Monday, May 01, 2006


The Mets finished their road trip, including three games at the Haunted House of Doom, with a 6-4 record, good for 16-8, first place in the East by a six game margin. May 1, and the Mets are up 6!

Based on the past 15 seasons, two things are clear: this Met team is good, and in the best position since '86. And, Bobby Cox and his boys are exactly where they usually wanna be: apparently out of it early, chasing the challenger de jour, ready to break hearts and take names in their annual post-All Star Break divisional crown run . . . just in time for that other baseball tradition, the Cox vs. LaRussa October Battle for a color commentary gig in the World Series.

Speaking of Cox, I have to mention something I saw during Saturday's game. After LoDuca went deep, later in that same inning Brave starter John Thompson started losing the strike zone and put some guys on. He was one hit from serious trouble, and the Mets looked poised to put the game away. There were men on 1st and 2nd, two outs, and Thompson threw ball three to a Met hitter, I think it was Nady. As Keith Hernandez (he of the permanently black hair. I mean, the guy's 52; no grey?) and Gary Cohen started to banter, both the camera and Keith focused on Cox as he flipped out in the dugout, screaming at the ump, apparently protesting Met homers, the three-tiered playoff structure, and a borderline ball call on the prior pitch. Didn't look borderline to me.

Anyhow, Keith started to chuckle, noting, "Look at Bobby. He's giving the business to the ump. Nobody rides them like Bobby."

And then Thompson dealt on 3-2. High. Inside. Off the plate. Hell, the pitch was closer to third base than to home. Ump yelled, raised his arm, strike three called, inning over, Mets on the pond, Braves jogging in. What the hell?? Then Keith said something about Bobby riding the umps, but he'd rather ride the Braves' female massage therapist, somewhere other than in the dugout, preferably a kitchen.

Ok, I made that last part up. But the pitch was nowhere close to a strike, yet Cox got the call for his team. It's just one pitch and I don't watch enough TBS to know if this happens often (is Skip Carey still doing Brave games?), but that seems just the thing that good managers, managers who've gained "respect," do for their teams, and for themselves. I have no reason to doubt the dugout skills of a guy that always seems to push the right buttons, nor do I understate the good fortune of working with John Scheurholz. But Cox stole a strike, stole an out, and kept a big game within stealing distance. Wagner and Heilman made it moot, but just saying.

A few other thoughts:

Jose "Camera Eye" Reyes drew 3 BBs yesterday, and now has 12 in 100 official ABs, giving him a .330 OBP despite hitting only .250. That's 7 walks in his last 14 ABs over a four game stretch. For comparison, contemplate the following: last year, Reyes had 12 walks at the All-Star break, after 379 ABs, sporting an abysmal .284 OBP. In fact, prior to this season, Reyes totaled 45 BBs in 1190 ABs, or a rate of one walk every 26 at bats. This season he's strolling to first once every 8. This is a very good sign.

I know it's only April . . . but that's kind of the point. A change this dramatic, in an area of the game based on discipline and diligence, is no accident. He's obviously making an effort to reach base by any means necessary, via the walk, by bunting, by slapping & speeding down the line. When his average goes up, which it will, he could sport a .350+ OBP. After the past two seasons, that'd be a helluva surprise.

Is Rickey Henderson, the future Hall of Famer/Coach-without-Portfolio responsible for this? I don't know, but Reyes looks to be enjoying himself, strutting and bat-tossing after ball four like another lead-off hitter once did. Oh, imagine the possibilities here.

I think we need a permanent comic relief portion of these Mets Random Thoughts. So, in honor of what looks to be a season of historically absurd pitching lines, I introduce the Jorge Julio Counter. As of today, May 1, 2006, the portly Venezuelan flame thrower has compiled 11 2/3 IP, while walking 5 and striking out 22! Of the 50 batters he's faced, 27 never got the ball in play, as nearly half of them swung hard, hitting nothing but air.

Unfortunately, 15 of them did hit something other than air -- the ball -- and hit it hard. Damn hard. Four of Jorge's speedy offerings turned and left the yard, never to return except as crooked numbers in his bloated ERA. And while I don't have the precise breakdown, memory tells me the other 11 weren't all singles.

I want the Mets to keep Julio all year. Even great teams drop 50-60 games, and some of those get out of hand. Blowout losses are part of the game. And if the Mets can soften the pain by trotting out a 250 pound, sad-faced fellow who throws 100 MPH, but has absolutely no idea what he's doing on the mound, I'm all for it. Hell, he could strike out 150 and give up 15 HRs in 80 IP. That, my friends, is a phenomenon, and phenomena are what sports are all about. Jorge's the Man. Keep him in Queens.

Finally (yes, you can wake up now), as to staying in Queens, well, Brian Bannister won't be around for a spell, but John Maine will. John Maine? Was he part of the Benson-for-Julio deal? Omar must have told the O's, "Ok, fellas, here's the deal. Take this overpriced junkballer and his wacky wife off our hands. Do it now. We'll . . . oh shit, we'll take all your bad pitchers. Yes, Julio too."

There's little in Maine's minor league record that excites me. He threw fine in the low minors, but once reaching AAA, his control seemed to abandon him, leaving a K/BB ratio of not much over 2:1. In a vacuum that's fine, but he was 23 & 24 during these two AAA seasons, and his control and command seem to have gotten worse once reaching the majors with Baltimore. We'll have to see.

The Killer Zambie and John Maine the next two days. Let's hope the Mets are wearing the proverbial hittin' shoes.


Anonymous John Royal said...

Well, I for one was physically present at Turner Field for that Saturday night game. Now, I can't comment on the Thomson pitch, but I will note that Tommy "I Heart Eric Gregg" Glavine was pitching for the Mets, and while I think Tommy's underrated, especially when compared to fellow rotation mates Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, I'm compelled to note that the umps don't exactly squeeze the Glavine strike zone.

And yes, Skip and Chip and Don and Joe and Pete still do the TBS TV games, though Fox South just replaced the with Jeff Torborg and some gut wearing a "kick me" sign.

11:12 AM  

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