Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Mets Are A Natural Disaster

  • Cubs 9-Mets 6:
I don't think anyone who's watched the Mets for any significant length of time and has any baseball intelligence at all didn't see what was coming after they failed to score in the bottom
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of the ninth inning with a runner at third base and no outs. This is not an isolated incident with the Mets as they find situations in which it's difficult not to score, yet find a way to accomplish the feat. Apparently, the "MVP candidate" David Wright has never heard of the term "shortening your swing based on the situation" because with Daniel Murphy on third base, Wright was hacking away as if he were looking to get his face time on SportsCenter with another walk-off home run instead of simply driving in the winning run with a fly ball. But, that's not why the Mets are the baseball equivalent of a natural disaster.
Like a hurricane or earthquake, there's no judgment or intent to injure; like any natural occurrence, what is simply is. Anyone who knows the Mets knew what was going to happen after they failed to score with that tailor-made opportunity in the bottom of the ninth. Just like the game against the Phillies in which they blew a 7-0 lead and ended up in extra innings, there was no way they were going to come back and win. The situation was such that I stopped watching the game. So confident in the Mets ability to demolish their playoff chances in the most painful way possible and quite likely give up a home run, I went downstairs to empty the dishwasher rather than watch it happen, because I knew what was going to happen and didn't have to watch.
Unlike the writer Stephen A. Smith, who claimed that he "didn't have to" watch the end of a
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Jets-Patriots playoff game in January 2007 because, he wanted to imply, his innate football knowledge gave him the foresight to see the future but he was in reality talking out of his posterior, I truly knew what would happen...*

*I have to make a note here about Stephen A. Smith. As much as I rip him for his lack of even the most basic knowledge of baseball and football (he didn't know which team was in which division during his ill-fated TV show on ESPN), I read his column in ESPN the Magazine and the man's a very good, talented writer; skilled with the language, coherent and well-organized.

...because of that, after emptying my dishwasher, I walked back upstairs, looked at the TV
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and saw Derrek Lee standing on second base, that the score was 7-6 and with Aramis Ramirez at the plate said, "Uh oh"; seconds later Ramirez deposited a Luis Ayala pitch into the left field bleachers to effectively end the game right there and then.
This isn't a function of any collapse; it's just the Mets being the Mets; being the thing that they are with no other definition necessary; whether or not they pull themselves out of this is another aspect of the Mets. As a franchise, they've fought out of worse situations than this (1973, 1986, 1999); and they've stumbled under the weight of themselves (1988, 1998, 2006, 2007). Which version they'll be this time will be discovered in the coming days, but no one who knows the team can feign surprise, because this is the Mets, for better or worse.
  • Brewers 4-Pirates 2:
I'd suggest putting the brakes on the idea that these two wins against the Pirates (and
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three in a row overall) have righted the Brewers sinking ship. C.C. Sabathia is showing far more courage than his body can handle and these taxing starts on three-days rest are going to haunt him in the coming years if he's not careful.*

*One note about pitchers. I contend that it's not the number of pitches per se that are causing the injuries, but when the pitcher gets physically tired, loses his leg drive and proper mechanics and deviates from throwing properly and as stress-free as possible, thereby overtaxing his arm and getting hurt; and Sabathia, while in shape for baseball, isn't exactly a bastion of physical fitness; but the Brewers know that they're not keeping him, so what do they really care about what happens with him after 2008?

Watching chunks of these two games made me see how bad the Pirates really are. I would be deeply concerned with the new management team because in addition to this embarrassing tete-a-tete betwen Scott Boras and team president Frank Coonelly as to whether or not Pedro Alvarez agreed to a deal or not, the deals that GM Neal Huntington
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made at the trading deadline to shed the remaining marketable veterans on the Pirates roster are getting a horrible review in the short-term.
In dealing Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees as part of one deal, the return had to be equal or better than what they would've gotten if they'd dealt both separately. With both players being in heavy demand and playing positions that were desperate needs for so many teams, the Pirates have to hope that Jose Tabata regains his lost luster as a prospect; that Dan McCutchen develops (and he's about to turn 26, a bit too old to be a "prospect"); that maybe the talented Ross Ohlendorf can become a useful pitcher as a starter or reliever (I'd make him a starter); and realize that Jeff Karstens is a soft-tossing journeyman. The return on that deal looks weak.
Then there was the three-way deal in which Jason Bay ended up with the Red Sox and
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Manny Ramirez on the Dodgers. Andy LaRoche (whom I'm convinced the Pirates were as interested in the marketing ability of uniting him with his brother on the corners of their diamond as they were a cornerstone to their rebuilding project) has looked overmatched at the plate and clueless in the field. Brandon Moss and Craig Hanson have talent, so they may end up as useful pieces; and young Bryan Morris is at least three years away from the big leagues. The fact that the Dodgers gave up on LaRoche so quickly would be a red flag for me because the Dodgers development people have the results to indicate they know what they're doing and even though they were getting a star like Manny, wouldn't have just dumped a player they had as high an opinion of as everyone else seemed to as was the situation with LaRoche.
In essence, that Pirates lineup isn't at all scary, so the Brewers should be beating them.
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Now tonight will be a major test because they've activated Yovani Gallardo to take the start. Gallardo was supposed to miss the entire season with a knee injury, but has returned. The Brewers don't have much of a choice than to try Gallardo (unless they want to put Sabathia out there again), but I'd question what kind of performance they're going to get from him (his numbers in his minor league rehab starts weren't very good), and they're not going to be able to get him too deeply into the game, which will put things in the hands of that awful bullpen.
  • Will the Mets recover from this? Will the Brewers seize their opportunity? And how will the weather forecasts in New York affect everything?
It's a four game season now with everything all even. The game tonight will depend on whether or not the Mets score some runs early and get a decent performance from Pedro Martinez. The fans and media grasp tightly to what happened
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the day before more than the players do. Once the game starts, there's not going to be any "what-if?" lamenting on the part of the players. They might try a little too hard with runners in scoring position; they might hold their collective breaths when the bullpen enters the game, but it won't be as a direct result of one game.
With the Brewers beating up on the Pirates, it has to be remembered that they're going to play the Cubs this weekend and while Cubs manager Lou Piniella is being prudent with his players, he's also managing the games to win. That they're going from playing one contender in New York to Milwaukee also adds into that equation because Piniella's not going to give the Brewers an easy time after the way his team battled against the Mets. The Brewers "recovery" from their dreadful slump will be judged by how they play this weekend.
The weather forecasts in New York are also very important. It's supposed to rain all weekend to the point that the games are in jeopardy. The media is suggesting that the possibility of rainouts and doubleheaders are a disadvantage for the Mets, but I see it the opposite way. If the Brewers are forced to play while the Mets are sitting in their clubhouse playing cards, the pressure will revert to the Brewers. Add in that the Cubs----knowing that if tonight's game is rained out, there's a very real possibility of having to play a makeup game in
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New York on Monday to decide who's going to the playoffs----are going to do everything possible to avoid that and play as hard as they can to eliminate the Brewers if necessary actually gives the Mets an advantage. And at this point, I don't think the Mets would refuse any divine intervention to get them into the playoffs because what they're doing on the field isn't working, so maybe if they sit around and watch the Brewers implode, they'll have more success. They can't do much worse than they have in the past two Septembers if they're not playing. Mets manager Jerry Manuel's a spiritual guy, raising his arms to the sky and saying, "Let it rain!!!" wouldn't be such a bad idea since they've tried just about everything else.

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