Saturday, April 30, 2011

Listen to Me on the Radio This Morning

I am going to be on the radio at 10:30 a.m. today, squawking about the Yankees. You can hear me talking to host Mike Lindsley on Syracuse's The Score 1260 AM. You can click here to listen live online. Mike is now a weekday host from 12-2 p.m. on the station. Congrats, Mike!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jose Reyes' George Brett Pine Tar Moment

In 1983, George Brett went berserk when an umpire's controversial call cost him a homer and appeared to cost the Royals a victory over the Yankees. Last night, Jose Reyes went berserk when an umpire's controversial call cost him a triple and appeared to doom the Mets to defeat. But the Royals would eventually win that game, and last night, the Mets ended up winning as well.

See video of Reyes' reaction after getting called out at third.

See video from the Pine Tar Game (Squawker Lisa was at this game!)

Unlike the Royals, the Mets did not have the call overturned, but they also did not have to wait 25 days to finish the game and get the win after the American League ruled that Brett's homer should be allowed and the game would have to resume at that point. Instead, the Mets rallied, not once, but twice, in the late innings to beat the Nationals and win their sixth straight.

If this turns out to be a magical year for the Mets (not that I think it will, but that's the nature of magical years - you can't predict them) the magic began last night. How else do you explain Daniel Murphy homering to tie the game right after Reyes was called out, making a bad play at second in the bottom of the eighth to help the Nationals score the go-ahead run, then doubling in two runs in the ninth to seal the win?

The most magical thing I will hope for this season is that the Mets find a way to keep Reyes. He's the catalyst who hit a clutch extra-base hit in the eighth inning of a 2-1 game and legged it out for what should have been a triple. Then, when he was called out, he displayed fire you wouldn't see from most Mets.

The reality check is that, even after winning six straight, the Mets are still 11-13, but at least they are out of last place and look headed in the right direction.


One final note on last night's game - Rick Ankiel had to give up pitching because he couldn't control his pitches from the mound to the plate, yet he was able to make an unbelievable dead-on throw from the outfield wall to third base on the Reyes hit.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Look at Bloomberg Sports Front Office 2011

Before the start of the season, I had a chance to go to the launch of this year's edition of Bloomberg Sports' Front Office fantasy baseball software. I've been checking out the Front Office 2011 the last few days.

The Bloomberg software enables you to sync up your fantasy league if you play Yahoo!, ESPN or CBS Sports. There are a variety of sites, both free and pay, where you can look up players from your team, but even if they allow you to maintain a roster, you have to manually update it when you make changes.

With Bloomberg, however, I set it up to sync with my ESPN league whenever I logged on. So the first thing I see is a league dashboard tailored to my team and my league.

The dashboard features a bar graph (the product launch emphasized how Bloomberg is big on graphical representations of data) showing how my team compares to the rest of the league in each statistical category. Below the graph are recommendations for free agents and lineup moves. The default is for all statistics, but clicking on an individual bar in the graph brings up specific recommendations for free agents and lineup moves to help that statistical category.

When I checked the recommendations yesterday, I was surprised to see my top two suggested free agent pickups were Rays first baseman Dan Johnson and Blue Jays outfielder Juan Rivera. These players are barely owned in my league. At the start of the week, both were hitting under .150.

But Bloomberg has a proprietary "B-rank" that ranks each player, and they rank these players higher than most other places.

Perhaps they are on to something, because Rivera had three hits and his second homer in three games last night and has raised his average to .210. Johnson went 1-for-2 with two walks, which at least moved his OBP over .200 (his BA is .143).

I'm not sure how helpful the lineup suggestions are - most of the ones I've gotten tend to be along the lines of "bench so-and-so because he is not playing today." I also keep getting encouraged to put the Cardinals' Ryan Franklin in my lineup, when he is on my bench for a good reason - he's lost his closer job and is much more likely to hurt my team than to help it.

One feature that wasn't available at the start of the season but is now operational is the trade analyzer, which recommended several trades for me. One trade would have me deal Nationals' starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann for Rays' SP James Shields. At the moment, Shields is doing a lot better and he has a bigger name, so I'm not sure why the other team would want to make this deal. But the two pitchers are not far apart in B-rank, and in Yahoo! at least, Zimmermann's overall ranking is higher.

Bloomberg is offering free five-day trials of Front Office 2011. A season subscription is $19.95. You can check out their software here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Omar Minaya Appears at Fordham; Mets Keep Winning

When the Mets were in free fall earlier this month, I grew sick of Terry Collins' postgame news conferences, when he kept insisting that the Mets would turn it around and go on a long winning streak. At one point, I think he mentioned winning nine of eleven, another time, something like winning six straight. I just wanted the Mets to win one straight.

Turns out Terry was right - the Mets have now won five straight. 5-0 since Jason Bay returned. And 5-0 since R.A. Dickey, after the team's last loss, said:

We can't just keep telling ourselves, 'Oh, we’re a better team than this.' We may not be. And we've got to be honest about that, and identify what we're doing wrong, and do it better. That's the only way you have any real growth…

Dickey is one of the few Mets to show leadership qualities. Now let's hope he can snap his own losing streak Wednesday and help the Mets continue to win.

Before the game, I went to see a panel discussion at Fordham moderated by Lenny Cassuto, co-editor of "The Cambridge Companion to Baseball." The panel included former Met GM Omar Minaya, baseball historian John Thorn, baseball writer and Pulitzer Prize finalist Alan Schwarz and Matthew Jacobson, a Yale professor and contributor to the Cambridge book.

It was a lively discussion on topics ranging from the declining number of African-Americans in baseball to instant replay. Some of the sharpest exchanges revolved around steroids. Thorn saw no need to make any changes to the record book, even going so far as to suggest that if Babe Ruth played today, he would be Matt Stairs. Schwarz said that he did not look forward to telling his young son that the home run record was held by Barry Bonds. Thorn replied that Bonds was the best hitter he's ever seen, and Thorn had seen Ted Williams play.

The panel was also not always in agreement on baseball's popularity in the U.S. When Minaya said that he saw plenty of baseball fields whenever he was on a plane coming in for a landing, Schwarz asked if anyone was on those fields and Cassuto said that he had just read that more and more baseball fields are being paved over.

When Minaya said that his purest experience of seeing a baseball game might have been in Cuba, Schwarz noted that "they have a hell of a salary cap."

Minaya said he would not want to see a robot determining balls and strikes because you need to be able to "go out there and argue."

Minaya mentioned that he had played ball in Tuscany, which made me think of Rick Peterson's statement when the Mets got rid of him that they were replacing a hardwood floor with Tuscany tile.

I'm still not sure that the Mets are better off with Dan Warthen, but the way the pitching has been the last few days, the Tuscany tile is looking pretty good.

On Philip Humber, Phil Hughes, Breaking Up No-Hitters, and Booing After a Missed Pop-Up

Last night, when Chicago White Sox pitcher Phil Humber was in the seventh inning of a no-hit game against the Yankees, I tried to jinx him on Facebook by talking about it. And within 20 seconds (I am not kidding!), Alex Rodriguez got a hit to break up the no-hitter. It was the highlight of the evening for me! (Oh, and by the way, a friend pointed out that if Humber had succeeded in throwing a no-hitter, he would have been the seventh ex-Met to do so, with the Mets still never having a no-hitter of their own. I loved telling Squawker Jon that!)

Now, the not-so-fun stuff. After a setback Monday, Phil Hughes has a date with an MRI tube today. I don't understand why the Yankees have been so reticent about having Hughes checked out earlier. I wrote on April 9, after his second start, that he should get a medical exam. It's now April 26, and he's finally going to be checked out, weeks after being put on the disabled list. What was the holdup? Did the Yankees had to get a referral from their HMO or something?

I felt terrible for A.J. Burnett -- we had the Great A.J. last night, but the Yankees couldn't get any runs to help him.

There was something very weird that happened in the ninth inning, when Rafael Soriano was on the mound, that I thought would be a pretty big story. But I only saw it mentioned in a Wally Matthews ESPN blog entry, and at the end of a Star-Ledger game article. Alexi Ramirez hit a popup in the ninth inning. Soriano pointed and motioned, as if to say that he couldn't get it. Derek Jeter came charging in, but he wasn't quick enough catch the ball, which dropped to the ground.

And then the crowd booed. Yes, Yankee fans were booing! Now, it was unclear whether the fans were booing Jeter, or Soriano, or both, but Twitter and Facebook were all a-flutter last night over the incident. (Unless I missed it, the YES Network, of course, didn't get into discussing the booing, and didn't show the clip again in the postgame wrapup.) At any rate, I thought this would be a much bigger controversy, but it's downplayed in today's papers. Very strange.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Monday, April 25, 2011

In Defense of Ian O'Connor's Derek Jeter Book

Yes, I'm going there. After many months of criticizing ESPN New York columnist Ian O'Connor for his writing a half-dozen fawning articles about Derek Jeter this winter without disclosing that he was writing a book that promised "unique access" to the Yankee captain, I actually feel compelled to defend O'Connor on a couple of things that I think he's being unfairly criticized for.

First off, there's the curious case of Jeter going up to New York Post writer George King the morning after the Post published a front-page story about the book. That article discussed how The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter revealed how Jeter's dislike of teammate Alex Rodriguez put A-Rod in the Yankee "snubhouse" (The Post's term, not O'Connor's!)

In a followup piece by King entitled "Jeter: It's not my book," Jeter didn't confirm or deny any of the tidbits. But he told King:
"Make sure everyone knows it's not mine," Jeter said. "I had nothing to do with that book."
Well, nobody had suggested that Jeter had actually authored the tome himself. But if he really had "nothing to do with that book," a book that has been promoted of giving "unique access" to Jeter, then why is he quoted talking to O'Connor in the book, according to an ESPN New York article about the tome? And why would Newsday columnist Ken Davidoff, who witnessed the King-Jeter conversation, write that "Jeter was aware [the book] was being written and agreed to be interviewed for it"?

Not to mention the fact that O'Connor did over 200 interviews for the book, many of whom were people in the Jeter camp. Did Jeter have control over everything written in O'Connor's book? Doubtful. But he did agree to be interviewed for it, and many of the people close to him were also interviewed for it. To say that he had "nothing to do with" the book is pretty disingenuous.

The second thing I will defend O'Connor on, albeit in a backhanded way, is the notion that he was somehow out to get Jeter. I've even heard him compared to Selena Roberts. Really? Roberts wrote nasty column after nasty column about A-Rod before writing an entire bile-filled book on him. O'Connor is just the opposite. In a town where burnishing the Jeter legend is par for the course with New York columnists, O'Connor is in a class by himself. Remember these moments, all written without any mention of the upcoming book?

* October 24, 2010:  In an article entitled, "Expect Yankees to splash cash on Jeter," O' Connor said, "I believe a fair deal would be for four years at $23 million per."

* October 28, 2010:  O'Connor writes a bizarre column tying in Joe Girardi's job fortune to Jeter's, saying that Girardi should get a warning with his next contract saying, "Change, or we'll hire someone else to bench The Captain."

*November 21, 2010: O'Connor interviews Jeter's personal trainer Jason Riley for a column. Ian managed to keep a straight face when Riley said "I think it's very realistic" for Jeter to play through 2017, and when Riley said, "The desire to be the greatest can never be turned down by Father Time."

O'Connor also uncritically ran this other Riley comment (basically, most of the article is an infomercial for Jeter and his trainer): "You can't put an age on the heart of an athlete, and Derek's got one of the purest hearts in sports," Riley said. "He's not going to allow himself to have another down year, if he even considers 2010 a down year. His internal drive separates him from others. I've worked with very few people who go after the game like he does." The piece ends with O'Connor saying, "If the trainer is right, this next contract Jeter signs won't be his last." Oy.

* December 5, 2010: Regarding the Yankees coming to terms with Jeter on a new contract, O'Connor wrote, "The Yankees could have offered Jeter minimum wage, free parking and cab fare to and from the ballpark, and he would have found a way to accept it."

* March 26, 2011:  "For now, Jeter is still Jeter, a future Hall of Famer who just needed some extra face time with the hitting coach, Kevin Long. With the contract done and the footwork adjusted, the smart money says the captain will make something of a comeback this year."

There's also O'Connor writing for the Bergen Record in spring 2009 that the Yankees would be a better team without A-Rod, and that the team should just release him. So it's not like O'Connor is a Team A-Rod writer.

I haven't gotten to read O'Connor's book yet, but I just find it hard to believe that O'Connor did a hatchet job on the captain. Go to Houghton Mifflin's web site and read the book description, and an excerpt from Chapter One, and see what I mean. Heck, the book starts with this line, "Like all good stories about a prince, this one starts in a castle." Does that sound like an author with an agenda to get Jeter? I don't think so. Just because O'Connor has written that Jeter isn't always perfect doesn't make this a smear.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Post Publishes Juicy Tidbits From Ian O'Connor's New Book About Jeter/A-Rod Feud

Sorry I haven't squawked for a while -- I have been working on two real-life projects that have consumed almost all of my time. I knew I had better get back to squawking soon when I got this email the other day, with the subject line "Do You Know there are 2 teams in NYC?"  Here's the email:
Hey…do you guys know that there is another team in town. They are called “the Yankees.”

Would think that there is only one team in NYC, to read your blog lately.

What’s the story???
Harsh, dude! Ouch!

Anyhow, on a brighter note, Happy Easter! When I got online this morning and saw that the New York Post had information from Ian O'Connor's upcoming book, "The Captain" (you know, the one that he's been working on at the same time he's been carrying Jeter's water in his columns), I knew I'd better squawk, or some might think I was comatose!

This "exclusive" article has inside details on the feud (although, for some odd reason, the Post calls it an "unauthorized" bio), and has pretty much vindicated a lot of what I've said over the years. Some tidbits:

* Jeter, the modern day Joe DiMaggio in a lot of ways -- including holding grudges -- so intimidated one Yankee front office person who admitted to being afraid to talk to Jeter about burying the hatchet with Alex. "It would've been the last conversation I ever had with Derek," he said. "I would've been dead to him. It would've been like approaching Joe DiMaggio to talk to him about Marilyn Monroe."

* At the 2001 All-Star Game, according to the Post's account of the book, "a smitten Rodriguez introduced him to Latin songstress Joy Enriquez. Jeter wasted no time -- the singer and the shortstop began dating."

* Don Mattingly tried to get Jeter to make up with A-Rod. "I faked it with Boggs," he said. "And you have to fake it with Alex." Heh!

* Brian Cashman also asked Jeter to "fake it" with Rodriguez, after noticing Jeter's lack of defense when it came to other players and fans criticizing the third baseman. "You've got to lead them all, the ones you like and the ones you don't," he told Jeter. He asked Jeter to defend A-Rod to the fans. "I can't tell the fans what to do," Jeter countered. (Of course, Jeter did just that when it came to Jason Giambi and Chuck Knoblauch, although the article doesn't mention that.) I don't know how many times I wrote over the years that the captain's job was to stand up for all of his teammates, not just his buddies. So good for Cashman that he told him the same thing!

Then there's this tidbit:
It all came to a head during a Yankee loss in August 2006 to Baltimore.

An easy pop-up hung in the air between A-Rod and Jeter. Both players closed in and Jeter bumped into A-Rod, knocking the ball out of his glove. Jeter shot A-Rod a withering look.

The gesture did not go unnoticed. Cashman pulled Jeter aside and ordered him to knock it off.

"Listen, this has to stop," Cashman said. "Everybody in the press box, every team official, everyone watching, they saw you look at the ball on the ground and look at him with disgust like you were saying, 'That's your mess, you clean it up.' "

A-Rod also felt betrayed by manager Joe Torre, who players said added fuel to the fiery feud.

"He would never call Jeter on anything, but he'd have no problem doing it to Alex," one player told the author.
I remember that well. And I remember how much grief I got from fans for pointed out that obvious dis. Believe it or not, readers used to argue me all the time when I said it was pretty obvious Jeter couldn't stand A-Rod. But It was pretty clear to me starting with the way Jeter mumbled and grimaced through A-Rod's introductory press conference in 2004 that the Captain didn't want him on the team.

It's funny -- people would tell me over and over how Jeter would do anything to win. Yes, except for making the peace with Rodriguez!

Even though most of the New York media mostly ignored the issue as it was happening, it was pretty clear that there was a huge issue here. And since I was one of the few people anywhere writing about it, I got a lot of "How do you know, you're not in the clubhouse" in response, and people insisting that Jeter would never be so petty. Oh, really?

What's funny is that O'Connor's book, written with the cooperation of the Jeter camp, has such tidbits which reflect so negatively on Jeter (although, to be sure, the information also reflects negatively on Rodriguez, saying that Jeter didn't like A-Rod acting as a diva as a Yankee, and that A-Rod obsessed over Jeter. IMHO, I think A-Rod could have been Mother Teresa as a Yankee, and it wouldn't have made any difference!)

After all, so much of Jeter's mystique has been on his vaunted leadership skills. But instead of embracing getting the best player in baseball at the time for the team, this article makes it clear that Jeter was "less than thrilled" when A-Rod became a Yankee. And that one of the reasons the Yankees gave CC Sabathia $161 million was to mend the clubhouse, From the article:
"CC's main concern was our clubhouse, and how people got along," Cashman told the author. "I told him the truth. 'Yeah, we are broken. One reason we're committing [$161 million] to you is you're a team builder. We need somebody to bring us together.' "
I guess it would have been too much to expect the team's captain to bring the Yankees together, eh?

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Come to a Panel Discussion Featuring Omar Minaya

On April 26, Omar Minaya will take part in a panel discussion at Fordham's Lincoln Center campus inspired by the new book "The Cambridge Companion to Baseball."

Appearing with Omar will be New York Times reporter Alan Schwarz, author of "Baseball's Nunmbers Game," John Thorn, baseball's official historian and author of "Baseball in the Garden of Eden" and Matthew Jacobson, professor and chair of American Studies at Yale and a contributor to the Cambridge book.

I am also a contributor to the book and enjoyed an earlier event on March 31 that was hosted by the book's co-editor, Lenny Cassuto, who will also host this panel discussion.

This event is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, April 26
6-7:30 pm
South Lounge, Fordham's Loewenstein Building
(enter at Columbus Ave. and 60th St., the south lounge is on the plaza level, off the cafeteria)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mets: Can't Anyone Here Play This Game?

Angel Pagan fails to touch home plate. Josh Thole pops up a bunt and Jose Reyes gets doubled off first. So much for Terry Collins' vow that the Mets would play the game the right way. Bobby Parnell said that he was experiencing discomfort and numbness. Join the club.

I hope Parnell is all right and doesn't have a blood clot. And I hope against hope that Jason Bay returns as the 2009 Bay. But aside from the loss of the irreplaceable Johan Santana, this team can't blame their woes on injuries. They are not a great team, but they are better than this. The Mets are seriously underperforming, and the uncertainty surrounding the team likely has something to do with it.

Earlier Wednesday, MLB took over day-to-day operations of the Dodgers, a team that has been cutting payroll and losing fans the last few years. Met players and fans look at their team and wonder what lies ahead. If Citi Field looks empty now, just wait until the payroll is cut in half and all the good players are gone. The Mets will be nostalgic even for the fans with bags on their heads.

Earlier today, the Post's Joel Sherman suggested it was time for a Mets' fire sale. Sherman is right to say that this team should not delude itself that it is close to winning. But it's one thing to move a Carlos Beltran who is not what he once was and is pretty certain to be gone from the team next year. It's another thing to get rid of most of your best players for the vague hope of a good future.

Now there's word that the Mets aren't interested in locking up Ike Davis to a longterm deal as many other clubs are doing with their young stars. On the face of it, that's not unreasonable. Davis hasn't yet demonstrated that he belongs in the same category as an Evan Longoria. But it's hard not to notice the pattern of consistently choosing the option that doesn't involve spending money.

Fans were willing to buy into a lack of spending this offseason because the team already had a high payroll. Now that lack of spending has helped create the team with the worst record in baseball. And that's before a fire sale.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Time to Bag Mets' Season?

I didn't think Met fans would start wearing bags over their heads until at least the summer, but I didn't think the Mets would be 4-9 and lacking in fundamentals under the new regime either. And I didn't think the home ERA would be 5.95. That's the second-worst in the National League. Pretty terrible for a team that plays in a pitchers' park.

The Mets are almost a full run behind the next-worst team, the Dodgers at 5.00. The teams above the Dodgers are the Braves and Cubs at 4.17, almost two runs better than the Mets.

Why is the pitching so bad? The defense certainly has something to do with it. So does the cheapness in putting together the staff. The best acquisition so far, Chris Young, was available on the cheap because of his injury history. And he's already hurt.

But Dan Warthen needs to explain how a team trying to cut down on walks is last in MLB in walks allowed. And by a big margin. The Mets have allowed 38 walks. The Padres are next-worst at 28. 17 teams have allowed 19 or fewer walks. That means the Mets have allowed at least twice as many walks as more than half the teams in MLB.

And despite allowing all those walks, the Mets still didn't walk Troy Tulowitzki when they should have.

Last year, the Mets started 4-8, but there was Ike Davis' callup to bring excitement. And Jose Reyes getting healthy. We were also supposed to be excited about Carlos Beltran's return, but that faded as it kept getting pushed back.

But what are the things to look forward to in 2011? Rationalizing the value of the prospects obtained when the Mets start dumping salary? Seeing Fernando Martinez go on the DL? (Oh, wait, that's already happened.)

This year's delayed injury return belongs to Jason Bay. Except he's not just coming back from his rib injury, but from last year's concussion. And he was not very good as a Met before the concussion, so he still needs to show that he can hit more than six homers in New York.

As for Johan Santana, at least the new regime is not getting hopes up that we will see the Johan of old anytime soon, if ever.

By the way, both Willie Harris and Scott Hairston hit more homers (10) in fewer at bats than Bay did in 2010. If Bay returning to the lineup results in less power, then I'll really be ready to put a bag over my head.

Free Bartolo Colon! Time for Him to Take Phil Hughes' Place in the Rotation

Signing Bartolo Colon wasn't exactly a Brian Cashman move I was crazy about this winter, but the pitcher has actually shown some value so far this year. And given that he has had to come to the rescue for every single Phil Hughes start, I think it's time to put him in the rotation, and Hughes in the bullpen to work out his issues.

I don't think Hughes is afraid, or can't handle starting, or anything like that. He's built of pretty strong stuff. But the Yankees can't hope to have great walk-off wins like last night to salvage every Hughes debacle!

Going to Colon in the fifth was the right move last night, as Ed Valentine of Around the Empire noted. He said he was "shaking [his] head in disbelief" when Michael Kay thought the Yanks had too quick a hook with Hughes. You and me both, Ed!

Oh, and how about that play at the plate last night?

Loved that Nick Swisher hit the sac fly to give the Yankees the walkoff win. He seems to enjoy the pie thing more than any other Yankee.

Speaking of Swish, have you seen the commercial he has with Jonathan Papelbon for Norelco? The best part of it is that the ad plays off on Swish being likeable and amiable (even Squawker Jon digs him), but Papbelbon comes off as, um, kind of a jerk!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thoughts on A.J. Burnett, Pedro Feliciano, and the State of the Yankees

Did you know that A.J. Burnett has more wins than the entire Boston Red Sox team does? Talk about a fun fact!

I missed watching much of last night's game, due to another project I'm working on. But I still have a few things to squawk about::

* I am kind of doubting we will see Pedro Feliciano pitch this year -- the latest news isn't good. Aside from the ridiculousness of Brian Cashman blathering about the Mets' abusing Feliciano, I'm wondering about a few things. Like exactly what kind of physical exam did Feliciano get before becoming a Yankee? And why did it take a month between the two MRIs he had -- one in spring training, one this week?

* I read some chatter online about how Jeter is out of his slump, because he had two hits last night. Whoopee. Is that how low the bar has gone for the captain? It was only two years ago that Jeter had 66 multi-hit games out of the 153 he played in. And in 21 of those games, he had three hits or more. Now, people are flipping out with excitement because he had his second two-hit game of the year?

* I thought it was interesting that the Yankees will give everybody who had tickets for last night's game a pass for another game. That's something the team used to do when attendance was much smaller, and I can't remember the last time the team has done it. (I sat through worse conditions and delays at the new Stadium for an April 2009 Red Sox game, and we didn't get anything for our troubles!)

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Monday, April 11, 2011

John Sterling's Russell Martin Call -- In French! -- Is Highlight of Weekend

Saturday was a good game for the Yankees against the Red Sox, but I hated seeing the old Josh Beckett Sunday, who looked like the Beckett of the 2003 World Series, not the Beckett who the Yanks have killed in recent years. Anyhow, instead of dwell on how puny the Yanks looked last night, I'd like to note that Russell Martin had two homers in one game Saturday, and that John Sterling added a call -- in French! -- to his repertoire:

Now, even though I took French in high school and college, I'm not quite sure what Sterling is saying! But I give him an A for effort here, to try to appeal to Martin's heritage (his mother is French Canadian, and he was born and raised in Ontario.)

I'm really digging Martin so far -- he has replaced Jorge Posada, a Yankee icon, at catcher pretty effortlessly.

* * *

Speaking of broadcasters, what did you think of the new Sunday night crew? I wasn't impressed with Bobby Valentine saying about how nobody predicted that the Jets would beat the Patriots last year. Um, I did!

What do you think? Tell us about it?

Mets Bullpen Falters with Arizona Discards

The Diamondbacks had one of the worst bullpens in recent MLB history last year. Two of the pitchers they let go in an attempt to overhaul that bullpen were Blaine Boyer and D.J. Carrasco, who combined to give up six runs for the Mets Sunday.

The Mets' front office "dream team" is supposed to be able to sniff out cost-effective talent. But new D-Backs GM Kevin Towers has a great reputation as a bullpen builder, getting most of the credit for putting together the top-rated Padres' pen on a low budget. When Towers joined the D-Backs this past offseason, he willing to re-sign Aaron Heilman for one year at $2 million. Boyer and Carrasco, though, did not figure in Towers' plans.

Carrasco had actually pitched pretty well for the D-Backs after coming over to them in the middle of last year, endind up with a 3.18 ERA and .217 batting average against in 22 innings. Towers might well have been trying to save money by non-tendering him, since Carrasco ended up getting a two-year, $2.4 million deal from the Mets.

But the Mets are trying to save money as well. And while Boyer was originally signed to a minor-league deal and was easy to drop, it's hard to imagine the Mets letting go of Carrasco anytime soon with that two-year deal. Carrasco's contract, by the way, cost almost as much as the one-year deals for Chris Young and Chris Capuano combined.

At least Carrasco was pitching pretty well before Sunday, though he now has given up runs in two of his five appearances and has a 4.76 ERA.

The Mets have now lost four of five and their pitching staff has allowed 38 runs in those five games. The Mets have the next-to-worst ERA in the National League so far this year.

When Towers took over the D-Backs, one of the first things he did was to replace the Arizona pitching coach. Alderson decided to keep Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen. If the Mets' pitching failures continue, that's another thing on which to judge the front office.

Perhaps Warthen's loudest supporter in the offseason was Mike Pelfrey. Now Pelfrey's a mess and most of Warthen's other pitchers are struggling.

The season is still only nine games old - too early for any conclusions. But that won't stop fans from making them anyway. I just got an email from the Mets saying that all weekday April games are now 50% off.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Is It Time to Get Phil Hughes to a Doctor?

I am Officially Concerned about Phil Hughes. Because it's not just that he's had two bad starts, it's two bad starts and a very disappointing second half of 2010. Yes, yes, I know he won 18 games last year, but didn't , yesterday was an example of how it's silly to judge a player on that? John Lackey got the win, and Bartolo Colon the loss. Never mind that Colon was terrific, limiting the Sox to just two hits and one run over 4+ innings. And don't get me started on Boome Logan, the lefty specialist who can't seem to get lefties out so far this year.

It seems to me that a medical exam is in order for Hughes, given that his fastball has lost his speed. But the Yankees insist Hughes doesn't need that. I really don't see what the harm is in getting him checked out. It's not like when George Steinbrenner humiliated Reggie Jackson towards the end of his time in New York by making him get his eyes checked. I feel terrible for Hughes -- he looked upset on the mound, and sounded devastated after the game. It reminds me of when Chien-Ming Wang couldn't get it together a few years ago.

* * *

I really wish the Yankees had been at least been able to hold off the Sox for one more game, just to ruin Boston's home opener. Alas, it was not to be.

It's funny, though, how the game was mostly overshadowed by the news that Manny Ramirez was retiring due to failing another PED test. Manny was one the greatest hitters I've ever seen. Watching him was like watching The Rock back in the day in pro wrestling. You either loved him, or loved to hate him, but either way, he was so entertaining, you couldn't not watch him! The most electrifying men in sports entertainment!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Getting Ready for the Yankees-Red Sox Series

I am very happy that the Red Sox have started their season 0-6. I love the smell of panic in the morning. It smells like victory!

However, the Yankees can't let the Sox win the series. Heck, even one win will be celebrated in Red Sox Nation like they won the World Series.

I like my Red Sox fan friends, and appreciate their reading Subway Squawkers. But I want them to be the ones wailing and gnashing their teeth after this series, and not me!

Squawker Jon said the Sox just called up Alfredo Aceves. It figures.

* * *

Longtime Squawker reader Uncle Mike has weighed in with his tips for Yankee fans visiting Boston. Check out his blog to read them. Warning -- Uncle Mike actually writes outrageous things like "most Sox fans are intelligent, and love the game as well as their own team." Shocking, I know!

Do you have any predictions for the series? I was on deadline for something, so I didn't have time to write my own!

Jon Heyman Criticizes Nick Swisher Over Slide, Tweet

It was great to see the Good A.J. Burnett pitch for the Yankees yesterday -- he's now 2-0. There was one sad thing in the win, though. Nick Swisher's slide into Minnesota Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka (you can see the video here.) ended up knocking the player out of the game -- and breaking his leg. It seemed like a clean slide to me, and the Twins agreed. But it's a tough blow for the Japanese-born player in his first week of MLB.

Anyhow, Swisher did all the right things, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune notes:
Swisher visited Nishioka in the X-ray room.

"The first thing I said was, 'I'm sorry, man. I thought you were going to jump,' " Swisher said. "And he said, 'It was my fault. I should have gotten out of the way.' I was just trying to break up a double play. I didn't mean to do that. Especially with a guy like that, just trying to make his mark over here."

Nishioka said he appreciated Swisher's apology but didn't feel it was necessary.

Added Gardenhire: "[Nishioka] just got caught a little flat-footed. Swisher's a clean player. That's just a good baseball slide, trying to break up a double play. There's no intent there."
The article also notes that Nishioka even apologized to Gardenhire for the play!

It looks like there's no bad blood between the Twins and Yankees over this, and best wishes to Nishioka on a full and speedy recovery. But there is at least one sportswriter who took issue with Swisher -- Jon Heyman of On Heyman's Twitter account, he first wrote:
I'm sure all the yankee honks will come after me, but I didn't love that swisher slide. Too late. Best wishes to nishioka
Then he wrote this, retweeting a Swisher tweet after the game:

wheres the remorse? remember nishi? RT @nickswisher Great series win for the Bombers today ... Off to Boston baby!
I like Heyman -- he's emailed me replies when I've written to him, and tweeted back several times. He talks to fans a lot, and is accountable, which is good. And I do like his writing, and I enjoy hearing him on the radio.

All that being said, I think he is way off base here. He has a right to his opinion on the slide, but to gripe about Swisher not showing remorse is a bit much. (Heyman later acknowledged the possibility that it might not have been Swisher himself writing the tweet. But he still thought the post was wrong.)

Are journalists going to start demonizing players not just for not talking for them, but not showing what they deem to be sufficient remorse on their Twitter accounts? Good grief.

And, as I wrote Heyman on Twitter last night, plenty of journalists in newsrooms make black-comedy jokes about tragedies that are much worse than what Swisher did. When I first visited a newsroom in college (my professor was a TV weatherman who gave us a tour during a broadcast) he warned us that we might hear some offensive jokes, because that was the way journalists sometimes coped with horrible stories -- by cracking wise. And Swisher didn't even do that -- he just posted an innocuous tweet about winning the series and getting ready for the Red Sox.

It's a touchy thing when something bad happens. When my father died, I laughed at something somebody said during the wake, and was also delighted to see an unexpected face. Would somebody view that as not sufficiently mourning?

I suppose Swisher could have specifically tweeted his apology. But really, it makes no difference -- he apologized in person, which is the important thing. Whether or not he referred to it on Twitter is irrelevant to me.

At any rate, I don't want Swisher dwelling about what happened, if it constrains him as a player. What if, the next time he is supposed to slide, he is unable to do, because he's afraid of inadvertently hurting another player?

There are a lot of dopey things athletes do on Twitter. What Nick Swisher did wasn't one of them.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New York Sportswriters Take Aim at Rafael Soriano, Joe Girardi

Grrrrrrrrrr. Not only did the weather last night cause a rainout for the Yankees, but it meant another day of media pontificating and self-righteousness about Rafael Soriano and Joe Girardi.

The press makes such a big stink if a player doesn't talk to them. Look, I get that it makes their job harder, but sometimes they take their complaints a little too far. For example, ESPN NY's Wally Matthews said what Soriano "did was wrong, to his teammates, to the media and to the fans who depend upon the media as their pipeline into the clubhouse." Spare me. The Soriano kerfuffle was completely media-created. I don't think any fans lost any sleep over it.

As for the teammate issue, that's another media-created thing -- they make a big story about a player not talking, harangue the player's teammates over it to the point of annoyance, then complain "ooh, the teammates are annoyed." Wheeeee!

An aside -- the thing a lot of fans wanted to see the media ask more questions on was to A.J. Burnett last year. He stunk up the joint from June on, shows up and pitches a game with a black eye, then politely says he's not going to talk about how he got said black eye, and the press just drops it? Sorry, when you've won just four games in four months, and you show up for a game looking like you went 15 rounds beforehand, the fans do have a right to know what going on. And the fact that the media essentially gave Burnett a pass is mind-boggling. 

Anyhow, Rafael Soriano did apologize to the media for not speaking after Tuesday's game. But because of the rainout, there were a whole slew of columns going after Joe Girardi for what they perceived as blunders in Tuesday's game. I think it's second-guessing, myself. There are plenty of times I thought Girardi made bad decisions with the bullpen, most notably his terrible job in the ALCS last year. Tuesday's game was not one of them. And I was there, freezing in the cold, so if I thought he messed up, I would be squawking bigtime about it.

But the press is flipping out over the game like it's a playoff one. Kevin Kernan of the New York Post wrote, "The new-math Yankees are so locked into pitch counts that they put the freeze on Sabathia. That tells me they are so concerned about their starting pitching that they are babying Sabathia, and that cost them a game Tuesday night." CC had thrown 104 pitches on a bitterly cold night on his second start of the year. If Girardi had pitched him into the eighth, and he had faltered, we would be hearing from the press about how the tightly-wound manager was riding his best pitching arm too hard.

And the media has mocked Girardi for saying yesterday that Soriano was his eighth-inning guy. But if he hadn't used him Monday, and the rest of the bullpen had faltered, you just know we would hear about how Girardi had lost confidence in his $35 million setup guy. Joe just can't win.

Anyhow, I'm hoping the weather holds up, so we see actual baseball today, so that there is something for the media to write about other than the As the Bullpen Turns drama!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I Stayed Out in the Cold for This? Yankees Lose to Twins

I went to the game last night, and saw the first Yankee failure of Rafael Soriano. Hmmmm, did Michael Kay jinx him by coming up with the JoSoMo name, or did I jinx him by talking about it? Yikes!

At least I had a great time seeing my childhood friend Kelly at the game, which cushioned the stomach punch of the loss a little better! Of course, I come home to see that Squawker Jon is gloating about his Mets, and giving me the what-for!

A few thoughts on the evening:

* I was just saying to my friend that after Russell Martin hit a homer in his second Yankee game, John Sterling had a nickname ready to go. So when Andruw Jones came up for the first time as a Yankee, I was wondering what Sterling would come up with. Just a few seconds later, Jones hit a homer in his first at-bat as a Yankee. I called Squawker Jon to ask if he could find out what the Sterling call was. I get a text and a voice mail with the goods a few minutes later: "Andruw Jones makes his bones!" Jon sez that Twitter folks think it's a new low for Sterling!

* It was bitterly cold. Just very uncomfortable, even for me, who is pretty warm-blooded. The Stadium paid attendance of 40K last night did not reflect the actual number of people in the seats (I think it was more like 25-30K).

* I saw all sorts of talk about the onion rings guy when I got home -- the dude whose food went flying onto Andruw Jones when he tried to catch a foul ball. I saw the clip on big screen, and thought it was a hot dog that went flying (Kelly was in the concourse at the time, and heard Suzyn Waldman say it was onion rings.) A few points: Aside from the waste of food involved, you cannot expect to catch a foul ball with an onion rings basket. And, more importantly, why do you try to catch a foul ball at all when a Yankee player is trying to get it. Isn't him getting an out for your team more than you getting a souvenir? Yankee fans pride themselves on how knowledgeable they are, but I see ignorant nonsense like this all the time. Do people still not know after Steve Bartman not to go after foul balls your team is trying to catch?

* The media is in a tizzy over Soriano showering and going home before talking to them. I get that, but at the same time, they're taking it too far, reading all sorts of aspersions into Soriano as a person and as a teammate because he didn't stick around to talk to the press. Two examples this morning: Wally Matthews sez "Soriano is no Mariano Rivera. And likely never will be. Nor does it seem like he will ever be a true fit in this clubhouse." And not to be outdone in hysteria, Joel Sherman writes 
..."this game was lost in the eighth. Was it because of the cold that Soriano faltered? Pitching the day before? Unfamiliarity with the role? Or anger at being asked to take the ball at 4-0 in the eighth? Soriano played to the worst of his reputation and was not around to answer.
He took a bribe to come here for a role he did not really want. Maybe money really can't buy happiness."
Glad to see that, in addition to writing, these two have side careers in mind-reading to fall back on!

* We stayed around until the end, and I actually was hopeful the Yankees would come back and win. After all, it was two years ago against the Twins that the Yankees had a walkoff win, and their first pie-throwing! Alas, it was not to be, not even against Joe Nathan, who usually folds against the Yanks. Bummer.

What do you think? Tell us about it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

So Far, Mets Far From Least in the East

You know things are going the Mets' way when a Phillies fan in Citizens Bank Park interferes with Carlos Beltran trying to catch a ball and the call goes against the Phillies. And now the Mets have beaten divisional rivals on the road three out of four.

And you know things are topsy turvy with the Subway Squawkers when Lisa goes out to Yankee Stadium to see "JoSoMo" only to say, "oh no!" when S0 is not even so-so and the Yankees blow the lead and the game.

Look on the bright side, Lisa - at least Rafael Soriano's meltdown should put a rest to that lame nickname for the bullpen.

However, if the nickname sticks, when Pedro Feliciano comes off the DL, the Yankees bullpen should then be known as AMJoSoMo (where A.M. stands for Abused Met).

As for the Mets, it's great to see them doing the abusing for a change. Picked by some to finish last in the NL East, they've beaten the Marlins two of three on the road and have now taken the first game from the Phillies. If anyone had told me that a pitcher would get knocked out in the third inning, I would have assumed it would be Chris Young, a flyball pitcher having to deal with the Phillies' bandbox, not "greatest rotation ever" charter member Cole Hamels.

Hamels probably just had a bad night and the Phillies do have an incredible rotation, but their lineup, already shaky at times last year (like when the Mets shut them out three straight) just isn't the same without Chase Utley and Jayson Werth. Utley was supposed to start jogging later this week, but now that's not happening. Sounds like the Phillies are going to be going through the uncertainty the Mets had last year when Beltran was recovering from knee surgery.

But whomever was in the Phillies' lineup, Met starting pitchers have now given up only two earned runs over their last three starts, totaling 18 1/3 IP. And, after tonight, the Mets now have a better record than the Yankees. Lisa, you need to go to more Yankee games!

Just Say No to Michael Kay's "JoSoMo" Nickname

I am very excited about the way Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano, and Mariano Rivera are pitching out of the bullpen for the Yankees this year. I am significantly less excited over the possibility of the wretched "JoSoMo" nickname sticking to the trio. Ugh. C'mon, Michael Kay, as if foisting "QuanGorMo" onto Yankee watchers weren't enough, now you come up with JoSoMo? Good grief.

My friend Sully Baseball has been complaining about what a terrible era we're in for baseball nicknames, with the creativity consisting of the first letter of the first name, and the next three letters of the last name (A-Rod, A-Gon, etc.), or shortening the last name (Youkilis becomes Youk, etc.) What Kay is doing is even worse. It's like putting Squawker Jon and I's names together and calling us JoLi. JoSoMo is not a nickname; it's an abomination!

How about something emphasizing the power of three, like Triceratops? Now that's a cool nickname. Three Mile Island -- they're so tough, they're nuclear? Three Ninjas? The Three Kings? The Three Amigos? We could get musical with Three Dog Night or Three Days Grace or Three Doors Down. Or operatic with Threepenny Opera! Heck, even Three Billygoats Gruff would be better than JoSoMo!

Or maybe one of our readers has a better idea for a nickname. Please, somebody must have a better idea than JoSoMo!

* * *

I am going to the Yankee game tonight with Kelly, my childhood friend from Passaic, New Jersey. We haven't seen each other since Reggie Jackson was on the Yankees!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Monday, April 4, 2011

More on Brian Cashman, Keith Olbermann, and the Slap Chop Guy Lookalike

I have written more than once that I thought Brian Cashman was pulling a George Costanza as of late. Now I'm starting to think he's pulling a "Bulworth." Maybe he'll start rapping next!

Anyhow, Keith Olbermann wrote a followup to his discovery of a Yankee staffer who looks like the Slap Chop Guy signaling to Yankee players. He said the staffer was back in his usual home plate on Sunday, after not being there Saturday, but that there was no signaling going on this time.

Oh, and Olbermann said, "Barring more developments, I promise to leave this trivial incident alone, but if you’d like to read a reasoned, calm blog about the response to it, here you go," and he linked to my article on the kerfuffle! Very cool!

Anyhow, when I wrote about Brian Cashman calling bloggers "psychotics," I missed a great joke opportunity to compare Cash's gripes about bloggers to a Scooby-Doo villain complaining about those meddling kids! I hate it when I miss an easy joke like that.

And I wish I had written this line about Cashman being shocked to find out Pedro Feliciano was overworked with the Mets. DaveNJ, a commenter at Amazin' Avenue, writes, "If Cashman is this upset about Feliciano, just wait until someone tells him about Mark Prior." Good one!

I myself am waiting to see if Cash blames the Tampa contingent for the Feliciano thing. Or maybe it's the Steinbrenner brothers. Or us meddling bloggers!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thoughts on John Sterling's "Russell Has Muscle" Home Run Call for Russell Martin

Before it's too late, I want to talk about John Sterling's home run call yesterday for Russell Martin. I missed hearing it live, but ESPN's Andrew Marchand reports that it was "Russell has muscle." Not bad -- it has the requisite Sterling cheesiness/charm, without being too out there (I half-expected a Dean Martin reference or something!). Right now, I would rank "Russell has muscle" with "Robbie Cano, don'tcha know!"

Anyhow, I am kicking myself a little. If I had known the new Yankee starting catcher was going to hit a homer in only the second game of the year, I would have started asking Subway Squawkers readers earlier on what they thought Sterling would use for his home run calls. Come to think of it, we'd better start coming up with thoughts and ideas for Eric Chavez, Andruw Jones, and Gustavo Molina!

When I heard about "Russell has muscle," I asked Squawker Jon to guess what Sterling's home run call was. His first guess? Russell Crows! (Get it?) When Jon couldn't figure it out (I think he was relieved that he found himself unable to think like Sterling), I started giving him hints. I went so far as to spot him the first two letters of the last word ("Russell has mu....") and he still couldn't get it, taking stabs such as:

* Russell has mustard
* Russell has mummies
* Russell has mumps
* Russell has Mummenschanz

Anyhow, Jon finally did get it right. But "Russell has Mummenschanz" does have a catchy ring, doesn't it?

What do you think? Tell us about it!

And We Thought Murray Chass Was Bad: Brian Cashman Calls Bloggers "Psychotics"

Last month, Brian Cashman explained to the Wall Street Journal why the Yankees have such an extensive media training program for their players. "We are the largest media market in the world. We will control the back pages on a yearly basis, without a doubt, whether we want to or not, and we'd rather limit the damage and get ourselves on the back pages for the right reasons, not the wrong reasons," he said.

Hmmmmm. Maybe Cash ought to sign up for a refresher course for himself. Because he managed to stir up not one but two controversies this weekend. It wasn't just him complaining and whining about Pedro Feliciano being abused as a Met. It was him calling bloggers "psychotics" and comparing them to dangerous criminals. Makes that whole Murray Chass-esque "bloggers live in their mother's basement" cliche look downright tame, don't you think?

The thing is, I can't figure out who, specifically, Cashman is calling psychotic, unless he means TV personality/diehard baseball fan Keith Olbermann. It was Olbermann who posted photos  -- first on Twitter during Opening Day, and then on his blog -- of a man in the stands who looks like Vince the Slap Chop Guy making hand signals to the players.

Turns out the Slap Chop Guy lookalike wasn't making references to fettucine, martini, linguini, or bikini -- he was Brett Weber, a Yankee coaching assistant who appeared to be letting the team's hitters know the type and location of the previous pitches thrown. Yankee season ticket holder Olbermann, who wrote he had seen this happen a number of times over the last year, wrote he thought it was "something less than cheating and I wasn’t looking to portray it as such."  It's not like Keith picked the coaching assistant as one of his Worst Person of the World candidates. In fact, he seemed more bemused than anything, writing that:

..."two other things surprise me more than anything else about this tempest-in-a-teapot. First, it went on all last year and nobody noticed? Based on relative seat location, the signals should be visible on television, although the players looking into the crowd would not necessarily have attracted any attention.
More importantly: At Yankee Stadium, it’s a shock to consider that the club surrendered the income from the seat. That, friends, costs at least $500 a game."

Anyhow, after Olbermann posted the pix, MLB investigated and contacted the Yankees front office to find out what was happening Turns out that the Yanks apparently violated Rule C-4, where staff are prohibited from using hand signals to communicate pitch information to players. Given that the very same information is supposed to be shown on the scoreboard, it doesn't exactly seem like the crime of the century to me.

But Cashman acted very strangely when asked about the issue Saturday. He said that:
"Anybody who obsessed about it yesterday, I kind of feel the psychotics who obsessed about it yesterday, I think we all did them a favor by keeping them off the street and preventing them from hurting others,” Cashman said.

Cashman then clarified that the “psychotics” were members of the blogosphere — not members of the media or members of Major League Baseball.

While Olbermann was speaking with reporters this afternoon, Cashman walked over and joked that Weber was merely ordering “four beers” and not signaling anything illegal.
Update: In response to a question I received about what Cashman said about bloggers, I found an even more direct quote on "I was calling the blogosphere psychotics that really focused on it because it’s silly."

You know, the Mets front office invites baseball bloggers to conference calls and press conferences, gives them tours of Citi Field, and treats them like people worthy of respect. The Yankee GM calls baseball bloggers "psychotics" who need to be kept off the street.

And how about Cashman making jokes with the person who inadvertently started the whole story in the first place?

The funny thing is that I still can't figure out who in the heck Cashman is referring to here regarding his cheap shots at bloggers. On Friday, I saw some silly April Fool's Day Yankee articles around the baseball blogosphere, but I don't remember seeing anybody discuss this story. Nor did I get any grief on the issue from Yankee-hating friends, the way I usually do whenever the team gets in the news for something controversial.

In fact, the first time I heard about the story was when I read Anthony McCarron's article on it in Saturday's Daily News. I even went back to review the Yankee-related articles in Google and on SportsSpyder, and the first references I could find were on Saturday morning in the mainstream media, not the hated blogosphere. If there is some secret blog that was pushing this, please let me know, because I sure didn't see it!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Sorry, Brian Cashman, Mets Don't Always Do the Wrong Thing

Nobody knows better than Met fans that the team has been guilty of a string of ridiculous moves in recent years. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And sometimes, especially now that there's a new regime, when a Pedro Feliciano is not re-signed or a Luis Castillo is cut, there's a good reason.

As Squawker Lisa wrote yesterday, Cashman apparently failed to grasp that Feliciano led the majors in appearances the last three seasons, which was why the Mets and most other teams did not want to give him a two-year deal.

For Cashman to accuse the Mets of "abusing" Feliciano would be as if Phillies' GM Ruben Amaro Jr., after signing Castillo, blamed the Mets after discovering that Castillo was over the hill.

The perception of the Mets' incompetence appears to extend beyond that of rival GMs. When Castillo was released, ESPN's Buster Olney wrote:

Luis Castillo may have lost his support among New York Mets fans by the time he was placed on waivers Friday, but he has long-standing connections around baseball, established through his past success. Which is why he will almost certainly have a new job within 24 hours after he clears waivers today at 1 p.m.

Olney implied that Castillo was cut primarily to appease the fans (a theory Sandy Alderson was guilty of encouraging by admitting the fan factor). He went on to list the Phillies, Rockies, Cubs and Marlins as potential suitors for Castillo's services. Olney concluded:

None of that personal history will matter, of course, if Castillo struggles in his next job. But in baseball -- as in a lot of industries -- it's about who you know, and Castillo, a respected veteran with 15 years, a .290 lifetime average and 370 career steals, will be employed again very shortly.

Olney was right - Castillo quickly landed with the Phillies. But is this the way the rest of baseball really views Castillo - a "respected veteran" with "370 career steals"? Was it only disgruntled Met fans who saw a broken-down player who often had trouble walking without a limp, let alone running?

But the Phillies bought into that "respected veteran" tag, and doubtless also saw a way to stick it to the Mets, by signing Castillo. After all, another Met castoff, Wilson Valdez, filled in ably for Jimmy Rollins last year and now will be filling in for Chase Utley.

Ultimately, the Phillies spent a few days in spring training to discover what the Mets already knew - Castillo wasn't worth it. So they let him go. But some news outlets such as the Sports Network continued to spin the notion that Castillo was worthy of a roster spot:

As expected, the Philadelphia Phillies have placed second baseman Chase Utley and reliever Brad Lidge on the disabled list to start the season.

In related but unexpected news Wednesday, the club released veteran second baseman Luis Castillo.

Unexpected? Is Castillo now the Cliff Lee of spring free agents? How many more times must Castillo fail before people concede that it was a smart baseball decision for the Mets to let Castillo go?

At least even the Mets' detractors haven't been able to find a way to criticize the release of Oliver Perez.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Brian Cashman Shocked to Find Out that Pedro Feliciano Got Used a Lot

I just saw that Brian Cashman is apparently the last person in New York to notice that the Mets rode pitcher Pedro Feliciano pretty hard when he was with the team. What's next? Cashman professing shock that A.J. Burnett is a little flaky? Brian being surprised that John Sterling makes some over-the-top home run calls? Cash wondering why Gary Busey acts so wacky on "Celebrity Apprentice"?

Here's the story on Feliciano. YES Network reporter Jack Curry sez on his Twitter feed today that Cashman complained today about the way the other team across town used him, griping, "He was abused." Feliciano led the big leagues in pitching appearances over the last three years, Curry notes.

You know, in an era where most baseball players don't have good nicknames any more, Feliciano has not one but two. And both are related to being used all the time: Everyday Pedro and Perpetual Pedro. That should have been a clue that there might be an issue here.

The fact that Feliciano ended up on the disabled list before the season even began shouldn't be shocking to ANYBODY. Especially a GM who works in the very same town as the Mets do. This wasn't exactly some obscure fact here!

I mean, doesn't Cashman remember The Torre Years? He should know what happens when a manager overworks bullpen arms -- ineffectiveness, time on the disabled list, and ultimately Tommy John surgery.

Besides, complaining about Feliciano being "abused" by the Mets is just obnoxious. Yes, they overworked him. And didn't re-sign him, even though Feliciano did a good job for them. That should have been a clue to the smartest GM in baseball. It's like spending an evening with Charlie Sheen, and wondering why he can't just stick to drinking milkshake and playing tiddlywinks while watching "Matlock" reruns.

Instead, with Feliciano, Cashman had one of his "clap your hands if you believe in fairies" wishful thinking moments. Like when he was willing to take a chance -- again -- this winter on Carl Pavano, the worst Yankee signing in history. He actually offered him $10 million to pitch (or more likely, not pitch) for the Yanks in 2011. Imagine if Pavano had agreed to it. American Idle would be on the disabled list for a hangnail injury, and Cash would find a way to blame it on the Twins or something. Good grief.

Curry said Cashman told him he signed Feliciano because, as Curry writes, "there was limited market for lefty relievers." Oh, boo bleeding hoo. Sorry, but signing a pitcher the winter after he was only the fifth reliever in history to make 90 or more appearances in one season, and then complaining about the Mets abusing him, is just ridiculous. That would be like bringing back Javier Vazquez after he gave up a grand slam to the Boston Red Sox in the worst loss in the history of the franchise or something. Oh, wait.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Mets Opening Day: It Could Have Been Worse

I was skeptical of Terry Collins batting Willie Harris second on Opening Day, but it turned out to be the right move. Too bad the main thing it achieved was breaking up a no-hitter in the seventh inning.

There's no shame in being shut down by Josh Johnson, one of the best pitchers in baseball and a longtime Met killer, but a no-hitter on Opening Day would have been a disastrous way to start the year. Even before the game, when Collins wrote in Friday's letter to Met fans, "I stack our lineup against anyone else's in the league," I had to wonder what league he was talking about.

As for Mike Pelfrey, I'm a fan - I even got a Pelfrey T-shirt last year, (which coincided with him going into his midseason slump). At the time, Pelfrey, the ninth overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft, looked headed for the All-Star game. Pelfrey has the potential to be an ace.

But I'm tired of hearing all the talk of how he's now an ace and what an honor and responsibility it is to start on Opening Day. And how he has to face all the other aces going forward, as if there's no such thing as off days and rainouts. Pelfrey did not earn this position, but was given it because of Johan Santana's injury.

We haven't heard much about Brad Emaus being the starting second baseman because he didn't earn that role in spring training, but won it by being the least bad alternative. Or, more likely, being a Rule 5 who would have to be returned to Toronto if he didn't stay on the roster. And the fact that J.P. Ricciardi drafted him in Toronto didn't hurt, either.

Expectations are low with Emaus, so anything he does will be a plus. And he has the opposite situation as the player who follows a superstar - as I wrote yesterday, Emaus has the advantage of following Luis Castillo.

Even if the Mets concede Pelfrey is not an ace, Friday's game was still disappointing - Pelfrey couldn't get out of the fifth inning. But it's still just one game. And it's still good to have baseball back.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mets Opening Day Still Special

Despite everything going on off the field, I can't wait for the season opener tonight against the Marlins. Now the trick is to see how long the positive vibes last. Can I make it past the first batter, Jose Reyes, poster child for the financial woes that plague the team? Let's look on the bright side - at least he's still a Met - for now.

But the second batter will also pose a challenge. What's Willie Harris doing in the spot instead of Angel Pagan? It brings back memories of last year's Opening Day lineup, when Mike Jacobs batted cleanup. That lineup also featured Gary Matthews Jr. starting over Pagan.

At least Jason Bay should be back soon, and the bar is set pretty low for him to improve over last year's six homers.

Along with Bay, there are too many question marks to be confident about the lineup. Who knows how healthy Carlos Beltran will be. Who is the real Pagan - the one with an OPS of .845 in the first half of 2010 or the one whose OPS fell to .678 in the second half? Josh Thole hit .301 in August, but just .216 in September. And Brad Emaus is a complete mystery, though at least he has the advantage of not being Luis Castillo.

As for the pitching, Johan Santana made 29 starts last year with a 2.98 ERA. What's the best we can hope for this year - 12 starts and a 4.00 ERA?

But Oliver Perez and John Maine also made a total of 16 starts, with one win from Maine and none from Perez. Throw in Pat Misch's six starts with no wins and Jennry Mejia's three starts with no wins, and that makes 25 starts with a grand total from the starters of one win.

So if you look at Chris Young and Chris Capuano as not just replacing Johan, but also Ollie and Maine, suddenly this year's rotation looks competitive with last year's. Jon Niese could take a step forward, R.A. Dickey could take a step back, and Mike Pelfrey will probably do his usual step forward and step back within the same season.

The bullpen could be pretty good. Francisco Rodriguez had a better year in 2010 than most gave him credit for (on the field at least) and he's had a strong spring. The Mets so far appear to have plenty of options for the other relief roles.

It's too bad that Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi are gone, but you never know how things will go with middle relievers. Perpetual Pedro is no longer perpetual at the moment, landing on the Yankees' DL. And in Takahashi's Angels' debut, he gave up a homer to none other than Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur.

As for Terry Collins, I look at him as more of a referendum on the front office dream team - the first big move and a particular favorite of Paul DePodesta.

So far, I'm cautiously optimistic on both Collins and the front office, though with regards to the latter, I'm not buying that they're so smart they don't need a big-market budget.

Prediction: 83 wins - unless there's a fire sale at the trade deadline. Let's Go Mets!

How will the Mets do this season? Tell us what you think.

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