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

Friday, September 22, 2006

The New Man Crush In Town

Oliver Perez is an enigma of enigmas. He spent 2004 laying waste to the National League and asserting him as one of the best pitchers in the league. He was the best lefty outside of Randy Johnson and had the second best slider behind the afformentioned big nasty himself. 2005? Not so much. This year, Perez has done much of the same. 40% of his starts in 2006 resulted in less than five innings pitched and he has been very streaky.

With the Mets, he has posted ERAs of 9.00, 21.00, 0.00, 7.20, and 5.06 in each game started for them. Aside from his shut out, he has 9.33 ERA with the Mets. Statically speaking, he has sucked and sucked like a champ. He has a 6.26 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 9.55 H/9, and 4.28 b/9. He has looked like the second coming of Victor Zambrano at times with his ability to dazzle and implode in a matter of seconds and yet we love this guy. Why?

For one, I am caught up in the hype. Very few pitchers in this league can make professionals take silly swings like Oliver Perez's slider can induce. When it is on, it is one of the very best and watching him toss it is swell. As for his fastball, despite not throwing 98 mph anymore, he can still dial it up to 94 when he wants and still works in the low 90's. Hard throwing lefties are hard to come by and Oliver Perez is definitely one. Lastly, the kid has flair. He is emotional on the field and has some quirks that make him an intense and very interesting player.

Oliver Perez is a work in progress. I do not think anyone would argue that point. The guy is still erratic, but suprisingly enough, his bad numbers with the Mets still represent an improvement. His ERA is down however slightly, his WHIP is down by 0.46, his k/9 has increased 3.04, his h/9 are down 1.37, and his b/9 are by 1.99. He still has a ways to go, but the Mets have appeared to tighten up his mechanics and set him down a better path than he was going in Pittsburgh. Is our collective man crush on him warranted? Maybe not, but not many players have generated such a curiousty with the Met fan base as Oliver Perez.

* * *

  • First it was Joe McEwing leaving and now this?

    The Mets' announcement officially ends a 38-year relationship with the Tides.

    "We would have liked to have had a little suspense to it from our end," Tides manager Dave Rosenfield said. "But the Orioles were our No. 1 choice all along."

    Someone might need to talk David Wright in from a ledge at this point.

    It is sad to see, but it really makes sense for the Tides from a logistical standpoint since they are affiliated with the second closest possible franchise to them and most baseball fans down there are in fact Oriole fans. While there might be some Met fans because of the Tides, they were far from the majority I would guess (Jake can maybe correct me on this). Now the Mets are in the PCL and are affiliated with the New Orleans Zephyrs and I for one will be more than happy to make a pilgrimage down there to take in some Zephyr baseball.

  • Pedro's breaking pitches looked downright silly last night, but his fastball was eluding him. He ended up getting touched up in the fifth after four no hit innings, but all signs pointed to Pedro being Pedro and he will be ready to go come playoff time. I think he will be able to dial it up a bit and lock in when the time comes. At this point, pitchers are just working on things they need to prep for the playoffs and it cannot be over looked it was his second start back. If he does not improve more in his third start, then worry.

    "I was real happy with the way everything went," Martinez said. "I was really cautious and smart about the way I handled myself out there. I got a little stiff in my leg [in the fifth inning] so I was really cautious not to do too much. But I think everything was really positive."

    Martinez threw 87 pitches, 52 for strikes, mixing effective off-speed curveballs and change-ups with his less-than-90-mph fastballs. Randolph said before the game that he hoped Martinez would have "a few easy innings" and indeed, Martinez rolled through the first four, not surrendering a hit while striking out five. But there was some mirage effect.

    Martinez was twice helped out by stellar defensive plays -- right fielder Shawn Green made a sliding catch to open the game and center fielder Endy Chavez made a streaking, diving snow-cone catch in the fourth, both on fly balls by hard-luck leadoff man Hanley Ramirez. But Randolph saw more than good luck.

    He looked sharp. The good plays certainly help, but he did have no hits. It's not like he gave up five hits and got those good plays as well. I was very happy about the performance I saw for his second start back.

    The Mets need to carry six starters in the playoffs simply for the reason that there is fragility. I expect Pedro to be ready to go, but in case of emergency, the Mets need to be prepared. You would like to carry as many relievers as possible, but those are the pit falls of having an old rotation.

  • What is the opposite of fucking swell? That's right, not fucking swell and this would qualify as not fucking swell.

    Mets manager Willie Randolph said it was "general soreness" that kept Carlos Beltran out of his third straight game Thursday, but the center fielder revealed after the game he's battling an upper quad strain on his left side. "I did some sprints [Thursday] and for the first couple it wasn't good, but after I got loose, it was better," he said.

  • Tix for $10,000? As bad as it sounds, if the payoff for my World Series tickets was generous, I'd be watching the game on my HDTV. I'd just settle for going to LCS and LDS games and having a nice fatty wad to pad my ass while I do it.

  • How nice is this to read?

    Monday night, the Mets clinched their first division title since 1988, an anticlimactic event that had been coming since around Memorial Day. The Mets are the best team in the National League this year, and at their best, maybe the best team in baseball.

  • I know some of you are not Zito fans, but this guy is the real deal and would be a bonafide ace for the Mets.

    Three friends of Barry Zito told SI.com they believed that the free-agent-to-be pitcher would like to play in either New York or for one of the three Southern California teams. "He's real serious about his acting career," explained one of Zito's friends.

    And yes, he is not Oswalt. He doesn't bring it 95 mph. But that doesn't mean he's not good.

    The recent Post story quoted an unnamed Mets official as saying Zito "is no Oswalt." And it's true Oswalt won 20 games in 2004 and '05 and Zito hasn't done it since 2002. But unlike Oswalt, Zito has a Cy Young award, has never been on the disabled list and has thrown 200 innings six straight years. He's currently 16-9 with a 3.91 ERA. "One had a big arm, and the other is a dominant control pitcher," Boras said. "I guess it's like a Nolan Ryan vs. Greg Maddux debate."

  • I totally missed this in the SI.com article about A-Rod the other day, but Eric pointed this hysterical tidbit out.

    "[Mike] Mussina doesn't get hammered at all," he told SI. "He's making a boatload of money. Giambi's making [$20.4 million], which is fine and dandy, but it seems those guys get a pass. When people write [bad things] about me, I don't know if it's [because] I'm good-looking, I'm biracial, I make the most money, I play on the most popular team ..."

    I'm pretty sure there's a lot more to life than being really, really good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.

    Defend A-Rod on this one Benny.
  • Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Head of the Class

    A few months ago I would have agreed with you that the National League is the red headed stepchild of the Major Leagues. Now? Not so much. When the Red Sox had swept the Mets, they looked like the cream of the crop and possibly the best team in baseball. The June 30th Power Rankings on ESPN that had come out the next day at the White Sox, Tigers, Red Sox, and Yankees ahead of the Mets followed by four more American League teams.

    Since then, Jeff Karstens, Sidney Ponson, Darrell Rasner, and Kris Wilson have made starts for the Yankees, the Tigers have slumped and are holding onto the slimmest of leads, the White Sox are 2nd in the Wild Card, and the AL East has not looked very tough at all while the Mets have kept on trucking. The Mets have a .5 game lead on the Yankees for the best record overall. Yankees fans will point the Yankees record as being more impressive since they do play in a tougher league, but that just might not be the entire truth.

    While the league may still be tougher, the gap might not be as large as many think. Although the ESPN Power Rankings are my least favorite because of their seemingly biased view towards the Mets in the years, the AL and NL are split six to six in the top twelve with only two National League teams in the top eight. I do realize that does not bolster my cause that much since many people do not even read ESPN, but it does mean something.

    My confidence in the Mets was shook when it came to them stacking up the American League, but not anymore. The Yankees offense is the best in the bigs, but the Angels showed everyone that unless you have pitching to go with that offense, it will not mean much. In fact, there is no team in the AL that should scare the Mets anymore now that the Twins are Francisco Liriano-less. Come playoff time, the Mets will trot out three guys that are used to the post season in Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, and Orlando Hernandez. The Mets will have a balanced offensive attack. The Mets will have a solid bullpen with every arm being a capable one. The Mets will have a have a solid bench. The Mets will have a solid manager.....well four out of five ain't bad.

    Really though, this team is good. Good enough to stack up against anyone in the bigs despite what some people might say. The 2006 Mets are legit is fuck.

    * * *

  • How sweet it is.....for Wilpon's pockets that is.

    When Josh Willingham's lazy fly ball dropped into Cliff Floyd's glove in leftfield Monday night, ending the Mets' 18-year division title drought, the ecstatic crowd of 46,729 at Shea Stadium fittingly set an all-time season attendance record. The team has sold 3,087,648 tickets at home this season.

    Fitting indeed. I'm not going to say Wilpon stepped up and spent money in 2006 because the Mets are right around where they usually are, but Fred has stepped it up in bringing in the right guy to do the job in Omar Minaya.

    Through Monday, the Mets have had eight sellouts at Shea and sold more than 50,000 tickets 11 times. Howard said the totals would have been greater if not for bad weather.

    "We had four rainouts," he said. "The advanced sales of each of those four games each was over 45,000. So we lost at least 200,000 tickets that we would have been able to count. ... To have rainouts with that type of advance is probably the only bad luck we've had from a ticket sales standpoint this year."

    In fact, the Yankees (52,344) and Mets (43,488) are first and third, respectively, in average home attendance this season. The Los Angeles Dodgers entered last night's game at Dodger Stadium in second at 46,351.

    "In 2000, it was the first time that the Mets and Yankees combined had gone over 6 million," Howard said. "This year it looks like we'll be over 7 1/2 [million] combined."

  • You cannot please everyone, but at least the MTA is looking at the grand picture here.

  • Reading into it....

    "Joe and I talk periodically," Randolph said, characterizing the conversation as "very natural. I said, 'Hey, I'll call you [with congratulations] in a couple of days.' "

    I still haven't decided yet what I think about the 'Joe and I talk periodically' statement, but it can mean one of two things.

    1) Joe won't return my calls.
    2) I don't talk to that honkey bastard.

  • Tommy has looked sharp lately and it was good to see the Mets and him pull out his 289th win.

    "It was nice for Tommy to get the victory after the way he pitched," Randolph said.

    Better yet, it added to the feeling that the Mets' few remaining worries heading into the postseason are falling away one by one.

    Had Glavine walked out and stunk last night, it wouldn't have been the end of the world - especially not in a start that he admittedly approached as more of a laboratory session to get his entire arsenal of pitches "squared away for the postseason" than he did a must win.

    He seems to have straightened it all out since his little numb finger problem has been resolved.

  • Pedro is playing a bit of cat and mouse.

    Pedro Martinez threw a bullpen session on Monday in preparation for his start tomorrow night and said he felt no ill effects from his start Friday in Pittsburgh. However for the first time, he sounded like he isn't sure what to expect from himself in the postseason.

    Asked about his goals for the remainder of the regular season, he responded "health and confidence." Martinez knows that his comeback from the right calf injury that kept him out for about a month is the biggest concern the Mets have right now.

    Oh, he'll be ready. Does anyone doubt that?

  • Ummm...that's not quite fair. Apparently there are those that think the Padres have a better staff....and it's not even close?

    While Pedro's health should terrify the Mets, Wells is OK?

    "He may be hobbling right now, but David Wells comes up big in October. No one wants to face him in a series."

    Sure thing...and people are excited to face Pedro?

    "And Woody Williams would be the Mets' No. 3 starter."

    Woody has been solid for the Padres, but let's face it. He is not scaring anyone and I'd take El Duque and John Maine over him.

    I will give them Chris Young and Jake Peavy being solid. Peavy has come back alive and Young has been good, though not quite as good as he was mid-season, but better than anything the Mets have?

    San Diego's golden bullpen remains the club's biggest weapon. "It's our backbone," says Young. The late-inning trio of Cla Meredith, Scott Linebrink and Trevor Hoffman is the best in baseball. "It's pretty much game over if they've got a lead going into the seventh or eighth," says an exec.

    I would say the Mets late inning quintuplet is no laughing matter either. Give me the Mets top to bottom over the Padres any day of the week.

  • Cliff has stolen the ball.

    It wasn't a Doug Mientkiewicz moment, but Floyd carried the ball off the field, stuck in his pocket and said, "[Billy] Wagner can have it he wants it, but he'll have to buy me a Rolex or something."

  • John Maine is getting some love from Neyer in his article about who has the better rookie starters between the NL and the AL.

    Another way to look at this: Strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio. With rare exceptions (Chien-Ming Wang, anybody?), a pitcher needs to strike out at least five batters per nine innings to have much of a chance. So let's up that to six per nine, and add a 2-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. We'll call it the 6-and-2 group.

    In the AL, there are five 6-and-2's: Liriano, Boof Bonser, Weaver, James Shields and Verlander (they're ranked in order of harmonic mean, for you stats geeks out there, and you know who you are).

    In the NL, there are eight 6-and-2's: Hamels, John Maine, Nolasco, Olsen, Cain, Taylor Buchholz, Rich Hill and Anthony Reyes. And Johnson and Chuck James just missed this list, as both have K/BB ratios a shade short of 2-1.

    If you do not have ESPN Insider, the NL won.

  • Who doesn't love this?

    "We're all rooting for you and we're behind you 100 percent, but you've got to get the big hit," was his message to A-Rod, Giambi told SI.

    "What do you mean?" was Rodriguez's response, Giambi told SI. "I've had five hits in Boston."

    "You [expletive] call those hits?" Giambi said, according to SI. "You had two [expletive] dinkers to right field and a ball that bounced over the third baseman! Look at how many pitches you missed!

    "When you hit three, four or five [in the order], you have to get the big hits, especially if they're going to walk Bobby [Abreu] and me. I'll help you out until you get going. I'll look to drive in runs when they pitch around me, go after that 3-and-1 pitch that might be a ball. But if they're going to walk Bobby and me, you're going to have to be the guy."

    Where is Stuart Smalley when you need him?

    "The tone I took to Alex is basically being honest with himself. And what I meant by that was, he had a tough series in Boston ... and I like to watch body language, he was making it appear like it was OK," Torre said.

    This guy is a class-A headcase.

  • From ESPN Insider:

    No Apple picking?
    Sep 17 - When Barry Zito strikes it rich on the free agent market next season, it reportedly won't be in New York.

    Multiple officials from both the Yankees and Mets told the New York Post that both clubs have no interest in signing the lefty ace this off-season.

    The Mets made a run at the Astros' Roy Oswalt at the trading deadline, but stayed away from Zito. And both clubs don't consider Zito a No. 1 starter.

    "Zito is no Oswalt," a Mets official told The Post.

    No, he is no Oswalt, but he still is one of the best.
  • Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    Eighteen Years In the Making

    We all knew it was just a matter of time before the Mets would clinch their division. It was inevitable that they would wrap it up pretty easily and cruise to their first divisional crown since 1988. However, what I didn't expect his how fucking swell it would feel. Everyone knew it was coming, but you just couldn't kick the dog this morning. This morning you refrained from giving the guy who cut you off the finger and waved hello instead this morning. You just had to help your mugger mug someone else so he could have a really good day.

    The Mets are the NL East Champions and they have an 11.5 lead over the Cardinals for homefield advantage. Could life get any better in Queens? I'm almost disappointed we will not be treated to exciting baseball down the stretch, but there will be plenty of time in the playoffs for that. Right now, Pedro just needs to get in shape so he can reclaim his #2 starter status behind the incomparable Steve Trachsel, who is the clear ace of the staff after last night's tremendous pitching effort.

    Some of my favorite pics from last night...

    No caption necessary.

    Wright smoking a stoagie.

    I think I can see his nipples.

    Jeez guys, get a fucking room and for god's sake, use protection.

    * * *

  • Here is the last out call by Howie Rose and a clip from just about everyone in the Met organization. My favorite one is Willie professing his love for Lastings on Milledge's interview.

  • Paul LoDuca dropped the f-bomb in during last night's celebration and it was fantastic....not as fantastic as Julie Donaldson getting drench in sweet tasty beer, but fantastic nonetheless.

  • Alfonso Soriano was hesitant to become a left fielder, but it has worked out great for him and has dramatically increased his value.

    After watching Soriano make several athletic plays against his team, one National League general manager says he now envisions Soriano becoming above-average in left.

    The Cubs view Soriano as an option in center. The Orioles envision him hitting 50 homers at Camden Yards. The Giants could sign him as an immediate or future replacement for Barry Bonds.

  • Scott Kazmir has been shut down for the season.

    Kazmir made 41 throws Monday in his first session of playing catch in 10 days.

    "He felt so good that he felt that he doesn't have to pitch to prove to himself he's going to be fine next spring," Maddon said.

    Kazmir hadn't thrown a ball since Sept. 8 when the All-Star left-hander felt discomfort in his ailing left shoulder. He stopped that session after nine throws.

    "Everything felt perfect," Kazmir said Monday. "I didn't feel one thing. Take a day off, play catch again and see how it feels."

    He should be back in action and in CY Young contention in 2007.

  • Michael (me) is to swell guy as Maurice Clarett is to dumb asshole. The next two guys are ones that we remember pretty well too, but the king of all goes to Mike Danton.

    The former NHL player is serving a 7 1/2-year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. He tried to hire a hit man to kill his agent.

    Is that really surprising?
  • Monday, September 18, 2006

    Back In Action

    I'm back in Jersey after an amazing week in Peru. I left last Friday at 8:50 on a red eye to Lima (we had a stop over in Miami until about 2:00 AM) and took another red eye back home that left Lima Saturday at 11:50 PM. There is no mistake that Peru has it's share of problems. 30,000 Peruvians were killed by terrorism that was very much alive in the 90's, they have a tremendous problem with poverty, and their government is not exactly running the tightest ship (yes, I know not many are) amongst other things, but Peru is filled with very good natured and amazing people. The main reason I went out there was to go to Machu Picchu. What I didn't realize is what simply amazing cities were out there and the people that were in them. From Cusco to Aguas Caliente to Ollantaytambo to Pisca, every place had it's own flavor and was special.

    We first spent a few nights in Cusco, which could be my most favorite city I've been to out of anywhere. Our first hotel was Casa Del Campo in the San Blas section of Cusco. I was traveling with my brother and my friend and we got triples in every place we went. Casa Del Campo cost $65 per night divided by three people. Nuts...just nuts. Despite them stealing my hat, it was actually a very nice place. The first day we got there, we just got used to the city and explored it. On it on Sunday, we went off to Pisca where they hold a huge market a few times a week. The market sells all trinkets and gifts for tourists as well as food and goods for locals. Truly an amazing place as the city is nestled between mountains in the shadow of the ruins at Pisca.

    The following day, we took a Taxi to Ollantaytambo and hung around there for a few hours waiting for the train to Aguas Caliente, which is the home base for everyone heading to Machu Picchu. After walking around the Plaza de Armas for a bit we were drinking some Cusqueñas at this hostal/restaurant by the train station. A family ran the place and they were great, but the crazy thing is that the place was 15 Soles per night per person which is the equivalent of $4.60. After a few beers, we headed off to Aguas Caliente.

    In Aguas Caliente, we stayed at the famous Gringo Bill's Hostal for the bargain price of $55 per night with a great room overlooking the Plaza. We woke up at about 4:00 AM the following day to walk from Aguas up to Machu Picchu so we can fell like we 'earned' it. We had to walk through complete darkness with only a headlamp down train tracks, through two tunnels, and through some jungle going up a lot of stairs. It was absolutely crazy and I resented every lazy bastard who took the bus up to the top. Next time though? I'm definitely taking the bus. Needless to say, Machu Picchu was indescribable.

    After Machu Picchu and one more night at Gringo Bill's, we headed back to Cusco and took some crazy bike ride that almost killed me. We started off in Chinchero, rode to the ruins at Moray, and ended up in the Salinas de Maras. The last leg was nine kilometers and was the easiest leg of the trip. I'm afraid to even guess how long the trip actually was. While the trek to Moray was murderous, it came together in Maras where we had to repair a bike tire. We got to give a few local kids some candy, fruit, and whatever else we had to give and played some soccer with the sweetest little girl. She was a nine year old name Clarissa that had a cow, a burro, some chickens, a dog, and duck living basically in her house. After we got the bike fixed, we had a nice downhill ride on some awesome terrain and some switchbacks that ended at the Salinas de Maras which is a place where salt is farmed out in little pools from natural streams with a ridiculously high salt content.

    I must have said fuck about 4,000 times during the bike trip and I was not too interested putting myself through much more during our last full day. I was close to calling it a vacation and just hanging out in the city, but we decided to go rafting through Mayuc. The trip goes down the Urubamba River for about 2 1/2 hours and goes through some decent rapids. At the end of the trip, you hang out at their home base on the river and just relax with some amazing views of Peru.

    As much as an attraction Machu Picchu and the other ruins are in the Sacred Valley of the Inca, Cusco is just as much of a reason to head down there. Overall, the trip to Peru was amazing. We just booked for the first two nights and found our way the rest of the week. I wouldn't recommend that in the high season, but it worked out great for us. If you are thinking about heading down there and want some tips on where to stay, where to eat, or what to do, let me know.

    Here are some pics...there were about a 1,000 overall between everyone, so picking out a few was tough.

    First beer in Lima waiting for a flight to Cusco...me in the back catching flies.

    Insane mountains on the way to Cusco...

    Our first hotel in Cusco at night...

    They like to eat guinea pigs...

    The Pisca market...

    ...one more...

    Me walking around Ollantaytambo. The ruins here are amazing too, but you get no pics from them because I couldn't find a pic that did them justice.

    I generally don't like cats, but while drinking beers in Ollantaytumbo, this cat made it really hard to not like it...

    Walking through the jungle to Machu Picchu...

    Waiting for the morning fog to clear...

    Cliché picture for every tourist that comes here...

    Alpacas and llamas are all over the place....atop Machu Picchu is no different...

    ...one more...

    There were tons of pictures from Machu Picchu and the place was just crazy. Not much else I can say and it is hard to actually explain how amazing it is....moving on...

    The bike trip from hell started off bad, but ended up pretty good. Me and Clarissa playing soccer...she could connect...don't let her fool you...

    The Salinas de Maras were just nuts....the pictures don't even come close to conveying how nuts they are...

    The rafting trip was great, but this dog at the home base made me miss my little girl way too much...

    The last night in Cusco was filled with debauchery. I really cannot explain how it came to this, but this is a picture of me, two random people watching with much joy, and me about to get kicked in the cojones by a Peruvian. I guess the real question is did she land it?

    Q&A from last week's comments:

    scott said...

    see ya Mike. Have a great time and let us know what the best burger joint is down there.

    The best burger joint would probably be Los Perros who serves what I would guess is the biggest burger in the country. While some of Peru may have delightful cuisine, it is hit or miss in the areas around the Sacred Valley of the Inca (see above menu item). I did find that in Cusco the best food places where the ones owned by people not actually from Peru. Jack's Cafe is one of those places and Los Perros is another. Los Perros is a nice bar/restaurant owned by an Australian and Peruvian couple with a menu reminiscent of any trending NY eatery. Also true to their name, there are usually dogs walking around in the joint.