Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our Own Version of The Boys of Summer

The "quintessential" Brooklyn Dodgers meme, Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn, opens with this line from Dylan Thomas: "I see the boys of summer in their ruin."

(By the way, "quintessential" is in "quotes" for a reason. I fully get Kahn's book and certainly appreciate it from the perspective it provides, especially from the historical perspective. However, a much better read that gets the Coop Seal of Approval would be Peter Golenbock's Bums, that gets far less press than it should. Grab a copy when you have a chance).

For the past few weeks, I have been without steady work and lots of time to think and do things I wouldn't normally be able to fully enjoy such as drink mass quantities during local happy hours and read baseball histories. I've recently been reading a book that chronicles the events leading up to, background and reasons why the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants left New York in the late '50s.

I plan on doing a review on it when I am done (certainly this week), but if you are interested, it's called After Many A Summer by Robert E. Murphy (as far as I know, no relation to a certain other "Robert Murphy"). In any case, between reading this, how the landscape of baseball changed after the Dodgers and Giants left for Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, thinking of the Mets and their team now, how our current team does sort of embody itself after the late-40s and early-to-mid-50s Dodger teams (and not just because of our homage to Ebbets Field, Jackie Robinson and Fred Wilpon getting all horny over Brooklyn Dodger references).

In a paraphrase of some of the most memorable quotes of my generation: It's the team on the field, sillies.

The "Boys of Summer," in Brooklyn Dodger and not-to-mention baseball lore, wasn't just a hypothetical or whimsical name for the team that left Flatbush behind after the 1957 season: it literally meant "the core" of the team. Of course, these gentlemen represented the creme de la creme, the best of the best of their generation (and not just the best minds lost to madness). Some of the names thrown out if you will included but certainly not limited to: Jackie Robinson (natch), Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider (according to most, he was a better centerfielder than Mickey and Willie COMBINED), Ralph Branca, and Carl Furillo. Of course, legends of Brooklyn Dodger lore included not-so-ready-for-prime-time-players like Sandy Amoros and Johnny Podres (the two Dodgers who literally and figuratively preserved the 1955 World Series win for the Dodgers).

I know I'm not really educating y'all with anything new. After all, all one needs to do is look up on Google who the "Boys of Summer" are and you can easily figure it out.

But the books and history got me to thinking about where the Mets will figure into this, with their own version of "Boys of Summer." I believe that the core now will somehow be their own storied-version of New York National League baseball. Perhaps not now, perhaps not even in 2010 (but I hope so), but if the powers-that-be don't mess with them now, we might be looking at this period as either some sort of "glory days" or "team that could've been."

I think it's no question that the 2010 Mets core consists of the following: David Wright, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran.

D-Dubs and Jose are one-half of the infield but provide enough star power with their names alone. But are they the "infield of the future" with inflections of the past? They are young enough to still have their break-out years. Hopefully, it will be the same time, since I believe these two alone will help carry the team. David Wright has no qualms about letting it be known he would prefer to be a lifelong Met. And I have no doubt he will do that. However, the Mets do need to reconsider how Jose Reyes is valued to the team. "As Jose goes, so do the Mets." But what does that mean when his contract is up? Do the Mets pay up suckas? Or just be suckas and let him walk?

Johan Santana is a mercenary but without him, this team would be nothing, nowhere and on it way to nowhere, FAST. It's sad that in the first two years he's been here, the Mets have not been able to provide him with a team that is able to be an adequate supporting cast for a Johan Santana-type.

Without Carlos Beltran in centerfield, well, there's no discussion: Mets defense would be craptacular in the OF. He is this generation's version of Willie Mays (but he doesn't run like Hays), Duke Snider (the admirable player) and Mickey Mantle (star-quality without the damaged liver). Beltran, however, is some sort of a mercenary: he is not home-grown, but the Mets are the technically the second-longest team he's been tenured with. I hardly count the Houston Astros as one of his teams (although it did provide him with the pay-day the Mets gave him in his walk-year). And Mets fans are still lukewarm to him (I was too, but I came around on him last year...unfortunately he did not). Of course, with the advent of Fernando Martinez (and the Mets propensity to draft outfielders), perhaps when Beltran's contract is up, he will not be the "CF of the future." Something to consider as the Mets get competitive.

Honorable mentions for the "core" would be Mike Pelfrey (provided he visits a shrink), Jonathon Niese (I think this guy is balls-on, I have high hopes for anyone born the day the last Mets team won a World Series championship), and I would even say to a certain extent "Perpetual" Pedro Feliciano, Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur could be included in this core. Francisco Rodriguez is an honorable-honorable mention, since I truly believe that after his contract is up, we'll have a home-grown closer taking over. To me, an old-fashioned baseball gal, I have a hard time including mercenaries (like Bay and Francoeur) in an all-core line up like that.

Future core could be theoretically Ike Davis, Reese Havens, F-Mart and Jenrry Mejia. Of course, Mets fans are not optimistic these players will not be packaged in a deal for some other team's mercenaries to provide us a "win-now" culture.

Don't get me wrong: I am not saying that the Mets have a core that could be on a level that of a 1947-1956 Brooklyn Dodgers. In fact, it's hard for any team to have that these days with the parity of larger-market versus small-market teams and inability to keep high-valued players to go to high-priced ballclubs.

What I'm saying is, the Mets have a good core and do not promote that aspect enough in its marketing scheme (according to many junkets, their only player is David Wright -- somewhat true in 2009, but hopefully not so in 2010 -- and pitcher is Johan Santana...erm, well, that's not totally incorrect). However, if you look back at that storied core in Brooklyn Dodger lore, 1947-1957 were the team's "glory years." They won only one championship, however.

The Mets could theoretically go through a period of 2004-2011 (from Jose Reyes' and David Wright's emergence as the "future" and until Carlos Beltran's contract is concluded) where they have won zero championships and have nothing to show for their incredibly high payroll and lack of vision for RIGHT NOW (except the proverbial "win now" culture, which has blown up in their face numerous times since 2006).

It saddens me that some of the best years of this team could be potentially squandered away, and not by a move out west. We could either be celebrating this year...or lamenting our own bittersweet version of "Boys of Summer" in their ruin.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Coop's Keys to the Season - Part Three

The third part of this series is going to look at the next "X" factor. He doesn't have a name nor a regular position. It's the "4th outfielder." Right now, it looks like this "position" will be a toss-up between Angel Pagan, Fernando Martinez and Gary Matthews Jr.

Angel Pagan won't technically be a fourth OFer till May at the very least, looking to be the starting CF while Carlos Beltran is out...but let's take a look at him, shall we? I have to say, on a personal note, that I really like Pagan. I like his drive, his initiative, and the way he tries to play over his head. Of course, that whole "playing over his head thing" has bit him on the ass quite a few times, with his lack of baserunning acumen and sometimes questionable plays in the field.

That said, it surprises me that he's already been anointed the starting centerfielder while Carlos Beltran is on the disabled list. I get that he can hit. I get that he is fast and a little more seasoned than say, F-Mart, but if someone needs a little more experience who is good on the defense, why give it to Pagan?

Which leads me to Jesus Fernando Martinez Alvarez (or we like to call him "F-Mart"). I do like this kid a lot as well. He may be a little green in some areas, but centerfield *is* his native position. Why not play him or start him 50/50 with Pagan in CF while Beltran is gone?

This also begs the question of...what is going to happen to F-Mart? When the Mets drafted him, CF had been locked up until 2011 at the least with Beltran's signing. So the Mets minor league system does what it normally does with superfluous centerfielders, and turns them into a corner OFer. See: Milledge, Lastings. Of course, since we have the "Mets RF of the Decade" Jeff Francoeur (Mets Maple Street Press's words, not mine), F-Mart will not be able to break the bigs until someone gets hurt or Beltran/Frenchy leave the team.

Let's keep in mind a few other factors here: Martinez is VERY young, just barely 21 (turned legal-to-drink last October), and as of now, it's anyone's guess whether Carlos Beltran will remain part of the Mets "core" after his contract is up in 2011. We could showcase F-Mart for a trading chip, but then, it is far too early to decide F-Mart's fate. I'd hate to see him traded simply because we believe Carlos Beltran fits in the long-term plans of the team (then, Bart Giamatti-forbid, he goes elsewhere), but wouldn't it make sense to showcase him in his native position in the meantime, build the kid's confidence, even if he knows he will ultimately be sent back to AAA after Beltran returns this year?

Lastly, it's anyone's guess where "Private" Gary Matthews Jr. fits into the plans here. I think he's this year's version of Gary Sheffield, the guy who had power, can still provide a threat in later innings and won't mind sitting on the bench.

...or will he mind?

The reason GMJ was traded in the first place was because the Angels could not find a regular spot for him in the lineup. Now if that's the case...why do the Mets trade for him (when he could more than likely be released by the Angels anyway, and we keep the reliever and the player) knowing they themselves have not a regular spot for him? It's not like we are having any platoons in the outfield this year, especially once Beltran returns, with the contracts and players we have out there now.

Something interesting came up in the news a few days ago though. Joel Sherman mentioned that the Mets are shopping GMJ around, the general feeling is that Carlos Beltran may be returning sooner rather than later. Now, GMJ's salary is being paid for by the Angels mostly ($21.5 million over two years), with the Mets picking up $1.5 million of his salary (also split over two years). If he has an attractive spring, and he's been decent, in 40 ABs his line is .275/.356/.550. Not. Too. Shabby.

So if the rumors are correct that the Reds might be a trading partner with him, and we have to eat $1.5 million and take on some of their young talent (perhaps package Daniel Murphy, John Maine and GMJ for a, I don't know, Joey Votto type or Aaron Harang?)...maybe, just maybe, we can see what Omar Minaya had in mind trading away a quasi-decent arm in the bullpen for a retread whom his former team would cut anyway.

In any case, like my fantasy team the "Coop DeVilles" are this season, the Mets outfield is pretty stocked. And I'm liking my chances with Angel Pagan and F-Mart anchoring the 4th OF spot once Beltran returns.

However, if Jose Reyes is not batting 1st when he returns and Pagan *is* while he's still playing every day with Reyes in the lineup regularly...I will have a problem with that.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Darryl and Doc -- The Next Generation

I wonder why it took me so long to address this topic. I think addiction, like many other things, hit very close to home for me.

Everyone who knows The Coop knows that one of the major reasons I am a Mets fan is because when I was eight years old, I saw one Dwight Eugene Gooden (aka "Doc") pitch at Shea Stadium. I never saw the team win in the first year I attended games at Shea, but I did know that Doc was special. To me, he was a "grown up." To people like my dad and Uncle Gene, he was a "kid." Looking back, at 19, he was in over his head but seemed to understand what it took to win the game. Who knows? If not for Doc, I may not have been a Mets fan or even stayed a Mets fan as long as I have. He was truly the reason why I stuck around all these years. Perhaps we'd see another phenom like him. Perhaps we'd have special moments like those games in 1984. All I know is, he was one of a kind.

Turns out, he's human. Shortly after the Mets World Series win in 1986, he was sent to rehab. How dare Dick Young, bastard who once ran another former phenom out of town years before, suggested we boo Doc Gooden in his first game back. I say, boo Dick Young. And still when Doc fell to demons later on, several times in the public eye, it was more of a...shame. Poor Doc. Can't get clean. Time to move on.

Then there was Darryl Strawberry. Again, when I was a Shea-rookie, Straw-man (or D-Man, which was another name Dad and I gave him, based on an affectionate name I had for my own dad), was hitting the shit out of the ball. It was also funny. As a seven year old, when I heard his name, I couldn't help but giggle. "STRAW-berry? That's funny." I called him Darryl Blueberry in 1984. Hey, I was eight. Small things amused me. So did "Strawberry Sundae Night," a promotional night hosted in 1984 by Carvel. By the time I realized that night was going on, it was too late for my dad to take me to Shea. It's something I always wished I had gone to though.

Darryl was also human. I remember being 10 and hearing about how he "reportedly" hit his wife (which we now know is true). Once he left New York, hardly lived up to the level he was in New York. Drugs were a big part of it, but we always rooted for Darryl. Yeah, was part of "the enemy" in the Bronx, but he was a cancer survivor, a survivor, period.

I remember in 2001, though, he was on the run from the law. There was some warrant out for his arrest, and I remember being in Florida when that happened. Irony, as there was a camera man doing interviews for the local news in Tampa, when Darryl was working for the Yankees. I said, "If I were the Yankees, I wouldn't give him another chance."

Fortunately, Darryl thought he was worth another chance. Part of addiction is needing a support system to get clean, but that's part of it. He needs to WANT to get clean. If that doesn't happen, interventions mean nothing. Luckily, Darryl found his version of God (depending on who you ask in the 12-step program, "GOD" can stand for "Group-of-Drunks") and has been clean since then.

And since then, he and Doc triumphantly returned to the Mets organization. And the fans welcomed them both back as well.

Darryl and Doc should have been the cornerstone of several great Mets teams, a dynasty perhaps. Being so young, being so vulnerable and not to mention being children of the '80s, they fell to certain demons. Robert DeNiro said in Bronx Tale, "There's nothing worse than wasted talent." That was certainly our feeling, regarding Doc and Darryl. They coulda been, as Marlon Brando once said, contendas.

Over the years, our attachment was a fond memory of Doc and Darryl. And then the Mets announced something spectacular...The Mets were returning to Mets Hall of Fame inductions, and Doc and Darryl were going to be part of it!!!

We knew they wouldn't make the HOF in Cooperstown. But they were Hall-of-Famers to us with the fond memories surrounding them.

I saw Straw in Port St. Lucie this year. And there was something genuine, an aura of being thankful with him. No fan, young or old, big or small, was turned away from an autograph or a picture, when he clearly needed to be someplace else. My chest could not be more puffed out with pride, as I knew he was taking everything one day at a time, thankful for this chance he has with the organization he has freely admitted he wronged.

Part of addiction is forgiveness. Darryl Strawberry asked for it, in his own special way, and we gave it to him. Part of addiction is wanting to be clean, and having his support network. Every day is a struggle. We may not feel it ourselves or it may not seem evident to the outsider, it may seem effortless but let it be known...I'm sure every day, he struggles.

Sorry to say, it's more of the same for Doc. When I heard his latest dalliance with the law, I just sighed. That's all I can do. When I saw Doc at a Modell's caravan last year, that puffed-out-pride thing was not fully there but I did feel like Doc had clearly jumped a hurdle. He was now welcomed back into the Mets fold and therefore, with the fans again. If he wanted to get clean, we would now support him.

His addictions seem to have won the best of him again. I hate to make a generalization, but with addicts, it's true. You are never a "former" addict. You are ALWAYS one. You can be recovering, but it's always present and future tense, never past.

If Doc wanted to get clean, we'd be there for him. But therein lies the issue. He's not ready. He will not get clean until he absolutely is. Until then, it's hurry up and wait.

I know that the night he returned from rehab in 1987, the fans did stand up and cheer, for I was in the stands with my dad, and I was ready to forgive, even at 11 years old. The feeling in 1987 was different. The mountain had been climbed the year before, and the rest was all gravy. 1987 was not our year. 1988 was not either. And for Darryl and Doc, individual glories would fall to them at times. With the Mets though, it always fell short. But they were ours, addictions or no, warts and all.

To err is human. To forgive is a Mets fan. Doc will be there in August, for his Mets Hall of Fame induction. And I will probably be there with tears in my eyes again, like I did that night in 1987, waiting for my favorite homegrown Met to return to the mound where he rightly belonged.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chap and Coop Take (The Stadium Formerly Known As) Tradition

I am writing about our trip about four weeks after the fact, and a lot has happened since then. For one, Jose Reyes (to whom I yelled out that "This bear was named after you" -- referring to one Joey Beartran of course) was out with a hyperthyroid diagnosis, and has been cleared for activity as of yesterday. w00t. Second is that the pitching rotation still sucks the big one. Well, okay nothing has changed there (goes without saying that Johan Santana is exempt from that). And third is that Tradition Field is no longer "Tradition Field," but rather had a name change mid-stream.

Yes, the former Thomas J. White Stadium, then Tradition Field, is now Digital Domain Park.

Not that many of us here had a particular attachment to it. But it's just odd they did in the middle of spring training. Why not as soon as the regular season begins? Or in the offseason when you know, things like that happen? Eh, whatever.

Anyway, our trip was short and sweet and what I like to call a "drive-by" type. Chap had some timing constraints and before I knew it, we were limited to two and a half days. I was fine with it. After all, I am such a dork, I hate being away from my kitties for that long. (Yes, I admitted I was a dork). Also, with the bad weather, it turned out getting down there was an adventure in and of itself (read that part here), but I was afraid our trip back home would be impacted (turned out, it was not).

To my readers who have never done a Spring Training trip, I will suggest this. Open Workouts time is a very cool time to see the team. They are more loose, they do drills, you can actually SEE what is going on to make them in the shape they are for the regular season.
And see them in their element. Just remember -- it's a game to us, a job for them. You really can get up-close and personal. Just don't ask for autographs or pics with the players. Just take the pics, ask later!

I highly recommend going to more exhibition games at the beginning of the "season," since you get to see more of the up-and-comers on the team. Since Chap and I will have more time next year, we want to go to open workouts (perhaps the last day or so), see them in "action" so to speak in an intersquad game, then maybe for the first exhibition game. Then Disney! (that's for me, not for her).

Open workouts are fun, but they are pretty much done by 2 pm, which then leaves you in Port St. Lucie with not much else to do. Thank goodness for outlet malls. And Duffy's, home of the ever-famous two-for-one drink specials! Here's a pic of the gals about town at offending place, with the four drinks in front of us. w00t!
In any case, most of the news I have to report is kind of old news right now, but who knows, maybe someone will find it useful.

Chap and I arrived on a Friday, by the time we made it to PSL, it was too late to catch the workouts that day. However, F-O-C CrazyMetGirl reported for me that David Wright looked awesome in the days she saw him there. He was absolutely crushing the ball, from what people told us. Well, good. We have to be excited about that, considering his power drop off in '09. I only got to see him doing fielding drills on the Saturday workout.
There is David, entrenched in thought...wondering what 2010 will bring for him and the Mets...

We all know by now, Jose Reyes has been cleared of his hyperthyroid "injury" (for lack of a better term) and can play. Whether he will be back by Opening Day, time will only tell. But that's good news. I got to see him in his element here, while he took some running drills. Of course, seeing Jose Reyes after missing him all last season was a gift in and of itself.

Obviously, this pic I am about to post was taken before his hyperthyroid diagnosis...but when asked about how he looked, you had to say...
Well, at least he can spit...(photo credit to Sharon Chapman)

And of course our fearless pitching leader, Johan Santana. Another great shot of him in his element...the baseball field!
(photo credit to Sharon Chapman)

Here's Daniel Murphy walking between fields.
I think I have anointed Daniel Murphy as my new fave Met in 2010. Git 'ir done, young Daniel!

Chap and I also knew a few of the people who would be down there while we were. She and I were interviewed (separately) for a piece CrazyMetGirl's son, Ryan, was conducting for his school project. Hope you did well! Here is a pic of Chap honestly answering his questions...
And of course what My Summer Family photo album would be complete without a pic of some of the Summer Family!
I know, for a round-up, this was totally lame, but it's my blog, so deal with it. In the meantime, I say goodbye to the Stadium FKA as Tradition Field, and look forward to it's legacy as Digital Domain.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Celebrity Pitching Match-Up: Smoltz vs. Pedro

Who do YOU choose?

I posted this question on My Summer Family's facebook fan page (join here!) about who Mets would rather have. Of course, this is strictly hypothetical, but I got to thinking that if these two pitchers are on the market...who would you rather have on the Mets? John Smoltz or Pedro Martinez?

I know who I would choose (I'll get to that in a minute) but what I wasn't expecting was the emotional responses the question would elicit. The vote was at a dead-heat (with a jokester suggesting "Mike Hampton" in lieu of Smoltz or Pedro, heh heh). But the power in the reasoning behind the choices really surprised me.

Some said Smoltz, because he was a "class act," more "durable" and "right now" it would be Smoltz. Some of the others just chose Pedro for "Pedro," some were more emotional in their responses, saying that Smoltz represented an "Evil Team from Another Era."

What was interesting to me was that no one distinctly said they would choose Pedro because of his skills, his durability or because he was perceived as "better" than Smoltzie. Mostly, the fans (judging by what they wrote in a tiny comment on a Facebook page) were choosing Pedro for nostalgia reasons, for the swagger he brought in 2005, and because he wasn't tainted with the Brave ick. Nothing, however, on performance and durability issues between the two, which was really what I was looking for.

For me, the answer is simple (unfortunately). It was clear, from this piece here in 2008, that I was through with Pedro for a while. He looked "good" (according to many fans) in the postseason last year, but keep in mind a few things. He didn't pitch the whole season, starting his first game in AUGUST for pete's sakes. He was pitching for a 1st place team, so there was less pressure to perform (plus HE HADN'T BEEN PITCHING IN PRESSURE SITUATIONS ALL YEAR), but they could rely on the bullpen to come in to clean up once he was out.

If you point to his postseason performance, keep in mind once he got to pitch in New York, he was still calling the Yankees his "daddy," but when he did perform well, it was in optimal weather conditions (in Los Angeles, a place he used to pitch at regularly), and the Phillies didn't even win the game he started anyway.

Smoltz to me is the obvious answer. Just remember: strictly hypothetical, I am not endorsing Smoltzie coming to the Mets EVER, but if we had to choose between the lesser of two evils, he is clearly the less evil of the two. The Mets need depth in the rotation, and he can spot-start, but also pitch out of the 'pen, which clearly is something the Mets also need. He has also proven he is durable, and to limit damage to his previously injured shoulder, he could be relegated to 'pen duty, and he won't whine about it like certain other pitchers on the team (Looking at you, John Maine).

Smoltz is also a class-act, with how he handles himself on and off the field, and could be a mentor to the young pitching staff. Please don't get started on how "Well, Pedro could do that too." It's hard to be a mentor when you get a contract mid-season, go on the DL, then pitch to look brilliant on a 1st place team when you didn't contribute an ounce to that previous success. Let's not kid ourselves: Pedro Martinez was not like the rug in the "Big Lebowski." He hardly tied the Phillies together.

And so what that Smoltz was a Brave? I never got that rivalry, Mets vs Braves. Geographically, it never made sense to me, but yes they always won when it counted and the Mets were limited to being bumbling idiots at Turner Field for well over a decade. So what? How many years did we look at their pitching staff, look at players and say -- dang, wish they were on our side?

Not that Smoltz is a shadow of his former self but he can still bring it and has an amazing work ethic, more than I could say Prima Donna Petey who, back before he got hurt in 2008, I saw him showing up late to practice, goofing off during open workouts, but given a dispensation because "Hey, it's Pedro." Given that the team dynamic was a little messed up then, I found it massively inappropriate that he wasn't taking things seriously. Then of course, I wasn't surprised when he injured himself his very first regular season game that year. I just don't see the value he can bring, besides swagga'.

I am no Smoltz fan girl, but I would have to vote for Smoltz right now. Not always. But gun-to-back, I'd have to say he'd be my choice.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Who's Who At Amazin' Tue...How 'Bout You?

Tuesday, March 23, at 7 pm, kicks off the triumphant return of Amazin' Tuesdays, at Two Boots Tavern (located at 384 Grand St, NY, NY) hosted by Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing and Jon Springer of Mets by the Numbers. On a side note, a conversation with Jon at an event yesterday will inspire a future blog post here, so be on stand by for that.

If you've never made it to a Two Boots Amazin' Tuesday, it is a literary round-up of local writers, bloggers, mostly Mets fans, discussing posts, ideas and books that are in the round. This week, we are promoting MSF buddy's Chap's long-distance running affairs in support of the Tug McGraw Foundation (donate to her cause here). Proceeds of the sale of Greg's paperback "Faith and Fear in Flushing" will be donated to the cause as well.

We'll also meet Edward Hoyt who will critique The Miracle Has Landed and Frank Messina, known as the Mets poet, who will discuss his book "Full Count."

Also, if you bring an old Mets baseball card you get a FREE BEER! What could be better than Mets talk, Mets readings, Mets fans and beer???

If you do attend, introduce yourself. It will be quite obvious who we are...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Coop's Keys to the Season - Part Two

Welcome to the second installment of Coop's Keys to the Season. This week, we are going to attack all starting pitchers not named Johan Santana. The four rainouts, as some like to call these guys. I call them as Question Mark and the Mysterians. Who Question Mark is and who the backing band is, you figure out. Cause I certainly haven't.

First, I will ask this simple question. You down with MPP...Meaning Maine, Pelfrey and Perez? I would venture to say that after Johan Santana, this is the "heart" of the pitching staff, the guys who are going to mean the most. Similar to the argument in our economic base, the middle class in essence is the heart of the economy. The same rules apply here, although we are talking about baseball and being a competitively winning team, not just a "competitive" team. How the team will perform is contingent upon how the middle of the rotation will perform. For the highest payroll in the National League, failure is not an option.

Johan gives you a chance to win every five days. But in order to make the Mets successful, these three specific starters cannot merely "keep us in the game" for the offense to kick in (this would be the fifth starter's job, which I will attend to later in this column). I would venture to say these guys need to pitch over their heads in 2010, be more than they ever thought they could be. In other words, they also need to give us the best chance to win every day after, two days after and three days after Johan starts. Without them, this team will go nowhere, and I mean nowhere fast.

Let's start with Mike Pelfrey. As of today, it looks as though he will be the #2 starter after Johan. It became evident that Pelfrey had regressed in what we like to call the "Verducci Effect," or what I like to call the Sophomore Jinx. It is well known that Mike Pelfrey was indeed rushed to get to the Mets since they were in desperate need of starting pitching in 2007. However, he got off to an incredibly slow start in 2007, then in 2008, the "Big Pelf" we were all told about decided to show up, going a respectable 13-11 with a 3.72 ERA. Not bad for his full first year in the majors. Then...2009 happened. His ERA went up and he didn't even finish the season with a .500 record. We have to believe that the regression was in his head and that Big Pelf will once again reign supreme in the Field of the Citi. If not, well, our #2 pitcher will be nothing but a piece of #2.

Next is John Maine. He went from pitcher with great upside potential in 2006, to our "ace" in 2007, to injury prone in 2008, to regressing to the mean as sabers like to call it in 2009 only to succumb to the injury bug that every one else on the team got hit with. If John Maine performs in 2010 one of two things can happen. If he performs, that's just delicious icing since that will only benefit the Mets. On the flip side, if he performs, he'll become trade bait mid-season or in 2011, when his contract is up, he'll be a Type A Free Agent, and we'll get some fab prospects for him if we offer him arb (Hey, I can dream, right?). In either case, this is his "walk year." It will only benefit him to perform well. Of course, it will benefit the Mets as well. But this dude also needs to go more than 5 innings, and work on an out pitch, currently his Achille's heel. How many times have we seen a double-digit pitch at-bat against this guy? John Maine, in order to be successful, needs to get that out pitch and work on his stamina. He gives us 7 solid innings a start, we'll be in biz. Whether that happens...time will only tell.

Of course, the enigma of Oliver Perez is there. Being due $24 mm over the next two years suggests to me that he isn't going anywhere, so we must make do with what we have. Of course the joke of it is...which Ollie do we get today? Dr. Oliver Jekyll Perez? Or Mr. Ollie Hyde? We never know, and sadly, Ollie doesn't seem to know either. Here's the thing, I could easily say that on any other team, Oliver Perez would be a decent 5th starter. However, he is not a 5th on the Mets, and with the overbloated contract given to him, he has to perform or...bad things will happen. That said, if he can give 6 solid innings a game, and not implode and walk the park...well, not only has a miracle fallen upon CitiField, but we'll forget that he royally fucked us over in 2009 for showing up to camp fat and out of shape.

Lastly, the fifth starter. It is looking like Fernando Nieve, Nelson Figueroa and Jon Niese will be duking it out. I've said it before, and I'll say it again...all we are say-ing...is give NIESE a chance! Why Mets fans have this unusual fascination with a career journeyman pitcher in Figueroa is beyond me. As for Nieve...underwhelming is the word I can come up with at this juncture. I am all for giving young guys a chance, and while I may be vocal that bringing up Ike Davis or Jenrry Mejia is a recipe for disaster right now, Niese at least has some experience with the big team and has handled himself with a maturity beyond his years. Relegate Figgy to the long man job in the 'pen...and cut Nieve.

The pitching staff (after Johan Santana) is as much a mystery as Question Mark's backing band going into 2010. If we can get a more confident version of Big Pelf, John Maine gets an out pitch, Oliver Perez isn't Oliver Perez and we have a dude who can "keep us in the game" every 5th day, then we're halfway there. Halfway to what, I don't know, but I'll be sure to get back to you on that.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Where In The World Is Reese Havens?

Can someone PLEASE tell me where in the world is Reese Havens?

I was discussing the prospect today at lunch. A few years ago, I remember Joe Janish from Mets Today asking me about him in a Brooklyn Cyclones game I had attended. He was very excited about the prospect (no pun intended) of him playing for the Mets someday soon.

In the 2010 Mets Maple Street Press (read it!), Toby Hyde writes in "Mining For Gold" that Havens was rated sixth (between Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Ruben Tejada) out of 10 prospects. The write up suggested he had hamstring problems in 2009 and was expected to start the season in Binghamton AA. (He is also a natural SS, and it was noted that he was taking up 2B...arguably the quickest way to get to the Mets these days).

The closest article online about him came from a site called "Fonzie Forever," although it was written in January, it suggested that Reese Havens was a more promising player than Ike Davis.

We've heard all this hullabaloo regarding Ike Davis (all things considered, he *is* ranked first in Hyde's list), not to mention Jenrry Mejia, this spring. Judging by today's performance, it may be wise to say that Mejia will not make the trip up north in April. I totally agree with that. He is too young and basically, I think we will be ruining a future starter's chances of being a strong starter by screwing with his mechanics in the 'pen.

Since Jose Reyes will not be starting with the team in April, all the talk about his replacement at shortstop (besides Alex Cora, a guy with one foot in the proverbial grave and the other on a banana peel, as far as injuries go) would be Ruben Tejada. I have to admit, seeing his potential down in open workouts was exciting.

I guess my point is with the shortages on the team right now, and the lack of depth at the positions (especially in the infield), why isn't Havens in PSL this year or even a blip on the map? Were his hamstring problems *that* bad?

It is just surprising to me that a guy who potentially IS major league ready, is not even a consideration for a replacement for the first two weeks to a month of regular season ball.

Thoughts, peanut gallery family?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Maple Street Press Mets 2010 Annual Review for You

The Maple Street Press' annual report on the Mets is a must-read for any Mets fan, casual or die-hard. Providing us information on players such as stats, profiles, and tie that in with scouting reports, opinion pieces and history sprinkled in, there's a little bit of everything in this book.

It didn't take the most seasoned of Mets fans to realize that 2009 was a wash, that most of the team and significant players on the team were out due to injuries. Ironically Adam Rubin writes the introductory piece to the annual with "Try Try Again." Of course, the idea behind this story is that the team needs to brush itself off, and move forward from last year, taking to heart the good things to come out of the offseason (Jason Bay and basically...whatever else you can glean from the quiet offseason).

After a spread on each player on the team this year, we get into some of the more local (and personal) views on the Mets, with "The Honeymooners," a dual-posting by Matthew Silverman and Greg Prince, a very unique take on April hopefulness with the dose of August reality for the 2009 team. Jon Springer writes about the injuries and who, if anyone, was at fault for the demise of the 2009 season pretty much before it started.

Many common themes in this annual is the loss of Shea, and what it's like to play in a place that is not exactly "home" yet, in Greg Spira's "Putting the City -- and Metsy -- in the Citi." While the Wilpons and the Mets are putting in the finishing touches for April 5's home opener to make the stadium a more "Metsian" feel, all I can say is that, the power lies within us, the family. It is up to us to make our memories there that will make CitiField a "home" as opposed to "Shea's replacement."

Of course, the biggest "splash" if you will over the offseason was the signing of Jason Bay, who will be our leftfielder in 2010. I was pretty stoked about this deal as it went down, since I always felt that this would right a wrong committed by Steve Phillips back in 2000.

The scouting reports as well as looks into the Mets farm system provide insight to what the future holds. While I know the minor league system could be thickened up a bit (ok...a LOT), with players but it's not all THAT bad. We've heard rumblings about Ike Davis down in Port St. Lucie this year, as Evan Drellich indicates in the annual, there is "Lots to Like About Ike." Surprised though that no one took a stab at Reese Havens. He's been the quiet man (I guess with the surging of Ruben Tejada and getting recognition with Jose Reyes being out for awhile, it makes sense).

Something else interesting in the farm system chapters, Howard Megdal pens a must-read on farm systems that contributed to winning seasons ("While Waiting 'Til Next Year"). For example. the 1983 Lynchburg Mets showcased some key components that led directly and indirectly to the late-80s winning seasons. For example, Ed Hearn was a rookie in '86, but was traded in the critical package to bring David Cone to the Mets. Likewise, Calvin Schiraldi contributed in two ways, by being traded for Bobby Ojeda...and for melting down in Game Six, causing Bob Stanley to screw Bill Buckner over.

Something else to think about...we talk about "depth" a lot here, and while we might not have viable backups at-the-ready for the likes of Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, the fact is, we have a fatter farm system to support the teams of the future anyway, so it's one of those hurry-up-and-wait-things.

The Pieces of Mets History chapters were certainly my favorites since I like to OD on nostalgia every now and then. Dan Schlossberg penned "Oh, My Doc!" about Doc Gooden's sophomore season in 1985, where he basically owned New York City. I remember watching Doc as a kid, he was probably my first favorite Met that GOT me to stay a Mets fan all these years. 1985 brings back a lot of memories. Greg Prince strikes again with a tribute to the 2000 Mets team that fell short of winning the whole damn thing. It is a bittersweet piece, a point in which most Mets fans will definitely be able to sympathize.

Andy Esposito rounds things out with the all-Mets team of the decade...suffice to say, it was a bit tough to pick such positions as pitcher and right field. I remember talking to someone about how "Ryan Church was the best defensive right fielder we've had since Strawberry." Those were the *other* person's words, not mine (I would never say that - ha ha). But I guess in a way, that didn't say much about the RFs who actually DID play after Strawberry. That said, would you believe Jeff Francoeur, a dude who played for us less than half-a-season last year made the all-decade right fielder? Doesn't say much about the decade, eh? I'd even go so far as to say it was the "Lost Decade" for the team.

Last but certainly not least, Jason Fry (half of Faith and Fear in Flushing) coined a piece on 12 Mets bloggers. Mad props go out to my homeys for being profiled, including: Amazin Avenue, Dana Brand's Blog, Kranepool Society, Faith and Fear, Metsblog, Metsgrrl, Mets Guy in Michigan, Mets Police, Mets Walk-offs, Mike's Mets and Metstradamus. Oh wait, that was only 11 blogs, Coop, you say? Well, that's because My Summer Family was number 12! There is also a featured list of Mets blogs after the article as well, a nice Metsian number of 69 total, so if you haven't checked those out, definitely do so now.

All in all, this is again a superb read for Mets fans and I highly suggest buying one if you have not already.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Baseball Bunch!

If you are a child of the 80s, chances are you remember the show The Baseball Bunch, hosted by Johnny Bench and featuring popular baseball players of their day. If you check it out on Youtube, there are several videos, namely featuring Ozzie Smith, Tug McGraw and Tom Seaver.

Unfortunately, the latter two were not Mets at the time, but it's still so nostalgic to see these old episodes.

In honor of St Patrick's Day, enjoy the Irish man Tug McGraw's video and enjoy your day by drinking lots of Guinness. I'll be eating Italian food and drinking red wine myself...Toodles!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Coop's Keys to the Season - Part One

Hey Fam, it's that time again. And by "time," I mean, we have a little over three weeks till Opening Day, so it means it's time for Coop to talk shop.

Who are the Keys to the Season in 2010 for the New York National League Ballclub?

For those of you who are relatively new to this process, I usually do some quick analysis to discuss who I think will impact the team. And I would never pick an All-Star (Johan Santana) or someone obvious (David Wright). We kind of know what to expect from these folks. What I want to see are the more role-players on the team and how their performance can impact the team.

This week's topic will be Mr. Daniel Murphy. What did the five fingers say to the face? SLAP!

Sorry for the Dave Chappelle reference. I can't help but say that every time I see Murph II. Cause let's be fair, to most Mets fans, there is only ONE Murph.

I'm not going to lie to you or sugar coat it in any way. I like Daniel Murphy a LOT. I know his stats leave a little to be desired, but Mets fans tend to love players who wear their hearts on their sleeves. For a franchise that reveres players like Cliff Floyd, Benny Agbayani and Joe McEwing, why Daniel Murphy gets the hot-cold treatment from the fans is beyond me. He represents the heart of the Mets fan: he lives, breathes and eats baseball, he's hard-working and wants to succeed THROUGH working hard. Remember one of our main concerns with the Mets as they were losing in lackluster fashion in 2007 and 2008 (let's not go there with 2009): the players didn't actually seem to care, especially the player who Daniel Murphy managed to replace at 1B, Carlos Delgado (remember when Billy Wagner called him out after a loss? Nuff said). Mets fans like Daniel Murphy because he was the anti-Met during those seasons: A ray of light, a home grown guy, who showed that he actually cared. "Caring" and "doing" are two different things, but let me finish my explanation for why Daniel Murphy should be a Met contributor in 2010.

When he dropped the infamous fly ball against the Marlins last April, contributing to Johan Santana's loss that day, you could see it bothered him. When he was moved to 1B after Carlos Delgado was injured, it still wasn't his natural position, but you could see he wanted to be the best he could possibly be at it. The Mets need more players like him who want to succeed simply by DOING.

So in his first two seasons in the majors and subsequently with the Mets, his stats read as follows: .275/.331/.437. While showing some promise in 2008 for just over 130 at-bats (.313./.397/.473), in 2009, however he showed some regression to the mean (as sabers would love to say). For a full-season where he played in 155 games with 508 at-bats, Murph II was .266/.313/.427. While not terrible, I can see why some fans were calling for his head at some points.

I cry foul, and not just the batted ball type. Admittedly 2009 was a tough season to try to rally for anything related to the Mets. Most of us were mourning the loss of our beloved home Shea Stadium, and then most of us were mourning the loss of our fucking team in 2009. Even players who weren't injured were indirectly impacted by the loss of basically the entire line up. Take David Wright for example. His power numbers dropped dramatically and well, it was hard to drive in runs when there was no one on base to drive home.

What's to say that didn't happen to Murphy? He went through a lot in 2009. First, the quest to find an every day position for him in order TO play, none of them his native position of 3B. Second, his moving in the batting order. He started off batting second in the order early in the season, to being dropped to seventh when Jeff Francoeur was traded to the team.

Think about us in the working world. When our managers or bosses move us around and expect us to be flexible, there is a period of adjustment. Unfortunately for Murphy, this "period of adjustment" was in front of a bunch of blood-thirsty fans who were pissed off at their team for various reasons. When he did committed errors visibly, yes he cares, but so do the fans who wanted nothing but perfection from their players who were not affected by the injury bug. Shit, I even think that after Luis Castillo dropped the pop-up, Mets fans were more forgiving than seeing Daniel Murphy make some visible errors again AT HIS NON-NATIVE POSITION(S). Yes, multiple. But he adjusted after getting off of Jerry's Kid Shit List when he had some normalcy.

And I'd like to point out that after being moved down the order, following Jeff Francoeur who can hit at times (he just can't take walks), Murphy seemed to adjust a bit quicker into his role. All he needs is regularity. And I'm not talking the Metamucil type.

I like Daniel Murphy, and I'd be sad to see him go via trade or whatever this year, especially if it would mean rushing Ike Davis to the majors. We all know how THAT can turn out, given Mets history in rushing prospects. Let's stick with Daniel Murphy at 1B this year and see how he turns out. I think he's going to surprise us all.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Committed

No, I am not ready to commit myself into a sanitarium. I've been a Mets fan for 27 years. If I haven't jumped off the 59th Street Bridge or off the top of Shea Stadium (when it was still around), I guess they haven't driven me to do anything maniacal yet. Well, except for the drinking part. I do blame them for that.

I was having a discussion with some folks about the team. I was Dumbfounded yesterday. Some of the talks about this whole thing with Jose Reyes are conspiracy theorists but one that kind of sort of makes sense is that if he has to use a synthetic hormone to overcome his hyperthyroidism, perhaps it may be construed as a "banned" substance in MLB and he'd be suspended anyway?

I guess I am grasping at straws here. But it was something I wrote in response to a comment that made me realize why I am so dumbfounded about the whole Mets situation. Beltran gets hurt and has surgery in the offseason. Okay fine. Reyes is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism but is going to be projected to be out for 2-8 weeks. Uh, yuck. So now what? I know it sucks that two of our biggest dynamic superstars will be out, and we have nothing to blame this year. No WBC, no building of CitiField over an ancient Indian burial ground. We can't even blame the management.

Or can we?

This is what I am so upset about right now and see if you can understand, my dear 2.5 readers. Jeff Wilpon claimed at the beginning of the offseason on his Francesa interview with Omar Minaya that the "Mets are committed to having one of the highest payrolls in Major League Baseball."

Committed to having one of the highest payrolls in Major League Baseball.

What the FUCK does that fucking prove? That the Wilpons are just morons with their spending money, especially in the baseball division of their "operations." It's pathetic really that they bring this guy in (Omar) to do a job, and they still handcuff him with restrictions. I know, he has a high-ass payroll, and can get expensive players. However, "expensive" doesn't exactly mean "good." As long as the Wilpons have a profitable business and marketable players that can make money on the back-end with t-shirt, jersey and other paraphernalia sales, why not?

I can never say that the Mets are cheap. They aren't. Far from it. But what they are is the old proverb of "penny-wise, pound-foolish." Perhaps the thing they should commit is themselves into Bellevue Hospital.

My question to you is: How can the highest payroll in the National League have no viable backups for shortstop or centerfield? And four-rainouts for the pitching staff supporting our ace Johan Santana? Please, do not tell me that Jonathon Niese is ready for the big show. He'll have growing pains, but we cannot rely on him. Angel Pagan? Alex Cora? This is the best the highest payroll in the National League can do?

The Wilpons have been playing us for punks. They know we are committed. We are committed fans. We will still go to games. We'll still spend money on merchandise. We'll still root-root-root for the home team. When they lose, yeah it is a shame that the highest payroll in the National League finished in fourth place last year and is not projected to win above third place in the NL East this year.

Perhaps I do need to commit myself after all. What is the definition of insanity but doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dumbfounded

I refused to get on the mob mentality about the anger directed towards Jose Reyes, the Mets and doctors associated with the Mets, due the recent rumblings about Jose's hyperthyroidism.

I don't claim to be a doctor or someone who is an expert at thyroid issues but I do know that it's treatable with medication. In fact, WebMD claims that hyperthyroid is left untreated can lead to heart and bone problems. For a professional athlete, I can see why this is a concern and wanting to nip it in the bud. How was this impacting his game? And was he feeling fine before being diagnosed? Was it all precautionary?

I guess, being a Mets fan for so many years, and even though they haven't exactly given me a reason to "believe" recently, I do have to say that...I was willing to give a benefit of the doubt here and let them come to me when Jose was given the all-clear.

Not happenin' now. According to multiple reports, Jose Reyes is going to be out to the tune of 2-8 weeks. TWO TO EIGHT FUCKING WEEKS PEOPLE.

With Beltran out as well, this is simply 2009 spilling into 2010 all over again. I was in denial about it, but now it's reality.

On MSF's Facebook page, I brought back an oldie but a goodie from 2009 -- "Now's the Time to Reyes Goodbye." His value to the Mets is both a blessing and a curse.

To have the team's success riding upon his performance is a blessing. Not many teams have that spark.

However, to have the team absolutely flounder without him there. That's not a good thing either and just goes to show that this team's window for winning may have been good and gone, as Senor Solly says, after the third strike in 2006. Unfortunately, due to his recent injuries and now this health issue, his value is as a good as the junk at Sanford & Son's Salvage Yard.

So now what? I am simply dumbfounded. DUMBFOUNDED. This can be the pits.

The Curious Case of Bobby Bonilla

Lots of Mets fans have negative associations with Bobby Bonilla. And with good reason. He was the "centerpiece" of the Worst Team Money Could Buy and although a part of the late-90s Mets Miracle Runs, he is best known for playing cards during their elimination game against the Braves in 1999.

But I'd like to try to set the record straight on something. Most fans who know of Bobby Bo and his history with the Mets know that in his exiting agreement, Wilpon and Co, decided to pay him out in an annuity fashion, starting in 2011, until 2035. I know, it looks bad that a guy who hasn't played in over 10 years for the team will be back on the payroll next season, until most of us are walking around CitiField with our canes. I was talking about this the other day that while managing an inept organization, the Wilpons are good at one thing, and that's making money. This Bonilla deal was intentional.

Once upon a time in a land far, far away (called Jersey), I was completing my MBA program. One of the topics I found very fascinating was the time value of money. What was $1mm back in 1999 would be worth more than that today due to TVM. According to the agreement inked with the Mets in 2000, Bobby Bo would be paid out from 2011 to 2035, with payments adding up to nearly $5.9 million.

Sure, most of us would enjoy getting free money to the neighborhood of $30 mm total over a period of 25 years. Had the Mets paid out Bobby Bo in 2000 the $5.9 million he was owed, it would have benefited him more, had he put it in a high-interest bearing account, more than likely would have made more money than getting the pay-out later on.

I'm not defending the move...but I understand. When I took this class back a few years ago, I went from not understanding why they would make a deal like this to thinking it wasn't so bad after all.

So when Bobby Bo gets back on the payroll in 2011, just remember, the Mets actually kinda fleeced him and not the other way around.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Stop Drinking The Kool-Aid

I refuse to drink the Kool-Aid regarding Jenrry Mejia.

I couldn't help but chuckle reading this morning's New York Times over my waffles and tea, about Dan Warthen's and Jerry Manuel's reactions regarding our top prospect's spring training debut yesterday. Manuel nearly had to change his shorts exclaiming how excited he was about his performance, and Warthen claimed he was a "Major League pitcher today."

So Mejia's performance rounded out to 2 1/3 no-hit innings with four Ks. On paper, sure it sounds mighty delicious. Let's keep things in perspective here. I am a show-me kind of person. Show me he belongs with the big boys. A little over two innings in spring training against other scrubs on other teams duking it out for the 24th and 25th positions on teams doesn't really strike me as exciting. I hate to be a killjoy -- believe it or not, I am very excited to see him mature and grow as a pitcher and hopefully with the Mets.

I have been a fan for over 20 years. I have seen the best and brightest come up only to fall to demons. I have seen hyped-up phenoms fail miserably when thrust into the spotlight. I have seen a generation of pitchers driven into the ground by overzealous managers who desperately wanted to cling to something, anything, to make their teams appear better than they were. I have survived Lastings Milledge. Suffice to say, I am cautiously optimistic when it comes to Mejia. Major league ready though? Really?

Dan Warthen has no business proclaiming anyone is a major league pitcher, as he's been gifted with a rotation including one of the best in baseball, a guy who works very well with him and was basically brought on to be his personal coach and two others that are crapshoots but he can either look like a MF genius if they perform well or he can just sit back and say -- hey, wasn't me. As for Jerry Manuel, same thing. He needs some bright spot to help him move past the dismal seasons past and perhaps Mejia is doing that for him. To say he is a major league pitcher after two fucking innings and is ready for the big time is a bit premature, wouldn't you say?

I try not to get too up and down about spring training exhibition games, and neither should our fearless leaders. Let's have him mature a bit in the minors, then come back to me in June.