Much has been made of Phillies second baseman Chase Utley's hard slide into Mets second baseman Ruben Tejada to break up a double play on Friday night. You can see the "offending" play here----MLB.com clip.
This to me exacerbates one of the biggest problems the Mets have had over the past 20+ years----that they let opposing teams push them around; do the barest minimum in terms of retaliation to save face rather than actually retaliate; and think they handled something when the opposing team is smirking and saying, "yeah, they handled it" in a sarcastic tone.
Whether or not the play was clean is essentially irrelevant. For the record, it was a late slide, but wasn't dirty in terms of Utley's style of play; he wasn't trying to hurt Tejada. Those that are complaining need to look at the way Mark Teixeira drilled Angels catcher Bobby Wilson in April; or see the way Tony La Russa's teams play; or go all the way back to Hal McRae nearly picking Willie Randolph up and driving him into left field every time there was a play at second during the Yankees-Royals wars from the late 70s-early 80s.
Does Utley go to the line in the way he plays? Yes. As Carlos Beltran said in today's NY Times, Utley does these types of things like blocking bases with his knee on a stolen base attempt, but these aren't done to injure, they're done to win.
The Phillies win.
The Mets don't.
All these implications that the Mets are perceived around the league as somewhere between heartless and weak stem directly from incidents such as this. For all the complaining that they did about the slide, what exactly did they do about it? Did Beltran sliding hard into second last night----and missing both Wilson Valdez and Utley when he literally could've taken both out----"avenge" what happened with Tejada?
If the Mets or any team wants to let Utley know to knock off the hard sliding and blocking of bases, then they should actually retaliate. When he blocks the base with his knee, driving one's spikes into his thigh to draw blood might do the trick; if he's insistent on pulling a Don Baylor and not moving when a ball's heading for him at the plate, then throw it close enough to his head that he has to move; and if he slides hard against one of your teammates, knock him into left field at the earliest opportunity.
Talking is talking.
Acting is acting.
Utley wouldn't have said a word had Dillon Gee drilled him last night. He'd have walked to first base with the same bemused look on his face that he always has; and if a fight had started afterwards, so what?
For all the talk from the likes of David Wright and others saying that the Mets may have to reassess the way they go into bases, I have one question: reassess what? Why aren't they going hard into the base regardless of whether it was done to them first? Are they Jedi Knights in that they only defend when attacked? This is a perfect analogy----the Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, et al are the Sith of baseball; the Mets aren't even Jedi, they're Padawans who deserve to be tossed from the Jedi Academy because they're not getting their lessons straight.
How long does this have to go on before they respond? It's meaningless that the Utley slide wasn't malicious; what's meaningful is that the Mets thought it was, yapped a lot....and did nothing in response.
This has gone on forever with the Mets. Going back to 2000 when Roger Clemens hit Mike Piazza in the head, what did the Mets do? They had Glendon Rusch hit Tino Martinez to "retaliate". Was Rusch hitting Martinez in the ass with his batting practice fastball sufficient justice for Clemens hitting Piazza in the helmet with at 95 mph fastball?
Of course not.
Supposedly, Mets manager Bobby Valentine debated whether to have the next day's starter Mike Hampton drill Derek Jeter, but decided against it. Hampton would've done it without a second thought, but the Mets did nothing until a year later when Shawn Estes was ordered to throw at Clemens----and missed!!!
You want to retaliate for Piazza? Hit Jeter in the elbow and knock him out for a couple of games.
You want to retaliate for Utley? Do as I said earlier. Spike him; drill him; knock him into the outfield.
This is the fundamental problem with the Mets----they don't do anything other than talk about it.
As for the talk that the Mets are wimps and the Phillies are "tough guy winners", it's accurate now, but was it so earlier in the decade when the Phillies were considered just as heartless as the Mets are now? Every year they'd enter September in the thick of the playoff race and stumble at the finish; it's cyclical. Teams go through these peaks and valleys and it's only when they consciously decide to stop taking it that circumstances change.
One of the big factors in the Rays rise to prominence wasn't simply the number one draft picks that matured; it wasn't the smart and/or lucky acquisitions made by management; it wasn't that they were due. It was all through 2008 from spring training on that they stopped taking relentless abuse from the Yankees and Red Sox and they evolved into a force to be reckoned with.
After Elliot Johnson's home plate collision with Francisco Cervelli that broke Cervelli's wrist, Shelley Duncan slid spikes high into Akinori Iwamura. The old Rays might have cowered in the corner and taken it----yelling, screaming and yapping while doing absolutely nothing of consequence. The new Rays attacked the Yankees with a vengeance; it carried over into the regular season when they also had a brawl with the Red Sox. They sent a message----we....are....not....taking....it....any....more.
And they won.
Can the Mets do that?
Would the Mets do that?
The 1986 Mets were as despised around baseball in much the same fashion as the Phillies are now; and you know what? They didn't care. They let it be known that if teams wanted to make them stop, they had a couple of options: beat them and/or drop the gloves. It didn't make a difference to them one way or the other which it was and that flowed from manager Davey Johnson to team leaders Keith Hernandez, Ray Knight and Gary Carter. "You wanna go? Let's go."
There is a time and place to say, "let's win the game and worry about striking back later"; but is it that way now? What precisely do the Mets have to play for aside from pride? But they don't even do that.
Until this changes as something other than mouthy assertions that they did what needed to be done, they're going to continue to be the whipping boys for the Phillies, Braves and other teams that know if you push the Mets in the slightest fashion, they're going to fold.
It's up to them if they want to take it; if they want to continue to be losers. It it takes widespread embarrassment for the Mets to do something to change their image from a weak, disjointed frontrunner who crows when on top and whimpers when not, so be it. For some, it takes a bottoming out for things to truly change for the better. Such appears to be the case with the Mets.
When's enough going to be enough?
- Viewer Mail 9.26.2010:
Wow. This Ichiro thing turned out to be very entertaining. Is that the reason you landed in Twitter jail last night?
It's exactly why I landed in Twitter jail. The powers that be need to realize that it takes more than a trumped up charge to shut me up; they can fold it into the other accusations and it'll be foundation for more laughter when I beat the rap.
Anonymous #2 writes RE Ichiro, the Mariners and the Red Sox:
I'm back and I'm famous! Quoted by the Prince himself!
First, let me clarify, I was wasting my time because I'm not a Mariners fan. Although I think Ichrio is a good player, it's not really worth my time trying to defend him. But, when it comes to my team (the Red Sox), that caught my interest, and I have no problem debating that topic (or in my case, rabidly frothing at the mouth).
And in regards to your last response (re: Ichiro), I don't know what to say. I'm still not that interested in defending Ichiro, and I can see that you continue to make plenty of assumptions of the abilities of players. What you or the player or some writer thinks they can do, and what can actually be accomplished, often times doesn't or won't match. Really, we'll just have to agree to disagree. For example, I don't think that Albert Pujols can "decide" to hit 400. You, apparently do. That means we are so far apart on how to approach this subject, that we would never come to any conclusion.
But, to answer some of your questions:
1. Yes, Ichiro is providing plenty to the Mariners. He's one of the few, offensively, that is.
2. Yes, I'm sure that teams are sitting around and wondering how they're going to deal with Ichiro. I'm pretty sure they are evaluating how to get every single player in the lineup out.
3. Yes, the approach Ichiro takes would influence the other teams plan of attack. But, that doesn't imply that one approach is better than the other.
The thing we can all agree on (hopefully) is that no matter what approach Ichrio takes, that Mariners team would be destined to lose 100 games. Period. The problem is not Ichiro. The problem is that terrible roster, minus Ichrio and King Felix and maybe a couple of other people I'm not thinking about. Speaking of which, how do you feel about King Felix? Let me guess, he doesn't "know how to win" and thus, isn't deserving of the Cy young? And that CC does know how to win (except when he gets rocked by the Rays with the AL East title on the line)? To be clear on my end, King Felix is the best pitcher in baseball and should absolutely win the Cy Young.
First, let's get some facts straight:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury did not crash into the wall. Jacoby Ellsbury collided with a player (Adrian Beltre).
2. Colliding with a player can happen at any position, not just left field.
3. In 2010, the Red Sox spent more money on player salaires, than they have during any other year in the history of the Boston Red Sox.
What do you mean by saying that Bay had "proven himself" as a Red Sox. Sure, maybe in the past (keyword here is past). The Red Sox were calculating his future worth (keyword here is future). What Bay had proven in the past was irrelevant, other than a baseline. By all accounts, the Red Sox did not feel that Bay was worth the money he wanted or what the Mets paid. This is indisputable, because the Red Sox did not give him the contract that he wanted, nor did they match the Mets. So, in this sense, I would say that Theo was "right". What complicates matters, is that Bay went to a ballpark that absolutely saps the power of their hitters and he ended up getting a concussion. So, we'll never know what a healthy Bay, or a Bay in a better ballpark would have produced. But, I'd probably side with Theo on this one. Bay is on the wrong side of 30, there were questions about his health (I believe the concern was his knees), and what the Mets will be the ones paying for is his decline years. This is why Minaya will most likely be gone after the season. Poor contracts such as this one.
Anonymous left more than this, but I had to excise for space. You can read the entire context here.
I'm not sure why you won't leave a name----any name.
Famous. Yah. You join the Dark Side (as you seem to be teetering on doing----all are welcome) and you might even wind up in Twitter jail. My tentacles are everywhere in places you might not expect.
Comments coming after something I write are many times more useful than positive ones. I'll debate with anyone about anything; my reputation as a screaming, raving lunatic is far off base and crafted by people who either hate me because I'm right or fear my wrath due to intensity misinterpreted as anger.
Regarding Ichiro, we can debate it forever but my case is presented with evidence that he's playing for himself at the expense of the team. Pujols batting .400 if he chose to was used as an example----it's not going to happen and it is arguable. With the Mariners, you're hitting on one of my favorite subjects----the false "genius" of GM Jack Zduriencik. I've gone on about it for months, first as a caveat that everyone needs to calm down with the appellation because the team turnaround from 2008-2009 was partially due to certain players who had years that could only be described as disasters in 2008 and teamwide poor luck did a 180 for 2009 and they won 85 games despite a weak run differential (in and of itself a questionable way to judge a team).
They're awful with Ichiro; they'd be awful without Ichiro. This is another point. Ichiro sees where things are going with the club and alters his game to pad his stats. This is a player who you don't want on your team until he changes that accurate perception.
The "King Felix doesn't know how to win" is a bit of a cheap shot considering I picked Tim Lincecum as my NL Cy Young Award winner last season despite his fewer wins than Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. If you'd read me regularly, you'd know I don't operate that way and am not making my pick one way or the other until the season is over and all the results are complete.
With the Red Sox, I consider Adrian Beltre to be a "wall"; a wall of defense; a wall of leadership; a WALL!!! So Ellsbury crashed into a "wall".
Not buying it?
All kidding aside, I vaguely remembered Ellsbury repeatedly crashing into things and got his injury confused with Josh Hamilton having crashed into a wall and injuring his ribs as Ellsbury did; I should've checked that before writing it.
It's interesting that Ellsbury's shift to left field in favor of Mike Cameron completed another circle similar to that which ended Cameron's 2005 season and indirectly resulted in him leaving the Mets as he shifted to right field to accommodate Carlos Beltran. The lack of familiarity with the position and Cameron's thought-process that he was a center fielder playing right and a center fielder is supposed to go for every ball he can get to ended with he and Beltran colliding and injuring themselves seriously.
My problem with the Red Sox isn't specifically the strategies they use----who cares? Since they win, it's somehow justified that they use slick verbiage and scapegoating to defend themselves when things don't go according to plan. It's the disingenuous nature of their statements that irritates me. They wanted to go with the bullpen-by-committee and pitching and defense because they wanted to try them in an experiment in stat-zombieing. This is fine, but was it necessary to slam Jason Bay on the way out the door by ripping his defense and citing "injury-risks" where there seemed to be none?
Bay was nothing but a loyal and productive Red Sox player; if they didn't want to pay him, didn't want to keep him, then fine. But say it. I went into this at the time----there was no need to do as they've done with all their departing stars like Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Bronson Arroyo and Bay and rip them on the way out the door with a negative whisper campaign. What I found laughable was the way Bay's defense was terrific for the Mets and UZR (the defensive metric that said how bad Bay was) was adjusted at mid-season and, lo and behold, Bay's better than initially thought!!
I don't believe Citi Field negatively affected Bay as much as New York did. Had he not gotten hurt, his numbers would have mirrored Beltran's in his first year with the Mets----around 15 homers, 75 RBI and questions about his intestinal fortitude for the big city itself. Some players need time to get used to New York and I think Bay is going to be back to his 25 homer self in 2011.
It's the storytelling aspect of the Red Sox that grates on me. In 2006, they claimed they didn't have the financial wherewithal to go after the same players the Yankees did, but spent lavishly after the season to fill all their holes. They claim to not be in the financial stratosphere of the Yankees, but are in the financial stratosphere of the Yankees.
My assertion that they're using the pitching-and-defense idea as a greater plan was part of letting Bay leave; going after Cameron and Beltre; signing Lackey and eschewing the known basher that Bay was for a new direction. A direction that includes moving past the David Ortiz years, getting younger and saving money to go after Carl Crawford and/or Adrian Gonzalez. Stat zombies lust after Cameron for reasons I've never quite understood. He's a good player, but is streaky and losing a step defensively; and he strikes out a ridiculous amount of the time. No one, nowhere, no how could have expected Beltre to have the year he's had in their wildest imaginations considering his career history.
And I warned them about John Lackey in my book and nailed it almost on the dot:
The Red Sox attempts at improving the defense was done with a pitcher of Lackey’s ilk in mind. He pitches to contact and gives up about as many flyballs as ground balls; this could be an issue in Fenway. Balls that hit the Green Monster or go over the fence won’t be tracked down by Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury or vacuumed up by Adrian Beltre. I’d be worried about Lackey both health-wise and in performance.
He's been healthy; he's been fine with ground balls; and he's gotten blasted when balls are in the air. His overall performance hasn't been as bad as his record looks; he's been shaky at best and like A.J. Burnett with the Yankees, overpaid for what he is.
With Little's decision to leave Martinez in the game in game 7 of 2003, it's been beaten to death. Here are my issues: if the Red Sox didn't trust Little; if he wasn't on the same page as upper management in the deployment of the bullpen----if he wasn't listening to them----they should've fired him before it got to a game 7 where his recalcitrance would cost them as it did. Period. The call itself wound up wrong, but had Bernie Williams's looping base hit wound up in Orlando Cabrera's glove, what would be said? I'm not going to rip into Little for sticking with his star pitcher in that situation; the one thing I've always credited Little for in spite of his strategic mishaps was that he did what he felt was right without fear of reprisal. The front office knew this and if he didn't listen, he should've been replaced.
The pitchers you mention----Scott Williamson, Mike Timlin and Byung-Hyun Kim----are not names I'd prefer to trust over Martinez regardless of how well they'd pitched in the playoffs. Should Little have yanked Martinez? I'm not prepared to say that considering Martinez's greatness. It didn't work. That bullpen was not "excellent". Sorry. Martinez was. It failed.
You come up with phantom arguments that have no basis----"it cannot be proved"----but it can be proved by history and understanding the human aspect of people in general and athletes in particular. Pitchers whine when they don't have a defined role; the only way a true closer-by-committee can work is under the circumstances I laid out yesterday; and most teams would prefer to have a star pitcher they can trust in the ninth inning rather than going by matchups with mediocrity.
The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) also writes RE Anonymous #2:
Identify yourself. Step into the light Son! Put a name behind them thar comments. ~ (Capo)
I'm pursing my lips, widening my eyes and exhaling as I make a command decision Mike; this boy's got potential and he's considering joining the Dark Side. There's use there for us. Let him make his decision. He's pondering....Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and Noble.com. It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.