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.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Hi everybody!

Chuck 'n' Duck will be returning on a semi-regular basis starting October 5th, 2005.

Also, I'll be at Shea on Sunday for Mike Piazza day -- where I'm sure the whole stadium will get a little dusty -- so if anybody wants to meet up, let me know.

Until then, let's go Mets.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I'm not even going to pretend I'm watching these games anymore. I caught about seven minutes of last night's game, and I've seen about an hour and a half of the games that have been played over the past week due to an upcoming job switch that I'm not able to talk about and some minor traveling.

Chuck 'n' Duck will be going on hiatus within the next few days -- I'll let you know when -- due to the aforementioned job switch, but I'll be returning to (hopefully) daily updates around the end of September when the Mets have far few chances to break my heart and then attempt to bore me to death.

Anyway, I turn 21 in the next few weeks, along with two of my best friends. One of them has two tattoos, the other has one, and I'm currently inkless. For the big two-one we've decided (actually, it's more been decided for me) that we're all going and getting one on the same night, for solidarity and the like. Originally, I had planned to just get the interlocking NY Mets logo, but right now I'm not feeling like having that permanently attached to my shoulder blade. I need the rush of a playoff drive to put me into the chair. Instead, I'm leaning towards this:

title or description

Yay or nay?

Friday, September 09, 2005

A Little Time Off

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, and... maybe it'd be best if we took some time apart.

Now, hold on, don't get too emotional here. There's no other team in my life, you know that. You need to trust me on this one, it's important. I mean, I've had the most tempting offers from across town for years now, but I've stood by you and I've remained loyal. So considering the attention that I've been paid in my time, it's not like I'm going to be running off for the first Brave or Phillie to bat its eyes at me.

But still, something's are just not okay right now. I feel a little neglected. A little underappreciated. And a lot trapped. I don't know where my head or my hearts at right now. When we spent that time together in Arizona, things were amazing. The wins and the runs and the terrific nightly pitching performances -- it was really spectacular. But ever since we left Phoenix, things have gotten a little too rocky for me. And tonight kind of capped it. I've seen this happen before, you're back up to your old tricks, which just goes to show me you haven't shaken them like you promised me you would. Now, it seems like we're back to square one all over again.

It's not that I've fallen out of love with you, I still love you very much. We really do get along really well a lot of the time. Granted, I do look around at other teams every once in awhile. I do a little Baseball Tonight occasionally to see how some of the other teams are doing, sure, but I never mean anything by it.

Still maybe a little time out would be for the best. I don't want to be one of those guys that just up and abandons you during the bad times, but maybe it would be best for both of us. Things are getting stale, you've been having awful nights, and that just ruins my mood for the rest of the next day. It's a constant cycle and it's just not fair to either one of us.

So, I'm going to take a little vacation. Spend a little time with my girlfriend, hang out with some friends, maybe take in a Giant game. Whoa, whoa! Chill, I meant the New York Giants, not San Francisco! Come on, could I really root for a team that employed Armando Benitez? Ha ha... heh...

Still too soon to be making jokes about that? My bad.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The White Flag

Over the next few weeks there will come the inevitable articles telling Willie Randolph, Omar Minaya and Fred Wilpon what to do with this team. Trade for Alfonso Soriano, they will say. Hand Mike Piazza and Braden Looper their walking papers, they will offer. The Mets will never make the playoffs without a true run producer like Manny Ramirez, they will declare. Offer Billy Wagner fifty million dollars or whatever it takes to get a reliable closer to the Mets, they will plead.

And when that time comes, I'm sure the desire and optimism I feel every offseason will return. To look towards the future, to attempt to help and rebuild this team, that's where I find my unbridled passion always lies. It's almost as though I'm a Yankee fan trapped in a Mets fan body -- there is no regular season, only the postseason for me, and if that string of 162 games doesn't lead you to October baseball, then it leads you to an offseason where you find the necessary parts to try again.

But right now, I don't feel that aforementioned desire. I'm not frustrated. I'm not angry. I'm not sympathetic (maybe, perhaps for Pedro and Glavine, both veteran guys who don't deserve this, regardless of the money they're being paid). I feel an eerily calm emptiness. All I ask for is Willie to let this unattainable dream go as well.

I've no desire to watch the Mets play out a string of meaningless baseball pretending that they have a chance to be contenders. To be forced into a brand of mediocre baseball -- one that does not maximize their strenghts -- with a record that they should absolutely be better than. I'm sick of watching Carlos Beltran hit third in the hopes he'll break out and deliver this team to a postseason. I'm sick of David Wright losing out on RBI opportunities while wasting away in the five spot so that he can protect a player he's better than. I'm sick of Danny Graves, Gerald Williams, Jose Offerman and Mike DiFelice taking roster spots, innings, at-bats and valuable game experience away from people that stand a chance to actually help this ballclub past this season. I'm sick of the fact that Tim Hamulack allowed eight runs in sixty-two innings in the minors this year and has pitched one-third of an inning in the big leagues since. And I'm absolutely sick of Braden Looper "closing" out games for the Mets.

Big things need to change for the Mets, and there's no better time than right now to do it, with no chance at postseason play.

SS - Reyes
CF - Beltran
3B - Wright
LF - Floyd
C - Castro
1B - Jacobs
RF - Diaz
2B - Matsui

That's the lineup. Hit Beltran second and Wright third. If every team in baseball walks Cliff Floyd then so be it -- his OBP will be through the roof and it'll give a hance for Jacobs and Diaz to drive in some runs and get some more confidence. Put Roberto Hernandez or Juan Padilla or Aaron Heilman (hey, Willie, remember him?!) in the closer's role. But knock off this "Quest for the Playoffs" crap. It's time to stop running this team like the Yankees team it isn't, and start running it as the Mets team it is.

Because, folks, the Mets aren't in it anymore. Lambast me if you will, call me a fairweather fan if you must, but it's the truth. For those of you still in it, I wish the best of luck to you all, and if Willie sticks with how he's run this team up until now and the Mets somehow miraculously turn it around then I will sheepishly come back, hat in hand, and offer up all the acclaim in the world to you and your unwavering perseverance. I wish you the absolute best.

But right now, once again Bobby Cox, you've killed my F'N season. See you in November.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

It Ain't Easy Being Green

Since the Mets have begun their slow, painful, distressing, embarassing, boring, excrutiating, horrific deteriorating collapse that -- for all intents and purposes -- began in San Francisco, it seems that Enemy #1 hasn't been Miguel Cairo or Carlos Beltran or Victor Zambrano, but instead has been Mets manager Willie Randolph. Since the Mets dropped two of three to the Giants, Mets fans have split into two decisive groups, with little to no ambivalence in between.

You either hate Willie Randolph, or you don't.

The Pro Randolph side backs up Willie. The fact that he's a first year manager, that the pitchers in the bullpen are slim pickins and that there are no clear cut "Leadoff" "Two" "Three" or "Four" hitters are all things this side will throw out there. They remind you that he's seemingly mastered the ability to know which pinch hitter has the best chance of getting a hit. They cite the fact that, up until recently, he was getting the most out of his players (ex: Cliff Floyd was, at one point, having a terrific year). They'll also remind you that it's the beginning of September and the Mets are already one game away from matching last year's win total. And, lest you not forget, that regardless of what some of the fanbase may feel, the Mets remain a part of the playoff picture.

The Anti-Randolph side has no problem throwing their own examples out there either, for the mere fact that they no longer have any tolerance for the guy. They rant and rave about the fact the Miguel Cairo had hit in the two spot long, long, loooonnnnggg past his usefulness. That the Mets would be in a better position had David Wright been hitting in a spot where he could have some more RBI opportunities instead of wasting them on the hope that Carlos Beltran will turn his season around. They will rip Willie apart because of his reliance on "gut feelings" instead of matchups, and the fact that more often than not these gut feelings fail. And will rip their hair out yelling about how he'd rather count on proven veterans than young kids, and the two or three (or more) losses it takes for him to change his mind about that thinking.

There are more examples on both sides. And regardless what side you're on, we all should be able to agree on one thing: Willie's just not a good manager right now.

Now, hold on, before you jump to defending the guy. Because every defense of Willie is almost always preceded by the sentence "This guy is a first year manager!" Well, that's my point, exactly. You see, Willie's a lot like Jose Reyes. For a manager, he shows a ton of promise. He has his flashes of brilliance. He eventually comes around to see the right move eventually. And he's a far more charismatic and "New York" guy than Art Howe ever was, all the while getting along better with the media than any Mets manager since Casey Stengel. But, just like Jose Reyes, right when you're starting to feel confident in the guy and thinking his issues are behind him, he'll swing at three first pitches, have five fly outs to various parts of the field, and make a brainless error in the field. And you wind up sitting in your room later that night wondering what the hell you were thinking about feeling confident in this guy twenty-four hours ago.

Just like Reyes, as well, Willie brings tools to the table that can't be taught. Like Reyes' speed, or his cannon of an arm, Willie gets along with his players, and in return his players respect the hell out of him and will play every day. When's the last season you can remember where a player on the Mets had no issue with the manager? How about a season where every player played their hardest? Didn't sit out games because they were tired or just didn't feel like playing? I've been following Mets baseball since 1992, and I can't remember one. Perhaps one of you can tell me of a manager who fulfilled this in a season before my time. Maybe George Bamberger was a terrific manager and I'm just unaware, but I doubt it.

As much as Willie may completely mess up the team's chances to win with awful lineup planning or a poor knowledge of how a bullpen works, these do remain issues a first-year manager can work through. Usually you do it in two or three season in the minor leagues, but it just so happened that Willie decided to forego that learning experience and opted to take it all in on the biggest stage in sports.

But you can learn in-game management. In Bobby Cox's first six seasons as a manager he had one winning season, and his team went 81-80 in it. Torre had six straight losing seasons, with the Mets no less, before he found success with the Braves. Some guys just need a good team, some guys need time, and some guys need both. Willie may be weak in in-game management but he brings the ability to communicate and get along with players to the table. He's the opposite of Buck Showalter, a guy who's with his third team in nine seasons because while he's a terrific in-game manager, most players wind up either not standing him or refusing to play for him.

The best thing for the fanbase to do at this point is to just accept Willie for the manager he is right now, warts and all. You can yell and scream and throw things at the television set -- I have done all three -- but the fact remains that Willie isn't going anywhere. The Wilpons and Omar are both enamored with the guy, so Randolph probably has at least two more years of leash before the front office will even start considering giving him the boot. If he doesn't learn, then he doesn't learn, and he'll move on back to the Yankees to coach the bench for Don Mattingly or Joe Girardi.

But just as we all have faith that Jose Reyes will eventually blossom into the player we all think he has the potential to be, it's for the best that we all hold the same hope that Willie will turn these things around as well.

For our own sanity, at the very least.

Monday, September 05, 2005

To Legit to Quit?

While watching yesterday's game, a thought popped into my mind: When does a good string of starts start meaning the potential for something more?

Of course I speak of Jae Seo, who's worst start was last week (five innings, ten hits, four runs -- though ultimately a win) and has been the Mets second best pitcher all season, while posting a 7-1 record and a 1.79 ERA. With the way the Mets organization has been run recently, I had just been fully expecting him to start the season in Norfolk next year, and be a call-up around June sometime. But, while watching the Braves game in Extra Innings, the announcers were talking about Seo, and how he had put himself into a terrific position for the rotation next season.

Quite frankly, I had not even begun to think of next season. Especially a next season with Seo in the rotation. But what if this really is Jae Seo? But, more importantly, is the Mets front office thinking the same thing? The fact that Steve Trachsel is making his second start of the season tomorrow instead of his fourth or fifth leads me to believe they think there's something more to Jae Seo, as well.

Seo had butted heads with both Vern Ruhle and Rick Peterson, opting to go with what had made him successful before (fastball/changeup) instead of trying to develop more pitches and evolving as a pitcher. But with the birth of a daughter, Seo was forced to take on responsibility and developed new pitches and even a new delivery, and the results have been phenomenal. No longer relying on a terrific changeup and an average fastball, he now throws a cut fastball and a very nice split-finger. You can tell simply by watching the hitters shake their heads in confusion on the television screen that they're certain this isn't the Jae Seo of old.

So, if this really isn't the old Seo, what are we to expect -- granted he keeps this up -- for next year? Obviously, nobody should be expecting Seo to put up Greg Maddux numbers (age 28, of course), but what's not out of the question? Next year, Jae Seo will be 29 years old. Are the numbers Tom Glavine put up at that age (16-7, 3.08, 182 hits in 198.7 IP) out of the realm of possibility? Will he tend more towards Brad Radke's? (15-11, 3.94, 235 hits in 226 IP) Or perhaps even a guy he reminds me of, Jon Lieber (8-14, 4.11 ERA, 182 hits in 171.0 IP).

One thing is for certain: the Mets have two future Hall of Famers in Pedro and Glavine, two guys with two different styles, though both have thrived as a control pitchers in their careers. With both these men on the team next year, it will do nothing but help Jae Seo.

And if this season really is legitimate, Seo'll be helping out this team a lot more, as well.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Ugh

I am so unbelievably frustrated with this ballclub.

So, with the intention of coming back calmer and more enthused, I'm taking a Mets-free weekend.

I'll be back Monday or Tuesday, whichever day doesn't make me want to kill half the Mets roster.

The Oblivious Mr. Randolph

And now a break to vent frustration:

"But if I do that, it thins us out a little bit. I'd probably hit David Wright third and Cliff Floyd fourth, and who's going to protect Cliff? Wright's a little more selective. I could bat Wright fourth and Floyd third."
- Willie Randolph on why he'd rather his lineup be Cairo, Beltran, Floyd, Wright then Beltran, Wright, Floyd, Diaz.

Uh, Willie, can we have a moment here?

In case you haven't noticed, here's the deal: I don't care how much the guy's getting paid, or how many homeruns he hit in two terrific hitters parks last season, Carlos Beltran is a two-hole hitter. Even in Kansas City, where the team had next to no offense, he was a two-hole hitter. And he thrived in that spot. Over the past three seasons, he's hit .289/.385/.566 in the two spot, with 189 hits, forty homeruns, 118 RBI and 103 walks in 655 at-bats.

Instead, you're opting to go with Miguel Cairo, who is hitting exactly... are you ready for this? Maybe you should sit down, Willie. Because Little Egypt is hitting exactly .217/.265/.293 with forty hits, a homerun, and ten walks in 184 at-bats. Oh, and let us not forget those awe-inspiring seven RBI. Yes. A whole seven. That's an RBI every 26 at-bats, or every six games.

And you're reasoning for going with this lineup is what? If you move Beltran up and Wright up, who's going to protect Cliff Floyd?

I just want to make sure we're talking about the same Cliff Floyd who can't buy a hit right now, right? The same Cliff Floyd that's hit .211/.250/.263 over the last seven games, and hasn't hit a homerun since August 16th, that Cliff Floyd? You're afraid that if you take away David Wright, the hottest hitter in the National League, from hitting behind Floyd, that Cliff might be walked? Cliff Floyd, a guy that has had more "Of Fors" (5) than multi-hit games (2) in his last twelve games? It might just be me, but wouldn't Floyd actually getting on base be a bit of an improvement?

You're looking to fix this offense, right? The answer is staring at you in the face, and it doesn't take even the keenest of baseball intellect to figure it out.