Thursday, May 18, 2006

A new beginning ....

and a new home for me. I'm being hosted now by Joe McDonald of NYSportsDay . My new location is still ....getting paid to watch.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sooner, rather than later

David Cone had just made his impressive spring debut in 1987 the day before when Doc Gooden went to rehab for the first time. He would be gone until June, and by that time, Cone, Sid Fernandez and Bobby Ojeda had been lost for a significant periods of time. Although a furious surge would take place in the dwindling days of September, a chance to repeat as World Champions was lost before June when the rotation was in shambles.
To be blunt, it takes much from an everyday line-up when a rotation isn't consistently keeping the team in the game. The frequency of early leads and first inning scoring will lessen. Late inning comebacks will become increasingly rare. A pendulum shift of momentum occurs.
So with a lead that once was felt would only grow, two injuries in a rotation prompted a shrinking to two games. Jose Lima's start last Sunday-a loss-was followed by another loss in Philadelphia. That was a Pedro Martinez start. Today journeyman Jeremi Gonzalez goes against a greatly improved Milwaukee Brewers team. Fortunately he will be faced by Dana Eveland who's making his first appearance of the season. He was unremarkable in 27 games last season with an ERA just under 6.00. This game has the makings of lots of scoring in the first half and a bullpen duel during the final four innings. The current configuration of the staff promises more games as this, and the bullpen won't be able to sustain its early season excellence. This is characteristic of a club which plays below .500. So don't expect the Mets to take this path for long.
Its unlikely Lima will get many more shots and his lack of success doesn't figure to allow Gonzalez a long leash either. As the price for a starter of significance such as Livan Hernandez is currently prohibitive, a meeting that will be held soon to determine a course of action. If the powers that be decide its too soon for Mike Pelfrey or Alay Soler, then the only course of action left is for Aaron Heilman to return to the rotation. And sooner, rather than later.

Sooner, rather than later

David Cone had just made his impressive spring debut in 1987 the day before when Doc Gooden went to rehab for the first time. He would be gone until June, and by that time, Cone, Sid Fernandez and Bobby Ojeda had been lost for a significant periods of time. Although a furious surge would take place in the dwindling days of September, a chance to repeat as World Champions was lost before June when the rotation was in shambles.
To be blunt, it takes much from an everyday line-up when a rotation isn't consistently keeping the team in the game. The frequency of early leads and first inning scoring will lessen. Late inning comebacks will become increasingly rare. A pendulum shift of momentum occurs.
So with a lead that once was felt would only grow, two injuries in a rotation prompted a shrinking to two games. Jose Lima's start last Sunday-a loss-was followed by another loss in Philadelphia. That was a Pedro Martinez start. Today journeyman Jeremi Gonzalez goes against a greatly improved Milwaukee Brewers team. Fortunately he will be faced by Dana Eveland who's making his first appearance of the season. He was unremarkable in 27 games last season with an ERA just under 6.00. This game has the makings of lots of scoring in the first half and a bullpen duel during the final four innings. The current configuration of the staff promises more games as this, and the bullpen won't be able to sustain its early season excellence. This is characteristic of a club which plays below .500. So don't expect the Mets to take this path for long.
Its unlikely Lima will get many more shots and his lack of success doesn't figure to allow Gonzalez a long leash either. As the price for a starter of significance such as Livan Hernandez is currently prohibitive, a meeting that will be held soon to determine a course of action. If the powers that be decide its too soon for Mike Pelfrey or Alay Soler, then the only course of action left is for Aaron Heilman to return to the rotation. And sooner, rather than later.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Nothing ever goes as planned.....

..does it?
When Victor Zambrano sprinted off the mound yesterday, I sort of knew it was his elbow. A torn tendon or ligament is quite obvious to the one who has just suffered from it. And the torn tendon will sideline Victor Zambrano until the 2007 is well underway was already partially torn this season and Zambrano was pitching with it. The age old expression that a player's particular injury is "barking" has endured several generations it seems. And Zambrano's elbow had been barking for sometime, with only a chosen few in the Mets' clubhouse knowing.
These kind of things have happened for many, many years. A player wants to compete badly and even pain or the danger of career threatening circumstances will get in the way of this drive. Teammates know this need to compete and will protect the secret while providing a knowing broker to confide in. Any person who would blow the whistle on such pain-trainers, coaches alike-are kept out of the loop of the secret.
So what's done is done and here we are, with two of the five starters who left Florida now sidelined. Today the Mets send Jose Lima to the mound, a clear sentimental choice from many corners. His competitive nature and clubhouse presence will be extremely useful intangibles on this club which is playing very well. And they will play well behind him. This will be his 232nd major league start. Expect to see more of them in a Mets uniform.
There are four formative months before September comes around. Leads of 5 games over Philadelphia and 9 over Atlanta are extremely helpful here at the end of the first week of May. But with the Mets having to go into the second string of starters now in the back end of the rotation, the dominace may begin to subside somewhat. And the starting staff will have to swim on its own for awhile. A trade is always a possibility, but the price now is way, way too high to obtain a quality big league starter. It will get smaller as the deadline approaches. For the time being solutions will have to come from within.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Ron Darling

Ron Darling quickly scribbled his cell phone number on my note pad for me after we visited for awhile in the Legends Field dugout in late March. Like the rest of the old Mets I encountered, I was taken by the sense of calm and content they all conveyed. I shared this with Darling and he painted a picture un like any I'd heard before. During the mid-to-late 1980's, Darling described a metaphorical perfect storm that was fostered between the team, the city, the attitude and expectations collided at once. Like many of them, Darling found himself feeding off it. Only after periods of reflection could one come to such conclusions, and have such self deprecating humor. Ronnie's frequent observations about his own struggles at Shea are instructive for fans. Last night SNY broadcast was one of them. When Pirate starter Paul Malholm loaded the bases in the thirds, Darling said he was having a flashback to 1984 and 1985. Flashback was a favorite Darling expression I remember well and the manner in which he explained Malholm's predicament with his own career was refreshing and enlightening. Maybe a star is born yet again.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Two of three, but some cause for concern....

...and primarily in the rotation.
As the Mets lead going into May is still one of significant comfort in six games over the Braves and Phillies, its time to take some stock in the starting rotation.
With the passing of months during the season, more comparisons will be made with the 1986 club. Two first ballot Hall of Famers are at the top this season's Mets in Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine. Not much to compare here although Doc Gooden was dominate at the time. But it is in who follows where there is great water to navigate.
After Gooden, any of the four remainder of Ron Darling, Rick Aguilera, Sid Fernandez and Bobby Ojeda could be relied upon to deliver a quality start. It was by all measures the best staff in the game, and might well have been over as many as five seasons. Gary Carter pointed out to me last month that had today's play-off system been in place, the Mets probably have been in post season play every year from 1985 through 1990. The starting staff of the time which later included the likes of David Cone and Frank Viola, both Cy Young winners albeit with other teams.
Yesterday's bad day for Steve Trachsel at Turner Field should come as no surprise to anyone. He's now a collective 3-10 in Atlanta over his 12 year career and is now 1-4 against the NL East since his return late last season from back surgery. He's had only three winning seasons. Trachsel is an innings eater and best suited on this club as a fourth or fifth starter.
With tonight's start by Victor Zambrano ominous and tomorrow's John Maine debut not much more than that, one can assume Omar Minaya must note the same. This team is built and invested to win now, and I believe Minaya won't let his cellphone go unused.
Look first toward the struggling. The Minnesota Twins come first to mind. Terry Ryan and Joe McIlavaine know the Mets well and have been trading partners in the past. Johan Santana has struggled, but might be had. But Ryan and Joe Mac wont go for a care package of four of five.
The 1989 deal which brought Frank Viola to Shea, McIlvaine parted with Rick Aguilera, David West and Kevin Tapini. Aguilera was already an established pitcher and had proved effectiveness as a starter and reliever. West was a jewell among prospects. Tapani was felt to be rotation ready and ended up being just that. Tim Drummond, a pitcher was also included in the deal.
McIlvaine balked at the inclusion of outfielder Mark Carreon, but Andy McPhail knew that he had to have a fifth player from a public relations stand-point. So from his St. Louis motel room McIlvaine proposed a player-to-be-named later and McPhail agreed. The trade was consummated before the July 31st deadline and Viola started the next night at Busch Stadium.
Unless scouts indicate there's something terribly irreplably flawed in Santana, or he's not healthy, look for Ryan to shop him. In a smaller market this is the manner in which the twice world champion Twins have done business over the last 20 years. With White Sox, Indians and now the Tigers all playing well in their division assume the extremely wise and pragmatic McIlavine and Ryan to be having quiet conversations in dugouts, in the stands on their cell phones sooner rather than later.
And when August come around the best case scenario for the Mest will be a rotation of Martinez, Glavine, Mike Pelfrey, Steven Trachsel and someone very, very good who's not yet a Met.

Inside that umpire thing yesterday in the Bronx

When the normally recalcitrant Mike Mussina became verbally engaged with rookie umpire,Adam Dowdy yesterday while leaving the field after the top of the fifth, Joe Torre knew he had to take action. In danger of losing his starter who was dealing at that point, he quickly sought to change the attention from the beleaguered umpire to himself. Another example of a manager protecting his player, Torre did what he is paid to do. Quickly gesturing by showing three fingers was all it took to get Mussina out of the fray and keep him in the game.
Toronto manager, John Gibbons, made certain no undue advantage would be had when he was tossed for arguing after Alex Rodriguez was walked to put the Yankees ahead in the next half.
Torre and Gibbons are similar in demeanor, and have to go outside themselves somewhat to get tossed from a ballgame. Neither of them use foul language much at all. Both demonstrated yesterday savvy in-game judgment.

Sophomoric and snide......

.....is much of the second day coverage by the print media of the Jets draft this weekend. Aside from a rather and balanced take by Newsday, Ken Berger, the collective assessments were two thumbs down. Sadly, Berger's story was sabotaged by the misleading headline on the online addition, "Solid draft, but no QB." when two actually were picked.
Gary Myers and Rich Cimini continued their assault on the Jets weekend work. Myers revelations of the Jets furious attempt to get the Lions ninth pick to get Matt Leinart only seemed to embolden his critisism:

Even so, passing on Leinart at No. 4 was a mistake. They could have rectified that by making the trade with Detroit. If the Jets had been able to squeeze the Falcons for their own No. 1 pick (15th) in the Abraham trade - they didn't get enough for him - they would have had enough ammunition to pull off the trade with Detroit. Ironically, the Broncos, who wound up with that Atlanta pick in the three-way Abraham deal, moved up from that spot to the Rams' No. 11 spot and took Cutler. The price: a third-round pick, No. 68.
Mike Tannenbaum confirmed the Jest effort this morning on Mike an Mike of ESPN. Myers later plays the history card and closes with this:

Fifteen years ago, the Jets desperately tried to trade up for Brett Favre. They couldn't get a deal done and Favre went one spot ahead of them to the Falcons. The Jets took Browning Nagle. If Leinart becomes an All-Pro, the Jets will regret passing on him and then not paying enough when they had a second chance.
Tannenbaum explained with a simple word the philosophy in taking two lineman in the first round. It was the word, "infrastructure." and its use speaks volumes to the manner in which Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini look upon the task which they are charged with on Long Island.
The Daily News headline which accompanies the Cimini column, "Jets Doing it Bills Way," sets up this take:

They went heavy on intangibles, stressing leadership, work ethic, all those goodies. To remind his scouts of the mantra, Mangini posted a sign in the draft room that lists the characteristics he wants in his players. They've attacked free agency with the same philosophy, signing mostly overachieving role players.
Why such an emphasis on character?
Why such an emphasis on character? A veteran football observer as Cimini should know better than to emphasize something so simplistic. But he continues:

The Jets' 10-player draft class includes former college captains and academic all-Americas. Of course, this isn't a training ground for the Future Business Leaders of America; it's a football team. Talent wins.
Yes, indeed. Yet this assumes much. In quarterbacks, Brad Smith and Kellen Clemens, the Jets clearly drafted players with talent and players who have proved they win. Leon Washington, the running back from Florida State has had big games against big-time competition. Nevermind that you definitely never want a lockeroom void of leadership. Teams in all sports always are looking to add players of character and shun players without it. Note how the Mets leaped at the chance to get Paul LoDuca, and how no teams drafted Marcus Vick.
Both Myers and Cimini have now signaled they will be looking to criticize the Jets in seasons to come when opportunity presents itself after any subpar game at quarterback or when Curtis Martin shows signs of being over 30.
Just maybe among the four quarterbacks in camp one can emerge as one who delivers play-off games on the road in a hostile environment. And just maybe D'Brickashaw Ferguson protects the blindside of Jet quarterbacks all by himself while allowing them to run left again.
Other Observations:It really encouraging that Chad Pennigton has been throwing since March 1st. This indicates whatever soft tissue was damaged has indeed healed........It appears the Jets discovered Ohio State linebacker, Anthony Shlegel when they were scouting eventual 5th pick, AJ Hawk........From Berger's story today comes the tidbit that the Jets had Clemens arm strength ranked second only to Jay Cutler's but ahead of both Vince Young and Leinart.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Writers versus Tannenbaum/Mangini

It seems to me that the only people upset about the Jets not getting Reggie Bush are scribes like Steve Serby and Gary Myers. Myers also ripped the Jets for not taking Matt Leinart.
History hardened Jets fans cheered at D'Brickashaw Ferguson's selection. One Jet fan actually pointed at his head to indicate smart choice. Most of ESPN's analyst seemed to understand what Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini were doing, not only accenting the positives, but realizing that the Saints price was beyond what anyone could pay. The second pick of Ohio State center, Nick Mangold signaled the Jets know there are no quick fixes and are indeed building for the future. With a shut-down left tackle and a center perhaps now representing cornerstones of an offensive line that plays in cold weather, essentials could be in place for a decade.
In Oregon's Kellen Clemens the Jets have their quarterback of the future. Although in Rich Cimini's assessment indicates questionable arm strength, ESPN's Ron Jaworski emphatically endorsed the pick and showed tape of the kind of high quality throw Clemen's will be making in the NFL.
It seems that Woody Johnson hired two sober, sharp football guys to run his football team. And they don't read the newspaper.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

One down.....

Readers must notice my frequent utilization of ................Its even in my blog title. I often ask myself why is this so. But I know its intended to add emphasis and drama to the obvious. And the obvious for the Mets and their fans is that even in a series that is not even a month old, a sweep is something that's needed badly to rid themselves of the demons the past.
Last night was a beginning and hope is enhanced knowing that John Thompson and Kyle Davies will be taking the mound for the Braves these next two games at Turner Field. So with the Chipper Jones home run in the sixth which made it a one run game being answered in dramatic fashion by the Carlos Delgado sac fly and David Wright homerun in the ninth, a message was made clear. These Mets won't be wilting in the shadows on the Jones boys in Turner Field and will bring it for a full nine innings.
Willie Randolph may been entertaining thoughts of removing Pedro Martinez after facing both Jones' in the sixth, but the Chipper Jones two-run homer which made it 3-2 changed everything. Martinez answered quickly by striking out Andrew Jones to stem the fresh wound. Then he went on to quiet the Brave bats in the seventh enabling Randolph to put the ball in the hands of his most reliable relievers in Duaner Sanchez and Billy Wagner.
Before Sanchez' easy eighth, Jose Reyes probably went out to short thinking about bunting to lead off the ninth to get his team another run. With Reyes' speed, any ball that is an effort for a pitcher to reach is a hit. Paul LoDuca's unselfish team play continued with a quality bunt to get Reyes to third after his stolen base for Delgado. Delgado delivered his 68th career sacrifice fly in front of Wright's second homerun of the game.
This remarkable performance by the top half of the line-up in the ninth on the road shows focus on winning beforehand and proverbial killer instinct. Done once during the course of a season, it becomes easier and easier to duplicate as it draws on.