Aug 27

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #128; Can’t anybody here play this game?

CHAT ROOM

CHAT ROOM

It was the Mets’ first season when Casey Stengel asked: “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

It has proven a timeless quote, as the same question must be asked this season. Sure, there have been injuries that crippled this year, but even so, the Mets should be better. As much as they miss David Wright, John Maine, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and now Johan Santana, they are also missing something else. They are missing the intangibles possessed by all winning teams.

The Mets have given up on the season and you can see it in their faces. You can also see it in their efforts and attention to details and fundamentals. Part of this responsibility must be assumed by Jerry Manuel, who has not always cracked the whip. He treats his players like men, assuming they will focus, not like the minor leaguers they often resemble.

The Mets don’t consistently do what winners do. They don’t take the extra base. They don’t advance runners. Manuel said it himself, they habitually leave runners on third with less than two outs. They give away far too many at-bats.

Defensively, and we saw this last night, they don’t consistently execute the double play and often give the opposition extra outs. Some of this is due to players, such as Daniel Murphy, learning new positions. But, Luis Castillo has played second for a long time.

And, the pitching. Injured as it is, walks far too many batters and doesn’t finish them off when they are ahead in the count. Staggering are the number of two-strike and two-out hits, and pitches left over the plate.

And, it isn’t all Oliver Perez, either. Mike Pelfrey, a supposed rotation stalwart of the future, has taken a step back.

STENGEL: Would he be mystified?

STENGEL: Would he be mystified?


This is not a healthy team, but it is also not a fundamentally sound team, either. You are what you are, and the Mets aren’t a good team. They have been a study in creative losing.

They are in Florida today, the site where Murphy dropped the fly ball that beat Santana. … There was blowing the five-run lead to the Pirates. … The Ryan Church game in LA. … The Castillo pop-up. … The triple-play game. … The wild-pitch loss in Philly.

As Stengel once said, and we can repeat it this year: “Been in this game one-hundred years, but I see new ways to lose ‘em I never knew existed before.”

They have lost five straight and are on the verge of being swept today by the Marlins. Standing in their way is, gasp, Tim Redding, and this line-up:

Angel Pagan, CF
Wilson Valdez, SS
Daniel Murphy, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Cory Sullivan, LF
Fernando Tatis, 3B
Omir Santos, C
Anderson Hernandez, 2B
Tim Redding, RP

Aug 26

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #127; Perez out for year.

CHAT ROOM

CHAT ROOM

Another day, another season-ending injury. Mets fans were put out of their misery today of having to watch Oliver Perez pitch again this year with the news the combustible and wild left-hander has patella tendon tendinosis in his right knee and will have surgery.

This can’t be a shock to anybody, is it? Or, even a disappointment. I don’t like to see anybody hurt, including Perez, but I won’t miss having to watch him until next year.

Perez, 28, who was signed to a three-year, $36-million contract last winter, was 3-4 with a 6.82 ERA in 14 starts. His balky knee forced him to spent more than two months on the disabled list earlier this season.

PEREZ: Done for year.

PEREZ: Done for year.


Yesterday, it was Johan Santana who was announced would have surgery. The Mets say both Santana and Perez will be ready for spring training, but what they don’t know, is what condition they will be or if they’ll be ready for the start of the season as no surgery is guaranteed.

The Mets had enough pitching questions as it was, now they must have to think about how much they’ll have to add in the off-season via free agency to protect against the chance of either of those two not being ready.

Only Mike Pelfrey remains in the rotation that opened the season. The rest includes Pat Misch, Tim Redding, Bobby Parnell and Nelson Figueroa.

Lance Broadway has been called up from Triple-A Buffalo to replace Perez. He’s got a great New York name, but also a combined 5-9 record with a 6.17 ERA with Buffalo and Charlotte.

Is he the answer? I think not.

The erratic Pelfrey (9-8, 4.67) will start for the Mets tonight at Florida in a match-up that does not favor New York. Pelfrey has been strong in his last two starts, including a win over Philadelphia. However, Josh Johnson (12-3, 2.99 ERA) will start for the Marlins. He has dominated the Mets in three starts this season, going 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA. He is 6-0 lifetime against the Mets.

Johnson will face this line-up:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Daniel Murphy, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Cory Sullivan, LF
Fernando Tatis, 3B
Brian Schneider, C
Anderson Hernandez, SS
Mike Pelfrey, RP

Aug 26

My brush with greatness ….

The year was 1998, the season of the great home run race and when the Yankees steamrolled through Major League Baseball. It was also the year Cal Ripken’s streak came to an end.

KENNEDY: My brush with greatness.

KENNEDY: My brush with greatness.


That was also my first year on the Yankees beat and I’ll always remember a flight I took from Boston to Washington. I was sitting in the exit row by a window reading a magazine when this man plopped down in the aisle seat. I recognized him immediately, and a few minutes later he extended his hand and said, “I’m Ted Kennedy.”

I said, “I know,” and introduced myself. A few minutes later, I told him, “in all fairness, I should tell you I’m a newspaper reporter.” I didn’t think it would be right for him to be ambushed the next day in the papers by something he might have said or done.

He appreciated the gesture and we began to chat. When I told him I covered baseball, he responded with stories of how his father, Joseph, took him and his brothers to games in Fenway Park. He then spoke of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run race and Ripken.

I told him I once wrote a term paper my freshman year in college about him. I was a big liberal at the time.

Not once did we talk of politics or social issues. I figured he gets that all the time. I did want to tell him how touched I was about the eulogy he gave for his brother, Robert, but wasn’t sure if it would strike a sad nerve. I always wonder what he might have said had I brought it up.

It was a pleasant conversation. After awhile, he started reading some files and I returned to my magazine. We started talking again before the end of the flight, and when we landed we shook hands and went our separate ways.

I was surprised nobody bothered him during the flight and nobody approached him at the gate when we left the plane. A few days later, I sent him a note telling him how I enjoyed our conversation.

I told my editor of the meeting, and his response was a curt, “What in the hell were you doing in first class?”

Aug 25

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #126; Santana, Wagner edition.

Big news day for the Mets, with the trade of Billy Wagner to Boston and announcement Johan Santana will require elbow surgery to remove bone chips and will be done for the season. Nelson Figueroa takes Santana’s spot on the mound tonight at Florida.

The Mets will have in the line-up Jeff Francoeur, who tore a ligament in his left thumb diving for a ball Sunday afternoon.

CHAT ROOM

CHAT ROOM

“The right thing now is to let the swelling go down. It’s kind of big,” Francoeur said. “I’m going to try to play through it to the end of the season. If I can rest it for two or three days and then play, I’m going to do it. You might say, ‘Why bother? We only have 38 games left.’ But I came here to play and I want to play.”

Since joining the Mets for right Ryan Church, July 11, Francoeur is batting .305 with six homers and 24 RBI in 39 games.

Figueroa has given up nine runs on 15 hits over 7 2/3 innings in two starts this season.

This is the line-up that will face Marlins rookie Sean West (4-5, 4.70):

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Gary Sheffield, LF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Fernando Tatis, 3B
Daniel Murphy, 1B
Omir Santos, C
Anderson Hernandez, SS
Nelson Figueroa, RP

NOTEBOOK: Oliver Perez returned to New York to have his right knee examined. … Nick Evans and Pat Misch were recalled to replace Santana and Wagner on the roster. … Reliever J.J. Putz, who was supposed to start a rehab assignment in Brooklyn, was scratched, and here’s a surprise, could be lost for the remainder of the season.

Aug 25

Wagner deal complete ….

Billy Wagner gave in on one of his two demands and accepted a deal this afternoon to the Boston Red Sox for two lower-tier minor league players to be named later. In addition, the Mets save $3.2 million, which includes a $1 million buyout for next season.

WAGNER: In tears after learning he'd need surgery.

WAGNER: In tears after learning he'd need surgery.

Wagner was claimed off waivers last week by the Red Sox, but wanted assurances Boston would not pick up his $8 million option for 2010 – so he could test the free agent market to be a closer elsewhere – or offer him salary arbitration. With arbitration, the signing team would be required to offer a compensation draft pick and Wagner thought that would hurt his chances in the market.

Wagner has 385 career saves and it is his goal to reach 400.

The Red Sox didn’t plan on picking up the option, but with reports Jonathan Papelbon might be available in a trade after this season, they wanted to hedge their bets. Papelbon has been vocal in saying he doesn’t believe the Red Sox needed Wagner, but he has idiot tendencies.

The Red Sox do need a set-up guy for the remainder of this season, and if they didn’t claim him, the Yankees most definitely would have.

While the Mets aren’t getting blue chippers, something is better than nothing for a player they had no interest in bringing back. Wagner, who has spent the last 11 months recovering from Tommy John surgery, has pitched two quality innings since his return with four strikeouts and a fastball topping out at 96 mph.

In explaining the trade, GM Omar Minaya said: “Billy, basically, had an opportunity to pitch in the pennant race and we were able to get two prospects for him, and we felt it was the right thing to do.”

Wagner performed for the Mets; he was a positive signing for Minaya. However, he was a squeaky wheel which didn’t always endear him to his teammates. Notably, he called out the veteran position players – of which Carlos Delgado was one – for not talking to the media.

They were offended, but Wagner was right. Wagner was also correct in his pointed criticism of Oliver Perez not concentrating and living up to his potential.

Personally, I always liked Wagner. He was stand-up whenever he blew a save and never failed to answer the tough questions.