- Mets 5-Phillies 0:
He's only a kid to the big leagues as a rookie at age 35, but it's a safe bet to assume that Hisanori Takahashi is staying in the Mets rotation for the foreseeable future.
You know you've made it as a Japanese player in North America and New York in particular when Mike Francesa deigns to referring to you by your name rather than using 1950s era, old-school political incorrectness and arrogance indicative of "I don't hafta learn his name" by calling you "The Japanese Guy".
Francesa would've fit right in with the Rat Pack...as the guy who went and got stuff for Frank whenever and wherever he might be.
But I digress.
It's a pleasure to watch Takahashi work both sides of the plate with a confident, commanding and peaceful air about him that screams, "don't worry, I know what I'm doing" not in the classic 1980s cop spoof Sledge Hammer that eventually resulted in a catastrophic explosion, but in a truly "I know what I'm doing" sense of Jamie Moyer/Tom Glavine/Tommy John-way.
And Takahashi throws harder than those guys did.
There's never a genuine way to gauge whether a player coming over from the Far East is going to translate to North America regardless of his prior success. Sometimes you get a Hideki Irabu----much hype, little substance; you get a Hideki Matsui----a quiet warrior with a thirst for big moments; a Daisuke Matsuzaka----overrated beyond belief; an Ichiro Suzuki----a stat machine and player with whom any team is destined to lose; and (so far) Takahashi----a professional.
It's doubtful that the Mets knew what they had in Takahashi when they signed him. He was lefty; a veteran who'd pitched well in Japan; but then again, the Yankees could say the same thing about Kei Igawa. As spring training went along and he continually baffled the hitters, the caveat "it's only spring training" was accurate. How many times have pitchers looked great in spring training and gotten bashed once the money was on the line in the regular season? (Remember Doug Simons?)
Once the season started, though, the Mets put Takahashi into games where he wasn't a danger to blow them up or they were already safely out of reach for him to do much damage----and he pitched well; in fact, he did the under-appreciated job of keeping games close, calming things down and giving the offense a chance to score and get the club back into the game and win a couple of games they had no right winning.
Now, in consecutive starts, he's held two of the most devastating lineups in baseball---the Yankees and Phillies----to zero runs in 12 innings.
It's hard to imagine him continuing to pitch this well, but Takahashi has scaled every obstacle placed in front of him and landed right on his feet with a flourish. The Mets should ride it out.
- The value of the long man:
Speaking of the work Takahashi did as a long man before entering the Mets starting rotation out of necessity, it's an unrecognized and important job that he was doing while serving that purpose. The Yankees have just lost their long man----Alfredo Aceves----to a bulging disc in his back, possibly for the season.
This shines a light on the lack of depth throughout baseball, even with the wealthier teams; and the importance of that job. For a team with the offense of the Yankees or Phillies, no game is out of reach; because of that if the starter gets knocked out early, it's imperative to have a pitcher like Aceves or Takahashi to enter the game and settle it down to give the offense a chance to do some damage.
Successful teams have to have it. The Yankees signed Chad Gaudin to replace Aceves and Gaudin's a useful pitcher to have around, but he's not Aceves and the Yankees are going to miss that weapon greatly.
- How much do the Phillies miss Jimmy Rollins?
I've discussed Jimmy Rollins's decline ad nauseam in the last couple of years, but his absence has shown how important he is as the catalyst to the Phillies. The current club isn't stealing any bases at all (they have 16 through 45 games); last season, they stole 119 bases----it was an important part of their offense. Rollins's injury will naturally diminish the stolen bases, but why aren't Chase Utley and Jayson Werth running? Shane Victorino only has 8 steals so far this year.
The Phillies home/away batting splits were almost identical in both 2008 and 2009; not so this year. They've hit 14 fewer homers on the road so far; and have 15 more doubles. They've scored the same number of runs home and away, so it's somewhat irrelevant, but the home run was how they got themselves back into games when they were behind; and if they're hitting fewer homers, you'll see fewer comebacks when games appeared lost.
Have they consciously chosen to shun the running game?
And if so, why?
- The market for the Stone Cold Killer:
It's only a matter of when Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik starts fielding offers for The Stone Cold Killer, Cliff Lee; but with Lee's pending free agency and the amount of money he's going to want, how much can Zduriencik realistically expect to get for him and will it be worth more to hang onto Lee and take the draft picks for him leaving as a free agent than to trade him for less talent than the draft picks will yield?
Despite the burgeoning fact that Zduriencik isn't the "genius" he was portrayed to be by a lovestruck media, he's still smart and a keen judge of talent; if he looks at the 2011 draft and says that he's not getting offers that are commensurate with what he's sure to get in the draft, it makes no sense to do a deal.
And what of Lee?
Will the team trading for him want a window to negotiate a long-term contract? That could be the difference between the Mariners getting two or three blue chip prospects for him or one blue chipper and a couple of useful pieces. Lee wants to get paid; so if a team antes up the players and gets a window to sign him long-term, it would behoove Zduriencik and Lee to listen very carefully. If he's a known rental, they're not going to get nearly as much for him.
Given Lee's abdominal strain earlier this season and the struggles of the Mariners on the whole, we're not too far away from Lee being out there and available----I'd say mid-June if the Mariners don't have a drastic turnaround.
One team I'd watch with Lee is the Marlins. They've got the prospects even if Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton are off limits; they certainly have the balls to go for it now in a wide-open National League.
The Stone Cold Killer joining Murder Inc. (the Marlins) has a nice ring to it from a marketing standpoint.
- Viewer Mail 5.27.2010:
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Mets:
So much for everybody calling for Manuel to be fired. If the Mets keep playing like this, he'll end up manager of the year.
I picked Jerry for Manager of the Year too!!!
But then, I picked Jose Reyes for MVP (unlikely); Madison Bumgarner for Rookie of the Year (he's in the minors); and Clayton Kershaw for CYA (he's pitching great after a slow start, but forget it in a league with Roy Halladay and Ubaldo Jimenez).
Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Francisco Rodriguez; Vicente Padilla; and Jason Bay:
Nah, K-Rod isn't anywhere near as oogly as Vicente "Flopsweat" Padilla. But he is ugly. I think anyway.
"Jason Bay is telling UZR where to shove their numbers"
I'd like to see the Red State Blue State categories of unattractiveness. You can get a good posting from that.
Bay is a much better athlete than anyone thought; the implication was that he was a slightly faster than plodding slugger who needed to be a DH, but he can run and his defense hasn't been average, it's been good!
Jennifer at The Simple Dish writes RE plagiarism, Joel Sherman and me:
In my non-editorial experience, his article is very similar to yours (as in nearly mirror images of one another) and it doesn't speak too highly of Sherman's writing abilities or of the Post's cross checking abilities. And in full disclosure, I don't read the Post on any type of basis.
I still don't have a clear team to go all the way in the NL.
People I respect have said that while the postings appear similar, they don't think he outright robbed me. I guess I lean that way as well; and judging from their daily content, I doubt the New York Post editors spend a lot of time on fact-checking or are all that concerned about plagiarism.
Had Sherman referred to Lee as "The Stone Cold Killer", I'd have him, well, cold. But he didn't.
The fact remains that I wrote it first and I wrote it better. Period.
- The Prince on the Podcast:
I have a Podcast appearance scheduled with Sal at SportsFanBuzz today. Are you ready to rock? I am. (I'm getting over a slight cold, so my voice may sound a bit funny. Laugh at your own risk.)
Some men aren't looking for anything logical like money.
They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with.
Some men just want to watch the world burn.