Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Mets Pitching Staff Is Good For Nothing

Yes, you did read the title correctly. Over the past week, Mets pitchers have indeed been good for nothing, meaning they've been good enough to hold the opposition to practically nothing on the scoreboard.

Pitching was not supposed to be the strong point of the 2010 Mets. After all, the Mets' starting rotation was supposed to be made up of Johan Santana and The Four Rainouts.

Mike Pelfrey had come off a baffling season. Although he stayed healthy (unlike his fellow starters), his ERA was over 5.00 and he never showed the consistency of his breakout 2008 season.

Oliver Perez and John Maine were injured for much of the year, but when they were on the mound, some fans were wishing that they were still on the disabled list. Maine could never keep his pitch count low and Perez lost his GPS device, preventing him from finding the plate.

As for Johan Santana, he was also injured and did not pitch in September after a subpar (for him) second half. From his first June start until his final start on August 20, Santana went 6-7 with an uncharacteristic 4.02 ERA.

The Mets tried (at least we think they did) to sign free agent starters to improve the rotation, but came home empty-handed. The same top four from 2009 would reprise their roles in the rotation in 2010 and Mets fans were not very pleased about it. A 4-8 start to the 2010 season did nothing to change their feelings about the state of the franchise.

Then something clicked in Colorado. First, Mike Pelfrey threw seven shutout innings in a victory against the Rockies. This was followed by outstanding starts by Oliver Perez, Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese and Pelfrey again. These starts were sandwiched around John Maine's Sunday night outing against the Cardinals in which he gave up three runs in five innings, but this still represented his best start of the young season.

It wasn't just the starting pitchers that were "good for nothing". The bullpen were matching the zeroes posted by the starters. The best example of this was during Saturday's 20-inning marathon in St. Louis, where the bullpen held the Cardinals scoreless from the eighth inning through the 18th inning, stranding baserunners left and right.

Coming into tonight's game, the Mets starters and relievers had held the opposition scoreless in 58 of the last 63 innings. The team's record in the six games played over those 63 innings is 4-2. That's not a coincidence.

Good pitching can always carry a team when the offense is down. For example, the 2009 Mets were near the bottom of the National League in runs scored with 671. However, the 1969 World Champion Mets had an offense that was even more anemic. The '69 team only scored 632 runs. The difference between the two teams was in the pitching.

The 2009 Mets' ERA was 4.45. The 1969 Miracle Mets finished the season with an Amazin' 2.99 ERA. The '69 Mets were never going to outslug their opponents, but they always gave you the impression that all they needed was one run and the pitchers would take it from there.

The 2010 Mets have also not been outslugging their opponents, but this current stretch of sizzling starts has them playing their best baseball of the still-young season. Eventually, the offense should heat up and when it does, it will take some of the pressure off the pitchers to throw shutouts every time they go out to the mound.

While we wait for that to happen, it's good to know that the staff is clicking on all cylinders. So you see, sometimes being good for nothing isn't really as bad as it seems.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pelfrey And Davis Could Make A Sweet Promotion

The Mets took the first game of their four-game series against the Chicago Cubs tonight by the score of 6-1. Ike Davis performed well in his major league debut, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. Tomorrow, the Mets' team leader in wins AND saves, Mike Pelfrey, will take the mound. Davis is expected to play first base again.

Here's a quick note to the Mets Promotions Department. Instead of giving away ski caps in late April as you're doing this Friday night, why not take advantage of the opportunity to promote one of your top starting pitchers and your promising rookie at the same time?

Everyone likes giveaways. Many people like candy. No one remembers Mike and Ike candy. Whenever Mike Pelfrey pitches and Ike Davis plays first, the Mets should give away Mike and Ike candy to the first 25,000 fans.

It wouldn't be a very expensive giveaway, so the team could still afford to buy excuses instead of free agents this coming offseason. Kids of all ages would love the sweet candies and the Just Born candy company (makers of Mike and Ike) would get more exposure than they would ever get on their own. Everybody wins (even dentists would win from the extra money they'd make from parents bringing in their kids for all the cavities they're going to need filled.)

Mike Pelfrey and Ike Davis. Mike and Ike candy. The Mets should jump all over this one like fans are jumping all over Gary Matthews Jr. Speaking of Private Matthews (who's this close to "earning" an honorable discharge from the Mets Militia), perhaps the Mets can have a giveaway honoring the Sarge's Son. It would also be sponsored by a candy company. Anyone remember Garbage Pail Kids?

Don't forget to support the Mets during this long homestand. This will be a key stretch of games for the team and they'll need Mike Pelfrey and Ike Davis to continue to play well and for Gary Matthews, Jr. to stay on the bench. Forever.

Stay sweet, my friends.

Ike-aramba! Mets Promote Davis To The Big Show

When Daniel Murphy was injured in Spring Training, the Mets could have turned to top first base prospect Ike Davis to replace him. After all, Davis was hitting an eye-popping .480 with 3 HR and 10 RBI in Grapefruit League action.

Instead, the Mets sent the 23-year-old Davis to Buffalo and decided to go with the platoon of Mike Jacobs and Fernando Tatis. After all, Ike had never played a professional game above the AA level and the Mets' front office believed he could use some extra minor-league seasoning.

Then the Mets got off to a rocky start, going 4-8 over their first 12 games and bringing up the rear in the National League East. The team was hitting a miserable .224 over those twelve games and had produced only nine home runs and a league-low 15 doubles.

The Jacobs/Tatis platoon contributed greatly to the early-season swoon. In 24 at-bats, Fernando Tatis had produced a mere four hits (.167 average), with only one double, no homers and three runs batted in. Mike Jacobs was not much better, as his 24 at-bats yielded five hits (.208 average), with one double, one homer and two RBI.

At the same time, Ike Davis was off to a torrid start at AAA-Buffalo. In 10 games for the Bisons, Davis was hitting .364 with three doubles, two homers and four RBI. He had also drawn nine walks while striking out only five times. His .500 on-base percentage was tied for first in the International League.

Dead Manuel Walking and the Mets' front office knew that a change had to made at first base if they were going to turn things around offensively. Step one was to designate Mike Jacobs for assignment. Step two happened tonight, as the Mets promoted Ike Davis to the major leagues.

With Davis, the Mets may have their first baseman of the future. Davis' father and the SNY crew have compared him to John Olerud, the man who anchored the infield that was arguably the greatest defensive infield ever assembled. Olerud was also a steady hitter, averaging 36 doubles, 21 HR, 97 RBI and a .315 batting average (including the Mets' all-time single season high of .354 in 1998) over his three years with the Mets.

In 677 at-bats in the minors (roughly the equivalent of one full major league season), Davis hit .288, with 49 doubles, 22 HR and 92 RBI. Therefore, the comparisons to the sweet-swinging Olerud are right on target.

The team has already stated that Davis is here to play every day. If he continues to perform at the major league level similarly to the way he was performing in the minors, Davis might be here to stay. He is not expected to be the savior of the franchise, but he is expected to be an improvement over Tatis, Jacobs and perhaps even Murphy.

Welcome to the Big Show, Ike Davis. Now it's up to you to prove to the fans and upper management that you belong here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

...And Then There Were Three

On Saturday night, Ubaldo Jimenez pitched the first no-hitter in Colorado Rockies history. His 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves left only three teams in the major leagues without a no-hitter. There are the Tampa Bay Rays, who have only been in the league since 1998 and the San Diego Padres, who have also never hit for the cycle since making their debut in 1969.

The third team without a no-hitter is the New York Mets. Although the Mets have 33 one-hitters to their credit, no pitcher has kept an opponent hitless while wearing the orange and blue.

Numerous pitchers have worn the Mets pinstripes and then pitched a no-hitter after leaving the team, such as Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and some Texan with the first name of Lynn. Perhaps you've heard of him. He was also known for his ability to give noogies at a moment's notice.

Someday, a Met moundsman will pitch a no-hitter before he leaves the team. Until then, Mets fans will just have to settle for 20-inning victories where they couldn't figure out how to score until the position players started taking the mound.

Maybe they should just start a position player and he'll get the Mets their first no-hitter. Stranger things have happened and they usually involve the Mets in some way. After all, the Mets could have had Ubaldo Jimenez and weren't able to sign him back in 2000. Then again, if they had, there's no way he would have thrown Saturday night's no-hitter, right?

Don't get your hopes up, Padres and Rays fans. The Mets will get their first no-hitter before you do. The man who will do it has probably not been born yet, but it will happen. Count on it!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Long And Short Of It

Most people who read Studious Metsimus know that our blogs are usually long and have plenty of pretty pictures that help tell the story. After watching 20 innings of baseball (the first such game the Mets have actually won in franchise history), I'm too tired to include pictures or more than one paragraph, but I will say that today/tonight's game was the most bizarre game I have seen in my thirty seasons as a Mets fan. Jerry Manuel actually outmanaged Tony La Russa and Big Pelf is now leading the Mets in wins AND saves. Will anyone be awake for Sunday night's game? All I know is this. Tomorrow night's game will probably be uneventful compared to this. Good night, Mets fans. You've earned your rest after watching this game!

...And Out Come The Wolves

In the classic "Who's On First" comedy routine, made famous in the 1945 film "The Naughty Nineties", Bud Abbott (in the uniform of the fictional St. Louis Wolves) confused Lou Costello with the names of the Wolves' players. Even with knowledge of said players' names, Costello still did not know who was on first, what was on second, etc.

Now let's fast forward to the 21st century. Sixty-five years after the Wolves from St. Louis became household names, some new wolves have descended upon St. Louis to feast on Mets' manager Jerry Manuel.

The wolves in question are Mets bloggers and the reason for their ire is Jerry Manuel's decision-making ability (or lack thereof).

Last night, the Mets held a slim 1-0 lead over St. Louis (the Cardinals, not the Wolves) going to the bottom of the seventh inning. Oliver Perez had pitched beautifully, holding the Cardinals to three hits and three walks over six scoreless innings. After David Freese reached first on an infield single, centerfielder Joe Mather sacrificed Freese successfully to second. The bunt came on Ollie's 97th pitch and brought up pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker, who was batting for shortstop (and eighth-place hitter) Brendan Ryan.

Out popped Jerry Manuel from his hot seat in the dugout. Was he coming out to talk strategy with Ollie? No! He came out to take Ollie out of the game!

Did he fear that Schumaker would take Ollie deep? Hopefully not, as Schumaker had hit 15 HR and driven in only 103 runs in 1,358 career at-bats. (By comparison, Cubs' pitcher Carlos Zambrano has hit 20 career HR in 563 at-bats coming into this season.)

Apparently, Manuel was too busy looking over his shoulder to notice that Oliver Perez had been dominating the best hitter in baseball all game. In three at-bats against Ollie, Albert Pujols grounded into a double play in the first, grounded out weakly in the third, and struck out on only three pitches in the sixth. If Pujols was having trouble hitting Ollie, did Manuel really think a man literally half Pujols' size (see photo below) would fare better?

Let's just say Manuel took Ollie out because he thought 97 pitches was enough. Even so, why did he bring in Fernando Nieve to face the diminutive Schumaker? Had he not checked to see that Nieve had NEVER retired Schumaker before? Prior to last night, Nieve had faced the Mighty Mite three times and had given up a single and two walks to Schumaker. Sure enough, Schumaker's on-base percentage against Nieve remained at 1.000 when Fernando hit Schumaker on an 0-2 pitch.

The next batter was pinch-hitter Matt Holliday, the second-best hitter on the Cardinals after Pujols. Again, Nieve had an 0-2 count on the hitter, but lost Holliday by throwing four consecutive balls to load up the bases.

For the second time in the inning, Dead Manuel Walking (remind me to trademark that name) vacated his hot seat, this time to remove the ineffective Nieve and replace him with the inexperienced Raul Valdes. Ordinarily, this would have been an ideal situation for Pedro Feliciano to come into the game. However, Feliciano was unavailable to pitch due to a big-@$$ stomach bug that caused him to use an IV during the game.

So instead, Valdes, whose major league résumé consisted of five innings pitched (or 1.1 innings less than Ollie had pitched earlier in the game) was brought in to face Felipe Lopez. The appearance was Valdes' fourth appearance in the last five games. In his previous three appearances, he had thrown a whopping 83 pitches, but DMW brought him in anyway when he could have brought in fellow lefty Hisanori Takahashi, who had only pitched once in the Mets' last six games.

Four pitches later, a few more coals were added to DMW's hot seat as Felipe Lopez hit a grand slam off Valdes. The long drive to left provided all the scoring the Cardinals would need in the 4-3 victory over the Mets.

Bloggers such as The Coop from My Summer Family and Vegas Rich from Mets Merized Online are both calling for the Marie Antoinette treatment on Jerry Manuel, even if Manuel himself claims not to hear the venomous voices of the Mets bloggers (see photo, right).

After seeing last night's managerial effort (if you can call it that), I think I might be jumping on that bandwagon.

Too many times in the past has a manager lost his job due to the poor play of his players. After all, it's easier to fire the manager than it is to fire 25 players. However, over the years, Dead Manuel Walking has made numerous questionable managerial decisions, especially when it comes to taking out pitchers. Last night's removal of Oliver Perez and subsequent use of Fernando Nieve and Raul Valdes was the latest lesson in Head Scratching 101.

Nieve was called upon to face a batter who had reached base against him every time he had faced him. Why not bring in Ryota Igarashi in that spot, a pitcher Schumaker had no history against?

Valdes was being overused over the past five games. He had appeared in all but one game this week and was not economizing his pitches in each effort (averaging nearly 28 pitches per appearance). Why not bring in the seldom-used Hisanori Takashi in that spot, especially with fellow lefty Pedro Feliciano unavailable due to illness?

Abbott and Costello brought out the Wolves in St. Louis and left their fans howling with laughter. A different type of wolf is bearing down on Jerry Manuel in St. Louis. Unfortunately, Mets fans and bloggers are finding nothing funny about it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We Believe In Comebacks, But Not Winning

The Mets are off to their worst start in 18 years. Not since 1992 have they begun the season with a 2-6 record. The team is in last place, five games behind the Phillies. The team's slogan for 2010, "We Believe In Comebacks", was supposed to be for the team coming back into contention after a miserable 2009 season.

Apparently, the team didn't read the fine print when they were informed of the new slogan. So far, the Mets have been able to come back from late-inning deficits, but have not finished the job.

Last Wednesday against the Marlins, the Mets erased a five-run seventh-inning deficit, turning a 6-1 deficit into a 6-6 game that went into extra innings. Unfortunately, Hisanori Takahashi gave up the go-ahead run in the tenth inning and the Mets fell to the Marlins by the final score of 7-6.

On Saturday, the Mets entered the ninth inning against Nationals' closer Matt Capps trailing by one run. Capps was not particularly effective, giving up a line drive single to Jose Reyes, followed by two walks. The Mets appeared poised to complete the comeback when Rod Barajas lined a frozen rope to left field. Of course, that's Willie Harris territory, meaning that the catch was made and the comeback was thwarted.

Now we get to last night's game. The Mets were already in last place and needed a victory to get back on track. They were trailing 5-3 going to the eighth inning, but scored a run in each of the last two frames to send the game into extra innings. Could the Mets finally complete a comeback, pulling out a much-needed victory at Coors Field?

I'll let the following set of pictures paint the picture of what happened on the fourth pitch from Jenrry Mejia to Rockies' catcher Chris Iannetta.

For the third time this year, the Mets appeared poised to come back from a deficit, snaring a victory from the jaws of defeat. Instead, all they snared was another heartbreaking loss. Had they completed each comeback, their record would be a much more attractive 5-3 instead of the dreadful 2-6 that's staring back at us from the newspaper.

The Mets do believe in coming back. They've shown the ability to fight back from an early deficit on three occasions this year. However, if they want to remain relevant in the NL East race and not continue to be the laughing stock of baseball, they must add "We Believe In Winning" to the equation.

If the Mets don't learn how to pull out these tight ballgames soon, not only will their 2010 slogan seem silly, but the fans will stop believing in coming Citi Field, that is.

The Worst Team Money Could Buy: The Sequel

Back in 1992, the Mets added four new faces to the team in the hopes that they could recapture the glory days of the recently concluded 1980s. In new manager Jeff Torborg, first baseman Eddie Murray, outfielder Bobby Bonilla and pitcher Bret Saberhagen, the Mets thought they could knock off the two-time NL East champion Pittsburgh Pirates from their perch atop the division.

Not only did they not dethrone the Pirates, they completely fell apart, finishing the 1992 season with a 72-90 record. That was good for a fifth place finish in the NL East, 24 games behind the three-peating Bucs.

The 1992 Mets employed many high-priced players and fading veterans. They also had quite a bit of turmoil in the clubhouse. That combination of poor play and off-the-field distractions served as the impetus for the book by Bob Klapisch and John Harper called "The Worst Team Money Could Buy: The Collapse of The New York Mets".

So why is this relevant now in 2010? Because the last Mets team to begin their season with a 2-6 record was the 1992 Mets. That start has now been duplicated by the 2010 Mets.

Jeff Torborg was never the right man for the job in 1992. The 1992 Mets had to deal with injuries and players bouncing in and out of the lineup. Only Eddie Murray, Bobby Bonilla and Dick Schofield (yes, he was actually the Mets' shortstop that year, forming a double play combo with Willie Randolph!) collected over 400 at-bats in 1992. Sound familiar?

Now we're in 2010. Jerry Manuel's leadership skills are being questioned and the Mets are playing musical chairs with their lineup on a daily basis. There appears to be no continuity from game to game and the Mets have not established anything other than their position in last place.

The team appears lost and is allowing pitchers like Greg Smith and Tyler Clippard to do their best Cy Young impersonations against the high-priced bats the Mets send up to the plate day in and day out.

Although the "it's still early" mantra can still be used, the Mets are showing no sign of wanting to get out of their early season funk. There is no fire burning in the eyes of the players and they're running out of excuses. They can't use the "when we get healthy" excuse because the Phillies have Joe Blanton, J.C. Romero, Brad Lidge and now Jimmy Rollins all on the disabled list, yet they're still sitting pretty atop the division with a 7-1 record.

The Mets are only eight games into the 2010 season and they're already five games behind the first place Phillies. I don't want to give up on the season so early, but the Mets have not shown me anything that could give me even a sliver of hope that they're going to turn this sinking ship around. To borrow the team slogan, I'd like to believe the team will come back this year, but for now, it's beginning to look a lot like 1992. The 2010 Mets are probably not the worst team money could buy, but they sure aren't doing much to play like the best.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jimmy Rollins Sticks Foot In Mouth And Injures It

No, the title of this blog is not meant to be taken literally. But Jimmy Rollins is indeed injured. The Phillies have placed their All-Star Big Mouth and leader of the Lollipop Guild on the 15-day disabled list with a strained calf.

Did he suffer it while running the bases? No. Did he get hurt while being taken out at second base during a double play attempt? Nyet. Pay close attention.

Jimmy Rollins got hurt while warming up before Monday's home opener.

That's right. While doing routine warmups that he's done thousands of times before, he gave his calf a boo boo that will now take two to four weeks to heal.

There are two things worth noting about this news. First, Rollins becomes the latest Phillie to be placed on the disabled list, sharing a suite at the DL Hotel with pitchers J.C. Romero, Brad Lidge and Joe Blanton. If you recall, prior to the season, the Phillies were picked by Sports Illustrated to win the World Series in 2010.

That same periodical picked the Mets to win the 2009 World Series. Then every Met player and their mothers got hurt and the team fell off the map, landing somewhere near Albuquerque and the Washington Nationals in the standings. Can history be repeating itself with the Phillies this year?

Second, Wilson Valdez was called up by the Phillies to replace Rollins on the roster. When last spotted in the major leagues, Valdez was photographed by yours truly in the Mets dugout (see photo below).

That makes yet another Mets castoff who has hooked up with the Phillies, following Pedro Martinez last year, Brian Schneider during the offseason and Nelson Phigueroa last week. Weren't Tug McGraw and the legendary Rico Brogna enough?

What's next? Will Shane Victorino get hurt leading to the acquisition of Jeremy Reed? Will Chase Utley and his greasy scalp go on the DL only to be replaced by Ruben Gotay?

Ever since Roger McDowell and Lenny Dykstra were traded to the Phillies on Father's Day 1989 for the Soul Glo spokesman, Juan Samuel, I have hated the Philadelphia Phillies. Although I would never root for anyone to get injured (except for the Cryin' Hawaiian, Shane Victorino), I cannot feel sorry for Jimmy Rollins or any of the other injured Phillies.

Watch out, Phillies. Karma can be a bee-yotch.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The "K" In K-Rod Stands For Kick-Ass

After today's 5-2 loss to the Washington Nationals, I was going to write a blog about Johan Santana temporarily giving up his lead role in Johan Santana and The Four Rainouts to become an honorary Rainout.

Then my thoughts turned to writing about Josh Willingham one-upping Willy Taveras by driving in all five Washington runs one day after Taveras drove in all four runs scored by the Nationals in yesterday's 4-3 loss.

Instead, this is going to be a positive blog. I know it's hard to say anything positive about the Mets after completing a 2-4 homestand against the Marlins and Nationals, especially when they needed as many victories as possible heading into a tough road trip in Colorado and St. Louis against two of last season's National League playoff teams.

But something interesting happened in the ninth inning when Francisco Rodriguez faced Willie Harris. Harris came into the game in the eighth inning as part of a double switch for starting leftfielder Josh Willingham. With one out and no one on base in the ninth inning, Harris came up to bat. After a called first strike, the next pitch hit Willie Harris. Both benches emptied when K-Rod and Harris exchanged words near first base.


Willie Harris has been a defensive thorn in the Mets side. On Saturday, for the third time in four seasons, a spectacular defensive play by Harris cost the Mets a potential victory when he robbed Rod Barajas of a potential game-winning hit with the bases loaded and two outs.

Although K-Rod will never admit it for fear of a suspension, today's incident was more than likely a message sent to Harris that the Mets were not too pleased with his continued game-changing catches.

I'm glad Frankie didn't watch the Shawn Estes Instructional Video on how to hit batters (available on Betamax only). By giving Willie Harris a figurative kick in the @$$, perhaps the Nationals' outfielder will be a tad slower the next a Met hits a ball that he has to race for to catch. At the very least, Rodriguez showed that the Mets were fed up with the bad karma surrounding them and took it upon himself to take action.

Maybe this will fire up the Mets on their upcoming road trip. Maybe it'll make Willie Harris remember that his last name isn't Mays when he takes the field against the Mets. Whatever the case, it's about time that someone took the initiative to send a message to the Nationals that they were done with being beat up by a team that's supposedly inferior to them.

K-Rod, I tip my blue Mets cap to you. You have just become one of my favorite Mets. Let's hope other players take your lead and get fired up so that the team can kick the @$$e$ of the rest of the National League.

No Wonder Tyler Clippard Is A Met Killer

Tyler Clippard made his major league debut against the Mets on May 20, 2007 at Shea Stadium. The bastard child of Ron Howard and Sloth from "The Goonies" started the finale of the Subway Series, a series the Mets were attempting to sweep. The sweep did not happen, as Clippard pitched six tremendous innings, holding the Mets to just three hits and striking out six batters.

After making six appearances (all starts) for the Yankees in 2007, Clippard was traded to the Washington Nationals for the man whose name I love to yodel, Jonathan Albaladejo.

Sloth Howard made two uneventful starts for the Nationals in 2008 before Washington converted him into a reliever in 2009, a position in which he has flourished. Since his transition to the bullpen, he has pitched in 44 games and has a 2.43 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in those games. He has also struck out 75 batters in 66.2 innings and held opponents to a .188 batting average (39 hits in 227 at-bats).

Yes, he has been good, but he has been exceptionally good against the Mets. In yesterday's game, he faced 10 batters and struck out seven of them. The seventh inning was Clippard's most impressive inning. He struck out the heart of the Mets order (David Wright, Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur) on only 12 pitches. All three batters struck out swinging.

Is it steroids? No. Despite the fact that Clippard's balls are clearly enlarged (see photo, right), his body takes after Ron Howard's side of the family, not Sloth's side.

Is it the pitching coach? Please! The Nationals' pitching coach is Steve McCatty. He was a .500 pitcher when he played for the Oakland Athletics from 1977-1985 (63-63 career record).

McCatty was known for two things. He's known for his miracle 1981 season, when he went 14-7 with a 2.33 ERA and finished second in the Cy Young Award balloting. He's also known for the fact that he couldn't strike anyone out. McCatty struck out only 541 batters over a career that spanned 1188.1 innings. He rarely even got to two strikes on any batter. He had no problems getting to four balls, as he walked 520 batters. This is the man we're supposed to believe turned Tyler Clippard into the über-pitcher he has become? No.

The reason why Tyler Clippard has become the Met killer whose large balls strike fear into the bats of the orange and blue is simple. He studied at the academy with the quiet name, PSSST, which stands for Pitching School of Smiley, Smith and Tomlin. That's right, Mets fans. I'm talking about former Pirate pitchers and Met killers John Smiley, Zane Smith and Randy Tomlin.

The fearsome threesome was contacted by Tyler Clippard to help him strike fear into the hearts of the Mets. As any long-time Mets fan would know, John Smiley, Zane Smith and Randy Tomlin were three lefties all called upon by then-Pirates manager Jim Leyland to shut down the Mets offense. And shut them down, they did!

Here are the stats compiled by the founders of the PSSST Academy over their careers, followed by what they did against the New York Mets:

  • John Smiley (career): 126-110 record (.550 winning pct.), 3.80 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
  • John Smiley (vs. Mets): 14-10 record (.583 winning pct.), 3.11 ERA, 0.99 WHIP

  • Zane Smith (career): 100-115 record (.465 winning pct.), 3.74 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
  • Zane Smith (vs. Mets): 10-9 record (.526 winning pct.), 2.26 ERA, 1.10 WHIP

  • Randy Tomlin (career): 30-31 record (.492 winning pct.), 3.43 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
  • Randy Tomlin (vs. Mets): 9-0 record (1.000 winning pct.), 2.05 ERA, 0.95 WHIP

As you can see, the Mets appeared to be the one team that kept these guys in the major leagues. They were merely pedestrian against all other teams, but turned into Juan Marichal (who won his first 19 decisions against the Mets) whenever the Mets stepped into the batters box.

Apparently, the motto of PSSST (Beat the Mets, beat the Mets, step right up and defeat the Mets) was ingrained so well into Clippard's psyche that he decided to extend it to apply to other major league teams. He not only beats the Mets now, he handles every other team as well.

It is for this reason that PSSST kicked him out of their academy. They were upset that Clippard did not ONLY defeat the Mets. Their policy of pitching well enough to defeat the Mets but no one else apparently didn't sit well with Clippard and so he was politely removed from the academy and went back to the Nationals.

The Mets never did well against John Smiley, Zane Smith and Randy Tomlin. Now one of their former disciples is doing the same to the current team. Tyler Clippard is a Washington National, a division rival of the Mets. The Mets will face Washington 18 times this year. The Mets will have to make some noise against Clippard or the student of PSSST will continue to silence their bats.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Joey's Soapbox: No More Mr. Nice Bear

You may know me as the cute half of the Studious Metsimus staff. I'm the roving reporter and the culinary expert of the staff. I write about all the fun aspects of being a Mets fan, like meeting players and eating chicken nachos at Citi Field.

But I was at Saturday's game against the Washington Nationals and witnessed many things that made my fur crawl. That's why the poofball hat is coming off. It's no more Mr. Nice Bear!

Willy Taveras

If you look up the word "slap hitter" in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of Willy Taveras. He makes Luis Castillo look like Albert Pujols (a permanently limping Albert Pujols). Before Saturday's game, Taveras had accumulated 2,609 at-bats in the major leagues and had only driven in 124 runs. To say Taveras is a good run-producer is like saying Ted Nugent is a good spokesman for PETA.

So what did Willy Taveras do against Oliver Perez and the Mets on Saturday? He drove in all four Washington runs! Needless to say, it was the first time in Taveras' career that he collected four RBI in one game.

Willy Taveras batted eighth for the Nationals during the matinee. In 2008, Taveras led the National League with 68 SB (breaking Jose Reyes' three-year reign as NL stolen base king). Why would a team bat a speedster in the eighth spot? BECAUSE HE CAN'T HIT! Taveras is like the modern day Willie Mays Hayes. All flash and dash, but no hits and grits. On Saturday, Taveras showed some grit and came through in two different RBI situations. Because Oliver Perez wasn't more careful with the man batting directly in front of the pitcher, he was burned by the one-dimensional Taveras.

Strike one!

Tyler Clippard

In 2007, the Mets were playing the Yankees in an interleague series at Shea Stadium. The Mets were coming off their first season since 1988 that they were playing baseball after the Yankees had played their final game. After taking the first two games of the series, Mets fans were poised for a sweep of the hated Yankees.

When the Yankees announced that Darrell Rasner would not be making his scheduled start because of a broken finger, Mets fans salivated at the thought that some no-name by the name of Tyler Clippard would be starting. (Yes, I know it's a contradiction to say he's a no-name and then name him, but is this blog called "Studious Metsimus Reader Soapbox"? No, it's called "Joey's Soapbox", so I don't want to hear anyone correcting me!)

Of course, the Yankee Clippard pitched beautifully in his first major league start, giving up only three hits over six innings and the Yankees avoided being swept by the Mets.

On Saturday, Clippard (who was voted by his high school classmates to be the one most likely to play Sloth in "The Goonies" remake) faced the Mets again, this time as a member of the Washington Nationals.

Clippard faced them in relief of starter John Lannan, after Lannan pitched five shaky innings. Maybe he used some of One-Eyed Willy's treasure, (this is different than One-Dimensional Willy, who was mentioned earlier. Pay attention, people. That was just another "Goonies" reference.) but Clippard was outstanding against the Mets once again, pitching three scoreless innings and striking out seven batters.

Perhaps Tyler should change his last name from Clippard to Klippard, because he seemed to corner the "K" market at Citi Field. No Met batter struck out during the first four innings. Then Sloth came into the game and made the Mets whiff early and often. As if Citi Field wasn't windy enough, the Mets' bats had to generate more wind from all the swinging and missing!

Strike two!

Willie Harris

Even a casual Mets fan should know who Willie Harris is. He is the outfielder's version of umpire Angel Hernandez, meaning he lives to screw the Mets. First, he made this game-saving catch as a member of the Atlanta Braves on August 9, 2007.

The ninth-inning shot hit by Carlos Delgado would have been a dramatic game-tying home run. Instead, it became a long out and helped preserve a 7-6 Braves victory. In a season where the Mets lost the division title (and the wild-card) on the final day of the season, any additional victory could have sent the Mets into the playoffs. Willie Harris' catch might have been just as crucial to dashing the Mets' postseason hopes as any of the million games they lost after the "17 games to go" point of the season.

Then on May 15, 2008, Willie Harris made this catch against the Mets, this time as a member of the Washington Nationals, but also at Shea.

The catch on a ball hit by Ryan Church helped preserve a 1-0 win by the Nationals, spoiling a brilliant effort by Mike Pelfrey, and led to Billy Wagner's infamous "you should be talking to those guys over there...oh, they're not here...big shock" post-game comments.

By the way, the Mets lost the wild card to the Brewers on the final day of the 2008 season. One more victory during the season, yada, yada, know where I'm going with this.

Fast forward to Saturday's game against the Nationals. Josh Willingham had started in left field for Washington and had failed to make this catch on a ball hit by David Wright.

Since Willingham is not known for his defense, Willie Harris was inserted into the game as a late-inning defensive replacement. In the ninth inning, the Mets loaded the bases with two outs. Up came Rod Barajas, who had hit two home runs against the Nationals in the series opener on Friday night.

This time, Barajas smoked a line drive to left field that Gary Cohen immediately called as a base hit on SNY. The only problem was that it wasn't. Willie Harris was in left field, not Josh Willingham. There's no need to post a picture of what happened. I think you already know.

Why do I hate Willie Harris more than the average Mets fan? Perhaps the photo below will explain it for me.

That's right. I was at all three games where Willie Harris snatched potential victories away from the Mets. There are no words for how I feel about Willie Harris. In fact, I will say nothing else about him other than...

Strike three!

I want to be a nice bear. My fans expect that from me. But sometimes the Mets make it impossible for me to keep the cuteness façade up. Saturday was one of those days.

My Studious Metsimus colleague tells me that I should remember that the 1986 Mets also started out with a 2-3 record before they turned it around and ended up winning 108 regular season games and the World Series. He might be right, but those Mets never had to face Willy Taveras, Tyler Clippard and Willie Harris.

All I know is that if the Mets continue to lose games they should win, Mr. Nice Bear might never come back. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Call Him Nelson Phigueroa

Do you see the mug shot to the left? That's a photo of Brooklyn native and now former Met Nelson Phigueroa that was taken during his first tour of duty with the Phillies back in 2001. There will be a new version of this photo soon, as the Phillies claimed Phigueroa off waivers from the Mets earlier today.

He becomes the latest Met castoff to hook up with the Phillies, after Pedro Martinez did the same last year and won his first five decisions for the Phillies, including an eight-inning, 130-pitch effort against the Mets in a 1-0 victory last September. That game mathematically eliminated the Mets from postseason contention.

Phigueroa had one of the best seasons of his career for the Phillies in 2001, winning a career-high four games and finishing with a 3.94 ERA in 13 starts.

The Phillies plan to have Phigueroa on their 25-man roster as they have been decimated with injuries to their pitchers. Starter Joe Blanton and relievers J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge are all currently on the DL, creating the need for them to acquire a pitcher with major league experience.

Mets fans will remember Phigueroa for his numerous fill-in appearances whenever an extra starter was needed and his local boy charm. Studious Metsimus will remember him for his season-ending complete game shutout against the Astros last October 4 (the only complete game and shutout in his major league career) and this failed attempt by his teammates to shave off his eyebrows. (see photo, right)

With the Mets currently employing Johan Santana and The Four Rainouts, the departure of Phigueroa might loom large should Maine, Perez, Pelfrey and Niese pitch ineffectively. That being said, Phigueroa might not be a Phillie for long, especially after their injured pitchers return.

First it was Pedro Martinez. Now it's This Little Phiggy's turn to go red. The Mets didn't need him in the rotation now. Let's hope they don't regret it if Phigueroa comes back and gives the Phillies a Pedro-like performance in 2010.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gary, Keith & Ron: Always Ready To Pitch In For A Good Cause

In the broadcast booth or on the field, Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling were and still are Mets legends. For years, they've been a part of the Mets community. Now they're pitching in to help a community that's less fortunate.

Gary, Keith & Ron (as part of the Pitch In For A Good Cause Foundation) will be supporting the Nourishing Kitchen of NYC in 2010.

For those of you who do not know about the Nourishing Kitchen of NYC, it is a non-profit food program for all residents of New York City. Nutritious meals and educational programs are given to anyone seeking nourishment, regardless of age, sex, religion or financial status.

Whether a person is in need of a hot meal or a course where he or she can learn how to prepare that nutritious meal, the Nourishing Kitchen of NYC will be there to provide for them.

Pitch In For A Good Cause (sometimes known as Gary, Keith and Ron) will be hosting events at Citi Field to raise money for the Nourishing Kitchen of NYC. In addition to these fun events, GKR sells attractive products that Mets fans (both human and a certain Mets bear blogger) will love while helping a worthy cause.

Studious Metsimus correspondent/supermodel Joey Beartran has already supported the cause. (That's Joey in the photo below modeling a shirt that he borrowed from one of the GKR bears up for sale here.)
Why don't you pitch in for a good cause as well? Help a less fortunate member of your community by making a generous donation to help the Nourishing Kitchen of NYC. You'll help provide a hot meal to the hungry and classes for those who want to learn how to eat healthier.

Gary, Keith & Ron help paint a colorful picture during Mets telecasts. Let's help them do the same for the less fortunate. Together we can all hit a home run for New York!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mets Stroke Johnson To Continue Opening Day Dominance

On a gorgeous day for baseball, the Mets played their home opener hoping to erase their bitter memories of the 2009 season. They provided the fans with quite a show, as they defeated the Marlins and their nemesis, Josh Johnson, by the score of 7-1.

That 7-1 score matches Johnson's new career record against the Mets, as the Mets had not been able to defeat the Marlins' hurler until today. Johnson had always been a master at baiting the Mets into swinging prematurely. Prior to today, the Mets and their bats appeared to shrivel and hide against Johnson, who was undefeated against the Mets in nine career starts. It took ten attempts, but the Mets finally exploded against Johnson, climaxing with a four-run sixth inning.

The Mets didn't take long to bring the Flushing Faithful to its feet. After a 1-2-3 inning by Johan Santana in the top of the first, David Wright took a juicy Johnson offering and deposited it over the right field fence, barely staying on the fair side of the not-so-foul pole. It left Wright only nine home runs short of last year's total, but more importantly, it gave the Mets the early 2-0 lead.

After Santana and Johnson put up zeroes over the next four innings, the Marlins finally got to 'Han the Man in the top of the sixth.

With Chris Coghlan on base, Jorge Cantu lined a shot down the left field line. There was no question that the ball was fair, but the call at second left a little to be desired. As shown by the photo below, second base umpire Jeff Nelson was so enthralled by Luis Castillo's orange wristbands that he missed Castillo's tag of Cantu for what should have been the third out of the inning.

Studious Metsimus tried to get an interview with the vision-impaired umpire but was turned away. However, our gossip reporters found a way inside the umpires' dressing room and overheard this conversation.

"I hadn't seen wristbands like that since Tsuyoshi Shinjo played here. How could I not be fascinated by them?"

We tend to believe our outstanding gossip reporters, so lay off Luis Castillo for not selling the play to the umpire. Also, stop bringing up the fact that he didn't use two hands to tag Cantu. That bit is getting as old as Jamie Moyer.

The Mets went into the bottom of the sixth inning with the slimmest of leads, but a 2-1 game quickly turned into a 6-1 lead, thanks to some first base follies by the Marlins.

On a day in which four military members sang the National Anthem, the Mets paid tribute in their own way. First, Sgt. Bay of The Yukon tripled to lead off the inning, followed by a walk to Pvt. Matthews. The walk to Gary Matthews Jr. was the last issued by Josh Johnson, as he was replaced by Clay Hensley.

After a Jeff Francoeur sacrifice fly plated the Poutine Patriot, Hensley tried to pick off Pvt. Matthews at first base, but threw wildly to first baseman Gaby Sanchez, allowing Matthews to scamper to second base. He later scored on a double by Rod Barajas, making the score 4-1. A single by pinch-hitter Angel Pagan brought Barajas home and led to a quick shower for Hensley.

On came Dan Meyer to put out the fire. Of course, he decided to put it out with gasoline and got burned. It looked as if Angel Pagan had run himself into another baserunning blunder when he was caught running towards second base by Meyer. However, error #2 at base #1 pushed Pagan over to third base. Alex Cora then drove in Pagan with a groundout to short.

Since bad news always comes in threes, Luis Castillo reached first base safely when Gaby Sanchez committed the third Marlin error of the inning. The third error did not result in more scoring, as David Wright flied out to left field to end the inning.

Here's a quick recap of the final three innings. One tack-on run by the Mets, two solid innings of relief by Fernando Nieve and everyone's fav'rit Reservoir Dog, Mr. Pink(eye), coming out of the bullpen to put the game in the books.

As seen in the photo above, the post-game celebration led to an interesting discovery. Apparently, Mets' first base coach Razor Shines is a fan of the robot. When Mr. Pink(eye) tried to do his usual jump n' bump with Shines, he was surprised to see the coach in the middle of doing a celebratory robot dance. If this becomes a new tradition at Citi Field, similar to the pogoing at the plate done by players after a walkoff home run, you can thank the Razor for it.

With today's win, the Mets continue their Opening Day mastery. They have now won 32 out of their last 41 Opening Day games. More importantly, they were finally able to defeat Josh Johnson for the first time. Juan Marichal can now rest easily. His 19-0 record against the Mets to start his career will not be surpassed by Josh Johnson.

Johan Santana was on the mound and back to his winning ways. David Wright re-discovered his power stroke. The new additions (Sgt. Bay of The Yukon, Pvt. Matthews and Draft Dodger Rod Barajas) were at attention and served Mets Nation well. Baseball is back at Citi Field and we can't be any happier.

Notes and anecdotes: The Mets premiered their new cream-colored home uniforms today. They are now 1-0 in those jerseys, putting that uniform one game ahead of the Mercury Mets in the all-time jersey standings.

As is customary on Opening Day, each member of the team (including coaches and other on-field personnel) was introduced in a pre-game ceremony. Almost every person introduced was greeted with cheers. Who were the loudest boos reserved for? All of the trainers and physical therapists.

Darryl Strawberry threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a rousing ovation. Had Dwight Gooden not gotten into trouble with New Jersey's Finest, perhaps he would have been tabbed to throw out the season's first pitch.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pictures Of The More Mets-Centric Citi Field

Greeting and salutations, Mets fans! Today, the Studious Metsimus staff attended the Pre-Season Workout at Citi Field. We were surprised by all the changes at the ballpark and we have the pictures to prove it. Enjoy!

The first thing we noticed when we approached the Jackie Robinson Rotunda was the new placement of the Shea Stadium Home Run Apple. Doesn't it look so much better under a blue sky with the sun shining on it?

The Mets changed the names of the VIP entrances to reflect the three numbers retired by the franchise. The first base VIP entrance was renamed "Hodges". The third base VIP entrance was renamed "Seaver" and the left field VIP entrance was renamed "Stengel". Below is the former left field entrance with Casey Stengel proudly displayed over his name on the entrance.

The new bricks along the fanwalk feature the greatest moments in Mets history. Here are some of those bricks, including the infamous Game 7 of the 1986 World Series brick, which incorrectly credited Sid Fernandez with the Game 7 win before it was changed to the brick shown below.

We took pictures of all the new banners outside the ballpark as well, but we don't want to spoil everything for you. Besides, wouldn't you rather see what the new Mets Hall of Fame and Museum looks like?

The Studious Metsimus staff was quite impressed with the exhibit. Joey even appeared in some of the photos although I think he was trying to end the museum tour and sample the new food additions (which you will see later). Here is a small sample of the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum.

Now it's time to move on to the new additions on our near the field of play. From the Shea Bridge to the new script "Mets" on the CitiVision, there was no shortage of changes to make Citi Field look more Mets-friendly than it was in 2009. Of course, Joey still found a Brooklyn Dodgers reference, but I don't think fans would complain about this one.

There were some cosmetic changes to the field as well. The Mets lowered the centerfield fence in front of the home run apple from 16 feet to 8 feet. They also reconfigured the bullpens so that the visitor's bullpen was not hidden behind the Mets bullpen. Now the two bullpens are side-by-side and both teams can view the events taking place on the field without any obstructions blocking their views.

Finally, as promised, here are the food selections sampled by Joey. Let's give the keyboard over to our culinary expert, Joey, as he takes you through the news food selections and prices.

Thank you, esteemed Studious Metsimus colleague. This is Joey Child, who may or may not be related to your Studious Metsimus correspondent, Joey Beartran. Family trees for bears are far more complicated than human ones. I decided to sample the new additions at Box Frites and I must say, I was quite impressed. They now offer poutine. (although they refer to it as "disco fries". There is no truth to the rumor that I was humming "Macho Man" by the Village People as I was sampling these delicious frites.) Below is a picture of the poorly-named, but rich tasting "disco fries", followed by the new garlic-parmesan fries, followed by my lunch break.

Now it's time to reveal the new prices for food at Citi Field. The petty cash tin at Studious Metsimus will be emptier sooner than later, but for these great selections, it's worth it. If you remember some of the food prices from last year, you'll notice that most items went up in price anywher from a quarter to a dollar. Here are our exclusive photos of the new prices at various food stands. You may also notice new choices (like Goya beef empanadas at the Hot Dog stand and cheese fries at Shake Shack) which we will sample at a later date.

For those who want to know why there are no pictures of McFadden's Restaurant and Saloon, that's because when we went down there, it didn't appear to be finished. The Studious Metsimus gossip reporters (betcha didn't know we had gossip reporters, didya?) overheard two Citi Field employees saying that it wouldn't be finished until the second homestand, which begins April 19 against the Chicago Cubs. Whether or not this is true, we'll find out when we go to Opening Day.

So Citi Field is finally looking more like a Mets ballpark. With the addition of the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, the new entrances and bricks outside the stadium and the new and improved food choices, Mets fans will finally feel like they have a home again. Whether or not those fans will help give the Mets a home field advantage is yet to be determined. One thing for sure is that the Mets finally tried and succeeded in making Citi Field less of an Ebbets Field-lite and more of a worthy successor to Shea Stadium. Now it's up to the players to keep the fans in their seats with good play on the field. Regardless of how the team performs on the field, Mets fans will surely enjoy their experience at Citi Field in 2010.

As the slogan for 2010 goes, "We Believe In Comebacks". For the staff of Studious Metsimus, we approve of the improvements at Citi Field and we believe in coming back to Citi Field this year. Hope to see you there!