The Starting Rotation
One night after the Mets' Weekly Wacky Wednesday Outburst of Offense (it got me wondering if the Nats had added an Adams to the Presidents Race, only adding an extra letter to the last name and making it Wednesday Addams), the rubber game of the series got rained out. That led to SNY filling the slot with a Mets-Cardinals encore from 2006.
REALLY? Why not just put up a never-ending GIF file of Beltran looking at the last pitch of that season and save on production expense?
The rainout also brought the bloggers to a sudden stop, leading one of the best of them to have to stoop way below the belt buckle to come up with, yes, Wilbur Huckle. That Met who (probably) never was, who inspired a 1964 presidential campaign that was only slightly less successful than Barry Goldwater's, and whose Baseball Reference career consisted entirely of three forgettable short seasons in a dump (at the time) of a ballpark 30 miles or so from right here:
Now known as the Muckdogs, and most famous of late for being the place the Yankees wouldn't let Andy Pettite pitch a year ago, the Batavia franchise is the only charter NY-P member to have continuously operated since the Depression. That may be logical, since Batavia, New York is about as depressing as it gets. Just drive by the harness track-slash-racino, or watch the seniors trundling into Alex's Place up the road (motto: "Awe man now I want ribs!").
Yet I come not to praise Wilbur, or even to bury Batavia. Jason's riff on him reminded me that I had a post in me, a week or so ago, which came to be as I watched the nameless, faceless players on both sides of Citi Field as the Nameless Mets beat the Faceless Yankees for the first of their four surprising times.
Which of these two clubs would be the one to resort to signing the most faceless famous ballplayer of all time?
I'm not the first to make the connection between Wilbur and Joe- this guy did it over four years ago- but that's the kind of guy Joe Shlabotnik is. He makes random people think of him around Presidential election years. He'd probably bet on Millard Fillmore in the Presidents Race, even though Fillmore has never competed in it.
There's a whole Peanuts Wiki entry about him, which I found on my own before finding the 2008 blog piece. It summarizes most of Joe's greatest accomplishments on and off the field. His onfield record beat Wilbur's in at least the respect that he once got a major league hit out of a painful number of at-bats:
Shlabotnik was demoted to the minor leagues after hitting .004 over an entire season; his one hit was a bloop single with his team comfortably ahead. One time he promised to hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth; he popped out instead, but circled the bases anyway. His greatest achievements included making spectacular plays on routine fly balls and throwing out a runner who had fallen down between first and second.
Must've been the Polo Grounds Mets; I think I saw that on the 1963 Yearbook rerun during another rainout.
Yet he somehow captured the heart of Charlie Brown as no slugger ever did or could, and similarly disappointed:
Linus once invited Shlabotnik to a testimonial dinner for Charlie Brown; unfortunately, the ballplayer got lost en route from his day job at a car wash. Another time he was scheduled to appear at a sports banquet where fans could dine with their favorite athletes (the guest list included Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Jack Nicklaus, and Peggy Fleming), and Charlie Brown, Linus, and Snoopy bought tickets to sit at Shlabotnik's table. He was the only athlete who did not show up, explaining later that he had marked the wrong event, city, and date on his calendar.
And of course, leave it to Lucy to end the story with schadenfreude:
In two Sunday parts, even:
Sadly, I still find the Mets cute enough to keep out of the bin. How much longer that will continue? Only the Great Pumpkin knows for sure.
Dwight Gooden has a memoir out. Yes, the Doctor who set New York on fire at 19 in the summer I was about to turn 25. Get off my lawn.
Plenty of sad wisdom in it, though. I heard him on a sports show yesterday recounting and recanting the demons from those days- when the Mets finally defeated the Red Sox, he said, he called two people: his dad and his drug dealer. He also talked about the more recent ones that landed him in prison rather than rehab.
Gooden missed the Mets' procession through the Canyon of Heroes in '86 because he was so high from a night of partying. He watched his own parade on television. That's the kind of sadness that comes with uncured addiction. Almost as sad, perhaps, as watching the Parnell Parade in the bottom of the ninth last night and realizing that the 48-year-old Dwight Gooden would probably be an upgrade to the pitching staff.
It was another of those "you knew it" moments. Somehow, the Mets managed to get to the final frame with a lead, despite the spit-and-scotch-tape collection of throwbacks and Triple-A's surrounding their single superstar. I was down the hall when I checked the scoreboard and, just like that, the score was tied and there were three little yellow Nats on the basepaths and an out count of zero. I instantly knew the what, but I had to watch the how.
There was Parnell, looking like he'd been handed the keys to the Exxon Valdez just as Captain Joe Hazelwood ran it aground and headed off to Happy Hour at Holling Vancour's place. There was what looked like a foul ball (it wasn't) being caught by Mike Baxter in a Cirque De Soleil-like pose that instantly ruled out an effective throw home. And there was some guy named Steve Lombardozzi, chugging home with the walkoff winning run, being attacked by his teammates in a gang-banghug of joy that looked like Jesse Orosco's final out of that World Series so many years ago.
Oh. And there was Davey Johnson on the dugout steps, no doubt looking across the way with a combination of sadness and schadenfreude.
There used to be a catchy car-dealer jingle around here, for a long-gone urban Ford dealership, where the hook in the song went, It could be you.
You could have turned back to your past, at any of the times in the past quarter century he was available, to regain the mojo of that manager now sitting in the other dugout laughing at you.
You could have put a little less attention into the "amenities" of your spanking new ballpark and done a better job of drafting, signing and trading for the employees who actually work between those (sometimes hard-to-see) white lines on the edge of the field. (I swear, I expect sometimes to see the Mets' next Not Reyes shortstop wearing an Aramark employee badge with his first name and Dominican home town on it.)
And maybe tomorrow- it certainly hasn't happened yet- you could somehow find a way to rid yourself of your evil owner named Jeffrey. In the case of the Nationals, it took a franchise trade and an ultimate relocation to pull it off, but maybe some of a team must die so its essence can live.
Or, perhaps, some combination of retirement and ultimatum.
Hey. Whatever works. Because, this? Doesn't.
Tuning into Harvey Day earlier today, I finally made the connection. For the third day in a row, the Mets got behind 4-0 to an opponent. Never mind that the opponent barely qualifies for membership in the NY-Penn League, still. Ours is not a team that can overcome a four-run deficit even if facing a batting practice pitcher.
Except, that is, when it's Harvey Day. Despite his early struggles and his total absence of batsmanship on this occasion, Harvey's mere presence on the Met mound for five innings raised him to magical, Chuck Norris-like, proportions among his offensive teammates:
I was splitting my afternoon between mowing and Met-ting today, our back forty needing significant cutting after a week of ideal weed-growing weather. By the time I knocked off the "infield" closest to our patio, we'd tied the score at 4. That enabled me to watch as generally useless guys like Quintanilla, Duda and even Ike Davis managed to give Harvey a two-run lead going into the bottom of the fifth, which he managed, after many more pitches, to retain.
Alas, I had more forties to mow, and by the time our remaining lawn had been mowed and Harvey and his 100-plus pitch count had been pastured, the bullpen had said "Chuck you" to the lead they'd been left with and the offense retreated to its usual pop-gun self for the final four innings. By top nine, I began to wonder when the mercy rule would be invoked, and I felt that we'd wasted a perfectly good invocation of Norrisoharveyism for this final shot at the Fish:
Maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves. Tom Seaver was a modest 16-12 in his 1967 rookie season, a year before Chuck Norris's first Oscar/Emmy/Pulitzer/Nobel winning first screen appearance. He didn't achieve full Franchisedom until after the Mets surrounded him with far more talent.
Who can explain the sudden Herculean (almost Norris-like) achievements of Miami when we're the opponent? Especially when the audio makes clear that the Mets are the favored team in whatever stadium they may be playing in? I have no answer for that, but I wonder how the next series against a legitimate opponent will go, even though it's guaranteed to be Chuck-less:
You knew it was coming. I said as much sometime around the seventh inning stretch last night, where the people of Miami sing "Take Me Out to the Gunfire" or something:
Next I knew, Juan Pierre was up (shouldn't he be pitching Metamucil or something?), Jordan Brown was on second with the third and fourth runs of the inning on his stat sheet, and the Mets, we knew, were done for the night.
This is not a team that bounces back from four-run deficits. Hell, they were lucky to overcome one-run deficits in their first two Subway Series games. Except for that one uncharacteristic top-first outburst in the Bronx on Wednesday, the Mets have scored more than two runs in an inning exactly once all week. Only strong pitching- most of it from unlikely sources- has kept them in each of those six games and given them Ws in five of them.
Answers to this problem have been slow in coming. Other than their selection of Rick "Pain in the Blass" Ankiel from the reclamation bin, the Mets have done nothing, and likely can do nothing, to address this lack of offense. I see no June trade this year that will bring a Donn Clendenon or a Keith Hernandez into the fold. Ownership seems focused on retaining cheap assets for as long as they can be kept cheap (thus explaining why Zack "Super Two" Wheeler is still toiling among the space aliens and we're still getting Hefnergeecum every fifth outing).
I doubt it's entirely a lack of talent, although some more of that wouldn't hoit. It may be more a matter of all this potential energy not having the inspiration or the example to actualize itself. This past week's Yankee roster was just as anonymous, over-the-hill, unproven as the Mets in the other dugout, but they're Yankees. The Captain may not be playing, but his legend, and likely his clubhouse influence, imbue these guys when they take the field.
The hockey club in this distant outpost had a similar problem the past few years, of a rudderless "core" group of players who all showed flashes, if not lengthy careers, of brilliance, but never seemed to manage to translate their God-given abilities into Ws. Last year, the purge of that group began, and by July 1st, almost all of them are likely to be gone. We're promised, not player-for-player replacements like the Big Boys of the NHL always get, but a series of years of (and this is a quote) "suffering" before the team will be built from the correct set of parts.
No Ring-wearing, battle-tested veteran, is coming to Buffalo to help with that transition, despite the owner having plenty of money and cap room to do it. The Mets have no cap, but also have no money, so it begins to seem even more hopeless- and the role model for the Wilpons seems, increasingly, not to be the Behemoth from the Bronx that they swept out of their way, but the fifth-place bunch of grumpy old men and untested kids that they're playing right now.
Or, rather, half an hour from now. Least I don't have to listen to McCarver.
Fleeing from the Cashmon tyranny, the last Mettlestar, Galactica leads a rag-tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest....
Maybe "lonely" is not the word here. If anything, the Cashmons were just as rag-tag as the Mettlestars on the night I saw them- my first time ever in the actual presence of the enemy. I didn't recognize half their team's players, and thanks to the camo-style uniform numbers on both teams, the scorecard wasn't much help, either
but there we were. All the Subway Series pizzazz of a late August game between Tidewater and the Clippers.
At least there was cowbell:
My home for the evening was the Way Back machine of the centerish stands my first time with the 7Line Army.
None of my Usual Blogger Suspect friends were part of this gathering- most opted for Harvey Night an evening thereafter- but it was quite an experience joining these 900 crazy people in the MTA lot, and then in the outfield stands, for a living memory of how things were back when home was called Shea.
Plenty of orange to go around. Tailgaters were doing their thing, and games were in play- beanbag tosses:
and the occasional Yankee fan toss. This one kept things sedate and survived for the whole pregame:
There was also plenty of beer pong (no pictures of that, but I did get hit in the head with the pingpong balls several times;), as well as some pretty scary heads on the ground:
I knew nobody, and didn't really meet anybody beyond a couple of wisecracks and fistbumps, but one fellow fan did get this shot of me and my ::koff:: kuppa kawffee in honor of the recent enforcement of the open container law on tailgating premises:
Gametime approached and the sea of orange crossed Roosevelt Avenue to the gate- using the MTA bridge, of course:
(I wonder what Sally pays for those naming rights;)
Our Marquee Game seats, $95 face value, were still about as cheap as they come for this event- and if the Mets make one thing clear, it's that "Welcome to Citi Field" means "Welcome to your seat in Citi Field and noplace else." Ushers, supervisors and armed guards keep the riffraff out of everything better than what your ticket entitles you to. And they stay in place right up until the final pitch of the game.
That's the problem with the sterile setting they've built in the old Shea parking lot: the enthusiasm is contained, restrained and kept away from the suits who pay the big bucks. I did talk my way into the interior of the Caesar's Club level between the eighth and ninth innings, and it has all the baseball mojo of an airport frequent flyers' lounge. Plenty of tables for networking, space at the bar for consuming those illegal-outside open containers, and Howie Rose rather than the SNY crew coming out of speakers- but none, not a hint, of the real spirit of Mets fans which resided that night in the far but friendly confines of section 142.
That's them- no, us- above the GEICO sign, not far from Brett Gardner's amazing catch-
(thanks to River Avenue Blues for that capture)
- and close, as well, to the first time in a long time I've been in the house when the Apple came out of hiding:
That gave the Mets the tie score; not long after, they cobbled together a winning run, and the always-suspect bullpen somehow made it hold up. The game had to end with an infield pop-up- the very play that doomed the Mets into Subway Oblivion a few years ago when Luis Castillo missed a game-ending gimme on the infield grass, but Met fans, I know David Wright. David Wright is a captain of mine, You, Luis Castillo, are no David Wright.
The night didn't end with this, but it should have:
CAKE! WE WOUN IN THE PARP! AND NOW WE'RE SWEEPING ALL THE THINGS!
And this is looking like a Series victory of Galatica proportions:)
Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.
Is it something I said? Or is there some other unseen stragedy going on here?
In just under 48 hours, I will be making the trek south and east to get to the Monday night Subway Series game- the first time in my life I will set live eyes on the Evil Empire in action. I fully expect an Emo Slaughter at the hands of the guys who weren't supposed to be much better than the Mets this year. Because the first game is on Memorial Day, that has also resulted in two other totally unsurprising things: it will be a night single game (the traditional doubleheaders of that day having gone the way of the hoop skirt), and, at least so far, nobody I know is going. Some have holiday weekend plans, while others just, and I quote, "avoid citi like the plague on subway series events."
But at least, I thought, somebody would be there who I wanted to see. Somebody special. Somebody who, every fifth day, gives this team about a 70 percent better chance of winning than the rest of the time (and, it seems, a 100 percent better chance of winning than they do the following day). Two weeks ago, I started counting days, and praying for non-rainouts on the Harvey Days in Chicago and at Citi. Despite shaky forecasts, both games got in, and I had every expectation that, on this next fifth day (or night, hey!, even more time to rest!), I would see Matt Harvey for the first time at the same time the Yankees did.
Until this morning, that is, when Greg made a passing reference to Harvey Day being Tuesday.
That's not Niese.
I've yet to see an explanation for why the Mets are holding back the best, arguably only, effective weapon in their pitching arsenal. It certainly can't be to ensure that the current Usual Gang Of Idiots in Slots 2-5 are given their full number of in-season reps. Likewise, I've not heard of any injury, or overthrowing concern. So naturally, my suspicions head to Wilpon Island to see what they might be thinking.
Monday night is still a holiday. Potentially more no-shows, especially if this weekend continues on the tracks to derailment they've been laying down since Monday. Also, fuller tummies from backyard functions and fewer turns at the concessions. Better save the bigger draw for an ordinary night.
Or it's television. WPIX gets the Monday night game, SNY getting Tuesday's. Keep the higher ratings in-house, no?
Finally, they might just be trying to avoid the season-destroying Bad Juju of that first Subway Series game. You know it's bad when, for every good Jeter memory your Yankee-fan friends can conjure, the first thing you think of is Luis Castillo and the Worst Number One he ever took.
Whatever. Even if they re-sign Miguel Batista and throw him out there (like they did against the Blue Jays on this weekend of last year during Coop's legendary Never Again! tour,) I will honor my fanly obligation and make the 420-mile trek to the Bullpen Gate to see the Mets. Unless it's raining anywhere in transit enough to make a postponement likely, in which case I will turn around and go home.
Which, once again, remains my single solitary wish for what the Wilpons will do with this legacy we hold so dear.
Cries of happiness, and of hope, and of Harvey, at least.
This afternoon, in the duly designated daytime, Matt Harvey made his debut on the field eponymously named for him in the early scenes of A League of Their Own. Its sugary-sweet magnate, Walter Harvey, was plainly based on the gummy Chicago bear of Phil Wrigley, and today's venue got renamed "Harvey Field" for those opening tryouts by Geena and Rosie and Madonna (oh Ma!).
And, like the peachiest of the Rockford Peaches, the Harvey Bar rose above all the other measurements of the day, both on the mound (past a shaky first) and at the bat.
Until yesterday's pitching performance made Nice-Niese, it had been a rough mid-May, but now the Mets are on a moderate (for them) roll, with Harvey's next two starts scheduled for home grounds, if the five-day rotation holds.
Next, that would mean, would be against the Reds next Wednesday. And, following that, would be the opening night of this year's abbreviated Subway Series against the You Know Whos.
For which my ticket arrived, in today's post. Bullpen entrance, section 140-something. By the time I arrive, in all probability, I'll gotta pay:
You'd think that, after avoiding this blog for the entirety of the regular season so far, I'd have something really profound to say.
Can't say I do, thanks, largely, to the staff and management of Metropolitan Baseball Club, Incorporated or whatever they're calling themselves these days.
For the second year in a row, the Mets brought back Banner Day. Also, for the second year in a row, the Mets deprived their beyond-the-ballpark fandom of the chance to be in the moment with their new home and their fellow fans.
There was hope they'd get it right. When ESPN grabbed the rights to whatever the original date was, the team actually listened and let the fans pick the date for the replacement game, letting them choose among three. (Not on the ballot, of course, was the correct answer- BETWEEN GAMES OF A SCHEDULED SINGLE-ADMISSION DOUBLEHEADER- but such a choice would probably cause the Shea Bridge to collapse and the rest of the venue to crumble into the garbage dump below.) So I was hopeful, indeed, when I tuned to SNY (after seeing various check-ins at the ballpark), that I would read the sheets, see the sheets, step right up and greet the sheets from the comfort of my faraway living room.
Instead I got a Bowflex informercial. Just like last year.
The tone-deafness of this organization is deafening. If you're going to go retro to the moments of our glory days as a Mets Family, for crysakes invite all of us to be a part of it- even the crazy Uncle Ray who can't show up for any damn game on a whim. Do the makers of E400 Energy Boost Supplement really line the Wilpockets enough to demand exclusive rights to their Saturday noon timeslot? Do Gary, Keith and Ron really charge that much more to go live an hour or so early?
No, it's the usual bullsheet we've come to expect. Less expected was the sudden decline of Jonathan Niese, he of the modern reincarnation of the old Boston Braves rotation of "Harvey and Niese and Pray for Peace." I couldn't even watch the damn game, since it, before the Banner Day rescheduling, was one of the pittance of games palmed off on PIX for the few remaining tri-state hoi poloi with rabbit ears. Time Warner used to carry the Channel 11 feed here locally for those games, but that was when the Mets were the Bisons parent club and they were within recent memory of being a professional baseball team. Instead, that cable channel is showing high school lacrosse.
Let's go Long Island Tomahawks!
I watched some Opening Day. I saw the OhNoHeIsnt! Facebook posts about Harvey last week and tuned THAT in just in time to see the Chisox put that first 1 up on the board. Other than that, I've relied mainly on online scoreboards and the daily, patient-as-saint postings of Mets bloggers to see just how bad it is and how likely it is to get worse.
Ever the optimist, I offer the following:
- We're still ahead of the Marlins. (Local power ranking comment on their 30th-out-of-30 showing: If this was European soccer, they’d be a lock to be relegated.)
- Despite acquiring two of our recently best players over the winter, the Blue Jays are five games ahead of us in the Suck Standings. (They merely managed to play five more games, no doubt due to the roof on their ballpark and a lack of April games being scheduled in Colorado or Minnesota.)
- We're achieving this level of mediocrity without either of the stud ballplayers acquired for Beltran and Dickey, both of whom are surrounded by space aliens in Area 51 right now.
Sorry. All I got.
On the bright side, one other thing I got is a seat at the first Subway Series game in a little over two weeks. I have no idea where it is, but I got it through the 7 Line, so please holler if you are going to be in the building. Bring your banners from yesterday and I'll help you parade them around the old Shea infield. Maybe I'll even get arrested for violating the open container law out there- and then, maybe, a Banner Day parade could finally get back on television where it belongs.
Deadspin has the scoop on what we already suspected:
The New York Yankees are the Evil Empire.
Evil Enterprises Inc., owners of a website with the URL baseballsevilempire.com which currently will not load due to a malware warning—probably Yankee tampering—recently filed a trademark claim for the term "Baseballs Evil Empire," which was sniffed out and promptly disputed by the lawyers employed by Basbeball's Evil Empire. Even though the Yankees would never use the term to promote their team, they need to own it, because it exists.
But you can't just allege an intellectual property interest in such a mark. You need evidence. Here's what Team George submitted:
In its legal papers, the team referenced a number of articles from the past decade using the term in connection with the Yankees, and conceded that the team has "implicitly embraced" the "Evil Empire" theme by playing music from Star Wars during their home games.
The panel of judges sided with the Yankees, ruling that the Yankees are strongly associated with the phrase. Allowing anyone else to use the phrase exclusively would likely cause confusion, ruled the judges.
"In short, the record shows that there is only one Evil Empire in baseball and it is the New York Yankees," wrote the judges. "Accordingly, we find that [the Yankees] have a protectable trademark right in the term . . . as used in connection with baseball."
Deadspin is now moving on with its latest investigation, of how the Yankees are trying to get out of the remainder of ARod's contract by proving that he doesn't actually exist- at least after October 1st.
Yes, it's true. The day before the Mets return to the playing field for the first time since October 3rd, this blog rises from the dead for the first time since October 25th. (Trust me about leaving off the link; it was bad filk about an even worse post-season memory.)
I haven't been dead, or even not writing. Hell, I wrote a whole novel in November; perhaps you've even seen it in a spam folder near you. I just haven't had anything new to say about the Mets.
Still don't. They signed their best position player, finally; gave away their best pitcher for what will hopefully not turn out to be a bucket of balls; and generally did nothing else to redeem themselves or make themselves seem relevant in the coming year. Only the train wreck of Miami 2013 seems to be keeping the Mets safe from cellardom.
So, having nothing new to say, I'll retreat to something old- and even older- as I weigh in on the subject of retirement.
37. 14. 41. 42. No, we're not Lost, but I think we're behind in the count, and hot stovers have brought it up in recent days. Today, FAFIF's Jason Fry offers his cents and sense about some of the coulda-been-contendahs. He proposes going with two new ones: 31 for Piazza and 17 for Keith. (I presume Jack Dilauro and Don Bosch won't be invited to the ceremony.) A second tier of numbers, leading off with 8, is proposed for a Senior Counsel level of not quite retirement: to be "on the shelf next to 24, to be assigned infrequently, and only when circumstances warrant."
With one exception, I concur. That exception is for the 8 Men.
The piece of 8 in that article was all about Gary Carter, the last man of any note to wear the number between the foul lines. His main disqualification seems to be that he was only here for five years, at least one of them being "awful."
Oh my God, wasn't it? But if those are DQ's for enshrinement out there, we may as well paint over the four numbers we've got with a Dairy Queen ad and forget the whole thing. Casey Stengel was a Met for only five seasons. Likewise, Gil, except for a waning two months of Polo in 1963. Even the Franchise spent close to half his career with other franchises. And all of them had whole seasons that waned in comparison to their typical waxiness.
So if that's not a real objection, a case can be made for the Kid on his own, but it doesn't have to be. For this discussion needs to include the almost-Original owner of that number- the one who wore it the longest, ain't-over-till-it's-overed in it, and remains the oldest living man to ever wear it or any other number on those fields.
Yes, I give you Lawrence Peter Berra.
It's not unprecedented to recognize a retirement in tandem. Burns and Allen, Abbott and Costello, and for our purposes, Staub and Dawson. Both of the latter wearers of numéro dix were honored by its retirement in Montreal before the inter-National incident of their shameful unretirement. Number 8 is already a shared memory across the Triboro, with Berra's time in it being shared with the second best ballplayer ever to be named Dickey.
Yogi's Mets tenure was itself mixed, and his Evil Empire connections may have kept him off the board to some extent. But just as he may not make the case alone, the combined mojo of the Old Man and the Kid should be enough. I daresay it must be. We didn't do it when Gary Carter was still alive, but we damn should get an 8 on that wall while the Yahweh of Yoo-Hoo is still around to see it.
When I attended my first Citi Field game for the honoring of the 1969 Mets 40th season, it was Yogi's introduction, and inclusion among the heroes of my past, that brought me to tears. Likewise, when he stepped on Shea's plate for the final time following that horrid final game there the previous year. Seeing him one more time, with the permanence of all those memories, would no doubt do it again.