Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 31 Has Provided Many Infamous Days In Mets History

Before 1986, the trade deadline used to be June 15, a date Mets fans most associated with the Midnight Massacre in 1977 and the acquisition of Keith Hernandez in 1983. Over the past 25 years, teams have been allowed to make non-waiver trades up to the July 31 deadline.

This year, there have been a frenzy of deals in the last days and hours before the non-waiver trade deadline. Carlos Beltran was traded by the Mets to the Giants. Kosuke Fukudome was dealt to the Indians by the Cubs. Hunter Pence, born and raised in Texas, was shipped off by the Astros to the one place in America that's the polar opposite to the politeness of the Lone Star State, Philadelphia. Michael Bourn became a Brave, Derrek Lee became a Pirate and Ubaldo Jimenez pitched one inning for the Rockies, was traded to Cleveland during his start, and was spared getting his final loss as a Rockie while being a member of the Indians when Colorado rallied to defeat the Padres.

Got that? Those were only a few of the dozens of trades made throughout major league baseball over the past few days. Even Joey Beartran considered trading away his colleague (yours truly) to a different Mets blog for Rich Harden and a toasted bagel with cream cheese, but that trade was pulled back once Joey realized that Harden would probably get injured picking up that bagel.

The Mets haven't been strangers to the last-minute deal since the trade deadline was pushed back to July 31. In fact, the team has made 13 deals on July 31 in the last 25 years. Unfortunately, most of the 13 have proven to be unlucky for the Mets. Let's review some of these trades (with thanks to Ultimate Mets Database for providing the trade details).

On July 31, 1989, the Mets engineered two deals, neither of which worked in the long run. They traded Rick Aguilera, David West, Kevin Tapani, Tim Drummond and Jack Savage to the Minnesota Twins for former Cy Young Award winner and Long Island native Frank Viola.

Those shades can't hide you, Frank Viola. We know you weren't worth Rick Aguilera and Kevin Tapani.

Although Viola went on to win 20 games for the Mets in 1990, becoming the last Met pitcher to accomplish that feat, his stay in New York was short. Viola finished 38-32 in 2½ seasons with the Mets. In his final year in New York (1991), Viola struggled, going 13-15 and leading the major leagues in hits allowed (259). He also lost the ability to strike out batters, finishing the season with 132 strikeouts, after registering at least 182 whiffs in each of his previous five seasons.

Meanwhile, two of the players he was traded for flourished in Minnesota. Kevin Tapani won 75 games in six seasons as a Twin, finishing fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1990 and seventh in the Cy Young Award balloting in 1991 when he finished 16-9 with a 2.99 ERA. Rick Aguilera was turned into the Twins' closer and became the franchise's all-time saves leader. (His 254 saves have since been tied by Joe Nathan.) Aguilera's 42 saves in 1991 tied Jeff Reardon's club record and was one of the main reasons why the Twins went from worst to first, as they won the World Series that year over the Atlanta Braves. The 1991 season also marked the first of three consecutive years that Aggie was selected to the American League All-Star team. Aguilera's 318 career saves (of which only seven came as a Met) rank 15th on the all-time saves list.

On the same day the Mets traded away the winning pitcher in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, they also dealt the man who hit the little roller up along first that enabled Aguilera to be credited with the win, as fan-favorite Mookie Wilson was sent to Toronto for Jeff Musselman.

This picture is wrong, just wrong.

Mookie would end up helping the Blue Jays win the 1989 American League East division title, even garnering consideration for the 1989 AL MVP award. Jeff Musselman, on the other hand, didn't do quite as well with his new team. After a decent end to the 1989 season (3-2, 3.08 ERA for the Mets), Musselman was downright atrocious in 1990, going 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA for a Mets team that won 91 games. Although he was only 27 years old in 1990, Musselman never pitched again in the major leagues following that awful season.

Ten years to the day after the trade for Frank Viola and the trading of Mookie Wilson, the Mets conducted another ill-fated deal, sending Jason Isringhausen (and Greg McMichael) to the Oakland Athletics. In return, the Mets received A's closer Billy Taylor, who was 37 at the time. After coming to the Mets, Taylor showed his age, appearing in 18 games for New York and registering an ungodly 8.10 ERA and 2.18 WHIP. In only 13.1 innings, he allowed 29 baserunners (20 hits, 9 walks) and opponents hit .345 against him.

Meanwhile, Jason Isringhausen became one of the best closers in baseball over the next decade. He pitched two years in Oakland, saving 33 games (and making the All-Star team) in 2000 and 34 games in 2001. He then signed a free-agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals following the 2001 season and became the all-time saves leader of that storied franchise, surpassing such greats as former all-time saves leader Lee Smith and Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter.

Isringhausen is now back with the Mets, becoming the de facto closer after the trade of Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers. Interestingly enough, Izzy's next save will be the seventh of his Mets career (he saved one game in his first stint as a Met), which will tie him for 31st on the Mets' all-time saves list. Who will he tie? None other than Rick Aguilera, the other player the Mets traded away on a July 31st who became his new team's all-time saves leader.

At least we got Izzy back, even if it was a decade too late.

We could stop here, ending this piece with the symmetry of the Aguilera and Isringhausen deals, but there's one more July 31 non-waiver trade deadline deal we have to discuss. It happened only five years ago, but the Mets are still paying for it today. In this case, they're paying for it quite literally.

On July 31, 2006, the Mets traded rightfielder Xavier Nady to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Roberto Hernandez and some guy you might have heard of. His name is Oliver Perez.

At the time of the deal, which was only made because Duaner Sanchez had a case of the midnight munchies and was injured in a taxicab accident on his way to sate his grumbling tummy, Nady appeared to be on his way to his finest season in the major leagues. He had 30 extra-base hits (15 doubles, one triple and 14 home runs) and had driven in 40 runs. All of those numbers were compiled in only 75 games and 265 at-bats with the Mets. To put this into perspective, two years earlier, a Mets player was called up from the minor leagues in July and also picked up exactly 14 and 40 RBI, doing so in 263 at-bats, or two less than Xavier Nady needed to achieve the same statistics in 2006. That player was David Wright.

Over the next two full seasons after the trade, Nady blossomed, hitting .278 with 20 HR and 72 RBI in 2007 for Pittsburgh. He followed that up with an All-Star-caliber year in 2008, splitting his year between the Pirates and Yankees, and hitting .305 with 37 doubles, 25 HR and 97 RBI, all of which were career-highs. Meanwhile, while Nady was having excellent years in 2007 and 2008, the Mets were choking away their seasons, employing rightfielders Shawn Green (.291, 10 HR, 46 RBI) in 2007 and Ryan Church (.276, 12 HR, 49 RBI) to replace Xavier Nady. Green and Church combined to produce 22 HR and 95 RBI over those two seasons, numbers that were surpassed by Nady in 2008 alone.

As for the pitchers the Mets received in the Nady trade, Roberto Hernandez pitched in only 22 games for the Mets before signing a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Indians following the 2006 season, while Oliver Perez...ah, you know the rest.

Because Duaner Sanchez wanted the plate on the right, we got a plateful of Ollie.

Sure, the Mets made some decent deals on July 31, like the trade that brought them Shawon Dunston in 1999, who engineered one of the most important at-bats in franchise history, leading off the bottom of the 15th inning in Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS with a base hit, setting up the inning that ended with Robin Ventura's Grand Slam Single.

That same day, they also traded for Darryl Hamilton, whose biggest moment as a Met came in Game 2 of the 2000 NLDS against the Giants, when he ripped a two-out double in the 10th inning and eventually scored the winning run on Jay Payton's single.

You know what? Come to think of it, if the only good trades the Mets have made on July 31 have involved players who were only known for one at-bat with the team, then maybe the Mets shouldn't make last-minute trades at the non-waiver trade deadline. Let other teams make moves for the Hunter Pences, Ubaldo Jimenezes and Michael Bourns of the world. We'll make do with what we have. We don't need any more Billy Taylors, Jeff Musselmans or that Other Pitcher whose name escapes me at the moment.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Zack Wheeler: Is He Nolan Ryan Or Oliver Perez?

The trade of Carlos Beltran to the Giants became official earlier today, as the longtime Mets' outfielder agreed to join the NL West leaders. In return, the Mets received top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2009 Amateur Draft.

Wheeler was ranked No. 55 among all prospects prior to the 2011 season, but moved up to No. 35 in the recently released mid-season rankings. Clearly, Wheeler is expected to someday produce at the major league level or else Sandy Alderson wouldn't have asked for him when he traded away his All-Star rightfielder.

Right now, Wheeler has a slight problem controlling his pitches. Okay, slight might be an understatement when you consider his career minor league numbers.

Since playing in his first professional game in 2010, Wheeler has pitched in 37 games (29 starts). In 146.2 innings, he's walked 85 batters, averaging 5.2 walks per nine innings. But that doesn't tell the whole story. Wheeler has also thrown 19 wild pitches and hit 11 batters.

Let's put these numbers in perspective. There are six pitchers in the National League who have already surpassed 146.2 innings this season. Therefore, it's fair to say that Wheeler has pitched the equivalent of what some National League pitchers have pitched this year.

Currently, J.A. Happ is leading the National League in walks, handing out 60 free passes this season. That's 25 fewer than Wheeler.

Those 19 wild pitches thrown by Wheeler? That's almost twice as many as the National League leader, Hiroki Kuroda, who's uncorked 11 wild ones. No one else in the NL has more than nine.

Wheeler's 11 hit batsmen would also be pacing the National League, as that total surpasses NL leader Randy Wolf by one.

Of course, Wheeler still has plenty of time to work on his control, as he is only 21 years old and will be pitching for the St. Lucie Mets. Still, one can't help but wonder if Wheeler is going to someday challenge for the Triple Crown of Pitching (leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts, as Dwight Gooden did for the Mets in 1985) or the Triple Crown of Wildness (leading the league in walks, wild pitches and hit batsmen).

Nolan Ryan was also wild in the minors, walking 200 batters in his first 291 minor league innings. Then again, so was Oliver Perez, (you thought you'd never see his name in a Studious Metsimus post again, didn't you?) who issued 150 walks in his first 322 professional innings.

Of course, Nolan Ryan learned how to harness his talent and translated it into a Hall of Fame career. Oliver Perez has used his talent to teach his minor league teammates which fast food restaurants are the best in and around Harrisburg, PA, which is where he has toiled as a member of the Washington Nationals Triple-A squad.

Hopefully, the Mets won't promote Wheeler through their minor league system until he has shown improvement with his control. Yes, he's managed to strike out his share of batters (168 Ks in 146.2 innings), but so did Ollie (554 Ks in 517.1 career minor league innings).

It is imperative that the Mets take their time with Zach Wheeler. In a few years, Wheeler might be part of a young pitching staff that includes fellow prospect Matt Harvey, along with 10-game winner Jonathon Niese and nine-game winner Dillon Gee. That staff could rival the 1986 staff, or it could be the second coming of Generation K.

Zack Wheeler is expected to be a big part of the Mets' future. For that to happen, he'll have to put his wild past behind him and focus on improving his control in the present. Nolan Ryan was able to do it. Oliver Perez was not. It's up to Zack Wheeler to figure out if he wants to take a limo to Cooperstown or a bus to Harrisburg.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Daniel Murphy, Doubles Machine

Most of the news surrounding the Mets these days start with "Carlos Beltran this" or "Carlos Beltran that". In fact, there have been so many posts all over the blogosphere about the Mets' soon-to-be-traded rightfielder (such as this one and this other one. Both were decent pieces, but the latter post was a little too wordy for my tastes.) that it almost seems like no other player is newsworthy.

There are other players on this team that are contributing to its mediocre success. Sure, Jose Reyes has a great chance to become the Mets' first-ever batting champion. Yes, David Wright is back and hitting the ball with authority. But let's not forget another Mets' infielder who has also been quite prominent in the team's offense. I'm sure opposing outfielders know who he is, as they've been chasing his hits down the foul lines and in the power alleys.

His initials are D.M., but those letters also stand for his occupation. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Daniel Murphy, Doubles Machine.

Daniel Murphy is pointing out where his next double is going to land.

Daniel Murphy may not have the power you'd like from a corner infielder (although he did lead the Mets with 12 HR in 2009), but he possesses the uncanny ability to drive the ball all over the field, with many of those well-struck hits going for doubles.

This season alone, Murphy has collected 24 doubles, earning him a spot in the top ten in the National League, six doubles behind league leader and teammate Carlos Beltran. The two dozen doubles in 2011 are not a fluke, as Murphy picked up 38 doubles in 2009, which left him one double short of finishing in the top ten in the NL that year.

The utility infielder now has 71 career doubles to his name (he hit nine two-baggers in 2008 after being called up to the Mets in August). So why does that make him Daniel Murphy, Doubles Machine? Because Murphy has amassed those doubles in only 985 career at-bats.

In a relatively short period of time, Murphy is now 47th on the Mets' all-time doubles list. No one ahead of Murphy on the list collected their doubles in fewer than 1,000 at-bats. In fact, of the 46 players ahead of Murphy on the franchise leaderboard, only three of them achieved their total in fewer than 1,500 at-bats. Those three players are:

  • Bernard Gilkey: 90 doubles in 1,353 at-bats.
  • Tim Teufel: 87 doubles in 1,279 at-bats.
  • Todd Zeile: 77 doubles in 1,423 at-bats.

By the time Daniel Murphy reaches the number of at-bats compiled by Gilkey, Teufel and Zeile over their respective Mets careers, he might have already stroked career double No. 100.

Some people have questioned whether Daniel Murphy should be an everyday player in the major leagues. Others have asked whether he has a defensive position on a team like the Mets. These are both valid questions to ask, as Murphy's future with the team depends on whether both questions can be answered.

However, one question that should never be asked is if Daniel Murphy will always be a singles hitter. Daniel Murphy is NOT a Punch-and-Judy type hitter, nor has he ever been one.

In 985 career at-bats, he has collected 100 extra-base hits (in addition to his 71 doubles, Murphy has ripped nine triples and blasted 20 home runs), an average of one extra-base hit every 9.85 at-bats. That makes Murphy a more prolific extra-base hitter than the following:

  • Jose Reyes: 10.99 AB/XBH (391 extra-base hits in 4,296 at-bats)
  • Edgardo Alfonzo: 11.26 AB/XBH (346 extra-base hits in 3,897 at-bats)
  • Tommie Agee: 11.90 AB/XBH (203 extra-base hits in 2,416 at-bats)
  • Rusty Staub: 12.13 AB/XBH (212 extra-base hits in 2,571 at-bats)
  • Keith Hernandez: 12.71 AB/XBH (249 extra-base hits in 3,164 at-bats)
  • Cleon Jones: 13.71 AB/XBH (308 extra-base hits in 4,223 at-bats)

Murphy's penchant for the extra-base hit places him just behind some of the best hitters in Mets history, like Darryl Strawberry (8.32 AB/XBH), Carlos Beltran (8.36 AB/XBH), Mike Piazza (8.38 AB/XBH), David Wright (8.53 AB/XBH) and John Olerud (9.39 AB/XBH).

Whether you like him or not, you can't make an argument that Daniel Murphy is nothing but a singles hitter. In fact, he's the exact opposite. In a short period of time, Murphy has become one of the most prolific extra-base hitters in franchise history, especially in the doubles department.

So the next time you see Daniel Murphy striding to the plate with a man on base, consider that runner to be in scoring position, regardless of whether he's on first, second or third. Any runner on base for No. 28 is already in scoring position. That's one of the advantages of being on base for Daniel Murphy, Doubles Machine.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Rare Recap: Mets Pound Cole Hamels Into Submission

If you're a regular reader of Studious Metsimus (I'm talking to all 4½ of you), you know that we rarely do recaps here. However, after today's 11-2 blowout of the Phillies, it would be hard not to do a recap, basically because there's something I have to get off my chest. It's something that's been on my mind ever since I listened to WFAN on a cold December afternoon in 2008, when Cole Hamels called the Mets "choke artists".

Come closer to the screen so you can get a clear view of what I have to say. A little closer. Just a little more. Okay, here goes.


Even Cole Hamels' identical twin brother (see photo above) knows how well the Mets do against his sibling.

In a nationally televised FOX game, the entire country got to see the Jonathon Niese (who pitched seven strong innings) and the Mets pound Hamels, knocking the All-Star pitcher out of the game with one out in the fifth inning. Hamels tied his career-high by allowing seven runs (all earned) on eight hits. He also walked four batters while striking out three.

It was the first time Hamels allowed more than four earned runs in a game since April 5, when (you guessed it) the Mets scored six runs against him in 2.2 innings.

Prior to the game, Hamels was 11-4 with a 2.32 ERA and a National League-leading 0.93 WHIP. Notice my use of the word "was" in the last sentence. So how did the Mets do it against Cole Hamels today? They did it like so...

Scott Hairston doubled. Daniel Murphy singled. Jon Niese walked. Justin Turner singled. Scott Hairston doubled (again). Jason Bay walked. Nick Evans walked. Ruben Tejada singled. Angel Pagan hit a sacrifice fly. (Hey, Hamels finally got someone out!) Justin Turner walked. Daniel Murphy hit a 395-foot homer. Jason Bay singled. Nick Evans tripled.

After allowing the Mets' Murderers Row to reach base against him 12 times, Charlie Manuel finally took Hamels out of the game, where he left to a chorus of boos (or were those Phillies fans saying RAUUUUUUUUL for Raul Ibañez? I couldn't tell because I don't speak "stupid").

The change in pitchers made no difference to the Mets, as they scored four runs on seven hits off relievers David Herndon and Danys Baez, with the big blow coming off the bat of Scott Hairston. The rightfielder, who was only in the game because Carlos Beltran had a one thousand degree fever, (and that's in Celsius!) launched a three-run bomb into the left field landing, a place usually reserved for home runs by opposing teams. The homer gave Hairston three extra-base hits on the day and a season-high five RBIs.

Raise your hands, raise your hands if you're sure! Scott Hairston was certainly sure, hitting a titanic three-run blast that "put it in the books" for the Mets. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

So now you know how the Mets crushed the Phillies. Now you get to sit through the juicy parts, where I give you Cole Hamels' numbers against teams that don't have "Mets" on their jerseys, versus what he does against the boys in blue and orange.

  • Career W-L record vs. the Mets: 3-10
  • Career W-L record vs. everyone else: 68-40

  • Career ERA vs. the Mets: 4.69
  • Career ERA vs. everyone else: 3.31

  • Career WHIP vs. the Mets: 1.59
  • Career WHIP vs. everyone else: 1.11

  • This year vs. the Mets: 1-2, 9.64 ERA, 2.00 WHIP
  • This year vs. everyone else: 10-3, 1.91 ERA, 0.87 WHIP

The Mets hit Cole Hamels well just about every time they face him. Whether it's a lineup consisting of Ike Davis, David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, or a batting order that features none of them, the Mets usually find a way to make Cole Hamels eat his words.

Three years ago, Cole Hamels called the Mets choke artists. Now we know why he said it. After all, it takes one to know one.

Carlos Beltran Is Out Of The Lineup...For Now

According to a tweet by the New York Post's Joel Sherman, Carlos Beltran will not be in today's starting lineup because of flu-like symptoms. Those flu-like symptoms must have found their way into Beltran's body overnight, because they surely were not evident when Beltran smoked his 14th home run of the season last night over the center field fence, just slightly to the right of the home run apple.

Sandy Alderson may or may not be actively showcasing Beltran for other teams (wish he would just come out and say it instead of beating around the bush when approached with the topic). Having Beltran out of the lineup for however long these flu-like symptoms fester in his system will clearly hurt the team in more than one way.

Is this an example of "flu face"? No, it's probably just gas.

First, if the team was looking to make one last push for the wild card, putting out a lineup that has no Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, David Wright and Ike Davis will not cut it. Reyes and Wright should be back next week. Beltran will hopefully only miss today's game. The Mets are dangerously close to being double digit games back in the wild card race. The team must stay together if they hope to play meaningful games in September.

Second, no team is going to trade for Beltran if he's out for too long or can't produce once he comes back. We already saw what Beltran can do (or not do) when he comes back before he's ready. Last year, Beltran returned to the Mets after the All-Star Break sooner than he should have and the team suffered as he struggled to return to form.

Carlos Beltran is going to help the Mets one way or another this year. He will either stay on the team and help them in their quest to win the wild card, or he will be traded to a contender for a top-notch prospect or two, giving the Mets hope (and salary relief) for a brighter future. But if he's only playing at 85% capacity, he's not going to help anyone.

Perhaps these flu-like symptoms are just that, and don't turn into a full-blown case of the flu or something worse. With the Mets' recent history of players missing significantly more time than originally expected (hello, Ike Davis), it's easy to be concerned anytime a player is out of the lineup. One of these days, a player is going to miss an entire season because of a paper cut. Let's hope that "paper cut" isn't Carlos Beltran's flu-like symptoms. The Mets need him to stay on the field for more reasons than one.

Friday, July 15, 2011

DJ Joey B Presents: Frankie Knuckles' Greatest Hits

What's up, homies? You may know me as Joey Beartran, the roving reporter and culinary expert for Studious Metsimus. But ever since I met Howie Rose during a Mets game in Texas a few weeks ago, I've begun to dream about a career in radio.

The Mets aren't currently hiring, so I decided to go into the radio business for myself as DJ Joey B. And as a bonus to you, the Studious Metsimus reader, I've decided to give you a firsthand look at my first Top Ten countdown. Today's countdown will focus on a former Met who was just traded to Milwaukee. That's right, Mets fans. I'm talking about Frankie Knuckles.

Now, in case you forgot, Frankie Knuckles is not the name of the newest character on MTV's "Jersey Shore". Rather, it is the pseudonym for Francisco Rodriguez, a nickname given to him by my colleague after he took part in last year's "Beat Your Dad-In-Law At Work" Day.

Now that Frankie Knuckles has been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for two players to be named later, (I'm surprised they don't have names yet. Their parents are either very slow or expected to have a girl.) I'd like to present to you Frankie Knuckles' Greatest Hits (pun very much intended). These are the top ten infamous moments in Francisco Rodriguez's short Mets career.

10. Justin Maxwell Goes Grand (9/30/09)

With the season winding down and the Mets already having lost over 90 games for the first time since 2004, Frankie Knuckles was called upon to protect a two-run lead in the ninth inning against the Washington Nationals. In what was a microcosm of the Mets' lost season, K-Rod loaded up the bases with two outs, then forced in a run by walking Adam Dunn. He then found the plate and Justin Maxwell found his home run swing. Maxwell's walk-off grand slam gave the Mets their final loss of the season.

9. Second Verse, Same As The First (7/3/10)

Less than a year after his Maxwell Meltdown, it was deja vu all over again for Frankie Knuckles and the Mets. In a game started by Nationals' phenom Stephen Strasburg, it was the Mets who held a 5-3 lead going to the bottom of the ninth inning. Three walks and three hits later (including a two-run double by Adam Dunn that might have been called a walk-off grand slam had it not been for instant replay), the Nationals had the victory and K-Rod had ruined my first Mets game in Washington (yes, I was can read about my experience at the game here.)

8. When A Win Feels Like A Loss (7/18/10)

In yet another game I attended (this time at AT&T Park in San Francisco), the Mets held a two-run lead over the Giants going to the bottom of the ninth inning. Of course, your fav'rit Mr. Knuckles coughed up the lead, giving up two runs in the inning. However, it should have been three runs and a loss for K-Rod and the Mets, but a blown call by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi on what should have been Travis Ishikawa's game-winning run, gave the Mets a second chance. The Mets took advantage of Cuzzi's call, scoring a run in the tenth inning, before K-Rod got out of a self-induced jam in the bottom of the inning. We gave a courtesy cheer after K-Rod retired the final batter with the tying and winning runs on base, but it sure felt like a loss.

7. The Game Just Kept Going...And Going...And Going (4/17/10)

In one of the craziest games in recent memory, the Mets and Cardinals played to a scoreless tie through 18 innings at Busch Stadium. St. Louis had already used their entire bullpen and utility infielder Felipe Lopez (who pitched a scoreless 18th). Then they relieved their position player with another position player, Joe Mather, who promptly gave up the first run of the game in the top of the 19th inning. Enter Frankie Knuckles. He allowed St. Louis to tie the game in the bottom of the 19th. Fortunately, Mather was left in the game to pitch the 20th inning and the Mets re-took the lead. This time, K-Rod was not allowed to finish what he started, and Mike Pelfrey was brought in to record his first career save.

6. S.D.S.D. (San Diego Slam Dancing) (8/7/09)

Everth Cabrera had hit a whopping one home run in his major league career. Then he came up to bat against Frankie Knuckles with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning after the Padres had already tied the game. Nine pitches later, Cabrera had doubled his career home run total. Another day, another walk-off grand slam.

5. What The 'Eck Is Going On Here? (6/2/10)

Little David Eckstein, all three feet, six inches of him (give or take a few inches) was the Padres' last chance when he batted against Frankie Knuckles with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in a game led by the Mets, 1-0. K-Rod had just struck out the previous two batters (Matt Stairs, Jerry Hairston) with the tying run in scoring position. First pitch to Eckstein, strike one. Second pitch, strike two. Third pitch, base hit up the middle, tying run scores. Sigh. At least K-Rod didn't lose this game. That "honor" went to Raul Valdes, who gave up the Frankie Knuckles Special, a walk-off grand slam to Adrian Gonzalez.

5. Thank You Sir, May I Have Another? (5/27/11)

The Mets had come from behind against their arch-rivals from Philadelphia at Citi Field, erasing a 2-0 deficit by scoring single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. They kept that 3-2 lead until the eighth inning, when the Phillies tied it. With the game knotted at 3 going to the ninth inning, Frankie Knuckles was summoned from the bullpen, trying desperately to keep the game tied. He started out fine, retiring Raul Ibañez on a fly ball to center. Then the hits kept coming, and coming, and coming some more. Carlos Ruiz stroked a single. Then Ross Gload picked up a hit. Then Domonic Brown did the same. So did Chase Utley. And Placido Polanco. When all was said and done, the Phillies had scored three runs on five hits off K-Rod. At least there was a bright side to this performance, as K-Rod didn't give up a grand slam.

4. A Gift For Mariano (6/28/09)

In this game, K-Rod did not blow a lead. Rather, he was called upon to keep the game close. The Mets were trailing the Yankees by a run in the ninth inning. However, K-Rod decided to give the gift that keeps on giving, walking Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter after allowing a leadoff single to Jorge Posada. Up came Mariano Rivera, the Yankees' closer who had never driven in a run in his storied major league career. After this at-bat, that was no longer the case, as Frankie Knuckles gave Rivera a free pass, forcing in a run. Mariano went on to record his 500th career save after retiring the Mets in the bottom of the ninth, making K-Rod's gift take on a special meaning.

3. Conrad The Barbarian (6/16/11)

In the most recent addition to the list, the Mets appeared to have registered one of their most spirited wins of the year, erasing a four-run deficit against the Braves to take an 8-6 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Terry Collins brought in K-Rod to protect the two-run lead, but he gave up a one-out single to Jason Heyward. Up came pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad, who wasn't exactly tearing it up at the major league level (.205, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 17 strikeouts in 39 at-bats) at the time. Too bad Frankie Knuckles wasn't aware of those numbers, as Conrad launched a game-tying two-run homer off the Mets closer. The Braves went on to win the game in the tenth inning, preventing the Mets from going above .500.

2. Two Hands (6/12/09)

Although this moment ranks at No. 2, it was the lack of that number that caused K-Rod to lose the game, as Luis Castillo failed to use two hands to catch Alex Rodriguez's pop-up on what should have been the final out in a Mets victory. Instead, he dropped the ball, the Yankees scored the tying and winning runs (with Mark Teixeira hustling all the way home from first), and Frankie Knuckles probably pondered using those knuckles on Luis Castillo's head. Speaking of using one's fists...

The No. 1 Infamous Moment For Frankie Knuckles As A Met Is...

What else could it be? It's the one moment that didn't take place on the baseball diamond, but got more coverage than anything K-Rod ever did on the field. On August 11, 2010, Francisco Rodriguez earned the name Frankie Knuckles by assaulting his girlfriend's father in the Mets clubhouse following the Mets' 6-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies. He was arrested and did not play for the Mets again in 2010, as the Papi Punch tore a ligament in K-Rod's thumb. It also bought him an anger management course and began the countdown towards his departure from the Mets, which was made official after this week's All-Star Game.

So long, K-Rod. You can leave your time card behind. We'll remember to punch out for you.

17 Games To Decide The Season

In 2007, the New York Mets were sitting pretty atop the National League East, owners of a seven game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies with 17 games to play. They failed to make the playoffs.

The following year, they held a 3½ game lead in the division when the season was down to its final 17 games. Once again, the Mets did not advance to the postseason.

Everything changed for the Mets in 2007 and 2008 during those two 17-game stretches. Hopes were dashed as seasons crashed. Now the Mets are heading into another critical 17-game stretch. Although this one won't decide the outcome of an individual season, it might end up determining the direction of the entire franchise for years to come.

Beginning with tonight's second-half opener against the Phillies, the Mets play 17 games between now and July 31, the date of the trade deadline. The Mets have already traded away closer Francisco Rodriguez and have numerous teams interested in rightfielder Carlos Beltran.

Sandy Alderson has publicly stated that whether or not the Mets trade Beltran by July 31 rests on the performance of the team between tonight and the trade deadline. Should the team do well and inch closer to the Braves in the race for the wild card, Beltran might remain with the Mets past July 31. Should the team falter over the next two and a half get the picture.

The Mets have already failed on two occasions when all they needed to do was play decently over a do-or-die 17-game stretch. Had the Mets gone 6-11 over the last 17 games of the 2007 season, they would have won the division title. Instead, they went 4-13 and found their way into the darkest pages of the history books. If they had only gone 8-9 over their final 17 games in '08, Milwaukee would have come to Shea Stadium for a one-game playoff to determine the NL Wild Card. Instead, the Mets went 7-10 and we Shea'd Goodbye earlier than we would have liked.

Failure over the next 17 games won't end the season. The Mets will still be playing baseball over the next two months. But losing over the next 2
½ weeks would be tantamount to raising the proverbial white flag. If the Mets don't do well, Carlos Beltran will be traded for a prospect who may or may not be a part of the Mets' future, Jose Reyes might entertain thoughts of packing his bags once the season ends, and fans will come to Citi Field in August and September dressed as empty seats.

The Mets haven't had a winning season since they moved to Citi Field. They haven't won when the games have mattered the most for longer than that. Isn't it time for the Mets to scratch that 17-game itch?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The K-Rod Deal: Rejected Players To Be Named Later

Yesterday, we speculated about who the two players to be named later would be in the deal that sent Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers. From Bernie Brewer to Rollie Fingers’ mustache and everyone in between, we pondered whether or not each candidate would be a good choice for the team.

As of today, the Mets have not made their decision public as to who’s coming to New York from Milwaukee. But Studious Metsimus has learned who’s NOT coming to Citi Field. In addition, we have determined why these potential trades, all of which were discussed, did not become a reality. Some may disappoint you, some may shock you, while some may cause you to say “I’ll have what he’s having”.

Regardless of what you may think, you won’t have to worry about seeing the following people, places and things at Citi Field anytime soon. Here are the failed trades, in no particular order:

Wiener & Sausage From The Sausage Race

Middle of the inning races. Washington has the Presidents Race. Pittsburgh has the Pierogies Race. Even Texas has a person in a huge Nolan Ryan costume racing against American historical figures such as Davy Crockett and Sam Houston. But perhaps the most well-known race is the Sausage Race in Milwaukee.

The Brewers would have sent the duo of Wiener & Sausage to the Mets for K-Rod so that the Mets could have their own race between innings, but the Mets declined. Apparently, the Mets scoffed at the deal when the Brewers suggested they create a larger-than-life costume of the beloved R.A. Dickey to be worn by a third participant in the race. The reason for the scoff? Because that would create a race between a Dickey, a Wiener and a Sausage.

Arthur Fonzarelli

Although it was tough to turn down a deal for the Fonz (especially since the Mets already had success with another Fonz in Edgardo Alfonzo), the Mets felt that the acquisition would not have brought Happy Days to Citi Field, especially since the Brewers insisted that the Mets take their DVD set of “Joanie Loves Chachi: The Complete Series” as part of the deal. An anonymous source with knowledge of the failed trade overheard the Mets claiming that the deal jumped the shark at that point.

Arnold’s Drive-In

Once the trade for the Fonz fell through, the Brewers tried to package a deal around Arnold's Drive-In, the ‘50s-style joint frequented by such notable Milwaukee residents such as Richie Cunningham, Potsie Weber and Ralph Malph. Arnold’s would have joined famed Citi Field eateries Shake Shack, Blue Smoke, Box Frites and El Verano Taqueria and given fans a place other than McFadden’s to enjoy a game when they didn’t want to be allowed back into the park.

Before Sandy Alderson could make a decision whether or not to accept the deal, Mets’ chief cook and bottle washer Fred Wilpon vetoed the trade, saying the Mets should also get Arnold himself as part of the deal. Brewers’ ownership didn’t have the heart to tell Wilpon that Pat Morita had died years ago.


A group of Cheeseheads was also offered to the Mets for Francisco Rodriguez, which initially appealed to Sandy Alderson. The thought of having a boisterous, loyal group of people in the stands at Citi Field instead of the fickle fans who frequent it today was hard to turn down. However, Alderson thought of the long-term ramifications of this potential trade and decided against pulling the trigger on the deal. Being as media-savvy as he is, he did not want to be cornered into keeping the Cheeseheads around if they spoiled. He knew that if he had to give them their unconditional release, the following day’s headlines would announce to Mets fans that “Sandy Alderson Cut The Cheese”.

Brett Favre

Speaking of Cheeseheads, as a last-ditch effort, the Brewers attempted to send local hero (until he retired for the umpteenth time and decided to play for the Jets and the hated Vikings) Brett Favre to the Mets. Do we really need to go there again? Granted, he’d probably have the best arm on the staff, but instead of throwing on the side between starts, he’d probably spend that time sending Anna Benson suggestive texts. Plus, he’d never retire. Ever. He’d fester like Oliver Perez did for the past two years. Thanks, but no thanks.

Be happy you didn’t get any of the above in the K-Rod trade. Sandy Alderson knows what he’s doing and knows who wouldn’t be a good fit on the Mets. He’s shown that he has the long-term interests of the Mets in mind when he makes or doesn’t make a deal. He’s not like Omar Minaya, who would have either:

  • a) Not traded K-Rod at all, or
  • 2) Traded him for two guys who were once quite popular in Milwaukee, but are now past their prime. That’s right, Mets fans. I’m talking about Lenny & Squiggy.

It could have been worse. Omar Minaya could have settled for the Big Ragu instead of Lenny and Squiggy.

Someday soon, we’ll know the identities of the players to be named later in the Francisco Rodriguez trade. Until then, we’ll be treated to the closer committee of Jason Isringhausen, Pedro Beato and Bobby Parnell trying to throw his 100 MPH fastball past the National League’s best hitters (and Jimmy Rollins).

For now, K-Rod is in Milwaukee, the Mets are trying to compete for the National League wild card and Joanie Loves Chachi is still one of the worst spinoffs in television history. Yup, everything seems right to me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The K-Rod Deal: Who Could The Possible PTBNL Be?

PTBNL. No, it doesn't stand for Perhaps Tim Bogar Needs Listerine. It stands for Player To Be Named Later. There will be two PTBNL coming to New York from Milwaukee in exchange for former Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez.

So who could the two players to be named later be? Sandy Alderson gave no hints in his conference call with members of the media earlier today. Of course, we have some ideas at Studious Metsimus. Who knows? Some of them might actually be right...

Bernie Brewer

The fun-loving Brewers mascot would come to the Mets and set up shop by the Beers of the World stand. While kids are having their pictures taken with Mr. Met, their parents could get a high four from Bernie (since he only has four fingers) and indulge in an adult beverage or three.

Bernie's slide from Milwaukee, which he rides down after every home run hit by the Brewers, would not come with him to Citi Field, as the Mets don't hit home runs there, making the slide nothing but an expensive dust collector.

Bob Eucker

Upon arriving at Citi Field, he’d say "great seats, eh, buddy" like in the old Miller Lite commercials, only to be reminded that his seat has an obstructed view. Then during a pitch, he’d utter "just a bit outside", before being corrected that the pitch hit the batter, to which he’d say "well, with all these obstructions at Citi Field, how can anyone be expected to call a game properly?"

Robin Yount's statue

Since the Mets either haven't thought about it or can’t afford to pay for a statue of Tom Seaver to be erected outside Citi Field, they figured they'd just trade for one and hope that their fans don’t notice the difference.

Of course, if the fans dress up as empty seats during the second half of the season, they probably won't have to worry about it.

Rollie Fingers' mustache

The Mets haven’t had a player with a killer mustache since the '80s when Keith Hernandez’s ‘stache patrolled first base at Shea Stadium. With the team trading away their closer and Brian Wilson’s beard being all the rage among ninth inning specialists, the Mets would give the lip hair to Bobby Parnell to make his 100 MPH fastball look all the more intimidating.

On a related follicle note, the Mets did try to trade Francisco Rodriguez to San Francisco for Brian Wilson’s beard but pulled the trade off the table when the Giants asked for a package of K-Rod, Carlos Beltran and a Shake Shack burger. Was the addition of Beltran the dealbreaker? Not exactly.

The Mets claimed that the state of California already has the In-N-Out Burger chain while New York doesn’t, so they felt the Giants asking for Shake Shack would be an embarrassment of riches.

For now, we'll have to wait and see who the players to be named later will be in the Frankie Rodriguez trade to Milwaukee. Perhaps they'll get a mascot. Perhaps it'll be Mr. Belvedere's sidekick.

Regardless of who the players are, the Mets had to make this trade if they wanted to have any chance of signing Jose Reyes in 2012. With K-Rod's vesting option no longer a concern, the Mets will need plenty of funds to have a chance of keeping Reyes in 2012 and beyond. After all without Reyes, it would take more than Bernie Brewer to bring Mets fans back to Citi Field.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Welcome To The 2011 MLB "Some"-Star Game

Tonight, when you get ready to watch the All-Star Game with your cold drink in hand and bowl of chips about to tip over onto the carpet, you'll probably be taken back to your childhood, when you used to watch players such as Gary Carter, Cal Ripken, Jr., Ozzie Smith and other future Hall of Famers take the field in a matchup of the best baseball players in the majors.

But this year, instead of seeing guys such as Ryan Braun, Felix Hernandez, Mariano Rivera and some guy who just reached a thousand hits for the third time, we'll be treated to the likes of Scott Rolen (.241, 5 HR, 36 RBI), Russell Martin (.220, 10 HR, 36 RBI) and Brandon League (1-4, 3.44 ERA).

In other words, we're not seeing the All-Star Game. Rather, we're seeing the Some-Star Game, where some stars will make courtesy appearances and the rest of the players will need to wear name tags for anyone to recognize them. (Aaron Crow? Jordan Walden? Kevin Correia and his 4.01 ERA and .270 opponents' batting average?)

Things weren't always this way at the Mid-Summer Classic. The 1971 All-Star Game featured nine future Hall of Famers in the outfield alone. No one needed to be introduced to Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Lou Brock, Frank Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski, Al Kaline or Reggie Jackson. They let their résumés speak for themselves. In all, there were 20 future Hall of Famers who played in that All-Star Game, including Rod Carew, Brooks Robinson, Luis Aparicio, Harmon Killebrew, Jim Palmer, Johnny Bench, Willie McCovey, Steve Carlton, Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal, and "The Franchise" himself, Tom Seaver. In addition, both managers (Earl Weaver and Sparky Anderson) were elected to the Hall of Fame.

None of those players called in sick (I'm talking to you, Mariano Rivera). None of the pitchers needed the extra rest because they pitched on the Sunday before the All-Star Game (that's a silly new rule) and none of them were physically or emotionally exhausted (you figure it out).

The fans vote these players into the All-Star Game because they want to see them play on the national stage among their peers. Let's take a random All-Star and change his name so as not to single out any particular player. We'll call him Dirk Jitters. Mr. Jitters received millions of votes from the fans to start for his respective league in the All-Star Game. But Dirk decided he'd rather take the time off and not even bother to show up to the game that he was voted to start in.

That would be similar to Americans voting Barack Obama into the White House, only to have him say "you know what? I think I'm going to stay home and watch the White Sox instead, but thanks for voting."

Unlike some of this year's All-Star crop, including the aforementioned Dirk Jitters (remember, we changed his name to protect the guilty), San Francisco Giants' closer Brian Wilson actually gets it. He's thankful for the opportunity to represent his league and feels other All-Stars should not take this honor for granted, saying:

“I would say that you (should) show up, unless you need these three days to recover. You are representing your team, so it would be good to be here. I don’t know if (it’s an) obligation, but it’s one of your duties as a player, out of respect, knowing that there was a guy that really wanted to be on the All-Star team, and his stats were right there, and he would have loved the chance to be here."

If I wanted to watch a "Some-Star" game, I'd watch a Mets game, because the Mets have "some stars" on the team. But when I tune in to the All-Star game, I expect to see the best players in the major leagues. I don't want to see players no one voted for. I don't want to see players who were replacements for injured players who were replacements for players who would rather be on paid vacation. I want to see the players who will someday join those members of the 1971 All-Star squads in the Hall of Fame.

As fans, we deserve to see the best players participate in the All-Star Game. If only the players could see the same thing.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

If Johnny Damon Were Derek Jeter

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog on the Mets to bring you this PSA (pretty solid argument). In case you're that guy in the Geico commercial who lives under a rock, let me announce to you that Derek Jeter collected his 3,000th hit yesterday. He became the second player to reach that milestone by hitting a home run (Wade Boggs was the other) and the second player to collect five hits in the same game (after Craig Biggio accomplished the feat in 2007).

We're not trying to diminish the fact that Jeter got to 3,000 hits. It's a fantastic lifetime achievement and he deserves to be congratulated for it. But there's another player who's approaching the milestone that doesn't get nearly the love and the accolades reserved for a player of Jeter's stature. He's a contemporary of Jeter and has career numbers that are very similar to the Yankee shortstop. So tell me something. Why doesn't Johnny Damon get the respect bestowed upon Derek Jeter?

Whether on the Royals, A's, Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers or Rays, Johnny Damon has been as consistent as they come.

Both Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon made their major league debuts during the 1995 season, with Jeter playing his first game for the Yankees on May 29 and Damon collecting his first at-bat for the Kansas City Royals on August 12. The following season (1996), both became everyday players on their respective teams.

Let's go through their career numbers to compare the two players.

As of July 9, Derek Jeter has 3,003 hits, which include 481 doubles, 62 triples and 237 HR. Johnny Damon has 2,663 hits, racking up 502 doubles, 104 triples and 224 HR.

Derek Jeter has scored 1,727 runs and has driven in 1,159 runs. Johnny Damon has crossed the plate 1,606 times and has 1,088 RBI.

Jeter has also reached base via the walk 972 times, while Damon has drawn 955 bases on balls. However, Jeter has struck out 1,605 times during his career, while Damon has fanned on 1,182 occasions.

In addition, Jeter has stolen 331 bases in 419 attempts (79.0% success rate), while Damon has stolen 392 bases in 493 attempts (79.5% success rate).

Derek Jeter's career batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage are .313/.383/.450, respectively, while Johnny Damon holds a career .287/.354/.436 mark in those categories.

Jeter has grounded into 241 double plays in his career, while Damon has been victimized by a twin killing only 91 times.

If you look at the individual regular season numbers, their careers are very similar, with Jeter leading Damon in some categories, Damon leading Jeter in other categories, and the two of them having almost identical numbers in several others. Now let's dissect those same numbers a little differently over their entire careers.

Derek Jeter has scored 100+ runs in 13 different seasons. Johnny Damon has accomplished that feat 10 times, with two other seasons in which he scored 93 and 95 runs. In those two seasons (2007 and 2008), Damon missed 21 games (93 runs in 141 games) and 19 games (95 runs in 143 games).

Jeter has had eight seasons with at least 30 doubles. Damon has 11 such seasons, including nine consecutive years in which he compiled 30 or more doubles (1998-2006).

Derek Jeter has never reached double digits in triples in any season (he hit a career-high nine triples in 1999). Damon has hit at least 10 triples in a season three times, including a league-leading 11 three-base hits in 2002.

Both Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon have hit at least 20 HR in a season three times, and both have career highs of 24 HR in a single season, with Jeter accomplishing his high mark in home runs in 1999 and Damon hitting his career-high in 2006 and again in 2009.

Although Derek Jeter's career-high in RBI is 102, while Damon has never driven in more than 94 runs in a single season, Jeter has surpassed the 80 RBI mark in a season only three times, while Damon has done it four times.

In the patience category, Jeter has walked as many as 60 times in a season eight times. Damon has 11 such seasons. On the opposite extreme, Jeter has struck out at least 99 times in a dozen different campaigns. Why is 99 such an important number? Because Johnny Damon has never struck out that many times in a single season. His career high in strikeouts in 98, accomplished in 2009 as Jeter's teammate with the Yankees.

Johnny Damon beat 'em, then he joined 'em.

Speaking of teammates, let's look at those four years (2006-2009) when Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon shared the same clubhouse in the Bronx. During that time, these were Derek Jeter's numbers, followed by Johnny Damon's stats:

  • Derek Jeter: .325 batting average, .394 on-base percentage, .453 slugging percentage, 415 runs scored, 130 doubles, 11 triples, 55 HR, 305 RBI, 90 SB, 249 BB, 377 K.
  • Johnny Damon: .285 batting average, .363 on-base percentage, .458 slugging percentage, 410 runs scored, 125 doubles, 15 triples, 77 HR, 296 RBI, 93 SB, 268 BB, 344 K.

Jeter had a favorable edge in batting average and on-base percentage while they were in the same batting order and had a few more runs scored (five), doubles (five) and RBI (nine) than Damon. However, Damon had more triples, home runs, stolen bases and walks than Jeter, while striking out 33 fewer times.

Before you say "so what?", let it be known that during the four years used in the above comparison, Jeter played in 47 more games than Damon (613 for Derek, 576 for Johnny) and had nearly 300 more plate appearances (2,813 for Jeter, 2,525 for Damon), meaning that Damon would more than likely have had far batter cumulative numbers than Jeter during the time they were teammates, and would also have surpassed him in doubles, runs scored and RBI, the three categories Jeter had a slight edge in.

In the two years since they stopped being teammates, Damon has surpassed Jeter in almost every offensive category, including batting average, on-base percentage and doubles, as shown below:

  • Derek Jeter: .270 batting average, .337 on-base percentage, .365 slugging percentage, 153 runs scored, 43 doubles, four triples, 13 HR, 91 RBI, 26 SB, 87 BB, 139 K.
  • Johnny Damon: .274 batting average, .344 on-base percentage, .412 slugging percentage, 123 runs scored, 51 doubles, nine triples, 17 HR, 92 RBI, 18 SB, 89 BB, 134 K.

Once again, Jeter had more plate appearances in those two seasons (1,056) than Damon (968), so the categories in which Damon trailed Jeter might be much closer if Damon had had the opportunities that Jeter was afforded, and of course, the categories in which Damon already had the edge over Jeter would have a much greater difference.

Derek Jeter has five World Series rings to Johnny Damon's two. Jeter has also been selected to 12 All-Star teams to Damon's two and has finished in the top 20 in the MVP voting nine times to Damon's four. Jeter has accomplished these awards and accolades despite having very similar career numbers to Johnny Damon.

So why doesn't Johnny Damon get the respect he apparently deserves? Derek Jeter has played his entire career in a powerful Yankee lineup. Johnny Damon played from 1995-2000 in Kansas City and played one season in Oakland. Those teams were not exactly known for being offensive juggernauts. Johnny Damon was one of the few bright spots on those teams. (Carlos Beltran was another on those late '90s Royals teams. See, I was able to mention a Mets player after all.)

Yet, despite his success in Kansas City and Oakland, he did not receive any attention at all from a baseball standpoint until he became a self-proclaimed "idiot" in Boston. It was in Boston that he became an All-Star for the first time and it was with Boston that he won his first championship, hitting .467 in the 2004 ALCS and smacking the game-changing grand slam against Derek Jeter's Yankees in the seventh and deciding game.

Johnny Damon will always be a legend in Boston, even if they think he's an idiot for becoming a Yankee.

Derek Jeter is a future Hall-of-Famer, of that there is no doubt. But when the topic of Johnny Damon's Hall of Fame candidacy comes up, all you hear is crickets or an occasional snicker. I'm not saying Johnny Damon is a better player than Derek Jeter. Both players are special in their own way.

But if you consider their entire careers, it would be difficult to say that Johnny Damon pales in comparison to the Yankee captain. Derek Jeter has had fantastic career numbers, both in the regular season and the post-season. But Johnny Damon is not that far behind. By the time both players call it a career, their numbers will be almost identical across the board.

At his current pace, Johnny Damon has a chance to reach the 3,000 hit plateau by the time he's 39 (in two seasons). Ordinarily, that warrants an automatic call to Cooperstown, yet hardly anyone would mention Johnny Damon and Hall of Fame in the same sentence.

Perhaps it's time for the people who have showered their love and respect upon Derek Jeter to take a look at one of his contemporaries. Johnny Damon might not have played his entire career in New York as Jeter has, but he's been as big a star as the Yankees' brightest player since 1995. Whether you agree or disagree with me, it's time to recognize the achievements of Johnny Damon. He's certainly earned it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gary, Keith & Ron To Be Replaced (For Two Innings)

The beloved team of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling will be replaced in the SNY booth tonight. Before you start calling for Fred Wilpon's head (save it for the day he fails to open his wallet to re-sign Jose Reyes), let me specify that the SNY crew will only be replaced for two innings. And who will be in the booth for those two innings?

None other than Bob Costas and Al Michaels.

Legendary broadcasters Costas and Michaels will be covering the Mets-Giants game for the MLB Network. Then during the fourth and fifth innings, they will switch with Gary Cohen and Ron Darling (Keith doesn't do games from his hometown) and will provide SNY viewers with the play-by-play and analysis. They will then move over to the San Francisco TV booth and call the game for their local channel in the sixth and seventh innings.

It will be the first time Al Michaels broadcasts a major league baseball game since 1995, as well as the his first pairing with Bob Costas in the booth.

However, some movie enthusiasts might disagree with that last statement. After all, the two did team up in the broadcast booth for several scenes in the movie "BASEketball" (see clip below), where they got, how shall we say this, a little too excited to be working together.

Don't forget to tune in tonight at 10:15PM (8:15PM Mountain Time, in case you live somewhere near South Park, Colorado), as the Mets play the first of three games against the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.

With Gary Cohen and Ron Darling passing the SNY baton to Bob Costas and Al Michaels for two innings, you never know what could happen. But you do know that you're going to be fully entertained and informed by two of the greatest sports broadcasters of our generation. That's reason enough to get excited. Right, Mr. Costas?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Kids Are All Right

This year's Mets team has been a pleasant surprise, going 45-42 with makeshift lineups and a lack of star power. They have performed above everyone's expectations, despite a slow start and injuries to their corner infielders and ace pitcher. The Mets are proving that the best teams aren't always the ones with a roster full of overpaid superstars (see New York Mets, 2007-2010). In fact, sometimes all a team needs is a young group of players with the hunger and desire to succeed.

Daniel Murphy, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell, Justin Turner and Ruben Tejada were all supposed to be bit players on the Mets in 2011. Other than Niese, none of the players listed above was guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster, with some of them opening the season at AAA-Buffalo. But through injuries and Terry Collins' desire to give his young players a chance, all have been instrumental in the team's success over the first half of the season.

Who would have thought that Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner would lead the Mets' infielders in RBI?

Daniel Murphy has kept his average around .300, while collecting his share of extra-base hits and clutch hits. His 17 doubles rank third on the team, while his .350 batting average with runners in scoring position have helped him collect 35 RBI, good for second on the team behind Carlos Beltran.

Jonathon Niese has continued his development from fringe pitcher to top of the rotation starter. He leads the team with 92 strikeouts and is tied for the team lead in wins with eight. Since starting the season slowly with a 1-4 record, Niese has gone 7-3 and has a 2.73 ERA over his last ten starts.

Dillon Gee went from Buffalo to near All-Star. He won his first seven decisions this season and is currently tied for the team lead in wins. His .800 winning percentage is tied for the National League lead with the Braves' Jair Jurrjens, a pitcher Gee defeated in their head-to-head matchup on June 4. He is also the hardest pitcher to hit in the Mets' starting rotation, allowing a .222 batting average to opposing hitters. As a result, the Mets are 11-2 in Gee's 13 starts.

Bobby Parnell has been an on-again, off-again pitcher since making his major league debut in 2008, but since returning from AAA-Buffalo in late May, he has been constantly in "on" mode. Parnell is the owner of a 0.96 ERA over his last 16 appearances and has held opposing hitters to a .200/.241/.218 mark in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, respectively, since the beginning of June. He has also become a strikeout machine, averaging 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings, after averaging 7.7 K/9 innings from 2008-2010.

Bobby Parnell, future closer? For now, he's an outstanding set-up man.

It's a fact that no one saw Justin Turner coming, but once he arrived, he made his presence felt, setting Mets rookie records in consecutive games with an RBI and consecutive games reaching base. He has also been the team's best hitter with runners in scoring position, batting .386 in such spots. As a result, he sits just one RBI behind Daniel Murphy for second place on the team despite having only played in 57 games.

Ruben Tejada was supposed to be the kid with the slick glove who wasn't supposed to do much with the bat. But in addition to his fielding prowess, his offense has been a pleasant surprise. In 44 games hitting mostly in the eighth spot in the batting order, Tejada has collected 18 RBI, the result of a .314 batting average with runners in scoring position and a .318 average with men on base. Also, unlike most free-swinging young players, the 21-year-old Tejada has made excellent contact this season, striking out only 25 times.

All of these players have given the Mets significant contributions this season despite lacking the experience that their higher paid colleagues possess. In addition to their mutual success, there is one other important feature shared by all six players. None of them is older than 26 years of age. Therefore, they all stand to have long careers in the major leagues should they continue to build on their achievements.

Hakuna Tejada! He's not "lion" down on the job. He's just playing his game.

There was a time when “the kids” meant Jose Reyes, David Wright and no one else. The team didn’t develop their own players, preferring to sign or trade for 30-something players like Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner, Orlando “The Dookie” Hernandez, Moises Alou and Luis Castillo, rather than giving their young players a chance. Many of those veteran players performed well at the start of their careers in New York, but broke down long before they played their last games for the Mets.

The 2011 Mets have not lived by this mantra, giving players such as Daniel Murphy, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell, Justin Turner and Ruben Tejada the opportunity to succeed at the major league level. Their success has translated into more wins for the Mets and the hope for meaningful games in the second half of the season, something that hasn’t been seen since the Mets moved across the parking lot into Citi Field.

Sure, having veteran leadership is always important, but how can those veterans lead when they can’t withstand the rigors of a 162-game season? The current Mets are better suited to play the entire season and are showing that they deserve to play. Before too long, there will come a day when Murphy, Niese, Gee, et al. are going to be the veterans that the next generation of players will be looking up to for leadership. It’s good to know that the 2011 Mets are getting the on-the-job training that will lead to success for this generation and future generations of Mets players.

The Times They Are A-Changin'

The 2011 Mets have been a far cry from their 2009 and 2010 counterparts, and we're not just talking about their won-loss record. This year's team feels different than the teams that frustrated fans over the past two seasons. Gone are the malcontents who had no business being on the team and replacing them are players who play hard and have fun doing so.

With apologies to Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changin' for the Mets. Here are some examples to show just how much things have turned around for the orange and blue:

The Mets have had more reasons to smile this year than in years past.

Injuries were used as an excuse for the team’s lack of performance over the past few seasons. If the team went on a losing streak, it was always "when we get so-and-so back, the team will get better". That defeatist attitude is no longer evident this year, as injuries to key players (David Wright, Ike Davis, Johan Santana) have been used as motivation for role players to step up their game.

Chemistry last year was affected by the Luis Castillo/Oliver Perez situation, the quick return of Carlos Beltran from his injury, sending Jeff Francoeur (a normally calming influence in the clubhouse) to the bench demanding a trade, and the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em K-Rod incident. This year’s team is a cohesive unit that enjoys playing with each other and has no off-the-field problems with its players. Would last year’s team be doing “the claw” with all their problems? Methinks not.

Last year, the team failed miserably in clutch situations, while this year, it seems like they do their best work after the first two men have been retired in an inning. The Mets currently lead the National League in hits, extra-base hits, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in two-out situations. New York's 167 runs scored with two outs rank second in the league to the Phillies' 168. However, the Phillies have played 88 games, while the Mets have played 87.

In 2009 and 2010, the Mets were a combined 61-101 in road games. Last year, they didn’t win a series on the road against a National League team until they took two out of three at PNC Park against the lowly Pirates in late August. This year, the Mets have the most road victories (26) in the NL and have allowed only two walk-off wins on the road, compared to 12 last season.

As a result of their poor performance in 2009, attendance dropped at Citi Field in 2010, as the luster of the new ballpark faded quicker than the team did in the standings. The team struggled to draw fans early this season, but as the team has gradually improved from month to month, the fans have been coming back. The Mets' have drawn at least 30,000 fans to Citi Field in each of their last eight home games. Prior to that, they had fewer than 30,000 fans in attendance in 23 of their first 33 home dates, including a Citi Field-low paid attendance of 21,015 against the division rival Atlanta Braves on Sunday, June 5.

The Mets might have only two All-Stars, but all 25 players give their best effort to "star" in each game.

From the Mets' performance on the field to the fans' performance at the turnstiles, the atmosphere around the Mets has changed for the better. The disgruntled fanbase from years past is now subscribing to the philosophy of Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins. In other words, the fans are starting to like this team.

Better leadership. Better effort. Better results. The times are indeed a-changin' for the Mets, and for the first time in years, that change is producing positive energy and positive results. Change is good.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Beltran vs. Kobayashi: Wiener War III - For All The Mustard

Two years ago, Carlos Beltran took down Takeru Kobayashi in their initial hot dog eating contest by pulling the hidden bun trick on the legendary competitive eater. Last year, Kobayashi vowed to have his revenge on Beltran. However, Beltran was prepared for Kobayashi's chicanery, which involved using the Phillie Phanatic to shoot hot dogs at him at a high speed. Kobayashi then chose to blame a contract dispute for his failure to appear at the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, when in reality, he was just embarrassed that Beltran had found a way to thwart his plans.

This year, the sauerkraut-stained gloves are coming off. This one's for all the mustard. In the most eagerly-anticipated finale to a trilogy since Major League: Back To The Minors, it's time for Wiener War III between Carlos Beltran and Takeru Kobayashi!

Let's get ready to mumble! (Especially if they talk with their mouths full.)

Before we continue, let's fill you in on what the competitors have been up to since last year's Wiener War.

Carlos Beltran has once again become a threat in the middle of the Mets' lineup, leading the team in home runs and RBI. With a diet rich in hot dogs, Beltran is 100% healthy and will get the opportunity to show off his skills in this summer's All-Star Game.

Takeru Kobayashi has not been as fortunate as Carlos Beltran over the past 12 months. When he found out that Sandy Alderson was retooling the bullpen, Kobayashi decided to try out for a middle relief job with the Mets. However, during spring training, the former wiener winner was released before he threw his first pitch. His release was not due to the fact that he couldn't actually pitch, but because fellow relievers complained that their sunflower seeds were constantly missing. Kobayashi was then given a job as a hot dog vendor at Citi Field, but was relieved of his duties on Opening Day for undisclosed reasons.

Both athletes have seen their share of highs and lows during their respective careers, with Beltran currently living the high life and Kobayashi trying to eat hot dogs via satellite. But this year it will be different. Kobayashi will not be allowed anywhere near the stage, thereby allowing Beltran to compete without the possibility of a potential distraction. Instead, Joey Chestnut (see photo, right) will be wolfing down the wieners in Kobayashi's seat.

It's time to begin the Wiener War! Let's go down to Studious Metsimus roving reporter/culinary expert Joey Beartran for the play-by-play.

Joey? Um, Joey, are you there?

Okay, we seem to have a change in plans, as Joey doesn't seem to have his headset on. Wait a minute. What's this? Oh, no.

Apparently, Joey Chestnut has been arguing with the celebrity judges over something. While he was arguing, our own Joey Beartran jumped into Chestnut's seat and is apparently about to compete against Carlos Beltran.

A dozen hot dogs? That's just an appetizer for Joey Beartran.

Well, while you were busy looking at the photo above, we learned that Joey Chestnut had a slight problem with his entrance application. It appeared that his last name had been altered from Chestnut to Beartran, allowing our roving reporter/culinary expert to add competitive eater to his job description.

Chestnut was enraged by this and argued vehemently with the panel of judges, with one judge disagreeing with him, one judge willing to allow him to participate and the celebrity judge too busy to notice. Then again, due to budget constraints, the organizers of the contest also hired the celebrity judge to be the event's official photographer and to handle the official Twitter play-by-play.

That might have been their mistake, as they hired former U.S. Representative from New York, the appropriately-named Anthony Weiner, to be the celebrity judge/photographer/head Tweeter. Apparently, background checks were not included in the event's budget as well.

Celebrity judge Anthony Weiner got a little emotional after his involvement in the Chestnut/Beartran name-switch snafu.

While all this was happening, the contest had already begun, with both Beltran and Beartran chomping away on dozens and dozens of frankfurters. Takeru Kobayashi was doing the same via satellite, hoping to take down the Mets player and the Mets bear. A few minutes later, this reporter was given a tip to watch closely on the monitor broadcasting the feed from the Kobayashi Kamp.

The feed being shown was running on a continuous loop.

Of course, the two non-celebrity judges were arguing amongst themselves over the two Joeys and the celebrity judge was busy apologizing for not being a responsible photographer/Tweeter for the event, so no one else seemed to notice that Kobayashi was not actually eating his hot dogs on live TV.

So where was he? What was he doing? And why would he ever stop eating hot dogs for any reason?

It was at that moment that everything stopped. Carlos Beltran stopped eating. The judges stopped bickering. Even Joey Beartran took a break to burp. What had made this event come to a complete standstill?

Apparently, Carlos Beltran had just been traded.

Even Carlos Beltran appeared to be disgusted that he was traded away at a most inopportune time.

A hush came over the crowd, especially from the Mets fans in attendance. It had been expected that Beltran would be traded to another team at some point this season. But did it have to come during the final Wiener War? And to make matters worse, was he traded to a contending team? Was he going to the American League to be a DH? No, my friends. It was far worse than that.

He was traded to the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League.

Of course, this reporter knew something was wrong with the trade immediately after it was announced. Granted, Beltran was traded to a contender, as was widely expected. (Fukuoka was tied for first place with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters with identical 38-20 records as of last night.) But the Hawks already have three outstanding outfielders in Nobuhiko Matsunaka, Seiichi Uchikawa and Hitoshi Tamura. In fact, centerfielder Uchikawa is currently leading the Pacific League with a .363 batting average. Surely, Beltran was not going to displace him in the outfield.

Not only that, it was never announced who he was being traded for. It was just said that Beltran was traded for a player to be named later, which would have been the first trade in Japanese baseball history for the dreaded PTBNL.

So let's put all the facts together. Beltran is traded to a Japanese baseball team during the hot dog eating contest. Kobayashi (who just happens to be Japanese) is nowhere to be found, with his live satellite feed running on a continuous loop. The team he is traded to has "SoftBank" in its name. Who needs the Scooby Gang when unraveling this mystery was so easy?

Takeru Kobayashi had sabotaged the contest. AGAIN!

Takeru Kobayashi would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling Studious Metsimus kids!

So this is how it all went down. Takeru Kobayashi was on Twitter one night, going through numerous tweets, trying to find out tips on how to finally defeat his nemesis, Carlos Beltran. He came across a particular hashtag that was being repeated as if on a loop. That hashtag was #beltranissoft.

At the same time, Kobayashi noticed the Twitter chatter on the possibilities of Beltran being moved at the trade deadline. So he came up with the plan to have Beltran traded as far away as possible so that he would never win another hot dog challenge again. And since apparently, Beltran was soft, he should be traded to a team where being soft is not only acceptable, it's part of the team name, hence the trade to the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. The #beltranissoft hashtag being repeated ad nauseum also gave Kobayashi the idea to put his satellite transmission on a continuous loop so that no one would notice the machinations going on behind the mustard curtain.

But how exactly did we find out about Kobayashi's evil plans for world hot dog domination? It looks like our own competitive eater had something to do with it.

Let's hear it for Joey Beartran, whose keen eye (and full stomach) helped expose Kobayashi's plot.

You see, after that first dozen hot dogs, Joey Beartran came down with a bear-sized tummy ache. Apparently, no one had bothered to tell the culinary expert that having a pre-contest appetizer was not the best of plans for someone who was about to enter the Wiener War. By the time Joey had bowed out of the contest, the other Joey (Chestnut) had already decided it was too late to continue pleading his case to the judges in an effort to enter the contest. That left Carlos Beltran as the only competitor left standing, and the Wiener War winner, provided he didn't drop out of the competition.

As Joey Beartran walked away from the stage, he got bored so he decided to watch a little TV while he was waiting for Beltran to finish his last hot dog. Of course, he got frustrated when the TV he was watching kept "skipping". The TV he happened to be watching was the Kobayashi so-called "live" feed and the "skipping" was the repetition of the same hot dog being eaten over and over again. To the naked eye, it appeared as if Kobayashi was eating numerous hot dogs, but to a trained eater's eye such as Joey Beartran's, he noticed the tomfoolery immediately.

It was then that Joey came over to his colleague (yours truly) and reported what he had just witnessed. (Remember that "tip" I mentioned 17 paragraphs ago? That was Joey Beartran saving the day.) Needless to say, the two remaining judges (Anthony Weiner had been relieved of his duties due to excessive tweeting on topics not related to what he was hired for) declared Carlos Beltran the undisputed Wiener War champion of the world and the trade to the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks was rescinded, making Beltran one happy Mustard Belt recipient.

Carlos Beltran relishes the moment as he shows off the Mustard Belt he received for his victory in Wiener War III.

That concludes the final Wiener War between Carlos Beltran and Takeru Kobayashi. Let's give you a happy recap of today's events.

Carlos Beltran remained the undisputed hot dog eating champion of the world, although the term "undisputed" might not be entirely accurate, as disputes were rampant during this year's Wiener War.

Joey Beartran finally had to push food away from him, as his pre-contest appetizer denied him the opportunity to finish the competition. He also was not available for the post-war interview, claiming he had some papers to shred. (Speaking of which, we never did find out what happened to Joey Chestnut's application to enter the competition. Hmm. It makes you wonder...)

Joey Chestnut decided to drown his sorrow at not being allowed to participate in the event by having some Nathan's beer-battered onion rings. And some hot dogs. And some french fries. And some more onion rings. And a burger or two. Or ten.

Anthony Weiner. Who cares? He's just a d*ck in Wiener's clothing.

As for Takeru Kobayashi, as of last check, he was posting bail and working on getting a reality show with the Food Network. There was also a rumor started on Twitter that he was planning to go to Arizona for next week's All-Star Game, but Kobayashi rebuffed the rumor, claiming that he was not attending because fellow countryman Ichiro Suzuki failed to make the All-Star team for the first time in his 11-year major league career. We think his denial had something to do with the restraining order placed on him by Carlos Beltran, who will also be in Arizona as a member of the National League All-Star team.

Well, that does it for this year. We hope all of you have a wonderful Fourth of July, doing everything that makes you proud to be an American (even if it includes stuffing your face with hot dogs). Carlos Beltran is proud. Joey Beartran is proud (and full). And so am I. Have a great holiday, everyone!