A blog dedicated to the New York Mets with some other baseball thrown in.

Friday, March 03, 2006

As The Nats Turn

This gave me a chuckle:

Second baseman Alfonso Soriano left the Washington Nationals' camp on Thursday afternoon and headed to Orlando to join the Dominican Republic team in training for the World Baseball Classic, unsure what awaits him at tournament's end.

Note 'second baseman Alfonso Soriano'.

"They have three weeks to fix it," Soriano said after the Nationals' morning workout. Asked what would happen if the situation is not fixed by the time he returns, Soriano hesitated and said, "I don't know."

Unreal. Way to be a team player. Looking at the situation Vidro is not playing anywhere but second base. Soriano was an outfielder and has the athleticism to play the outfield and the arm to play anywhere in the outfield. Someone really needs to type up the memo and let him know he is no Orlando Hudson manning the hole between 1st and 2nd base. I know I cannot stop linking to these articles but it just blows my mind. Fucking ponderous.

"Hopefully [he will] come to us when he comes back -- or while he's there, maybe have his agent call us and say, 'Okay, Alfonso said this is what he's going to do,' " Robinson said. "That's what we're hoping for."

Not bloody likely. Being that Vidro's contract is pretty crazy for the shape he is in, I assume Bowden will eventually have to dump off Soriano and not get much back with teams knowing what they know. I hope they just sit him out as stated before and play hardball with him. However, one has to wonder what Bowden was thinking with Soriano's past reluctance to move and knowing Vidro was going to be there. It is almost hard to feel sorry for him, but I do anyway.

* * *

  • I have a little Victor Diaz vs. Xavier Nady discussion over at Metsgeek today. We all know Victor is a favorite of mine and I think the prognosis is negative when it comes to him and fitting with this current team. Nady could still log a good 70 or 80 starts a bunch more at-bats when he doesn't start with Diaz getting the Lion's share of the time in right. Basically, I just think that makes more sense and it should be Diaz's job to lose for the most optimal team this year.

  • Looks like Soriano's not the only one complaining about moving positions.

    Cabrera wasn't smiling earlier in the day at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. As he emerged from the visitors' clubhouse, he was asked by a large media contingent if he had spoken with Mora about the WBC.

    It was the first time Cabrera and Mora were on the same field since Mora last week withdrew from the tournament because he refused manager Luis Sojo's request to play the outfield so Cabrera could play third base.

    "Listen, whatever I have to say to Melvin, I'll say it in private," Cabrera snapped at a reporter as Mora took swings nearby. "If you want to create a controversy between me and Melvin, you won't be able to do it."

    If you will not move for your country, who will you move for?

  • Pedro is at 60%.

    The ace described his effort at only 60%, but Martinez threw with noticeably more zip than he did two days earlier. "Today I felt a little more confident of what to do," Martinez said. "I'll tell you, it's encouraging."

  • The Mets were scouting Tony Graffanino at last night's Red Sox game. Do I smell a Diaz for Graffanino deal? Because something definitely wreaks.

  • Oh baby. You make exceptions with players like David Wright.

    The Mets signed all of the players on their 40-man roster by yesterday's deadline except for David Wright, who was renewed at $374,000, Newsday has learned.

    In some cases, the renewal can be a point of contention. But the Mets, who use a salary formula for players with less than three years' service time, did not lower their offer when Wright, who hit .306 with 27 HRs and 102 RBIs last season, refused to accept it, as some teams do as a punitive measure.

    By comparison, Astros outfielder Willy Taveras, who has even less service time than Wright, was bumped up to $400,000 this year after hitting .291 with three HRs and 29 RBIs in 2005.

    I couple hundred thousand now can save you millions later. In Wright's case, I think the phrase hometown discount actually means something to him. I hope this does not come back to bit them, but I see the tough situation they are in.

    "It happens all the time. It happened before and it will happen after me. I'm not disappointed. I have a lot of respect for the Mets organization and, hopefully, they have some respect for me. It's no big deal at all."

    It's a tough case because if the Mets stand hard here, they do not allow a precedent to take place. The next big rookie for the Mets would be quick to point out Wright's special treatment and could demand the same. This is a sticky situation that I am glad I am not involved in. Luckily Wright is already a consummate professional and if anyone is 'going to get it', it will be him.

  • Please no...

    Either that or Randolph sees no reason why playing every day couldn't mean at the big league level for the Dominican hotshot being viewed by Mets' officials as their Robinson Cano.

    Who wants a version of that hacker? The Mets lineup will not protect A Hern as much and A Hern will be at the bottom of the order. Hopefully Hernandez is better at the plate and more specifically the approach. Cano saw 3.05 pitchers per at-bat in 2005. Fugly numbers.

  • It's Lima Time....

    After being verbally abused -- albeit good-naturedly -- each morning by Jose Lima (much to the delight of the other Latin players), pitcher Jeremi Gonzalez fought back yesterday. With a little help from some of his teammates, Gonzalez composed several insults to hurl at Lima and read them off a crib sheet. "He wrote them down," Lima said. "That's weak. He's crossed the line now. I'm going to make him cry."

    That is weak indeed.

  • Dayn Perry breaks out his crystal ball and says the Braves will finish first, yet again, in their flawed run with the Mets finishing second and taking the Wild Card.

    The Mets don't have the balanced attack that the Braves have, but they will pass Wild Card muster and return to the postseason for the first time since they won the pennant in 2000.

    *cough* bullshit *cough*....The Mets attack is more balanced. Better bullpen, better offense, and while I give the Braves the edge on the rotation, it is not by much.

  • Oh baby. Japan lambasted China 18-2 while the Korea vs Chinese Tapei was better game and Korea won 2-0 with Jae Weong Seo pitching two hit ball with Chan Ho Park rounding out the game for a save.
  • Thursday, March 02, 2006

    The Unthinkable

    There comes a time in everyone's life when change needs to happen. Sometimes things change for the better. Sometimes they change for the worse. This change is one that has been long overdue. The official The Metropolitans girl has changed from the Brazilian volleyball chick to Evangeline Lilly.

    Maybe it is because it is my favorite show. Maybe it is because she is hot. I'm not sure, but whatever the reason, it's a good one.

    Yesterday's episode was nothing other than badass. I'm a little disappointed Mr. Eko did not capitalize off of putting the fear of god into that strange little captive from Minnesota. The guy would of told him everything and I'm pretty sure there were skid marks in his undies after that conversation in the hatch. Good episode.

    * * *

  • How long until Manny Ramirez changes his tune?

    “I want to get another thing straight,” he said. “I’ve got a beautiful career going on and I’m not going to let the little things like this mess up all the things I’ve accomplished because I think when I’ve finished my career, I’m going to be a special player, and I’m not going to let nobody stop that. I’ve got a goal for myself and I’m not going to accomplish that (with continued controversy).”

  • Vladimir is out of the WBC.

    Saying he is not in the proper frame of mind to give the necessary effort, Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero on Wednesday backed out of the World Baseball Classic.

    Three of Guerrero's cousins were killed in a single-car crash Sunday in the Dominican Republic, and it was learned that a fourth cousin in the car is in serious condition.

  • Pedro finally concedes that he will not be able to participate in the WBC.

    Pedro Martinez's troublesome toe will prevent him from participating in the World Baseball Classic.

    Dominican Republic officials are planning to announce their 30-man roster today, and Mets insiders expected Martinez would be left off because it's unlikely he would even be available until the final round.

    Is anyone else concerned about Pedro and opening day which is a month away?

  • Matsui receives a vote of confidence from the skipper.

    "He was just one of the guys we had," Randolph said. "Who knows? We may even pick someone up. The competition just started. It doesn't change the whole picture at second base for me at all. The fact that he's not here, we have to just move on."

    I know Omar is looking at possibly picking up someone at second base, but who can they get that would represent a significant upgrade from one of the in house options? Time to throw your weight behind them and let Matsui prove himself.

  • The San Antonio Marlins?

    Could be. Texas is largely a football state and I would venture to guess that San Antonio is a large basketball town too, but I would assume they could embrace a baseball team. However, market wise, will it carry enough cash to keep them out of trouble? Also, what would that mean for the divisions? Just as an FYI, Pittsburgh would be the eastern most team if the Marlins move to Texas. That is certainly good news.

  • After an 0-4 game yesterday, Lastings went 3 for 3 while facing Jose Lima, Mike Venafro, and Mile Pelfrey.

    In the Mets' intrasquad game, Milledge, the team's top prospect, went 3-for-3 with a double off the wall, a triple and a two-run single. The outfielder, who turns 21 in April, went 0-for-4 in Tuesday's intrasquad game.

    "It was the first big-league intrasquad game, and I really didn't feel comfortable [Tuesday]," Milledge said. "But [yesterday] I felt a little bit better, and I'll get a lot better as spring training progresses."

    Also in the game, Carlos Beltran hit a homer off of Duaner Sanchez, Julio Ramirez hit a three run homer, Tom Glavine and Victor Zambrano each worked two scoreless innings, and Mike Pelfrey gave up two runs in one inning.

    Steve Traschel opens up the exhibition games today and faces Jeff Suppan and the Cardinals.

  • Joel Sherman brings up an interesting point in his latest article.

    For example, when Pelfrey threw batting practice for the first time, Jeff and Fred Wilpon, plus Minaya, Willie Randolph and their staffs eagerly crowded the cage. Pelfrey could not miss the meaning there.

    Mets officials have happily pointed out that while he was the Expos' GM, Minaya summoned reliever Chad Cordero two months after the draft in August 2003 in the midst of a wild-card chase. The implication is clear: the Mets would not hesitate to promote Pelfrey.

    But why say that? If Pelfrey earns his promotions, nothing voiced by a Mets official now will matter.

    Pelfrey said he was aware of the buzz but not overthrowing because of it. Still, it would seem just human nature to try and have deeds match the hype (look at what Carlos Beltran did to himself last year). Why risk that with Pelfrey, who faced batters in a game yesterday for the first time since last June?

    Very good points indeed, but this is New York and he was a top five talent in the draft. If he cannot deal with the sort of pressure mentioned above, he has no shot in New York. Better to start getting him acclimated with the hype of New York now rather than be shocked by it later. Mentally, he nees to be prepared and I cannot say this is not a good introduction to it. Also, this is why there are coaches and veterans in camp to help a kid like this.

  • Classic...

    Pelfrey drilled Victor Diaz on the left shoulder with his first pitch of the afternoon, a 93-mph fastball, then apologized later. "I had to," Pelfrey said.

    Had to indeed.

  • Oh baby. Adam Rubin has a book called Pedro, Carlos, and Omar that details some health and lifestyle issues that were reported to have contributed to the reasoning behind trade Scott Kazmir.

    Mets brass had been spooked by Kazmir despite the southpaw's upper-90s fastball. For one thing, even before Kazmir was drafted fifteenth overall in 2002, the organization was concerned that there was an elevated risk a ligament in his left elbow could eventually blow. Fear also existed about Kazmir's off-the-field behavior - for a much more serious reason than wrecking (fellow prospect Justin) Huber's car, which had been widely reported in the media. Team officials suspected marijuana use, at least early in Kazmir's minor-league career, and thought he would be ill-suited for the fast pace and temptations of New York.

    A 21 year old kid smoking weed? Gasp...Really, does that necessitate a shitty trade? You traded the top left handed pitching prospect for Victor fucking Zambrano and not straight up either. You threw in a another power arm, though no one special. How does that happen?

    "It's like they always have to have something to say. It's the same stuff they said before," Kazmir said. "I don't really have anything to say."

    Nope. You do not. Just keep pitching like you did last year and progress and you will not have to say a word to make them look dumber than they already do. Really. No need to ever, ever go back over this deal. One of the premier power pitchers in the league my ass. Zambrano is barely hanging onto a rotation spot.

  • I hope Petit makes the bigs this year and continues to do his thing and baffle scouts and batters.

    "I talked to the Mets, and they said they knew I have a better chance to pitch here. They said that's why they traded me," said Petit, who came to the Marlins with minor-league infielder Grant Psomas in exchange for first baseman Carlos Delgado and cash. "It didn't surprise me that I got traded, but the team they sent me to surprised me. It was a team that hadn't been mentioned much in trade talks. I can get to the major leagues faster over here."

  • Randolph decides to jump in on messing with the rooks.

    Telling the top prospect that the team was going to work on conditioning and start with inside-the-park home runs, Randolph assembled the entire team at home plate and summoned Milledge to kick off the drill.

    So, like any eager youngster in his first Major League camp, Milledge grabbed the bait, flying down the baseline and making a trio of hard left turns.

    "By the time I rounded third, I saw they all walked off," Milledge said. "I was the only one running. When I came around third, I knew what time it was."

  • A nice write up on Cuba's Yuliesky Gourriel by Baseball America.

    "For me, he’s a No. 1 guy, and he’s a power hitter who fits the third base profile," said a scout with extensive international experience. "I think he’s a championship-caliber third baseman in the big leagues. He doesn’t have a weakness.

    "I had him with a 55 arm, and it seems like he has more if he needs it, and I put him as a 55 defender, though I think he could be a 60. But he’s an offensive player."

    Someone please help him defect and sign him.

    Be sure to check out the write up one of The Metropolitans personal favorite international players, Daisuke Matsuzaka, on the sidebar of the above link.
  • Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    John Sickels, You Magnificent Bastard

    Between yesterday's Always Amazin' post, John Sickels post on Jose Reyes, and his big news of two meaningless walks in an intersquad game, it seems that Jose Reyes is topic of the day.

    In the Mets' first intrasquad game, Reyes had two at-bats, walked both times and scored a run. It was a potentially promising day for Reyes, who had only a .300 on-base percentage last year and walked just 27 times.

    In Reyes' opening at-bat, he fought off an 0-2 count from Billy Wagner and fouled off several pitches to draw a walk.

    The walks were meaningless since it was only one game, but if it is a continuing trend, then I give permission for everyone to wet their panties. It is, at the very least, encouraging the fashion he came back against Billy Wagner to get the walk. Ryan hit the nail on the head about his assertion that no one claimed Reyes was a superstar. He is far from it at this point. If he fails to progress much by way of improving at the plate, he will be nothing more than a light hitting good fielding shortstop. Anyone that watches him knows he will be more than adequate with the glove. He flashes gold glove potential. I do not care what fielding metrics say. The kid can field.

    However, it's at the plate that concerns me but it's not all bad. Reyes has a quick bat and that can help him a lot in getting free passes. If he learns anything this year, he needs to learn the importance of fouling off pitches that he cannot handle and either look for the one he wants or wait for the pitcher to make a mistake. I've said it a million times, but if Roberto Alomar's time as a Met taught us anything, it is how to work a pitcher. He was a guy that could foul off ten pitches in a row until he worked that walk out and with Reyes' bat speed, he should be able to do that too.

    When Reyes can work at least two balls, regardless of how many strikes, he is actually rather proficient at drawing walks. Even with at a 2-2 count he has a .053 ISoD since 2003. While that is not great, it certainly would be all we asking for from Jose. His career ISoD is .027 and that just will not cut it. If Jose can hit .290 with an ISoD of .053, he would have a .343 OBP. Just take that in an imagine what he can do with that. The problem? Out of 1190 at-bats, he has gotten to a 3-0 count 11 times, a 3-1 count only 20 times, a 2-0 count only 121 times, a 2-1 count 291 times, a 2-2 count 200 times, and a full count a paltry 88 times.

    Since he has entered into the league, he has posted a .297 OBP in 919 at-bats from the leadoff spot. While he profiles the best as a leadoff hitter, he has a long way to go to actually become a leadoff hitter. Physically, he is penciled in the lineup as one, but he needs to approach the game mentally as leadoff hitter. You don't want him thinking too much and take away his aggressiveness, but there has to be a happy medium. There has to be a better approach for him to attack hitting. He simply has to get deeper into counts and recognize when pitchers throw breaking balls in the dirt, which is his kryptonite. Jose Reyes can become a prolific leadoff hitter. He almost had 50 extra base hits and swiped 60 bases last season. The kid oozes talent, but he needs to ooze a bit more patience. Fouling off pitches is certainly easier said than done and is an art form to a certain extent, but Reyes can do it. For me, that alone will translate into more than enough walks for Reyes to quite his critics and more than enough walks for him to become dominant.

    * * *

  • Highlights from the intersquad game:

    Pitchers who looked good included Alay Soler (perfect frame, two strikeouts — one by curveball, one by slider) and Brian Bannister (one hit, one strikeout).

    Other highlights included Endy Chavez making a nice catch of a Julio Franco drive, and Anderson Hernandez ripping a two-run triple. Among the notables, Carlos Delgado was 2-for-2 with two singles, David Wright was 1-for-2 and Carlos Beltran was 0-for-1 with a sac fly.

    Scheduled to pitch in today's game are Tom Glavine, Mike Pelfrey, Victor Zambrano, Duaner Sanchez, and Lime Time.

  • Some batting order banter:

    Who's No. 2?

    The Mets had an intrasquad contest. While the game may mean little, it was the first chance to pick up clues about the lineup that Willie Randolph insisted were not there.

    He inserted David Wright into the No. 2 spot in the batting order, a spot that could be his, or could belong to Paul Lo Duca or Carlos Beltran -- or even Kaz Matsui, Randolph speculated.

  • Here is a nice fluff piece on Lastings by Steve Popper.

  • The Mets are sending eleven players to the World Baseball Classic.

    Billy Wagner (U.S.); Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Pedro Feliciano and Juan Padilla (Puerto Rico); Duaner Sanchez and Reyes (Dominican Republic); Endy Chavez, Jorge Julio and Victor Zambrano (Venezuela); and Dae-Sung Koo (South Korea).

  • Umm....yeah.

    Ideally, the manager -- who hit second behind Mickey Rivers and Rickey Henderson during some of his 12 seasons as a Yankee -- said that whoever bats second should be patient at the plate, exhibit good bat control, be able to hit from behind in the count and be capable of working out a walk.

    "You know where he is? If you can show me I'd like to have him," said Randolph, who said he'd be satisfied with a second-place hitter who had even a few of those traits. "That package is not always there."

    I can show you two. Carlos Beltran or David Wright. Take your pick.

  • This article has more information than you probably wanted to know about Julio Franco, but it also a nice tidbit on him and Jose.

    After stretching in the training room and riding the exercise bike for 30 minutes — to burn off the extra calories from those last six egg whites, Franco said — he jogged out to Tradition Field to take batting practice. There, he watched José Reyes sock home run after home run beyond the right-field wall, then congratulated him for his power.

    But he also advised Reyes to use his hips more in his swing and reminded him of a wager they had made Monday: For every ball that Reyes pulled, he owed Franco a dollar.

    "He's helped me so much," Reyes said. "I try not to pay him, but it's a little bit of payment for him helping me."

  • Tuesday, February 28, 2006

    Random Stuff

    I have no time today, but there are two articles of note that do not relate to the Mets that I wanted to bring up.

    First, Soriano is just an ass and Gene Orzo may be more of one. (Thanks to DG for the link.)

    "I certainly don't mean to be insensitive to Alfonso Soriano," said Nationals President Tony Tavares, "but he is an employee who is subject to the control of the team's manager, under the terms of the contract he signed."

    The Nationals say they believe the dispute -- which has haunted the team since the Dec. 7 trade that brought Soriano to Washington from the Texas Rangers -- will never reach the point of full-blown confrontation. In a meeting between team officials and Soriano and his agent last Thursday, the sides essentially agreed to put off a decision about how to proceed for almost a month. In the meantime, they have agreed not to discuss the issue publicly.

    "It doesn't help to speculate," said Bob Boone, the Nationals' special assistant to the general manager. "We're trying to build a relationship here. What we don't want here is a T.O. situation." He was referring to Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens, who was suspended indefinitely by the team for "conduct detrimental to the team."

    With one more year left on his contract, he better watch out. Creating bad blood between his new team in him could end up in him sitting the year out or some big chunk of time. With what is going on and the money owed to him, if the Nats cannot exact what they deem proper value of anything making it worth dealing him, they might play hardball and sit him down until he agrees to play left. It's been done before in sports and it could certainly happen again.

    However, Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, argued that the issue is not so finely defined.

    "Theoretically, the club would fine and suspend him," Orza said. "The player would argue that they can't force him to play where he doesn't want to play. . . . Since we're speaking hypothetically, what if they asked [Soriano] to be a pitcher? Could they force him to be a pitcher? It's not as simple as you're making it out to be."

    Ah, the spin machine starts. Yes in theory communism works as well Gene, but we are not talking about him moving onto the mound, which is just dumb. We are talking about putting one of the worst fielding second baseman in a spot that generally goes to guys who fail at all the spots. It could be argued that he should of lost his second base job long ago simply based on performance. Left field the last resort before becoming a DH, so he should be able to handle that. So lets not just start spitting ridiculous stuff out. Soriano was an outfielder in the past, this would hardly kill him. Many, many people much more important to the game than he is and ever will be have made much great sacrifices.

    * * *

    I'm convinced this guy would throw at his own mother.

    Roger Clemens’ son took dad deep on the Rocket’s first pitch of spring training, crushing a trademark fastball over the left-field fence Monday.

    “That was probably one of the harder fastballs I cut loose,” Roger Clemens said after throwing to Koby and other Houston Astros minor-leaguers. “He got my attention.”

    Then the Rocket got Koby’s. The next time his oldest son came to the plate, Roger buzzed him high and tight with another fastball. The younger Clemens dodged the pitch, then smiled at his father.

    I don't see anything wrong with what happened per se, but coming from Clemens, you have to wonder.

    Monday, February 27, 2006

    It's Not My Fault

    Julio blamed his problems on his uncertain role, noting, "For me last year, there was a lot of craziness. Before I was the closer and after, it was 'Where's my job?'"

    Manager Willie Randolph cautioned that Julio won't know his role with the Mets either until he proves himself.

    Well, I tend to disagree here. Jorge is making an silly excuse that I hate to hear players use. If you pitch in relief effectively and have the stones to close, you should be able to pitch any inning. No matter when you called up and this does not include if you are fatigued, you should be able to throw well. Hearing this from him is not especially endearing.

    "For me last year, there was a lot of craziness," Julio said. "Before, I was the closer and after, I was [thinking], 'Where's my job?' Sometimes I'd throw two innings, three innings. I didn't know."

    He really should not be worrying so much about when he is going to pitch as much as how well. He has not been keeping people from crossing the plate very much in the past three seasons and needs to take a bit more of that on his own shoulders instead of blaming management for his ineptitude. After all, the reason he lost his job in the first place was based on not performing. If he was throwing as he was in 2002, he would have never lost his job. Since that 2002 season, he has a .251 BAA, 5.98 ERA, 5-17 record, 1.44 WHIP, and a 4.31 W/9. Not good.

    This was a lot of the same stuff that players complained about under Art Howe. They didn't know where they were batting in the lineup and it somehow affected their game. Sure, batting order matters to a certain extent because you get pitched to in certain differently depending on who is batting you and some other things, but as Bobby Cox says, if you can hit, you should be able to hit anywhere. I hope Julio is not another complaining head case unwilling to accept his own failures and pointing the finger like the stunt Mike DeJean pulled last year.

    * * *

  • Should Rick Down even really have a job at this point?

    Howard Johnson is entering his second year as club's Triple-A hitting coach. Until Minor League camp opens, he works as a hitting instructor for anyone who seeks his counsel. Johnson's resume as a player precedes him, and some veterans do seek him out. Johnson, who has a strong relationship with David Wright, last year suggested two adjustments to Andres Galarraga a week before the veteran first baseman decided to retire. When Galarraga implemented Johnson's advice, he rediscovered his power.

    I just do not understand it. Give HoJo a hot before someone else does. I fully expect to lose Gary Carter and Ken Oberkfell after this year, but maybe the Mets can keep someone out of the growing number of top coaching prospects in their own system for themselves.

  • Willie is always ratcheting up the talking part of his repertoire, but hopefully he ratchets up the managing aspect of things this year and gets the most out of his team. Anything less than a division title and a trip the playoffs this year is an unmitigated disaster and him costing games in 2006 certainly will not help.

  • Wowee. Mets from day #1.

  • Jon Heyman thinks that Anna was the reason Kris was shipped out of town.

  • Also from the above link:

    While the Mets are portraying rightfield as an open competition, club insiders see Xavier Nady as having the edge. They did trade Mike Cameron for him, after all.

    Well that's a nice reason to give the guy the edge.

  • Victor Zambrano impresses in batting practice.

  • Atlanta has probably had a few laughs at the expense of Tom Glavine between how he had pitched against the Braves and how bad the Mets teams he has been on have been, but maybe this year will be a bit of retribution for him. John Smoltz has entered the head game arena and tab the Mets as the team to beat.

  • Pedro Martinez said he had no real ill effects after throwing from halfway up on the pitcher's mound for the first time on Saturday. Martinez was in a chipper mood yesterday as he worked out in the weight room and on the exercise bike.

    "I survived," he said. "That's all you can ask."

  • Making money.

    On a frigid day in New York on Sunday, the Mets sold about 130,000 single-game tickets on the first day they went on sale as those three players from that celebrated late 1980's club — along with Tim Teufel, Mookie Wilson and Keith Hernandez —mingled with fans standing in line at Shea. Through Friday, 1.43 million tickets had been sold.

    It is not unreasonable to expect that 3.5 million fans will pass through the turnstiles this season, said Jeff Wilpon, the Mets' senior executive vice president.

    I have no qualms about paying to watch a quality team, but raising ticket prices again while you have a lower payroll and expect a much larger turnout seems a bit wrong. The Mets were going to make a boatload more money regardless. Do they owe the fans nothing for a few horrendous years? A little good faith maybe was in order and they could have kept the ticket prices the same and said they need to prove themselves first and give something back.

  • Ownens and Bannister impress.

  • John Harper has a great read on Lastings Milledge and what is a hot button issue for the Major Leagues.

    But Milledge stands out because of his appearance as well. An African-American, Milledge wears his hair long, in cornrows that stick out from under his hat and hang on his neck. It's a style that is fashionable in the NBA and the NFL but is rarely seen in Major League Baseball, primarily because African-American players are becoming something of a vanishing breed in this sport.

    As the percentage of foreign players, especially Latin ones, has risen dramatically over the last decade, the percentage of African-Americans has fallen, either because of lack of opportunity in the inner cities, or because kids these days are more drawn to the glamour, speed, and excitement of football and basketball - or both.