Month: March 2013

Down Cycle

One of my favorite movies is She’s the One, starring Edward Burns and a cast of stars like Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston.  A line that keeps repeating is the idea of a “down cycle,” during a relationship, where one doesn’t have “relations” for a block of time.  The idea is that we all have them, we can’t perform at a totally up-up-up level 100% of the time.

I guess we can say that Brad Richards is in what we call a “down cycle” in his playing.

Well, technically, it’s a Ranger problem, but it’s basically an epidemic that’s stemmed out from Bradley.

“I’ve never been through anything like this in my career,” the 12-year-veteran said. “I’m trying to cope with it, I’m trying to learn from it but I’ve never experienced anything like this.  When you’re an offensive guy, you have to produce.” (From today’s NY Post article by Larry Brooks).

Some athletes go through a down cycle.  Remember when, as an example, Jason Bay hit one for like THREE SEASONS?  Sorry for the exclamation, but I mean, I’m a Mets fan, so I’m used to hoping for best, but expecting worst.

My Rangers and friend-in-real-life @NotGlenSather warned us last year that Richards, the big free agent signing, could be a blessing or a bust.  Considering Ranger history, and length of the contract, we kind of figured he could go either way, but mostly hoped for the best case scenario: that he’d give us a few good years, then fizzle out on the back end.

Fizzle isn’t even the word to describe him now.  Ranger Nation had a fair assessment of Richards today, mostly a glass half-full post:

I guess I should address the elephant in the room: the comparisons of Brad Richards to Chris Drury. It’s amazing what a difference a year makes. One year ago Brad Richards was one of the best free agent signings in franchise history, yet today Rangers fans think of Richards as being just as big of a bust as Chris Drury. (Adam Garabedian, Brad Richards Struggles Doesn’t Mean He’s In Decline)

Valid point.  I mean, with the passion surrounding the fan base, and the crazy reactionaries there are in ALL teams, it’s easy to think of Richards as a drain on the team.  Heck, Richards is even cognizant and acknowledged it in the Larry Brooks piece. Yet, something else that the Ranger Nation piece actually acknowledged is that Richards did not keep current during the lockout, didn’t actively play.  That’s a big red flag, to me, that one of the best offensive guys wasn’t working on that very aspect.

You’d think one of two things would happen during a long layoff: that he works out and crafts his game and gets better; or sits and gets stagnant.  Guess which happened to Richards?

The worst case scenario is that he gets in his own head.  Athletes are famous for doing that.  The weight of the world is on their shoulders, and by pressuring themselves when they can’t perform, leads them to more underperforming.  Then it can go one or two ways from there.  It either gets into their head for season after, or they make themselves better.

On the Mets, David Wright was having trouble “performing,” and led to a down cycle for a few years where he struck out routinely with men on base. Yet, when he got out of his own head, and started to concentrate on hitting, period, again rather than hitting home runs, he had a resurgence.

Yet we’ve seen this story before with the Rangers.  Perhaps the Ranger Nation post made a decent comparison with Drury, but I have another one that hits closer to home: Marian Gaborik.  In 2010-11, Gaborik had a noticeable decline, though he missed several games, yet that didn’t quite account for his fall off the cliff.  Certainly didn’t show up during the postseason either, when the Rangers got eliminated all too quickly that year.

Gaborik had a bounce back year in 2011-12, but is having a similar decline to Richards this year.  Which kind of sucks because one of them on a down cycle is bad enough. Yet you’d have someone else to pick up the slack.  At least Gaborik had a somewhat valid excuse for his slow play: he was hurt and wasn’t projected to come back midseason anyway in a regular scheduled year.  So Gabby couldn’t play if he wanted to.

Richards is a curious case. He seems to have enough of a cerebral type of play that he can bounceback.  He’s aware of his down cycle, and wants it to change.  Yet the time to change already took place: during the lockout.  Now we’re into the season, and it’s not getting any better.

Mostly, I’ve been nonplussed about the Rangers play this season.  A couple of wins that are close, with a smattering of close losses or playing a game of catch-up, like they did over the weekend.

Without a full effort from the two top offensive guys, it won’t matter that Rick Nash is owning the city.  They won’t make the playoffs after a season that they should have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, and it won’t even matter about who gets hot at the right time. Without the help of Brad Richards, this team will have far worse problems than worrying about playoffs: it will be for him to get out of his down cycle.

Advertisements

Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder: Coopie Drinks Because You Torture Her

I wasn’t always a big drinker.  In fact, I probably can’t even classify myself as one anymore, since I’m no longer in my 20s, and don’t like being hungover ever since it takes me like three days to recover from ONE bad night of drinking.

But there was a period of time that made me drink, and it correlated to a time period with being a Mets fan.  And it was during some of the best of times too, as a fan.

It is one name, though, one name in particular that makes Coopie reach for the bottle.

Or one time, actually.

And that’s Jose Lima Time.

************************************************

The game that actually Coop associates with drinking heavily is a game with positive memories, one that certainly gives the warm fuzzies.  And that’s late 2005, the Mets are pushing for what was to be an elusive wild card.  Ramon Castro hits a home run against Ugueth Urbina, sailing into the old Pepsi Porch in Shea Stadium.

I drank very heavily for two reasons.  One is that I didn’t have to work the next day.  Two is that the game was so close, and I really wanted them to win.

Yes, I convinced myself I was taking one for the team, by drinking.  Heavily.

I didn’t leave drunk, but I felt like I did something for the common good, by switching that energy.

************************************************

Turn the clock to almost a year later.  It’s 2006, and the New York Mets are enjoying a bit of a renaissance or a Metaissance.

While the Mets offense seemed to be gellin’ like Magellan, the pitching left a bit to be desired.  Besides Tom Glavine having himself a bit of a Glavinaissance (see what I did there?), the rest seemed to be chosen by the method of seeing what shit stuck to the wall.  Oh, but except for Steve Trachsel who this chick has some sort of Stockholm Syndrome associations.

Oh and did I mention Trachsel, at that point, was the longest tenured Met?

A brighter spot was John Maine, who came to the team via trade.  Then there was El Duque Hernandez, the oldest 37 year old alive.  (Seriously, the guy does not age).

In no particular order, the Mets threw the likes of Glavine, Trachsel, Maine, Duque, Brian Bannister, Alay Soler, Geremi Gonzalez, Mike Pelfrey, Dave Williams, Victor Zambrano, and Pedro Martinez into the starter role.

Did I forget someone?  I feel like I did.  After all, there were so many starters who took one for the proverbial team that season.

Oh wait, now I remember.

Jose Lima!

…….

************************************************

The date is July 7, 2006.  The Mets prove to not be fluky, and they have a strong hold in the NL East.  Yet, the pitching continually is a question mark, with some questionables being thrown into the mix.

At this point, I had attended probably the most Mets games I had in my adult life.  In fact, due to all the money I was spending on one-off games (plus my dad’s weekend plan), it was that weekend that I decided to take the plunge and take a closer look at full season tickets.

Not sure why that specific weekend.  It must have been the alcohol talking.

Jose Lima made four starts for the Mets that season, and subsequently four losses with 17 1/3 innings pitched.

On 7-7, I was in attendance.  I went directly after work, and went to my seat in Field Level.  Dontrelle Willis made the start for the then-Florida Marlins.

It’s a wonder I can even remember **that** much.  Believe you me, there’s not much I remember of that night.

In fact, when Dontrelle Willis (remember? The starting pitcher for the Marlins) hit a GRAND SLAM in the third inning…that was when the beer guy became my best friend.  When I was still talking about Lima in the seventh inning, still convinced it was HE who was out there, and not Darren Oliver (who apparently did not give up another run, which should have been my first clue that Lima was no longer in the game), I learned something.

That beer was the solution to all things bad in baseball.   It certainly made my memories of Lima more appealing.  Well, my lack of memories.  Because I had wiped it out mostly.

I kept drinking.  And drinking, and drinking, and drinking.   Oh, I ate something.  Drinking.  More drinking.  The people in the box next to us offered me some cookies.  I declined.  I kept drinking.

I remember saying something to the effect that, “Jose Lima is awful, why is he still out there?” And to which my box-mates in the field level said, “Uh, you do know he was taken out after the third?”  I was not convinced.

Ah, the beauty of alcohol.

************************************************

But with my drinking game that goes along with baseball, I can’t do it as much as I used to.  I guess my liver is starting to balk.  But that night Lima made that start was the be-all end-all of all drinking nights at baseball games.  I still think it’s funny that it took me till the seventh inning to realize he was no longer in the game.

The last time I threatened to up my drinking was in 2007, probably after a particularly bad game (take your pick).  I lamented the fact that when I drove to Miller Park, I couldn’t drink at a stadium named after a beer, because I drove.  Now, I can barely remember the last time I got hammered at a game.

But for awhile my drinking problem was centered around the Mets.  It was fun.  It was social.  But now I just mostly have a social drink or two at each game.  And mostly not even beer, now that they have mixed drinks available.

But I was definitely doing my part to keep alcohol companies in business during the Mets’ hey days.

Can We Have Nice Things?

I call books, film, and pieces on Mets history “Mets porn.”  Ask blolleagues like Matt Silverman, Greg Prince and Jason Fry, or even my own husband about random Mets minutiae, and their eyes light up like Ralphie opening his Red Ryder BB gun on Christmas morning.

For a team that is 50 years old, there is enough quirkiness and fun stuff around that makes us unique, and gives us a firm identity in our Mets-ness.

When CitiField opened in 2009, I’m preaching to the choir about how Mets history was little to be found.  Yet, when the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum opened in 2010, with promise of a “1986 Day” honoring Frank Cashen, Davey Johnson, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, it was a sign of things to come.

A sign that finally, that we Mets history porn obsessed folks would have something to look forward to each year.

Now…

Things are interesting.  Since 2010, we’ve seen one induction, for John F. Franco, though his given middle name is Anthony (You figure out what the F stands for), and that was last season.

It was a foregone conclusion that Mike Piazza, who besides Gary Carter is the best Mets catcher in their history (and prior to Travis d’Arnaud, haha), would be inducted.

Especially this year, with his first year on the HOF ballot.

Till he was famously snubbed because he might have done steroids. He along with a few others.

Here’s the kicker.  When Piazza came to the Mets via the Marlins after spending the first half of his career with Los Angeles, he was coming to greener pastures.  The Dodgers did him dirty.  In a turn of events, the Los Angeles media drove him out of town, questioning his loyalty to the team, and made him the superstar he is today to Mets fans.

I know plenty of Mets fans who were not “Piazza guys.”  Myself, I was a Piazza denier until he was no longer with the team.  It was only then that I realized as a fan, I consistently undervalued what he meant to the organization.

He would no doubt be a Hall of Famer, and he would no doubt be wearing a Mets cap.

When the Mets brought him back in 2008 and 2009 to close Shea Stadium and open CitiField, respectively, he posed with Tom Seaver, he himself done dirty once upon a time by the Mets organization.  We have The Franchise, and the Met Mercenary, but they helped create some of the best Mets memories and history that make us unique.

I get a lot of heat for supporting guys like Jon Niese, who apparently has the personality of gum found on the bottom your shoe.  My argument is – who gives a shit that he’s boring?  Quite honestly, Tom Seaver doesn’t exactly have a reputation of being a “great guy,” and he’s revered to this day.  It happens.

Mike Piazza is a different.  He was cool towards the fans, but seemed to understand his place in Mets history.  When he didn’t show for the Best Mets ceremony last year, it raised a red flag with me.

Not so much for Piazza.  I did hear that he needs to be “paid” for these gigs, but then again, so does Tom Seaver and you don’t hear about that, EVER.  But it was more like Walter Sobchek asking “Are you fucking this up, dude?”

Even the most minute of events the Mets can fuck up.  All we want is to be able to honor our past, put aside any bad feelings and celebrate what little pieces of heaven we have.

Now, of course, we hear that with Piazza’s new book and him rehashing old memories that guys like Jeff Wilpon and Jay Horwitz are butt hurt over some of Piazza’s perceptions, like being encouraged to play with an injury in spring training or not being protected enough by the media.

How many franchise players are asked to aggravate an injury to appease fans by Palm Beach Community College’s finest?  By some guy who had to host an “I’m a Heterosexual” press conference.

It’s a travesty that Mike Piazza isn’t in Cooperstown or at the very least an HOF-elect for 2013.  But what is the real travesty is that Mets, a team that has a hard time honoring their own history if not for the fan movements for bringing it back, won’t even consider retiring his number or putting him in their own ring of honor before he’s honored by Cooperstown.

To me, this shouldn’t even be a question.  Piazza is a Hall of Famer by number, and the Mets need to do him right and bring him for a Mike Piazza Day/Night, retire 31 and get his plaque at CitiField.  And since there are already entrances for Seaver, Stengel, Hodges and Payson, name the Tastes of the Citi section “the Piazza.”

Do Mets fans and Piazza right.  Stop being so butt hurt about things, and honor the guy already.

And P.S.  According to that David Lennon piece in Newsday, Jeff Wilpon has final say in retiring Mets numbers and Hall of Fame inductions.

Jeff Wilpon.

Jeff Fucking Wilpon.

WHAT THE FUCK BUSINESS DOES JEFF WILPON HAVE ON THE SAY OF RETIRING NUMBERS AND HALL OF FAME INDUCTIONS????? SERIOUSLY??!?!? 

Shouldn’t that shit be done by like a Fan Committee or Mets Alumni?  That makes more sense, doesn’t it?

Fucking idiots.

Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder: Don’t Let It Fall On Me

“When Black Friday comes/
I’ll collect everything I’m owed/
And before my friends find out/
I’ll be on the road” – Steely Dan, “Black Friday”

Traditionally, the Mets have always overvalued their own prospects, to the extent that they’d cling to those that had value until they no longer had any.  Or had a higher trade value as a younger prospect, then rush them so that they couldn’t develop properly.  Yeah, that seemed to be the Mets’ MO until recently.

What happens when you don’t value your prospects?

You get Black Friday 2004.

In an odd circle of events, it was the events of Black Friday 2004 that set me into the path of blogging.  When I heard about Scott Kazmir being traded, and fan favorite Ty Wigginton being turned around for Kris Benson (which I wasn’t too bent about at the time), I needed an outlet.  It was frustrating being a Mets fan at that time.  They were boring and terrible to watch, behind their boring and terrible manager Grandpa Art, and a team that couldn’t get its act together.  Remember when Jose Reyes was always hurt and David Wright was a baby?  This was then.  There was stuff to look forward to, but the team itself then was blah.

Black Friday, in and of itself, was a special Mets event.  We still talk about it and cringe.  But it’s more than just how it set the Mets back (and it did, which I will explain, even though within two years they made the postseason and were oh-so-close in 2007 and 2008).  It’s how they destroyed the career of Kazmir before it event started.

The shorthand of it was because of the backlash of Black Friday — how John Franco and Al Leiter were in the ear of Jeff Wilpon, who had more of a hands-on approach to day-to-day operations with the team, and claimed that Kazmir’s music tastes weren’t appropriate and he was out of line (by changing the channel in the weight room) — this led to the rehiring of Omar Minaya, who then in turn cut ties with Franco and Leiter (the right move at the time).  Then he signed Pedro Martinez (and FUCK Pedro Martinez), and signed Carlos Beltran to a long-term deal which was riddled with injuries and blocked the development and career of Lastings Milledge.  Then there was the line about fixing a pitcher in ten minutes, uttered by pitching coach extraordinaire Rick Peterson.

Yes, Scott Kazmir and his trade for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato was the snowball effect of all post-traumatic Mets disorder for this fan.

I remember one fan blogger (no longer in existence or just hard to find) said that Black Friday was this generation’s Midnight Massacre.  Now, I’m not going so far as to say the trade of a highly rated pitching prospect for crap is like trading away the Franchise Tom Seaver.  But the betrayal behind, and though process, were indeed the same.  Save David Wright, we haven’t had that type of move with a “Franchise Player” unless you count Jose Reyes, which was purely business.

But it’s more than just the betrayal of the fan base.  It was the betrayal of Scott Kazmir himself.  Trading him to the Tampa Bay Rays (then Devil Rays) was probably the worst thing for his career and in effect, it’s ruined him.

One of the grumblings behind the trade was that Kazmir was an injury risk.  And looking at how he’s performed since the trade would lead us to believe it would have been more of the same had he stayed with the Mets.  I don’t think that’s necessarily true, and there’s more than meets the eye with this one.

Kazmir was only 19 years old and had only been in the minors for barely two years at that point.  One of my biggest gripes with the Mets historically is how they’ll rush prospects in the name of appeasing the fans.  The Rays had orchestrated a heist of the top pitching prospect for two pieces of donkey dung.  They were also on the cusp of changing their culture, one that had been a losing one up to just about a few years ago.  They needed to have something there to show their 15 fans they were serious about the future.  They did that by having Kazmir pitch for the rest of the 2004 season.

He probably pitched over his head, and then hurt himself.  He has not pitched since 2011.  And even then he only pitched 1 2/3 innings with the Angels of Anaheim, Planet Earth.

If the Mets rushed him, he’d have had the same thing that happened to him with Tampa and with the Angels.  Yet, if he hadn’t been traded, who knows, he may have had time to mature and been the highly touted pitcher he was supposed to be.

Perhaps there wouldn’t have been a need to sign Pedro for four years.  Kazmir would have been that pitcher.  With Kazmir, there wouldn’t have been a need for Duaner Sanchez and then for Oliver Perez.  Perhaps there wouldn’t have been a need to lean on El Duque in 2006. Kazmir could have gotten those important starts down the stretch in 2007 as he honed his craft.  There wouldn’t have been a mad scramble to replace Pedro Martinez or anyone else who got hurt in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Inadvertently, the trade of Scott Kazmir led to a downward spiral that the Mets still haven’t quite gotten out of.  Even with prospects like Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler in the Mets system and the excitement around them, we always wonder when the shoe is going to drop…whether they will step on the sensitive toes of a veteran, whether they will thrive in New York, whether they will be rushed or injury prone or whatever.

It’s taken nearly 10 friggin years to get out of that.  All because of Black Friday.  If I knew Black Friday were coming back then, I would have asked for it not to fall on me either.

But it did.  Yet for the first time in a long time, things are looking up for the Mets.  However, if Scott Kazmir had been given a chance to grow and thrive with the Mets, maybe the faux dynasty of David Wright and Jose Reyes would have been solidified with Kazmir heading up the rotation.  Of course we’ll never know.  But that won’t stop me from having post-traumatic Mets disorder associated with Black Friday for years to come.