July 10, 2006
BASEBALL: Pre-All-Star-Weekend Mets Notes
Thoughts from an up-and-down weekend of Mets baseball:
*Jose Lima made my son cry. Well, not actually cry, but he looked pretty close after Lima gave up the grand slam to Dontrelle Willis. Please, Omar, keep Lima in Norfolk where he belongs. Do it for the children.
*As it turned out, the big story with Mike Pelfrey wasn't his fastball, but his tongue. If you haven't seen him yet, Pelfrey sticks out his tongue as he leans into his delivery - and not a little out of the side of his mouth, like Reyes running the bases, but all the way down his chin, halfway between Michael Jordan and Gene Simmons. It's very disconcerting.
On the whole, Pelfrey was clearly nervous - his command looked good at first but deteriorated as he worked around the big-league hitters, even after the Mets spotted him 9 runs in the first two innings and even though few of the Marlins are more than a year or two older than Pelfrey and most are rookies themselves. That's not fatal, of course; to give one example, I don't think I've ever seen a young pitcher as much of a nervous wreck as David Cone in his first two starts with the Mets in 1987 (discussed in more detail at the end of this column). But Cone eventually grew into a guy we all remember as a gutsy, mentally tough pitcher. Pelfrey may yet have that in him as well, and for now the important thing is that he got one start under his belt in the bigs, survived, got the win - and, yes, got a lesson in how hard he'll have to work to be a winner here.
*I may have been too hard on John Maine the other day, or at least unduly influenced by his failure to go at least 5 innings in either of his first two starts. I guess the upside on a guy like Maine would be a Brad Radke-type pitcher with good control who gives up a ton of homers. Or Trachsel, perhaps. If El Duque eventually joins Pedro in taking his annual summer vacation, there will be more chances to figure out whether Maine, Pelfrey, or Soler should be the fifth starter (not that I'm thrilled with taking Trachsel into the playoffs as a #3).
*Henry Owens, combined 2006 line: 28 innings, 8 hits, 52 K.
*I can't tell you how much faith I have at this point in Carlos Beltran in center field. I wouldn't quite put him on the level with Andruw Jones, but he's awfully close, and probably as good when healthy as Cameron - just watch time and time again as balls are hit in places that used to frighten me, and I now just wait for Beltran to cruise in and put away without even a visible effort. As A-Rod has done for Jeter, Beltran has also made Floyd a better outfielder by cutting down the ground he has to cover; Floyd can make some really good catches and has a good arm, and with a smaller left field to cover he's been much more effective in 2005 & 2006.
*My confidence level in Wright at the plate in a big situation is much the same.
*The Mets team offensive record book could look very different at the end of the year if they keep this up. Wright is now a very good bet to bury the single-season club record for RBI (124, by Mike Piazza) with a pace for 135, and Lance Johnson's club Total Bases record of 327 with a pace for 355; Reyes is on pace to break Edgardo Alfonzo's club record of 123 Runs with 137, Roger Cedeno's club steals record of 66 with 71, and Johnson's club triples record of 21 with 22 (in fact, Reyes is already third on the club career triples list); and Beltran is on pace for 46 homers, breaking Todd Hundley's club record of 41, plus he's slugging .606, just trailing Piazza's team slugging % record of .614. On the whole, the team is on pace to score 861 runs, breaking the club record of 853 set in 1999.
Lima stank even when he won 20 with the Astros. Everyone wanted Hampton then, no one wanted Lima. Tony Lema probably had better control.
Also, I was curious to see just what Lo Duca brought to the table that Piazza did not. Hard to really compare, as the lineups are rather different, but Mike's ops is 100 points higher. That is a very large number. If he were still with the Mets, he would probably be batting what? 6th or 7th, and have loads of RBI opportunities. LoDuca however, is much better behind the plate. We don't need stats to know that, but he is much better. Since the Mets lineup is so potent, clearly Piazza would have added icing on the cake, and would have given Castro more playing time.
In fact, Castro should be getting more now anyway, to keep Lo Duca ready for September and October.
And Crank, you are right about Beltran. The fans I guess presumed we would get the player who dominated for the Astros in the playoffs. That was unlikely. Someone like that is usually named Mantle or Mays, but he was clearly better than the guy we saw last year with all sorts of pressure on him. What Carlos Beltran is, to me, is a sort of Bernie Williams type, but a much better fielder. Bernie is a class act, a quiet leader, a very very good hitter, and if he is a bit short of Cooperstown, as is Carlos Beltran, well, he is still a great player, someone you are very glad to have on your team. And he is a terrific fielder, not just a great arm, but a smart one. The best definition of Carlos Beltran I can think of is: He is a ballplayer. Every day. He can lead my team any day.
For all the chatter about Reyes & Wright (and I'm as much to blame as everyone, as my own blog posts tend to go to those two), Beltran's been the Met's best player. Perhaps I'd have to give it to Wright based on the additional PT, but Beltran's been the bettre percentages player, and his defense is better, and comes in a more important position.
I don't think I've ever seen such a look of misery and dejection on the face of my daughter as I just did a moment ago. She just couldn't understand why Jose Lima would give up a grand slam to another pitcher. "Doesn’t Jose Lima care about the Mets anymore?" she asked pitifully.
I sat down with her on the sofa and (as calmly as I could) tried to explain to her why Jose Lima seems to lose games consistently. "Honey, I think his manager, Willie Randolph, sent Mr. Lima out to the mound in order to keep the Mets not too far ahead of the Yankees as the best team of New York. You see, Mr. Randolph was a long time Yankee, and so he planned Mr. Lima’s start ahead of time just in case...”
I tried to keep my voice steady, but it became increasingly difficult - the rage and feelings of helplessness were just too much. I think my daughter could tell something was wrong. I found myself at such a loss for words - nothing made any sense; nothing makes sense anymore. I finally had to admit, "Honey, I just don't know - I don't know what's going on with the Mets anymore..."
When I finished her lower lip started to tremble and her eyes began to fill with tears, "Daddy" she said, "why are the Yankees doing this to the Mets?" Well, that was it for me: I finally fell apart. She just fell into my arms and we both began sobbing for several minutes.
For once she had to comfort me and get me back on my feet. Sometimes I just think it's too much, but seeing the strength in my young daughter's voice helped me to get through.
Damn-Lima Time should be Party Time for the Phillies-but it's too late now.
The Mets desperately need to trade for pitching. I can't believe the idiots on WFAN who keep saying, No, don't trade Milledge for Dontrelle (not that the Marlins would agree-or would they?)
Are they insane? You guys just started Jose Freakin' Lima. I'm 46 and I've got better stuff. Really.
SheaShea is hilarious!
For those unfamiliar with CheChe at Kos, see this