Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mets-Royals World Series Game 3: The Captain rights the ship

Before last night, David Wright was evoking memories of another captain who overstayed his welcome in the top part of the lineup. Then Wright showed how wrong those of us who doubted him were when he hit a two-run homer in his first home at bat in the World Series and later singled in two more runs to put Game 3 out of reach. The Mets' bats woke up to the tune of nine runs, and not a moment too soon. Now it's a Series again.

While Noah Syndergaard set the tone with his first pitch, high and inside, got twelve straight outs at one point, and worked out of a based-loaded jam in the sixth when he was already over 100 pitches, most of his final numbers - 6 innings, 3 earned runs, 7 hits, 2 walks - were comparably to Matt Harvey's in Game 1 - 6 innings, 3 earned runs, 5 hits, 2 walks.  Syndergaard struck out six to Harvey's two, had a lot more swings and misses, and of course threw that opening tone-setter, but it was the Met bats that made the most dramatic improvement from the first two games.

It's even debatable how much of a game-changer, much less a Series-changer, Syndergaard's first pitch was. The initial results were not good - by the second inning, Syndergaard had given up three runs and Jon Niese was warming up. One could have argued at that point that Syndergaard had angered the Royals. But then Syndergaard retired all nine batters he faced in the third, fourth and fifth on his way to twelve in a row. And while the performances of Harvey and Jacob deGrom in Game 2 raised speculation that the Mets' young pitchers were worn out from pitching deep into October, Syndergaard got his biggest out with the bases loaded in the sixth on his 104th pitch.

But debating on who was the biggest hero last night for the Mets is like arguing over which is the best doughnut at Dough. Both Thor and the Captain came through in a must-win situation. Curtis Granderson hit his second homer in three World Series games.

Along with moving Wright down in the order, I also wondered before the game if Michael Conforto should be benched and if Juan Uribe was really healthy enough to be on the roster. Then Conforto threw out Alex Gordon at third and drove in a run with an infield hit. And Uribe, in his first plate appearance in over a month, singled in a run and later scored. It was that kind of night.

After Game 2, the Mets looked dead. After Game 3, things look much better. The Mets have a rested Steven Matz going in Game 4 against Chris Young, who is pitching on three days rest after throwing over 50 pitches in relief in Game 1. And the Mets have that great Citi Field crowd behind them. Let's go Mets - and Matz!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mets-Royals World Series Game 2 - deGrominated

Game 1 was bad enough, but Game 2 was even worse. At least the Mets could have and probably should have won Game 1. But the Mets were outplayed in every phase in Game 2. The hitting and pitching issues that surfaced in Game 1 look much worse now. And the Royals are halfway to the title.

After Game 1, I rationalized that Matt Harvey had pitched well enough for five innings before giving up the lead in the sixth. In Game 2, Jacob deGrom did not allow a hit until the fourth inning. After four, he had allowed no runs and one hit. But then it all fell apart for deGrom and the Mets. In the fifth inning, he allowed four earned runs on five hits. deGrom did not come out for the sixth. 

After two games, a trend looks to be developing. The Met starters can't strike out the Royals - just four Ks combined in 11 innings. And while the Mets needed to blow past innings limits just to get to the World Series, the starters now appear less able to go deep into games.

Starting pitching was supposed to be the big advantage for the Mets. Johnny Cueto allowed eight earned runs in two innings in his previous start and has been erratic since his trade to Kansas City. But Cueto held the Mets to just two hits and became the first American League pitcher to throw a complete game since Jack Morris in 1991.

Game 1 seemed to emphasize that the Royals would have their best chance to win once the games went to the bullpen. But the Royals were able to win Game 2 without using their bullpen at all, keeping them rested. 

It was inevitable that Daniel Murphy would cool off. But not only has nobody else stepped up, but it's become more evident that much of the Mets lineup has been lousy throughout the entire postseason. Wilmer Flores has a .669 OPS with no homers and no RBI. Yoenis Cespedes has an OPS of .631.Travis d'Arnaud OPS is .595, David Wright's is .540, and Michael Conforto, just 1-for-20, has a batting average of .050 and an OPS of .325.

A great Game 3 from Noah Syndergaard and a mediocre performance in Game 4 from Chris Young, who threw 53 pitches in Game 1, and this series could be tied. So there's still hope. But that hope is slipping away fast.

Contest: Win a Ruben Tejada autographed baseball gift package, courtesy of Verizon

Thanks to our friends at Verizon, one of our lucky readers can win a Ruben Tejada autographed baseball prize package! Here's what you'll get in the gift package if you win:
  • Ruben Tejada autographed baseball 
  • Mets cap (official MLB World Series edition)
  • Lipstick-sized phone charger 
  • Big League Chew gum
  • Black Verizon tote
Here is what you need to do if you want to win this: send an email to with the subject line "LGM" and your name and mailing address info in the body of the email.

This contest is only open to readers in the continental U.S. Please enter between now and tomorrow (Friday, October 30) at 5:00 p.m. We will pick a winner at random before Game 3 of the World Series Friday.

You may remember that Verizon got me into a sweet Citi Field suite on Opening Day, and lent me a Verizion Ellipsis 8 tablet to take pictures with (my shocking shot with Mr. Met came from the camera in the tablet!) Incidentally, if you are in the market for a tablet, I highly recommend the Ellipsis 8. And don't forget the Verizon charging station at Citi Field: I have used it more than once to charge my iPhone at!

Verizon also has some tips at this link and below for baseball fans to offer a seamless mobile experience for the World Series games at Citi Field this Friday, Saturday and Sunday:.

 • Keep your selfie game on point. Lose the selfie sticks out of respect for your fellow fans, but gain more “likes” with selfies that don’t just highlight your face, but include the field green and scoreboard in the background. If you’re taking the subway, snap a shot getting off the 7 train to capture the energy of the crowd before the first pitch.

 • Share updates in real time with your family and friends. Love what you just saw? Tweet it, upload a picture of it and tell your friends. There is no such thing as oversharing when it comes to the championship.

• Ensure your connection is strong. Verizon has increased capacity at Citi Field by adding more sites and allocating more spectrum to LTE so customers should experience a fast and reliable connection during the series. Fans can also leverage Verizon’s free Wi-Fi in the stadium.

• Stay fully charged in the stands. Don’t let the fear of your battery running low limit your game time data usage. Pick up a Mophie Powerstation to extend the power of your device and stay in the game.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mets-Royals World Series Game 1: Extra painful

There's not much worse than having your dominant closer give up the lead in the ninth inning of a World Series game. Unless he went in facing the 7-8-9 hitters. And the number 8 hitter smacked a 428-foot home run. And now that the game looked lost - a deflating homer, the game now to be decided by the middle relievers, a big disadvantage for the Mets - the teams continued to battle for five more innings before the Mets lost with the help of an error by the captain who had waited so long to get to the World Series.

This is a bad loss and potentially a fatal one. But let's not call David Wright and Jeurys Familia goats just yet. Wright has made several great plays in the field this postseason, including a leaping catch in yesterday's fourth inning. Familia's blown save was that much more disappointing because he's been so dominant in this postseason. Compare that to Armando Benitez, who blew the save in the last World Series Game 1 the Mets were in before yesterday. That postseason, Benitez had two saves and two blown saves. For his Mets career, he had three blown saves in six postseason chances. That's why he's remembered as a regular-season star who couldn't get it down in the postseason. Familia is now 5 of 6 in postseason save chances with an 0.82 ERA.

The Mets really seemed destined to win the game when Eric Hosmer, winner of the last two American League Gold Gloves at first base, allowed the go-ahead run to score when a ground ball got by him on a play that naturally brought up memories of Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series. If the Mets had gone on to win, the Royals would have been lamenting a loss due to one of their main strengths - defense - faltering at a critical moment. But one of the Mets' main strengths, Familia, returned the favor an inning later.

Along with Buckner in 1986 and Benitez in 2000, the game also brought back memories of the 1969 World Series, when Tom Seaver gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Don Buford, in Game 1. And my friend Roger suggests that five-tool centerfielder Yoenis Cespedes' mishandling of the ball that Alcides Escobar hit that went for an inside-the-park homer was reminiscent of the 1973 World Series, when the ultimate five-tool centerfielder, Willie Mays, was struggling in the outfield at the end of his career.

Just before Cespedes and Michael Conforto mishandled Escobar's fly ball, Cespedes was a no-show for the pregame introductions. That may mean nothing and may be a coincidence. Perhaps he had an upset stomach and did not feel like sharing the details. But this is the player who suddenly came down with an injury in Game 4 of the NLCS and he's already gotten the benefit of the doubt that it had anything to do with him playing golf that day. And then he shows up on the bench in the ninth inning of Game 4 wearing a championship shirt and goggles. Even Ron Darling in the TBS broadcast booth began muttering about the baseball gods. Maybe the baseball gods were hovering over centerfield last night.

The Royals lived up to their billing as a team that keeps coming back. Matt Harvey has gotten a lot of criticism for reduced velocity and not throwing enough fastballs last night, but he had allowed just one run going into the sixth inning, and that run was the tainted inside-the-park homer. But the Royals rallied for two runs to tie the game in the sixth, and Harvey was done after 80 pitches.

The Mets lost the first two games in 1986, and did so at home, so tonight is not necessarily a must-win. But it's pretty close.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

World Series Mets-Royals: Four wins to go!

29 years ago today, I sat in the upper deck at Shea Stadium as the Mets won Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. At the time, I thought it was the start of a dynasty. Instead, it's been the only title for the Mets in 46 seasons. And the only other time the Mets got to the World Series since then, it was something I tried to forget after the Mets lost the Yankees in five games. Now the Mets have a chance to create new memories, and spare Squawker Lisa from hearing so much about 1986.

I'm saying Mets in six because of their big advantage in starting pitching.  While the Met starters have been blowing people away, Royals starters have been shaky at best. Johnny Cueto allowed eight earned runs in just two innings in his last start in the ALCS. He also allowed four earned runs in his first start in the ALDS. Cueto pitched well in his other postseason start, beating the Astros in the deciding ALDS game five, but that's still two lousy starts out of three. Combine that with his regular-season ERA of 4.76 in 13 games as a Royal (after a 2.62 ERA in 19 game with the Reds) and one has to wonder if the injury-prone Cueto is hurt again.

Edinson Volquez also has two mediocre postseason starts sandwiched around one good one. Yordano Ventura has also had just one good postseason start this year.

The Royals were able to win two playoff series despite having a starters' ERA of 5.56 because they had a lower overall ERA in each series thanks to their 2.85 postseason ERA. In 41 innings, the Royals pen has 59 strikeouts.

Met starters need to significantly outpitch the Royal starters because the Mets don't want to let the bullpens decide these games. Wade Davis is even better than Jeurys Familia, and the Royals' setup men are much better than their Met counterparts.

On the hitting side, Daniel Murphy is not going to keep hitting a home run in every game, especially after a layoff, but the Mets have had others consistently step up during this postseason, especially when they are not facing an ace. But while the Royals hitting does not seem imposing, they seem to constantly find ways to win, as when Lorenzo Cain scored the game-winning run from first on a single in the final ALCS game.

The Mets would seem to have a good chance of putting a couple of games out of reach early against the Royals' starters. The Mets scored in the first inning in all four NLCS games, including three runs in Game 2 and four runs in Game 4. So even if the Royals' bullpen, great defense, low strikeout totals from their hitters and overall scrappy play could make most of the games tossups, the Met starters should provide the decisive edge to enable to Mets to win in six. Let's Go Mets!

Monday, October 26, 2015

What snobby runners and same-sex marriage opponents have in common

I recently heard about a New York Times story from a few years back about slower runners. The article, written by Juliet Macur, is entitled "Plodders Have a Place, but Is It in a Marathon?" This is one of those types of stories that goes viral every few months, and it apparently did so again recently. The gist of the piece is that the Times interviewed a bunch of whiny runners who feel that their New York City Marathon experience has somehow been ruined because of runners who take longer time to finish the course than they do. And they feel that their own marathon records are devalued by the "plodders."

Adrienne Wald, the women's cross-country coach in the University of Rochelle, said in the piece that "There used to be a pride saying that you ran a marathon, but not anymore. Now it’s, 'How low is the bar?" And Julia Given, 46, who finished the Baltimore Marathon in 4:04:52, (which isn't an elite time, by the way!) sniffed: “If you’re wearing a marathon T-shirt, that doesn’t mean much anymore,” Given said. "I always ask those people, ‘What was your time?’ If it’s six hours or more, I say, ‘Oh great, that’s fine, but you didn’t really run it.’”

These quotes examplify a small but real undercurrent in the running world of what legendary runner Frank Shorter calls "snobbery." He said you "never" hear such criticisms "from elite runners," noting that "Elite runners admire other people’s performance. I find it much better to welcome slow runners to the club than to vote them out." 

At any rate, I fail to understand how the heck having slower runners in marathons (whose money helps fund the race, enable bigger prizes, etc.) devalues the faster runners' accomplishments? It is literally the same argument that homophobes make when they claim that allowing same-sex marriage somehow devalues their own marriages. Why in the world does it matter to you if Susie Slowpoke finishes the NYC Marathon in five or six hours (or, for that matter, if Susie Slowpoke wants to marry Pamela Plodder?) It smacks of insecurity to me. 

There's also a certain cluelessness (or even outright hostility) towards slower runners that I've noticed in some of the races I have done. While the vast majority of the over 60 road races I have run in the past two years have been fantastic, and most fellow runners supportive, there have been some real doozies, like when the Staten Island Half Marathon, which I completed two weeks ago, ran out of water and Powergels. 

And the crazy race I did yesterday,.which was almost comical in the reminder about how those of us slower runners sometimes get treated. I did the Frost on the Pumpkin 10K race, a small race in South River, NJ, with members of my running club. The good news is I had my best time ever for a 10K race, even though my hip was acting up. The not-so-good news is what happened before I crossed the finish line. There were so many things that went wrong, it was ridiculous

Believe it or not, I've never finished last in a road race until yesterday; there are usually a good number of people behind me in the bigger races. Even in the smallest races, there is usually some walker, or older person, behind me. So I've never had the sweeper vehicle (the car or bike that follows the end of a race, to check on people's safety) directly behind me before. But yesterday, I finished last (spoiler alert!) And there was an ambulance acting as the sweeper car. Only thing was, the ambulance driver, for whatever reason, decided to cut in front of me and leave me out there by my lonesome. 

Maybe he was bored. I dunno. But this driver's actions appeared to cause a chain reaction. Cops and race marshals who were on the race course directing traffic left, because they understandably thought all the runners were done. That meant that one of the cars on the road when I was running nearly hit me.

It also meant that a poorly-marked course, with twists and turns, became even harder to navigate, and cost me (and many of my fellow club members) time. After the car mishap, and after running over a mile and not seeing a single human being on the course, I ended up calling the local police department to make sure I was still in the actual race. That's how isolated I was!

A cop came out a few minutes later to check on me and direct me on the right path. A mile or so later, another police officer directed me to turn right, only to find out, as I went down the hill, that I was supposed to turn right *after* that block! Oy.

Anyhow, I finally finished the race -- the nice thing was that there were a few people at the finish line who clapped and cheered for me. But the time clock was turned off! And while I know my 1:24:?? time was the best I've ever run for the race, I found out today that this might not count as a PR due to the clock not being on. What a fitting cap to a debacle of a race.

Look, I understand that race directors are under a lot of pressure. But the whole thing made me feel like a second-class citizen. Slow runners pay the same fees as everyone else, yet do not always get the same treatment or experience.

And I really think that every single race director should have to enter a race and finish in the back of the pack, to see that the experience isn't always so fun. It can be very lonely. If the race directors don't want to deal with slow runners, then have a time limit. But they won't do that in most races, as they will lose the money from the back of the pack runners.  

If I had been a new runner, yesterday would have been my last race. As it is, I won't go back to this one next year. But really, there has to be a better way. Just think about what it would be like to run 10K and not even be able to get an official time at the end, because somebody turned off the clock. Or to worry that you were going to get hit by a car during a road race.

Look, I'm trying as much as I can to be a faster runner. I've been at this at two years, though, and I have zero natural ability or talent at it. Suggesting I simply run faster, or wait until I can so I can be assured that I am treated with common courtesy, as some have said, is a bit much. How about races treating all of the runners well? Or is that too much to ever hope for?

[Update: My running club friend Amy, who ran the race as well, discovered that there actually is a time listed for me: 1:24:24 (13:37 pace.) And that somebody else finished 11 minutes behind me! I feel terrible for that person; his race experience must have been even worse than mine!]

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Why this Yankee fan is rooting for the Mets to win the World Series

Squawker Jon and I just before the NLDS started.
Jon looks cautiously optimistic, as my brother said.
For once, Squawker Jon and I are on the same side when it comes to our rooting interests! And it feels more than a little strange.  Normally, we're at each others' throats at this time of year. Now we're actually getting together to watch games. It's like dogs and cats living together!

And even Red Sox fan BFF/frenemy Nick at Monstah Mash is rooting for the Mets. The fact we are all on the same side is a sure sign of something very strange afoot!

It has been an exciting postseason so far. I have watched more October baseball this year than I ever have in any year that the Yankees weren't really involved.

Especially the Mets. I have seen almost every pitch of every one of their nine playoff games to date. More than some Mets fans I know who have more of a life than me!

I wrote a few weeks ago why I wanted the Mets to win it all. (Click here to read why.) Not only would it be good for the Squawkers and my plans for world domination, but it would give my blogging partner and his fellow Mets fans something to talk about besides 1986. (Mets coach Tim Teufel recently said that even his fellow 1986 Mets are sick of hearing about the 1986 Mets!)

And it might also light a fire under Yankee brass. We all know that Hal Steinbrenner doesn't really care about baseball. But he does care about money. And if this town starts to become a Mets town, and his bottom line is threatened, he might actually wake up and shake things up in Yankeeland. Once rich people start entertaining their clients at Citi Field instead of Yankee Stadium, you'll see some real change.

John Scimeca, one of our longtime readers, shared this quote with me the other day: "Somehow I go back to 1969 when the Mets won the pennant and Yankees President Michael Burke sent the following telegram to M. Donald Grant of the Mets: 'Congratulations on being Number One - am rooting for you to hang in there and take all the marbles. As a New Yorker, I am ecstatic, as a baseball person, I am immensely pleased, and as a Yankee, I consider suicide the easy option.'" Heh.

The Mets winning has also given me a chance to be an altruist for once in my miserable life. I have been genuinely happy for Jon and my Met fan friends (and strangely enough, I have more Met fan friends than Yankee fan friends. Go figure.) They have waited 15 long years for this moment. And they haven't become completely insufferable yet. So let them enjoy this October. Let's go Mets, I say.

However, some of my Yankee fan brethren disagree, and are rooting against the Mets. They are also claiming that so-called "true" or "real" Yankee fans would not cheer for the folks from Flushing.

First of all, I hate the idea of "true" Yankee fans just as much as I do the self-appointed Yankee experts who deem players like A-Rod not a "true" Yankee.

And contrary to their opinion, there is nothing wrong with wanting the other New York team to win. Maybe it's because I lived in Texas for 15 years. But the rest of the country hates/envies New York. So what's wrong with wanting the fellow New York team to succeed? (Incidentally, they think of *all* of us New York transplants as "damn Yankees," for what it's worth!)

Look. If you are a Yankee fan and can't root for the Mets, knock yourself out. But don't tell me what I can do. I don't react well to that!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

NLCS Mets-Cubs Game 4: Who let the cicadas out?

In 1986, the Mets made the World Series for the first time in thirteen years. In 2000, the Mets made the World Series for the first time in fourteen years. And now the Mets are in the World Series for the first time in fifteen years. My friend and fellow Met fan Dina compared the Mets to cicadas and their 17-year (sometimes 13-year) life cycle. Indeed, today the whole town is, uh, buzzing - the Mets are in the World Series!

This is the tenth season of Subway Squawkers, and being a Met fan during the time has often been more comparable to a plague of locusts. Things looked promising when Subway Squawkers began in 2006 as part of the New York Daily News website. The Mets were coming off an 83-79 season. They won 97 games, only to be upset in the NLCS.

As disappointing as the end of the 2006 season was, it was largely downhill for Met fans in the following years.  Chokes in  September 2007 and 2008. And then things really got bad. Bernie Madoff. Luis Castillo. The Yankees go to the World Series and you're not even sure if you should root against them because they are playing the Phillies.

Even when the Mets had a chance to celebrate something, it was always short-lived. Jose Reyes wins a batting title but leaves the last game of the season in the first inning, sparking criticism from media and fans. (Personally, I thought Reyes got a raw deal here for all the criticism about him not "playing the game the right way," particularly with what would later happen with the player he beat out for the batting title, Ryan Braun.) And then it turned out to be Reyes' last game as a Met.

The Mets finally get a no-hitter, but Johan Santana throws 134 pitches and his career craters soon afterward.

R.A. Dickey becomes one of the most unexpected Cy Young award winners ever and is promptly traded away.

It seemed that whenever the Mets finally had someone to root for, he was soon off the team. When Dickey was traded, I wrote the following:

I hope Dickey proves all the doubters wrong. With Jose Reyes also joining the Blue Jays, I now have a new team to root for in the AL East.

That said, with the current state of the Mets' franchise, trading Dickey for the haul of prospects the Mets got could be the right move long-term. Citi Field could even become a more interesting place if the team appears to be building for the future instead of treading water and denying they are in rebuilding mode.

At that point, all I wanted was a little hope. Who would have thought that Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard would be integral parts of a pennant winner within three years?

Now it's the Mets who are upsetting the 97-win team in the NLCS. Now it's the other team with the ludicrous fielding displays (I'd still take Kyle Schwarber's bat on my team, though). Now, instead of trading away a Cy Young winner, the Met mow down Cy Young candidates Zack Greinke, Clayton  Kershaw and Jake Arrieta. 

When Santana and his huge contract went down with a serious injury, he could not successfully come back.  When David Wright and his huge contract went down with a serious injury, he made it back in time for the homestretch and postseason.  In Game 4, Wright's leaping grab of a Starlin Castro liner with the bases loaded and none out in the fourth prevented the Cubs from getting back in the game.

Now, instead of having to wait a cicada life cycle for another Mets World Series, Met fans only have to wait a few days. Amazing! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

NLCS Mets-Cubs Game 3: Things are going great, and they're only getting better

It was 2-2 in the sixth inning with two outs when Trevor Cahill struck out Michael Conforto. The inning was over and the Cubs were still in good position to win and cut the series lead to 2-1. Except for one thing - the Cubs are cursed. The strikeout pitch got away from catcher Miguel Montero and Conforto ran to first while Yoenis Cespdes raced home from third with what would prove to be the winning run. Now the Cubs are down, 3-0, and only one team has ever come back from that deficit (Squawker Lisa, I'm drawing a blank - can you help me out here?).

As if to underscore how cursed the Cubs are, on the very next play right fielder Jorge Soler fell flat on his face failing to field a single by Wilmer Flores.  Conforto raced around to apparently score an insurance run, but had to go back to third when the ball was ruled dead after rolling into the ivy covering the outfield wall. At the time, it was a big break for the Cubs, but it only underscored the cruelty of their curse by giving them false hope. Instead, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber continued the Cubs' shaky defensive play in the seventh, giving the Mets two more runs and a 5-2 win.

Bryant, Schwarber and Soler are three of the Cubs' rising young hitters. Before the series, the debate was the Cubs' young position players vs. the Mets' young pitchers. As Casey Stengel said, good pitching will always stop good hitting, and vice versa.  But there's no vice versa here. The Mets pitching staff has a 1.67 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and a 29-5 K/BB ratio in 27 innings. The Cubs are hitting .158 with a .492 OPS.

And good hitting is not going to have a chance against good pitching when those good hitters are fielding as poorly as the Cubs were last night.

Today is "Back to the Future Day." In the second movie, made in 1989, Marty McFly traveled to October 21, 2015. In the movie, the Cubs win the 2015 World Series, a fact frequently mentioned recently as a potential good omen for the long-suffering franchise.

Naturally, what could now happen is that Back to the Future Day will mark the Cubs' latest elimination and heartbreak.

Speaking of "future" references in popular culture, "The Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)" came out in 1986, a year in which the Mets' future never looked brighter. The song was meant to be cynical, not inspirational, but in the 2015 NLCS, I'm taking the lyrics at face value: "Things are going great, and they're only getting better." Indeed they are!

Tonight or soon after, the 2015 Mets will be able to sing "The Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Goggles to Keep the Champagne Out of My Eyes). Let's Go Mets!

Monday, October 19, 2015

NLCS Mets-Cubs Game 2: Daniel Murphy and the One Hot Hitter Theory

So much for being Eeyore - I thought Game 2 was over in the first inning when the Mets scored three times off of Jake Arrieta, who had not allowed a first-inning run in his previous 25 starts. But Arrieta now had to contend with the October version of Daniel Murphy.

Before the playoffs, which scenario would seem less likely - Murphy homering off Arrieta, Clayton Kershaw (twice), Zack Greinke and Jon Lester in a span of seven playoff games, or Murphy being walked intentionally in favor of pitching to Yoenis Cespedes, which happened last night? And now people are starting to argue over who is more important to re-sign - Murphy or Cespedes.

(In the interest of keeping Eeyore banished for now, I am refraining from commenting on the Mets' likelihood of increasing payroll next season, though I did pause the 2016 season-ticket ad to try to determine which Mets depicted in the promotion are certain to actually be on the team next season.)

Cespedes has cooled off after his torrid few weeks and Lucas Duda has been ice cold after a couple of hot streaks of his own. But with the Mets' amazing starting pitching, which continued with Noah Syndergaard striking out nine and allowing one earned run in  5 2/3 innings, the Mets seem to need only one hot hitter to carry the lineup while the starting pitching does the rest.

Murphy isn't doing it all by himself - Curtis Granderson is hitting .357 in the postseason with 7 RBI and started the first-inning rally with a single.  Juan Lagares has five hits in 11 at bats with five runs scored. But Murphy has been the difference maker, while Cespedes is now hitting .214 and Lucas Duda (.095) and David Wright (.087) are not even on the interstate.

If the Cubs do start pitching around Murphy, someone else will need to step up. Since this has been such a magical run, why not Wilmer Flores?

Obviously, anything can still happen (see Murphy, Daniel). But with the Mets up 2-0 and deGrom pitching Game 3, the magic certainly looks back. Let's Go Mets!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

NLCS Mets-Cubs Game 1: Dark Knight for Chicago

Turns out the Mets made a great addition to their postseason roster - an All-Star caliber pitcher.  He replaced that guy who seemed more concerned about innings counts and preserving his arm for a future free-agent contract. Welcome back, Dark Knight!

As if it weren't enough that Matt Harvey blew away the Cubs in Game 1, he even took a line drive off his pitching shoulder in the sixth inning and waved it off. I half expected to see Scott Boras storm onto the field wheeling an MRI machine. But Harvey did not even throw a warmup pitch to make sure he was all right (Boras would have included that pitch in his pitch count).

Like many Met fans, I got fed up with Harvey in the later part of the season.  Wilmer Flores cried when it looked like he was leaving the Mets. Harvey and Boras whined when it looked like Harvey would have to keep pitching for the Mets past what Boras claimed was his innings limit.

As I've said before, Harvey has every right to worry about his arm and Boras is just doing his job, though Boras did his client a disservice by making the dispute public. And I'm glad that Harvey ended up throwing under 100 pitches (97) on a cold night when his tricep swelled up from getting hit.

But this is the playoffs, and fortunately there is no debate from anyone on going all out. With all due respect to Steven Matz, who has great future potential, the Mets have a big three that needs to start the first three games of the NLCS so they all have the possibility of pitching again. That's why it's so important that Noah Syndergaard is pitching tonight in Game 2, even though he pitched in relief Thursday and warmed up four times.

I do hope, though, that Collins is eventually willing to go to someone besides Jeurys Familia in relief. Let the starters pitch deep into the games if they are doing well, not just because you are afraid to go to a middle reliever.  Bartolo Colon has pitched reasonably well and no other reliever besides Eric Goeddel (who is not on the NLCS roster) has pitched poorly enough to rule them out. It's reasonable to expect that Syndergaard might not have a long outing tonight, and if so, it's a chance to determine who can be trusted in middle relief.

After picking the Dodgers in the first series because of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, I am not making that same mistake again. Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester? Big deal!  Actually, it is a big deal for the Cubs to win tonight with the usually unhittable Arrieta on the mound. But even if they don't, this series is looking a lot brighter for the Mets than the tossup it appeared to be before it started. Lester was beatable in Game 1. And when the Mets turned on the bat signal. the Dark Knight rose to the occasion. Let's Go Mets!

Friday, October 16, 2015

NLDS Mets-Dodgers Game 5 Wrapup: Daniel Murphy Dropkicks Dodgers

Daniel Murphy's usual walkup music is "Shipping Up to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys, and Murphy showed in Game 5 that if the Mets allow him to ship out after the season as expected, they will be making a big mistake. Thanks to Murphy, the Mets are shipping up to the NLCS.

I picked the Dodgers to win the series because I could not see how the Mets could win two out of four starts from Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. According to ESPN, the Dodgers were 19-0 going into last night when they scored at least two runs in a Greinke start. Last night, the Dodgers scored two runs. So how did they lose? Daniel Murphy and some Mets magic.

On the first play of the game, Curtis Granderson was called out at first base on a very close play. The Mets challenged the play and the call was overturned. Had the play not been challenged and overturned, Granderson would not have been able to score the first run on a double by, who else, Daniel Murphy.

Murphy's misadventures on the basepaths have become a running joke around the team (no pun intended). So it must be Mets magic that Murphy made the most heads-up baserunning play of the Mets season to enable the Mets to score their second run. With Murphy on first in the fourth inning, Lucas Duda walked. Murphy trotted to second as if nothing was amiss. But the shift had been on against Duda and Murphy saw that third base was not covered. So when Murphy reached second, he suddenly took off for third and made it easily. A really smart play by Murphy and a really dumb team miscue by the Dodgers. Because of Murphy's alertness, the Mets were able to score their second run on a sacrifice fly by Travis d'Arnaud.

The Dodgers missed their own chance for a clever play when right fielder Andre Ethier caught d'Arnaud's fly in foul territory. If Ethier had deliberately dropped it, Greinke might have been able to retire d'Arnaud for the second out without having a run score. With a great pitcher like Greinke, odds are he would have gotten d'Arnaud out anyway - Travis ended up hitting 3-for-19 in the series for  a .158 batting average. As it stood, Michael Conforto followed d'Arnaud by hitting into a force play for the third out. 

d'Arnaud also had a homer and four RBI in the series, and with Duda at first in addition to Murphy at third, dropping the ball could have backfired into a big inning. Also, the baseball gods were with the Mets last night, so maybe the Dodgers were doomed whatever they did. How else can you explain Murphy, not exactly Giancarlo Stanton, accounting for the Mets' third run with his third homer of the series, all off of either Greinke or Kershaw? Amazing!

The baseball gods were certainly looking over Terry Collins' shoulder when he left Jacob deGrom in through his difficult early innings, pinch-hit for deGrom in the seventh even though deGrom had finally settled into a groove and had thrown only 105 pitches,  brought in Noah Syndergaard in the seventh even though he had warmed up four times, took out Syndergaard after only one inning even though Syndergard looked great, and turned to Jeurys Familia to get a six-out save for the first time in his career. Amazing!

If not for Murphy, this whole piece could have been about deGrom, who gave up four straight hits in the first inning and looked like he was on his way to another Met starter meltdown in a critical game. In another deciding game against the Dodgers, Game 7 of the NLCS in 1988, Ron Darling was knocked out in the second inning, giving up six runs (four earned) in one inning (he faced five batters in the second, retiring none of them). With Orel Hershiser on the mound, the game was over, and the Mets went on to lose, 6-0. Things looked similarly bleak early last night against Greinke.

In Game 6 against the Braves in the 1999 NLCS, with the Mets down 3 games to 2, Al Leiter did not retire a single batter, allowing five earned runs in 0 innings. The Mets came back to tie that game before they were eliminated in the eleventh inning when Kenny Rogers walked in the winning run.

Speaking of pitchers who won't be invited back to Met reunions, future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine closed out 2007 and his Met career by allowing seven earned runs in 1/3 inning as the Mets were eliminated on the final day of the regular season.

I dredge up these miserable memories only to emphasize how big-name veteran pitchers can fall apart in a critical game when deGrom, in his second season and first postseason appearance, was able to keep his team in the game. Darling, Leiter and Glavine all had World Series rings at the time of their meltdowns. They way deGrom battled last night, he could be on the way to his own World Series ring. We can only hope!

The Mets have only one day off before starting the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs, so I'm taking this day to continue celebrating before worrying about what comes next. Lets' Go Mets!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A view from an Astros fan of Houston's amazing season

I may be a New Yorker, but Texas holds a special place in my heart. As many of you know, I lived in Texas from 1985 until 1989, and then from 1991 to 2000. I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, worked out of state for a few years after college, and then moved back to Austin. And for eight years, I worked in state government at the environmental agency that is now known as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. 

Anyhow, Chuck Epperson was one of the managers I worked for at the agency. A native Houstonian, lifelong Houston Astros fan, and all-around good guy, he lives in Austin. And we've talked a bunch during the year about the stunning ascent of the Astros. Nobody expected them to get this good this fast -- least of all, their fans! Remember, it was just last year that they were 70-92. And that looked like a great record compared to the previous three years, in which the Astros lost over 100 games. There was a reason the team is known as the Disastros.

I asked Chuck some questions about his team. Here are his thoughts:

First memories of the Astros: It is showing my age but I remember going to Astros games in the late 1960s.  I vividly remember the exploding Toy Cannon graphic whenever Jimmy Wynn hit a home run.  Also, I belonged to Astros Buddies and my Astros Buddy was Larry Dierker, our first 20-game winner.

Favorite Astros moments:  
* 1986 -- Mike Scott's no hitter to clinch the NL West on the last day of the season,
* 2005 NLCS Game 6 -- Beating the 
rival Cardinals to get into the World Series.
* This season - Every 
game that Dallas Keuchel (The Beard) pitched at home (unbelievable), Mike Fiers no hitter, the 21-5 massacre of the DBacks the last week of the season.

All-time favorite Astros: Larry Dierker, Joe Morgan, Don Wilson (very underrated), J.R. Richard, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt,  

This year's favorite Astros:  Captain Caveman/El Oso Blanco - Evan Gattis, Jose Altuve, Colby Rasmus, The Beard, mild-mannered Colin McHugh, the look-alikes (Correa/Springer), and the underrated Will Harris.

Watching games this season: For the first time in the past 5 years, I was not able to go see them play but also for the first time in that many years, all of their games were finally televised in the Austin market!

When did I think they would make it to postseason?: They were in first place for so long that I thought they were going to make it in early September, of course by the end of September, when they got behind the Angels, I thought - it's OK they still did better than expected.  Thye broke their road trip losing way on their last trip, and they were in. With continued winning on the road so far, they may just make it to the World Series.

Thoughts on the current team: This team is very different and I think is better and will be better than the really good Astros teams in the late 90's and the 2005 world series team.  Those teams seemed to be carried by a few good pitchers and a couple of decent hitters.  For those teams, we added in some late season players to get us into the playoffs - Randy Johnson, Carlos Beltran, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, but they were temporary measures at best.  

This year's team's best players are mostly homegrown and are very young.  Except for Rasmus and Kazmir (who has not really helped us much), even the other acquisitions (e.g. Valbuena, Gomez, Fiers) meshed well and seem to be in the long-term plans. It has been a weird season with the low batting averages, high strikeouts, along with the excellent pitching and great defense but they find a way to win, whether it is 1-0 or 21-5.  It feels great after so many losing seasons and I think that both the owner, Jim Crane, and the GM, Jeff Luhnow, have put together a good plan for this teams's future success.

NLDS Mets-Dodgers Game 4 wrapup: Crazy to consider putting in Jacob deGrom

It was bad enough seeing the Mets fail to put away the Dodgers in Game 4. But we also had to endure the sight of Jacob deGrom warming up in the fifth inning. Does the Mets' interest in protecting their prized young pitchers depend on how loudly their agents complain?

According to today's Daily News:

The Mets have said repeatedly that Harvey would not be allowed to pitch out of the bullpen because they fear the quick warmup would be a chance for him to re-injure his elbow. 

Yet later in the very same article:

Jacob deGrom could be seen throwing in the bullpen in the fifth inning Tuesday night, leading many to believe he had a chance of entering the game in relief instead of Colon. Collins said that was, indeed, the case. The team told deGrom in the afternoon to wait to throw his scheduled bullpen session until later in case they "might need him.". .

In Game 1 last Saturday, deGrom threw a season-high 121 pitches. We've heard a lot in all the Harvey hullabaloo about how some pitches are more stressful than others. I think it's fair to say that opening the playoffs in a tight game against Clayton Kershaw made those 121 pitches the most stressful deGrom has throw in his career.

And if deGrom ended up using his regular between-starts throwing to actually pitch in Game 4, are we supposed to believe that those playoff game pitches would not be any more stressful than a regular bullpen session?

I understand it's the playoffs and all hands are on deck. But thanks to the Harvey rules, all hands are not fully on deck. And last night was not an elimination game for the Mets.

Game 5 is an elimination game, so if deGrom falters, bring Noah Syndergaard into the game if absolutely necessary. But if deGrom pitched last night and ended up being unavailable for Game 5, who would be there to back up Syndergaard if Noah had to start Game 5? We already know it won't be Harvey, but now it couldn't be deGrom, either. Bartolo Colon has been dependable out of the bullpen, but he's now pitched in three straight games. If Jon Niese has to come in to Game 5 early, Squawker Lisa might as well send me a golf emoji right then, because the Mets season will be over.

Fortunately, deGrom is able to start Game 5 on full rest without a potentially risky relief appearance. Beating Zack Greinke won't be easy, but but the same can be said of beating deGrom. One game. Winner take all. Let's go Mets!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Yankee fan's thoughts on the Mets-Dodgers series, and why Chase Utley is a monster and Don Mattingly a bad manager

I agree!
First of all, I'd like to congratulate Squawker Jon and my other Mets fan friends on their team having their first-ever postseason game at Citi Field last night -- and their first postseason victory in nine years!

Citi Field is a beautiful ballpark, and now it finally has a team worthy of it. The house was rocking last night, for sure! (I would have liked to have seen the pregame intros live -- and to have heard the boos Chase Utley received -- though. Here's a clip of the Utley boos.)
These are pretty funny. My fave one is
the Bababooey sign. (Photos courtesy of
New York Daily News.)

Anyhow, I watched most of the game, but it was on past my bedtime, So I went to bed before it was over. Was excited to see that ex-Yankee, and all-around good guy, Curtis Granderson got one of the game's big hits!

Speaking of a Yankee fan's perspective, John S., a fellow Yankee fan and longtime Squawkers reader, left an interesting comment on my Facebook page about the Chase Utley/Ruben Tejada contretemps, Don Mattingly's mismanagement, and Joe Torre's involvement:

"Don Mattingly wimped out. Instead of recognizing that the Dodgers were at a severe disadvantage not pitching one of their aces against the Mets ace, he should have started Utley defiantly, daring the Mets to start something. He may have still lost but the Dodgers would have been furious and united had Utley been drilled. Whereas Utley hits Harvey very well, Kendrick has done nothing at all over his career against the Dark Knight - so why play him? I suspect that Pope Joe made a deal with Donnie here - Utley can play pending appeal which won't be heard until next season (when he probably won't be a Dodger anyway) - just don't play him tonight. It fits very well with the same strategy of NOT bunting on a subpar Curt Schilling. Mattingly learned his lessons well............."

You know, I wish I had thought of this analysis! And yes, I do think Torre and Mattingly made some sort of gentleman's agreement here. (Also, if Utley retires after this year, they'll never have to deal with the appeal.)

But yeah, that bad-guy stance would have been the only thing for Donnie Baseball to do. I don't think very much of Mattingly as a manager, though. (I never wanted him to manage the Yankees.) So I'm not surprised.

And any chance I get to bash Joe Torre is one I will take!

NLDS Mets-Dodgers Game 3 wrapup: The Grandy Man Can

Amazin' Amazin' Amazin'! Ya Gotta Believe! Utley Sucks! Some inspirational slogans are more family-friendly than others, but the dirty Dodger unwittingly inspired the Mets and their fans in a pivotal Game 3 win over L.A. Not to mention Ruben Tejada doing his version of a Willis Reed entrance by hobbling onto the field with his leg cast and Met-themed cane.

The pitching-centered Mets scored 13 runs, a franchise record for a postseason game. Yoenis Cespedes and Travis d'Arnaud, both slumping at the end of the regular season, both homered.  Both players also had three hits, three RBI and three runs scored, which had never been done by any Met in postseason play.

Curtis Granderson tied a Mets postseason record with 5 RBI, all off lefthanded pitchers. Granderson turned the game around with a three-run double off Brett Anderson in the second to put the Mets ahead, 4-3. In the seventh, he hit a two-run double off J.P. Howell for the Mets' final two runs.

Matt Harvey pitched well enough to win, but was not at his best. Still, it's hard to complain about anything after such a great game.

In Game 4, Clayton Kershaw vs. Steven Matz looks like a mismatch, but Kershaw is on three days rest and may not go more than six innings, so if the Mets can keep it close, their awakened bats can finish off the Dodgers once they have to go their bullpen. If not, Zack Greinke vs. Jacob deGrom in a deciding Game 5 now looks like a more even matchup than it did before the series.

But if the Mets do have to go back to L.A., we won't get to see fan signs such as "Utley ♥ ISIS." So let's put it in the books tonight!

Monday, October 12, 2015

NLDS Mets-Dodgers Game 2 wrapup/Game 3 preview: Chase the Disgrace

Chase Utley's rolling block that broke Ruben Tejada's leg has me thinking of Roger Clemens. Both players did something during a postseason Game 2 that should have gotten them ejected (Clemens threw part of a broken bat at Mike Piazza in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series). Both players' reckless play seriously injured a Met (Clemens beaned Piazza in July 2000). What remains to be seen is if the parallels between the Mets and the two dirty players continue in the aftermath of the respective incidents, or if this time the Mets show the other team they will not stand for dirty play.

The Mets did not respond to Clemens after he threw the broken bat piece at Piazza, and the Yankees went on to win that game and the Series. It took until June 2002 for the Mets to respond, and Shawn Estes throwing behind Clemens' back was a tepid response at best. Yes, Estes homered off Clemens in that game and the Mets went on to beat Clemens. But maybe it's not a coincidence that, after 2000, the Mets would fall out of contention until 2006.

When I heard that Utley had been suspended, I thought the situation had been largely resolved. Utley did something wrong and he and his team were being punished for it. It was still a good deal for the Dodgers - winning Game 2 with the help of a bad call and costing the Mets their starting shortstop at the small price of losing a backup infielder for a couple of games. Then Utley wanted to appeal, which is his right, and MLB said they could not do the appeal today, which is ridiculous. What, are they waiting for Roger Goodell to be available? If the suspension is upheld, but is not in effect until next season, that does not do the Mets any good now, not to mention that Utley could be retired by then. Dragging it out only exacerbates the situation.

As bad as this situation is, the umpires and MLB made it much worse. After reviewing the play, the umpires should have ruled that Utley interfered with Tejada and he and the batter were out. Or, if that's too bold for a postseason play, uphold the original out call. Instead, the umpires used tortured logic to rule Utley safe, giving the Dodgers an extra out and enabling them to rally for four two-out runs.

Joe Torre then made matters worse by fumbling through a postgame news conference, seeming unsure of the rules and constantly turning to an umpire representative for clarification.  As happy as I was to hear Torre's ruling of a suspension the following day, I would be annoyed if I were a Dodger fan, since Torre's initial reaction left him open to charges of overreacting to angry New Yorkers. On Saturday night, Torre should have just released a statement saying that MLB was looking into it.

I don't want to see the Mets deliberately try to injure Utley. Utley and some misguided older players have tried to muddle the issue by saying that baseball must have room for hard-nosed play, and there I agree. I don't want to see runners barred from trying to break up a double play. But it's not too much to ask for a runner to be required to slide toward the base. Or to start your slide before you are on top of the bag.

I'm also not excited about the prospect of throwing at someone like Dodger shortstop Corey Seager, who had nothing to do with the initial play.

But I'm still angry about Utley's play and hope the Mets find some way to retaliate. And this brings us to Matt Harvey, whose recent actions have made him seem more like a 24-and-1 player than someone who puts his team first. The first priority is for Harvey to pitch the Mets to within one game of the NLCS. But I'm also hoping he finds a non-dirty way to retaliate for Utley's dirty play.

If Utley is in the starting lineup, well, I know what I would like to see. But I have to concede it should not be in the second inning or whenever Utley first comes up. I can just hear Scott Boras whispering in Harvey's ear: "Hit him right away and get yourself ejected - you'll win back the Met fans and local media and still manage to keep your innings count down!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

NLDS Mets-Dodgers Game 1: Dummy Baseball

Yesterday, I drew some flak from fellow Met fans for picking the Dodgers to win the series. I did so on the basis of L.A.'s seemingly unbeatable combination of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. I failed to consider two things: 1) Jacob deGrom might outpitch Kershaw, and 2) the Dodger manager is Don Mattingly.

Matt Harvey (Dark Knight) and Noah Syndergaard (Thor) have superhero nicknames. deGrom has a promotional garden gnome that was given out in a game that Squawker Lisa and I attended in May. But while deGrom has an unassuming public persona compared to Syndergaard and especially Harvey, he has quietly continued to blow away expectations - and on the biggest stages.

deGrom made his major-league debut during the 2014 Subway Series. Rafael Montero had made his major-league debut against the Yankees the night before. Montero was considered the main prospect at the time, while deGrom was pretty much a fill-in.  deGrom pitched seven innings of one-run ball in his debut and ended up being NL Rookie of the Year.

When deGrom made the All-Star team this year, he struck out the side on ten pitches.

So when deGrom struck out six in the first two innings, it should have been no surprise. But 13 strikeouts and no runs? Only four other pitchers have ever done that in their postseason debut.

The box score will show that Kershaw was charged with three earned runs in yet another postseason loss. But Kershaw was blowing away the Mets for most of the game. In fact, it was the first postseason game ever in which both starters had at least 11 strikeouts. If not for the Daniel Murphy home run, it would have been a scoreless tie in the seventh when Kershaw walked the bases loaded, bringing David Wright to the plate with two outs and putting Mattingly on the spot.

It was deja vu all over again. In last year's NLDS Game 1, Kershaw was also great through six innings, before faltering in the seventh. Mattingly did not take him out until after the Cardinals had gotten six hits and five runs.

Mattingly may have been too slow with his hook last year, but he was too quick last night, pulling Kershaw for Pedro Baez, who gave up a two-run single to Wright that turned out to be the margin of victory.

Mattingly learned the wrong lesson from 2014. Maybe Kershaw was tiring, but he had not given up a bunch of hits. He had not given up any hits in the seventh, just walks. In fact, he had not given up a hit to a righthanded hitter all night. Sure, Wright might have gotten the same hit off of Kershaw, but it's more likely that the worst-case scenario would have been another walk, which would have been bad for the Dodgers but not as bad as a two-run single. And then nobody would argue with taking Kershaw out.

While Kershaw left after 113 pitches, Terry Collins let deGrom hit for himself in the seventh when he bunted and kept deGrom in for 121 pitches and seven innings. When Tyler Clippard stumbled in the eighth, it only showed how right Collins was to get seven innings out of the dominant deGrom. 

Yes, Mattingly had a tough choice. But he's choosing between the best pitcher on the planet and Pedro Baez, who just happens to be the same pitcher Mattingly used to relieve Kershaw in last year's NLDS Game 1. And how did Baez do last year? He walked the first batter he faced, then gave up a home run to the second. The Dodgers lost the game by one run. So Mattingly goes to this guy in the same spot this year? Dummy Baseball.


There's been a lot of talk about how David Wright has waited nine long years to get back to the postseason, and he was certainly one of the heroes last night, but Daniel Murphy is in his eighth season as a Met and had never even been to the postseason until last night, when all he did in his debut was to homer off of Kershaw for the only run in the first six innings for either team.

If there's any doubt that the Mets have some magic going this season, the defensively-challenged Murphy was moved to first base as the Mets fortified their defense in the late innings and Murphy made a great play there in the ninth.


deGrom's unflappability and Murphy's intensity were not just a winning combination in Game 1, but in the postgame interviews as well, when deGrom pulled a prank on Murphy.

Friday, October 9, 2015

This Yankee fan's Top 5 reasons to root for the Mets to win the World Series

I am wearing my Reggie Jackson shirt today
to show my Yankee pride. It's also a subtle
slam to Mets fans. Do you know why?
So much for my list ranking which teams I would most like to see win the World Series. Not only are the Yankees out, but so are the Pittsburgh Pirates! That means that the Mets are literally at the top of the list now:

3. Pirates: I interviewed Cutch and got to see the team up close. Great bunch of guys.
2. Mets: What's good for the Mets is good for the Squawkers! 
1. Yankees: Wouldn't it be something if they won this year, preferably with A-Rod as MVP? 

I also mocked the Cardinals (last on my list) with the very things Yankee fans get attacked for, saying that I'm sick of these dynasties and their entitled fans!"  (Note: My friend Tyler at Red Sox fan site Monstah Mash had a field day with this line! He doesn't like the Cards either, though. He wrote to me on Twitter the other day: "At least we're both miserable now and agree we hate the Cards." I think I'm going to bond with him and fellow Monstah Masher Nick this winter over the baseball bitterness in our hearts. But I digress!)

Anyhow, I heard yesterday that the Mets have asked their fans to wear orange and blue today in solidarity with their team. I joked I was going to pin $100 bills on my clothing to show solidarity with my Yankees. Heh.

Jon said I should wear golf gear and carry clubs to show what the Yankees are doing now -- playing golf! He also made a golf joke about me in his latest Squawk. (Newsflash: we both beat jokes into the ground. Deal with it!)

Instead, I'm rocking my Reggie Jackson circa 1977 shirt and my RBF. (Wonder who will get what an RBF is!) And there is a method to my madness in choosing the Reggie shirt. It is definitely a tweak at the Mets.

Today, Eeyore Squawker Jon predicted that the Dodgers would beat the Mets in the NLCS. Way to show confidence in your team, buddy. So does that mean I have to take up the "Mets are going all the way, baby" cause?

Since I like lists, I am going to come up with my Top 5 list of reasons why it would be good for the Mets to win the World Series:

1. It would give Metsland something to talk about besides 1969 and 1986. Especially 1986. Talk about living Bruce Springsteen's song "Glory Days"! If I took a shot of tequila every time 1986 is brought up in a typical Mets broadcast, I'd be passed out drunk on the floor by the second inning.

2. It would give Yankee fans the opportunity to do the "count the rings" rejoinder. (Picture the meme of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka saying, "You have three rings? How cute. The Yankees have 27.")

3. Maybe Mets fans like Squawker Jon would be a little less Eeyore. A little less "little brother" to the Yankees, Oh, wait. The last time the Mets ran this town was in the mid-80s, when I was in high school and college. And I remember how insufferable some Mets fans could be. People think of the Mets as the underdog, back then, being a Bombers then made me the underdog!

4. The Mets winning it all might put a fire under Yankee brass. Right now, they're content to keep Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi and everything else the same as much as possible. Plus, they haven't improved the fans' experience for the off-the-field stuff. Unlike Citi Field, which has terrific food, the food is horrendous at Yankee Stadium (at least the food for those of us behind the moat!) and the place doesn't have the welcoming feel that Citi Field does. If the Mets win it all, the Yanks might actually have to 1) improve the team, 2) improve the food and 3) become fan-friendly! Dare to dream.

5. It's good for the Squawkers. It will be good for my plans of world domination. Isn't that enough?

Postseason finally here for Mets

It's been nine long years, but the Mets are finally back in the playoffs. I didn't expect it this season, but I also didn't expect how great the young starters would be, especially after Zack Wheeler went down for the year. But Jacob deGrom showed he was not a fluke, Matt Harvey did better than expected in his first season back from Tommy John surgery and Noah Syndergaard fanned 166 in 150 innings. The Mets have the pitching to take them to the World Series. Unfortunately, so do the Dodgers.

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke can be beaten - the Mets won two of the four games this season in which they faced them. The final scores were 3-2 and 2-1 and the opposing pitchers were deGrom and Syndergaard, just like they will be in Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS (during the season, deGrom faced Greinke and Syndergaard faced Kershaw). All four starters pitched well and none figured in the decisions.

Kershaw has also lost his last four postseason starts with an ERA over 7.  It would seem that he's too great a pitcher not to regain his form, but David Price was expected to reverse his latest postseason struggles yesterday against Texas and instead fell to 0-6 in the postseason.

It's been such a magical season for the Mets that even a late season no-hitter against them by Max Scherzer brought up memories of Bob Moose's late-season no-hitter against the Mets in 1969, just before they went on their postseason run to the world championship. The 1969 team had two star pitchers, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, and a promising rookie, Gary Gentry.  The 2015 Mets have deGrom, Harvey and Syndergaard. Both of these teams also could boast yet another promising young pitcher outside the top three. Granted, Steven Matz is not likely to be another Nolan Ryan, and the other starters have a way to go before we start comparing them to Seaver, but the current staff has the potential for a magical run.

What worries me is whether the same can be said for the hitters. After getting hit by a pitch on September 14, Yoenis Cespedes had no homers and two RBI in his last 16 games while his batting average dropped 22 points. When Cespedes is quiet, the Mets' rejuvenated offense is not so rejuvenated.

I hope I'm wrong, but I think Kershaw and Greinke will be too much for the Mets, so Dodgers in four. Squawker Lisa is also predicting the series will end in four.

No, my mistake, she's just yelling "Fore!" on the golf course.

Speaking of the Yankees, their late-season hitting woes ended up giving them little chance against Dallas Keuchel, which is exactly the scenario that worries me against Kershaw and Greinke. But if the Mets can manage a split in L.A. and Harvey shows in Game 3 that he's worth the aggravation, the Mets can keep the magic going. Let's go Mets!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

So much for this being a gravy game: I am royally peeved over this Yankees loss

I was trying to be philosophical about the Yankees' postseason. This Yankees-Astros Wild Card game is the gravy game, I kept on saying. Since I didn't expect them to do anything this year, any postseason game is gravy.

Well, you know what? I care. Way too much. I am an intense, passionate person, and especially passionate about the Yankees. Jon says it's what makes me a good blogger, because I get so worked up over stuff like whatever the latest Yankee controversy is. (Jon is laconic, while I am sassy. It's in my nature!)  

So as much as I would like to be all zen over sports, the reality is that is not who I am. I get intense over stuff in the games. I curse a lot over such things, something I am usually able to control in other aspects of my life. 

Speaking of sports, I won my running club's fantasy football matchup this week by 0.06 points. Not one point; not even 1/10th of a point; 0.06 points! Needless to say, I was cursing up a storm watching Monday Night Football, until I got the fraction of a point I needed! (I think that's why Matt Harvey missed today's Mets workout. Russell Wilson's fumbles may have hurt his fantasy football chances, and he was probably upset about it!) I know people in my fantasy football leagues are looking at me like "WTF?" when I get so intense,  but that is who I am!

I also have a real competitive streak. It's why being part of the running world has been a totally different experience for me. Because it's an athletic activity that I have zero natural ability at! But I digress. 

All of this is to say that tonight's game was a nightmare to watch. A real shit show (yeah, I cursed, something I try not to do in the Squawkers. But there it is.)

Squawker Jon and I had this text exchange above, which should show my mindset tonight! (Notice Jon's little golf icon at the bottom. He's just soooo clever, isn't he? It's enough to make me want to root against the Mets!)

Speaking of which, I did my postseason prognostications a little differently this year. Instead of writing who I think will win, I ranked all of the teams in the order I would like to see them win, in order from least to most. Here's my chart. I posted it on Facebook last night before the game:

10. Cardinals:I'm sick of these dynasties and their entitled fans!
9. Dodgers: I'm still bitter about 1981.
8. Royals: I'm still bitter about 1980.
7. Blue Jays: Blame Canada.
6. Rangers: My nephew is a Rangers fan.
5. Astros: I have a slew of Astros fan friends.
4. Cubs: Because it's long past time.
3. Pirates: I interviewed Cutch and got to see the team up close. Great bunch of guys.
2. Mets: What's good for the Mets is good for the Squawkers!
1. Yankees: Wouldn't it be something if they won this year, preferably with A-Rod as MVP? All kidding aside, there are a lot of deserving fan bases there. Except for St. Louis! They've had enough lately!

Anyhow, can we bring greenies back? With all of the older players the Bombers have, who were dragging themselves into October, it would only be fair play to get them access to them! I'm kidding. Kind of. Oy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Yankees-Astros Wild Card: Why we're calling this "The Gravy Game"

I was interviewed for my pal Paul Francis Sullivan's Sully Baseball podcast for a preview of today's New York-Houston Wild Card game. Sully, the Astros fan interviewed before me, and myself are all calling this matchup The Gravy Game. Meaning that since we never expected our teams to make it to the playoffs this year, just having one postseason game is gravy to u!

Way back in March, I couldn't foresee the Yankees making it into the postseason. Heck, I said then I didn't think they would win more than 80 games, and I figured they wouldn't finish any higher than fourth place. I've never been so happy to have been wrong! (I did correctly predict, though, that the Mets would have a better record than the Yankees. And that A-Rod would have an epic year, although even this A-Rod apologist couldn't have predicted 30+ homers!)

Most baseball prognosticators didn't even think either the Yankees or the Astros (or the Rangers or Mets, for that matter) would make it into the postseason. Check out the teams 80+ experts predicted for ESPN; the vast majority of the teams picked didn't even make it into the postseason!

Don't get me wrong. I want the Yankees to win it all. I can't tell you how many times I have run this year (I am training for a half-marathon that I'm running this weekend) when I have visualized the Yankees winning the World Series, and Alex Rodriguez winning the World Series MVP. I want a Subway Series, too. It would be good -- make that great -- for the Squawkers! I have big plans for world domination. They start with a win tonight!

All that being said, I have to remember that just being in the postseason this year, with this team, is a pretty good accomplishment. A-Rod talked some yesterday about how the Yankees are the "major underdogs" this year. He told Newsday:
"I think with everything we've done this year, we've surprised a lot of people, and that's hard to do when you wear pinstripes," he said. "But I think going into this year, if you rewind seven months and told us we'd have an opportunity to play at home and defend our home court in a wild-card game, I think we all would have signed up for that."
And Rodriguez told the Daily News this about CC Sabathia checking himself into rehab:
“It’s a very courageous thing to do,” A-Rod said. “We play for CC now. CC has gone to the mat for us many, many times. … So now we go to the mat for him. 
“CC is a friend and a great teammate; like a brother to me. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have a championship ring from ’09. What he did was very courageous. It takes a very tough guy to do what he did.”
I wish CC well. He is my second-favorite current Yankee, after A-Rod. And it says a lot about the esteem Sabathia is held in that he has received such positive feedback about his decision to enter alcohol rehab at the beginning of the postseason. (That being said, I have to wonder if there is something that happened this weekend that precipitated this!)

In addition to talking about CC, and also how the Yankees won in 2000 when they slumped at the end (something Joel Sherman also covers in his column for the New York Post today), Sully and I   discussed how amazing it would be if Alex was the big hero tonight. Dare to dream!

On the podcast, I also blamed the lack of greenies for causing the older Yankees to drag towards the end of the year. Yes, I went there!

Anyhow, I'm calling for a Yankees win tonight. And I really want the house to be rocking. Bring back the home field advantage, Yankee fans!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Yankees kick it old school as they win a spot in the postseason

It's funny. I've found this Yankee team very hard to watch this week. Until last night, when they finally clinched their Wild Card spot. Their shenanigans after the game made me very happy. Not only were they enjoying the champagne celebration for their postseason entry (and their 10,000th win, as it turn out!) but they even had the rookies (and Masahiro Tanaka) dress like old-school rappers! How could I not love the music of my youth being honored like that?

I saw LL Cool J, Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy in concert back in the day. Back when I stood out like a sore thumb at their MSG shows! But that music is still the best, and it's still regularly played on my iPod Classic.

Anyhow, These pictures make me giggle with glee. Especially the one with A-Rod in the background. Because nothing sez hip-hop like Alex Rodriguez!

From the Daily News: Here are the players, along with the acts they are reppin' (left to right, in the tweeted photo): Rob Refsnyder as House of Pain's Everlast, Jose Pirela clearly as LL Cool J, James Pazos as Salt and Rico Noel as Pepa (with A-Rod in the middle), Girardi, Bryan Mitchell, Nick Goody and Greg Bird we are assuming are the Beastie Boys, Luis Severino clearly as Flava Flav and Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees Japanese media relations Yoshiki Sato and Shingo Horie (Tanaka's translator) as the legendary Run-DMC.
I liked that the Yankees did a full-throated celebration, too, even though they only won a Wild Card spot, instead of a division title. I'm a firm believer in enjoying everything like that, as you never know when you'll get there again. Look at the Yankees themselves. Besides, it's a little arrogant, IMHO, to be like "we only celebrate pennants."

It's like with my running. I try to enjoy every race. Every moment. Because you cannot count on anything else. The future is not promised to you.

Look, this spring, I never expected this team to contend for anything. So anything is gravy, in my view. And even this A-Rod apologist didn't expect him to hit more than 15 homers. Him hitting over 30 is just phenomenal! It was cool to see so happy he was last night, especially when CC Sabathia gave him that bottle of Ace of Spades Champagne! It was also great to see how thrilled Sabathia was as well. He's back, baby!

I noticed how many times the players talked about team chemistry, and their brotherhood. They haven't really had that spirit since 2009.

One other note: how about that John Ryan Murphy interview. Best line of the night :"Everybody is on the same page... and that page is drinking." Ha!

Now, bring on the...other Wild Card team, whoever it is!

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