to third, and whilst if healthy and awake Castillo gets on base more often than Reyes, the reality is nyet. That's it. Nyet. My instinct is that this is just a stupid idea waiting to become an idiotic reality. Like making Luis Ayala the closer.

Lastly, I think what the hell, it's an experiment. Golf claps to Jerry for getting all experimental and Absurdist on us before the fun of Spring Training even begins. If Castillo starts off hot in the Spring, they can ride him as long as his Fred Sanford legs will take him (mid May, early June?) and then stick Jose back up in there where he'll be grateful for the chance and perhaps somewhat more refreshed in September. Reyes hitting third is an interesting concept. Unlike Beltran, you probably won't see him bunting in key RBI situations, just swinging away from that third spot and perhaps even more excitement in mid-lineup. I'm not against it. I just wish someone more reliable than Castillo could be the man leading off.

Issue Two: Will signing Livan Hernandez make any difference to the 2009 Mets?

Well, he may or may not be taking his half-brother's designated DL roster spot. Livan joins Fat Freddy Garcia and Tim Redding as the larger name candidates for the 5th starter in the rotation but El Duque is rumoured to be ready to heal just enough to get hurt again by May.

Any one of these sorta-has-beens-not-quite-wanna-be's could become the story of the season. Yes, there's also Jon Niese, et al. hanging on around the periphery but let's face it, no need to rush him or the others and unless everyone else falters, those kids trying to hang with the old guys will be playing in Buffalo.

These three; Livan, Fat Freddy and Redding are the primary pool from whence the Mets will draw their early 5th starter, provided of course, no one else of the four starters who will precede them falter or get hurt.

Whilst I sense Livan has the least chance at this stage to have an impact, if you look back at those who pitched last season for the Mets and those who were expected to have a bearing on the season, well, you'll see clearly this is basically impossible to predict. Who else has such a thick 5th starter competition though? Grudgingly, let's give Omar credit for making the rotation deep, ready for all circumstances bar a season-ending injury to Johan.

Issue Three: Is K-Rod Stupid Cocky Or An Uncanny Clairvoyant?

This isn't the first time the bullpen saviour has opened his mouth to spew controversy. Just after signing with the Mets he'd already named the Mets as the team to beat so quite frankly, this is old news.

I don't care if K-Rod calls out the entire Phillies team and urinates on Cole Hamels' hairpiece (oh, who knows, but why not start the rumour?). If he does his job, solidifies the closer role and continues to do so into the post season as far as I'm concerned he can say whatever he wants.

The Mets didn't choke these last two seasons because of anything Rollins or Beltran said last year and the year before.

Thing is, even if we ARE the team to beat so what if we end up being the team that's beaten. Which is basically what a visibly annoyed Brett Myers appeared to be saying on SNY TV. You'd think that guy would be a little happier to be back in baseball and the warm Florida sun. Is it the 13 losses last season that's still eating away at him like a cancer?

Worse still, it appears all of Philly is jumping on the Met Hate Bandwagon. Just have a read through For every champion, there's a chump...

"But I suppose we shouldn't be surprised. Abject failure is in the Mets' DNA. The only thing they do better than folding in September is opening their mouths and inserting their cleats in February."

I dunno, maybe the Mets should all stay stum and get their revenge in their deeds rather than their words. It's a little hollow, this team to beat rubbish given the last two seasons.

In any event, who is going to believe a guy with eyes redder than Jeff Spicoli's in a bong-smoking contest? special sun-blocking contacts, my arse. Get this kid some Visine, pronto!

Anyway, Happy Spring Training!


Like It Or Not, Omar Completes Staff With Unpredictable Perez

I suppose once they'd let the Braves shoot their wad signing Derek Lowe this day was inevitable all along.

(Bore me a river...)

Oliver Perez is coming back to the Mets for a "reasonable" 3 years and $36 million. On the excitement scale, this is like watching paint dry or a back-to-back showing of The English Patient.

On the sanity scale, it's like entrusting your young child to a day care assistant with a history of untreated schizophrenia.

Let's face it, for this kind of money, Perez, whether we like it or not, whether the Mets admit it or not, is now the de facto Number Two pitcher in the rotation. You lay out all the accolades you want about Pelf or Maine but in that pair you've got a guy who if we're lucky, will mirror the career of let's say John Lackey, (and that's assuming he can make the leap to two consecutive 200 IP seasons after more than doubling the number of games started last season) and another guy coming off of arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder. Neither can be counted on as the Number Two guy in your rotation and so now it's up to Ollie to shoulder the burden.

If there was ever an off-season move that merited a half-hearted golf clap, this is it. Lots of potential we've been hearing about for the last two and a half seasons, a lefty, a guy entering his prime, a guy who pitches the Phillies, Braves and Yankees silly. A guy with maddening inconsistency.

So the rotation, for all intents and purposes, is complete. In essence, it looks no different than the 2008 rotation if you forget about that early season dream of the Santana-Pedro one-two punch.

Is it time now, Omar, now that the rotation is finally sorted, the pitching has been taken care of, that you've signed eight thousand two hundred and twenty six washed up free agents, to revisit the option for your batting order and left field?

Reality dictates that the frequent fan fantasy of the Mets jumping into the Manny Sweepstakes is just that - baseless, hopeful speculation. Yes, the Dodgers have given Manny a one year take-it-or-leave-it offer which should bring negotiations to a head but no matter how much you wish it, it ent happening. Manny will stay somewhere on the West Coast.

Whilst the pending platoon of Fernando Tatis and Dan Murphy is not terrorising the off season of NL East pitchers, it is a subtle, effective combination, much like the signing of Perez, not the stuff of fantasies but a solid, difficult-to-argue-against choice.

Barring any last second shocks, this is in effect, your 2009 Mets. A better bullpen, equivalent starting rotation, Luis Castillo at second and an incredibly left-handed bench.

Nothing to suggest another September collapse can be avoided.