Mets 2011

The Wheeler Lining

It took me a long time to warm up to Carlos Beltran.  Yet, when he left via trade to the San Francisco Giants this summer, I loved him.  He became easily one of my favorite Mets players ever.  I wished that all fans could have seen him the way I did, and some of my blolleagues did, but I can certainly understand why about 50% of the Mets fan population did not like him all that much.  His personality wasn’t all that grand, and perhaps he was one of those players that would be appreciated more outside of the fishbowl that is headed up by the New York metro main stream media.

Yet there is always a downside to signing a guy, any player in any sport, to the type of contract that Beltran possessed.  There is the threat of injury, underperformance, the noose of tying up years and dollars to just one player.  In New York, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but for the Mets it always is because of their lack of foresight that the guy might not make it to the end. Look at Jason Bay: his numbers started dwindling the second he walked into CitiField.  Perhaps he’ll turn it around in 2012, but along with Johan Santana, their contacts will unfortunately tie up resources for short-term, and unless they show signs of improvement, it will be hard to dump.

Luckily, the Mets and most specifically Sandy Alderson got some value out of Beltran.  One of the clauses in Beltran’s contract was that the Mets could not offer arbitration once the contract expired.  I always assumed there was a “gentleman’s agreement” when offering arbitration, but at Beltran’s age it might have been more advantageous for him to accept arb and see what the market is for him with the Mets.  I doubt that would have been the case: I think Beltran was miserable in New York.  Yet, Alderson did the unthinkable and unprecedented move of trading Beltran at the deadline in 2011.  At the beginning of the season, people thought I was crazy when I suggested it could be Beltran who moved at the deadline.  There’s no value to keeping him around, especially if the Mets are not realistically competing. He was owed too much money, I was told.  We’d never get anyone of value back.  Someone though neglected to tell Sandy Alderson that.

Trading Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler (Zach? I’ve seen it spelled both ways) was a step in the right direction for the New “New Mets.”  Beltran once called the team he signed with in 2005 the “New Mets.”  They quickly became “Old Mets” under Omar Minaya’s watch.  With the removal of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo and subsequent bad vibes of recent seasons, there are a few positives to take away from this.

One is that when Beltran was traded, the Mets agreed to take on most of his salary.  In a way, this was positive: though they still paid Beltran to play for another team, they did get some value in return in a prospect that could give years of return on investment.  With the grumblings about the financial situation of the Mets as well, perhaps this was a PR move too to show that they could still pay someone who was not playing for them anymore.

The second thing is that Beltran was traded to the then-reigning World Champions.  Giants GM Brian Sabean has a thing for older players.  It’s no secret that Beltran turned it on in 2004 right before he was a free agent for the Houston Astros in the playoffs that year.  What Sabean needed was a Beltran-type to propel them into the playoffs.  While Beltran had a slow start, he did his part but the team fell short.

I secretly rooted for the Giants.  Well, not so much a secret anymore, since I’m telling all of you.  But mostly because I wanted to see Beltran succeed (and for my selfish fan-crush of the Giants pitching staff, especially Tim Lincecum).  I would have loved to rooted for Carlos in the playoffs, but they did not make the playoffs in 2011 at all.

My blolleague over at KinersKorner and the Kult of Mets Personalities, Nik Kolidas, said something to me a while back.  When I said that I wanted to see Beltran in the playoffs, he said it would be a great thing if they didn’t make it.  For the Mets, that is.  It meant something actually went RIGHT for the Mets in this trade!  Meaning that another team actually gambled wrong and the Mets could have potentially walked away from the transaction better in the long-term.

Zack Wheeler hasn’t thrown a pitch for the Mets yet, or he may never, depending on whether he’s used as a trading chip for someone else.  Right now, he’s developing the correct way, something that the Mets have never been known for.  How many times have we heard about prospects being rushed just to satisfy a quick need for the team, only to never get over the rushing and never living up to his potential?  What he has done is provided some tangible value for Carlos Beltran in the end, and this was one of the first steps away from the damage this franchise has seen in over two decades.

When one door closes, another one opens.  This much we know to be true.  Things might not be 100% fantastic in Flushing for 2012, but just remember that behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining.  In this case, we could call the future of the Mets the Wheeler Lining. Finally, it appears that a Mets GM gamed the market to his favor, and potentially could lead to smoother sailing in the future.

Advertisements

This One Is For Uncle Johnny

I discovered the wide world of Mets bloggers and blogging in 2004.  After that season ended, I needed an outlet, a community to share grievances and to laugh and to be with fans like me.  I started my own personal blog in 2007, when I was done with school and I wanted to expand my network of Mets friends and family, even calling my blog My Summer Family.

Shortly after starting the site, I was approached by a new forum with original content and rotating writers in the Mets blogosphere called Flushing University.  I met a bunch of lovely folks in there, most of them came from the Mets.com forums (I was always blocked during business hours from those sites though), and started their own site.  It was fun, quirky.  With a name like F.U., there was a double-entendre, but also gave us a chance to “lecture.”  But the lectures were fun.  I called out the Mets on their lack of love for Bill Shea in their CitiField schematics, talked about how moving the Dodgers to Los Angeles was the right move, among others.

The year 2007 was really the year of the blogger, as our networks expanded and there were a bunch of cool niche sites out there, especially regarding the Mets.  It truly was a special time to be a blogger then.

And that was where I met Johnny Lowe.

There was Mike, and Deb, and Gary G, and Dingo (whom I called Dingbat, all in affectionate terms), and there was Johnny.  At the time, there was a song by The Killers called “Uncle Jonny,” and in our email exchanges I called him, “Uncle Johnny” or “Uncle J.”  We were bonded by our love for the Mets.  We also had some other things in common, like our political and social beliefs, and even music.  I usually don’t preclude anyone who doesn’t share my political or social beliefs from being a good person, but that of course just gave him favorable points in my eyes.

He disliked living in Florida, which kept him away from seeing the Mets, but he loved his family, wife Stacey and their son Asher.

I could poke fun at him.  There was one instance when A-Rod opted out of his contract during the 2007 World Series, and he thought the Mets should go after him.  I disagreed.  He told me that A-Rod won a Gold Glove, which made him a good defensive player…I told him that I called him “E-Rod,” that only the Yankees would put someone at 3B who was the best SS in the league, and that Gold Gloves meant nothing since Bobby Abreu once won one.  He said Bobby Abreu was a fine caliber outfielder who deserved it.

My response was to use an emoticon that showed a smiley face being pulled up to the spaceship.  I told him to “Say ‘HI’ to Elvis for me!”

It was all in good fun.  Johnny was one of those guys who always had a great attitude, even if you disagreed with him.

Today, Johnny Lowe passed away from a bout of pancreatic cancer.

As with his attitude, he kept a positive outlook, wanted to be remembered positively, and not remembered as being “sick.”  I found out on Facebook, today, and even thought that I hadn’t heard from “Uncle J” in awhile, and I hoped that he was okay.  Mets friends have lost a few good ones this year, with Dana Brand and our friend and brother Adam Baker.  Uncle Johnny Lowe is another one of those guys.  His wife even posted that all he wanted was a party to celebrate his life, and not a solemn memorial service.  There will be a celebration of his life, and I wish I could be there, alas it is in Florida.  I guess it’s fitting, as Johnny was one of those folks I never met in person, but had an impact on me in the cyberworld.

I’d like to think that if there is an afterlife, that he’s jamming with Jerry Garcia with a continuous loop of 1969 and 1986 Mets championships playing in the background. In this lifetime, though, our friend Mack Ade has set up a college fund contribution for Asher Lowe, please see details of it at Mack’s blog.

This one is for Uncle Johnny.  I will never forget you, my friend.

Gaming the Market

It’s funny how my status as a Mets ticket plan holder has evolved over the years.  I was in some way shape or form a mini-plan holder, then became a full season holder.  Believe it or not, depending on where you sit, being a baseball season ticket holder is not prohibitively expensive; of course, it’s all in the eye of the beholder on what you want to spend your discretionary income on.  For myself and my husband, though, we enjoy going to games, good or bad, win or lose, plus we can barter or sell tickets to go on road trips.

I would be lying though, if I didn’t tell you that each year I wonder if I’ll still want to be a season ticket holder.

It started in 2007, the “whispers” of being “priced out of CitiField.”  Everyone started freaking out because the Mets couldn’t figure out how to package their mini-plans, and season ticket holders really weren’t given a fair shot at where they wanted to sit.  I’ll be the first person to tell you that.  In 2008, they raised prices at Shea Stadium, to give us an idea of what we’d be up against.  For the marketplace though, it was almost fair.  Try going to a game at that place in the Bronx, or even a basketball game at Madison Square Garden.  You’d be hard pressed to find a cheap ticket there.  I’ve always argued that when we visit smaller market teams like Pittsburgh or even Baltimore, the tickets are priced according to that market.  They are cheaper to us and more bang for the buck because of where these teams play.  Whether their teams are bad is inconsequential.  When I visit those stadiums, if I don’t have a rooting interest, I just enjoy the game.  The prices, though, may be prohibitive to those who live in those markets, however.  This is something we need to consider when griping about the Mets’ pricing structure.

Of course, in 2009 when CitiField opened, the Mets put the screws to some of their loyal ticket plan holders.  I had seats in the Mezzanine, and the comparable area would be the Excelsior level or “Logezanine” as Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing calls it.  The tickets were not realistically priced, and I had to settle for the Promenade.  At the time though, it wasn’t that big of a deal.  Remember, the Mets were supposed to be good that year, right?  Fast forward a few months later, I had trouble selling my $18 seats for 18 cents.

That intro was to lay down the foundation for how the ticket pricing is going on now.  It’s evident then that the Mets and most appropriately the Sterling Equities group (Wilpons/Katz, etc) were not gaming the market efficiently. A new stadium in the biggest media market should have been sold out at every single game, or close to it.  Some will point to the season itself; some will say it had to do with pricing overall; others will say it was economic factors.  What is evident is that the Wilpon/Katz family in their infinite wisdom thought it would be wise to introduce premium luxury seats to a blue collar fan base to settle their own monetary issues stemming from bad investments on their watch.  Quite possibly, CitiField was one of those investments.

Each year I have been at CitiField, my prices have gone down significantly.  In 2010, I even moved my seats to a lower level, as it was still cheaper than my 2008 seats at Shea Stadium.  In 2011, my seats went down even further.  I had about three games that people did not attend in my seats.  They also introduced “perks” to ticket plan holders, such as taking the field with a player (I took position with Scott Hairston back in April!), subscriber events (such as breakfast at CitiField, raffles, winter team events), and ticket vouchers for additional tickets to a game, in premium seats.

Photo credit to Sharon Chapman

Photo Credit to Me!

The Mets just released their ticket pricing structure for 2012.  Season ticket holders once again get savings, I am saving nearly 20% if I decide to renew for 2012 (which I probably will).  They are issuing “dynamic pricing,” which means you get a structured level of pricing for what game you go to.  This is nothing new, they’ve been doing this for years.  You pay a higher dollar price for Mets/Yankees, Mets/Phillies, but you save going to see Mets/Nationals, etc.

The kicker?  We need to renew by November 7 in order to indulge in the Season Ticket Perks, which was introduced last year.  In previous years, we’ve been able to pay by December 15, and even have had payment plans introduced to us.  The whole saving-money-thing doesn’t bother me: this the whole commitment-thing-before-hot-stove thing does.

At a season ticket holder function the last Sunday of the season, another fellow season ticket holder and I started chatting about the park.  “Nice stadium,” he said.  “Shoulda been sold out every game in 2009.”  I agreed; it shouldn’t have been so hard to sell tickets.  It still shouldn’t.  There are several factors at play.  The injuries are one thing.  The AAA supporting cast is another.  The lack of a plan or foresight in both 2009 and 2010 adds on to the uncertainty.

The team neglected to game the market.  The Wilpons thought wrong in making the stadium for them, by making it smaller and raising ticket prices in a down economy and after two late season failings (though in fairness, there is no way they could have seen the last two things).  They brought in new ticket people (including parting ways with Bill Iannicello, who had been with the team for as many years as I could remember), but it was a year too late.  Even all the perks they are trying to woo season ticket holders with may not be enough.  I remember the days when they didn’t offer us jack, just the good name of the Mets and the tickets.  They figured a nice new park would be shiny enough to make us forget we were watching a crappy team after a while.

But will any of this make us want to go to games?  Lowered ticket prices are nice.  Would you pay an average of $29/ticket for outfield reserve (that’s how much mine cost, if you’re looking to buy next year, ha ha)?? Other monetary factors figure in like parking and tolls, gas even (As an example, I invited Randy from Read the Apple to a game where the ticket was FREE, and he said that even though the ticket I was giving him would be free, by the time he made it to the park, it would be upwards of $40, and he’d have to do it again since he was going to another game that week).  Some people who have to travel find that the SNY broadcast along with the comforts of home like HD TVs and surround sound plus your own food make it enticing to just stay home.

Factor in a crappy team.  At least they’re trying to game the market, but like most Mets’ efforts, they will probably fall short in this plan too.

The Greatest Game(s) Ever Played

I usually get all warm and mushy for the last game of the season.  This year was weird.  Typically, the baseball season ends on a Sunday, and I get all weepy and nostalgic the last weekend.  Since the Mets’ season ended on a Wednesday, the last weekend didn’t hold the same feelings of sadness and longing as in previous years.

The Mets finished their season around 3:30 pm on Wednesday.  Little did I know, that the last day of baseball had yet to begin.

The greatest thing about baseball are the different subthemes in each game.  Every game has a story.  This year, we had four stories to watch.  The starring roles were to be played by: the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees; the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox; the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros; and the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves.

To say that this Mets fan had a vested interest in these games was an understatement.  I have a thing for the Red Sox, as in the “enemy of the enemy is my friend,” etc etc.  Although I have to say, I wouldn’t have minded them not making the playoffs; after all, they were pretty much anointed the World Series Champs with the signing of Carl Crawford in the offseason and trading for Adrian Gonzalez.  I like the Orioles too; I had just spent a day at Camden Yards with a Yankee fan that we called the “Bird Bowl” (as the Blue Jays were their opponent), and she even chronicled that trip in this column (follow Amanda on Twitter @amandarykoff…she is a good Yankee fan and super cool).

 

I also happened to fall in love with Robert Andino that day…they have this great mid-inning entertainment clip called “Andino at the Movies,” where he regales us with movie reviews.  Trust me, it’s comedy in its highest form.

Did I like the way the Yankees just laid down for the Rays?  No.  But I did like the Rays’ team (although they were eliminated from their amazing late-season run earlier today).  I certainly would have liked them to make the Wild Card over the Red Sox, but I guess that’s because the Sox have become a more “moneyball” version of the Yanks (which I guess makes no sense, but I guess if you follow baseball, you get it).

I certainly wanted to see the Cardinals make the postseason over the Braves.  Which meant a win by the Cards and a loss by the Braves.

There was something else eating at me too here.  The fact that if the Sox and the Braves both lost their playoff bids, this would mean I wouldn’t have to hear about the Mets “choking” in September anymore.  I mean, talk about losing their playoff bid on the last day of the season.

Yet, I couldn’t even script how Game 162 would end for these teams.  I thought for sure we’d see some Game 163s going on.  No, these teams decided to take care of business the traditional way: backs against the wall and no shortage of drama.

At the beginning of the day, I’d thought the only dramatic thing I’d be watching was whether Ryan Braun would go 3-for-4 and Jose Reyes’ bunt single in his only at-bat on Wednesday would be for naught.  For Mets fans who wanted something cheer, we got it, and Braun was a non-entity. But hey, his team had already been decided to go to the playoffs, plus he’s almost as close to a lock for MVP if there ever was one.

On a night like this, I can thank goodness for MLB Network.  This gave us the opportunity to keep tabs on all the results.  Since it was technically the last game of the season, I didn’t realize just how glued to my TV I would be.

I was.

I guess the easiest game of the night was the Cardinals.  They won, fair and square, and the only thing they had to do was wait for the Braves to win or lose.  Braves win, they’d play the next day.  Braves lose, Cards were going to play the Phillies in the NLDS.

The real drama occurred over the AL East though.  It looked like the Yankees forgot they were trying to do their part in trying to eliminate their Boston rivals.  Pretty soon though, Rays’ late inning heroics shined through, and they scored seven runs to tie the game up.  I thought for sure the Yankees were throwing meatballs to the Rays to will them to win.  Think what you want, but it was suspect they didn’t bring in their lights-out arms in the bullpen at this juncture.  Then again, the Yankees really didn’t have anything to play for except make Boston suffer.  I’d say they succeeded.

Then the unthinkable happened.  It might not have been that outlandish, but seeing Jonathan Papelbon blow another late inning save wasn’t that story.  It was the fact that Robert Andino is going to haunt Red Sox fans’ dreams (or nightmares).  My friend @2131 and Beyond (an Orioles focused blogger) calls this night “The Curse of the Andino.”  I hope he knows, I do plan to use that one.

I felt bad for friends like Sully, who is as die hard for Boston as they come.  I also know how much they irk Yankees fans.  But to me, the collapse was redemption for me, as a Mets fan, who has been the butt of so many jokes since 2007.  Kranepool Society said “It gets better” to Red Sox fans, but I disagree.  Things have gotten progressively worse for us Mets fans, but I can hope that since other teams have taken the pressure off, perhaps we can all move on.

Same for the Braves.  I think most Mets fans dislike Chipper Jones, but respect the hell out of him.  I know I do.  Some folks were upset that they wouldn’t play in another postseason.  Why, so they won’t make it out of the first round?  I think the Cardinals are certainly more worthy, they worked very hard to get there.

The best part was watching the Rays game unfold.  I said on Twitter that I was going to call it, that the Rays would win it right after the Red Sox lost.

And they did.  Evan Longoria continued to build up his rep with a walk-off home run.  I’d like to think they won that game on pure guts, but I’m pretty sure they were gifted that win.

But who cares?  You might have been able to script these games the way we wanted to, or you might not have.  The thing is, each team kept us guessing to the very end.  Some people might argue that there is nothing more dramatic than a Game 163 or a Game 7 situation.  I’d disagree.  Game 162 2011 version was potentially one of the best nights of baseball I have ever witnessed in my many decades as a fan.  I may recognize October heartbreak, I may not have seen my team win anything in recent years and be humiliated.  That does not mean I have not seen the best that this game can give me.

This is my song for the 2011 season.  The Mets may have not finished where I wanted them to…but I wouldn’t have wanted the season to finish any other way.

You. Cannot. Be. Serious.

I don’t want to say, “You won’t find a bigger Jose Reyes fan than me,” because quite honestly, there probably are many more who are bigger.  But I do love him.  I hope he stays a Met, but I am a realist in knowing his limitations as a player and what his “value” may be, for better or for worse.  But I don’t come to you today in writing that.  No, far from it.

If you watched the game today, Jose Reyes bunted for a single in his very first at-bat.  Today was Game 162, in a very meaningless season in an equally-as-meaningless game, after said bunt single, Reyes was pulled for pinch runner Justin Turner.

There were several subthemes in today’s story.  One was that it was Game 162, and Reyes is playing for a contract.  Reyes has also been hurt twice this season, one of his limitations as a player (his legs, and his game is based on his legs).  Two is that Terry Collins even said prior to the game that if Jose Reyes were to get two hits quickly, he’d be pulled.  Third?  Jose Reyes is “fragile” with his legs, and it’s been well-documented that Collins wanted to give him the day game after a night game off.  Two reasons Reyes started today?  1) To appease fans who wanted to wish him well in case this happened to be his last game as a Met and 2) To preserve his lead in the batting race.

You want to know what I was upset about this afternoon?  That I couldn’t go crazy and give a proper standing ovation for my current favorite Met, Jose Reyes.  (Optimistic Mets Fan, Ceetar, said I could give him my standing O when he returned in April…I hope!!).  What I would have liked to do is send him to his position in the 2nd inning, send Justin Turner out there, and have Jose take a curtain call.  People looked at me like I was crazy when I was chanting, cheering and screaming.  Most of the folks who were getting settled in their seats didn’t even realize he was being taken out.  Collins did us dirty, in my opinion.  But we learned later that this was Reyes’ doing.  (Collins also did the same thing with fan favorite David Wright later in the game, giving a pinch runner,instead of allowing Wright to take his position and then come out).

Look, if this was any other day game after a night game situation, none of us would say shit about it.  The reality is, we want our players to “earn” things.  The common refrain I’ve been hearing is, “Well Ted Williams played the last game of the season to preserve his .400 average.”  Well, Reyes is NOT Ted Williams.  The GAME isn’t even of the ilk of Ted Williams day!  ENOUGH ALREADY!!!  Will it make us feel better if it was earned “fair and square,” whatever the Hell that means?

There was no HGH involved, like some tainted records.  There was no “stats padding” involved, like some players are accused of (Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez, etc).  Even a Milwaukee writer defended Reyes earlier, saying that batting titles have been gamed since the beginning of time.

For all the in-fighting I have seen amongst Mets fans, (and trust me, I’ve seen a lot and have been part of many arguments), this has to be one of the most asinine I’ve ever witnessed.

In my years as a blogger, I’ve been a “bitch,” a “loudmouth,” a “know-nothing” (because I am a woman), and a “non-fan.”  The “non-fan” thing always cracked me up, because I don’t think I could ever be accused of that (the other stuff is fair game).   There was one night, as an example, on Twitter where I had a raging migraine, and there was a particularly tedious game on the TV. I made a comment to the universe at the game, that I wouldn’t have lasted as long as they would have.  Some non-entity later told me that, “You’re not a real fan” because I made a comment that I wouldn’t have lasted as long.

I’ve been a fan since I was seven.  That was a LONG time ago.  I go to 30+ games a year, and go to games on the road.  But I’m not a “real fan.”  **SMH.**

I made it a point to never judge another person who called themselves a fan from that point on.  I have friends on the West Coast who can’t make as many Mets games as they’d like.  I have friends close by that can’t make as many games as they’d like.  Does that make them less of a fan?  No.  Just to self-righteous people it does.

My point is, I don’t like to judge or gauge people’s fandom towards the team we both love.  But today takes the prize hands down.  We have a great player who could potentially win something, a MEANINGLESS something, a piece of paper, that no other player who wore their uniform before has won.  And they still wish to diminish it.  My personal favorite?  Some have even said they wish that Ryan Braun goes 5-for-5 today. On “principal!”

I’m going to come right out and say it..

YOU ARE NOT A FAN.  AND YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS.  (My friend Dave is excluded, but he’s a more of an emotional spectrum of fan, so I let is slide. Plus I know him, and I’m biased).

Furthermore, where the Hell are all the “true Mets fans” who will defend not only Reyes, but also tackle the media that is out to get the Mets?  Before, it was all over Terry Collins.  Collins said it was Reyes’ idea.  Now everyone is quick to throw Reyes under the bus.  The other day, there was a trend on Twitter that was #NegativeMetsHeadlines.  One was: “Mets throw first no-hitter, lose perfect game in 3rd.”  It’s that type of shit that sells newspapers folks and causes all this infighting! ENOUGH!

Look, I will freely admit, some of my favorite players of all time in baseball were not Mets.  To this day, my hero is Cal Ripken Jr.  Currently, I am in love with Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun.  Yeah, I said it, the guy who is in battle for the batting title with my own Jose Reyes (who is my favorite Met, as I’ve illustrated several times).  Ryan Braun is a legit MVP candidate.  If his team makes it to the World Series (which I hope, if only to knock out the Phillies), I’ll root for him and hope he does well.  I’m sure the “batting title” means very little to him at this point compared to a ring and an MVP award.  This is just my personal feeling.

In conclusion, I get why Mets fans are just so angsty and so angry.  For over five years, we’ve been sitting in our seats, waiting for that moment we want to leap out our seats to celebrate something.  It hasn’t happened.  So what if Reyes wins a batting title and he bunted his last at bat to get to that point? Does it matter?  Because in a few years, when we look at the batting title champion wall in the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, we’d have probably forgotten about how he got there in the first place.

Wins Count No Matter When They Happen

I am about to hit the bricks for the evening, but I have one thing to say to Red Sox fans and to a lesser extent Braves fans.  Actually, I could give a shit about Braves fans.  I guess I feel for Red Sox fans more, you know, the enemy of my enemy, etc.

Remember at the beginning of the season, the Mets got off to a very slow start with 5-13 record. Remember all that hullabaloo?  Around the same time, Fred Wilpon conducted an interview with the New Yorker and made a comment about how shitty the team was?

Around the same time, a team with much higher expectations, the Red Sox (who orchestrated a trade for Adrian Gonzalez and signed the most coveted Carl Crawford in the offseason) started with a 2-10 record.

Many of the common refrains we hear at those times include: Oh, it’s only April.  Oh, there’s plenty of baseball to be played.  Oh, we’ll get our act together.  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  I’m beginning to think it’s a rationalization of worse times to come.

The reality is, I think the Red Sox clearly understand the importance of winning games early on in the season.

I speak from experience.  Actually, my friend Steve Keane at Kranepool Society made a comment on Twitter about how it “will get better” for Red Sox fans.  Well, I think Mets fans can attest…it has NOT gotten any better, in fact, things have gotten progressively WORSE since the Mets ended the 2007 season 5-12 in the last 17 games (when they had a fucking SEVEN GAME LEAD at the time over the hated Phillies, who went 13-4 in that same stretch.  Assholes).  Anyway, I remember telling people, who thought I was crazy, that when the Mets weren’t winning critical games midseason, that they weren’t leaving a margin of error for the playoff run.  I guess at the time, they figured the playoffs were within reach and I was nuts for even venturing to think the Mets would collapse.  Well, they did and now we are on the verge of finishing our third consecutive fourth place finish.  Behind the Nationals.  THE NATIONALS!

The Red Sox probably wish they won some of the games they SHOULD have won now.  I spent a weekend in Boston early on in the season where they lost a game to the Seattle Mariners, and it was very close.  This was an example of a game they should have dominated.  They did not.  See my point?

People are making such a big deal about their epic collapse, specifically now that the Rays are playing the Yankees, and it seems like the Yankees are deliberately blowing the games so the Red Sox have to play much harder.  My philosophy is, it shouldn’t have even come to this.

In 2007, people point to the last game of the season that Tom Glavine started for the Mets, but the reality is there were plenty of games they SHOULD HAVE won but DID NOT before that.  Including that week.  The same goes for the Sox now.

I will always have these seasons in mind provided the Red Sox completely implode, or even if they don’t, it’s something to argue.  Wins count no matter when they occur.  Just something to bear in mind when your team with high expectations comes to a slow start.

Oh and for the record.  I don’t want to hear anything about 2007 ever again.  EVER.  If the Braves and the Red Sox don’t make the playoffs, nobody ever say BOO about it.  Kthxbye.

When Worlds Collide

As a sports nut, I have many rooting interests, sometimes conflicts of interest (especially regarding what game I need to prioritize if multiple events are being shown) and mostly conflicting seasons.  Meaning, end of summer isn’t just about beginning of football or baseball wrapping up, but it also means that hockey is in my cross hairs.

What’s also interesting is how many people seem to think the same way I do about these events.  It’s tough to find many Mets and Rangers fans.  It’s a lot easier to find say, Mets and Jets fans, even Mets and Giants fans, but Mets and Rangers are usually as far apart as I don’t know, Yankees and Mets.  See, the Mets were an expansion team, and the Rangers are an Original Six.  While both have their unique and sometimes quirky history, they are as far apart on the spectrum as any team’s history can expect.  However, the way they operate is very similar.  They both have clueless front office and ownership is family-oriented, meaning sometimes the best decisions are not necessarily made and it’s done more to protect the family than of making their investment better.

Yet, when Alvin, a Mets friend of mine, suggested a few of us get together and see a Rangers preseason game in New Jersey versus the hated Devils…I couldn’t say no.  Preseason games usually aren’t my thing (ESPECIALLY when I have to travel for it), but the people I went with are really good folks and I wanted to see them too since it had been awhile.

 

Preseason games usually don’t mean anything to me, but when I’m with such good company, it makes the trip worthwhile.

Now first things first, the moment we enter the place, it was like we owned it.  Ranger fans are very territorial, and I would say even with the success the Devils have had in recent years, the population is 50/50 at most Devils/Rangers games, and I would even venture to say the over goes to Ranger fans (it’s typically more economical to visit the team on the road in NJ, and especially convenient to the NJ portion of the Ranger fanbase).  In fact, when we walked in, a Swedish news reporter asked us about Henrik Lundqvist and why we followed the Rangers.  Of course, we all offered our opinionated views on why we love the Rangers.

The arena, Prudential Center, is much nicer than the previous hole the Devils used to play in, the Swamp, er uh…Meadowlands “I’m Calling It Brendan Byrne” Arena.  Of course, I am biased with it because while I think The Rock is a nice place, it’s nowhere near as cool as MSG.  The thing I will give it over MSG is that a) it’s newer and b) is easier to navigate than MSG.  During the playoffs last season, I was claustrophobic walking around the Garden.  This place has never given me the shrinking walls syndrome that MSG always does.  The food is also marginally better at Pru too.  Yet, I feel like I am at high school gymnasium when I attend games there, with their Devils Dancers and the overall homage to Jersey they have.  I’m from freaking Jersey, and I hate that this is the representative “Jersey team” and that it’s crammed down my throat.

 

Nice arena, but certainly not my cup of tea.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand which is the game itself…

Well, Not Henrik played, Uncle Daddy Marty (aka Martin Brodeur) did.  We got to see Ryan Callahan and his Sweet C.  Even some role guys like Mike Del Zotto showed up.

   

Some aspects of history were brought up, some sad, some kind of interesting.  One thing was that we heard most NHL teams had a dedication to those we’ve lost this summer, most specifically the plane crash that took the lives of the Lokomotiv Russian team.  It was a tearjerker for sure, and even highlighted one of the ’94 Rangers, Alexander Karpovtsev.

For the interesting part…not many people know that prior to his now synonymous #30, Brodeur was #29 at the first point of his career.  I bet this chick thought she was all hard-core wearing not only her fugly red and green originals, but that she was on board with #29 before everyone else.

As legend has it, the Rangers won in the 3rd period with a go-ahead goal and all was right in the world.  Well, I was annoyed and a bit bored since Pru did not get the memo that a) I was there and b) would like to be served immediately if not sooner between periods (especially when all I want is a goddamn soda). Plus, I had to run 10 miles the next morning and needed to get a good night of sleep.  Trust me, this stuff doesn’t happen during the season.  Plus, it was kind of entertaining to see the Devils fans treat this game like a Stanley Cup playoff.  I just had fun hanging with the people who make it worthwhile for me to root for a team and be an active participant as a spectator.

Some other observations I made, albeit quickly and with a watered-down preseason team: Passing looked smoother, they took more shots (no la-la-la pretty set-up dancing) and their power play looked at least a bit tighter.  Clearly, the boys did their homework over the summer break.

Yet, the same night, the Mets were supposed to play, and did not because of a rain out.  Typically, we are going out all out trying to keep up with the scoreboard watching, even though the Mets game meant nothing, even though it’s a meaningless game in September.  But for all intents and purposes, we were also sitting at a meaningless game.

It took more meaning with the people I was with, who also have active interests.  This is what happens when my sports worlds collide.

Oh and not only did my sports worlds collide, my arena worlds collided when the only true dancer of hockey, the Blue Seats’ own Dancin’ Larry, came and regaled us with a few moves at one point in the game!

Preseason games aren’t always to warm the teams up, it’s to warm the fans up too. Judging by the turn out for this particular game, I think it’s shaping up to be a fun season.

A Sports-Filled Weekend

One of the drawbacks of having a sports-oriented website and story-telling regarding specific sporting events is time, or lack thereof.  Lack of time is partially responsible for my lack of writing this weekend.  Trust me, I have LOTS to talk about too.  Of course, with writing about sports mean attending sporting events, which also accounts for me not posting as much (but you can always follow me on Twitter @Coopz22 for in-game commentary and snarky comments).

I attended a Rangers preseason game on Friday night against the enemy New Jersey Devils.  I went to this game with people I’ve met over the years especially regarding Mets fandom (most of the people I attended the game with were Mets fans).

I attended to other things on Saturday most of the day, while hubby was tuning into the Mets / Phillies games on his radio.

Then on Sunday, there was not only Jets football to attend to, the Mets actually held a season ticket holder appreciation day prior to Sunday’s game.  So for a game I had originally written off (I was even planning to sell my tickets to it) I had to all of a sudden care about it because the Mets were actually honoring me (well, people like me, who have season ticket plans) and I was obligated to attend.  It was a nice event, but I wish the game had fared a bit better.

Of course, Philly and New York sports were also a big theme yesterday, as I was at the game, most of the folks were hanging out in the Caesars Club to watch the Eagles face the Giants in football. I typically don’t care about how the Giants do, but I really really really dislike the Eagles (especially that douchecanoe quarterback they have…and the fans…and the city…okay fine I just really don’t like Philadelphia sports at all), so I was happy to see the Giants win.  My Jets, on the other hand, did not fare as well.  But I will save that rant for another post.

Lastly, my Friday began with a matinee of Moneyball.  Baseball fans will enjoy it, and anyone who has read the book and has an acute understanding of how statistical analysis and targeting players who can provide more “wins” and using undervalued statistics will see the Hollywoodization of it, as Mike Silva over at NY Baseball Digest discussed today.  I will be posting a review at some point, I can’t guarantee when because…

Baseball season ends this week…well, for me, since my team is not playing in the postseason.  So I am going to all games this week (till Wednesday).  So my posts may be sporadic.  Or they may be very heavy one day, light for a few.  I promise, once baseball season ends, I’ll be on a more regular schedule.

The Myth of the Franchise Player

Synonymous with Mets is Tom Seaver.  “Tom Terrific” is known as “The Franchise,” the player who was singularly responsible for making the Mets relevant.  Adding him to the pitching staff with the likes of Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan, and coupling him with players like Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee, caused the Mets to win their first championship in 1969.

Legend has it that the Mets were never quite the same after Dr. Evil himself, M. Donald Grant, traded away the Franchise, literally and figuratively, for some spare parts. It was true, in a way, but then again, so was the dynamic changing in baseball. Indirectly relating to the trade of Tom Seaver was the underlying notion that he wanted to be paid up, suckas.  Grant didn’t think Seaver was above the Mets name, and subsequently got rid of him by planting some unfavorable quotes in the NYC sports “tabloids,” if you will.

But the dynamic was also changing because of the era of free agency.  And to that, I ask, is the “franchise player” still relevant?

You know who that is: the guy who is known for playing for one team; who made his mark with one team; who may have played for another team, but was never quite the player he was with that synonymous team.  I think the closest we might have today is Albert Pujols. That, however, may change this offseason due to his contentious situation with being the best player in baseball (well, maybe Alex Rodriguez takes umbrage with that) and being a free agent.  I think his brand with the Cardinals is significant, but as my friend Bill Ivie has said, the Cardinals were a great franchise before Pujols, they’ll still be a great franchise without him.  Time will tell.

But then look at Carlos Beltran.  Perhaps one of the most divisive Mets in recent memory, his injuries may prevent him from ever making the Hall of Fame.  Yet, I had a Twitversation the other day with some other Mets fans about him playing a few more years, uninjured. I think if it walks and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck, and Beltran cannot stay healthy.  I said, the harsh reality is he could be another Moises Alou, a great player whose injury-marred seasons keep him from getting his call to the Hall.  However, someone said, if he DID come around with great numbers and played into his 40s without as many injuries, it would be hard pressed to have him go in as a Met, even though he did play seven years with them.

I guess I am raising these questions because of the Mets’ own “Franchise Players” and “Faces of the Franchise,” David Wright and Jose Reyes.

The Mets and those of us who live, breathe and eat any information surrounding the team have a contentious situation on their hands, especially regarding Reyes’ status as a free agent after the 2011 season.  Couple that with David Wright, which is another contentious situation in and of itself.  While not a free agent, he has an option that he can decline if he gets traded (which makes him a less attractive trading candidate), but then he’s had a noticeable drop off, but on the flip side he’s had one of his first injury-plagued seasons in recent memory (he’s been relatively healthy, considering all the injuries this stupid team has had in the last three years).

It gives me pause because they are still young and productive, yet I wonder if perhaps we all need a change of scenery.  Meaning we, as fans, with the same “cornerstone” players, and the players themselves.  M. Donald Grant may have been a Douchecanoe Deluxe, but perhaps he was prophetic in trying to set with us, that a player isn’t above the Franchise.  Well, he was wrong in the case of Seaver, but the dynamic of the game has changed since then.

Look at the Dodgers.  Their two franchise players, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, are essentially the equivalent of our Reyes and Wright.  They even have an A+ starter in Clayton Kershaw.  And they STILL can’t fucking win or make money!

Look, the Mets situation is precarious, and perhaps I am too close to it.  I was discussing on Twitter (and if you aren’t following me you SHOULD!! @Coopz22) the other with my friends over at the Daily Stache about the Reyes situation.  Basically, I feel like the issue is now that the Mets are mailing it in (something that Terry Collins is NOT happy about), we are going on our third straight losing season, our legs and asses are cramped up from wanting to jump for joy but we can’t because there is nothing making us do that, and now the prospect of losing guys we feel should be in Mets uniforms forever is something we are nonchalant about.  “Whatever,” has been my philosophy at this point.

I know things will change once the postseason is over, and who knows, maybe the Mets and Reyes will come to an agreement and we’ll be happy.  But I think what will make us happier is WINNING.  Reyes and Wright certainly has not been enough.  The onus is on the personnel to seriously evaluate the team and not attend to what the fans want.  Yes, I know Reyes makes us a lot of us happy.  And his injuries are a cause for concern, especially since they basically have said his running game (what makes Jose Jose) has been halted because of his hamstring issues this year.

I know I would hold onto Reyes simply for emotional reasons because I love him and want him to be a Met forever.  The other more rational side of me says that the time is not now. This team is a few years away from winning, and would it make a huge difference to lose with him or without him.

If At “First” You Don’t Succeed…Get Depth

There’s an old saying related to baseball that, “If at first you don’t succeed, try the outfield.” But if the Mets march to the beat of their own drummer, they changed that philosophy from the “outfield” to “first base.” John Olerud leaves as a free agent, no problem! Throw Todd Zeile there. Mo Vaughn hasn’t played in a few years and was an American League DH at his most feared. Hey, I have an idea: why not put him at first? He’s played there a bit! Doug Mientkiewicz? Yeah, he was a first baseman. But he was pretty bad at baseball.

What’s funny about the team this year is that seemingly, EVERYONE gets thrown at first base. After Ike Davis took a freak-accident-spill on a routine infield pop-up earlier this season, like many Mets injuries, it didn’t seem like much…but he hasn’t played since. Evidenced as such, the Mets have thrown four guys at first base not named Davis. In fact, Daniel Murphy holds the lead with 46 games started at 1B, and 37 games for Lucas Duda. Ike Davis played 36 games at first base, and Nick Evans has started 27 game at 1B (as of Tuesday). If Evans finishes out the season at 1B, four guys could theoretically finish playing less than 50 games each at 1B. The Mets have not had a ton of turnover at first base in its history, so this is significant.

You know what I find interesting? That when Ike Davis is anticipated to return next season, the Mets find themselves in a position of strength: a lot of guys who can play first base. Bonus: all of them have proven they can hit and play the position well enough to be every day players or at the very least, in a platoon situation.

Clearly, the position is Ike Davis’ to lose come next year in Spring Training. At least, this is how I am looking at things. Lucas Duda has been pretty much hand-selected by Terry Collins to be his starting right fielder in 2012, and obviously for the remainder of the season. Leaving us with Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans as the odd men out. All of a sudden, the Mets and their Front Office have a position of value and strength to use as trade bait.

Who is the odd man out, singular, though? In that respect, odd “men” and that would be Nick Evans and Daniel Murphy.

It’s funny with these two. I’ve made no secret about my appreciation of Daniel Murphy, as I feel his defensive woes are much ado about nothing, plus he’s shown he’s at a position of strength as a first baseman. If he had a more consistent position, whether first, second or third base…anything in the infield, really…he’d certainly be a big asset to any team. Nick Evans is a bit limited to where he can play, as his biggest strength has been showcased at first base, but he also has experience at left field. However, we all know left field is locked up by Jason Bay till 2013. Unless he is traded. But that’s not the hypothetical here.

Anyway, defensively and offensively, Daniel Murphy might have a slight leg up on Nick Evans on the Mets. Yet, his value could be used to get more parts in return in a trade.

See where I am going with this? Is Nick Evans more valuable as an off-the-bench guy in 2012 for the team? Or is Daniel Murphy going to be counted on for the team in a bigger way?

Another thing to consider is the Jose Reyes situation. If Reyes is not figuring into the long-term vision of the team, where Ruben Tejada plays in 2012 will impact how the Mets will look at the future of the aforementioned players. Clearly, the easiest scenario is that Reyes will re-sign, Tejada will play second base and all is right in the world. But if Reyes flies the coop, Tejada will easily be penciled in at shortstop next year. Right now, while Daniel Murphy rests his legs, he’s also the only one of the previously mentioned with any regular second base experience. Another item that would weigh in his favor of staying with the team than Nick Evans.

Overall, Evans took several years to prove himself, but with regular-ish playing time, he’s shown that he can keep up with the big boys. Murphy though was able to smack the hell out of the ball from day one pretty much. We’ll also need to consider that Evans is out of options. Like, negative amount of options at this point with how many times he’s been put on waivers (Cot’s and MLB Contracts has no information on his current status unfortunately). Daniel Murphy isn’t arb eligible until 2013 due to his injuries in the last few years. This could go either way: he’s so cheap it makes sense to keep him around, or trade him while his value is high and let him become another team’s “problem.” (But he’s a good problem to have)

There is a surplus at first base for the Mets for 2012. I guess on one hand, it’s good that the Mets have so many serviceable players to fill in when their every day players go down at this point. On the other hand, the odd men out look to be Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans. Either way, their value is at its highest and it would make sense at this point to see about the future without either of those players in the organization.