Month: July 2012

Miami, You’ve Got Style

During the baseball off season, the Miami Marlins were the toast of the town, or more aptly, Major League Baseball.

They weren’t afraid of spending money.  They exemplified the ideal of “winning at all costs.”  Literally.  They went out and overspent on the likes of (former Met) Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle.  Traded for Carlos Zambrano.  And brought colorful manager Ozzie Guillen to rope these guys in.

As flamboyant as the team seemed to be, they paled in comparison to the flamenco-inspired **new** Marlins Park.

They even seemed to behave differently.  Hanley Ramirez was rumored to not be happy about his BFF taking his job. But he got over it, and seemed happy with the idea of winning.

People anointed them winners of the NL East.

This was not your mama’s Marlins.  Nooooo, they were going to win at all costs.

Till they didn’t.

Now, as of today, THIS is the Marlins we know and potentially love.  The Marlins of the 16 fans, and low attendance.  No, seriously, Forbes reported that their new stadium is drawing the fewest fans at a first year ballpark.  From a Mets fan who is also a season ticket holder, I saw first hand how bad it was once the Mets started losing in 2009.  Hard to imagine justifying spending money there, as a season ticket holder.

The Marlins of the fire sale.  They have/had some good names but for some reason can’t get their act together as a team.  Besides Bell, Buehrle, Reyes, there was Ramirez, along with Josh Johnson (coveted “ace” who has had a number of injuries in recent years), Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante…Oh and by the way, only three of those four latter names are still Marlins today.

Sanchez and Infante were traded to the Detroit Tigers, a difference a week makes going from a team that is now eight games under .500 to a team in the thick of its division race.

Ramirez, who was a coveted prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization at one point and was involved on the prospect end of a fire sale between the then-Florida Marlins and Sox in the winter of 2005, begrudgingly (or so the media wanted you to think) moved to third base to accommodate Reyes…only to be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

With rumors that not only will Johnson be thrown on the auction block to see what interest there is for him (oh, and there will be, no question), the Marlins have made no bones that no one is safe…even Heath Bell, who has had a pretty lackluster year as the Miami closer.

Yes, folks.  This is the Marlins we all know and love.  This is the Marlins franchise that has…

Won two world championships? (not to mention, has had significant amount of no-hitters in their franchise history, which blows my mind).

I actually had someone make that argument with me today, when some of my friends and I on Twitter were joking around about the Marlins’ situation.

Yes, I do realize that in 50 years, the Mets have had only two championships.  I also realize that the Mets have their shortcomings as well this season.  This month hasn’t been a particularly easy one either.

But the Marlins are interesting.  They have like 16 fans, their new park was supposed to draw more people to the park…and it hasn’t worked.  So they go back to the plan that they know works.  Which really isn’t a plan.  It’s more like lack of one.

You know what though?  Their championships?  They were almost accidents!  They’ve never won a division title (something the Mets have actually done), only to get into the World Series through the back door.  Hey, more power to them.

But don’t cop to me like it was some sort of original “plan.”  Far from it.

At the beginning of the season, everyone and their brother had their predictions.  I was on a show where I was outnumbered.  I said the Phillies, until they give me a reason not to believe it, would win the division (I’m thinking they’re giving me a reason).  Most of the opinions on the show had the Marlins.  I said that the Marlins could either be a one-hit wonder this year, or be a cast of characters that doesn’t do much.

I guess that balanced it out for me.

So Miami, I’m so happy you’ve returned, truly.  You’ve been a beautiful audience.  And I’m glad you stopped pretending you were a legitimate baseball organization, and gone back to what works for you.

Miami, you’ve got style!

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You Could Miss It

“Life moves pretty fast.

If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

~ Ferris Bueller

Every year, it’s the same thing in my household.  Every year, starting in April, my husband starts scoreboard watching and starts mentally calculating how many games out of first the Mets are, the Wild Card race, how many teams are in it, blah blah blah.

He’s not joking or even merely being ironic.  No, he’s serious, and I’ve let it go as it’s his thing.  After all, if ESPN has Wild Card standings from, like, Day one, why shouldn’t he have a little fun with his math.

Yesterday, I was talking to good friend BlondiesJake, and we both agreed that as Mets fans, we’re having fun.  Yeah, I said, we’re having fun.

A few days ago, I was on OnTheBlack with Kerel and we both talked about how, from a blogging perspective, there’s been a dynamic shift from being negative and poopy, to being lighthearted, jovial and looking at the bright side of things.

Considering what this fan base has been through in the last six years…I’ll take a six game losing streak midseason if I have to.

I know baseball is a very reactionary sport.  I know that the Twitterverse can be very reactionary too.  But the jumpers – you know, the ones who teeter close to the edge on the Queensboro Bridge – are making it clear that it’s almost time.

I’m not ready yet.  It’s baseball, have fun with it.

Most of us would have signed on for .500 baseball at the break, no questions asked.  Just the way they did it, in Metsian fashion, a loss leading into the break, a sweep by the Braves, with a patented Chipper Jones home run off a rookie pitcher, and losing two heartbreakers to the Washington Nationals, one of the best stories in baseball this year.

It’s more than just the bullpen – this is a team effort, and there’s a lot going on, like lack of situation hitting (yes, I DO KNOW that this cannot be practiced), and the starting pitching maybe crashing down to earth (including an injury to Dillon Gee….who expected him to have a break out season???).

Going back to my husband, who mentally calculates how many teams are in the wild card race, how many to win, even magic numbers.  He’s not joking or being ironic: he’s being serious.   One time, I just said, “Hey, here’s an idea.  Why don’t you just watch the games, and enjoy baseball for once.”  He explained that he did enjoy baseball, he did enjoy these calculations.  But to listen to him do it, and potentially stress out at a game IN APRIL that the Mets might lose a game, suffice to say that I didn’t believe him or agree with him.

And if you listen to some folks on Twitter, the time has come to jump.  Well, I say hogwash!  This has been a fun team to watch, one of the most fun to watch in a long time.  This is something WE deserve as fans, for the all the crap we’ve had to deal with over the years.  A young, homegrown team that is making the most of a bad situation, whether that situation is financially-related, injury, a warts-and-all bullpen, or starting pitching coming down to earth, you’re going to miss David Wright’s amazing season, you’re going to miss that RA Dickey is still an intriguing character to watch, you’re going to cloud the no-hitter on June 1st…

I’m not in a position to tell fans how to think, do or feel.  But I will say that one of the best minds of our time did once say that life moves fast, and if you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you might miss it.

The same could be applied to baseball.  We’re gonna win some games.  We’re gonna lose some games.  Enjoy this season without thinking about Wild Card implications, or division implications, playoff implications.  We know that coming into this season, expectations were low.  That has gotten away from us.

Enjoy it now.  You could miss it!

Refuse To Get Up In Arms, Literally

If I could muster up some faux outrage for the slight of R.A. Dickey, who is by far and away the well-deserved candidate to start the All-Star Game, I would.  But I won’t.  For several reasons.

I’ve made no bones that I think the All-Star Game is just one ginormous shit show.  The game “counts,” yet I would venture to say that about 80% of the starters, let alone those who have made the roster simply because there needs to be a team representative, won’t even sniff the playoffs.  Besides personal gain (like All-Star bonuses, etc), what incentive is there for say, a Miguel Cabrera who played for the Marlins in 2006 to not Roger Dorn an easily playable ball, leading to Trevor Hoffman’s meltdown which essentially turned me off for the All-Star Game for good? And yes, I brought that up the other night on the Happy Recap’s podcast, because unlike 1986, I won’t get over it.  Dammit.

But there’s more.  Tony LaRussa pulled a Mr. 3000 and retired right after his team, dark horse candidates for the World Championship, won the World Series last year.  Besides San Francisco Giants fans stuffing the ballot box so less deserving players can start (Pablo Sandoval, really people?), is there a point to this whole thing?

Not really.  Except once again, personal accolades for the individual and home field advantage determination for the winner.

Makes sense to me.

(Editor’s Note: No, not really)

There are so many inconsistencies with it this year though.  Okay, so Mets fans all know and love R.A. Dickey, he’s awesome, hard-working, published author, a cool dude.  In essence, he’s one of us.  He’s had a monster break out year.  Well, I was on ANOTHER podcast earlier this season when someone asked if I thought he was a Cy Young candidate.  I said I’d need to see more consistent work after the second half (and his last two games didn’t look too hot, so take that with a grain of salt), but that even if he did coast it out and was awesomely awesome, chances are, the knuckleball, seen as an eccentric pitch, would be voted against him.  Turns out I was half right, as it worked against him for the All-Star Game start.

My favorite explanation was that LaRussa was not sure that Buster Posey, a dude who probably shouldn’t have even been starting anyway, might not be able to catch a knuckle ball.  Well, if Josh Thole is the only catcher, name him to the roster…or does Jason Varitek need to be called out of retirement…I guess Dickey is going to be throwing a lot of passed balls because NO ONE knows how to catch a knuckleball.

Seriously?  THAT’S YOUR REASON?

Now that I got that circular logic out of the way, I refuse to be upset about this.  It goes against everything that I stand for, really, regarding this exhibition.  This is what I find hilarious – an “exhibition” game, that “matters.”  Isn’t that the very definition of something that’s, I don’t know, a total paradox?  Sounds like it. But I was only an English lit major, what the hell do I know?

So my friend Sully writes a column today about how Matt Cain starting is a good thing.  Since I respect his opinion, and even when he bashes the Mets, I tend to agree with him from time to time, I wanted to address it here.  Like usual, I agree with some, disagree with other points.  Like one is Matt Cain paid his dues.  So, R.A. Dickey, who had an incredible journey to the majors, learned to knuckleball, published a book, wants to lecture on Faulkner and English lit masters when he’s retired…that’s bupkis?

R.A. Dickey has only been a star for a few months, consistently he argues.  Well, while I’d agree with one part (see my paragraph above about how I felt that he needed more of a body of work for me to consider a Cy Young, let alone a NL All-Star start, which by the way was totally deserved), but I have to ask…if not the All-Star Game…and let’s say for argument sake that he bowls over the competition, leads the Mets to the NL East title and the World Series…would that preclude him from getting a Cy Young…BECAUSE he *may* be in fact a one-hit wonder?

Does that make sense?  I mean, chances are, Dickey may come down to earth, and be more level in the second half…so that might not be Cy worthy.  But an All-Star start…that’s ever a time to have a so-called maybe one-hit wonder start.

I did agree, however, that Dickey coming into the game will give Mets fans a reason to stay tuned in middle innings.

But the All-Star Game is supposed to be based on merit, the cream of the crop, the top of the class.

Yet there’s the other side that it’s an exhibition game that “counts,” and the fans are voting their favorite players in.

Forgive me if I can’t muster up enough of an attempt to give a shit.

Yes, I did write about it, I did acknowledge it when I promised myself I wouldn’t.  The fact is, I could get upset about R.A. Dickey not starting the game, I could get upset that David Wright wasn’t voted as a starter because a fanbase 3000 miles away managed to game the system.

But that would actually make me admit that I care about the All-Star Game.  And I don’t.  In fact, I found out that Prince Fielder won the HR Derby once again on Twitter.  I didn’t watch.  I may watch tonight just to see my players play.  But that’s about it.

If the players and manager refuse to care about it, why should I?

Sucks To Be Them

Well, hello, everyone.  I’m back.  I apologize a) for the brief hiatus and b) for not really leaving an explanation.  Truth is, I was moving, and had the attention span of a three year old.  Even if I wanted to write, if I could string a coherent sentence together, that would have been enough of a win for me.

But I’m ready now.  After my break, I plan to come back this Wednesday with my first podcast in about a month, and then broadcast regularly.  Also, something else interesting happened.

Baseball wasn’t doing it for me.

I was a little shellshocked from the New York Rangers season, to the extent that it took me awhile to get back to baseball.  That’s not to say that I wasn’t paying attention or enjoying it.  From R.A. Dickey’s spectacular start to Johan Santana’s no-hitter to other events in baseball, I have to say I was preoccupied.  But in a conversation I had last night with Tweeter @Gardenfaithfull, this is what I had to say.

And that was that. This was after all, right after David Wright hit a walk-off single to win the game and blown save of Jonathan Papelshmear, oops, Papelbon.  It was the first time that I shrieked watching baseball this year.  It was the first time I was afraid my neighbors thought I’d be murdered since watching hockey.

So I guess All-Star Break came at an opportune time, since I have a better feeling of how the Mets should be performing, but also with the other indicators in the NL East.

And what I can say about the Braves, the Phillies, the Marlins and the Nationals?  Sucks to be them.

Hear me out.

So there’s the Braves. The Braves are currently in third place in the division, but have an interesting thing going on.  Famed Met killer (not to mention Phillies killer) Larry Wayne Jones is going on his retirement tour.  So in essence, with Bobby Cox gone, and Chipper near done, it’s the end of an era.  But the Braves will always have young talent coming through their ranks to keep things interesting.

Sucks to be them.

Recently, they lost their young stud starter Brandon Beachy to a season-ending injury requiring surgery.  This led them to sign Ben Sheets, the oft-injured once-upon-a-time wunderkind starter himself.  I have kind of a thing for Sheets, I just always loved him, but I know his limitations as a pitcher.  So they replace an injured pitcher with a perpetual injury risk himself.   The Braves will always be somewhat of a threat to the Mets, but to be honest, I don’t see them being much of a threat this season.  Jonny Venters has not had a dominant season, coming back down to Earth as he was pretty much bullet proof in the ‘pen last year.

The Marlins.  Or the MarLOLins as you’re apt to see on Twitter.  Miami has proved that, once again, championships or divisions are not won by backpage headlines.  In fact, I’m sure with a cast of characters like Hanley Ramirez (not exactly known for playing nice with people), Jose Reyes (whom we all loved as Met), Carlos Zambrano (nuff said), Heath Bell (bwahhahahahahaha), Mark Buehrle (actually, I don’t have a problem with him, but he was on the FA list so there), and manager Ozzie Guillen, we all thought this could go one of two ways: Jeffrey Loria was trying to garner interest in his new park by spending money on top names, or the team would peak in year one, only to have the contracts take them down and have a fire sale in a few years.

Suffice to say, both were off for me.  While the park has lost some interest with dwindling attendance some nights, the team is certainly not peaking.  In fact, whoever had the over/under of team turmoil happening before the season started won with Guillen making some controversial comments on Fidel Castro, when his team plays right in the heart of Little Havana in Miami.  Oops.

But that’s not all.  Two days ago, Guillen ripped into the pitching staff of his team for giving up 13 runs to the Milwaukee Brewers, losing a game in extra innings via walk off when Heath Bell blew a save (something we hear about quite a bit, actually).  Bell is getting paid an average $9mm per year for three years to close in Miami, and he has five blown saves to record as of today.  That’s nuts, as my friend Sully says, don’t let his contract ruin the season.

Sucks for them.

For everyone who anointed this team as world beaters at the beginning of the season, I told my friends on a podcast of predictions that I didn’t think they were going to go anywhere.  I was in the minority.  I did, however, say the Phillies would win the division until they gave me good reason not to think they would.

I think they’ve given me reason.  Roy Halladay was hit with the injury bug in May, but he should be nearing his return soon.  That didn’t take away from the fact though, that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were both out, formidable threats in the lineup.  Utley returned, kicking off a six-game losing streak with him on the active roster.  Then there was the curious case of Clifton Phifer Lee, who couldn’t buy a win with his $24 mm (till, you know, the Mets gift wrapped his first win for him).  Then Howard shows up, well on a return from his Achilles tendon injury, looking like he could be the next spokesperson for the bacon sundae at Burger King.

Sucks for them.

I know it’s only July, I know better than anyone that ANYTHING can happen between All-Star break and the last regular season game in September.  But honey, let me tell you, Rome is burning and Nero is fiddling, but substitute “Philadelphia” for Rome, and a fiddling Nero for I don’t know, some cheesesteak eating Eagles fan who got tired of waiting around for them to win a Super Bowl.  Look, Cliff Lee can go on a tear and win every single start from here on out.  Halladay could be the rug that ties the room together, and Howard might start smacking the crap out of the ball in his return.  It will also account that they are WAY behind in the game, Jimmy Rollins isn’t getting any younger, Shane Victorino’s days are numbered in a Phillies uniform (good riddance to that prick-torino), and Jonathan Papelbon is signed for four years, $50mm…and it’s as good as an automatic blown save for the Mets (okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point).  Oh and the beauty part?  Howard signed a gargantuan contract two years ago, that kicked in THIS YEAR: 5 years/$125mm.

Join me in a hearty BWAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

For the Nationals, though, it’s kind of curious.  I know, as it turns out, many good folks who are passionate about the Washington Nationals (follow @cnichols14 and @dugoutdiva for some good Nats tweets).  Though they are a division rival, I’m actually quite curious and kind of excited to see how they pan out this season.  I mean, I love Davey Johnson, that’s for sure.  As a Mets fan, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for him to do well no matter where he goes.  Then there’s the future is so bright, we gotta wear shades kids.  Of course, I’m talking about Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.  But yeah.  Sucks to be them.

Of course, Harper is tearing shit apart and kicking ass, taking names, etc.  But then Strasburg thing is a curious case, as he’s infamously been given an innings limit of 160 innings, maybe a few innings more according to GM Mike Rizzo.  I guess when it was imposed (at the beginning of the season) or suggested, the Nationals making the playoffs might have been a pipe dream.  The reality is, no one is running away with the division now AND with the advent of not one but two wild cards, it warrants some serious consideration about Strasburg’s usage, coming off an injury to being used full-out to win a division, which could happen.

Sucks for them to be put in that situation.  Sacrificing the future, or going with the win-now? Oh and I almost forgot, the beauty part.  Remember when Jayson Werth bolted Philly and signed a ginormous contract with the Nats, for a guy who never had 100 RBIs ever in his career (99 was his peak)?  Well, he got hurt earlier this season, and has spent significant time nursing a broken wrist.  Yet, Ryan Zimmerman, with a 6yr/$100 mm extension last year (till 2019 with a 2020 club option), has not been having a great prove-my-contract-worth year with a whopping .241/.304/.374 and 7 HRs and 38 RBIs.  Ouch.

Well, what about the Mets, you may ask?  Well, they are not without their warts either.  In a conversation with Kerel Cooper from On The Black last night, I told him that I was happy to be dead wrong about the starting pitching this year.  (Video will be posted in a few days).  Doesn’t mean I won’t have my concerns about going into the second half.  Johan Santana may not have a Strasburg-like limitation, but he did come off a devastating injury last year.  R.A. Dickey has been the man, but according to the New York Post, Dickey is 1-1 with a 7.79 ERA against teams he’s faced previously this season.  That’s kind of an ouchie, considering we really need someone like Dickster to step up his game against NL East teams down the stretch.  Then there’s Jon Niese, whom you all know I love, but he often has conditioning issues (and a heart surgery coming up during All-Star Break…as minor/outpatienty it sounds…yeesh).  Chris Young and Dillon Gee have been holding down the fort, but with Young’s propensity for the long-ball, and Gee’s youth, they need to also step their second half up.  Oh and the bullpen.  It sucks.

Moving right along though, David Wright has been having an outstanding season and he’s not even playing for a contract!  But then, there’s someone like Ike Davis, whom most Mets fans are rooting for, but his bout with Valley Fever and an injury comeback has hampered his play significantly.  We have a dude named Duda in RF who clearly has no clue how to play the position, and my ass is on Scott Hairston’s wikipedia page.  What’s worse?  Daniel Murphy has improved at his role as an infielder…but may be trade bait for the deadline.

Which leads me to….sucks for them all.

Each of these teams have to think about whether they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline.  That will determine of course how much it sucks to be these teams.  Let’s recap, no one is running away with the division.  The Nationals are clear frontrunners, but anything can happen in the next half.  The Mets have been surprising, but can’t count our chickens as R.A. Dickey comes down to Earth and the bullpen with as many question marks as it has.  The Marlins…I doubt they will be buyers at the deadline, since they were already buyers in the offseason.  The Braves and Phillies look to be active in the trade market, but the Phillies are looking to be active sellers with names like Victorino being tossed around, or even Cole Hamels who is in a walk-year, and giving millions of reasons why he is worthy to be signed long term.

It sucks to be all of these teams.  Yet it sucks in a good way, because some of them can improve and it can easily become a two-horse race after the trade deadline.