September 27, 2007

Champagne Supernova

It's been an exhausting week for both New York teams, but, uh... well, different results. Mets fans, I really recommend you skip the following section of this post -- all the blue text -- and resume reading farther down. I'll have more for you tomorrow, from Shea Stadium in fact... the Happiest Place on Earth.


First, I have a recap of last night's Wild Card-clinching game up on Bronx Banter. I've gotta say, I'm a real sucker for these locker room celebrations, even when it's a team I have no particular attachment to; it's just so rare to see that many adults so purely happy. A few thoughts that didn't fit in the recap:

-A commenter at the Banter the other day pointed out that Joba Chamberlain's ERA+ is now 1042. Not a typo. 1042. For those of you not sabermetrically inclined, all you need to know is that "ERA+" basically measures how good a pitcher is compared to the rest of his league, and anything over *100* is above average; for context, Mariano Rivera, almost certainly the best reliever in the game over the last 12 years overall, has a lifetime ERA+ of 196. That's awesome, 196. Joba Chamberlain's is 1042.

Now obviously, over time, Chamberlain's numbers will become less incomprehensibly superhuman; doing something for six weeks and doing something for 12 years are two very different things. Nevertheless: that's insane.

Chamberlain earned his first save a few nights ago, as Mariano Rivera was being rested, and it occurs to me that one unintended consequence of Joba Mania is that it actually gives the Yankees a little leverage in their upcoming contract negotiations with Rivera. Back in July, it seemed like they'd have no choice but to give him whatever he wanted, because who on earth would they replace him with? But now, if Rivera does leave (granted, that's highly unlikely), the Yankees have another option for really the first time since 1995.

That said, I can only imagine that letting Mariano Rivera go would result in a hideous boomerang of negative karma so severe that Red Sox fans would be mockingly chanting "2000!" from their 23rd century space bleachers. If you're the Yankees, you just have to pay the guy. But: possibly not quite as much as you thought you would.


Welcome back Mets fans, it's safe now. In other news:

--The police have busted an international steroid ring (again, some more). So who's getting exposed this time? Barack Obama? Cardinal Egan? Maddox Jolie-Pitt? Surprise me.

By the way, you have to love government code names -- this was Operation Raw Deal. Once again I'm reminded that I really need to start giving more things in my life code names.

--Anthony Rieber reveals his plan for world domination in his latest Newsday mailbag. That's not a bad idea about eliminating the leagues, and making divisions all about geography; but, as MLB moves towards change with all the momentum of a three-legged tree sloth on Oxycontin... well, maybe your grandkids will enjoy the new setup one day.

--The Mets... what can you really say at this point? What can they say? I asked some of my Mets fan friends what they'd like to ask the team right now and I got several responses, none of them practical:

1) "What the hell? That's it, just: what the hell?"
2) "Why do you hate me?"
3) "Little Timmy needs a new heart. Little Timmy is very sick. Little
Timmy is a Mets fan. Will you go out there and win one for Little

What I still don't understand is why they couldn't have at least tried to bribe the Nationals, you know? Would that have been so hard? The team just invested a big chunk of capital in Dmitri "Da Meat Hook" Young, so it's not like they couldn't use the cash, and what's another loss or two to them at this point in the season? I trust the Mets will at least give this a shot when facing the Marlins this weekend.

September 24, 2007

A Good Plan, Violently Executed Now, Is Better Than a Perfect Plan Next Week

I have said this before, but they keep making me repeat it:

Attention, Tampa Bay Devil Rays. People are not avoiding your team because its name or logo have negative, Satanic connotations. People are avoiding your team because you've never lost fewer than 90 games in a season in your entire miserable existence, you spend less money on your entire team than the Yankees spend on right-handed relief pitchers, and you have become the yardstick by which all other Major League franchises measure failure.

Really good that you removed the "Devil" from your new logo and uniforms, though. You'll be beating 'em off with a stick.

September 21, 2007

Kapparot '07

In honor of Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, I hereby present some of my more egregious blogging sins of the past year and humbly ask for your forgiveness. For whatever reason, most of my most painfully inaccurate opinions have related to the Yankees this season... I guess because it didn't take a genius to realize that El Duque would be injury-prone (although: arthritis and bunions?!), or that acquiring Ambiorix "Young Dominican Kyle Farnsworth With Elbow Problems" Burgos wasn't such a hot idea.

October 2, 2006: " just can’t be too impressed by a team whose putative ace is Kenny Rogers. The Detroit GM could have asked any New Yorker over the age of, say, 17 about this, and saved himself a lot of trouble and money. And I know there’s no better way to make yourself look like an idiot than to try and predict a short playoff series… so I’m not going to start now, I guess… but, honestly, I will be flat-out stunned if the Tigers beat the Yankees. Anything can happen, sure, of course, but you’ll have to scrape my jaw off the floor with a spatula."

Well, I wasn't totally wrong there, really. I mean, I was flat-out stunned.

November 29, 2006: "I know very little about Igawa... Still, given the choice between Igawa, Ted Lily or Gil Mesh, I’d take a flyer on the Hanshin Tigers ace."

December 6, 2006: "Alternately, perhaps Cashman's just been laughing too hard over Gil Meche's $55 million five year deal to use the telephone coherently."
I'm so sorry, Gil Mesh; I was wrong to treat you that way. And just look at you now; has your ERA lost some weight? Kei seemed so exciting, exotic and new -- but baby, I was a fool.

May 27, 2007: "It's still May, but by now it's pretty safe to say this is just not the Yanks' year... [they're] still much better than their current record, and I'll be shocked if they don't end up well over .500. That, however, seems unlikely to earn them a playoff spot this year... A comeback is still possible, sure. It's also possible that Clive Owen will knock on my door tomorrow night carrying an Al Green CD, a kitten, and a bottle of Glenlivet, but frankly, I'm not loving the odds."
May 28, 2007: "While the Yankees pick through the burned wreckage of their season, looking for anything that might have survived the cataclysm ("look guys, this Chien-Ming Wang is hardly even singed!"), the Mets are just plain rolling... Honestly, everyone could sense the reversals of fortune coming last year... But I certainly didn't think the divergence would be this extreme."

I'm still waiting on Clive, though.

What can I say? I didn't think the Yanks had it in 'em. Whatever happens in the next week, even in the playoffs, coming back to make the AL East a real race is a remarkable turn of events. (Though, by that same token, sucking like such a gaping black hole for the first two months was quite an achievement in itself). I hope fans will be able to properly appreciate it -- even if the Angels once again knock New York out in the Division Series. Or the Indians; am I the only one who's afraid of the Indians? Fausto Carmona is not fucking around this year.
July 31, 2007: "... the Red Sox just made their bullpen even better with the addition of Eric Gagne. The Yankees weren't catching them anyway, frankly, barring massive injury to half the Boston pitching staff; but now they're really not catching them. It's all about the Wild Card..."
I repent.

Now will you please let the Mets win a goddamn series?!?

I Forgot My Mantra

Awkward article in the Times today that tries to compare the Mets' losing streak with other famous New York "collapses". I know it's all in good fun, but leaving aside the fact that Crazy Eddie's jail term for fraud, the end of the disco era, and Jorge Sosa's control problems are what you might generously describe as only tenuously connected, did you really need to get a Harvard psychology professor to tell you that "there is always next season"?

Anyway, I'm sticking to my the-Mets-will-be-fine guns here, but they're sure not making it easy for me. Relief pitchers are funny creatures, aren't they? Sosa was brilliant last night and terrible tonight. Feliciano and Heilman simultaneously dropped from excellent last year to just pretty good. Mota... well, there's a logical explanation for that one, so let's leave him out of it. Joe Smith burned brightly but too fast. This past offseason I thought the Mets were making a huge mistake letting Chad Bradford go, and I still think that may be the case in the long run -- but he's not having a very good year for Baltimore anyway. (Though he has grown an alarming 80's-cop mustache, so at least this season hasn't been a total bust for him).

Seriously, outside of the game's top-tier closers, are there any safe bets in the bullpen from year to year? Is this about small sample size, or is it just because if middle relievers were really reliably good they wouldn't be middle relievers? Or both? I will consult the oracle that is Baseball Prospectus on this subject in the morning.

I admit my confidence is finally a bit shaken now -- it was tonight's loss that did it. The Mets are certainly better than they've shown recently, and better than the Marlins and the Nationals... but what if they just have another week of bad luck, injuries, bullpen meltdowns?

No. It doesn't matter. Repeat after me, the Phillies have the third-worst ERA in the National League. The Phillies have the third-worst ERA in the National League. The Phillies have the third-worst ERA in the National League...

September 20, 2007


A few quick notes:

--I can't believe I just celebrated a game-winning hit from Yadier Molina.

--The Orioles have completely and emphatically packed it in. Come on now, suck it up, fellas -- even Tampa Bay's still playing hard. There were a few exceptions (Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, pitcher Brian Burres), but if the Yankees do, by some miracle, win the AL East, it will be because they play this hollow shell of a ball club three more times.

--There's a reason no team with a 7-run lead in September has ever lost their division, which is why I don't believe that the Phillies will catch the Mets, or the Yankees will pass the Sox. Still, I'd be lying if I pretended I'm not highly entertained by the ritualistic rending of garments in Boston. I do feel for Terry Francona, who doesn't deserve this level of venom -- have you ever met a serious baseball fan who didn't complain about his manager's bullpen management? Julio Lugo, however, has it coming.

I just came across this story, from last week: "Lugo Has Yen For Japan." Red Sox fans: "Please accept this gift of a one-way economy class ticket, and give Bobby V our regards."

And with that last link, I discovered that through Bobby Valentine's official blog, you can purchase a Bobby Valentine jersey with the erstwhile Mets manager's name on the front and the phrase "WORLDWIDE BALLERS" on the back. Really. Look:

Somebody give me even one good reason why I shouldn't immediately purchase this.

September 19, 2007

Mr. Met's Wild Ride

I have an article on the Mets in this week's New York Press. It was interesting to be back in the press box after so long... I went out on a bit of a limb here, saying the Mets are still the best team in their division and that I don't think the Phillies will catch them. So if they don't get a couple wins soon, I'm going to look a bit silly.

But they will... right? It just might not be tonight. Poor Mike Pelfrey, that's a tough spot to put a rookie in. But let's not forget that this is, after all, the Nationals, who rely on Dimitri Young for the bulk of their offense. And whatever happens tonight, Tom Glavine is the guy you want going tomorrow to restore order.

If you'd told me in May that the Yankees would have a better record and bigger playoff slot lead than the Mets... what an odd season it's been. But, on that note: relax, Sox fans. The Yanks still aren't winning the division, not unless Francona pitches Gagne every night. (Full disclosure: it's not really possible to be more wrong about a trade than I was about that one.)

Meanwhile, via the Banter, the Daily News has a nice, in-depth story on Bernie Williams, who is taking the kids to school, recording an album and waxing nostalgic about the majors. He's his usual classy self and though he admits to very much missing the game, he insists there are no hard feelings. Aw, Bernie. I don't miss watching him trying to play center field over the last three years, but I do miss him. Also, here's something I don't think I knew:

Willie Randolph, an old friend, called and asked if he'd consider playing in Queens, telling him he would love to have him. Williams said thanks, but stayed home.

Huh, wouldn't that have been interesting. You know, back when Alou and Chavez and Green and Gomez and Beltran were all going down with injuries, he could have come in pretty handy. No one wants to see him in Shea's massive center field, but don't tell me he couldn't have played a better left than Damion Easley, or pinch-hit better than Julio Franco.

More soon, now that I'm back in the saddle.

September 08, 2007

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Okay, fine, so maybe I overreacted a bit to the Ankiel story (though I'm still not buying his "it was for medical purposes!" tactic). Joba Chamberlain's father Harlan proved even more effective than kitlers in cheering me up... and in any case, the important thing to remember is, there are still beautiful, natural names in this game. Names like this week's winner:

Ossee Schreckengost.

Ossee had a lifetime on-base percentage of .297 and no power, so I'm assuming he was a really, really good defensive catcher. He's best known for insisting that roommate Rube Waddell's* contract be changed to include a provision prohibiting him from eating crackers in bed.

I often wish players were still required to have roommates on the road... we're missing out on some funny stories, and possibly a few highly entertaining arrest reports.

NOTW Runner up: Brewers infielder Hernan Iribarren.

*Waddell, an alcoholic who occasionally left his team's games to chase fire trucks, could be distracted by children's toys while on the mound, and wrestled alligators during the offseason, deserves his own post. As Bill James once wrote, he "would have been as great a pitcher as Walter Johnson if only he had the sense God gave a rabbit."

September 07, 2007

Also, Santa Claus Raped the Tooth Fairy While the Easter Bunny Watched and Laughed

You know, just when you think you're already disillusioned, that you can't really be unpleasantly surprised any more by the actions of public figures, let alone professional athletes... the world finds a way to prove you wrong.

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel, who punctuated a storybook comeback from pitching woes by homering twice with 7 RBIs Thursday, joined the list of athletes linked to a Florida-based steroids investigation.

The New York Daily News reported Friday that Ankiel received a 12-month supply of human growth hormone in 2004 from a Florida pharmacy that was part of a national illegal prescription drug-distribution operation, citing records its reporters saw.

I should point out here that this story only alleges that Ankiel received HGH before 2005, which is when MLB officially, belatedly banned it, and that means it might have absolutely nothing to do with his current comeback. And you know what? That comeback is still remarkable, no matter what he might have taken. Nevertheless, once again I'm forced to remind myself that if a story seems too good to be true, that probably just means there's something going on that I don't know about.

To summarize:

  • Athletes that are not abusing animals or drinking and driving are either using performance enhancing drugs, beating their wives, cheating on their taxes, or dumb as a sack of nails.
  • Your elected representative is sleeping with either a hooker (Democrat) or underage male congressional page (Republican) while accepting thinly-disguised bribes.
  • According to polls your significant other likely has cheated, is cheating, or will eventually cheat on you.
  • Your dog only loves you because you feed it.

Have a great weekend!

Okay, okay. In other, less cynicism-inducing news (unless you're a fan of a small-market team, anyway), the Yankees won two of three from the Mariners and now lead the Wild Card by three games. That's not nothing, though whether it will be enough to survive a pitching rotation that includes two 21-year-old rookies and the remains of either an injured Roger Clemens or a free-falling Mike Mussina is still unclear. Personally, I think they're going to the playoffs; although a Yankee-hating friend of mine did paint a terrifyingly realistic portrait for me earlier today of a scenario in which they go through a 2-3 stretch, while Detroit wins five in a row, and are then eliminated from contention over the season's last three days by the Baltimore Orioles. Shudder.

Having swept the Braves over the past weekend, the Mets are in better shape, even though they did just blatantly doze through that last game against Cincinnati. They can afford to do that now, though -- all season the Mets' critics have said "oh, they think they can just turn it on whenever they have to"; but all season, the Mets have been able to turn it on whenever they had to. More power to 'em.

I feel bad about my earlier negativity and I'd like to leave this post on a more upbeat note, so please follow this link.

Or this one.