April 3, 2006
BASEBALL: Opening Day Thoughts
Watched a good bit of the Mets' opener from a bar in Manhattan. Highlights:
1. Paul LoDuca losing his glove (with the ball in it) while trying to throw out a runner. You'd think, watching the play, that the pitch actually knocked the glove out of his hand - until you realized it was Tom Glavine pitching. He will presumably hear no end of this from his teammates.
2. The Tom Glavine Adventure on the basepaths - in the fifth inning, Glavine beat out an infield hit, then managed to scramble his way out of a rundown to get back to first base (Nick Johnson, fearing Jose Reyes' speed, had tagged first and then gone to force Glavine at second), and then raced over to third on a LoDuca double to right field. Unfortunately, Glavine was then stranded on third. Not the usual days' work on the bases for a 40-year-old pitcher.
3. David! Wright! - Wright hustling down the line until his opposite field homer cleared the fence. Wright is just everything you want your best player to be - he's young, he's healthy, he's under contract (cheaply), he's good in the field and on the bases, he seems to hit when you're hoping him to hit, and he hustles and stays out of trouble.
4. Jose Reyes and Anderson Hernandez making sweet play after sweet play in the field, even including a gorgeous diving stop by Reyes that he couldn't complete. It's astonishing what an infield defense without Kaz Matsui can look like. (Of course, this time last year we were saying the same things about having Doug Minky around in place of Mo Vaughn - if Hernandez doesn't hit, he'll be no more popular than Minky).
5. The Nationals somehow not even arguing when the home plate ump called Alfonso Soriano out with the game-tying run in the 8th - it was clear from the replay that Soriano got his hand on home between LoDuca's legs, but LoDuca had the plate otherwise blocked and the ump bought LoDuca's act - even after LoDuca then dropped the ball.
6. Soriano not hustling or judging balls well (and letting balls bounce by him after they landed) in left field.
7. Glavine striking out Soriano looking, after Soriano had walked earlier in the game - it didn't take long for Glavine to figure out when Soriano was trying to be patient.
1. Carlos Beltran having another bad day with men on base in front of an increasingly hostile crowd. Beltran badly needs to have either (1) a 2-week stretch where he carries the team or (2) a series where he dismantles the Braves. Until then, he'll continue to get booed.
2. Darren Oliver warming up in the bullpen. This should never happen in a game where neither team has a double-digit lead.
3. SNY network's low-tech debut, complete with a lost video/audio feed for two innings, cheesy ads, minimal graphics, and not even knowing what team the Mets are playing next.
Playin hooky on opening day. I'm impressed.
I stayed at the office and pretended to work as I followed the gamecast on-line.
So, I can't comment on how the plays actually looked, but two late-inning outfield assists have to be highlights, no? And as to lowlights, I'm never much of a fan of non-pitchers trying the two strike bunt, while leading, at home.
But the biggest highlight, for me, has to be the 6 hits in 3 innings save compiled by Mssrs. Heilman & Wagner. Pretty? No. But after two seasons of Flooper, I'm psyched to see a lead maintained on opening day.
I took advantage of some very minor car trouble to work from home, so I got to see the game. I find it rather amazing that Mets fans booed Mets players (notably Zambrano and Jorge Julio) during the introductions on Opening Day. It's kind of accepted that fans always have the right to boo, but that really makes me wonder. Keith Hernandez questioned the fans booing Beltran when he made an out in the fifth, but at least in that case they waited for him to make an out.
SNY is definitely not ready for prime time. Given the inevitability of being compared to the Yankees, you would think Fred Wilpon would no better than to put something on the air that looks so second-rate.
Ending the game w/an assist via a great throw from center won't stave off the boos?
I was in a cab back to the office and missed the 9th, but yes, that deserves mention. And Wagner shutting the door is quite the turnaround from last year's opener [shudder].
I watched most of the game and while his first throw obviously slipped on release to me, the last play was defintely a highlight. Either he has a gun or Jose Vidro's extra weight (dude looked more like John Kruk than the great player he was pre-injuries) has really - really - slowed him down.
The outfield plays are, to me, far more important than Beltran doing an ofer, or Nady going 0 for 4. Defense stays with you an entire season, and if you can create 2 more outs a game you otherwise would not have, the advantage over 162 games is huge.
This is somewhat unrelated, but something that stuck with me. I think James wrote it, but it could've been Neyer: an outfielder with an awesome arm, a known commodity, may actually be less valuable than a guy without a "cannon," but who can release quickly and accurately.
Why? Because the first guy merely prevents an extra base here or there, while the latter will actually create OUTS.
Floyd had a ton of outfield assists last year, and has already added another. I'm not sure what Beltran's arm reputation is, but I hope it's bad, and stays that way in the opinions of baserunners and third base coaches all over the NL.
As for Nady, I'll begin the propaganda campaign immediately, by sending the following e-mail to all NL players and coaches: "Have you noticed that Xavier Nady can't throw? Take the extra base. Signed, Met Hater"
Anyone volunteer to do the same to ALers once inter-league play starts?
I don't know tons about the Mets or much about Billy Wagner but I have seen Mariano Rivera stroll out the bullpen enough times to know that NYC is not a big enough town for two relievers to play "Enter the Sandman". Billy needs a new tune.
Wrong Jimbo. Wagner's been entering to the same song since 1997. No sane person would think he should change, unless he was wearing the hated Pinstripes.
I would think that Wagner -- who's blown his share of big games -- would feel pretty silly coming to NY and using the same song as the best reliever in ML history.
Just one man's opinion, and a Met fan's at that.
I seem to recall Rivera going into the 9th inning against the Diamondbacks in '01 with a one run lead and losing the world series. I recall him going into the 9th in games 4 and 5 against the Red Sox in '04 and (cough, cough) blowing the leads, leading to the greatest comeback in the history of sports - all beginning with a Rivera choke job.
Now, I'm not dissing the fellow, as he's arguably the greatest reliever of all time & still in his prime, but he has also blown a few big games and is not entitled to be the only person allowed to play a theme song - even if he does play for the BY GOD New York Yankees.
an outfielder with an awesome arm, a known commodity, may actually be less valuable than a guy without a "cannon," but who can release quickly and accurately.
Once you throw out enough folks with regularity, your rep preceeds you and it'll spread around the league. Cliff Floyd gets a lot of assists because people continuously run on him because his arm is not all that strong and thus people keep running because his success rate is below par. He, and others, may throw out a lot of guys but - on average - it's because they do it with irregularity & thus teams keep running (and scoring and scoring). See Bonds, Barry and Bream, Sid.
Throwing out one guy while four others scored on your arm that week is not really a good thing.
As to the Enter Sandman contretemps, please note that I said it was "silly" for Wagner to play Riviera's song. Nothing about entitlement.
If he wants to set himself up for puns on Sandman when he blows a save against the Yanks at an interleague game, that's his business I suppose.
As to the outfield arm situation, I'm not sure I agree. It depends on the situation. If guys are scoring on Floyd with no outs or one out, that's ok with me if he throws them out once in a while. A guy on third scores with no out quite often anyway. And as to extra bases, there's just no way you can tell me that's worth as much as an out. Even if an outfielder gives up two extra bases for every out, that's at least beak even.
All I am saying is that there are some things that just don't seem to make sense to do. If you're a golfer you don't call yourself The Golden Bear for instance. It's the whole "don't tug on Superman's cape..." thing.
Jim - The NY Daily News has a back page story on the "Sandman" thing today, which I had meant to blog on. As Abe says, Wagner's been using this for a decade now, three years before Rivera did, and Wagner actually sort of picked the song (at the urging of Jeff Bagwell) whereas Rivera doesn't listen to Metallica (he listens to "Christian music") and had the song foisted on him by Yankee PR people looking to imitate Trevor Hoffman's entrance to "Hell's Bells".
That makes total sense.
But ask *yourself* this question. As a trial lawyer, would you say "If the glove don't fit, you must aquit" in your closing arguments . . . even if you made it up yourself in some high school Moot Court exercise in 1988?
I know that's a silly example (and I also know you wouldn't be caught dead saying that under any circumstances), but you get the gist.
If I were Wagner, I'd have dropped that song from my repertoire before the plane touched down at LaGuardia!
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I think Ironman would make a great closer's song. Not for the lyrics, but for the ominous (and cool) sound of the opening.
And maybe fragile Mr. Wagner can use the name as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As an old LOD fan I say that you're spot on with regard to Ironman. Great song for a closer.
I also like "The game" by Motorhead. I think it'd be a great closer theme, as well, primarily because of the beginning....which is all that really counts.