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Monday, May 31, 2010

Squawker Media Alert: I'm about to be on the radio

I will be on the Larry Milian Show this morning at 9:20 am, on Fort Lauderdale's 640 AM, WFTL. If you want to listen live, try here.

I'll be squawking about the state of the Yankees, of course. Check it out!

To Kill a Squawkingbird? Famous author Harper Lee is a Mets fan

I was reading Smithsonian Magazine last night - yes, I actually occasionally read something other than the sports pages! And I was a little stunned to read, in an article about the 50th anniversary of "To Kill a Mockingbird," that Harper Lee, the book's author, is a Mets fan!

The article said that:

During the summer, when she would migrate to New York City, she would go to museums and the theater and root for the Mets, the natural choice for someone with an underdog thing as big as the Ritz.
Anyhow, this got me thinking. Maybe the Mets should do some sort of tribute to Miss Lee, to mark the 50th anniversary of the book. Instead just booing, fans should be encouraged to yell "Boo...Radley!"

What say you, Squawker Jon? And please, stop banging your head against the wall!


What do you think? Tell us about it!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Not a good day in Yankeeland

Sorry I haven't written much as of late, but I haven't gotten to see more than bits and pieces of the last few Yankee games. No truth to the rumor that I was trying to snag that pork chop on a stick!

Of course, it figures that today's debacle is one I did get to see.

First up, seeing A-Rod hit that line drive that hit David Huff in the head was brutal to watch. Yikes! Poor guy. Fortunately, Huff is already out of the hospital, and appears to be A-OK.

I was pretty peeved to see Joba Chamberlain have yet another bad outing, and for the Yankees to lose this game. Geez, you have a six-run lead, you should win the game.

Squawker Jon was so pleased about what happened, he watched the seventh inning on the replay just to see it all!

And Wally Matthews, of all people, made an interesting observation, noting how Joe Girardi referred to Chamberlain:
Afterward, Girardi could barely conceal his disgust.

"We had the game where we wanted," the manager said, his face tight and the veins in his neck throbbing. "We had our eighth-inning guy in, we needed four outs from him ... and he left pitches in the middle of the plate. He just didn't make the pitches when he had to."

Not once did he refer to his pitcher by name. Chamberlain, the darling of the final days of the old Yankee Stadium, had become "he" and "the eighth-inning guy." No longer to be trusted, neither was he fit to be named.

"Players aren't going to be bulletproof," Girardi conceded. "But he's had some bad outings. He's our eighth-inning guy and he's got to get it done for us."
Yes, that's how strange a day it was - Wally Matthews made some good points!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mets-Phillies: 27 up, 27 down!

I'm still waiting for that Met no-hitter, but last night almost felt like one. Throughout the game, Gary Cohen kept noting the growing total of consecutive scoreless innings. Once the Mets built a small cushion with Jose Reyes' two-run double extending the lead to 3-0, the countdown began. 25 innings down, two to go!

In the ninth inning, Francisco Rodriguez came in to face the heart of the Phillies' order - Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth. K-Rod had allowed one run in his last five appearances and had an ERA under two. The Phillie bats were ice cold. But just one home run from any of these three power hitters would end the streak. A home run with a man on base, and the Phillies were right back in the game.

As anyone who watched the 2007 and 2008 seasons can attest, the Phillies are no strangers to ruining things for the Mets at the last minute.

But not tonight. Instead, Cohen screamed out the time of the conclusion of the historic feat: at seven minutes before midnight, the Mets had shut out the Phillies three straight games!

In some ways, it was better than a no-hitter. As Metsblog noted, via Elias, it was only the third time since 1876 that a team swept three or more games from a first-place team without giving up any runs.

And best of all, it was against the Phillies.

Three shutouts, none started by Johan Santana, but two started by Hisanori Takahashi and R.A. Dickey.

So that's five out of six against the Yankees and Phillies. Amazing!

*

But before anyone starts getting carried away, thinking the Mets are only a Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt away from the postseason, remember that this team is two games over .500 at 25-23 and still closer to last place than first. They're great at home and horrible on the road, and so far have played eight more games at home.

One year ago, the Mets actually had a better record, 26-20, and were in first place.

There's a lot to be excited about - Jose Reyes is back and Mike Pelfrey is pitching like an ace. Hisanori Takahashi looks like he could be for real as well.

Let's hope the Mets can keep it up on the road, which they are going to need to do before they can truly call themselves a contender.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mets finally overcoming bad spring training decisions

The Mets made a lot of terrible decisions in spring training, and it's taken well into May to finally undo them.

The Post's Joel Sherman writes that "the organization recognizes now that it was wrong to hand starting spots to John Maine and Oliver Perez in spring without a fight."

But the dysfunction goes beyond the rotation. This is the same organization that gave the starting first base job to Mike Jacobs, even though Ike Davis and Chris Carter were having much better springs. And the starting centerfielder on Opening Day was Gary Matthews Jr.

Most, if not all of these decisions have to do with money. The Mets make a bad signing, then make matters worse by not only refusing to eat the salary, but keeping the bad player in the lineup because they are paying him all that money.

Fortunately, things are starting to change, but they won't really change until the Mets actually start cutting their losses by eating salary. Starting with Gary Matthews Jr. And probably continuing with John Maine.

I can see not dropping Oliver Perez, because that is a lot of money to eat, and Perez is unpredictable enough and has enough upside for him to suddenly find his form with another team. I'm already resigned to that happening once his contract is up.

But I'm sick of constant rumors about trading Luis Castillo, which only show how desperate the Mets are to shed his contract.

Even if the Mets somehow found a taker for Castillo, who will actually play second? Alex Cora showed last year he's not a starting player. Ruben Tejada is playing short in AAA. Please don't tell me that the plan is to stick Daniel Murphy there and hope for the best.

It makes you wonder if the Mets are so eager to trade Castillo not to improve the team, but to save money.

In 2006, well before Madoff, and when the Mets were a strong contender, they were still willing to hurt the team by keeping Kaz Matsui on the roster and giving him 30 starts. Matsui hit .200 with an OPS of .505 before the Mets finally got rid of him in June once they had Jose Valentin.

The Mets are having a fantastic week, and overall I'm very happy about it, but I can't forget that the mess they were in before things started going so well was of their own making.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dickey too tricky for Phillies

"Lost" may be over, but I feel like we're still in some sort of alternate reality:
  • A Met starting pitcher (R.A. Dickey) was injured early, stayed in the game even though his injury was getting worse, and still shut out the Phillies over six innings.
  • A Met reliever (Raul Valdes) put the first two batters on, then struck out the heart of the Phillies order, three of the best hitters in baseball (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth).
  • A bitter ex-Met (Nelson Figueroa) returned to Citi Field for the first time in an enemy uniform, and instead of showing the Mets they made a mistake, gave up three earned runs, including RBI hits from Raul Valdes and Luis Castillo.
  • After planning to get together with a friend visiting from out of town, his sister came up with tickets to last night's game at the last minute and was nice enough to give them to us. They were in the first row of field level in left field. It's been a while since I've sat near fans who brought their gloves to the game. Thanks again, Jen!
  • The numerous Philly fans in attendance, quite vocal at the start of the game, quieted down as the game progressed, and the rout was on.
  • Dickey and Valdes combined to shut out the two-time defending NL champs, 8-0.
The hitters also defied expectations, but I'm hoping this is a return to an earlier, more pleasant reality:
  • Jose Reyes had three hits and two stolen bases.
  • Jeff Francoeur had two hits.
  • David Wright did not strike out.
I did not realize until I got home that Dickey's elbow was X-rayed during the game and it eventually forced him to leave. I'm glad that Dickey was able to convince the coaches to let him tough it out for six innings. But I don't want to be hypocritical after criticizing John Maine for the same attitude.

In last week's Maine incident, the question was whether or not to trust the player, which the Mets clearly didn't. But the real issue is whether to trust the coaches and the medical staff, which was often not the case last year. Assuming Dickey doesn't turn out to be more seriously injured, both the coaches and medical staff came through last night.

While the Mets now have three wins in four games against last year's World Series teams, they are still only at .500 and tied for last place. So let's not start printing playoff tickets just yet. But it's still been a great week so far.

Support The FasterTimes - and the Subway Squawkers!

I've written a few pieces for The Faster Times that should interest our readers.

Think Steve Phillips was out of control ridiculous with his suggestion that the Nationals trade Stephen Strasburg for Roy Oswalt? I do too. Check out what I had to say here.

I also wrote about David Ortiz complaining about the media's coverage of his slump. While I can see his point that the media wrote him off way too soon, he also has a real blind spot when it comes to the press. Read my article here.

You can still join up with The Faster Times and help Squawker Jon and me - we get 70 percent of the proceeds if you designate one of us as the columnist of your choosing. You can sign up for as little as $12. But if you pay $60 or more, you can get a column written by me on any baseball topic you'd like me to write about! What a deal. There are also all sorts of cool gifts you get with membership, from magazine subscriptions to tote bags to assorted other goodies.

But that's not all. If you sign up today, you'll get invited to a very cool literary networking event this Thursday, featuring all sorts of big names in the industry. Check out info here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is A-Rod on the downside of his career? Don't believe the hype

Just a week after the latest "A-Rod is finally clutch" story, there's now the inevitable "A-Rod is a has-been" article, after he struck out against Francisco Rodriguez to end Sunday's game against the Mets. This latest piece, noting the dearth of homers by Rodriguez this year, is written by Bob Klapisch of FoxSports (hat tip to Was Watching.)

Klapisch notes:
Ever since his MVP campaign in 2007, A-Rod has experienced drop-offs in batting average, home runs, slugging percentage and OPS.
Is this really a shock? Let's review - in 2007, A-Rod had 54 homers, 156 RBI, a .314 BA, a .645 slugging percentage, and a 1.067 OPS. How good a year was that? It wasn't just the best year of Rodriguez's career, it was one of the best years of anybody in the modern era, and it was the greatest Yankee season since the days of Mantle and Maris. What would really be surprising is if Rodriguez didn't decline after a year like that!

Another so-called damning point Klapisch attempts to make is this one:


It’s not just the HRs that have suffered, however. Rodriguez’ slugging percentage is at a 13-year low (.497).

Well, of course his slugging percentage is lower, if his home run rate is lower (he only has six so far this year.) 


But the point Klapisch is trying to make doesn't hold up under closer scrutiny. With roughly a quarter of the season over, Rodriguez has 10 doubles and two triples, which actually puts him on pace to well surpass his career average of 33 doubles and two triples.

To further put those numbers in perspective, in A-Rod's 2005 MVP season, he had 29 doubles and one triple. And in his 2007 MVP season, he had 31 doubles, and zero triples.

Besides, he's hitting .291, with a .375 OBP. Those numbers are below his career averages, but not drastically (his career averages are .305 and .389).

And finally, it's been a strange year for homers so far. As Squawker Jon noted, the MLB leaders in home runs this season are Jose Bautista, Paul Konerko, and Ty Wigginton. A-Rod is currently ranked #62 in homers for the year, which is a surprise. But what's also surprising is that a lot of sluggers are also ranked low in homer numbers this season. Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols are tied for No. 35, with eight homers. And Prince Fielder (No. 47) only has seven. Are they also in career trouble as well?

If A-Rod is at, say, only eight homers or something by the All-Star Break, and his batting average drops, I'll start to worry a little, but right now I'm not too worried just yet.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

The Mets traded two of 2010's top three sluggers - in the same deal!

July 30, 2004, is a date that lives in infamy for the Mets, thanks to the Scott Kazmir trade. But the Mets made another deal that day, and that trade may turn out to be even worse.

Toronto's Jose Bautista is currently tied with the White Sox's Paul Konerko for the major league lead in homers with 14. Baltimore's Ty Wigginton is one behind them with 13 homers. No one else has more than twelve. Both Bautista and Wigginton are former Mets, and the Mets, who could use some home run punch, let them go in the same regrettable trade.

At the 2004 trading deadline, the Mets packaged Wigginton and Bautista along with pitching prospect Matt Peterson to acquire Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger.

The biggest name in this trade was Benson, who won four games the rest of the way in 2004 and ten games in 2005. But Benson - and his controversial wife Anna - were traded to Baltimore in January 2006 for reliever Jorge Julio and a pitching prospect. Julio got off to a disastrous start with the Mets before he was traded to Arizona four years ago today for Orlando Hernandez.

The Mets could use Keppinger now – he became the Astros’ starting second baseman earlier this season (replacing Kaz Matsui!) and is batting .292 with 15 runs and 17 RBI. Meanwhile, Mets second baseman Luis Castillo is batting .250 with 10 runs and 11 RBI - and facing a possible trip to the DL. But Keppinger was traded in 2006 for Ruben Gotay, who was later waived.

Wigginton, who had 12 homers in 86 games at the time of the trade, went on to average 23 homers a year from 2006-2008.

Bautista has never hit more than 16 homers in a season, but as ESPN's Buster Olney points out, Bautista's homer pace began accelerating at the end of last season, when he hit 10 after September 7.

Bautista was only a Met for a few hours - he had been acquired earlier in the day from Kansas City for catching prospect Justin Huber. And it has taken Bautista years to come into his own. Wigginton is generally regarded more as a utility player.

But if Bautista and Wigginton end up each hitting 25-30 homers this season (and they are halfway there in late May), the Mets will have nothing to show for what they gave up.

Except for one player.

For Kazmir and two of the top three sluggers in baseball this season so far, all the 2010 Mets have to show for these disastrous deals is the pitching prospect they got from the Orioles along with Julio for Benson.

That prospect was John Maine.

Some people think the Mets should try to get Roy Oswalt from the Astros. It's worth remembering how it turned out six years ago when the Mets went after veteran starting pitchers at the trade deadline.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost Weekend for Yankees, and this Squawk Monster is peeved!

Squawker Jon may have something to celebrate - not only did his Mets win two of three in the Subway Series, but he wasn't disappointed with the "Lost" finale. Can't say I can say the same. I'm not happy at all with this weekend. Call me Offfically Concerned about the state of the Yankees.


When the highlight of the Yankees' weekend is Javier Vazquez's pitching, and even that was bittersweet (thanks to him banging up his finger on a bunt), you know it wasn't a good series.

Grrrrrrr. As one of our Red Sox fan/Squawker readers pointed out to me on Facebook last night, the Yanks are now just 2.5 games ahead of the Red Sox in the standings. And the Bombers have lost 10 of their last 15 games, and six of their last eight games. Not good.

So, call me the Squawk Monster, as I make some fire-breathing observations:

* Doesn't look like Joe Girardi was happy with Francisco Cervelli not running when he hit the ball that hit the foul pole last night. (The one the umps ruled was a single, not a homer.)

* A Met fan wrote me this on Facebook last night, regarding Francisco Rodriguez's postgame celebrations: "You can't really pick on K-Rod though - at least he only celebrates when the game is over. That Cervelli guy celebrates every time his pitcher throws a strike or he gets a hit. Let him get more than about 30 hits in his career before he starts acting like that." Uh-oh!

* Squawker Jon and I were at the Citi Field finale of the Subway Series last year, where a shaky K-Rod walked Mariano Rivera with the bases loaded. I think I liked last year better!

* CC Sabathia hasn't looked right since that game at Fenway Park where he was one strike away from getting the win, before the rain delay. (Yes, I know he had pretty good numbers against the Sox at Yankee Stadium last week, but he looked like he was battling and struggling the whole time.

* How long before we hear the "A-Rod always strikes out in a big spot" idiots again?

Anyhow, I'm sure I've missed a ton of other things to complain about. But I'm sure Squawker Jon and our Met fan/Yankee hater readers will remind me of them!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

No 'Lost' weekend for Mets

(Warning - this entry contains spoilers from the "Lost" finale.)

The Subway Series and "Lost" both came to an end tonight. In both cases, fans who had invested years of caring about the main characters hoped that they would not come away disappointed.

With the Mets seemingly having the game well in hand, I thought I'd be able to relax and enjoy the final adventures of the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815. But just as "Lost" was reaching its long-awaited conclusion, the Yankees came to life in the ninth like a malevolent Smoke Monster. As Sawyer would say, son of a bitch! I had to pause the finale and put on Howie Rose (ya think I'm stopping "Lost" for Miller and Morgan?).

I haven't enjoyed too many finales in recent years. "The Sopranos," "Battlestar Galactica" and the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Mets all let me down. Now the "Lost" finale, which I thought had been going really well, threatened to be ruined - by the Mets bullpen.

Fortunately, as in the waning moments of "Lost," characters living in an alternate reality suddenly remembered their earlier experiences:

  • Johan Santana, all too human over the last year, remembered that he's an ace.
  • Jason Bay, with one home run on the season, remembered that he's a power hitter and blasted two homers off of one of the best pitchers in baseball, CC Sabathia.
  • Alex Rodriguez, who became Mr. Clutch last season, came to bat as the go-ahead run with two outs in the ninth and struck out to end the game.
  • The Mets remembered that they were a contending team just two seasons ago, and took a series from the World Champions.

On Friday, I made the following prediction for the Subway Series:

The Mets will get good starting pitching and will have leads in the sixth inning or later in two games, but the Yankees will rally late against the Mets bullpen to complete a sweep of the three-game series.


I was mostly right - the Mets got great starting pitching, allowing only 2 runs in 19 2/2 innings, an ERA of under 1, and did have leads in the sixth inning or later in two games. And the Yankees did rally late against the bullpen, in the seventh inning on Friday, the eighth on Saturday and the ninth on Sunday. The Met bullpen was lit up for 7 runs in 7 1/3 innings, almost a 9 ERA.

What I didn't predict was that the offense would wake up enough to make the Mets leads big enough that the Yankee rallies were not enough to catch up. I certainly wouldn't have guessed that Bay would triple his homer output for the season while going 6-for-6 over the last two games.

What makes the Met outburst that much more satisfying is that it came against Sabathia and Phil Hughes, who looked on his way to becoming an ace this year before his games this week against the Red Sox and Mets.

Some Yankee fans have been crowing this season over the Bombers holding on to Hughes rather than trading him a couple of years ago for Santana. While I do think the Yankees were wise to hold on to Hughes, this weekend showed that he's not quite ready to move ahead of Johan. (What the Yankees should have done was trade overhyped Joba Chamberlain for Santana).

One big difference between the final "Lost" and the Subway Series weekend was in the enthusiasm of the reunions. Most of the interviews I saw with members of the 2000 Mets were underwhelming. Mike Hampton looked like he was just waiting for someone to ask him about the Colorado school system. But the "Lost" characters were thrilled to reconnect with each other (probably none happier than Juliet, Charlie and Penny, thrilled for another chance to do intelligent sci-fi after suffering through "V" and "FlashForward").

In the end, both "Lost" and the Subway Series turned out the same for me. I really enjoyed the "Lost" finale, even if I didn't fully understand it. And I really enjoyed the Subway Series, even if I didn't fully understand how the Mets managed to take two of three from the Yankees.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mets continue to mishandle Jenrry Mejia

Last night, Jenrry Mejia came of age when he got out of a jam by striking out Mark Teixeira and getting Alex Rodriguez to ground out. Of course, Mejia's the one who got into the jam in the first place by giving up a hit to Kevin Russo and a walk to Derek Jeter. But Mejia apparently did show enough for Mets management to leave Mejia in the bullpen as of now, despite frequent speculation of late that he will be sent down to be stretched out as a starter. And that's a mistake.

Mejia has shown great promise, but so far, he is not the sort of phenom that Joba Chamberlain was in 2007 or Neftali Feliz was in 2009.

Joba's 2007 numbers: 0.38 ERA, 0.75 WHIP with 34 strikeouts and 6 walks in 24 innings.

Feliz's 2009 numbers:
1.74 ERA, 0.68 WHIP with 39 strikeouts and 8 walks in 31 innings.

Mejia's 2010 numbers: 3.60 ERA, 1.70 WHIP with 15 strikeouts and 12 walks in 20 innings.

Joba became the setup man while Feliz is now closing for Texas. Mejia is not going to be the closer and is very unlikely to be the setup man this year.

Keeping Mejia in the majors only makes sense if he is going to be a critical part of a bullpen of a contending team. As of now, he's not a critical part and it's unclear at best if the Mets are a contender.

And if the Mets really want to protect their prized young arm, they should keep him out of Jerry Manuel's bullpen. Last night, Pedro Feliciano pitched for the fifth time in six days. Perhaps that had something to do with him being unable to get anyone out.

Fernando "Nightly" Nieve has an 8.00 ERA in May, giving him a 5.32 ERA for the season. Last night, he faced two batters and walked one of them - with the bases loaded. Nieve has now allowed at least one walk in six straight appearances.

If Mejia does start pitching like 2007 Joba, will Manuel be able to resist turning him into Everyday Mejia?

The Mets do have a variety of options in the bullpen, more so than in the rotation. The Mets need to start turning Mejia into a starter sooner or later. Might as well be sooner.

*

One brief note on the Fox telecast. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver neglected to put the John Maine situation in context. All Fox viewers heard was that, after "someone" made a reference to pitching lefthanded, Manuel joked that perhaps Maine would have better stuff that way. What the announcers neglected to mention was that it was Maine who brought up the idea, saying he wanted to pitch and would pitch lefthanded if necessary.

Maine is justly praised for wanting to pitch, but if you can't use your pitching arm, you're not likely to help the team a whole lot. Manuel's response was appropriate, if harsh. But Buck and McCarver made Manuel sound like the bad guy.

Manuel is far from perfect as a manager, but he's right to be frustrated with Maine. If only he would realize that, with Maine out of the rotation, possibly indefinitely, the real need for Mejia is as a starter.

Big Pelf and the Mets beat Yankees in Game 2 of Subway Series

Finally. The Mets won a Subway Series game in Citi Field. And I'm not very happy about it.

It's not just that Squawker Jon is doing the Snoopy Dance over the win. It was that we had such awful announcing to sit through. You thought FOX broadcasts were bad enough, but they just made them even more odious by the introduction of Kevin Millar to the pre- and post-game show. Somebody on Facebook suggested that we Yankee fans should "let it go" about Millar. Tell you what - I'll "let it go" when the players' union does!

Oh, and Tim McCarver was his usual pompous yet unprepared self. It's unbelievable how unknowledgable he is on what's going on in baseball. Is it too much to expect a guy whose entire job consists of one three-hour baseball broadcast a week to actually know what's going on with the teams? Especially when he knows what teams he will be covering months in advance? He couldn't even get the Millar "Cowboy Up" reference right - that's about 2003, not 2004.

As for the game itself, the memory that sticks out the most in my mind was Francisco Rodriguez's double-fisted salute up to the heavens when he won the game. He practically had jazz hands, he was gyrating so much!

Wasn't crazy about A-Rod not getting a hit when the Yankees had that rally going. Also wasn't crazy about Alex Cora being interviewed for an inning when the Yanks were at bat. Geez, FOX, you have the Yankees No. 3, 4, and 5 hitters up, and you take that time to talk to Cora? What?

Of course David Wright would have a good night. It's that he read me comparing him to the Ghost of Bernie Williams, and decided to prove me wrong!

Watching Randy Winn in the outfield makes me want to make a get-well-soon card for Curtis Granderson!


What do you think? Tell us about it!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Could Joe Torre be the Mets' 2011 manager - and get Cliff Lee to come with him?

'In his most recent column on the New York Mets, Bergen Record columnist Bob Klapisch speculates that 1) either Joe Torre or Wally Backman could be the Mets manager next year, and that 2) Torre might get some big-name free agents to come to Flushing, most notably Cliff Lee. Here is what Klapisch sez:

The pendulum could swing one of two ways. Either the Wilpon family takes a wild gamble on the franchise’s wild man, Wally Backman, after just one season at Class A Brooklyn, or else they lure Joe Torre back to New York after his Dodger contract expires this October.

Torre would give the Mets instant respectability throughout the industry and would bolster their efforts to sign free agents like Cliff Lee. Torre is immensely popular with the game’s biggest stars, and his drawing power – backed by the Mets’ willingness to be the highest bidder – might be enough to convince a player of Lee’s caliber to come to Flushing.
Oh, please. Torre hasn't been able to lure a single free agent of note to LA during his tenure (Manny Ramirez was a trade/salary dump by Boston), but he's somehow going to get Cliff Lee to become a Met? Right.

Maybe baseball columnists get all sentimental by such claptrap as being around the greatness of Joe Torre, but there is no flipping way Torre's potential presence with the Mets would get Lee to join their team. And really, it wouldn't  matter who the Mets manager is in this case - Torre, Backman, Casey Stengel, or the man in the moon. The pitcher's agent has made it abundantly clear that they're looking for a huge payday. And guess what? The Yankees could pay a lot of money to get Lee to put on pinstripes.

You know where free agents usually go? Where they can 1) get the most money, and/or 2) get the chance to win a championship. The Mets, thanks to Frugal Freddy Wilpon, are sorely lacking in both those categories at the moment.

The idea that a player, let alone arguably the top pitcher in the 2011 free agent market, would choose where to spend the next five to seven years of his career based on the manager, let alone a manager who is about to turn 70 years old, is just silly.

Fact is, the Mets already have Joe Torre lite in the dugout. Jerry Manuel overuses his bullpen and makes head-scratching moves in the dugout, but he (mostly) gets away with it. Why would they want to get the same sort of manager, and have to pay him millions more for the privilege?

If the Mets are serious about getting free agents like Cliff Lee - and the last few years, they simply haven't shown that they're big players in the market - they get those players to come to town by giving them more money (and years) than anybody else. Not this nonsense about getting the manager to recruit. This is baseball, after all, not college football!

 What do you think? Tell us about it!

More thoughts on Friday's Yankees-Mets matchup

A few random observations about last night's win:

* Biggest thing I'm taking away from the evening was the excellent pitching performance by Javier Vazquez. I'm very happy that he did so well. I know it's the Mets, but still.

* But I'm not happy that he had to get taken out of the game after hurting his hand while bunting. I hate pitchers batting!

* And how about that Kevin Russo? It always seems like the newest Yankee does well in the Subway Series. Remember Tyler (The Yankee) Clippard shutting down the Mets?

* Whatever happened to David Wright, anyway? You know, the guy who beat the great Mariano Rivera a few years ago in the Subway Series? That player seems to be long gone. I used to see Yankee fans refer to the last season or two of Bernie Williams as him being The Ghost of Bernie Williams. Well, we're seeing The Ghost of David Wright now!

* Hmmmm, maybe Squawker Jon is right. Wright should give the Great Gazoo helmet a try again! Cervelli looks very cool in it when he's getting big hits!

 What do you think? Tell us about it!

David Wright should try Francisco Cervelli's Gazoo helmet

During last night's game, the Met announcers marveled that Francisco Cervelli was able to do well wearing what they referred to as the "Gazoo helmet." Last year, these announcers, as well as much of the baseball world, mocked David Wright when he tried the helmet after his concussion. Wright got rid of the helmet after a couple of days. But he has not been the same hitter since.

Cervelli, who had a concussion in spring training, might look a little silly in the oversized headgear, but ultimately anyone with a .342 batting average, 17 RBI in 73 at bats, and a ridiculously high batting average with runners in scoring position looks pretty good.

David Wright, on the other hand, is the one who really looks ridiculous at the plate these days. Wright has 57 strikeouts in 149 at bats so far this season.

In April, Wright at least was walking a lot (21 BB) and stealing bases (7). But he has only seven walks and one steal in May, along with a .236 BA. And his strikeout rate has actually increased - 31 strikeouts in 72 at bats, almost a strikeout every other at bat.

There's a lot of speculation that much of Wright's difficulties come from him having trouble dealing with righthanders pitching him inside. If so, perhaps Wright would feel more comfortable digging in if gave the special helmet another shot.

Last year, Mets' management consistently screwed up their players by insisting that they play through injuries and come back too soon. This year, it's players like John Maine who want to take the field when something is wrong and end up making matters worse.

Wright, who didn't even want a day off the other day and felt "embarrassed" to go on the DL last year after his concussion, is too proud to ever admit that he might do better with the special helmet. And who knows, maybe his problems go beyond that.

But it's worth a try. Anything is worth a try when you're on the way to the all-time strikeout record.

Squawkers on the radio Saturday afternoon

Both Squawkers will be appearing on Larry Milian's show on South Florida's WTFL Sports Radio Saturday afternoon. (640 am if you're in the Fort Lauderdale area. You can also try to listen online at wftlsports.com.)

Jon will be on at 2:20 p.m. to talk about the Mets and Lisa will be on at 3 p.m. to talk about the Yankees.

Thanks!

Subway Series Game 1: At least Javier Vazquez didn't pitch a no-hitter

Considering that last year's first Subway Series game was the Luis Castillo debacle, the Mets are already off to a good start. This time, the crushing error by the second baseman came in the seventh, not the ninth, when Alex Cora threw the ball away, setting up Kevin Russo's game-winning double.

I expected Hisanori Takahashi to pitch well, though not as well as he did. Strange how the Mets got a great start in the Subway Series from an unlikely source for the second year in a row. Remember last year, when an unknown Fernando Nieve shut down the Yankees on the Saturday afternoon following the Castillo game? It was the only Subway Series game the Mets won last year.

I can't complain about Elmer Dessens being in the game - he was brought up specifically to pitch that night because the rest of the bullpen was so overworked. And when Oliver Perez can keep the game from getting out of hand by retiring Mark Teixeira with two on to end the seventh, you've got to feel fortunate.

Just when the game seemed over, the Mets rallied against Mariano Rivera for their only run. Mariano now has a 3.38 career ERA against the Mets, his third worst against any team behind the Angels (3.49) and Brewers (3.45).

As for the bats, at least Javier Vazquez didn't pitch a no-hitter, which looked like a possibility when he took one into the fifth. The Mets were lucky that Vazquez got hurt - his pitch count was so low that he could have pitched into the eighth or even the ninth. While Vazquez got off to a horrendous start, he has pitched well lately and has been a good pitcher for years. I realize Yankee fans think he's a head case, but if you want to see real head cases, Met fans will be happy to send you Perez and John Maine.

A Squawker family member is not in an 'Empire State of Mind'

So much for rapper Jay-Z's boast that he made the Yankee hat "more famous than a Yankee can." My brother never heard of him!

He emailed me this morning after reading my squawk talking about how Bill Madden messed up his Jay-Z reference to the anthem "Empire State of Mind" in the new "Steinbrenner" book. "I have never heard this 'song' and didn't even know he wore a Yankee cap," my brother wrote me. When I called him to ask him to elaborate on this, he said he could name lots of Yankees - A-Rod, and Jeter, and CC, and even Javy! But he didn't know anything about this Jay-Z character. Therefore, how could Jay-Z have made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can? Now there's a question for the ages!

* * *

My brother also sent me a link to Michael Shapiro's review of "Steinbrenner" for the New York Times. The article illustrates one of my pet peeves about book reviews - they too frequently illustrate the reviewer's biases, more than they tell people if the book is worth reading. In this case, the reviewer clearly despises Steinbrenner and everything he stands for, so the article is more about his hatred for George than anything else. Shapiro does write this blurbish comment, though:
Reading the book feels like the literary equivalent of passing a traffic accident; it is all but impossible to turn away.
That tired old cliche makes it into the New York Times? C'mon now.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

What a strange time to honor the 2000 Mets

When I was on Kenrick Thomas' radio show the other day, he asked me what I thought of the Mets honoring the 2000 NL Champs team this weekend. I said I thought it was okay to honor that team - after all, they did make it to the World Series. Heck, if the San Francisco Giants could honor their 2000 team last month, a team that the Mets beat in the first round of the playoffs, then why couldn't the Mets honor their own team that year?

Besdes, at least it's something different than the incessant 1986 talk on SNY (if you had a bottle of an adult beverage while watching a Mets broadcast, and took a sip every time 1986 was mentioned, you'd be soused by the third inning!)

But I do think the timing of the 2000 celebration - during last night's Subway Series game - was just plain bizarre. Leave it to the Mets organziation to give Yankee fans something to laugh about. And for a team struggling with attendance, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for the Mets not to do this on a separate occasion.

How about that first pitch, thrown by John Franco to Mike Piazza? And no, my problem isn't with Piazza (for once!); it's with Franco throwing out the first pitch. You have Al Leiter in the house, and you don't have him do it? Leiter may now be a Yankee broadcaster, but he was the ace of that team. Franco wasn't even the closer in 2000; Armando Benitez took over that role. So why Franco? Heck, why not Mike Hampton, who was actually in the stadium - and was also a big part of that 2000 team? I was snickering on Facebook last night that Roger Clemens should have thrown out the first pitch! Heh.

There were eight 2000 Mets in Citi Field last night: Piazza, Franco, Leiter, Benny Agbayani, Turk Wendell, Rick Reed, Edgardo Alfonzo, and Turk Wendell. Of course, the Yankees had four members of their own 2000 World Series team in the house - Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada!

But eight seems kind of low. You would think the Mets could have had more people from 2000 in the house - where was Robin Ventura? Or Bobby Valentine? And what, Todd Zeile has something better to do?

Anyhow, I do have a vested interest in celebrating the 2000 World Series - it gives me something to mock Squawker Jon with! And that's priceless.


What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Squawker Lisa's Subway Series Predictions

Squawker Jon has conceded that his Mets will be on the losing side of the Subway Series this weekend. He's predicting that the Yankees will sweep!

I think he's trying to do one of those reverse jinx thingies. Your weird sci-fi trick isn't going to work, Jon!

Speaking of sci-fi, Squawker Jon will be watching the series finale of "Lost" on Sunday. I quit watching that show after they finished the second season with that ridiculous Penelope-Desmond storyline (why should I care about their stupid love story? I watched this show for the plane crash on a remote island, not for silly melodrama!) But I digress.

Anyhow, here are my predictions for this weekend:

* The Yankees will win two of three, with Javy Vazquez having a good outing Friday. My guess is that the Yankees will lose Saturday, but I agree with Jon that the bullpen will decide at least one game.

* Citi Field a pitchers' park? Not with the Yankees in the house. I'm predicting homers from Jeter, A-Rod, Cano, and Cervelli!

* Met fans are going to continue to gripe about that "Jeter's got an Edge" commercial airing on SNY. Yankee fans are going to continue to gripe about hearing that commercial twenty times a night. (It's right up there with the My Mohegan for annoyances!)

* If the Yankees lose two of three (heaven forbid!), there will be panic in the tabloids!

* Number of times we'll see the Luis Castillo dropped play again - at least 100!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Squawker Jon's Subway Series Predictions

(from Squawker Jon)

Ike Davis will have a good series, and reader Uncle Mike will say it's because of his Yankee heritage.

Javier Vazquez will pitch well, serving as an audition for him eventually to be traded back to the National League.

Oliver Perez will be used in relief, and will leave the field to cheers - from Yankee fans.

The annoying "Jeter's got an edge" commercial will air even more frequently than usual.

The Mets will get good starting pitching and will have leads in the sixth inning or later in two games, but the Yankees will rally late against the Mets bullpen to complete a sweep of the three-game series.

Latest "Steinbrenner" book needs a fact-checker

I got Bill Madden's book Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball from the library today, and was thumbing through it just now. And in just taking a cursory look at the book, I found two pretty silly errors. If these are indicative of the rest of the biography, then I don't think I'll be reading any more of the book!

First error is on page 392, regarding the 2000 World Series: "After two extra-inning wins by the Yankees in games one and two at Yankee Stadium, the scene shifted to dilapidated Shea Stadium...." Um, no. The Yankees won in extra innings in Game 1. They won Game 2 thanks to Roger Clemens' great pitching performance - eight innings, two hits, no runs, and one thrown bat! Although the Mets did rally against the Yankee bullpen in the ninth, no extra innings were involved in that game.

The second error I found was a real giggler. It's from page 428, the last page of the book, and it's about the music performed before Game 2 of the 2009 World Series. Madden describes how George Steinbrenner "seemed oblivious to the sounds coming from the field of rapper Jay-Z, clad in a purple jacket, thigh-high boots and a Yankee cap, performing his anthem "Empire State of Mind," which includes the lyric 'I made the Yankee hat more famous than any Yankee can.'"

Aside from the fact that the lyric actually says "than a Yankee can," not "than any Yankee can," Madden seemed to have confused Jay-Z with the purple-clad Alicia Keys. Don't think Jay-Z would look very cool in her outfit, especially the thigh-high boots!

Maybe these errors seem trivial, but if I'm going to invest the time to read a book, I expect that there will be some sort of serious fact-checking involved on the part of the publisher. The errors I found are pretty easily verifiable things that should have been caught before making it into the hardcover. And every time I see such sloppiness in a book, I wonder what other things are incorrect in it. Which is why I doubt I'll be reading much more of "Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball."

Photo by urbanmusic.com

John Maine puts the M-e-t in mental

Is it possible that Oliver Perez is not the biggest head case on the Mets' staff? Last night, John Maine pitched a fit after being pulled after only five pitches because he was topping out at 85 mph and looked like he was hurt. From Metsblog:

"I guess they didn’t see 95 mph… I mean, it was the first batter of the game, cut me some slack… Whatever, if they’re looking for 95, whatever… I’ve felt pain for two years, I'm over it. I want to go out and pitch… I feel something all of the time, we're pitchers, every pitcher does, it's not an injury… I didn't get asked for a chance, that's what I'm most upset about. They said they saw something and were taking me out. I'm a little hurt by that… I'm just so frustrated by the whole situation, you know, whatever.'


Didn't see 95? The only way anyone is seeing 95 from Maine is watching tapes from 2007.

And as for giving him a chance to right himself, Maine has apparently forgotten about his previous start, when his first TWELVE pitches were out of the strike zone, yet the Mets gave him a chance to get his act together.

Or maybe that's how Maine now sees the first inning, as a continuation of warmups. How unfair of the other team to act like the game is underway.

Earlier this year, Maine left a game early because he had pain in his non-pitching arm. Jerry Manuel muttered after the game that he had never seen anything like it.

Something is really wrong here. Maybe it's as simple as Maine hiding injuries. Last night, Dan Warthen called Maine a "habitual liar" when it came to health issues. Pretty harsh words, and even if they are true, they also call into question how Warthen is handling his crumbling staff.

But it was Omar Minaya who built this staff and Jerry Manuel who anointed Maine and Perez as starters in spring training without making them earn those spots. Not that the Mets had many other options, but better to figure out things in spring training than start scrambling around now, when Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey are the only two pitchers still in the rotation from the start of the season.

Meanwhile, 27-year-old lefthander Jason Vargas has a 3.08 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in eight starts for Seattle. Vargas has the distinction of being part of not one, but two of Minaya's lousy moves. First, the GM acquired him from Florida in the deal that sent Matt Lindstrom to the Marlins. Then Minaya included him in the ill-fated deal for J.J. Putz.

But who needs a 27-year-old lefty when you've got a 35-year-old knuckleballer (R.A. Dickey), a 35-year-old who has never started a game in MLB (Hisanori Takahashi) and a 32-year-old import from the Mexican League who has also never started a game in MLB (Raul Valdes)?

Maine and Perez may be head cases, but the real craziness surrounding the rotation is the responsibility of the front office.

Remember when the media said Jose Reyes and David Wright were better than Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez?

Today's Joel Sherman column in the New York Post reminds me of two of the dopiest ideas pushed by the New York sportswriters over the past few years - that David Wright is better than Alex Rodriguez, and Jose Reyes is better than Derek Jeter.

And this wasn't pushed by one writer or two - this idea was pretty common in the New York papers from about 2006 on. You would have thought that Jeter and A-Rod were as worn out as Emmitt Smith in the Just For Men commerical, the way certain writers in this town insisted that the Mets stars were on the rise. As Doctor Phil would say, how's that working out for you?

Sherman writes:
Wright was going to be the Mets’ Jeter; the homegrown kid who mixed skill, intangibles and charisma to become prince of the city. Instead, he has finally passed Rodriguez in the worst of all categories: Wright is now the most dissected athlete in New York. We break down his swing and psychoanalyze his mind. What is up with the wild arm, the lack of clutch play and, yes, all of those strikeouts?
You see, this is why you don't make somebody an "untouchable" before they've really proven themselves. Jeter got that type of treatment after four rings. Wright got it before the Mets even won a playoff series. Now that Wright is finally getting scrutinized, and it's got to hurt, after the years of the media telling him how great he is.

On the other hand, A-Rod has a much thicker skin after all these years of criticism than you would think. (If you want to see the flip side of that, look at how poorly David Ortiz has handled getting criticism this season. But I digress.)

As for Wright, I don't know whether he is afraid of getting plunked again, or he doesn't feel comfortable in Citi Field, or something, but he's not quite the third baseman he was projected to be. And he's certainly not better than A-Rod. I remember one A-Rod hating Yankee beat writer suggesting a trade of Wright for A-Rod straight up to "get rid of the headache" of Rodriguez, only for the writer to then say that the Mets would never want to do such a trade. Another writer wrote earlier this year that he would prefer Wright to Rodriguez. Please.

And I do think the Mets rushed Jose Reyes back before he was healthy enough to play. I still contend they're not taking his thyroid issue seriously enough.

Sherman continues:
Reyes and Wright have dwindled from cornerstones to puzzles. The Mets went all in during the 2006 season, signing both to multi-year contracts, believing they had erected a long-term foundation. Now the Mets will have to decide on Reyes’ $11 million option for 2011 and whether a champion really can be built around the left side of their infield.
As a new Subway Series begins, the question now is not whether Reyes and Wright have passed Jeter and Rodriguez, but if the best days for Reyes and Wright already have passed and, if so, how do the Mets survive that?
I see Sherman's point, but I think he is going a bit too far in the other direction for my tastes. I don't think Reyes and Wright are washed up. But I do think that the Yankee-haters in the media pumped them up to be bigger than they were. Somewhere in between are the real players. It would be nice if the press had kept some perspective on them in the first place.


What do you think? Tell us about it!

My first gratuitous Mets-bashing post of the week

Since I pretty much have nothing positive to say about last night's debacle (the Yankees are looking very overmatched against the Rays), I'll get into the Subway Series spirit and bash the Mets!

Unless the Ticket Fairy or StubHub Santa hooks us up with some ducats, it looks like Squawker Jon and I will not be going to any games this weekend. We both tried the morning that tickets went on sale. The first tickets I saw were $49 each, which is mostly out of our price range. But we still considered getting them, since it is the Subway Series. Unfortunately, we saw a disclaimer that said the tickets could be obstructed view. You know, Yankee Stadium has obstructed view seats as well. They charge $5 for them, not $49!

Anyhow, we let those tix go, and tried again, but the ticket prices were in the hundreds. Just checked this morning to see what was left, and saw that I could get into the game for "only" $98 each, plus service charge. Please. No thanks.

If any of our readers are going, or have an extra ticket or two, please let know! Otherwise, the Subway Squawkers have been derailed from this weekend!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Radio appearance announcement, Nick Johnson, and thoughts on last night's game

I'm going to be on Kenrick Thomas' "Real Sports Talk" radio show at 9:30 tonight. You can listen live at www.blogtalkradio.com/realsportstalk. Luis Polonia will also be on the show, in a separate appearance!

Anyhow, I found last night's loss painful - not just because the Yankees looked overmatched until the ninth inning, but because of the Jorge Posada injury news. Hopefully, he'll be back soon.

And, surprise, surprise, Nick (The Sick) Johnson, who underwent surgery earlier this week, is now on the 60-day DL. When Brian Cashman first announced that Nick was going to the DL, he said Johnson would be out "several" weeks, which set Joe Girardi scurrying to the dictionary to find the meaning of the word "several"! I guess "several" now means at least nine!

Oh, and I had to laugh about Cashman's assertion that Johnson would be a $15 million a year player if he could stay healthy. That's like saying that Lindsay Lohan could get an Oscar if she could keep from clubbing. While technically possible, it's not very likely at this point.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Are Mets willing to fill Citi Field with Yankee fans?

Citi Field - featuring Dodgers history, Giants colors and Yankee fans?

From SI's Jon Heyman:

[Mets] attendance is down 17 percent, which is the third biggest drop in baseball (behind only Toronto and Cleveland), and it's to the point where they are handing over Subway Series tickets to the Yankees to fill the stands for games that are normally sold out immediately.

It was bad enough when I was at the Luis Castillo game amid Squawker Lisa and tens of thousands of celebrating Yankee fans. But that was at the other team's stadium.

It was bad enough when Yankee fans' cheers filled Citi Field when Francisco Rodriguez walked Mariano Rivera with the bases loaded and Mariano then got his 500th save, but it was the end of the game and many Met fans had gone home in disgust.

Having a big Yankee presence at Citi Field is part of the fun of the Subway Series, just as it's fun to walk around Yankee Stadium in Met gear and see thousands of others Met fans. But a big presence is something like 20%. Not 50%. Or more.

Thanks to outlets like StubHub, the marketplace can determine who ends up going to the game. It certainly wouldn't be surprising for Yankee fans to have more interest in these games than Met fans. But Met management shouldn't be helping them along.

On Opening Day in Washington, the ballpark was filled with fans of the visiting Phillies. Nationals' management, eager to sell seats, apparently reached out to the opposition. From the Washington Post:

The Nationals did not discourage Phillies fans from coming in droves. If anything, the team may have encouraged them.

Phillies fans in the ballpark said it felt like a "home game," while Nationals fans felt that Opening Day had been "completely ruined."

When this story broke in April, the Nationals looked like a pathetic last-place franchise desperate to fill seats.

Now the Nationals have beaten the Mets five out of seven and are looking down on them in the standings. And Stephen Strasburg is on the way.

Meanwhile, the listless Mets are in last place and increasingly desperate to move tickets.

Next week, the Phillies come to town. Will Met management sink to the level of the Nationals and start promoting the games to Phillies fans?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm writing this blog entry under protest

Joe Girardi and the Yankees played the game under protest last night, thanks to Josh Beckett's "injury" giving the Red Sox extra time to warm up. Well, I'm writing this blog entry under protest - I'm protesting all the bad baseball I saw last night! I'm just glad I decided not to buy tickets at the last minute last evening and go, or I'd be holding up an "unfair" sign just because!

Here are a few complaints, in no particular order:

* Why was Joba Chamberlain - who clearly didn't have it - left in to implode? That was like water torture watching him stay in. One of our readers suggested the Yankees should have put in Javier Vazquez instead. And this is a reader who has been griping about Javy for months! That's how much Joba's star has fallen.

* Marcus Thames goes from walkoff hero to goat, not catching the ball last night. That was a terrible play to watch. So was A-Rod's error.

* Randy Winn's play was bad as well. But I'm not surprised Mariano Rivera had a shaky ninth inning. Whenever he blows one save, he ends up doing poorly in the next relief situation.

* David Ortiz wasn't the only one who thought that ball was out last night. So did I!

* Michael Kay deserves blame, too. The moment he mentions that CC hasn't given up any runs, Youk hits a homer. The MK Jinx is alive and well!

* I know the conventional wisdom is that Francisco Cervelli should have bunted, but I wanted him to swing away last night in the ninth. Like I wrote yesterday, he was hitting .786 with runners in scoring position going into last night's game. Besides, the bottom of the lineup was coming up. Why not take your chances with Frankie?

Eh, I don't even want to talk about this game anymore. I turned off the TV and went to bed as soon as the game was over. Too depressing that the Yankees lost this game!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Marcus Thames and the power of pie

Just saw the clip again of Marcus Thames getting pie'd by A.J. Burnett. What struck me, and not for the first time, is how the Yankees have become like the loosey-goosey Red Sox from the Johnny Damon era, and how the Red Sox have become more like the cranky Yanks of the Kevin Brown era.

Not only did Thames, in undoubtedly the happiest night of his career, get the accolades after his exciting walkoff last night against Jonathan Papelbon, but after A.J. Burnett delivered the pie, a bunch of Yankees (including none other than Mariano Rivera) made sure to congratulate him on camera.

As for the Red Sox, catcher Victor Martinez appeared to throw Dice-K under the bus after last night's game, saying:

“I’m just back there trying to help him go through the game. At the end he’s the one who has the ball in his hand. I’m just behind the plate trying to help him. At the end, he’s the one who has the last word. He’s the one who has the ball in his hand. I just put down suggestions and he can say yes or no.”

The New York Times' Tyler Kepner complains today that the Rivalry has become boring, with A-Rod the only player to add "that extra level of drama." Eh, I think there's still plenty of drama - and characters people love to hate, like Joba and Papelbon and Youk and Pedroia. It's just that there are more likeable characters on the Yankees' side now, as opposed to previous years.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Who is the "clutchest" Yankee this year? It's not who you think

Reporters and fans love to debate the question of which player you'd like to see up in a big spot. With the Yankees, most would say Derek Jeter, while others might say Alex Rodriguez or perhaps Mark Teixeira. I have a different answer for which 2010 Yankee I'd most like to see at bat with the game on the line. My choice - at least for this season so far - is Francisco Cervelli!

The young backup catcher is hitting .400 in 20 games this year, and has a .471 OBP and .987 OPS, which is crazy enough. But his numbers with runners in scoring position are through the roof. I told Brian Sinkoff of Albany's Sound-Off With Sinkoff radio show yesterday that it seems that Cervelli does something great every single time he plays. And my perception isn't far off the mark.

Check out Frankie's "clutch" numbers. With runners in scoring position, he hits:
.786 BA  .824  OBP  1.071 Slugging   1.895 OPS

Make it two outs and  runners in scoring position, and the numbers are even better:
.857  BA   .857  OBP 1.000  Slugging 1.857 OPS

If Jonathan Papelbon had pitched to Cervelli, instead of plunking him last night, I have a feeling he might have done something great against the Red Sox. But in a way he did - he scored the winning run!

What do you think? Tell us about it! 

Thoughts on Dice-K, Phil Hughes, Chan Ho Park, and the rest of Monday's Red Sox-Yankees matchup

If the Yankees had been defeated last night, it would have been the worst loss of the season, without a doubt. But fortunately, that disastrous scenario was averted.

I'm rewatching the game right now, getting ready to bask again. Here are some more thoughts on the game:

* Dice-K is noticably thinner this year, but he's still terrible. Five runs in the first inning? Please. And given how well Tim Wakefield - the guy he replaced in the rotation - did in relief against the Yankees, no wonder Sox fans are grumbling.

* Phil Hughes had his first shaky start of the year, but still would have won the game if it weren't for the Yankee bullpen (more on that in a sec.)

* The New York Post's Kevin Kernan had a nice story on Javier Vazquez. Given the game situation he came into last night - runners on first and third with two out and Kevin Youkilis at the plate, it could have been another memorably ugly relief outing for him. But he got Youk out - and got the win! Kernan's piece details how much Yankee teammates are rooting for Vazquez, with many players happy for Javy!

* What's this about David Ortiz's career being over? He still can hit them out against the Yankees!

* Why did Joe Girardi leave Chan Ho Park in after the first home run to Kevin Youkilis (and I was yelling Fack Youk over that one!), only to have him give up a second homer to Victor Martinez (which, incidentally, was his second homer of the night.)


* Run prevention, eh? I swear, Manny Ramirez fielded against the Yankees better than the Sox's current outfield does!

* I've got a feeling that there's going to be a beanball - or two - thrown tonight, especially with Josh Beckett pitching.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Enough already with the "A-Rod finally gets a big hit" story

I was waiting for the "A-Rod is finally clutch" piece about Monday's game - the media has the collective memory of a gnat when it comes to this issue. I swear, every single time he gets a big hit to tie or win a game, somebody acts as if it's the very first time it's happened.

And guess who wrote on that theme today? Joel Sherman of the New York Post, whose piece about A-Rod's game last night has all sorts of backhanded compliments about how Alex is finally clutch. While that may be a fair assessment about his postseason rep from 2004-7, it's not really accurate about the regular season, especially against the Red Sox.

The New York Post columnist writes about with A-Rod up in the ninth in a big spot, "think in the recent past how that might not have been a comforting thought for the Yankees and their fans. Now, though, Rodriguez embraces these moments. There is no hesitation." Sherman continued. "A big moment again found him -- don't they always -- and now that was a positive occurrence for the Yankees."

Please. Can we stop the "A-Rod was never clutch until October 2009" myth already? It's tired. Heck, even ESPN knows better - they ran a montage last night showing all the big moments A-Rod has had against the Red Sox in his career, including these three:

* The homer in the ninth inning against Boston "closer" Curt Schilling in 2005
* The homer in the rain against Papelbon in 2007
* The extra-inning homer last year to win the fifteen-inning game last year


To act like last night was the first time Rodriguez had a big moment against Boston is just silly.

So how many walkoff homers, or ninth-inning or extra-inning game-winning homers hit at Fenway, do you think Derek Jeter has hit against the Red Sox? The answer is one, against Keith Foulke in 2005 to win a game at Yankee Stadium after Mariano Rivera blew the save.

And incidentally, that home run is the only regular season walkoff homer of Jeter's career. On the other hand, A-Rod has nine walkoff career homers, with six of them coming as a Yankee. But you would never know that differential from their reputations - in no small part because of the Joel Shermans of the world insisting that it's only now that A-Rod is getting big hits.

I guess I should be glad that I didn't hear anybody suggest that Rodriguez finally became a "true Yankee" last night. Sheesh.


Coming later today - more thoughts on the game. But in the meantime, what do you think? Tell us about it!

Hey, Jonathan Papelbon, still think you deserve Mariano Rivera money?

Papelbum. Papelsmear. Never thought the day would come where I would hear Red Sox fans use those derogatory terms about their closer, Jonathan Papelbon! But it happened after Monday's game.

Last night was both the most exciting win of the year for the Yankees, and the most gut-wrenching loss for the Red Sox. So because I'm a believer in what Conan the Barbarian said about enjoying watching the lamentation of your enemies and all that jazz, I checked out what Boston fans were saying at Sons of Sam Horn and the Boston Globe's web site. Reading those comments was nearly as much fun as watching Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames go deep against Papelbon!

Needless to say, most Red Sox fans weren't very happy over Papelbon's performance. Lots of derogatory nicknames hurled his way (I was hoping for somebody to call him Cinco Dopo, but alas, it didn't happen!) Lots of talk about Daniel Bard needing to replace him. There was some criticism of John Henry - the Yankees have gone 14-3 against the Sox since his juvenile "MT Curse" tweet!

And there was even some grudging acknowledgments that Mariano Rivera is the better closer - many Sox fans mockingly brought up how Papelbon once suggested that he deserved Mo-type money, and how he didn't deserve it.

On Boston.com, some fans even blamed former Yankees beat writer Peter Abraham for cursing their team. One reader wrote, "The Curse of PA? Ever since he left the LoHud blog, the Yanks went on a roll and won the WS. The Red Sox have been sucking ever since." Heh!

Another Sox fan, Timmy15 was so sure of victory after the Sox came back against Chan Ho Park that he wrote this:
Under other conditions I would never start crowing here like I am but I see a switch; Paps will blow the Skanks away in the bottom of 9th - if we even need him by then. Does anyone remember last season when the Sox beat these guys the first 8 games and then took a vacation. Well something like that in reverse may be happening. Just as I predicted yesterday, V-Mart is heating up and he may be the dtraw that stirs this drink....if the Sox lose this game I will not post another remark for two weeks. That's how sure I am.
So much for that!

Papelbon looked more like Chan Ho Park out there than the elite closer who wanted to finish up the All-Star Game. Heck, Javier Vazquez, the game's winner, was more impressive than Paps was. (And how about Javy - he was even smiling in the postgame! Maybe he can build on this era of good feeling.)

Anyhow, when Papelbon plunked Francisco Cervelli after giving up the homer to A-Rod, he reminded me why he's my least favorite Red Sox. What a clown.

Remember how Papelbon said he worked out last season while watching his meltdown in the ALDS? Well, I guess the closer now has a new video to watch for motivation in the workout room! Snicker.


I'll be writing more of my thoughts on Yankees-Red Sox today, but in the meantime, please tell me what you think.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Squawker Media Alert: I will be on the radio today

If you're in the Albany area, you can listen to me on Sound-Off With Sinkoff this afternoon at 6 p.m. today on 104.5 The Team (WTMM). Or you can listen online by going to their website and clicking the Listen Live button.

I've been on Sound-Off With Sinkoff many times, and it's always a blast. I'll be squawking with host Brian Sinkoff about the state of the Yankees. Anyhow, check it out if you get a chance. Thanks!

Firing Jerry Manuel won't save season, but it's a start

The biggest problem with the Mets is not Jerry Manuel or the struggling offense. It's the starting pitching. When the Mets were winning eight in a row, the starters allowed only nine earned runs, Johan Santana was back, Mike Pelfrey looked like an All-Star, and there was optimism about the rest of the rotation, even Ollie.

Since then, Santana gave up 10 runs against Philly, Pelfrey has a 6.88 ERA in three May starts, John Maine threw the first twelve pitches out of the strike zone Saturday night, Jon Niese is hurt after his third straight poor start, giving him a May ERA of 8.76 and Perez has pitched himself out of the rotation.

The Post's Mike Vaccaro thinks it's time to fire Manuel, and it's hard to argue against that. But even if Bobby Valentine somehow rides to the rescue, this team won't get any better without a big change in the rotation. And it's not coming from Buffalo.

Dan Warthen looked like a good pitching coach during the winning streak, but now his staff is back to allowing too many walks and looking confused and frustrated. If Manuel goes, Warthen must go with him. And the teamwide batting slump means Howard Johnson must go as well. And Razor Shines, who should have been let go last year.

The two areas that Manuel has most mismanaged are the cleanup spot and the bullpen. Last year, Manuel batted over-the-hill Gary Sheffield fourth even before the wave of injuries made it a reasonable choice. This year, Manuel has been so obsessed with breaking up the righties that he has used Mike Jacobs, Frank Catalanotto and now Chris Carter in that role. But not Ike Davis.

Davis is either ready to play a big role on the Mets or he's not. You can't bat him sixth as part of the heart of the order but think he's not ready to hit cleanup.

Although Jose Reyes batting third didn't work out, I actually applaud Manuel for at least trying it out. He knew Reyes wasn't happy about it but thought that it would help the team. It was an arguable strategy, but one that was thought out and could at least be debated.

But trying out everyone who bats from the left side but not the one good lefty you've got makes no sense. If you're not going to use Davis, then stop worrying about breaking up the righties.

Sure, in a perfect world you don't want to have a bunch of righties in a row, especially when they all strike out a lot. But does Manuel really think that the opposing manager is going to change his strategy because he doesn't want to have Jacobs face a righty? Maybe that's because that's how Manuel thinks, which leads us to his biggest flaw, bullpen overuse.

Earlier today, ESPN's Buster Olney listed the most overworked bullpens. Finally, a place where the Mets are number one, with 139 2/3 innings. As Olney points out, the Mets pen has been great, with a 2.84 ERA, but he notes that Fernando Nieve is already starting to be affected by his extreme overuse.

Manuel is using Nieve and Pedro Feliciano as if he does not expect to be around later in the season when they are both burned out or worse.

Perhaps the worst thing Manuel has done as manager was during the 20-inning game, when he had Francisco Rodriguez warm up over and over again in extra innings. Frankie went on to finish April strong with an 0.84 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings, but his May ERA is 3.38 and he only has five strikeouts in eight innings. If something turns out to be wrong with Frankie, Manuel's extra-inning screwup will likely have something to do with it.

Probable replacement Bob Melvin doesn't sound like an exciting choice, especially compared to Valentine. But Manuel didn't seen exciting back in 2008, and he did spark the team for a few months.

So maybe the season isn't going down the drain quite yet. But it sure feels that way.

What do you think of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman?

I was running around a lot this weekend, so I listened to much of those Yankee games in the car. What continues to strike me, beside the goofiness of John Sterling's home run calls (although I did like "Gardy goes yardy!") is how little chemistry John and Suzyn have right now. They might have been a good team at one point, but it's like they're in two different broadcast booths.

For example, more than once, Suzyn will share some tidbit about a player being discussed, only to have John say the same exact thing, as if he didn't hear what she just said. And no, he's not doing that "echoing" thing to show he's listening. It's quite the opposite!

Also, Joe Torre has been gone for 2 1/2 years now. Joe Girardi is the Yankee manager. But how many times does Suzyn say Torre's name instead of Girardi? It's very distracting.

On the positive, I do appreciate Sterling's enthusiasm - I met him at the World Series movie premiere this fall, and he was very nice to me and to other fans. He's not pretending to be excited over what happens in the games; he really is as thrilled as we are. I appreciate that he's not too cool for school, the way other broadcasters of the world can be. (Speaking of which, Joe Buck did a great call for the 1996 Yankees World Series title, but last year's "The Yankees are back on top" was just terrible. I've heard more excitement from DMV clerks!)

However, I can do without what my friend Johnny calls CBS - Chris Berman Syndrome, where Sterling "thinks people tune in for him and not the game." And all too frequently, it's hard to follow what's even going on in the game by listening to the radio broadcasts. Sometimes, John and Suzyn seem to forget that the fans listening can't see the action described - all we have to go on is what they say!

For whatever reason, it seems like complaints about the Yankee radio broadcasts are at an all-time high this year. So I would like to get readers' opinions on John and Suzyn for a longer piece for The Faster Times. Please tell me what you think, whether positive or negative. Thanks!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Faster Times makes the New York Times

This Sunday's New York Times Magazine has a piece about new online journalism sites, and features The Faster Times, the site Squawker Jon and I also write for, in the article. Check it out and tell me what you think. Sam Apple, the man behind The Faster Times, is a terrific person, and a real visionary.  Jon and I are so happy to write on his site.

Also, The Faster Times is having its first ever membership drive. If you sign up, and pick a particular writer (ahem!), not only will that writer (ahem!) get 70% of the earnings, but you will get some nifty gifts, depending on how much you give. There are magazine subscriptions, tote bags, and such available.

But there is a big bonus gift for those who sign up and designate their donation to go to me - if you join and spend $60 or more to give to this writer, I will write a column on the topic of your choosing. Think of what mayhem a Sox fan could cause with this!

You can also give to Squawker Jon; however, he's offering no personal bonus gifts - yet!


What do you think? Tell us about it!

Oh no, Mariano! What a way to end the weekend!

As good as Saturday's game was - Andy Pettitte looking very sharp, Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada hitting homers, and the whole team looking sharp - Sunday's game was pretty bad.

I was running around doing errands, and just around the time Mariano Rivera came into the game for a four-out save, I had to leave my car for a few minutes to pick up some food. A few minutes later, I get a call from my brother, asking "Do you know what happened in the game?" He was watching it on the TBS national broadcast, so he told me about the bases-loaded walk, and the grand slam. I felt like I got punched in the stomach. Yikes!

Then I called Squawker Jon to tell him what happened, and his voice perked up. I haven't heard him so happy since, um, the last gut-wrenching Yankee loss! Sheesh. Of course, he needed something to cheer him up after the latest Met debacle. I did make sure to bring up how John Maine threw12 balls in a row the night before to start the game.

My Facebook friend Joe - a Red Sox fan - blames me (!) for Mariano and "Joba the Mutt," as he calls him, spitting the bit today. He thinks I brought "negative karma" to the Yankees by my rooting for the Philadelphia Flyers over the Boston Bruins this weekend. Joe says:
"The sports gods don't like transferring loyalties strictly to hate...they penalize you somewhere else. It's OK to hate on the nemesis, but you can't become a "fan". You goofed by becoming a Flyer "fan" instead of just a Bruins "hater"... by the way - how's the Magic loyalty going for you so far?
Ouch!

Speaking of Joes, I forgot to mention that Joe Mauer is dead to me, after he failed to sell his soul become a free agent. What the heck is wrong with that guy, re-signing with the Twins and staying with his home state? He'll never get to host "Saturday Night Live" now!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Shocker! Squawker Jon and I clash over Mike Piazza

I wrote something for The Faster Times about Mike Piazza, and Squawker Jon was not happy about it. You see, I think that before we start debating about whether Piazza should go into the Hall of Fame as a Met or as a Dodger, we should start talking about whether he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame at all. To wit, whether or not Piazza used performance-enhancing drugs.

Anyhow, for my Squawking partner, me writing this piece was the equivalent of booing Santa Claus or something. But my point is that it's unfair for the media to essentially give Piazza a pass on the issue without even looking into whether he used PEDs, when the likes of Mark McGwire have essentially been blackballed from the Hall of Fame for the same subject.

And, as I noted last year, Jeff Pearlman's book on Roger Clemens, not only has a ballplayer saying on the record that Piazza used PEDs, but it also says that Piazza admitted PED use to several reporters back in the day. Yet when the catcher was recently interviewed by the New York Times, the only time the subject of steroid use came up when Piazza declined to answer a question about whether steroid users should be admitted to the Hall.

MLB writers will have to eventually work out as to whether PED users will be admitted to the Hall of Fame (although Jose Canseco says that one has already unknowingly been elected!) But I think it's silly to ban the likes of Bonds and Clemens (who were Hall of Famers before they ever touched a syringe) and let in somebody like Mike Piazza, the 62nd round draft pick who became arguably the greatest-hitting catcher of all time, without even investigating as to whether he, too, did steroids.

Whether or not the player was great with the press - Piazza was a media darling, McGwire, Clemens, and Bonds weren't - shouldn't be a deciding factor in this issue. Although it sure seems like Piazza is getting a pass from the press over this issue.

Anyhow, check out my article, and tell me what you think.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gardy goes yardy: The worst (or best) John Sterling call ever?

John Sterling's call for Brett Gardner's home run last night is either genius - or dreck - depending on your point of view. "Gardy goes yardy!" Sterling shouted after the homer. Our friends at "It Is High, It Is Far, It Is Caught" captured the stylings of Sterling.


Squawker Jon thought it was one of Sterling's worst. I think it's so ridiculous, it's funny. What do you think?


A-Rod makes Twins pay for misunderestimating him

It was a great sports night for me (more on that in a sec) but the best moment of the evening was seeing Alex Rodriguez make Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire look like a fool.


In one of the more head-scratching moves I've seen in recent years, Gardenhire not only intentionally walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases for A-Rod (which was crazy enough, given that Alex's numbers going into last night's game after a Tex intentional walk were "3-for-3 with a walk, a sacrifice fly, a home run and 10 RBI in five plate appearances," writes Minnesota columnist Jim Souhan.

Then Gardenhire brought in Matt Guerrier to face A-Rod. Bad move. As Souhan notes:
Rodriguez, in his career, was 4-for-6 with three homers, a double and a walk against Guerrier. It's hard to hit that well in batting practice or tee ball, much less against a quality big-league reliever.
And the strangest thing is, Gardenhire knew these numbers, and still went with that matchup!


Of course, A-Rod, the guy who killed the Twins in the playoffs last year, with his game-tying homer in Game 2, and his big homer to tie Game 3, destroyed Minnesota - again - with a grand slam. From MLB.com:
"That's what Alex Rodriguez does," Teixeira said. "He's done it so many times in his career. Nineteen grand slams? That's ridiculous."

When asked if the free pass to Teixeira gave him with any extra motivation, Rodriguez was quick to respond.

"No question," he said. "That's why I hit fourth."
Rodriguez hasn't gotten off to a great start so far, but maybe last's night's results will be the start of a terrific year for him.

And you know, even I didn't know that A-Rod had had so many grand slams in his career. But gee, I thought he was totally unclutch and all! Maybe he was just stat-padding with those homers. Showoff!

One other thing - I like that the scorer gave the win to Joba Chamberlain (who struck out the side in the eighth) as opposed to Damaso Marte (who blew the lead.) That type of scorer's decision should happen more often!

* * *

The Yankees' victory wasn't the only sporting event to put a smile on my face last night:

* Hideki Matsui hit a three-run homer off Dallas Braden to beat him and the Athletics. "It was a breaking ball," Braden said about the pitch he threw. "I felt like I almost told him it was coming. He Godzilla'd it right out of the ballpark."

* Oliver Perez had another Ollity start - as in the opposite of quality - for the Mets. Much gnashing of teeth ensued.

* And, most importantly, my beloved Philadelphia Flyers (I've been following them for a whole two days now!) beat the Boston Bruins after being down 0-3 in Game Seven (and 0-3 in the series), to win the game - and the series! Squawker Jon asked me to name a Flyer, and the only name I could come up with was Kate Smith! Nonetheless, I love to see Boston fans miserable. I saw that they threw stuff on the ice - again. Classy!


What do you think? Tell us about it!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Only fitting that Fernando Nieve would match Mike Marshall

Metsblog has an interesting fact, courtesy of Elias: The last time the Mets lost a game on a walk-off wild pitch before last night was on September 1, 1981. The Met pitcher that night was Mike Marshall.

Yes, the same Mike Marshall who set the all-time record for most pitching appearances in a season when he appeared in 106 games for the Dodgers in 1974.

Last night's wild-pitch walkoff was thrown by Fernando Nieve, who is on his way to challenging Marshall's 36-year-old record, thanks to Jerry Manuel's determination to burn out his bullpen.

Nieve leads all of MLB in appearances with 22. The Mets have played 35 games, putting Nieve on a pace to appear in 102 games.

Alone in second place, with 20 appearances, is the other everyday Met reliever, Pedro Feliciano. But Feliciano has a track record of thriving with frequent use. Nieve does not.

Nieve made it through one inning just fine, walking a batter in the eighth but getting Hanley Ramirez to hit into a double play. But Manuel, perhaps concerned that Nieve was not also challenging the innings record, sent Nieve out for the ninth as well.

All too often, Met starters don't go deep enough in games, which puts an unavoidable strain on the bullpen. But last night, Johan Santana went seven, which should have been saving the bullpen.

Santana threw only 98 pitches, but Manuel protected his surgically-repaired ace by pinch-hitting for him in the top of the eighth. Nieve is no Santana, but he's a valuable member of the team and he needs to be protected as well. Maybe the Mets need "Nieve Rules," or, more accurately, "Manuel Rules."

Squawker Lisa, you'll be pleased to know that since Marshall was finishing up his career with the Mets, the record-setting workhorse's last manager was Joe Torre.

Look who's giving the Minnesota Twins a pep talk!

Uh-oh. The Minnesota Twins may have a secret weapon this time around. Somebody who will be giving them the confidence to beat the Yankees in the Bronx this weekend. Check out these quotes from somebody connected with the team who had success against the Yankees in New York in the past:
"We were confident, we believed in ourselves, we didn't try to up our game because the other team had more hype. Baseball doesn't change anywhere you go. The bases are the same distance, the mound is the same distance. If you feel you have to do more than you're capable of doing, more times than not you're not going to be very successful."....
"Teams come in gunning for the Yankees. Some people take to the elements in New York, and some people don't. It's definitely a different animal."
Give up? It's Carl Pavano!

Incidentally, the American Idle hasn't had to spend any time in the Carl Pavano Memorial MRI Tube most recently used by Nick Johnson. Pavano's made seven (!) starts this year. His record is 4-3, with a 3.30 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Seems like those injury-ridden years are a thing of the past. Lovely.

* * *
Yesterday's game was dull and depressing. CC Sabathia looked terrible, as did the Yankee bats. But at least the Bombers are finally playing some home games again - they've had 22 games on the road so far this year, and only 12 at home.

In other news, the next six weeks or so are going to be filled with all the "Where's LeBron James going to end up?" talk; something only slightly less annoying as the "Is Brett Favre retiring" talk!

And I don't care if it ticks off Squawker Jon. Go Flyers!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Shocker: Bernie Carbo tried to break Keith Hernandez's arms

I've always thought that Game 6 of the 1975 World Series was a little overrated. It was a great game, but only achieved immortality because a camera happened to be on Carlton Fisk as he was waving the ball fair. Why was this game any more special than Game 6 in 1991, also won by an extra-inning walkoff homer by a future Hall-of-Famer (Kirby Puckett) that forced a Game 7?

And I always felt that Bernie Carbo got short shrift for his dramatic three-run homer in the eighth inning that tied the game at 6 and set the stage for Fisk's blast.

Until now, when I saw an article "Bernie Carbo tried to pay someone to break Keith Hernandez's arms."

According to the article, Carbo went after Hernandez after Keith testified that Carbo introduced him to cocaine while they were both on the Cardinals.

In the original ESPN article, Carbo says "he has been clean and sober for 16 years and he would apologize to Hernandez for introducing him to cocaine."

There are way too many instances of how it's better to enjoy sports for what is being done on the field rather than to think about what some players are up to off the field. Puckett, for example, saw his reputation take several hits before his untimely death in 2006.

I had already heard a few weeks ago of how Carbo admitted he was on drugs when he hit his homer and in many other games as well. That's not something you want to hear, but as a fan of the 1980s Mets, I'm probably not in a position to demand retroactive drug tests.

But putting out a hit on Keith? When it comes to Game 6 in 1975, I'll stick to celebrating Fisk's homer from now on.

Squawker Lisa crosses the line by rooting for the Flyers

Squawker Lisa, it's bad enough that you root for the Yankees, but earlier today, you ended a blog post by saying "Go Flyers!" And that's going too far.

These days, I barely follow hockey. I used to be a big Islander fan, but they have been hard to support for a long time, so I have also pulled for the Rangers and Devils. I realize this is even worse than rooting for both the Mets and Yankees, so I don't pretend to be a diehard fan of any of these teams.

But even I know enough never to root for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Lisa, at least you still have some anti-Philly street cred from when you ran up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art last December wearing a Yankee cap. But what's next? Go Eagles? Santa Claus deserved to be booed? Dave "The Hammer" Schultz was misunderstood?

I'm just going to chalk this up to the traumas you've had to endure over the last few days: Johnny Damon in an enemy uniform, Javier Vazquez pitching well enough to stay in the rotation, the Yankees signing Tim Redding and Dallas Braden getting a week of tributes. But if I ever see you wearing a Bobby Clarke jersey, I'm going to have to act like I don't know you.

***

And if there was not enough reason to hate Philly, now Charlie Manuel has responded to charges that the Phillies are stealing signs by saying that maybe the Mets are cheating because they have such a good home record, but are mediocre on the road.

Up to now, I suspect most Met fans would have worse things to say about the manager Manuel who is in charge of the Mets than the one in charge of the Phillies. But reacting to a warning by MLB by pointing a finger at another team that has not been accused of anything is low even by Philly standards. And it's amazing that, after three straight division titles, two straight World Series appearances and a World Series victory, the Phillies STILL can't get the Mets out of their heads.