Chuck 'n' Duck

"I'm a very optimistic person. When you're optimistic, the good opportunities, good fortune, good everything will come with it." - Jae Seo Chuck 'n' Duck: the New York Mets from an Eternal Optimist's P.O.V.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Productive Off Day

Without playing, the Mets managed to rise half a game in the standings, and now sit 2.5 games out of first place. Terrific.

The Diamondbacks are coming into town now, and the Mets are sending two of their best pitchers against them (with Victor Zambrano thrown in between, just to even things out).

I have a good feeling about this team right now, though I don't know why. I feel like they're primed to go on a six or seven game win streak. That Zambrano is going to start pitching. That Matsui is going to start hitting. It's that age-old optimism, folks.

Unless, of course, they get creamed tomorrow. In which, disregard all of this.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Jose Reyes Ordonez

Of all the things to be frustrated about in this last series, I find most of my anguish focused at Jose Reyes for his attempted ballerina spin move that ended up costing the Mets an out (possibly two).

I like Jose Reyes a lot. He's fun to watch, he's fast like lightning, he's got a potential gold glove, he's got an Arm (capitalized and bolded), and he's got the mean streak to take whoever's barreling down on him from first and aim that ball right at their dome if they don't get out of his way. He's entertaining as hell, a show within the show, and I can appreciate the fact that he's 21 and adores the attention he gets. But somebody should take him by the arm, sit him down in front of a TV set, and show him some video of the career path of Rey Ordonez.

For those of you who might have forgotten, Rey-O came to the Mets admidst slightly less fanfare than Reyes, but was still considered to be the Mets saving grace at short. Rey Ordonez didn't have the speed or the arm or even the bat of Reyes, but he came to the Mets with the reputation of the best glove ever to come out of Cuba, and he did not disappoint. Ordonez could absolutely field the ball like no other, and was constantly compared to Ozzie Smith, with some holding the belief he was even better than the Wizard himself. Ordonez was flawless in the field, and there was rarely a night that he didn't make a play that you'd never seen before.

Then something happened. Ordonez started to focus more on making the pretty play than the actual play. He'd toss a ball behind his back that could have just been thrown regularly. He'd dive for a ball that could have been easily caught standing up. He'd somersault while holding sparklers in his mouth and catch the ball upside down. The plays would still be nice, but the radio guys and TV personalities would all question why he did the things he did, why he'd make an easy play harder than it should have been. Maybe it was because he was being paid a lot of money, and fans started to get on him for his inability to hit, hit for power, lay down a bunt or run the bases. So he started adding some razzle dazzle to his plays, to remind fans why he was so great.

I see this with Jose sometimes. Not often, but every once and awhile, and the play he made (or didn't make) yesterday was one of them. Instead of just coming over from short, handling the ball and getting the sure out, he decided he was going to backhand it, spin around and make an unbelievable double play. The only problem was Tony Womack is fast, and when Reyes bobbled the throw from Cairo Womack flew into him and Reyes fell. Instead of one out, there were now no outs. And Willie Randolph said it best after the game, "Sometimes, he's too quick. He's young and enthusiastic. And he trusts his arm. He plays at high speed. We have to slow him down."

Reyes needs a refresher course in Baseball 101. Unlike Rey Ordonez, he can depend on his talent to win the fans over. Amazing plays are nice, but they can be done on your own time. Not when they have the potential of costing your team a win.

**

Just a Note: Vinny from No Joy in Metsville has not left the blogging community. You can read the update here.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Free David Wright

I know Willie's making a career out of doing things outside of the box, things like pitching Koo in the ninth inning or playing Chris Woodward in rightfield. While these moves have found varying levels of success (or failure), Willie has found a group of people to applaud these wacky moves simply because he's not doing what every other manager would do. I have to admit, I find myself in this group as well, simply because I had grown tired of Art Howe's way of managing over the past two years. With absolutely everything by the book, I'd find myself screaming at the television set for some originality.

The problem with a lot of originality is that you begin to expect it a lot more often. Particularly in the lineup. Particularly when runs are not being scored because of it.

Namely, Doug Mientkiewicz.

I don't like the Reyes move, but I get it. Reyes is faster than sound on the bases, and it seems like a deep fly can score him from first sometimes. So, while his on-base percentage dwindles around Mo Vaughn's weight, at least we know that if he is on base he has a better than most chance of scoring.

But if the only reasons Doug Mientkiewicz continues to take up space in the sixth spot because he had the good luck of being born lefthanded and/or eight years earlier than David Wright, then that's not "Out of the Box" thinking. That's just stupid.

Last night, with the bases loaded in the first inning, Mientkiewicz (the very same Mientkiewicz who preached patience at the plate to Jose Reyes on ESPN three weeks ago), promptly struck out on four pitches -- one of which was somewhere near the vicinity of the plate. The next inning, David Wright hit what would have been a two RBI single.

I know that looking at a lineup and seeing Switch-Righty-Switch-Lefty-Righty-Lefty-Righty-Switch is pretty cool. But, in my personal opinion, scoring runs is even cooler. Douggie M, for all his gold glove work at first, is still sucking wind with a batting average of .213. That's no mistyping. .213.

Willie, I'm begging you, there is no reason Doug should be hitting sixth. If you really feel the need to stick with this order you've set up for yourself, at least put Matsui sixth and hit Mientkiewicz eighth. And if Zambrano is pitching, you could even let Mientkiewicz hit ninth.

But for all the runs he's saving on the field, he's sending them right back by his non-production.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A Night at the Ballpark

I went to the Mets game last night with my Grandfather, a huge football fan who has never attended a Major League Baseball game. By the end of the night, he left Shea Stadium saying he had had far more fun that he had anticipated, and how could he not? The Mets played one hell of a ballgame last night.

Tom Glavine pitched masterfully. It was as if Glavine circa 1998 showed up over the week to ask 2005's model what in God's name was he doing with his reputation, pitching style, career, etc. He took the mound, and when he didn't get his pitches called as strikes, he just threw the pitch again until he got the call. It was a very simple move, and something most pitchers will tend to do from time to time, but quite frankly I was in shock to see it happen. It has seemed to me that Tom Glavine has essientially handed complete and total control of all of his pitches to the umpires since 2003. To see him finally go, "You know what? That was a strike, and I'm gonna throw the damn thing again until you get it right" was phenomenal. Hopefully it sticks around.

I also almost booed Kaz Matsui. I have been a staunch supporter of the guy, mostly out of pity more than anything else, but when he booted that groundball not once, not twice, but three times, my hands were cupped around my mouth and ready. I stopped myself just in time, but the gang mentality that is the Shea Stadium boo birds certainly can get to you.

Is it just me, or does Matsui seem completely and totally paralyzed by nerves 95% of the time? I would never advocate benching the guy, but a trade might just be the right move for both parties. Matsui is never going to be comfortable in New York, because New York is never going to allow him to be. It's a lose-lose situation right now. Not that I think Cairo, Woodward, Anderson, et al would be any better than a loose and carefree Kaz Matsui, but I do think that ship has sailed. As long as Matsui is wearing a Mets uniform, there's going to be major struggles.

Could Roberto Hernandez be any more clutch? Years and years of watching the Mets blow it in spots like the one he has come into has cemented all my faith in him. After watching him shut down Cardinal hitters, and then leaping up and down and shouting "YEAH!", I turned my Dad and said, "That's the first bullpen guy in years that I've had full and total faith in." I came home, looked it up, and Dennis Cook 1998 is the last guy I could watch come into a game and breathe a sigh of relief. Seven years since I've felt relief from a reliever. That should speak volumes for what the Mets have been through these past few years.

I've always liked Cliff Floyd, but it's getting to be ridiculous now. After his second homerun, as he rounded second base, I made up my mind that I would refuse to sit down. The guy has been through so much as a Met, has always battled through injuries and carried the team on his back to little to no fanfare. So, as he was coming home, I was determined that this guy was going to at least hear it from me that I appreciated all he's done this year and throughout his Mets career. Thankfully, forty thousand others were thinking the same exact thing. Without Floyd this team would be nowhere near where it is today, and it's about time he got some recognition for that.

Doug Mientkiewicz may not be able to hit, but his fielding ability is ridonkulous. I seriously don't think I'd care if he hit .220 for the rest of the season, as long as he kept it up.

Also, on a sidenote, if Sunday comes and goes, and Scott Strickland isn't wearing a "New York Mets" uniform, I'm going to be irate.

Other than that, helluva ball team we've got here.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

My apologies for the hiatus, everybody.

Things have been pretty hectic around here, and will continue to be so for at least another week. Luckily, the Mets haven't been playing the kind of baseball that would inspire me to write about them, so you're not missing much.

But I'll be back soon. Thanks for the e-mails, I am indeed alive.

Also, remember to check out all the folks on the sidebar as well as MetsGeek.com, where the site is essientially updated everyday.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Willie for MVP

Every once in awhile there's a manager that just can't fail. He makes dumb decisions, is openly questioned two or three times in every game by the broadcasters, and has numerous fans disagreeing vehemently with the decisions he's made -- and yet he keeps racking up the W's. Some of these guys are one-year flash in the pans (Jerry Manuel in 2000 and Terry Francona last season jump immediately to mind) and there are some who make a career out of it (Dusty Baker and Dallas Green are two examples). It's an almost mystical ability that can come and go as it pleases.

Luckily for us, it seems to have blessed Willie Randolph thus far this season. Victor Diaz hitting eighth? Doug Mientkiewicz hitting fourth? Bench Cliff Floyd while on a 20 game hitting streak? Bring in Dae Sung Koo to close out a game, despite the fact he hasn't thrown a pitch this month? Continually depend on Manny Aybar?

These are things that could all very easily backfire and make Willie Randolph one of the most criticized men in the state of New York. And yet, here we stand 16-14, two and a half games out of first and five games better than the cross town rivals from where he came.

You get the feeling the Mets picked a real winner this offseason. The Mets haven't had a "player's manager" any time during my fanship -- which consists of Jeff Torborg, Dallas Green, Bobby Valentine and Art Howe. Bobby V is the guy that comes the closest, and even then more than half the team couldn't stand the guy. Yet Randolph comes into the team, bans music and facial hair, runs the guys ragged throughout all of spring, and he's the most beloved guy in the clubhouse. This team just plays for him, and it's showing up in the win column right now.

If the Manager of the Year goes to the guy that is getting the most out of a team expected to be lousy, Willie Randolph has got to be a very early season favorite. Hopefully this keeps up for most of the season, and if it does, then I just might start having faith in bringing Manny Aybar in in the seventh inning.

Okay, maybe not that far.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I don't have a lot of time tonight, but I've concoted a quick and dirty way of helping out this ballclub.

Tomorrow, when the Phillies are ready to leave, just steal Billy Wagner. Get some big guys, like Cliff Floyd and Roberto Hernandez to grab him with masks on as he's on the way to the bus, throw a Mets uniform on him, and off we go to the postseason.

It might just be crazy enough to work!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

There's No I in Team

I've been searching for awhile about what it is that is making this team different from last years. It was probably obvious to everyone else, but it took me until today when I was reading Buster Olney's Epilogue to his book, "Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty" to finally realize it.

The book has two parts: one details the rise of the Yankees -- what made them so great and so dominant, despite the fact that they didn't constantly field the most talented team. The second speaks of their downfall, when Steinbrenner and others began to overrun the team with their own ideas, building a roto team filled with aging All-Stars. It was this line, though, that brought to light what the Mets right now have: The Yankees had once acquired or developed players not just because of their talents but because their character added a necessary ingredient – Jeter's confidence, O'Neill's intensity, Raines's humor, Girardi's professionalism. They weren't all superstars, but together they were extraordinary.

Watching last night's game made me realize exactly what Omar did this offseason. Sure, he went out and got some All-Star players, but he did more than that: he brought in character guys. In the game of baseball it's fairly easy to find a guy who has a bad reputation that puts up good numbers. What's harder is to find good guys that put up those same numbers, and it seems that this is something Minaya worked hard over the offseason to do. Willie Randolph, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Doug Mientkiewicz, Miguel Cairo, Marlon Anderson, Chris Woodward and Ramon Castro all came to the Mets with the reputation of being good clubhouse guys and players with great work ethic.

This newfound cohesion was particularly noticeable yesterday during Jose Reyes' at-bat in the eighth inning. Doug Mientkiewicz was walking up and down the dugout, jokingly shushing the other guys while Reyes was ready to watch what could have potentially been the long-awaited Ball Four (it wasn't). When Reyes hit the ball into an out at third, he returned to the dugout to find Minky waiting for a hug, as Marlon Anderson laughed and yelled something from the bench.

Reyes and Wright are certainly two guys to build a team around, and these new guys that have brought in are one helluva team to help with that goal. When Reyes was originally brought up in 2002, there was a lot of rumblings about how him being around guys like Roberto Alomar and Roger Cedeno would help his development. With this overhauled team, you never hear any questions about intentions or motivation.

And it would appear that these changes are having an effect on the old guard as well. While Cliff Floyd has always been more of a "Rah-Rah" guy than most on the laid-back veteran Mets teams of the past, he's become even more of a focal figure this year. He's always there alongside David Wright for the first fist-pound or a pat on the back. Whether this new camaraderie has anything to do with his .375 batting average and twenty-two RBIs is, of course, up to debate.

But the fact remains that there's something different about this club. They seem to genuinely enjoy each other, and it's a group of guys that believes in themselves. There's an air of confidence, and a feeling that the team is in good hands. This might not be the Mets year, but their play so far this year certainly speaks volumes for their future.

Monday, May 02, 2005

What About Aaron?

I can't deny it any longer: I am an Aaron Heilman fan.

Funny how quickly that turns around, isn't it? Not that I ever disliked Heilman, quite the contrary. I've always had a place for Heilman in my heart, but it was in that place you kept Joe McEwing and Bobby "J." Jones -- they were awful, but they tried, gosh-darnit. But I long ago gave up hope that I'd ever look forward to an Aaron Heilman start, which is exactly what I did today. I was in Massachusetts all weekend, and even though there was a new Family Guy tonight, I couldn't help but get more excited to see what Aaron would bring to the table tonight -- and the guy didn't disappoint.

It was no one-hit shutout, but I thought this was a more promising start for him, as his stuff was definitely off but he kept the Mets in it. The third inning is the perfect example of this: the bases were loaded with one out, a situation that the "old" Heilman would have found a way to give up eight runs in. But the new Heilman was able to wriggle free with minimal damage, just three runs. It was a lead the Mets would be able to overcome, and in fact were able to overcome.

The question now is this: what happens to Heilman? He's definitely proven he can pitch at Shea, and he's now shown he's got the ability to put up a quality start on the road. The guy looks eternally pissed, his delivery is funky and he shut down the Braves -- it's all the attributes to make a guy a star in New York. So, when Kris Benson and Kaz Ishii return, does he just go back to Norfolk? Or perhaps there is another option?

Here's what I suggest, out of the Book of Bobby V: let's go six man rotation. It may just be that the six man brings back wonderful memories of a winning '99 season when the Mets sent to the mound a group of Orel Hershiser, Al Leiter, Kenny "F'N" Rogers, Rick Reed, Masato Yoshii and Octavio Dotel. And although it originally came about because Steve Phillips acquired Rogers in mid-July, the six man did serve other purposes. Nobody had qualms with it, it got guys like Dotel and Yoshii innings, and it kept an obviously aging Orel Hershiser a little fresher.

So, what's to stop the Mets from doing this now? Especially seeing that if things stay the way they are, the rotation could be far more talented and dominating than the '99 version. Pedro and Glavine couldn't argue with extra days off, and certainly could benefit from some added time to heal their various body parts. Meanwhile Benson, Zambrano and Ishii are all coming off injuries, and Zambrano has shown already that coming back from injury doesn't always equal terrific results. Five to six days rest for all these arms would be nice, and if Aaron Heilman keeps up his act it would be a fun, and promising, rotation to watch.

With Benson's return quickly approaching, these are decisions that will need to be made eventually. With two "out-of-the-box" thinkers like Omar and Willie running the team, it's a decision that's not out of the realm of possibility. But if Aaron keeps pitching the way he is now, it doesn't make much sense to send him down to Norfolk to help their push to the playoffs.