Monday, May 30, 2011

Joey's Small Bites: We'll Be On The Field Tonight During Batting Practice!

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! This is Joey Beartran, along with my sister Iggy Beartran. We're here to share some great news with you! If you have tickets to tonight's Mets game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, please remember to arrive early, because we're going to be on the field (along with Studious Metsimus colleague and correspondent, Ed Leyro and Taryn Cooper, respectively) during batting practice.

We'll have our gloves ready, as we'll be shagging fly balls hit by all of your fav'rit Mets and all of your fav'rit no-names on the Pirates.

Are you ready for some baseball? We are!

Of course, we won't be allowed to run all over the field. We'll be near the left field corner in front of the Great Wall of Flushing. In fact, there are many rules and regulations we'll have to follow if we want to stay on the field during the entirety of batting practice.

For example, we can bring one sealed water bottle onto the field (20 oz. or less). However, we're not allowed to bring chicken nachos or any other type of food onto the field, even though the chicken nacho stand is literally a few feet away in the left field corner. Hello? We need food to give us the strength to run down fly balls on the warning track. Not only that, what else are we going to wash down our water with? Cotton candy? (Surprisingly enough, I'm not too fond of cotton candy.)

The no food policy is just one of many guidelines we'll have to follow when we're on the field. Below you will see us holding up the sheet of rules and regulations that was sent to us. If that's too small for you to read (after all, you may have the eyesight of umpire Angel Hernandez), then to the right, you can click on the photo to enlarge the sheet with the rules and guidelines.

Now I can understand the fact that we have to sign a waiver before entering the field (Rule #1). After all, if we get hit on the head by a fly ball, we might not remember our names, where we live or where Shake Shack is. But what about the rule where we can't steal dirt from the warning track (Rule #9)? Didn't the Marlins steal dirt from Shea Stadium after they defeated the Mets in the final game of the 2008 season (otherwise known as the "Shea Goodbye" game)? They didn't heed the fans' calls of "off the field" and they did harm to the Mets by defeating them in a game they needed to win to force a one-game playoff against the Milwaukee Brewers for the wild card berth. Why is it okay for the Marlins to steal dirt from the field but not acceptable for the paying customers to do the same?

What about the "no sliding or diving" rule (Rule #4) or the "no feet or bodies on the wall" rule (Rule #7)? Didn't we have to sign a waiver before entering the field? So if we get hurt while sliding or diving, that was our decision. Also, if we bang our heads or get our feet caught on the wall trying to make a play, again, it's our own fault. The Mets wouldn't be held responsible for any of our injuries because of that waiver. Then again, with all the injuries that have befallen the Mets since they moved into Citi Field, perhaps they're just expecting some of us to get hurt. Anyway, I don't need to slide or dive on the field. I already did that last year and didn't get caught. And Iggy is 100% healthy after hanging out (literally) at the 378 foot sign in right field earlier this year.

Um, about Rule #3, the "no spikes or heels" rule. Why would anyone be wearing heels or spikes to a ballgame anyway? Are there kids going to their senior prom after the game? Is Ty Cobb at the game? Probably not. So why would anyone wear either of those on their feet?

Of course, there's always a chance Gene Simmons might show up in full makeup. Perhaps that rule is specifically for him. But could you imagine the blood-spewing bassist for KISS showing up in his battle armor and wearing Chuck Taylor Converse All-Star sneakers? Then again, he could probably get away with wearing Chuck Taylor knee-high sneaker boots...

So that's all I have to get off my chest for today. We'll be at Citi Field at 4:00pm today to take the field for batting practice prior to the Mets game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. We'll be on the field near the left field corner for a few hours before first pitch. If you show up early, feel free to bring your camera to take pictures of us. Just please don't call our names or say "use two paws" as we're getting ready to catch a fly ball. We'd rather not hear the Mets' staff tell us "see, that's why we made you sign the waiver".

Have a great day watching the game, either at Citi Field or in the comfort of your own homes. We'll try to bring back a ball (and a victory) for you!

My Memories of Memorial Day

For many people, Memorial Day represents the unofficial beginning of summer. From spending the day at the beach (unless if you grew up with Mike Pelfrey and spent hours looking for the perfect beach until you realized there were no beaches in Kansas) to firing up the barbecue, Memorial Day is a day for relaxation and for some people, baseball.

I have many fond memories of Memorial Day. The game that turned me into a Mookie Wilson fan for life occurred on Memorial Day (May 25, 1981) when I watched Mookie reach base four times on two walks, a single and a two-run triple against former Met Tug McGraw. He also stole second base in the first inning, leading to the first of his three runs scored on the day. The Mets blew out the defending World Champion Phillies by the final score of 13-3 and from that day forward, I would be forever hooked on Mookie Wilson and the Mets.

I also remember Memorial Day in 1986, but not because of a memorable Mets game. Rather, I remember that day because there was no Mets game scheduled for that day. I thought it was odd that on a national holiday, the day that unofficially kicked off the summer season, there was no Mets game to watch. Then again, perhaps it was better for the Mets to have that day off. After all, they had gone 6-6 over their past 12 games after their red-hot 21-5 start and only had a four-game lead in the division. After their Memorial Day respite, the Mets won 27 of their next 37 games, culminating in their extra-inning victory against the Astros on the Fourth of July. By then, the Mets had a 12½-game lead in the division and were well on their way to turning Davey Johnson into a prophet by dominating the NL East.

I actually didn't attend a Memorial Day game in person until 1994, when the Mets were taking on the Colorado Rockies, who were in their sophomore season. Unfortunately, that game didn't produce the type of memories I wanted to have, as Mets' starter Mauro Gozzo (yes, the same Mauro Gozzo that was traded away by the Mets to acquire David Cone seven years earlier) left the game in the sixth inning after loading up the bases with no outs and the Mets trailing by a run. Mike Maddux then promptly gave up a grand slam to the first batter he faced, Andres Galarraga, and the Rockie offensive avalanche was on. The Rockies added five runs in the seventh (three of which came on the strength of a long home run by John Vander Wal, who had only hit 11 HR in almost four big league seasons up to that point) and another run in the eighth on their way to a 12-2 victory over the Mets. It was my first Memorial Day game at Shea Stadium and it would be my last, as memories of a lineup consisting of Jose Vizcaino leading off, Shawn Hare batting second and pitchers Gozzo, Maddux, Eric Hillman and Frank Seminara sharing duties in this horrendous effort made me want to listen to the dulcet tones of Bob Murphy on the radio instead of the three-hour serenade of boos at Shea Stadium on every Memorial Day after that day.

So now let's fast-forward to 2011. Today will be the first time I attend a Mets home game on Memorial Day since that 12-2 debacle in 1994. It can't get any worse that, can it? (Actually, it did, because last year the Mets lost to the Padres in San Diego on Memorial Day by the score of 18-6, a game started by Hisanori Takahashi and finished by your friend and mine, Oliver Perez, who arguably had his best outing of the year, giving up two runs, four hits [including a home run], one walk and one hit batsman in 2.2 innings.) Will the Mets give me a positive Memorial Day memory today like they did thirty years ago during my first season of fandom, or will they give me memories I'd rather forget, like they did in 1994, when the only players worth cheering were Jeff Kent (ugh) and Bobby Bonilla (double ugh)?

Regardless of what type of memories the Mets give me today, please don't forget the true meaning of Memorial Day. While you're catching rays at the beach or munching on burgers and hot dogs in your backyard (hopefully listening to Mets coverage), please remember to honor all of the men and women who have fought for your right to live your life freely in America. These brave people gave their lives so that you can have a day like today when you can relax and do whatever you choose to do. Some countries don't allow the freedoms that Americans sometimes take for granted. Don't ever take for granted the men and women who have fought to keep those freedoms alive.

May all of you have a happy and safe Memorial Day, doing all the things you're free to do.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Joey's Soapbox: An Interesting Tidbit About The Mets' New Co-Owner

So yesterday as I was sitting down to have some breakfast, I decided to check up on the latest Mets news by reading the morning paper. Sure enough, once I got to the sports pages, it was the same ol' Mets, different day. Someone got hurt (R.A. Dickey), the Wilpons need to raise money (maybe they should have Mr. Met take the discarded Pepsi bottles out of the Citi Field garbage receptacles and return them for the five-cent deposit), blah, blah, blah, second verse, same as the first.

That was it for the sports section. I figured, hey, this paper cost my colleague fifty cents; I might as well read the rest of it, right? So I turned to the opening page and started to read it from the front.

Let's see, Lindsay Lohan started to serve her sentence under house arrest (yawn), Sarah Palin has been giving hints that she might be running for President in 2012 (yawn squared). Sigh. The second verse truly was the same as the first.

Then I got to page five and all things changed. I came across a story called "He's The New Mr. Met" and it was about the Mets' new co-owner who ponied up $200 million for a share of the team, perhaps causing the Wilpons to scrap that five-cent bottle return plan I suggested in my opening paragraph.

In the article by Jeane MacIntosh (as shown in the photo to the right), David Einhorn was depicted as a youthful man who built his fortune on hedge-funds, managing assets worth nearly $8 billion. Although he spent most of his childhood growing up as Bud Selig's next-door neighbor in Milwaukee, he spent his formative years in New Jersey rooting for the Mets, even dressing up in a homemade Dave Kingman costume for Halloween in 1975.

Okay, so he grew up a Mets fan. That's great. So did I. But there was one paragraph in the article that really caught my attention. It was right after the paragraphs where I found myself nodding off reading about his college education and his work with mergers, acquisitions and other things a soon-to-be seven-year-old bear blogger would never understand or have any interest in.

I know some of you don't click on the links for fear that you might be Rick-Rolled, so instead of providing you with one (a link, not a Rick-Roll), here's a photo of the actual paragraph that got my attention.

That's right, Mets fans. Our new co-owner has teddy bears in his office! Imagine my joy when I learned that the Mets finally have a person in the front office who actually has some common sense.

On that note, I have only one thing to say to the Wilpons, and that is...


It's clear that Einhorn knows what he's doing. First, he didn't dress up as a Brooklyn Dodger on Halloween; he dressed up as a Met. And it wasn't the obvious choice (Tom Seaver). No, he went as Sky King.

Second, he has money that isn't invested in Ponzi schemes (that we know of). That means Jose Reyes doesn't have to go. That means he also won't be afraid to cut guys who have no trade value and aren't doing what they're being paid to do. (I like you as a person, Jason Bay, but right now, I'd rather have Mike Hampton as our cleanup hitter than you.)

The year after Mike Hampton pitched the Mets into the 2000 World Series, he picked up 7 HR and 16 RBI in 79 at-bats for the Colorado Rockies. This year, Jason Bay has 2 HR and 8 RBI for the Mets in 107 at-bats. 'Nuff said.

Third, and most importantly, he has a fondness for teddy bears! With David Einhorn on board, perhaps we'll finally get those bear-friendly food stands I've been clamoring for, like Cake Shack and Citi Confectioneries.

As Mets fans, we have a right to be interested in how our team is run. After all, it is us who give the owners the money they need to pay the players who entertain us for 162 games a season. But if those owners don't give us what we're paying for, then why should we fatten their wallets?

It is clear to me that David Einhorn is the first step towards having an ownership that cares about its customers. Now it's time to take the next step. To Saul Katz, Fred Wilpon, Little Jeffy Wilpon and the rest of the Family Circus, I beg you to please sell the rest of the team to David Einhorn. You no longer have any business running this team. Let the new blood take over. If you're truly Mets fans first (and not merely using "Mets" as a synonym for Brooklyn Dodgers), then the best interest of the team should be your priority, and that best interest doesn't include your involvement in the day-to-day running of the franchise.

Instead of running the team the right way, the Wilpons have run the team into the ground. It's time to build the team back up to where it belongs and David Einhorn, Mets fan and teddy bear lover, is the man who should be doing it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rest In Peace To A True Mets Fan

This will not be a typical Studious Metsimus post. It will contain no pictures, no poor attempts at humor and no Joey Beartran. It is also a post I would have preferred never to have written. But alas, when one of us, a fellow blogger and Mets fan, passes away, it's something that must be done.

I felt a connection with Dana Brand through our words and through our mutual love of the Mets. Although I never met him in person, we exchanged an occasional e-mail or twelve, discussing various topics such as writing, our special bonds with our mothers, and of course, our beloved Mets. Through those e-mails, it was clear that Dr. Brand had an unbridled passion for the men in orange and blue that was rivaled by very few people in not just the blogging community, but the entire Mets community. His books, Mets Fan and The Last Days of Shea, put that passion into words, in a way that so few people have been able to match.

I have been a Mets fan for thirty years. However, I consider myself a neophyte in the blogging community, not writing about the Mets until they had already played a month's worth of games at Citi Field. Dana Brand was a Mets fan since the team's inception. Both of his books were penned while Shea Stadium was still hosting baseball.

Shea is no longer with us, having been replaced by Citi Field. Now Dana Brand has left us unexpectedly at the all too young age of 56. However, there can be no replacement for Dr. Brand. He was a charming, eloquent and highly respected man, who wrote from his heart and was willing to share it as well. I did not have to know him personally to know that. I could read it in the messages we shared with one another and I can see it from the outpouring of love and respect from our fellow Mets bloggers upon hearing of his passing.

Rest in peace, Dana Brand (1954-2011). Although you are no longer be with us, your passion for the team you loved will always live on.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Freddy Got (Middle) Fingered

The Mets didn’t have a game scheduled for today, but they’re still all over the back pages of the tabloids. No one threw a firecracker in a crowded parking lot. No one threw bleach on anyone. No one shouted homophobic slurs at anyone. In fact, no players were involved in the controversy. But the man who pays them is.
Mets’ chief cook and bottle washer Fred Wilpon made some interesting comments recently that were published in this week’s edition of the New Yorker magazine. In particular, he singled out four of the team’s best players. But perhaps the article may have been edited before it went to print.
The Studious Metsimus staff believes we may know what Mr. Wilpon really said to the New Yorker. After all, we once got an e-mail from him that started with “Dear Mets Friend”, so you could say we know what makes him tick. (Never mind that thousands of other people received the same e-mail. He sent it to us with love!) Here is what was printed in the New Yorker followed by what he really meant to say:

What He Said: “(Jose Reyes) thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money. … He’s had everything wrong with him. He won’t get it.”
What He Meant: “I wish I had Carl Crawford’s money.”

What He Said: “We had some schmuck in New York who paid (Carlos Beltran) based on that one series. He’s sixty-five to seventy percent of what he was.”
What He Meant: “He hit the Cardinals so well in the ’04 NLCS. Why couldn’t he take the g*dd*mn bat off his shoulders against them in the ’06 NLCS? Adam Wainwright’s got a good curve, but it ain’t no Sandy Koufax curve.”

What He Said: “(David Wright is a) really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.” What He Meant: “David Wright is a really good kid. A very good player. But he’s not Sandy Koufax.”

What He Said: “(Ike Davis is a) good hitter. … Sh**ty team – good hitter.”
What He Meant: “Ike Davis is a sh**ty hitter on a good team. No, wait. Ike Davis is a good hitter on a team with a sh**ty owner. No, that can't be right. Ike Davis took a sh*t today. Ah, f**k it! Ike Davis is Jewish like Sandy Koufax - that makes him good.”

Fred Wilpon has been alive for three-quarters of a century. He’s been collecting Social Security for over a decade now. (Hope he’s saving it.) In other words, he should be retired already! If Julio Franco could walk away before he was half a century old, than why can't his former employer do the same?
If Fred Wilpon truly loved the Mets, he’d sell the team and quit while he’s behind. The Mets have a long way to go before they can hand out World Series rings. Hopefully, the next time they do, none of them will say Wilpon on it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Joey's Small Bites: Be Careful What You Wish For

Last night I was at Yankee Stadium hoping to see the Mets take the second game of the Subway Series (and sampling some tasty Yankee Stadium chicken nachos, as you can see from the photo to the left). If you read my post-game recap, you'd know that I was complaining about how the Yankees can only score runs when they hit the ball over the wall. After all, they had scored more than half of their runs on homers. No other team in baseball based their offense on the home run more than the Yankees. (Arizona was second, scoring 38% of their runs on homers.)

I wasn't the only one to notice this, as today both SNY and the YES Network brought it to their viewers' attention. (Thanks so much for sharing that with your viewers, but I kinda beat you to the punch.)

So apparently the Yankees must have read my post last night. How else could you explain what happened in the seventh inning today in the rubber match of the Subway Series? Let's set up the situation in case you were doing something else like doing the math to figure out when the next "End of Days" was going to be.

The Mets were leading 3-1 going to the bottom of the seventh inning. On Friday night, the Mets held a 2-1 lead going into the seventh inning and went to their bullpen. Mike O'Connor, Jason Isringhausen and Francisco Rodriguez combined to retire all nine Yankee batters to face them to preserve the victory for R.A. Dickey.

Today, Terry Collins left Mike Pelfrey in the game to start the seventh inning. A few minutes later, the tying runs were on base with no one out. Did Collins take out Pelfrey there so that he couldn't lose the ballgame even if both runs scored? No, he left him in there to face Francisco Cervelli, who was trying to sacrifice the runners to second and third. Cervelli sacrificed his body instead, getting plunked by Pelfrey's first pitch near his left shoulder.

So did Collins take Big Pelf out then? No, he left him in to face Derek Jeter, who has the highest batting average against the Mets of any player in history. Of course, Jeter promptly singled up the middle to tie the game. A few batters too late, Collins popped his head out of the dugout and removed Pelfrey, but the damage was done. Actually, the damage was just beginning and some of it was my fault.

If you remember, I kept making fun of the Yankees for not being able to manufacture runs. Prior to the seventh inning of today's game, the Bronx Bummers had only scored one run all series without the benefit of a home run. Then came Derek Jeter's two-run single. That was followed by every bloop and bleeder you could imagine. By the time the inning was over, the Yankees had scored eight runs to turn a 3-1 Mets lead into a 9-3 debacle. It was enough to drive a bear to drink. And drink. And drink some more.

I have no idea what's going on.

So to recap today's game, the Mets had the lead for most of the game, the Yankees told me to "take my blog and shove it" and I'm about to throw up.

At least the Mets won't have to play at The House That Juice Built until next season. I don't think I could take another series of Yankee fans teaching us how to count to 27. (Yes, we know how many championships you've won. We're also aware of your IQ. You don't need to tell us both at the same time.) Let's hope things finish for the better when the Yankees visit Citi Field in July. Let's also hope I feel better by then. I might have to lay off the chicken nachos for a...a...HWAAAARRRRFFFF!! (Excuse me.)

Justin Turner "Un-Vail-ed"

It seems like a lot of people have sent the Justin Turner bandwagon into overdrive. From #JustinTurnerFacts on Twitter (tip of the blue Mets cap to The Daily Stache for creating what has become a trending topic on Twitter) to this guy who's written too many blogs on him recently, Justin Turner seems to be on everyone's mind. Even a certain renowned writer who has an equal amount of "faith" and "fear" in his team has weighed in on Turner's recent accomplishments.

Needless to say, I noticed a connection between Justin Turner and Rusty Staub that has nothing to do with their hair color. Unfortunately, it's not one most Mets fans would want to make.

Let's hop into the DeLorean and set the time coordinates to 1975. At the time, the Mets were in a transitional phase. Yogi Berra was fired in August, replaced by Roy McMillan. 1969 World Series hero Cleon Jones was released outright. However, the Mets did produce their highest team batting average to date (.256), saw Dave Kingman belt a franchise-record 36 home runs and watched Rusty Staub become the first player to drive in 100 runs in a single season.

That team also produced a young outfielder named Mike Vail.

Mike Vail was a hitting machine at AAA-Tidewater in 1975, hitting .342 in 115 games. He was also a clutch hitter, driving in 79 runs despite hitting only seven home runs for the Tides. On August 18, he made his major league debut as a pinch-hitter. He singled in his first at-bat. Two days later, he made his first start and went 0-for-5. He wasn't held hitless again until September 16, when ironically, he did not collect a hit in an 18-inning victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, going 0-for-7 in the extra-inning affair.

Vail's 23-game hitting streak set the franchise record, unsurpassed until 1984 when Hubie Brooks hit in 24 consecutive games. After hitting .302 in 38 games in 1975, Vail made Rusty Staub expendable in the minds of the front office, who traded Le Grand Orange to the Detroit Tigers for the rotund and past-his-prime Mickey Lolich.

The Mets did well in 1976, finishing with the second-most wins in franchise history at the time (86), but that proved to be the final respectable season for the team until 1984. Rusty Staub went on to average 106 RBI per season for the Tigers from 1976-1978 (no Met drove in as many as 106 runs in a season until Darryl Strawberry collected 108 RBI in 1990). Mike Vail went kaplooie after being anointed as the "player of the future" following the 1975 season.

A basketball injury sustained during the off-season kept Vail on the disabled list for most of the 1976 season. Upon his return, Vail struggled, hitting only .217, scoring eight runs and driving in nine in 53 games. He performed slightly better in 1977, but still only produced a .262 batting average with eight home runs and 35 RBI in 108 games.

The so-called "player of the future" helped send the Mets back to their losing past. After being an excellent contact hitter in the minors, Vail struck out 114 times in 584 career at-bats for the Mets. He attempted eight stolen bases as a Met and was thrown out all eight times. Vail also made Jeff Francoeur look like a walking machine. From 1975-1977, Vail drew only 34 bases on balls, never walking more than 19 times in a single season for the Mets. This continued throughout his major league career, as Vail walked a mere 81 times in 10 big league seasons.

Now let's get back into the DeLorean, fire up the flux capacitor (anyone have a spare piece of plutonium lying around?) and return to 2011. Justin Turner just set the Mets' rookie record by driving in at least one run in his seventh consecutive game. Prior to his streak, Turner had only driven in six runs in his major league career. But like Vail, Turner was also an outstanding contact hitter in the minor leagues, hitting .309 and striking out only 279 times in 2,202 plate appearances.

Justin Turner is also playing third base, filling in admirably for the injured David Wright, who drove in over 100 runs last season. With just about every Met having the "untradeable" tag removed from them, could it be that history is about to repeat itself?

Let's hope not. Justin Turner is on quite a bit of a roll, but he will never be David Wright, even when the longtime third baseman reverts to his David K. Wright persona. At best, Turner will platoon with Daniel Murphy at second base until Terry Collins decides that one of them has won the job outright.

Justin Turner is a nice player whose 15 minutes of fame have stretched into a second week. He's not David Wright just like Mike Vail was not Rusty Staub. Let's enjoy his hot streak while it lasts, but let's not make the mistake the front office made in 1975 by anointing him "the player of the future". For now, Justin Turner is a player of the present. We'll let the future take care of itself.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Joey's Small Bites: Putting The Band(box) Back Together

I attended Saturday night's middle game of the Subway Series at The House That Juice Built and I came home with whiplash. No, it wasn't because Bartolo Colon fell on my lap. It was because of all the times I snapped my neck turning to watch 250-foot home run after 250-foot home run leave the park.

The Yankees hit four home runs off Chris Capuano, one short of the franchise record of five set by Roger Craig on May 4, 1963. They have now scored 226 runs this season. Only 99 of them have scored without the ball going over the wall. That means the Bronx Bombers average 2.25 runs per game that score on something other than a home run. They better hope they never have to use Citi Field as their home ballpark (the Yankees called Shea Stadium home in 1974 and 1975 while the old Yankee Stadium was being renovated) because they'll score less than Steve Urkel there.

Despite my neck pain, I still enjoyed myself at the ballpark. Since my paws were unaffected by the barrage of Bomber baseballs, I'll still be able to recap the game for you, one small bite at a time.

To honor all the players in tonight's game who started the season at AAA-Buffalo, I decided to feast on Buffalo wings.

A.J. Burnett entered the game with only four wins in 18 career starts against the Mets (six losses, eight no-decisions), and the Mets started the game as if they were going to make it four wins in 19 starts. They plated two runs in the first inning, the second coming off the bat of Justin Turner, who broke Ron Swoboda's franchise record when he drove in Daniel Murphy with an opposite field single.

But then the Yankees clicked their heels and said "there's no place like home (runs)". First, Russell Martin tied the game with a two-run homer in the second inning. An inning later, Mark Teixeira launched a two-run blast to give the Yankees the lead. After the Mets tantalized their fans by cutting the lead to one in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Carlos Beltran (I'm surprised it wasn't a home run. It was hit softly enough.), the Yankees homered twice in the sixth inning, as Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez connected off Capuano.

The Yankees added a new word to their vocabulary in the eighth inning, when they learned how to manufacture a run, as the less famous No. 2 in New York singled, stole second, took third on a fly ball, and scored on a sacrifice fly.

The Mets' offense went to sleep after scoring their final run in the fifth, despite the fact that Le Grand Justin Turner batted twice in the late innings.

At least there was a bright side to the Mets' 7-3 loss, as Frankie Rodriguez didn't get to finish the game. (K-Rod has finished 18 of the Mets' first 45 contests, putting him on pace to finish 65 games, or 10 more than is needed to make his contract vest for the 2012 season.)

The Mets will try to do something on Sunday that they have not done well against the Yankees - winning a rubber game. Since 1997, the Mets and Yankees have split the first two games of their series 13 times. The Mets have only won the rubber game three times. They'll look to buck the trend on Sunday, sending the improved Mike Pelfrey to the hill. His counterpart will be Ivan Nova, who has never faced the Mets or any other National League team, for that matter.

The Mets spent an entire month taking small bites to get back to .500. Now that they're back on the south side of the break-even point, they'll need to make room for one more bite against the Yankees on Sunday. Gluttony is the only way to go for the Mets in this series.

Le Grand Justin Turner

Rusty Staub was beloved as a Met, setting numerous club records during his underrated career. So cherished was Rusty in New York that the team honored him with "Thanks Rusty Day" on July 13, 1986.

Mets players poured out of the dugout wearing red wigs in appreciation of Le Grand Orange, a key player in the march to the National League pennant in 1973 and one of the best pinch-hitters of all-time during his second stint with the Mets in the 1980s.

It's been 25 years since the Mets honored their red-headed sparkplug. Now the Mets have another in Justin Turner.

The arrival of Turner came "Justin" time for the Mets.

Justin Turner quietly put together a successful minor league career, hitting .309 in five minor league seasons. A doubles machine, Turner hit 124 two-baggers in the minors, a number surpassed by only 16 players in Mets history (including Rusty Staub, who hit 130 doubles for the Mets).

Now given the chance to play every day for the Mets due to injuries to Ike Davis and David Wright, Turner has flourished. Entering tonight's game, he was hitting .364, continuing his doubles onslaught with seven two-base hits in only 55 at-bats. With his first-inning RBI single, Turner broke Ron Swoboda's 46-year-old rookie record for consecutive games with an RBI (seven). Over those seven games, Turner has driven in 12 runs.

Terry Collins will have a dilemma on his hands when Ike Davis and David Wright return from their injuries to play first base and third base, respectively. Who will lose playing time between Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner? Will the lefty-swinging Murphy platoon with the right-handed hitting RBI machine? Has Turner earned the opportunity to play every day? Will someone be traded?

One thing's for certain. In the '70s and '80s, Mets fans were treated to the fantastic play of Le Grand Orange, Rusty Staub. It's been over a quarter century since Rusty announced his retirement. Now the fans have a new redhead to cheer. Le Grand Justin Turner is winning the hearts of Mets fans all over the city and making opposing pitchers see red every time he drives in another run. Not bad for a guy who only had four major league hits before 2011.

Joey's Small Bites: Yankees Flaccid Against Dickey

The Mets entered this year's Subway Series on a roll, coming off a series shutout of the Washington Nationals. The two-game mini-sweep catapulted the Mets past the Nats in the NL East standings. But the Nats (.223 team batting average, 32 HR prior to last night's game) are clearly not the Yankees (65 HR entering the Subway Series opener).

The Yankees had scored 218 runs over their first 42 games. A total of 111 of those runs had scored on home runs (33 solo shots, 20 two-run homers, 10 three-run blasts and two grand slams). You wouldn't need Jaime Escalante to tell you that the Yankees have scored more than half of their runs on home runs. So basically, the formula to stop the Yankees is to keep them in the ballpark. Except for one solo pop-up by Mark Teixeira, that's exactly what R.A. Dickey and his fellow moundsmen did. This is Joey Beartran and you're about to read my small bites from last night's game.

I'll take the Mets' small ball style of play to the Yankees' "homers or nothing" approach any day of the week.

The Yankees took the early lead against the Mets on the "strength" of Mark Teixeira's pop-up to the shallow right field seats. Carlos Beltran gave it a valiant effort, but he was still unable to catch Big Texy's solo bloop. Had the game been played at Citi Field, Beltran probably would have had to come in to make the play.

The Mets responded quickly in the top of the fourth. Back-to-back two-out doubles by designated hitter Fernando Martinez and the man Jason Bay wishes he could hit like, Justin Turner, knotted the game at 1.

R.A. Dickey struggled a bit in the bottom of the fifth inning, allowing infield singles to Brett Gardner and the man who claims to have an Edge. But then his royal Edgeness' counterpart, Jose Reyes, made a spectacular game-changing defensive play on a grounder hit by third baseman Alex Rodriguez, diving to his left to rob Cameron Diaz's boy toy of a potential game-tying single. It was a play the aforementioned Edge driver would never have made due to his lack of range. Yes, it's a fact that Derek Jeter may have an Edge (I believe everything I see on TV, don't you?), but Jose Reyes has a Range Rover, and it proved to be the difference in last night's ballgame.

Speaking of differences, Daniel Murphy yanked a ball down the right field line that gave the Mets the lead in the sixth inning. Murphy's fourth homer of the year was one of only five hits surrendered by Yankee starter/Met castoff Freddy Garcia. However, four of those five hits went for extra bases and accounted for both runs scored by the Mets. (Aren't you glad the Mets went with Tim Redding as their No. 5 starter in 2009 rather than Freddy Garcia?)

Dickey was lifted after throwing 101 pitches in six effective innings, culminating his start with back-to-back strikeouts of Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher. It was then up to the bullpen to preserve the lead. Mike O'Connor (0.00 ERA, 0.35 WHIP in 5.2 innings), Jason Isringhausen (1.80 ERA, seven hits allowed in 15 innings) and Francisco Rodriguez (15 consecutive saves) retired every batter they faced, with K-Rod putting an end to the game the same way Dickey ended his outing, striking out Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher.

After the game, Yankee manager Joe Girardi said it best when he offered this explanation as to why his players were confounded at the plate throughout the game:

"Whenever you face a knuckleballer, you're really not sure what's going to happen because it's not something guys face every day. It's a totally different day for all of our hitters."

Thank you for saying it so succinctly, Joe. Facing a knuckleballer confused the hitters. In fact, they were so confused that they forgot how to hit the non-knuckleballing firm of O'Connor, Isringhausen and Rodriguez over the final three innings as well.

With the victory, the Mets improved to .500 on the season, a mark they hadn't reached since they were 4-4 on April 9. The Yankees fell to 23-20, or one step closer to where the Mets are now.

Tonight, Chris Capuano faces A.J. Burnett, who is making his 19th career start against the Mets, but has only won four of them (4-6, eight no-decisions). The game will be broadcast by FOX, which will afford Mets fans the opportunity to listen to Howie Rose call the game on WFAN.

I will not be watching the game on FOX or listening to it on WFAN. Instead, I will be in attendance at The House That Juice Built, hoping to see the Mets win their fifth road series of the year, which would be one more than they won all of last year.

The Yankees might be the ones currently taking large bites out of the New York fanbase, but the Mets showed that if they take enough small bites out of the Yankees' overhyped (and overpaid) machine, the teams can be on even ground. After all, small bites tend to make the meal more satisfying, while big bites just give you indigestion. I should know. I'm an expert on the topic.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

First Quarter Recap: Things We Observed By Watching

Okay, so technically the first quarter of the season ended in the middle of the fifth inning on Monday, when the Mets had played 40½ games. But blogging isn't an exact science and my watch wasn't working, so let's just say the first quarter of the season just ended today. After their second consecutive shutout victory over the Washington Nationals, the Mets' record stands at 21-22. For a team that started the season by losing 13 of their first 18 games, they've made quite a turnaround.

So as we look back on those first 43 games and look ahead to the next 118 (because I'm still convinced that the Mets will have a game rained out that doesn't get made up), let's see what we observed during the first quarter and what we can look forward to over the next three-quarters of the season.

There are two things we noticed about Jason Bay. Neither one of them is very positive. Let's ignore that he banged out three hits today. Instead, let's focus on home runs and runs batted in, or the lack of them.

We still think Jason Bay is a nice guy who tries his best. Too bad his best produces strikeouts and pop-ups.

These are the career batting statistics of two former Mets, followed by Jason Bay's numbers as a Met (through games of May 18, 2011):

  • Player A: 17 doubles, 5 triples, 6 HR, 60 RBI, 70 runs scored.
  • Player B: 15 doubles, 5 triples, 7 HR, 65 RBI, 59 runs scored.
  • Jason Bay: 23 doubles, 6 triples, 8 HR, 54 RBI, 60 runs scored.

As you can see, Player A and Player B both have career numbers comparable to Jason Bay. Who are these players? Player A is Tom Seaver and Player B is Dwight Gooden. At least Bay can say that he has numbers that compare to two of the best players ever to put on a Mets uniform. Of course, those weren't exactly the Mets players fans had in mind when they envisioned the batting marks Jason Bay would approach.

So do you know which hitter Jason Bay resembles the most? How about Chico Walker? The man who made the final out AGAINST the Mets in the game that clinched the 1986 NL East division title and the final out FOR the Mets the last time they were no-hit, put up numbers stunningly similar to the Mets' current $66 million man:

  • Chico Walker: .268 AVG/.322 OBP/.382 SLG, 9 HR, 55 RBI, 21 SB in 440 at-bats.
  • Jason Bay: .250 AVG/.340 OBP/.388 SLG, 8 HR, 54 RBI, 12 SB in 428 at-bats.

Perhaps with a little surge in the second quarter of the season, Bay might approach Richie Hebner's career stats for the Mets (.268, 25 doubles, 10 HR, 79 RBI in 473 at-bats).

Richie Hebner hated New York and Mets fans. I wonder if he can claim John Rocker as a dependent.

What was the other thing we noticed about Jason Bay this season? In 23 games, the Mets' leftfielder has driven in seven runs. In the last four games alone, second baseman/third baseman Justin Turner has knocked in nine.

Here are a few other things we observed over the first quarter of the season that have nothing to do with Jason Bay.

One of the newest members of the Buffalo Bisons, Chin-Lung Hu didn't do very well in his time with the Mets. In fact, he finished the first quarter of the season with more body parts in his name (two - Chin and Lung) than base hits collected (Hu notched one safety in 20 at-bats).

Jose Reyes is back to leading the National League in stolen bases, a feat he accomplished three times from 2005 to 2007. His 16 stolen bases are two more than Astros' speedster Michael Bourn. What's amazing about Reyes' stolen base total is that he also has 20 extra-base hits on the year. For those who aren't aware, it's a little difficult for Jose to steal second base when he's already standing on it or past it because he keeps churning out extra-base hit after extra-base hit. Can you say contract year, kids?

What about Reyes' partner in grime, David Wright? The recently-DL'ed third baseman has struck out 43 times in 146 at-bats this season (an average of one strikeout every 3.4 at-bats). The Mets' starting rotation (Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese, R.A. Dickey, Chris Capuano, Dillon Gee) has struck out 25 times in 65 at-bats. But Chris Capuano has struck out nine times in 12 at-bats. Therefore, the other four starters have gone down on strikes only 16 times in 53 at-bats, or once every 3.3 at-bats. Perhaps his time on the DL will remind David Wright that he should stop running away from good pitches and start making contact with them.

You can run, but you can't hide (from strike three).

Over the past two seasons, the Mets finished a combined 61-101 away from Citi Field (compared to an 88-74 record at home). This year, the opposite is true, as the Mets are 11-10 on the road and 10-12 at home. Their improvement on the road will come in handy during the second quarter of the season, as the Mets will play 33 of 49 games in their road grays (and blacks) from June 7 through July 31.

Upcoming Milestones Within Reach

David Wright is tied with Darryl Strawberry for first place on the all-time runs scored list (662). But with Wright on the disabled list, Jose Reyes should become the club's all-time leader in runs scored sometime this weekend. Reyes is currently third with 660.

Similarly, Wright and Reyes are both close to passing Cleon Jones for second place on the franchise's all-time hits list. Jones is currently in second place with 1,188 hits. Wright has 1,182 safeties and Reyes has 1,178.

Carlos Beltran is 12 home runs away from cracking the top five in home runs. Dave Kingman is currently fifth with 154 home runs as a Met, while Beltran has 142. With 22 RBIs, Beltran will surpass Cleon Jones (521, 7th all-time) and Edgardo Alfonzo (538, 6th all-time) in runs batted in. Of course, with each home run and RBI, Beltran becomes more attractive to teams looking to make a trade for the rightfielder.

Francisco Rodriguez picked up his 74th save as a Met today, good for seventh on the team's all-time list. However, with 13 more saves he will pass Roger McDowell (84) and Tug McGraw (86) to enter the top five. Of course, if he finishes 38 more games this season, he will get plenty of opportunities to go even higher on the all-time saves list, as he will reach the 55-game plateau needed for his 2012 contract to vest.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

R.I.P. Harmon Killebrew (1936-2011)

All-or-nothing sluggers. The monicker applies to players who specialize in one particular thing on the baseball diamond. They hit home runs. They don't do much else.

Over the past few decades, major league baseball has seen its share of all-or-nothing sluggers. Former players such as Dave Kingman, Rob Deer, Pete Incaviglia and Mark McGwire hit tape measure home runs that caused many jaws to drop, a tradition that has been continued by current players such as Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds, to name a few. Of course, if these hitters weren't hitting balls over the wall, they were probably heading back to the dugout after their at-bats.

Hamon Killebrew was one such player. In a career that spanned 22 seasons (1954-1975), the man with "harm" and "kill" in his name slugged 573 home runs, hitting 40 or more eight times. However, he only hit 290 doubles, never hitting more than 27 over a full season and finished his career with a .256 batting average and almost 1,700 strikeouts.

Killebrew was an all-or-nothing slugger before the term even existed. But despite being fearsome at the plate, the man known as "Killer" was a gentle giant off the field, treating everyone he met, from current players to fans at card shows, with the same respect. It was that respect that made him one of the most beloved figures in Minnesota Twins' history.

Earlier today, Harmon Killebrew lost his battle with esophageal cancer at the age of 74. Although this is a Mets blog, we couldn't let the day pass without mentioning the passing of a Hall of Famer and true baseball legend, regardless of which team's uniform he put on. (And for those who need a Mets connection, Harmon Killebrew went 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI in the 1964 All-Star Game, the only Midsummer Classic ever played at Shea Stadium.)

Harmon Killebrew might have specialized in one thing on the baseball field, but that one thing was enough to make him a beloved figure, respected by Twins fans and followers of baseball alike. He may have "harmed" a few earned run averages by "killing" a baseball or two (or 573), but the soft-spoken Killebrew was anything but what his name suggested.

All-or-nothing? To Twins fans, Harmon Killebrew was all-and-everything. May he rest in peace.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dickeypedia Word of The Week: Fortitude

R.A. Dickey has not been himself lately. His record for the season is 1-5 and he's leading the National League in hits allowed, giving up 64 safeties in 51.1 innings. Although his game has suffered a bit this year, his vocabulary has not.

After his latest loss yesterday, our fav'rit wordsmith did not have anything to hide in his post-game interview, saying:

“You try not to be too hard on yourself, but this game will really challenge your internal fortitude when you have outing after outing, and balls are finding holes, and you feel like you’re making pretty good pitches.”

Never mind that Dickey's balls are finding holes. That's something that can be corrected with a change in his grip. What we're more concerned with is his internal fortitude, as Dickey is admitting that he is feeling challenged in that department.

Anytime a man feels challenged, it's always best to let things out. One person who never backed away from a challenge was Victor Zambrano. He was the Mets' version of a Timex watch. He took a lickin' and kept on tickin'. Okay, so maybe he took more than just one lickin', but he did keep on tickin' until he tore a tendon in his right elbow, preventing him from tying Mets' legends Kevin Appier, Jerry DiPoto, Tom Gorman, Mike Torrez and Wally Whitehurst for 87th place on the franchise's all-time wins list.

Zambrano was challenged by the fans every time he stepped onto the mound at Shea Stadium. The Studious Metsimus staff felt that Zambrano would be a perfect subject to discuss fortitude with, so we tried to contact him via e-mail. When he responded that he was unsure what the word "fortitude" meant, we sent him another e-mail with the following definition:


  • mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously.

Unfortunately, we received one of those annoying "not deliverable" e-mails as soon as we clicked the send button, making us think that Zambrano changed his e-mail address, so we decided to move on and find another former Met to discuss fortitude with.

However, the following day, we were surprised to find an e-mail from Zambrano in our inbox. He claimed he never received our last e-mail, but felt bad that he used the "I don't know what 'fortitude' means defense", so he tried his best to discuss the topic with us in his e-mail. Perhaps it would been better served if he had received our second e-mail before answering, as Zambrano responded:

"It was tough when I was a member of the Mets from 2004 to 2006. But once I got booed for the fortitude time at Shea Stadium, I knew there was nothing I could do to win the hearts of the fans."

R.A. Dickey won more games for the Mets last year in three-quarters of a season than Victor Zambrano won from 2004 to 2006. Dickey has also been a beloved player ever since he first put on a Mets uniform. Zambrano was booed so much at Shea Stadium, even Phillies fans felt sorry for him.

Dickey and Zambrano couldn't be more different as Mets. But they both know what it feels like to have their balls squeeze their way into open holes. At least Dickey can correct his problem. Zambrano's entire Mets career was a stinker. I guess his fortitude was more of the intestinal variety.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Joey's Small Bites: Everything's Bigger In Texas, Like Mets' Comebacks

So last night I was settling in with some cupcakes and the remote control (and my sister Iggy), hoping to see the Mets try to continue their winning streak against the Houston Astros. The Astros, who own of the worst record in the National League, had somehow taken two out of three games from the Mets in April at Citi Field, something that this Mets fan had not forgotten. Dillon Gee was starting for New York against Bud Norris, and I was expecting the Mets to do well against Norris. Well, they didn't. But that doesn't mean the end result wasn't good.

For the first six innings, the Mets' bats were silent against Norris, as the Astros' starter faced two batters above the minimum. But Gee was matching Norris pitch for pitch, and the score was only 1-0 in favor of the Astros as they came to bat in the bottom of the sixth.

Then I had an "Oh, $#!+" moment. No, I didn't do anything wrong. I just had to go to the bathroom. (Those cupcakes were doing the loop-de-loop in my tummy.) Of course, once I returned from the loo, the Astros had taken it to Gee, scoring three runs off the rookie. That's when I had another "Oh, $#!+" moment, but this was directed more at the Mets. It could have been a lot worse (the game, not my bowel movements), but Pat Misch induced an inning-ending double play to keep the score at 4-0.

In the seventh inning, Norris continued to roll, striking out David K. Wright and Carlos Beltran to start the frame. As I watching this, all I could think of was that we were allowing a guy named Bud to toy with us. I mean, when I think of Bud, this is what I think of...

Bud Harrelson and his "bud" Pete Rose, Bud (a.k.a. Kenny) from the Cosby Show, Bud from the Budweiser ads.

This was Bud Norris, who had won all of 17 games in his three-year career and "boasted" a career 4.55 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, numbers that were eerily similar to what Victor Zambrano posted during his three-year stint with the Mets (10 wins, 4.42 ERA, 1.49 WHIP). In other words, WE SHOULD BE HITTING THIS GUY!!!

Well, they must have noticed that I was using caps because with one swing of the bat, the Mets were no longer bound by Bud, as Jason Bay hit his eighth career home run as a Met, cutting the Mets' deficit to 4-1. That set things in motion for what was to follow.

Pat Misch pitched a one-two-three inning in the bottom of the seventh. Then the Mets' bats woke up from their lumber slumber in the top of the eighth, as Fernando Martinez hit a two-run homer into the second deck in right field to make it a one-run game. Jose Reyes followed F-Mart's blast by getting Norris to walk him. That was enough for Astros' manager Brad Mills, as he closed his tab, having his fill of Bud for the night. In came Jeff Fulchino, a 31-year-old with only 160 innings pitched in the majors. That should say it all.

David K. Wright legally changed his middle initial to H.R., taking Fulchino deep into the Crawford seats, completing the Mets' comeback and giving them a 5-4 lead. The Mets then scored an insurance run in the ninth inning and K-Rod held on to the lead to record his 11th consecutive save.

The Mets had rallied from a four-run seventh inning deficit to defeat the Astros 6-4, causing my sister to celebrate with her special Mets pom poms.

With the victory, the Mets improved to 10-9 on the road this season, which is Amazin' considering that for the past two seasons, the road was where winning streaks went to die. (The Mets were 61-101 away from Citi Field over the past two seasons.)

Later this afternoon, the Mets will try to extend their winning streak to four when R.A. Dickey takes the mound against J.A. Happ in an all-initial affair. Should the Mets win, they will have taken their fourth series on the road, matching last season's total before Memorial Day.

They say everything's bigger in Texas. I can see why. Last night, the Mets proved that comebacks are bigger in Texas. Hopefully, by this evening, the Mets' winning streak can also get bigger. I'll eat to that!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Let's Enjoy Carlos Beltran While He's Still Here

Carlos Beltran has never been many things. He's never been the most popular player on the Mets. He’s never been a media darling. He’s never been the vocal rah-rah type of leader some teams have. He’s never had to be any of these people because for years, Beltran has let his play on the field do the talking for him. Yet he still has his critics.

There are some fans who will never forgive him for keeping the bat on his shoulders against Adam Wainwright. Others have difficulties with Beltran for getting injured and playing when he’s only been 85% healthy. Some fans blame him for anything they can think of, hiding behind the hash tags of #BlameBeltran on Twitter (even though the hash tag was originally created to be ironic).

The Wilpons’ financial problems? #BlameBeltran. Angel Pagan’s poor start before getting injured? #BlameBeltran. Chicken nacho stand at Citi Field out of nachos? #BlameBeltran.

It has almost gotten to the point that Beltran has become the scapegoat for any little negative blip on the Mets’ radar. Yet through all this, the Mets’ rightfielder has continued to give his best effort on the field, not allowing the negativity surrounding the team and their fans affect his production.

The latest example of this came last night in Colorado. With a lineup featuring Willie Harris as the No. 2 hitter, slumping Jason Bay batting cleanup, and Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner hitting fifth and sixth, respectively, the Mets appeared to lack punch. So what did Carlos Beltran do about it? He blasted three home runs off three different pitchers, with one coming from the left side of the plate, one from the right side and one from the mole side.

Carlos Beltran traded in his Wheaties for Rice Krispies and it showed against the Rockies. Snap! Crackle! Pop!

Beltran now has 20 extra-base hits on the season. His 12 doubles lead the league (tied with Jose Reyes, among others) and his eight home runs are one more than he hit last year after he returned from the disabled list at the All-Star Break. He has done this despite the fact that he missed most of spring training (playing in only three Grapefruit League games) and had to adjust to a new defensive position on the field.

Carlos Beltran is playing for a new contract in 2012. The last time he was playing for baseball security was in 2004 when he split his season between the Kansas City Royals and the Houston Astros. That year, he finished the regular season with 38 HR and 42 SB and then put up the type of dominant numbers in the post-season that are usually reserved for the 14-year-old mustachioed kid on a pre-teen Little League team.

Some might say that Beltran’s quick start for the Mets in 2011 is because of the walk year factor. If that’s the case, then what was his motivation for the 2006 to 2008 seasons, which rank among the best three-year stretches of any player in franchise history? In 2009, Beltran was hurt for most of the season, but still managed to play 81 games (exactly half the season). Even with his extended stay at the DL Hotel, he still reached double figures in home runs and stolen bases, while hitting a career-high .325, scoring 50 runs and driving in 48. In other words, he was on pace for a typical Carlos Beltran season.

Last year, he was hurt again and might have returned too quickly from his injury. However, he turned his game up a notch in September, hitting five of his seven home runs in the final month of the season and raising his batting average from the Mendoza Line to .255 at season’s end.

So yes, playing for a new contract has brought out the best in Carlos Beltran (as it would for any major leaguer), but so has good health. He didn’t have that in each of the past two seasons. Mets fans are now being treated to a healthy Carlos Beltran for the first time in three years.

There will always be people out there who will never like Beltran even if he saved their one-of-a-kind John Cena action figure from a house fire. I feel bad for those people. Instead of bad-mouthing a player who has been through all the ups and downs of the past seven seasons, giving his best on the field whenever he’s been healthy enough to play on it, they should be enjoying watching him play during his renaissance season.

More than likely, this will be Beltran’s final season (or half-season if he’s traded) with the Mets. Over the years, he has been one of the most complete players to ever put on the orange and blue, but at the same time, he has also been one of the most underappreciated players. It’s time to give Carlos Beltran the appreciation he deserves. Let’s stop trying to find new ways to #BlameBeltran and enjoy our rightfielder while he’s still here. You never know. It may be some time before a player of his caliber graces our outfield again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's Not Just The Failure To Hit With The Bases Loaded

Much has been said about the Mets' failure to produce with the bases loaded this season. After all, the team is hitting .182 (6-for-33) with the bags full. By contrast, the rest of the National League is hitting .294 in those situations. But this is not the only favorable hitting situation that the Mets have failed in repeatedly this season. In fact, the Mets have become quite adept at being inept.

David K. Wright doing what he does best.

Anytime a team has a runner on third base and less than two outs, the odds of scoring that run are obviously very good, as it can score without the benefit of a base hit. However, the Mets seem to have not received that memo. With a runner on third and less than two outs, the Mets are hitting a paltry .196 (11-for-56) with 34 RBI (10 sacrifice flies). They have struck out 17 times in these situations and have yet to hit a home run.

Even scarier is that the Mets have not hit a home run all season with a runner on third base. Of their 28 home runs, 15 have been of the solo variety, five have come with a man on first, five have been hit with a man on second, and the other three (all three-run homers) were blasted with men on first and second. Mets players have come to bat 150 times this season with a man on third base and have yet to hit a ball out of the ballpark. How many hits have they gotten in those 150 plate appearances? A measly 21, with only eight extra-base hits. They have struck out 31 times against only 18 walks in those situations. But wait, there's more.

In the late innings, when good teams are able to put together rallies to prevail in tight games, the Mets' bats go to sleep. Over the first six innings this season, the Mets have actually been quite respectable, hitting .265. They also have a .335 on-base percentage and a .419 slugging percentage from innings 1 through 6. However, over the final three innings, it's a completely different story (.201/.300/.325). Why is this so shocking? Because a starting pitcher usually contributes to lowering the batting avg./OBP/slugging pct. of his team during the first six innings of a ballgame. His spot is often taken by a pinch-hitter over the final three innings, a pinch-hitter who can usually be counted on to be a more productive hitter than the pitcher he's replacing in the batting order.

Of course, pinch-hitting has not been the Mets' forté this season, as substitutes have combined to hit .172 (16-for-93), have reached base at a .235 clip, and are slugging .258. Players such as Willie Harris, Scott Hairston and Chin-Lung Hu have yet the put the word "hitting" in pinch-hitting, as they have come off the bench to strike out 31 times while drawing only six walks.

This has become too familiar a sight at Citi Field this season.

So what does a first place team do with the bases loaded and some of the other situations discussed here? The Philadelphia Phillies have hit .300 (12-for-40) with the bags full this season. With runners on third base and less than two outs, they're hitting .299 with 50 RBI. They have 35 hits with runners on third base, including three home runs. And for all those who say "all they do is hit home runs", let it be known that as of today, both the Phillies and the Mets have hit exactly 28 home runs.

Yeah. That's what a first place team does at the plate when presented with favorable hitting situations. They don't strand runners on base. They move guys around. They make productive outs. They draw walks. They don't strike out, pop out or hit into inning-ending double plays. Last place teams do that. That's where the Mets are right now, and that's where they're going to stay if they don't start recognizing what needs to be done at the plate.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Josh Thole Gives Signs At The Plate And At Home

For one day, let's forget about the Mets' inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Let's not dwell on their failure to capitalize on their emotional extra-inning victory against the Phillies on Sunday night. Let's not even discuss Josh Thole's slow start both at the plate and behind it.

However, we can and will discuss Josh Thole in regards to a set of signs he's giving in his household, signs that are helping a beloved family member cope with an otherwise difficult disability.

Josh Thole, his wife Kathryn and their dog, Picca, showing signs of a loving family. (Photo by NY Mets/Daily News)

According to an article by Nicholas Hirshon in today's Daily News, the Thole family adopted their dog, Picca, two years ago in Syracuse. But shortly thereafter, Kathryn Thole noticed that their Maltese-poodle mix wasn't acknowledging her whenever she'd call for her.

After taking their beloved dog to the veterinarian, it was discovered that Picca was deaf. However, instead of giving her up, the Tholes realized that Picca needed the love and support they were willing to give her. Therefore, Josh decided to pick up some sign language books and taught Picca how to respond to sign commands.

With a few simple hand gestures, Picca has now learned how to sit and stay, making it far easier for the Tholes to communicate with their dog and live a happy and normal life together. Well, normal in mostly everything. As Josh Thole says, Picca has been helpful in a few impromptu running exercises...

"If I was to go up to get the mail or something, my dog would follow me and take off. I couldn't call her. I'd have to chase her."

Studious Metsimus salutes Josh and Kathryn Thole for going the extra mile for their dog, Picca. She may not be able to hear her owners express their love for her, but she doesn't have to. After all, it's all in the signs.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New Homestand, New Hope

After defeating the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday night in an emotional extra-inning affair, the Mets return to Citi Field to begin a week-long homestand against the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although the Mets are still in last place with a 12-16 record, they're not as far out of contention as their record and division standing would suggest. In fact, parity in baseball has made fans in every major league city hold on to hopes of meaningful baseball games in the summer.

Because baseball doesn't have a salary cap, it's difficult to achieve parity. Usually the teams with the highest payrolls have the best chance to extend their seasons past 162 games. More often than not, these teams usually finish well above .500 and have a relatively simple time making their way to the postseason. However, in the early going this season, an overwhelming number of teams are right around the .500 mark.

As of today, only five teams in baseball are more than three games above .500. Those teams are the Indians (19-8), Marlins (18-9), Phillies (18-9), Rockies (17-9) and Yankees (17-9). With identical 16-13 records, the Angels, Rangers and Cardinals can all lay claim to having the sixth-best record in baseball.

Want more proof that there's parity in baseball? Of the 30 teams in the major leagues, a whopping 20 franchises (or two-thirds of all clubs) are between three games over .500 and four games under .500. At 12-16, the Mets are one of those 20 teams that are separated by a mere 3½ games.

Let's now focus strictly on the National League. As of now, only four NL teams have winning records (Marlins, Phillies, Rockies, Cardinals). The Mets have played three of these four teams (they don't play St. Louis until after the All-Star Break) and are a combined 4-9 against them. Against all other opponents, the Mets have a winning record (8-7). After 28 games, the Mets have played nearly half of their schedule against teams that have winning percentages above .650. What about those three .650+ teams? How have the Marlins, Phillies and Rockies racked up so many wins early on? A quick look at their early season schedules reveal quite a tale.

The Marlins have played 27 games, but only six of them have come against teams with winning records. The Phillies have also played 27 games, with only two of those games being played against above-.500 teams (they split those two games against the Marlins). Meanwhile, the Rockies have played three of their 26 games against a winning team, losing two of three to the Marlins.

That means the Mets have played more games against the "elite" teams in the National League (13) than the Marlins, Phillies and Rockies have played combined (11). Of course the Marlins, Phillies and Rockies have good records. They've feasted on the dregs of the National League!

In addition, neither one of those three teams has played more games on the road than at home. The Mets, on the other hand, have played 15 of their 28 games away from Citi Field.

Now the Mets come back home, where they won their last four ballgames before going 3-3 on their recent Washington/Philadelphia trip. They will be facing the Giants and the Dodgers, teams with a combined 28-30 record. Meanwhile, the Marlins will playing six of their next nine games against teams with winning records (Cardinals, Phillies), while the Phillies will be facing their first real test of the season, with series against the Marlins and three of the other five division leaders (Cardinals, Rangers, Rockies) over the next three weeks.

The Mets are in last place now, but they have the opportunity to make a statement this week at home against the Giants and Dodgers. Parity is the name of the game in the major leagues this season, and the teams that have risen above it have done so by taking advantage of their weak early season schedules. But all that is about to change in the next few weeks. Will the Mets be able to rise if the other teams fall? If they do, this week's homestand could give new hope for the team and its fans.