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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What's the deal with the playoff hats?

Check out my Faster Times piece on the Yankee hats for the AL East clinching, and how they bear a close resemblance to the Red Sox's Wild Card caps.

Oh, by the way, love how Boston had to do a middle-of-the-night celebration after they backed into the Wild Card with the Rangers loss, after the Sox lost five games in a row. And the Red Sox didn't allow the press in, either. I've never heard of such a thing. Maybe the Sox were embarrassed at such a lame premise for a celebration. Or maybe they were doing some evil - or should I say wicked? - Boston rituals. Who knows?

Squawker Jon and I are going to the Bruce Springsteen show tonight, so I'll miss seeing the Yankee game live. Of course, given the Mets' shoddy play, Jon doesn't have anything to miss!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

More ways for the Mets to honor the Yankees


Last night, Mariano Rivera was presented with the pitching rubber from his 500th save. I do not have a problem with the Mets sending over the memento - it is a classy thing to do and Mariano is my favorite Yankee.

But Benigno and Roberts on WFAN report that the pitching rubber was accompanied by a congratulatory letter from Omar Minaya and Jeff Wilpon. And that is a bit much.

As long as the Mets are going to these lengths to honor Yankee achievements at their expense, here are some other things they could send over to Yankee Stadium:

Luis Castillo's glove that he used to drop the popup: In recognition of the Yankees' fifteen walkoff wins this year.

Johan Santana's cap that he wore when he gave up nine earned runs to the Yankees in three innings: In recognition of the Yankees' powerful lineup.

Francisco Rodriguez bobblehead: In recognition of Mariano's first career RBI, achieved when Frankie walked him with the bases loaded.


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Even if CC Sabathia wins 20 games, Zack Greinke should still get the Cy Young. But the gap might be narrower than you think. Read more about it here.

Kerosene Kyle Farnsworth is the real player of the game in Yankees' win


When is the YES Network going to stop naming the Player of the Game before the game is actually over? Especially given the fact that the Yankees now have 15 walkoff wins this season? Last night, Kansas City starter Anthony Lerew won the honors. But really, Kyle Farnsworth should have gotten the award.

I missed most of the game due to real-life obligations, (and I'm bummed I missed that pregame ceremony) but I was positively gleeful to see that Kerosene Kyle pitching the ninth for the Royals. So I called Squawker Jon and told him to put the game on. (Yes, I'm good that way!) Jon said no, because he knew the Yanks would win. Then, when I told him Juan Miranda was at bat, and he only had one RBI, he said, "He's about to have two."

Too bad Jon wouldn't put on the game. He not only missed the walkoff, but the YES Network walkoff montage, featuring Luis Castillo! Good times.

And it wasn't exactly the Yankees A-Team that beat Farnsworth. It was Francisco Cervelli, Eric Hinske, and Juan Miranda. Even when the Yankees' starters are out of  the game, they still can eke out a walkoff win. Very cool.

I had to laugh, thought, when Michael Kay made some remark about Kansas City playing this game like it was their World Series. Um, putting in Kyle Farnsworth against his old team is pretty much guaranteeing a Yankee comeback. I know closer Joakim Sora wasn't available, but couldn't they find somebody better to take the mound in the ninth instead of Farnsworth? Or maybe Farnsy begged Trey Hillman to pretty please let  him pitch against his old team or something.

I'll give Joe Girardi credit for something with Farnsworth, though. He really wasn't terrible with the Yankees last year, and then they were actually able to get something of value for him when they traded him to Detroit - Pudge Rodriguez.
 
Speaking of Michael Kay, I noticed that he's no longer complaining that the walkoff pies are "not the Yankee way" any more. Thank goodness for small favors.

In other news, kudos to A.J. Burnett for getting his groove back, even if he didn't get the win. On the other hand, do we need to worry a little about Phil Coke?

But all in all, it was great fun to see the Yankees beat Farnsworth again. What, did his bulldogs go wild on his hand again?


What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Even with a makeshift lineup, Yankees win

That was a satisfying game last night - despite most of the regulars getting a night off, the Yankees still won. And wasn't that a cute moment when Ramiro Pena got his first career homer, and his teammates pretended to ignore him? It was nice when they all surrounded him with hugs.

Busy day for me today, but I just wanted to pass on my Faster Times piece about why Toronto Blue Jays manager J.P. Ricciardi needs to get the old heave-ho.

What do you think? Tell us about it! 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yankees clinch AL East, and I was there to see it in person!


What a day. I got to see the Yanks sweep the Red Sox, clinch the AL East title, win 100 games, tie the season series with Boston, and get home field advantage for the AL playoffs, all thanks to today's victory!

Here's what happened - I decided at the last minute to try to get tickets for today's Yankees-Red Sox game.  I hadn't been to the Stadium since early this summer, and I figured getting to see the Yanks clinch the AL East would be a cool thing to see. Fortunately, I found grandstand tickets on StubHub for $8 each at just before 11 a.m., when the sales stop.

But I was required to buy two tickets in order to get that set. So, I figured I would bring Squawker Jon with my other ticket. He said no way - he wanted to watch the Jets game, and besides, he didn't really want to  watch the Yanks celebrate. I offered to buy him a beer. He said no. Then I upped the ante with a Lobel's steak sandwich offer. He still said no.

Can you believe that? Guess he really wanted to watch that Jets game (or, more to the point, he didn't want to be at another memorable Yankee win - he was at the Gardner inside-the-parker game with me, and we also watched three Yankee Subway Series wins together, including the Castillo drop game.)

I posted the extra ticket on my Facebook status update, but it ended up being too late to coordinate with anyone. And I didn't have Squawker Jon as my good luck charm. Fortunately, the Yankees still won, even without Jon! There were a lot of empty seats, though. I don't know if it was the rain, or Sox fans giving up and staying home, or what, but there were a good 10,000+ no-shows.

Funny thing happened on the subway on the way there. I was talking with a mother and son about the Yankees. The kid, who was about 7 or 8, asked if they showed anything on the big screen during rain delays. I told him they usually showed Yankeeographies. I failed to mention Disco Stu. The last rainy game I was at, which was also a Yankees-Red Sox game, they showed not one but two clips of Disco Stu dancing. I spared the child of this knowledge - I didn't want to traumatize the kid for life!

Anyhow, I got to the stadium right at one p.m., and was thankful that the Yanks were showing the Giants game, and not Disco Stu, during the rain delay. Thank goodness for small favors.

I don't know if it was just where I was sitting - upper deck, between third base and right field, but there seemed to be very few Red Sox fans -  maybe 10%, if that. They were also very quiet - no pro-Red Sox chants, and no back-and-forth.

Even though the Yanks were behind until Hideki Matsui's hit in the sixth inning, I had no doubt they would win today,(although I was momentarily scared when the trainers rushed out to see Andy Pettitte during the first, after he was hit by a ball. Fortunately, he was okay.) The crowd, which was subdued for most of the game, came alive in the sixth inning, during that rally. After the Yankees went ahead, the "sweep" chants started. And the sun came out not long after. See, it is a Yankees Universe - the sun is shining on the Yankees!

The next inning, I was stunned when Brian Bruney came in. It was a one-run game, and he hasn't exactly been great this year. Well, he was great today. And he got a standing ovation after getting five critical outs. I was really happy for him.One thing that Joe Girardi has been good at is confidence-building stuff like that. Like with Ian Kennedy against Anaheim the other day. Bruney's got to feel better about himself after shutting down the Red Sox right now, and after hearing the crowd happy for him.

Back to the game.Mark Teixeira's homer was a nice insurance run. And the crowd was on their feet - literally - for the last three outs, as Mariano Rivera shut the door on the Sox with runners on second and third.

It was exciting to see the Yankees all celebrating on the field - I got a tear in my eye, thinking about how cool it was to be there to see the first of hopefully many such celebrations at the new Yankee Stadium. Everybody in Yankeeland seemed very happy at the end of the game - a lot of people, including myself, watched some of the clubhouse celebration clips on the big screen in the Great Hall. And on my way out, I heard somebody with a megaphone suggest  that Red Sox fans throw their team's gear in the trash, and everybody seemed to get a kick out of that.

The only thing that ticked me off during the day was an idiot fan sitting behind me. During A-Rod's epic at-bat against Paul Byrd, this guy, a dude in his early 20s, started griping the usual stuff - A-Rod's not clutch, he makes too much money, blah blah blah. I was going to keep my mouth shut, until the knucklehead called A-Rod "a fruit" and said that he "wears a dress." What made it even worse was that this guy was a Yankee fan!

When I heard those nasty remarks, my head rotated the way Linda Blair's head did in "The Exorcist," as I whirled around to give this clown The Stare. (Squawker Jon knows about The Stare - I'm very good at doing that whole "if looks could kill" expression, and he's gotten it more than once!!) Then I asked this guy why he would say such things.

I continued, asking him, "Why do you root against somebody on your own team?" His excuse was, "But he's 0-for-2." I responded, "Did you know he has 28 homers this year? Did you know that 52% of his RBIs have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead?" And a few seconds later, after a 10-pitch at-bat against Paul Byrd, A-Rod got a hit, and I ended the conversation, this time with a smile of vindication on my face.

And about an hour later, the Yankees were celebrating winning the AL East. Sweet!
 
Photo courtesy of the Star-Ledger

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What do you think? Leave us a comment!

David Wright is no Derek Jeter

Carlos Beltran is hitting .311 since returning to the lineup. One would think that getting Beltran back would not only help hitting and defense, but provide an emotional lift to a team that could really use one.

But the Mets are now 4-14 with Beltran back. Sure, this team has a lot of problems, but are they really this bad? Or is there something else going on?

Maybe it has something to do with the face of the franchise thinking these are "meaningless games."

Michael Baron of Metsblog notes that David Wright's apology for Saturday night's baserunning blunder only made things worse:
It's been tough because we're playing, as for as the standings go, in pretty meaningless games…
Writes Baron:
part of what makes a bad team bad is the attitude of a team, because the attitude of a team dictates mental preparedness, and for a player to admit that a game is meaningless, whether there are 30 days left or one day left, is a testament to the manager...
I completely agree with Baron on Manuel. But Wright's comments also say something about Wright. I hate to invoke Derek Jeter, but would the Yankee captain ever describe games as "meaningless"?

Oakland and Kansas City are both out of the race, but the A's have won 16 of 20 and the Royals won 12 of 15 before losing their last four.

On September 18, after a win over the Indians, A's catcher Kurt Suzuki said:
"We're pretty much out of it, but to be coming to the park every day playing hard and going out and winning as many games as we can to kind of build on next year, it's a good feeling to win games."
Here's what Suzuki's manager Bob Geren had to say after the same game:
"We just want to win," Geren said. "We're not going to make the playoffs, obviously, but we have our own goals and desires each day. I like what we're doing. It's a lot of fun."
Too bad we are not getting any such sentiments - or results - from the Mets.

Billy 'Country Time' Wagner joins the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry


99 bottles of wins on the wall, and one more to go to win the division. And if the Yankees win today and don't happen to fall, they will tie the Red Sox for their season series record. Who would have expected that after the Yanks spotted the Sox an 0-8 lead in the first eight games against each other this year?

While CC Sabathia shutting down the Red Sox (he pitched a no-hitter into the fifth inning, and he only gave up one hit overall) for his 19th win was a big highlight of yesterday's game, my favorite part was seeing former Met Billy Wagner in the mix.

Wagner, who the great Mets blogger Metstradamus calls "Country Time," is somebody I've loved to hate ever since he showed up in Flushing with Mariano Rivera's song "Enter Sandman" as his own theme song. Yes, I know Wagner started using it first. But he should have ditched it then, out of respect for Mo.

Incidentally, Country Time has stopped using the song in Boston now, and has no song at all, allegedly out of respect for Jonathan Papelbon's job as closer. Huh? I've heard eighth inning guys with their own theme song all the time! What's that all about? Heck, Mike Stanton even had a theme song with the Mets - Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue"! And incidentally, how is Wags getting along with that Rhodes Scholar Papelbon, anyway?

At any rate, my favorite Met memory of Billy Wagner was when he blew a 4-0 lead against the Yankees in the Subway Series, then griped about Willie Randolph pitching him in the game. Good times for Country Time!

So yes, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Wagner get knocked around  yesterday, even if it wasn't all his fault.

On the other hand, I didn't enjoy seeing the Yanks flail against Dice-K. He had one of his more effective games against the Bombers. While he did allow a bunch of hits, only Robinson Cano was able to score agains thim.

But all in all, it was a great win for the Yankees, as it always is in The Rivalry. And things got even better for the Subway Squawkers Rivalry.

Squawker Jon and I went out for pizza last night, and were listening to the Mets game on the car radio. David Wright  - also known as the guy who has fewer homers than Melky Cabrera  this year -  made a baserunning gaffe against the Marlins.  Wright slowed down while rounding the bases, and didn't score before Jeff Francoeur was thrown out at second - thus costing the Mets a run. So much for The Great Gazoo!

Squawker Jon wasn't pleased over that gaffe. But it got worse for my blogging partner. The Mets radio announcers talked about what they considered the best baserunning of the year. They said it was when Mark Teixeira motored around the bases after the Luis Castillo drop. The Mets broadcasters pointed out that Tex had no way of knowing that Castillo would do anything but catch the ball, yet he was running as soon as the ball was hit.

Think about that for a second. It's not enough that the Mets' own broadcasters compared David Wright disparagingly to a Yankee. It's that they used the worst Met moment of the year,  and arguably the play that sent the Mets on their downward spiral this season, in order to do so.

Squawker Jon wasn't very pleased at this mention. As for me, I cackled!

What do you think? Leave us a comment! 

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Life imitates art: How Joba Chamberlain is like Charlie Sheen


How great was it to see Joba being Joba again last night? Gone was that annoying nibbler. Instead, the fierce competitve gunslinger was back. And not a moment too soon.

Chamberlain's performance against the Sox reminded me of Charlie Sheen's Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn character in "Major League II." In the movie, his character gets all yuppified and loses his mojo. But he finally gets it back, and becomes "Wild Thing" again. I was half-expecting  Joba to wear a leather vest and have a zig-zag design in his hair last night!

Maybe it was Joe Girardi reading Joba the riot act this week. Or maybe it was my Squawk yesterday, where I wrote, "I have zero faith at this point in Joba Chamberlain. Maybe he'll surprise me tonight, but I doubt it." I think I did a reverse jinx on him - or at least I hope so!

At any rate,  I'm glad Joba was Joba again.

On the other hand, the Ghost of Jason Varitek allowed seven stolen bases last night, with three by Alex Rodriguez, two by Derek Jeter, and one each by Johnny Damon and Robinson Cano. I don't know what's more amazing - that A-Rod, gimpy hip and all, stole three bases off Varitek, or that Cano stole a base!

A-Rod had a phenomenal night all around, with the stolen bases,  the homer, and the four RBI. And Girardi had a good night, too. I appreciate him having this team be so aggressive on the basepaths. I also appreciate him challenging Joba.

In other news, I wrote last night on Twitter (our address is @subwaysquawkers, if you want to follow us) that I felt bad for Jon Lester getting hit by a line drive, as he's one of the few Red Sox I like. And I asked Yankee fan readers on Twitter and Facebook (my page there is at facebook.com/lmswan if you want to be my Facebook friend) which Red Sox players they liked, or at least tolerate.

So who won? No Red Sox player will really ever get love from a Yankee fan, but Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield.(and their manager, Terry Francona) at least are respected, and liked a little.Victor Martinez got a vote, as did Kevin Youkilis. One fan voted for "the bat boy only," another said "the dead ones" where the only ones she tolerated.


One other thing - I had to get my apartment's refrigerator replaced yesterday, so I didn't have time to do my usual list of predictions. But here are a few:

* Jason Varitek won't be behind the plate again this weekend, unless Terry Francona has completely lost his mind!

* We'll hear about Tim McCarver's new album today on the Fox broadcast. Good grief.

* If Yankees clinch this weekend, Joe Girardi will get a pie in his face. Banana cream. (I saw him mention that preference in a Kim Jones interview, where he said A.J. Burnett has vowed to get him with a pie this year.)


What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Quality from Tim Redding

Even after Friday night's mediocre start, when he gave up four runs in six innings, Tim Redding has pitched himself into consideration for next year's rotation with a solid September. Redding has a 3.52 ERA and 1.24 WHIP this month. Redding's August was not too bad either - 3.67 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.

Redding's overall numbers are still poor, thanks to his first-half 7.14 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. Unfortunately for the Mets, they are now comparable to some of their bigger-name pitchers:


Pelfrey: 5.08 ERA; 1.52 WHIP; .289 BAA
Perez: 6.82 ERA; 1.92 WHIP; .273 BAA
Redding: 5.29 ERA; 1.46 WHIP; .266 BAA


Redding also has four quality starts in his last six outings.

Quality starts are an unappreciated stat in my opinion. I used them in a piece for the Faster Times to show how they are better than wins for determining the Cy Young winner. (Can you guess that I am a Zack Greinke supporter?) You can read the piece here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

How do Joba Chamberlain and Jon Lester match up?

To steal a Tug McGraw line, ya gotta believe. This year's Yankee team has finally vanquished the Angels in two games out of three in Anaheim, and now the Bombers are ready to clinch the AL East against the Red Sox this weekend. (Unfortunately, Boston also has a good chance of clinching their Wild Card spot at the Stadium this weekend as well, but I digress.)

Speaking of the wild card, Peter Gammons thinks there should be another round, but I'm totally against it. Read my Faster Times piece here.

Anyhow, if Ian Kennedy could get out of a bases-loaded jam in a one-run game against the Angels, and the Yanks could win that game with such a depleted lineup then the Yanks should be able to win the division this weekend. Unfortunately, I have zero faith at this point in Joba Chamberlain. Maybe he'll surprise me tonight, but I doubt it.

And why is it that Jon Lester, his opponent tonight, has been able to pitch so many more innings at his age despite missing the equivalent of a season with cancer. How does that work, anyway? Lester pitched 81 innings in 2006, his first season in the majors, before getting sick. The next year, he pitched in 12 games (60 innings) after returning to baseball. In 2008, he threw 210 innings, and this year, he is currently at 194, and is set to match his totals from last year. Oh, and he threw 36 innings in the playoffs in 2007-2008 as well.

Meanwhile, back at the Yankee ranch, Joba Chamberlain has all those rules. Yes, Lester has a year of experience on him, but still. Should the Yankees think about moving Joba back into the bullpen? I dunno, but I wish we could have back the guy who challenged hitters, instead of the nibbler we've seen for most of the year. It would be nice to see him make a return tonight!

Coming later today - my predictions for this weekend. But in the meantime, tell us what you think?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Guess what? Having a sizzling September doesn't mean you'll be hot in October

How many times have you heard that it's the hottest team, not the best team, that wins in the playoffs? Well, I took a look at all 72 playoff teams this decade, and discovered that this is a myth. Here's my piece for The Faster Times on the issue.

Newsday columnist Ken Davidoff wrote about my argument in his Baseball Insider blog. Very cool. Thanks, Ken!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Are Yankees a leading economic indicator?

Here's how long it has been since the Yankees were in the postseason: Their last playoff game took place at Yankee Stadium on October 8, 2007. The very next day, a few miles south, the Dow had its highest closing ever: 14,164.53.

With the Yankees an also-ran, the Dow plummeted to 6,547 on March 9 of this year, the same day that A-Rod went under the knife.

Then A-Rod got healthy and the Yankees started rolling. With the Bombers back in the playoffs, the Dow closed today at 9,748.55.

The first time the Yankees won two titles in a row - 1927 and 1928 - the streak ended in 1929. That October, the stock market crashed.

1987 was not a notable year for the Yankees as far as I know, so I will blame that year's crash on the failure of the 1986 Mets to repeat.

Meow! Brian Cashman gets his claws out against Joe Torre, and I like it!

Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports had a fascinating article today about the Yankees. There are some great quotes from Brian Cashman about this season:

They arrive with a different manager, a new ace and a new offensive leader. That’s not all. They arrive, general manager Brian Cashman said hours before they clinched, with a lot less of the other stuff the Yankees always seem to be dragging.

“There are no other storylines,” he said. “No last hurrahs. No trying to save someone’s job or ‘win one for the Gipper’ or anything.

“It’s real simple, not complicated at all. There’s no soap opera stuff going on. It’s all nice and simple and streamlined. It’s about this group of players on this team that will be going head-to-head with the Angels, Red Sox and either the Tigers or Twins in a tournament held in October. That’s all.”
It's pretty obvious to me  that Cashman is talking about Joe Torre here, with the lines about "no trying to save someone’s job or ‘win one for the Gipper’ or anything.. And what's interesting to me is that, contrary to the media myth that Torre's presence cooled down the media, Cashman seems to be insinuating that St. Joe was a reason for the media firestorm -and the "soap opera" around the Yanks. Heh!

To be sure, A-Rod fading into the background has taken away a lot of the soap opera around the team. But all the "is this the end for Torre" talk also sucked up a lot of oxygen.

And incidentally, Torre still can't talking about the Yankees, and still can't stop making digs. Here's what he told the L.A. Times about Girardi:

In New York, it's so easy to get off the track when you're considering someone else's opinion all the time," Torre said. "So you really have to have some self-worth to fight your way through that stuff. Joey is that guy."
1. That's the first time I've ever heard Girardi called  "Joey." It's like how Torre calls him the kid - it doesn't really fit, and it's a little demeaning.

2. Always the little digs on George Steinbrenner. Never mind that if it weren't for The Boss taking a chance  on him, Joe would be just another failed MLB manager turned broadcaster. Good grief.


Photo by Mel B.


What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Happy Birthday, Bruce Springsteen!

Today is Bruce Springsteen's 60th birthday, so I summed up the baseball season with some of the Boss's song titles for the Faster Times. "Murder Incorporated" for the Yankees and, alas, "Wreck on the Highway" for the Mets. The piece is available here.

Hooray! Yankees clinch playoff berth

How about those Yankees? They not only make it into the playoffs again, they win in Anaheim last night. WIll wonders never cease?

I didn't stay up for the entire game, so I watched the replay this morning - but it was one of the more gratifying wins of the year. They finally got that winning in Anaheim monkey (or is that rally monkey?) off their back.

After watching the Yanks not make the playoffs last year, I hope fans will never take a playoff spot for granted again. So I'm very excited over this season, although I'll be much more excited when the Yankees clinch the division title, most likely against the Red Sox this weekend.

Speaking of which, it's your last chance to enter the FanSnap Yankees/Red Sox haiku contest - it ends at 5 p.m. today.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Can you come up with a Yankees-Red Sox haiku to win $1000 in tickets?

The good folks at the ticket pricing site FanSnap.com wanted me to let our readers know about their new SmackTracker, where you can see what fans are saying about upcoming series. And to get this party started, they have a Yankees-Red Sox haiku contest, where you can win up to $1000 in tickets! But hurry - the contest ends September 23. Here are the details, courtesy of FanSnap:

Create Your Best Smack-Talking New York or Boston Haiku and Enter to Win $1,000



FanSnap Rivalry Haiku Smackdown Contest


Win tickets!

There is nothing like a rivalry - with the blood and guts, sweat and tears, and heroic moments. Hey, and nothing says rivalry like a haiku. What, that makes no sense, you say? Wait there’s more. It’s a competition! That’s right, it’s the first FanSnap Rivalry Haiku Smackdown.

How does it work?

It’s simple. Just write a haiku poem in support of your team (or against your rival). Send it out on twitter together with the URL for your team.

For example:

(If your team is New York)
It’s that time of year
See the yankees win big time
See the red sox lose
http://fansnap.com/YanksHaiku

or

(If your team is Boston)
Rivalry is fun
yanks will get spanked again
Oh what fun it is
http://fansnap.com/SoxHaiku

How do haikus work again?

You may remember from school days, a haiku is just a simple poem of three lines.

Five syllables in the first line.
Seven syllables in the second.
Five syllables in the third.

That’s it.

How do we keep score?

Just create and send your haiku. Brag on your squad. Talk smack about the bad guys. Ask your friends to resend (or “retweet”) it – they will just send your original message (together with the URL), preceded by “RT @yourtwitterid"

How do I win?

All fans creating haikus in the form above will be eligible for our "FanSnap Rivalry Haiku Smackdown" drawing. Every tweet and retweet counts as an entry.

On September 23, the winner will be randomly selected, and will be able to select $1,000 worth of FREE sports, concert, or theatre tickets from any of the dozens of ticket companies FanSnap searches! The second and third place winners will be able to select $500, and $250, worth of free tickets, respectively. FanSnap will contact all winners.


For contest rules, and to see what people have written so far, check out the SmackTalker page for the series. The contest ends Wednesday afternoon at 5 p.m. eastern, so start writing!

The importance of being Andy Pettitte

The Yankees may have had yet another loss in Anaheim, but at least Andy Pettitte seemed to pitch okay. So how valuable is Andy Pettitte? Not only is a healthy Andy (which he appeared to be last night) a vital part of the Yankees' rotation, but his absence from the Houston Astros is being blamed for the team tanking.

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle has an article today about the firing of Houston Astros manager Cecil Cooper. He and others think that the club's downward spiral began when they didn't re-sign Andy Pettitte:
No right-thinking baseball man would even put Pettitte and Jason Jennings in the same sentence, much less swap them in his rotation. That's what the Astros did.

“I believe you can trace this current situation to the failure to re-sign Andy,” Berkman said. “That's the one thing that has happened over the last four years that has caused this organization to be where it is today. That was the beginning of a chain of events."
That wasn't the only Yankee-related thing that put the Astros in the hole. Players criticized Cooper for the following things:
Two veterans say that on the day Aaron Boone tearfully told his teammates he was to undergo heart surgery, Cooper used the moment to get on his guys for not playing harder. To say his timing was bad would be an understatement.
And when Pudge Rodriguez broke the all-time record for games caught, Cooper didn't offer congratulations until the next day.
Very interesting. After watching all the good stuff happening with the Rockies after Colorado replaced Clint Hurdle with Jim Tracy, I don't know why more teams don't try a change in management in the middle of the season, when it might actually make a difference. Obviously, it's too late now for a new Houston manager to fix things this year, after the year is out of hand, and out of reach.

As for the Yanks, I went to bed after Brian Bruney did what he's been doing best as of late - giving up homers!

In other news, I wrote a piece for the Faster Times on Milton Bradley, if you'd like to check it out.


What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pow! Biff! Time to go back to the BatCave and throw out the Joba Rules

Like most Yankee fans, I've pretty much had it with Joba Chamberlain at this point. For most of the season, he's been terrible. He seemed to turn it around after the All-Star Break, but ever since the Yanks started 1) stretching his starts out and then 2) severly limiting his innings count, he's been worse than awful. Even Jorge Posada is wondering if all these new rules are doing more harm than good:
"It's tough to pitch when you don't know what's going on," Posada said. "It is hard. You pitch three innings and they give you 10 days to pitch. It's tough to pitch like that."
Look at these numbers - since August 1, he's given 33 runs, 50 hits, and 21 walks in 36 innings. But hey, he only pitched 36 innings in those nine starts, so he's as fresh as a daisy for October.

To put the innings in an even worse perspective, Chad Gaudin has given up 12 runs, 30 hits, and 16 walks in 29.1 innings as a Yankee. Heck, even the terrible Sergio Mitre is looking better by comparison - he did something Chamberlain was able to do - shut down the Mariners!

And Joba is still in denial about how poorly he's pitching, telling reporters:
“My delivery was great,” he said. “I threw some great changeups. My slider velocity was great. My fastball velocity was more consistent. … It’s going to take a lot more than this to get my confidence level down, I’ll tell you that much. You can kick me as much as you want but I’m going to come back fighting every time. That’s how I live this life and that’s how I play this game of baseball.”
The sun will come out tomorrow, and Joba is singing like "Annie". But, apropos of yesterday's "Batman" rookie hazing, somebody needs to put a Mr. Freeze on that act!

Incidentally, did Mike Dunn get off easy as being The Riddler or what? Ramiro Pena had it the worst as Catwoman! Mark Melancon is Batman, video coordinator Anthony Flynn is Robin, while Dunn gets the second-coolest outfit of all. The coolest, I thought, was massage therapist Lou Potter's Penguin getup.

I'm digging the Yankees love for the old-school, campy "Batman." I grew up watching reruns of that show. To me, it's 10 times better than the super-serious, ultra-dark and depressing "Batman" movies. Give me glee, and silliness, and over-the-top acting. I don't want drama about comic book misery - I want Vincent Price, Tallullah Bankhead, Eartha Kitt, Burgess Meredith and Liberace as my villains. And put out the "Batman" series on DVD already!

Speaking of the Riddler, it's a riddle as to why Joba is so terrible this year. I hate to say it, but I'm starting to jump on the Joba to the Bullpen bandwagon. Dopey innings rules aside, he is not the same pitcher he was as a starter. For one thing, whatever happened to his fastball?

If only the Yankees had implemented my new Joba Rules that  wear Crocs to the mound and throwing the Bugs Bunny changeup. Kidding.

Seriously, at this point I would trust Chad Gaudin and Alfredo Aceves to Chamberlain as the fourth starter in the playoffs. How sad is that?

What do you think about Joba? Tell us about it!

Mets and Milton Bradley: Don't sink my Battleship

"Battleship" is one of the products of the Milton Bradley game company. In the game, players call out random squares in a grid, hoping to hit one of their opponents' ships. Firing blindly has characterized too much of the Mets' strategy over the years. But trading for Milton Bradley would be even worse - it would be like somehow shooting at your own battleships.

Some are speculating that the Mets could try to trade Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo for suspended Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley.

Such speculation assumes two things - first, that Castillo or Perez should be gotten rid of at any cost - and second, that Bradley is worth getting.

In fact, the opposite is probably true. Even putting aside the off-the-field issues, Bradley has less of a chance of having a good season next year as do Perez or Castillo.

Perez won 15 games only two years ago. He is still young with enormous potential. There has also been speculation of trying to trade Perez for Carlos Zambrano, which makes a lot more sense, since you get back a similarly young, talented pitcher having trouble living up to his potential. (Thought the Mets have not exactly done well trading for pitchers named Zambrano.)

Castillo might be overpaid, but at least he hit for a high average and played a serviceable second base this year.

In 2008, Bradley made the All-Star team as a Ranger, but playing in Texas really helped his stats. Bradley hit .358 with an OPS of 1.145 and 16 homers in 236 AB at home. On the road, he hit .290 with an OPS of .872 and six homers in 273 AB.

Bradley also played the bulk of the season at DH for Texas.

An injury-prone player who is better off at DH? Bradley would fit right in to the current Met team.

But as far as building for the future, Bradley did not even put up better stats than those he would replace. Gary Sheffield had equivalent power numbers in far fewer at bats, and his overall numbers were actually better than Bradley's:

Bradley
473 AB; 12 HR; 40 RBI; .257 BA; .775 OPS

Sheffield
267 AB; 10 HR; 43 RBI; .277 BA; .822 OPS

Daniel Murphy's 2009 numbers are not adequate for a corner infielder. But Murphy, in coincidentally the same number of at-bats, has similar numbers to Bradley:

Murphy
473 AB; 55 R; 10 HR; 60 RBI; .264 BA; .731 OPS

So putting the off-the-field stuff aside, Bradley is not a good bet. But you cannot put that stuff aside, not when Bradley has had so many chances with so many different teams. As Lisa points out in a piece for The Faster Times, Bradley only found peace in the small media market of Arlington.

Met fans have suffered enough this year without having to worry about having Milton Bradley on the team.

But the Mets also need to overhaul their medical operation, so this Milton Bradley product could come in handy.

Battleship photo by kalebdf.

Operation photo by Erik Mallinson.

Sanchez and Ryan mean something positive for a change

As a Met fan, the names Sanchez and Ryan make me think of what might have been. If only Duaner Sanchez had not taken that taxi ride. If only the Mets had not given up on Nolan Ryan.

But as a Jet fan, Sanchez and Ryan make me think of what could be. It is only two games, but things are in such a good place right now that Squawker Lisa and I even find ourselves on the same side!

Well, at least until next week, when the Jets take on Tennessee and Lisa's favorite bench player, Vince Young.

Great day for Jets and Giants, as Patriots and Cowboys go down in flames

It feels very strange to ever root on the same side as Met fan Squawker Jon, but I was doing just that yesterday with the Jets-Patriots game, and with the Giants-Cowboys. So please bear with me a little, while I do some football talk this morning. I'll be back to baseball (and Joba!) later on today, I promise, after this gridiron interruption.

Jon, of course, like most Mets fan, is a Jets fan. As for myself, I'm not really part of Gang Green (I'm a mild Giants fan, and I root for the Tennessee Titans when Vince Young is playing!) But since I hate virtually everything from New England except for Stephen King and the Gorton's Fisherman, I was of course rooting against the Patriots. And it's not just that most Pat fans are Red Sox fans. It's that New England is the most arrogant team in football. What people accuse the Yankees of, they actually are.

I think Bill Belichick is a sore loser and a clown - the dude seems to be constitutionally incapable of giving anything remotely resembling a sincere post-game handshake. He's above it all, you see.(And I don't want to hear that it's because he wants to win so much. What, the other teams' coaches don't really want to win? Spare me.)

Of course, the coach did the same thing yesterday to Rex Ryan, and he also seemed annoyed that Jets QB Mark Sanchez tried to dare say anything to him after the game. To use the old line from Fat Albert, Belichick is like school in summer - no class.

Then there's that so-called golden boy, Tom Brady. You know, football's Derek Jeter. Only thing is, I've never seen Jeter be so rude with a reporter just doing her job as Brady was last week. After the Patriots' season-opening victory against the Bills, Kolber tried to ask Brady a very innocuous question, about what it was like to be in that dramatic comeback win. The arrogant Tom Terrible, who was practically sprinting off the field while Kolber was on camera trying to talk  to him, made her run across the field to keep up with him before finally spitting out an answer. Whadda jerk.

And, of course, this is the franchise that attempted to register "19-0" and "19-0 - The Perfect Season" as registered trademarks before the Super Bowl.Good grief.

So yes, I was primed to see the Patriots lose yesterday. Squawker Jon and I had a real kumbaya there, as we watched the last few minutes of the game while squawking on the phone together. It is very rare that we agree on anything (Jon rooted for Texas Tech over my Texas Longhorns this weekend, even though he doesn't  even know what a Red Raider is!). So it was kind of fun - albeit strange - to cheer for the same team. I may have been as excited over Gang Green's thrilling victory as he was!

Later on, we watched tthe Giants/Cowboys matchup at the new Cowboys Stadium. I lived in Texas during their '90s championship years, and they were the team that I simply loved to hate. I don't hate them quite as much now - other than the always-odious Jerry Jones, there's nobody really obnoxious to despise on their team. But I will still root against them, especially when it comes to the Giants.

However, I actually think Tony Romo did the right thing in dumping Jessica Simpson. Newsflash to Jessica - aka Yoko Romo - maybe your Hollywood friends think that having a Ken-and-Barbie-themed birthday party is a great idea. For an NFL player, not so much.

Anyhow, it was cool to see the Giants win at the last second - literally - and ruin Jerry Jones' first game at the new monstrosity. That stadium makes the new Yankee Stadium look subdued. And incidentally, did you see Jones digging for gold during the game? What was up with that?

I also liked how somebody in Jones' box seemed to be blocking his view during the field goal. What the heck was that guy thinking?

At any rate, Jon and I were on the same rooting side on that game as well. It's like dogs and cats living together or something! Fortunately, we had him trash-talking about Joba Chamberlain's lousy pitching to be at odds over. Come to think of it, I kind of agree with him there as well. Kumbaya, indeed!


Coming later today - my thoughts on Joba Chamberlain. But in the meantime, tell us what you think!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Oh, no, Mariano! Ichiro hits walkoff homer off Rivera to win game

Last  night's loss was gut-wrenching at the time - to have Ichiro Suzuki hit a walkoff homer off Mariano Rivera was a real bunch in the stomach. But I'm okay about it today. Poor Squawker reader Jill, though. She was at the game, and had to deal with all those celebrating  Mariners' fans!

Mariano hadn't blown a save since April. He hadn't lost a game since June. The Mariners' best hitter beat the best closer of all time. It's painful, but whaddaya gonna do. Some say Joe Girardi should have had Mo walk Ichiro, but given what a whole to-do it was back in June when Joe had Mo walk Evan Longoria, I can see he didn't.

I will predict that Rivera will blow a save the next time out - he always seems to have his bad outings in bunches.

One other thing to take away from last night's game - A.J. Burnett had a great outing, albeit a now-forgotten one.

In other news, is there any reason to worry about the Red Sox, because they gained a game on the Yanks last night? I say no. As Steve Lombardi of Was Watching points out:
If the Yankees play just .500 baseball for the rest of the season, and go 7-7 in their remaining games, then the Red Sox will have to go 15-1 in their remaining games to pass New York in the standings. Yeah, fifteen and one. 
Yeah, yeah, I know, stranger things have happened - the 2007 Mets, 2004 Yanks, etc. But, more to the point, the Yanks' Magic Number for the Wild Card is only three.  So even if the Sox  somehow won the division, the Yankees are still making the playoffs.
 
What do you think? Leave us a comment! 

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ahoy! Avast! Aye Aye! Arr! Getting Ready for Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Today Tomorrow is one of my favorite holidays - International Talk Like a Pirate Day! I was going to do my morning Squawk in Piratespeak, but after a whole lot of ahoys, avasts, aye ayes, and arrs, I ran out of steam!
 (Squawker note -Reader mhochman pointed out that Talk Like a Pirate Day is tomorrow, not today. I was so excited about being a pirate, I forgot how to use a calendar!)

At any rate, I'm still excited over Francisco Cervelli's walkoff hit Wednesday. It was really a cool moment.

I was telling Squawker Jon how confident I was that the Yankees would win - instead of worrying that the Jays would somehow pull out a victory in the ninth, I was wondering which Yankee would be the hero. Would Derek Jeter or Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira get their first walkoff hit of the year? Or would it be Brett Gardner or Francisco Cervelli?

Meanwhile, Squawker Jon was watching the Mets be on the other end of a walkoff win. How sad!

In other news, LoHud's Peter Abraham is moving to the Boston Globe to write about the Red Sox there. He will leave a very big void in baseball beat writers blogs.

On a completely different subject, I wrote about the Philly father and daughter foul ball moment for The Faster Times. I thought it was a really sweet clip.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bitter Met fan responds to smug Yankee fan

Yesterday, Squawker Lisa accused me of "chugging some haterade" when it comes to the Yankees.

Here are my responses to some of her charges:

He's becoming a bitter Met fan!

Becoming?

You wanna talk steroids? Do I have to bring up your hero Mike Piazza again?

As I conceded yesterday: "the Yankees are not alone here." But if Yankee fans claim that 2004 and 2007 are tainted because of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, then you have to say the same thing about 1999 and 2000, when Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte started five of the eight Yankee wins.

As for Piazza, if the allegations you refer to turn out to be true, well, at least it will not taint any Met championships.

And Jeffrey Maier? If he had been at a Mets playoff game, he would have interfered with a David Wright homer or something. Oh, wait. David Wright doesn't hit homers anymore.

If reader Uncle Mike had written this part, he would have said, "Oh, wait. The Mets don't have playoff games anymore."

And as for spending, at least the Yankees didn't get taken in by either Bernie Madoff or Steve Phillips.

No, just Carl Pavano and Kei Igawa.

my team has October baseball to look forward to. What do you get to watch next month? MRI results?

I hear ABC has a new series debuting next month: "Reyes' Anatomy."

Scratch that. You do have something to root for. Your beloved Boston Red Sox. That's right. Red Sox Nation will have a few new members in the postseason, thanks to you and the other denizens of the He-Man Yankee Haters Club. Good grief.

But first, I have to join Tiger Nation.

Help! Kanye West has taken over Subway Squawkers!

Sorry I haven't written yet about last night's stirring Yankee walkoff win, but I was busy dealing with a Squawker intruder. Kanye West tried to interrupt my typing! Fortunately, I was able to shoo him away. But I saved a screen shot of what he tried to do to this blog. Check it out here.

Daniel Murphy manages to combine Bill Buckner and Luis Castillo

The Mets endure another embarrassing walkoff loss on the same night the Yankees celebrate another walkoff win. And you wonder why I am bitter, Squawker Lisa?

For the second time this season, Francisco Rodriguez lost a game on an embarrassing error by his infield. But while the Castillo game was the nightmare ending of the year, if not the decade (I can still hear Squawker Lisa laughing), Wednesday night's debacle had more of those special features that have made this season such a nightmare:
  • The starting pitcher was poor Bobby Parnell, who remains in the rotation even though he has consistently shown that he belongs back in the bullpen.
  • The Mets got 16 hits, but only scored five runs.
  • Daniel Murphy allowed the winning rally to start by letting a ball go by him down the line - even though he was guarding the line.
And that, of course, was only the beginning of Murphy's nightmare inning.

Just three days ago, when the Mets were eliminated, I noted that it was appropriate that the game featured an injury and a baserunning blunder. And then I wrote:
It might have been nice to throw in cringeworthy fielding play for old times' sake, but the fielding has actually been less of a problem since the first half of the season. Moving Daniel Murphy to first was a big part of that.
Oops!

With two outs and the winning run on second (and a runner on first), the Braves' Ryan Church, playing the role of Mookie Wilson, hits a grounder to first baseman Murphy. Since Daniel has already let the earlier ball go by him down the line, he mixes it up and boots this one up in the air.

The lead runner is rounding third, but if Murphy can just grab the ball when it comes down, he might be able to prevent the winning run for scoring.

Instead, the ball bounces off Murphy's glove a la the Castillo play and the winning run scores. Murphy should have gotten two errors on the play, but was only charged for one, his unlucky thirteenth error of the year.

Like most Met fans, I like Daniel Murphy and continue to root for him, but when you make what could have been three errors in the ninth and you are only hitting .258 with a .711 OPS, you might be part of the problem more than the solution.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Is Squawker Jon chugging some haterade? He's becoming a bitter Mets fan!

My Met fan writing partner is unleashing the bitterness these days. And the target for his anger? What else - the Yankees! Oh joy.

Here's the story - Squawker Jon recently wrote a satirical piece suggesting that the 1969 Mets was a hoax. He was kidding, of course.

Then there's Squawker reader Uncle Mike, who wrote this in response to Jon mentioning the article today here at Subway Squawkers headquarters:
No, Jon, the Mets' 1969 World Series victory was not a hoax.
It was a fraud. Come on, look at the film: Agee was out.
Had that call been correctly made, the Cubs would have stayed on top of the National League East, and it would have been either the Braves in the NLCS or the Orioles in the World Series to whom they choked.
The Mets' 1973 Pennant was also a fraud. Seriously, an 82-79 team winning the Pennant? Ya gotta believe something ain't right there.
The Mets' 1986 World Championship? Oh please....
Uncle Mike continued with the argument a bit longer, detailing everything wrong with the 1986 and 2000.Mets.

And then Squawker Jon flipped his lid. I don't know if it was that post, or just general frustration for rooting for such a pathetic team, but Jon wrote this in the article's comments section:
The 1969 Mets are the reason I remain a diehard Met fan to this day. The piece was meant to poke fun at a year when everything went wrong in unbelievable ways, and I was trying to figure out what was the worst thing that could happen next. And for me, that would be questioning the 1969 Mets.
Uncle Mike, as long as you are listing frauds, you should include the 1996 Yankees, whose championship run began with the Jeffrey Maier interference.
Then there's the PED era - Clemens, Pettitte, almost half the 2000 team - the Yankees are not alone here, but they are certainly a big part of it.
At least the Yankees spent their "massive amounts of cash" publicly when they bought this season's title.
Oh, snap! Did you drink some haterade, Squawker Jon? I mean, really.

At the risk of sounding like a bitter Yankee fan, I gotta squawk about this. You wanna talk steroids? Do I have to bring up your hero Mike Piazza again?

And Jeffrey Maier? If he had been at a Mets playoff game, he would have interfered with a David Wright homer or something. Oh, wait. David Wright doesn't hit homers anymore.

And as for spending, at least the Yankees didn't get taken in either Bernie Madoff or Steve Phillips.

But I guess I should feel magnanimous to you, the bitter Mets fan. After all, my team has October baseball to look forward to. What do you get to watch next month? MRI results?

Scratch that. You do have something to root for. Your beloved Boston Red Sox. That's right. Red Sox Nation will have a few new members in the postseason, thanks to you and the other denizens of the He-Man Yankee Haters Club. Good grief.

Is Squawker Jon right to be irate? Or is he out of line? Leave us a comment! 

More thoughts on the Yankee-Blue Jays brawl

Here's my piece for The Faster Times about Fight Night in the Bronx last night. Basically, I thought it was an entertaining brawl, albeit a probably unnecessary one. But man, did I love rewatching the fight!

I really can't take all the handwringing about the brawl. Nobody on the Yankees got hurt, so why are Mike Francesa and Michael Kay being such drama kings about it? Good grief.

What do you think? Leave us a comment! 

More Met hoaxes

Mets Police has responded to my piece fearing that the 1969 Mets were a hoax by coming up with a possible hoax of his own - a made-up player named Jose Reyes.

This theory would explain why "Reyes" has largely been kept out of sight over the last few months.

It also raises the possibilities that some other players will also turn out to be hoaxes. Remember back in spring training when we were told that a man named Putz would solidify the bullpen?

Then there are the alleged top prospects - Fernando Martinez and Jon Niese - who have also disappeared from view. Perhaps they were also fictional creations.

In fact, do we have any proof that the Mets even have a farm system? We could ask the director of player development, but Tony Bernazard has disappeared as well - if he ever existed.

But the biggest hoax of all is down in Philadelphia. Do you really expect us to believe that Pedro Martinez has not only regained his form, but was able to throw 130 pitches over eight shutout innings after throwing 119 pitches in his previous start? Come on, what do you take us for?

Rumble in the Bronx: Yankees and Jays go at it

What a brawl! When you see your team's manager with the makings of a black eye, you know it's an intense fight. I'm writing a piece on The Faster  Times about the Yankees-Blue Jays brawl, but in the meantime, here are a few observations.

Looking at last night semi-objectively, Jorge Posada had no reason to complain about a ball behind his back that didn't even hit him. But I think the way Jesse Carlson stood in his way when Jorge was rounding him was kind of asking  for a response. And I found the whole fight very entertaining. So sue me.

How about Edwar Ramirez? Looks to be about 50  pounds, let he was able to hold back Toronto catcher Rod Barajas! And Mark Teixeira was right in the middle of things, too, which was cool.

But what do you think? Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1969 Miracle Mets: The conspiracy theory view

According to "Mythbusters" on the Discovery Channel, 20% of Americans today believe that the moon landing was faked. When I heard that, I thought of the second-biggest thing to happen in the summer of 1969 - the Miracle Mets.

This season, when you think things can't get any worse, something else always seems to happen. What if the moon landing was faked - and so was the 1969 Mets World Championship?

So I explored this nightmare scenario for The Faster Times:
Was the Miracle Mets 1969 World Series a Hoax?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hooray! John Henry is squawking online again!

Thank goodness for small favors. Red Sox owner John Henry now has his own blog on NESN's web site. So I've written about it for The Faster Times. I used Squawker reader Uncle Mike's hilarious description of Henry as a "spiel-driving man" in the article's title - thanks, Mike!

Henry is going to be great fodder for sportswriters and bloggers everywhere. He's already taken time to defend David Ortiz - and dredge up the story again. Cool!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Mets eliminated in fitting fashion

When the Mets are officially eliminated from postseason play, not just any run-of-the-mill loss will do. The clinching game must include the key elements that sunk the season - an injury, a stupid baserunning play and no offense.

It might have been nice to throw in cringeworthy fielding play for old times' sake, but the fielding has actually been less of a problem since the first half of the season. Moving Daniel Murphy to first was a big part of that. But Murphy would show that he can be even more dangerous on the bases than he was in left field.

First Fernando Tatis left the game in the second with a sprained finger. Then the Mets offense was completely shut down by ex-teammate Pedro Martinez. With two outs in the eighth, Daniel Murphy doubled. Charlie Manuel pulled a Grady Little and left Pedro in, though he was approaching 130 pitches.

Some say the unassisted triple play, which ended the first game Pedro pitched against the Mets this year, sums up the Mets season. I disagree. That play involved a lot of bad luck, though it represent more dubious strategy on the part of the Met brain trust to have both runners going.

But Murphy bolting for third when the ball rolled a few feet away from Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz - that's just dumb. Murphy is already in scoring position. The ball did not go that far. And Murphy is not a good runner.

It's plays like this that sum up the season. Jerry Manuel did not have much to say about the play after the game, saying that Murphy knows what he did. Maybe Manuel did not have a lot to say because it was less Murphy's mistake and more this team's consistent strategy to try to take the extra base, no matter how hopeless.

Either the strategy is bad or the Mets have a lot of fundamentally unsound players, which ultimately gets back to management.

Bobby Ojeda said after the game that he thought the Mets have lost eight to ten games this year on such blunders. That's an astonishing and unacceptable number.

As for Pedro Martinez, I am still a Pedro fan, but I can still see why the Mets were reluctant to sink any more money in him after only getting 1 1/2 good years out of a four-year, $52 million contract.

But Pedro is doing so well that his Philly stats now rival those of Cliff Lee:

Pedro with Philly: 5-0, 2.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Lee with Philly: 6-2, 3.11 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Meanwhile, Met starts Tim Redding, Bobby Parnell, Nelson Figueroa and Pat Misch are a combined 8-21. Redding did pitch well Sunday night, dropping his ERA to 5.52.

At least the Mets can still participate in other teams' meaningful games in September.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

On Derek Jeter, Baseball Reflections, and changes to the site

A few things about Friday and Saturday's games:
  • I thought it was a really nice moment when Derek Jeter was surrounded by his teammates after he broke the all-time Yankees hits record. I rewound it a bunch of times on the DVR. It was one of the coolest clipsof the year, to be sure.

  • One thing we really take for granted with Jeter is how he has never "embarrassed the stripes," as Steve Lombardi of Was Watching would phrase it. Sure, one could say that (putting on Chris Rock voice) you're supposed to stay out of trouble. What do you want, a cookie? But many young players facing the temptations in this town get entangled in some sort of mayhem at least once. Jeter never has.

  • I wrote something for the site Baseball Reflections about how the Yankees did last month. Of course, it was before A.J. Burnett spit the bit yesterday (as you'll understand why I mention this now when you read it!)

  • I'm redoing the Subway Squawkers site - please be patient if it's a bit buggy! Many thanks to Squawker reader Cindy for the cool logo!

What do you think? Leave us a comment! 

Friday, September 11, 2009

Want tickets for tonight's Yankee game? Better dig deep

If there is a Yankee game tonight - if it actually does happen, that is, with all the wind and the rain going on today - Derek Jeter may very well break Lou Gehrig's record. But if you want to see the game, it's gonna cost you.

According to FanSnap.com, the average price of a Yankees ticket for tonight's game on the secondary market went from $80 to $208 after Jeter's three-hit night Wednesday to tie Lou Gehrig's Yankee hits record. Yikes! Guess I won't be going.

Of course, if tonight is rained out, there's always Saturday's game. But those ticket prices seem to be going up as well, as fans wonder if there will be a game tonight, and snap up tix tomorrow just in case.

* * *

In other news, today, of course, is the eighth anniversary of 9/11/01, the date of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.

In remembering 9/11, my own story is boring but unique. I worked nights at the time, so I was asleep until noon. When I woke up, I heard the horrible news, but at first I thought my alarm clock radio was talking about the anniversary of when the World Trade Center was previously attached.

It wasn't until I got online that I saw that both the WTC and the Pentagon were hit. But I didn't quite believe that the WTC was really gone until I went outside and saw two huge plumes of smoke where the Twin Towers used to be.

I pass the Staten Island WTC memorial frequently when I go walking, and I always try to remember those who lost their lives on that awful day, as I'm thinking about them today.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What Jeff Francoeur and George Strait have in common

I was trying to figure out what Mets player Jeff Francouer's at-bat songs were - they're country, of course; I think one of them is Kenny Chesney, and one is by Brad Paisley, but I don't know which songs they are.

But while I didn't find the song titles via a web search, I did come across this interview, which describes Francoeur's love of country music:

Q – What is one thing that most people don’t know about Jeff Francouer?

“That I want to be a country music singer worse than you could ever imagine. I would actually give up my baseball talent to be a country music singer and most people don’t know that.”

It was at this point that he told me about one of his habits when he is out in the outfield. He said that when he is standing there and no balls are coming his way, he has been known to start singing a country tune every now and then, sometimes singing a classic George Strait tune to pass the time until he is involved in the action.

Maybe that's what the rest of the Mets need to do - sing George Strait songs to pass the time! I have a few suggestions of Strait songs for Francoeur and the Mets to sing:
  • Fool-Hearted Memory
  • A Fire I Can't Put Out
  • Let's Fall to Pieces Together
  • Famous Last Words of a Fool
  • I Cross My Heart
  • I'd Like to Have That One Back
  • Today My World Slipped Away
  • We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This
  • The Chill of An Early Fall
  • I've Come to Expect It From You

Come to think of it, country music and the Mets have a lot in common - misery!

And there is one Strait song that best fits how the team - and their fans - must feel right now: "I Hate Everything."

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

My thoughts on Citi Field, and the Jeter record

Yes, as Squawker Jon notes, I'm cheap (I prefer to call it frugal.) And given how poorly the Mets have been playing, I wasn't willing to spend more than a buck to see them, as I described online yesterday. How could I resist rubbing in the Mets' sorry fortunes to my writing partner better than taking him to a game with tickets that cost less than a dollar menu item at McDonald's change! Sorry, I'm mean that way.

We were trying to figure out why somebody would even bother selling tix for that small a price (minus a StubHub commission deduction from that 97 cents!) They obviously must have just wanted somebody to get the tickets, rather than have them go to waste.

My guesstimate is that there were maybe 8,000 or so fans at the game, even though the "official" attendance was 37,000, thanks to all those tickets being purchased in advance. The media has really missed this story, by the way.

Can't say I blame the fans who stayed home. Those tickets are a sunk cost, after all.
The Mets have to be losing a ton, though. All those people staying home means fewer people buying food, drinks, souvenirs, etc.

And yes, yet another Met game I attended with Jon ended in humiliating defeat, with the game effectively over before we finished getting our food.

But there was one bright side for Jon. When he showed me that he got five certificates for the free hot dogs, and he heard that I only got one, thanks to me wearing a Yankees shirt at Citi Field, Jon was pleased. So pleased, I don't think I've seen him this happy all season!

I wasn't the only one wearing Yankee gear at the game. And there were even Marlins fans (I didn't know the franchise had fans!) cheering their team on at the game last night. It's enough to make Citi Field cry, especially after getting that letter from Shea!)

And really, I didn't expect Derek Jeter to get three hits and tie the record (I figured he'd get two and break the record Friday night.) It figures he would do it when I wasn't watching the game. The Mets did show something on their big screen about how Jeter tied Lou Gehrig's record, and he got a round of applause from even some Met fans. Had to watch the Jeter stuff when I got home. Congrats to Jeter, and I'm looking forward to seeing him break the record - on TV - Friday (the tickets are too expensive for me to consider going!)

I brought a radio and listened to portions of the game while at Citi Field (although I missed the final Jeter hit!) But I did hear Jorge Posada's homer live as we were headed to the subway, and Squawker Jon was grumbling.

Oh, and I guess the big story about Joba Chamberlain is not that he had another unmemorable outing (I was following the game online while waiting for Shake Shack food, and was peeved to see him go through over 25 pitches in the first inning) but that we're kind of expecting such suckitude from him now. The magic is gone for Joba.

But Alfredo Aceves has the magic this year. Really, he's done more to earn a postseason spot in the rotation than Joba has.

* * *

We may not have gotten to see great baseball, but we did get to meet Ed Leyro of Studious Metsimus - and the bears! Very cool.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mets are 97-cent weaklings

Squawker Lisa invited me to the Met game tonight. Even offered to pay for the tickets.

"What inspired this generosity?" I wondered.

"The tickets are under a dollar," she told me, a little too smugly.

So it has come to this. In the first year of a brand-new ballpark, I got to see a game for 97 cents (plus StubHub fees). And we even got free hot dogs!

My first-ever game at Citi Field was the second exhibition game with the Red Sox. I thought I was getting a deal by paying only $23 a ticket for seats that would go for at least $45 in the regular season.

When tickets went on sale for April and May, I quickly snapped up $45 seats for a game against the lowly Nationals, figuring that lower-priced tickets would soon be hard to come by.

There is a new series coming to ABC called "FlashForward," in which everyone on Earth gets a glimpse of what things will be like about six months in the future. I can only imagine how I would have felt at that exhibition game, when I was so excited to be in the new ballpark and so looking forward to the new season, if I had gotten a glimpse of a September featuring a team out of contention and tickets under a dollar.

The 97-cent seats were not even the cheapest ones available. There was a pair going for 45 cents each, but the sellers' comment on the Stubhub offer was "Mets suck." Though I can understand the frustration of what was probably a diehard Met fan stuck with a bunch of extra tickets from a fifteen-game plan, I did not want to see Lisa the Yankee fan buying "Mets suck" tickets.

Besides, the 97-centers were actually where I wanted to sit, behind third base and not more than halfway up the 500 level. They were in section 525, row 7, seats 13 and 14.

Ordinarily, seats 13 and 14 are not ideal, because you are stuck in the middle of a long row.

That was not a problem tonight.

There were three other people sitting in our row.

It was a clear night with the temperature around 70. Yet Citi Field did not look more than a quarter full, if that.

Yes, there was a lot of competition for the local sports dollar tonight, with the Yankees also in town and Derek Jeter going for the all-time Yankee hit record. The 7 train was packed on the way out to Willets Point, but most of the people getting off went in the other direction, toward the U.S. Open.

But if a 97-cent ticket made me think I had flashed backward to 1979, well, so did the empty stands and a listless team. David Wright and Carlos Beltran were back in the lineup and it did not seem to make a difference.

Part of the problem for us is that we got stuck on the Shake Shack line and did not get to our seats until the bottom of the first, when the Mets were already losing, 4-0. In other words, the game was over.

It was a fitting bookend to the exhibition game, when we were also indulging in the Citi Field food options and did not get to our seats until the bottom of the first, when the game was already out of hand. In that game, the Red Sox scored six runs off Oliver Perez in the top of the first. But it didn't matter because it was only an exhibition, and surely Ollie would get it together in time for the regular season.

***

Speaking of food, one of the highlights of the evening came right at the beginning, when we received our hot dog coupons. I was handed five of them. Lisa only got one. That's what you get for wearing a gaudy tie-dyed Yankee shirt to Citi Field!

We also got a chance to meet fellow blogger Ed Leyro, who was sitting a few sections away. Ordinarily, it might be a challenge to find someone in a different section, much less stop by and sit next to them. But it was no problem tonight.

The announced attendance for the game was 37,312. But if anyone from Mets management was at the game, they would have seen how even a much smaller ballpark could look as empty as Shea did in those seasons when the Mets were going nowhere. Free hot dogs are no substitute for a winning team.

***

On a completely different note, I heard Lance Broadway's entrance music for the first time - "Nights on Broadway" by the Bee Gees. Maybe he didn't pick the music out himself - it sounds more like another dubious Shea/Citi Field music choice. They also played "Let's Go" by the Cars late in the game, presumably to try to inspire the crowd, though there is nothing inspirational about that song beyond the title.

But what relief pitcher enters to a refrain that blames him for what is about to happen?

Blamin' it all
On the nights on Broadway.

Me, I'll stick to blaming Squawker Lisa for the fact that I have now been to six losing Met games in a row. Including that exhibition game, the Mets are 0-5 when Lisa is at Citi Field. And that does not include the other Met game Lisa and I went to, the one at Yankee Stadium that was the worst one of all - the Castillo dropped popup game.

Lisa also wrote about seeing the Mets for 97 cents on The Faster Times.

How about that Nick Swisher?

I'm not going to say that I called Nick Swisher's walkoff homer last night, although I had a pretty good feeling going into the bottom of the ninth that there would be a pie in some Yankee's immediate future!

Of the Yanks' 13 walkoff wins, Melky Cabrera has three of them, and Alex Rodriguez has two of the hits (three if you count the Luis Castillo popup. But surpisingly, neither Derek Jeter nor Mark Teixeira, two of the Yankees' biggest stars, have any walkoff hits this year to their name.

Speaking of Jeter, why is it so hard for anybody in the media to believe that he's human? Of course he's pressing a little right now - it is to be expected. Why is that that so many suggest that he's some sort of android, who doesn't experience human emotions like the rest of us? I am surprised that he took off after the game without really talking to the media, though. That is not Jeteresque.

In other news, I did watch some of the Mets' Silent Sixth. If only their fans, especially Squawker Jon, would shut their yaps!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

ESPN debates the Mets: Is this franchise 'moribund'?

Last week, ESPN's Jayson Stark buried the Mets with the following piece:

Mets in impossible spot going forward

Monday, Peter Gammons countered with:

Return of the Mets not as impossible as it seems

The return of the Mets only seems impossible to the likes of Stark. The subhead on his piece reads "Trading Jose Reyes could be a huge step toward jump-starting moribund franchise."

Whatever else one can say about the Mets, and one can say a lot of negative things, they are not a "moribund franchise." The Pittsburgh Pirates and their record seventeen losing seasons in a row - that's a moribund franchise. The Royals, Orioles and Nationals could fall into that category, and the Padres are heading there fast.

Even with an unprecedented wave of injuries, the Mets figure to go around 72-90, which means that just by getting healthier, they will do a lot better. How much better depends on what they do to replace Carlos Delgado's bat in the lineup, since he is the one injured player who does not figure to return. It is probably also necessary to assume that, between John Maine and Oliver Perez, at least one of them will not live up to the expectations going into this season.

So the Mets need a cleanup hitter, a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher and a return to health to get back to where they were the last few years - a contending team.

Would the Mets be championship caliber? Unlikely. Would they be flawed? Yes. Would they have organizational issues? Sure. But the notion expressed in Stark's column that the Mets have no choice but to rebuild is not true.

According to the anonymous scouts that Stark quotes, the Mets need a lot more than one pitcher and one hitter, and they are right, they could use a catcher, another corner outfielder, another starter and a lefty reliever. But that is to get the Mets to championship level. What's wrong with getting the Mets back to the 85-90 win level, then saying that all they need is a couple more pieces to compete for the title?

Instead, Stark feels that the Mets need to blow things up by trading a star such as Jose Reyes. Now one can make a case for trading Reyes, though you would rather do it when his value is a lot higher than when he is coming off of an injury-plagued season in which the health of his legs is back in question.

But if you are going to trade Reyes, you do not do it for the reasons expressed in Stark's article:

To be a truly great team, said one scout, "you need grinders, not stars. And the Mets have been All-Stars and no grinders."

So the logical solution is: Trade one or two of those stars.

No, that is not logical at all. You need stars AND grinders. The 1986 Mets might not have won without Wally Backman and Lenny Dykstra, but would they have won if they had acquired them in a trade for Darryl Strawberry?

Gammons' column is much more realistic. He says that the Mets need "one quality starting pitcher," "one catcher" and "one corner bat." Still a tall order, but a lot different from rebuilding a moribund franchise.

But where Gammons does agree with Stark, and, I would imagine, most fans, is that the Mets need some sort of major organizational change. Gammons writes:
...here is some advice for the Wilpons: Hire a really strong, competent, forceful CEO with a widespread understanding of the business, development and people.
And here is Gammons' first assignment for that CEO:
1. They will not allow the commissioner's office to determine whom they draft, and use their market and SNY television network advantage to acquire talent through the draft and the international stage.
The fact is that the Mets are not that far away from contention because you can buy your way into contention, and over the last few years, Omar Minaya has done just that. But to make yourself a winner requires also building a strong farm system.

Starks quotes Minaya as claiming to be the right man for the job:

"I think it's a challenge," he said. "But I've dealt with challenges before. I had to build the Montreal Expos situation from scratch [after MLB took over the club]. That was a challenge."

Minaya did help make the Expos a winning team in 2002 - by bankrupting his farm system by trading future stars Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips for Bartolo Colon in midseason. A little over six months later, he traded Colon away for a package featuring Orlando Hernandez.

Minaya has claimed in the past that he traded away the jewels of the Expos farm system for a half-year rental of Colon because it appeared the franchise was about to be disbanded. But even if that is true, it makes Minaya's Expos' experience even less relevant as to whether he can build a championship team in New York.

The only good thing about Minaya's Colon trade in 2002 is that it might be keeping the Mets out of last place today. If the Expos-turned-Nationals still had those players, or had gotten much better value for them, Washington might be a team on the rise, instead of a moribund franchise.

The Mets are not a moribund franchise, not as of now. But the quickest way to get there is to trade Reyes, and to let Minaya be the one to make that trade.

No celebration for Derek Jeter, but a big one for Prince Fielder

Well, so much for my thought that Derek Jeter would break Lou Gehrig's record Monday. Despite having two games to do it, Jeter went 0-for-8, and is still four hits away from surpassing Gehrig. Maybe it will happen today.

Squawker Jon and I went to Asbury Park for the day to enjoy the end of summer, so we didn't get to see much of the first game, other than what we saw on a restaurant TV. And the second game was effectively over by the time I got home. I sure am glad A.J. Burnett finally won another game, though.

In other news, I wrote a piece for The Faster Times about Milwaukee Brewer Prince Fielder's over-the-top celebration after Sunday's walkoff win. I had some Milwaukee-related suggestions for other things Fielder could do for an encore.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Monday, September 7, 2009

On the sluggishness of Toronto games, and Derek Jeter's big milestone

I am soooo glad the Yankees are done with that Toronto series. Those games were painful to watch, even if the Yankees did win two of them. The games were sluggish, slow, and sloggy. I literally fell asleep watching yesterday's game, it took so long!

So why did the games have such a slow pace? Was it the sloppy defensive plays? The bad pitching? I don't get it.

In other news, with today's day-night doubleheader, it looks like the day Derek Jeter will break Lou Gehrig's all-time Yankee hits record. And several Squawker readers will be in the ballpark today to see it! How cool.

It really is an amazing achievement that Jeter is going to get that record, giving all the baseball immortals who have put on the pinstripes. The fact that Jeter already has more hits than Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio boggles the mind. And now he's about to beat Lou Gehrig.

Jeter is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He will get his number retired, and have a monument to him in Monument Park one day. But breaking the record shouldn't make him MVP, though. Sorry.

On another note, what ever happened to the post-Toronto dressing up the rookies event? Are they not doing it this year?

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Who is the AL MVP - Joe Mauer or Derek Jeter?

While Wall Street Journal writer Allen Barra thinks Derek Jeter deserves the AL MVP, I disagree. Read my piece for The Faster Times on the issue.

Intangibles and past accomplishments shouldn't be enough to get the MVP. People have talked about Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia for Cy Young because Mo is leading the league in saves, and CC is leading the league in wins. Jeter does not lead the league in a single category. Not only that, but he only leads his own team in two categories - batting average and stolen bases.

True, Jeter is having his best season in years, but the standard for MVP isn't him having a great year as opposed to other years. It's having the best season in the league. And Mauer has him beat there, as I write in my article about it.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cory Sullivan makes homer history for Mets!

On Friday night, the Yankees tied a major-league record when Jorge Posada became the seventh Bomber this year to hit his 20th homer.

So what.

Saturday afternoon, Cory Sullivan became the eighth active Met to hit more than one homer this year.

Sullivan achieved this milestone when he belted his second homer of the year off of Rich Harden in the second inning of the Mets' 5-3 loss to the Cubs.

Here are the historic eight active Mets along with their number of homers (Gary Sheffield is currently out of action):

David Wright - 8
Daniel Murphy - 8
Fernando Tatis - 7
Jeff Francoeur - 7 (as a Met)
Angel Pagan - 6
Omir Santos - 6
Brian Schneider - 3
Cory Sullivan - 2

Luis Castillo and Nick Evans are knocking on the door of the exclusive "More Than One Homer Club" with one roundtripper each.

The combined total of these ten players is 49, leaving the active Mets six ahead of Albert Pujols's 43.

The active Mets are also in a dogfight with the Yankees who are not in the 20-homer club. Derek Jeter (17), Melky Cabrera (11), Eric Hinske (7), Brett Gardner (3), Jerry Hairston Jr. (2), Jose Molina (1) and Francisco Cervelli (1) have combined for 42 homers.

Jeter is eighth on the Yankees in homers and Cabrera is ninth. Both Jeter and Cabrera have more homers than all Mets this year, active or otherwise.

Friday, September 4, 2009

On A-Rod, the police, and crazy Toronto fans

So there's a whole to-do about Alex Rodriguez colliding with the female cop at last night's game. It's gotten as much attention as him getting his 2,500th hit the night before.

I blame the cop, not A-Rod, for the collision. (Yeah, I know, it's a real shocker that I would take A-Rod's side!) But hear me out. Why the heck was that cop not paying attention until Alex was within spitting distance of her? See what I mean in the video?

I'm not being a cop-basher here - you may remember that my late father was a police officer - but I just thought that the cop last night either didn't seem to have very click reflexes, or wasn't paying attention. And neither thing is good. What if that had been a fan jumping on the field, instead of A-Rod approaching her? And she seemed more concerned with hanging onto that stupid stool than she did not interfering with the game.

Speaking of which, a dopey Toronto fan threw a ball at Alfredo Aceves during the game. And according to the Journal-News' Peter Abraham, "It took nearly five minutes for security to reach the area and when they did, the crowd booed." Good grief.


Joe Girardi better be prepared to pull a Jim Leyland and pull his team off the field if anything else happens this weekend, the way Leyland had to do in Toronto on Opening Day. This is getting ridiculous.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!