Thursday, September 30, 2010

David Wright Hits Milestone Not Sponsored By The Letter "K"

David Wright came up to bat in the fourth inning of yesterday's twinbill opener with the Mets trailing 6-5. Angel Pagan was in scoring position after he singled and stole second base. A base hit would tie the game; a game in which the Mets had trailed 6-0 just one inning earlier. But Wright did more than just tie the game.

With one powerful swing, Wright launched his 28th HR of the season that just cleared the wall to the left of the home run apple. The blast gave the Mets a temporary 7-6 lead in a game they eventually lost by the score of 8-7.

The home run was significant because it gave Wright his 100th RBI of the season, marking the fifth time in the past six years he's reached the century mark. No other Met has recorded as many as four 100 RBI seasons. (Darryl Strawberry and Carlos Beltran each have three 100 RBI seasons in a Mets uniform.)

For all the people who say David Wright is not a clutch hitter, that he strikes out too much, consider the following.

Darryl Strawberry is considered the greatest home run hitter in Mets history. His 252 HR and 733 RBI in a Mets uniform have been the franchise record for two decades. However, he struck out 960 times in 3,903 at-bats as a Met. This was before players were registering astronomical strikeout totals with regularity. In almost the same number of at-bats (3,760), David Wright has struck out only 798 times.

David Wright has collected 168 HR and 661 RBI in his Mets career. He should become the Mets' all-time leader in RBI next season and should surpass Strawberry's career HR record within the next three years. By the time that happens, David Wright will be all of 30 years old, right in the middle of his baseball prime.

In addition to the home runs and RBI, Wright also ranks in the club's top five in career batting average (2nd), on-base percentage (4th), slugging percentage (3rd), runs scored (2nd), hits (3rd), doubles (1st) and walks (4th). With 14 more stolen bases, he will enter the top five in that category as well. No other player in franchise history ranks in the top five in all of those categories. Not Darryl Strawberry, not Mike Piazza, not anyone. David Wright stands alone in the top five for all of the categories listed above.

There is one category in which Wright has not yet cracked the top five. David Wright ranks ninth all-time in games played as a New York Met. That means he's achieved all of this success in fewer games than the other "greatest Mets of all-time".

His detractors will never admit it, but David Wright is on his way to become the greatest hitter, and perhaps the greatest player, in the history of the franchise. He should hold the majority of the franchise's offensive records by the time he's 30 years old. Should he remain a Met for the majority of his career, the top ten leaderboards should just be renamed "David Wright and Nine Other Guys." Not bad for a guy who supposedly strikes out way too much.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Joey's Soapbox: Two Years Later, It's Still Hard To Shea Goodbye

Two years ago today, on September 28, 2008, Shea Stadium hosted its final Mets game. It was also the final time I set foot inside the place where I was born. I'm Joey Beartran and although it's been two full years, it's still hard for me to Shea goodbye.

On June 20, 2004, the Mets played the final game of a three-game interleague series against the Detroit Tigers. It was also Father's Day. I was hanging out at the Mets Team Store behind home plate at Shea Stadium when the man who would later become my Studious Metsimus colleague introduced himself to me and offered me the opportunity to watch the Mets game with him. He also offered me some chicken tenders. Of course, I said yes.

That was the beginning of my business relationship with my colleague, but it was also the day I first experienced Shea Stadium in its entirety. At my young age (about 15 minutes old at the time), I was overwhelmed by Shea's beauty.

We went up to my colleague's regular Sunday Plan seats in the Mezzanine Level (Section 7, Row E, Seats 16 and 17) and I marveled at the field, the players, the food vendors (ESPECIALLY the food vendors) and the entire Shea Stadium experience.

It was unlike anything else I had ever experienced in my life (which by then had doubled to about 30 minutes old). The Mets won that first game I attended, which was the best birthday gift I could ever ask for.

The following year, in 2005, the Mets brought in Willie Randolph to manage the "New" Mets, led by new acquisitions Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. Those Mets finished with an 83-79 record, giving them their best record since 2000, which was the last time Shea Stadium hosted a World Series game.

The following season was even better, as the Mets went 97-65 and came within one win of the World Series. Despite Endy Chavez's highlight reel catch (see below, left), the Mets fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. I attended Games 1 and 6, both Mets victories, but was not present for the stunning seventh game loss. That offseason was a very difficult one for me, as even when I dreamed about Shea Stadium, all I saw was Cardinal red (see below, right).

The 2007 and 2008 seasons should have been about redemption. The Mets should have made the playoffs both seasons and should have inaugurated Citi Field with a championship banner. However, instead of silly celebration, there was Phillie denigration, as the Mets were eliminated from postseason contention on the final day of each season.

First came Tom Glavine's "non-devastating" loss in 2007 on the day after John Maine's near no-hitter. Then came the final game of the 2008 season - Shea Stadium's final game. My colleague had brought me back to the place where I was born in the hopes that the team (and my birthplace) could avoid an early death. It was not to be.

For the second consecutive season, the Mets tried to hook the Marlins and instead took a right hook to the face, groin, you name it. If the Marlins could rip the heart out of a team, its fans, a ballpark, a Joey...they did just that. Two years, two final game defeats to the Marlins. Two was a popular number that day, as I left my birthplace for the final time feeling like number two after the events of September 28, 2008. Not even a final pitch from Tom Seaver to Mike Piazza could change the fact that I was feeling more blue than orange.

So here we are, two years after I left Shea Stadium for the final time. The ballpark may be gone, but my memories of it are still intact.

From my first memories of Art Howe and wondering why he was ever our manager to begin with to seeing George "The Stork" Theodore during the Shea Goodbye ceremony and marveling at his oddly-shaped shoulders, Shea Stadium will always be home to me. It is where I began my love affair with the Mets, ballpark cuisine and Lou Monte. (Lazy Mary, anyone?)

Citi Field is my new home. However, while I may have replaced the chicken tenders with chicken nachos, I'll never replace the spot in my mind and in my heart for Shea Stadium. It is forever locked away in both places, where no one will ever take it from me.

Casey Stengel will always live there. So will Gil Hodges and the Miracle Mets. The 1986 Amazin' Mets will always be welcome at the bar. Mookie Wilson's little roller will always go through Bill Buckner's legs. Mike Piazza will forever be hitting homers off Roger Clemens there as well.

Shea Stadium is mine. It's yours. It's everyone's. It's been two years since its doors closed for the final time, but all Mets fans have a piece of the key. All you have to is close your eyes, think of Bob Murphy's voice and Shea Stadium will always be there. And that, my friends, is the happiest recap of all.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Six Degrees of Jose Bautista

Do you recognize the slugger in the photo? No? Five major league teams didn't notice him as well. The man to the left is Jose Bautista, the major league leader in home runs. With his two bombs last night, he now has 52 dingers for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays are the sixth organization Bautista has played for. One of the five teams that played Russian Roulette with him was the New York Mets.

In 2004, the Mets were 49-52 on the morning of July 30. Despite the losing record, the Mets found themselves only six games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves. General Manager Jim Duquette falsely believed the Mets could still turn their season around and decided to make a few trades before the trade deadline the following day.

The deal most people would rather forget was the deal that sent top prospect Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay for Victor "The Wrong" Zambrano. The other deals orchestrated by Duquette both involved Jose Bautista.

First, he acquired Bautista from the Kansas City Royals for first baseman/outfielder Justin Huber, who was one of the Mets' top prospects at the time. (Baseball America rated Huber as the #66 prospect in the country prior to the 2003 season.)

Then, before Bautista could say "fuhgeddaboudit", he was packaged in a deal with fan-favorite Ty Wigginton. Together they were sent to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jeff Keppinger and Anna Benson. (Kris Benson was the throw-in in the deal.)

Keppinger, a light-hitting infielder did not do much for the Mets, compiling only 116 at-bats for the team. Of course, as a member of the Cincinnati Reds in 2007, Keppinger had a breakout season, hitting .332 in 241 at-bats. He also finished with a .400 on-base percentage in 2007. Now the starting second baseman for the Houston Astros, Keppinger is having a standout year, batting .296, with 33 doubles, five home runs and 58 RBI. One of the toughest hitters to strike out in all of baseball, Keppinger has fanned only 35 times this season in 487 at-bats. Over 1,668 career at-bats, Keppinger has struck out a mere 117 times, or 37 fewer times than David Wright has struck out this year alone.

Kris Benson, who was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1996 as the top overall pick of the amateur draft, never lived up to expectations in his year and a half in New York. Acquired to help the Mets make a run at a postseason berth in 2004, he won a total of 14 games as a Met. It didn't help Kris or the Mets that his wife, Anna, was the most popular Benson since Robert Guillaume. Her exploits, which included dressing up as a sexy Santa (see photo above, even though I'm sure you already noticed it), might have led the Mets to ship off her hubby to Baltimore in 2006 for Jorge Julio and John Maine, although no one on the Mets would ever admit to that. (It should be noted that Jorge Julio was eventually traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Orlando "The Dookie" Hernandez.)

So Jose Bautista was traded with Ty Wigginton (a versatile infielder who has hit 20 or more home runs in four of the past five seasons) for Jeff Keppinger (a versatile infielder who makes excellent contact and hits for a high average) and the Kris and Anna Benson Show. That trade eventually led to the Mets acquiring The Dookie. Basically, that means the trade of Wigginton and Bautista got us some boobies, some dookie and the guy who beat Orel Hershiser and the Mercury Mets on Turn Ahead The Clock Night in 1999.

After spending his 15 minutes with the Mets, Jose Bautista played all or parts of five seasons in Pittsburgh, surpassing 400 at-bats only once and never hitting more than 16 home runs or 63 RBI. All that changed when he was traded by the Pirates to the Toronto Blue Jays in August 2008.

In 56 at-bats with the Blue Jays in 2008, Bautista gave Toronto a brief glimpse into what was yet to come, when he picked up 3 HR and 10 RBI in 21 late-season games.

Despite this, the Blue Jays did not give Bautista an everyday job in 2009. He never started more than 16 games in any month from April to August and his production suffered. All that changed on September 7, when the Blue Jays were playing the Minnesota Twins. In that game, Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill left the game in the fourth inning with an injury. Hill was finishing up a breakout season in which he hit 36 HR and collected 108 RBI. With Hill's removal from the game, rightfielder Joe Inglett moved to second base and Jose Bautista replaced Inglett in right field. In his first at-bat after being inserted into the game, Bautista homered. This would begin a stretch of power that has still not ended.

From September 7 until the end of the season, Bautista played in all 26 games, starting all but one of them. In those 26 games, he blasted 10 home runs and drove in 20 runs. The home run madness continued in 2010, with Bautista being given an everyday job as the Blue Jays' rightfielder and part-time third baseman.

Bautista has played in all but one game this season and has amassed 52 HR and 118 RBI, garnering considerable MVP consideration despite playing for a fourth-place team. Should Bautista hit six more home runs in the Blue Jays' final nine games, he would finish with 58 HR, which would be the most home runs by an American Leaguer since Roger Maris hit his unasterisked 61 HR in 1961. (Alex Rodriguez's 57 HR with the Texas Rangers in 2002 is currently the closest any American League player has come to equaling Maris' feat.)

With the Mets suffering from a power outage last year (their 49 HR at Citi Field are three less than Bautista has hit by himself this year) and the need for a power-hitting outfielder now that Jason Bay has turned into Jeff Keppinger with more strikeouts (Bay has 6 HR and 47 RBI this year, while Keppinger has 5 HR and 58 RBI), wouldn't Bautista's bat have looked amazin' in the Mets' lineup?

Then again, had he played at Citi Field this year, perhaps Bautista would also have collected 6 HR and 47 RBI. (No, wait. That's another J.B. Never mind.)

Jose Bautista. Major league home run leader. MVP candidate. Ex-Met. Isn't every good player an ex-Met these days?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

$#*! My Closer Says

Yesterday was Hump Day for the rest of us, but it was Chump Day in a Queens court, as Frankie Knuckles (the closer formerly known as Francisco Rodriguez) appeared to face seven counts of criminal contempt charges.

The charges, stemming from 56 text messages sent by Mr. Knuckles to the mother of his two kids, were added to his original plethora of charges from the incident at Citi Field on August 11, when Mr. Knuckles foolishly assumed that the 11th was "Beat Your Dad-In-Law At Work Day".

In a not-so-stunning revelation to all except Omar Minaya, who claimed that he knew nothing about it, according to the Daily News, Mr. Knuckles allegedly assaulted his girlfriend five years ago in Venezuela, sending her to the hospital. The Assistant District Attorney brought forth Mr. Knuckles' past in an effort to show his history of violence.

Apparently, his fist pumps after recording the final out of his team's victories weren't just celebratory gestures. Whereas hitters would take batting practice to hone their hitting skills, Frankie Knuckles would pump his fist in what could only be called "battery practice".

After his arrest in August for using his fists, he decided to use his thumbs instead to get at the woman he "loves". The following are excerpts from Mr. Knuckles' texts to his girlfriend, Daian Peña:

"Thank you for sinking me and turning your back."

"Now I see you were with me because of the money."

"Your parents have what they have because of me."

"What are you going to tell the children when they grow up and we have nothing after you accused me and destroyed my career?"

So a man can be paid big bucks to play a child's game, but all the money in the world can't cause that man to stop behaving like a child. It was made clear to Mr. Knuckles that he was NOT to contact Miss Peña after his arrest. Apprently, he forgot this court-ordered decision 56 times!

Frankie Knuckles should never wear a Mets uniform again for the embarrassment he has caused to the team and its fans. If he is convicted of any or all of the charges brought forth against him, he should never wear any major league uniform.

Despite all of this, maybe we can cut a deal with him. He can give the Mets back the millions of dollars he is owed for 2011 and they can use it on a player that might actually contribute positively to the team and to the community. In return, the Mets will let him keep the orange part of the blue and orange uniform he used to wear in Flushing. He can even upgrade his uniform number from 75 to 007557.

I've heard there are plenty of catchers to choose from for pitchers in the pen. Maybe Mr. Knuckles will find a compatible battery mate on his new team.

Good riddance to Frankie Knuckles!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Mets' Golden Anniversary Season Schedule Is Revealed!

The 2011 season will mark the 50th season in Mets history, as well as the 25th anniversary of the 1986 World Championship team. The Mets will surely try to capitalize on both anniversaries next season with events and giveaways meant to draw fans back to Citi Field after two disappointing campaigns.

Although it is still too early to determine the promotional dates, the Mets have released their preliminary schedule for their golden anniversary season.

The 2011 season will no longer begin on a Monday/Tuesday and end on a Sunday, as has been the custom for decades. The season will begin on Friday, April 1 with a series in Miami against the Florida Marlins. The regular season finale will be on Wednesday, September 28 against the Cincinnati Reds.

The interleague schedule features the usual home-and-home series against the Yankees (May 20-22 at the House That Juice Built and July 1-3 at Citi Field), as well as home series against the Oakland Athletics and the multi-named Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim near Orange County sponsored by In-N-Out Burger. The Mets will take their DH with them when they travel to Texas and Detroit in late June.

The 2010 Mets struggled when they went out west for an 11-game road trip following the All-Star Break. In 2011, their West Coast trip will be split into two separate trips. They will visit the Dodgers for four games and the Giants for three games in the week leading up to the All-Star Break. They will then play back-to-back three game series against Arizona and San Diego in mid-August.

As always, the unbalanced schedule means more games against division rivals. The first month of the season offers plenty of divisional matchups, as 18 of the Mets' first 24 games are against their NL East rivals. The Mets also close out the season with a plethora of intra-division games, with 26 of their final 35 games against their division mates.

For the complete 2011 season schedule, please click HERE.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Luis Castillo: I Pity The Fool

Listen up, fools. This is Mr. T, filling in for your usual Studious Metsimus staff. Unlike Justin Bieber, I'm not going to waste your time, so I'll get right to the point. I pity the fool who says stupid things and right now, I pity Luis Castillo.

If you hadn't already heard, during the Mets' recent trip to Washington, the team visited the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where they met and talked to various wounded veterans.

I respect the Mets for visiting these American heroes who put their lives on the line protecting the freedoms we have in this country. However, there were three members who were absent from the team event.

One was Carlos Beltran, who was tending to business surrounding the construction of the high school/baseball academy that will bear his name in his native Puerto Rico. I respect a man who wants to give back to his community, especially in the education department. (Stay in school, don't do drugs.) Therefore, I'll give Beltran a pass for not visiting Walter Reed, especially after finding out that he had already visited a Veterans Hospital last November.

Another of the Three Missing Amigos was Oliver Perez. Although Ollie didn't give a clear excuse for his no-show, it can be assumed that he was doing one of three things:

a) Attending a special screening of "Machete".
2) Opening up his latest restaurant.
iii) Contemplating whether or not he should accept a minor league assignment (even though the minor league regular season is over).

I figure that with the all the free passes Ollie has given to opposing hitters over the years, it's about time someone gives him a free pass, so I won't pity him for skipping out on the team trip to Walter Reed. (But I better get VIP treatment at his restaurant!)

The fool I have a problem with is Luis Castillo. Did you hear the jibber jabber that came out of his mouth when he was asked why he didn't attend?

"I don't like to see people like that, so I never go there. Sometimes you see people with no legs, no arms. I don't like to see that."

So Luis Castillo gets a little squeamish when he sees people without legs or arms. Perhaps our resident Squeam Queen should be reminded that the Mets invite a different wounded member of the military to each home game at Citi Field as part of the "Welcome Back Veterans" program. Some of these veterans lost their limbs while trying to protect the foundations that this country was built on. In other words, those veterans are there to see Luis Castillo. But apparently, he can't spend a few moments with them?

Does Castillo need to be reminded that although he has two hands, he only knows how to use one of them on the field (and sometimes his working hand has been known to be defective)? Perhaps Luis should donate that appendage to one of the veterans who could put it to better use.

Get off your knees, fool! You can't apologize now! You already stuck your foot in your mouth with your insensitive comments. So you cringe at the prospect of seeing a veteran with only one hand. Now you know what Mets fans feel like when you go after a pop-up with that same one hand.

You could have come up with a better excuse, like the one given by Beltran or the multitude of possible excuses for Oliver Perez. I would have forgiven you if you had said you were playing in a "Battleship" tournament to honor the members of the military.

(Side note: Can you imagine Luis Castillo playing "Battleship"? It would sound something like this):

Luis Castillo: K-9.
Opponent: Miss.
Luis Castillo: Crap.
Opponent: E-4.
Luis Castillo: Hit. You sunk my battleship. How did you know it was there?
Opponent: I didn't.
Luis Castillo: Then why did you call out that number?
Opponent: I was thinking of you playing defense and E-4 just naturally popped into my head.

I expected better from you, Luis Castillo, but you had to be a punk by insulting American military personnel. But don't worry. I know where you work. I'm gonna bust you up. Remember my name, fool!

First name...Mr.
Middle name...Period.
Last name...T.

Those men and women fought for YOUR right to have the freedom to come to this country and make the millions of dollars you're making. The next time you have the opportunity to thank them, you better make sure you do, or else you'll have made the worst kind of error.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Are The Mets Worried About Empty Seats In September?

I have been a Mets mini-plan holder since 2002. When the Mets moved into Citi Field last year, I decided to purchase a second mini-plan. I will not be renewing my seats next year because my better half has a full season ticket package and we plan on splitting those tickets in 2011.

When I first became a mini-plan holder, I was thrilled to have tickets to so many games in the same seats. After the Mets moved from Shea Stadium to Citi Field, the demand for tickets was great. In fact, I had numerous parties inquiring if I had any extra tickets to sell. Then the Mets fell out of contention long before the last day of the season and the requests for my tickets subsided. When I tried to sell my tickets to games I couldn't attend on StubHub, there were times I could not find a buyer, even after I had marked down my tickets to as low as $4.86.

This year, the fans have stayed away from Citi Field in droves. In 2009, the Mets averaged 38,941 tickets sold per home game, ranking seventh in the major leagues in home attendance. This year, the average home attendance for Mets games has dropped to 33,335. They now rank 12th in the majors in home attendance.

Whereas the Mets sold 92.7% of their available seats in 2009, they have only sold 79.4% of Citi Field's seats this season. Small market teams like the Milwaukee Brewers are selling more tickets to their home games (on average, 34,655 Brewers tickets are sold per home game) than the Mets are.

Earlier this week, I received a phone call from the Mets ticket office. I was offered two free field level tickets to a future Mets game to be played this season. The representative explained that the Mets were offering these free tickets to their mini-plan holders as a measure of goodwill to thank us for supporting the team. I thought this was very kind of them, but there was one catch. The tickets would not be mailed to the recipient. They would be left at the will-call window at Citi Field, where they could be picked up on the day of the game.

I don't know about you, but at first glance, it appears as if the Mets are concerned that by giving fans their free tickets in advance of the game, those tickets would find their way on StubHub. Once there, they could either be sold cheaply to another party (although it would still represent a profit to the mini-plan holder), or they might remain unsold and the seats would remain empty.

By making the fans pick up their tickets at Citi Field on the day of the game, there's less of a chance that the tickets will be re-sold online or that the fans picking up the tickets will not use them, since they are already there.

The Mets know that their decrease in home attendance will only continue during September, with the Mets out of contention and games against other non-contenders such as Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Washington. They do not want fans to come to Citi Field dressed as empty seats. Of course, they're going to say the right thing, like "we want to thank you for your support", but any intelligent Mets fan can see right through it. The Mets want fannies in the seats in September and apparently, they're willing to give away field level tickets (i.e. the seats that TV cameras pan to regularly) to save face and to try to retain their mini-plan holders' business.

Let's just say that I didn't fall for it. There will be at least two field level seats that will remain unused for an upcoming home game. I guess I should expect the ticket office to call me again this winter when I don't renew my two mini-plans.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The 2006 Cardinals Cursed More Than Just The Mets

Do you see the scene to the left? Those are the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals just moments after winning Game 5 of the World Series, giving them their tenth World Series championship and first since 1982.

On their way to the championship, the Cardinals edged out the Astros to win the NL Central division title, the Padres in the NLDS, the Mets in the NLCS and the Tigers in the Fall Classic.

To Mets fans, their heartbreaking loss in Game 7 to St. Louis is all they remember from the 2006 postseason. It signified the beginning of the end of what was supposed to be an extended run of excellence for the Mets, after ending the Braves' streak of 14 consecutive division titles and cruising to the best regular season record in the National League.

After losing to the Cardinals in 2006, the Mets followed it up with two late-season collapses in 2007 and 2008. The opening of Citi Field in 2009 was the only highlight of an otherwise horrible season in which the Mets finished 70-92. The current 2010 season hasn't been much better, with the Mets virtually eliminated from playoff contention with a month of baseball still remaining.

But what about the other teams the Cardinals had to knock out on their way to the promised land? Mets fans might think they were the only team to be pooped on by the Redbirds in 2006, but they are not alone. In fact, every team the Cardinals eliminated that year has failed to return to the heights they once had since that fateful season.

The Cardinals finished the 2006 regular season with a mediocre 83-78 record. They edged out the second-place Houston Astros by a game and a half in the NL Central, eliminating them on the next-to-last day of the season. The previous year, the Astros had defeated the Cardinals in the NLCS to reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

Since the Cardinals knocked out the Astros in the 2006 division race, Houston hasn't sniffed the top of the NL Central, finishing 12 games behind the Cubs in 2007, 11 1/2 games behind the Cubs in 2008 and 17 games behind the Cardinals in 2009. This season, the Astros have a 64-72 record and stand 15 games behind the first-place Cincinnati Reds.

The Cardinals' division series opponent in 2006 was the San Diego Padres. After winning the NL West division title in 2005, the Padres repeated as division champions in 2006. However, the Cardinals took out the favored Padres in four games in the NLDS. What happened to the Padres after the 2006 NLDS should look familiar to the Mets and their fans.

The 2007 Padres were one strike away from winning the National League Wild Card berth, when on the next-to-last day of the season, Tony Gwynn, Jr. (son of Padres legend Tony Gwynn) hit an RBI triple to send the game into extra innings, a game the Padres eventually lost. The Padres lost the last game of the regular season as well, forcing a one-game playoff with the Colorado Rockies to decide the NL Wild Card winner. When Matt Holliday scored the winning run in the bottom of the 13th inning, the Rockies went to the playoffs and the Padres were the victim of a late-season collapse.

After defeating the Padres in the NLDS, the Cardinals played the heavily favored Mets in the NLCS. Let's just skip over that series on move on to the World Series.

In the 2006 World Series, the Cardinals played the American League champion Detroit Tigers. The last time those two teams met each other in the Fall Classic was in 1968, when the Tigers defeated the Cardinals in seven games. This time around, the results were different, with the Cardinals splitting the first two games in Detroit, then taking all three games at Busch Stadium, winning the World Series in five games.

Since falling to the Cardinals in 2006, the Tigers have been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball. After winning 95 games in 2006, the Tigers dropped to 88 wins in 2007, finishing second in the NL Central to the Cleveland Indians. They also finished six games behind the New York Yankees for the American League Wild Card berth. The Tigers then felt they needed to upgrade their offense for the 2008 season, putting together a team that baseball experts predicted would score 1,000 runs. Even ESPN's Buster Olney chimed in, saying:

"Justin Verlander might win 20 games with the staggering run support he is likely to receive, because there are days when he may allow six runs in five innings and still win by a touchdown; the Tigers may be the latest team to take a run at scoring 1,000 runs."

Well, the Tigers began the 2008 season by losing their first seven games. After 13 starts, Justin Verlander was 2-9, with a 5.05 ERA. The Tigers' vaunted offense failed to come anywhere near 1,000 runs, scoring only 821 times. The end result was a 74-88 record, good enough for last place in the NL Central.

The 2009 Tigers appeared to be on the verge of ending the "curse" imposed on the teams that were defeated by the Cardinals in 2006. The Tigers had been in first place for 146 days of the 2009 season. But after holding a three-game division lead over the Minnesota Twins with four games to play, the Tigers became the first team to blow such a lead when they lost the tiebreaker game to Minnesota at the Metrodome. Just like the Padres had lost their one-game playoff to the Rockies in 2007 in the bottom of the 13th inning, the Tigers also lost in the unlucky 13th, when Alexi Casilla's game-winning hit brought home ex-Met Carlos Gomez.

The 2010 season may have yet another collapse. The San Diego Padres, who owned the best record in the National League for most of the season, have now lost 10 consecutive games. Their chokehold on the NL West has loosened and the Giants and Rockies are now closing in on them in the standings, with the Giants standing one game out of first and the Rockies looming 4 1/2 games out, waiting to make their latest September run at the postseason.

So Mets fans, you're not alone in going through collapses and disappointing seasons since the end of the 2006 season. Astros fans have had no September games to be interested in since losing the division title to the Cardinals in 2006. Padres fans suffered through a collapse in 2007 and might be about to experience a similar collapse in 2010. The Tigers underachieved like no other team in 2008 and followed that up with a monumental collapse in 2009.

Since the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006, they have remained one of the best teams in the National League. They are the defending NL Central champions and are in the hunt this year for a postseason spot. But those who fell to them in 2006 haven't had similar success. The Curious Conundrum that is the Curse of the Cardinals is alive and well. The Mets and their fans have been infected by the Red Plague for years, but at least they can take solace in the fact that they're not alone.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Gee Whiz! Dillon Gee To Get First Start On Tuesday

If I were a faster typist, this would truly be breaking news. In case you haven't heard it yet, SNY is reporting that Johan Santana will not make his scheduled start on Tuesday night against the Washington Nationals. In his stead will be Dillon Gee, promoted from AAA-Buffalo to make his first major league start.

In SNY's post-game show, Jerry Manuel stated that Johan Santana wants to pitch through his injury in the worst way, but will not be swayed to start his ace, as it is in the best interests of the organization for Santana to skip a start. 'Han the Man will continue to receive treatment and will be re-evaluated before the decision is made whether or not he will make his next scheduled start against Pittsburgh on Monday, September 13.

Manuel also stated that Dillon Gee will make the start for the Mets on Tuesday. In 28 starts for AAA-Buffalo, Gee finished with a 13-8 record, but his ERA was very high (4.96). One of the main reasons for his high ERA was the career-high 23 hone runs he allowed. Prior to the 2010 season, Gee had only allowed 13 HR in 45 starts and three relief appearances. On the bright side, Gee struck out 165 batters in 161.1 innings, while only walking 41 batters.

Dillon Gee has proven that he can throw strikes. He fans over one batter per inning, while maintaining a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Unfortunately, some of his strikes are so good that opposing batters have yanked them out of the park.

In a season filled with successful rookie seasons (Ike Davis, Jonathon Niese) and other young players being given an extended look-see (Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole, Lucas Duda), Dillon Gee will try to become the latest Mets player to make the transition from the minor leagues to the big stage.

The future is now for the Mets. These will be the players who will replace the high-priced stars and overpaid busts in the coming years. For Dillon Gee, he will be getting his first shot to join these young players at the big league level on Tuesday night. Will it be a "Gee Whiz" moment for Dillon or a "Gee, I'm being overmatched" outing against the Nationals? Until then, we'll have to wait and Gee.

Mets Must Drop Machete On Omar Minaya

They call him Machete. And if you have run a baseball team into the ground with poor trades and a general lack of concern for what's best for your team and your fanbase, then Machete will come after you.

Omar Minaya wants to put up an electric fence to keep quality players out, while non-productive, injury-plagued players are kept in. So basically, this is another way of saying that the Mets are closing their borders to keep good players from crossing into Flushing.

Anyone who sees this as a good way to run a baseball team should have the machete dropped on him. Even Machete himself, who will defend mostly every Mexican, would be hard-pressed to show mercy on Omar Minaya for keeping his compadre, Oliver Perez, on the team.

It's one thing to not make any trades at the trade deadline. After all, the Mets don't want another Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano deal (not that Kazmir is doing much nowadays). But when you do nothing to remove cancers like the aforementioned Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo from the team, then get rid of Jeff Francoeur and get nothing but Joaquin Arias (a man who has never hit a home run and walked only ten times over parts of four seasons in the majors) in return, then perhaps it's time for Omar Minaya to give up his day job.

In his latest video installment of "Rosenthal's Full Count", Ken Rosenthal states that the Marlins are searching for a "more dynamic, fiery manager" to lead the team in 2011. One of the candidates suggested by Rosenthal would be current Brooklyn Cyclones manager and former Met sparkplug Wally Backman.

Should Dead Manuel Walking not return in 2011, Backman was considered to be a leading candidate for the Mets job. But with Omar Minaya as the club's GM, would be it surprise you if he acted slowly and let the Marlins take away the one man who has done nothing but lead his teams to championships? Take a look at Backman's record as a manager:

  • 2002: Led AA-Birmingham (White Sox affiliate) to the Southern League title.
  • 2004: Led High A-Lancaster (Diamondbacks affiliate) to the California League championship series.
  • 2007: Led South Georgia Peanuts (independent) to the South Coast League title.
  • 2010: Led Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets) to the NY-Penn League (McNamara) division title.

Backman's teams are scrappy and do whatever it takes to win, just like Wally did as a player for the New York Mets. He has been a winner everywhere he has managed. Of course, Omar Minaya will probably only notice this once Backman is wearing another team's jersey during his introductory press conference as that team's manager.

Is it time for the Mets to contact Machete to sever their ties to Omar Minaya? If they do, no amount of prayer would be enough to save Minaya. His career as Mets ' GM would in effect be up in smoke.

For everything the fans have had to go through since over the past few seasons, the Mets must allow the axe to fall on Omar Minaya. Only then can the team cross the border back to respectability.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hello And Goodbye (Part 2): Duda Hustle!

When the Mets traded rightfielder Jeff Francoeur to the Texas Rangers for infielder Joaquin Arias earlier this week, it opened up a spot for Lucas Duda to play every day. Wait. Lucas Who-da?

Before this season, Lucas Duda wasn't considered one of the Mets' top prospects. In fact, in this year's Maple Street Press Mets Annual, Duda wasn't even listed as one of the top 25 prospects (for position players). When you look at his performance at AA-Binghamton in 2009, it's easy to see why he was overlooked. Last year, Duda played 110 games at Binghamton and managed a .281 batting average. His 9 HR and 53 RBI was a slight decline from his 2008 numbers at St. Lucie, when he produced 11 HR and 66 RBI. Neither year was spectacular.

However, one thing that few people noticed was his doubles production. It is said that with age, doubles turn into homers, and an increased amount of doubles usually leads to a power surge once a player gains valuable experience.

At Brooklyn in 2007, Duda hit 20 doubles. That number rose to 26 in 2008 at St. Lucie and 29 in 2009 at Binghamton. Then came his 2010 season.

Duda began the 2010 season again at Binghamton, where he started hitting double after double, picking up an amazing 17 doubles (along with 6 HR) in only 45 games. That earned him a promotion to AAA-Buffalo, where the doubles continued, but the homers finally arrived as well. In 70 games at Buffalo, Duda hit 23 more doubles, but also added 17 HR.

Between AA and AAA, Duda hit a combined .304, with 40 doubles, 23 HR and 87 RBI, numbers that are very similar to what David Wright has produced for the Mets in 2010 (.292, 32 doubles, 22 HR, 87 RBI entering today's game against the Cubs).

That earned Duda a promotion to the Mets, where he has played every day since being called up on Wednesday, the day after Jeff Francoeur's spot in the outfield opened up due to his trade to Texas.

What will the future hold for Duda? That remains to be seen. But should he do well, the headlines of the New York tabloids will be splashed with "DUDA HUSTLE" and "DUDA RIGHT THING". If he is seen in public wearing the outfits that the veterans force rookies to wear during their hazing, the headlines might say "DUDA, LOOKS LIKE A LADY" after the Aerosmith song with the similar title.

Speaking of music, his entrance song when he makes his first appearance at Citi Field might end up being "Lucas With The Lid Off" , the 1995 kinda-sorta hit by one-hit wonder Lucas.

One thing is for sure with new Mets outfielder Lucas Duda. He has improved from year to year, going from a non-prospect to a major leaguer virtually overnight. His progress in the minor leagues looks very similar to David Wright's year-to-year progress, especially in the extra-base hit department:

Lucas Duda:
2008: .263 average, 26 doubles, 11 HR, 66 RBI
2009: .281 average, 29 doubles, 9 HR, 53 RBI
2010: .304 average, 40 doubles, 23 HR, 87 RBI

David Wright:
2002: .266 average, 30 doubles, 11 HR, 93 RBI
2003: .270 average, 39 doubles, 15 HR, 75 RBI
2004: .320 average, 52 doubles, 32 HR, 97 RBI (combined between minors and majors)

The homegrown movement has begun for the Mets. With Lucas Duda joining Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada and Jonathon Niese, the Mets have proven that they had a better farm system than most experts gave them credit for. Before this year, the farm system had only produced Jose Reyes, David Wright and Mike Pelfrey (Angel Pagan came up through the Mets' farm system, but made his major league debut for the Cubs before coming back to the Mets in 2008).

Once the Mets shed themselves of the cancers in the clubhouse (El Perez-idente, Frankie Knuckles) and the bad contracts given to gimpy players (Luis Cast-"E"-llo), their youth movement will shine.

Lucas Duda is just the latest in a string of young players who will do his best to carry this team back to respectability. The future will be bright at Citi Field, so long as "the Duda abides" and takes the rest of the young Mets stars with him.

For Part 1 of "Hello And Goodbye", please click here.

Hello And Goodbye (Part 1): Au Revoir, Monsieur Frenchy

Jeff Francoeur was traded to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night. The man with the good attitude but poor on-base percentage was sent to the AL West leaders for Joaquin Arias. So who do you think got the best deal in this trade? Let's review, shall we?

Frenchy is going from a fourth-place team to a team that is close to wrapping up their division. In Texas, he will be surrounded by a formidable lineup and will only play against left-handed pitchers. As a Met, Francoeur hit .280 against lefties in 100 at-bats and was more patient, as his .351 on-base percentage suggests. Against righties, his averages were much lower (.223/.273).

What about the newcomer, Joaquin Arias? In parts of four seasons with the Rangers, Arias has come up to bat 242 times. He has yet to hit his first major league home run, or as I like to say it, he's one home run behind Johan Santana on the all-time career home run list. As far as on-base percentage goesm Arias has walked ten times. If that was his total for the season, that would be a poor number. Unfortunately, that's the number of times he's walked IN HIS CAREER!

If the photo to the right makes it look like Arias is a slugger, then you're thinking of the wrong Joaquin. There was another player in the major leagues back in the '70s and '80s who finished his career with 5 HR and 30 walks. That Joaquin has a last name of Andujar and he was a pitcher for the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals.

So let's see. The Mets traded a guy who was third on the team in home runs but had a relatively low on-base percentage. In return, they got a man who couldn't hit a single home run in one of the best hitters' ballparks in baseball and who has failed to take his medication for the past four years to combat his allergic reaction to walks.

Yup, sounds like a typical Mets trade to me.

Jeff Francoeur will now be playing October baseball while the Mets will be watching him play on TV. The photo to the left says all you have to know about the fans' reaction to this trade.

Au revoir, Monsieur Frenchy. Although Jeff could be frustrating at times in the batters' box, he was an outstanding defensive player who always gave his best effort and never made excuses for his shortcomings.

Joaquin Arias is now a Met. Hooray. He's the bat we've been missing since Jason Tyner was traded to Tampa for Bubba Trammell and Rick White. It's too bad Joaquin Andujar couldn't be coaxed out of retirement.