Aug 21

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #122; Playing out the string.

CHAT ROOM

CHAT ROOM

With 40 games remaining, tonight was supposed to be the start of a hot series with the rival Philadelphia Phillies. Fueled by Cole Hamels “choke” comments about the Mets last winter, there was to be heat and spice in this rivalry, which for the past two seasons featured a Mets’ collapse down the stretch and being overtaken by the Phillies.

Not only did the Mets blow two sizable leads to their neighbors at the other end of the Jersey Turnpike, but watched them win the World Series and in the process tweak Jose Reyes for his hot dog ways.

Reyes is nowhere to be seen tonight, and we might not see him for the rest of the season. The Phillies, meanwhile, cruise into Citi Field with an unfathomable 16-game lead. It could be 20 by Monday afternoon.

After trading for Cliff Lee, and with four players with at least 20 homers, five with 15, and two more with nine, the Phillies have all the pieces needed to repeat.
The Mets, however, are a team in disarray. Their entire core of David Wright, Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Degado is on the disabled list with no projected dates for their returns. Only two players from the Opening Day line-up – Luis Castillo and Daniel Murphy – are playing regularly. Two of their five starters – Livan Hernandez and John Maine – are out.

Gary Sheffield represents the power with ten homers and he could be gone any minute.

It has been a Twilight Zone season: the power disappeared; they sacked their assistant general manager; Oliver Perez and tonight’s starter, Mike Pelfrey, have been erratic; and injuries have also claimed time from Maine, JJ Putz, Brian Schneider, Perez and Alex Cora.

In some ways, Pelfrey personifies the Mets. A 13-game winner last season, he was supposed to take a step forward and emerge as the No. 2 starter. He takes an 8-8 record and 4.75 ERA to the mound tonight. He has a three-balk game on his resume and has four of his last five decisions.

Pelfrey has become positively Perez-like, being unable to limit the damage and lets innings get away from him. Against a power-laden line-up such as Philadelphia’s things could get out of hand early.

Here’s tonight’s line-up against Hamels:

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

Aug 21

Wagner claimed

Major League sources have confirmed lefty reliever Billy Wagner has been claimed on waivers and the Mets have three days to make a deal. If a trade is executed, the claiming team would assume the remaining $2.7 million on this year’s contract and an $8 million club option for 2010 (with a $1 million buyout).

WAGNER: Could he be Boston bound?

WAGNER: Could he be Boston bound?


The Boston Globe is reporting the Red Sox are the team that put in a claim. If true, Wagner, who has spent most of his third season of a four-year, $43-million contract recovering from Tommy John surgery, would serve as a set-up reliever to Jonathan Papelbon.

Wagner’s contract includes a full no-trade clause which he said he would waive to go to a contender. Should the Mets pull him off waivers as they did Gary Sheffield, they will be unable to trade him for the rest of the season.

Wagner struck out two in a perfect inning in his first appearance of the season Thursday.

“I thought he was very good, outstanding life, even in that short appearance,” Jerry Manuel said of Wagner’s fastball, which topped out at 96 mph.

Wagner is a six-time All-Star with 385 saves and a 2.40 ERA on his resume.

There are plenty of team in need of relief help, including Tampa Bay, Florida, Anaheim, Detroit and the Chicago Cubs.

Aug 21

Just let him go ….

Both parties are following their nature, paths leading on an inevitable collision course. Gary Sheffield and the Mets clashed last night, and it won’t be the last time before this train wreck of a season comes to its bitter end.

SHEFFIELD: Time to let him go.

SHEFFIELD: Time to let him go.


The Mets stumble through moments like this with veteran players, holding on to them too long, hoping for glimpses of the past rather than seeing the likely end. They grasped too long with Pedro Martinez, Moises Alou, Julio Franco before finally letting go. They did right with Livan Hernandez, but saving money by not paying out innings incentives was probably the true motivation.

Sheffield, as is his wont, is complaining again about his contract. He asked for an extension last night, was turned down, demanded his release and then wanted to sit out.

For his part, Sheffield has been a model citizen this season until last night. He’s proven he still had flashes of pop, and even at 41 next year, he probably would have gotten a contract. If not with the Mets, then maybe in the American League as a designated hitter.

The Mets, as they should have, exposed him to the waiver wire earlier this month and the San Francisco Giants put in a claim. Rather then get something, the Mets pulled him off the wire. Why? They weren’t going anywhere. Would he sell that many tickets?

With this move, the Mets lost the opportunity to trade Sheffield and if he’s claimed again they get nothing. Not smart.

Concurrently, manager Jerry Manuel, who doesn’t always measure his thoughts before speaking, said he thought Sheffield still had something and wanted him back next year.

Sheffield’s timing was poor – it usually is when it comes to talking about his contract – but he had every reason to assume he was in the Mets’ plans for 2010.

When the Mets turned him down – they didn’t even say let’s talk about it after the season – they were saying he wasn’t in their future. Sheffield now says the Mets are holding him hostage, which is only partly true.

Barring his release through irrevocable waivers, he’ll languish over the next five weeks in the mediocrity that has become the Mets. There will be no postseason for Sheffield. However, he’s still making $14 million this year (Detroit is paying $13.6 million) and if he finishes quiet with him mouth and loud with his bat, he’ll play again.

It is hard to understand if Sheffield weren’t in their plans why the Mets would keep him. With the season lost, wouldn’t this be a good time to give Nick Evans extended playing time in left field to see if there is something? If Evans showed something, it might alleviate one less off-season headache. You never know.

If history is any indicator, Sheffield will purposely become a distraction. The Mets would likely blame the media for stirring the pot, but with a loose cannon like that, he’s going to be asked questions. He’s an easy story now.

He did so while with the Yankees to the point they were pleading for somebody to take him. The suckers were the Tigers who gave him a $28 million contract.

The Mets should realize this season is lost and there’s no benefit to keeping Sheffield. They should pull the trigger now and be done with it.

Aug 21

The Summer of ’69

The Mets are honoring the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Miracle Mets this weekend. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan are back, bringing with them glorious memories.

It was truly an amazing year, with man landing on the moon, the Vietnam War raging and unrest on college campuses throughout the country. Still, baseball captivated us and helped heal the wounds from the civil rights riots from the previous summer.

SEAVER: Tom was Terrific

SEAVER: Tom was Terrific

In the American League, powerful Baltimore rolled, and for much of the summer the Chicago Cubs seemed poised to shed years of frustration and mediocrity. Then, there were the Mets, who, were picked to finish third. Considering the early years of the franchise that was pretty good.

But, the Mets amazed with great pitching.

Offensively, this was not an awesome team. Cleon Jones was the best hitter and there was Tommie Agee. But, Ron Swoboda, Al Weis, Buddy Harrelson, Jerry Grote, Art Shamsky, Ken Boswell didn’t strike fear among opposing pitchers.

A late-season trade acquired slugger Donn Clendenon (click for video) provided the Mets with an offensive identity they lacked. In 202 at-bats, Clendenon had 51 hits, but 12 of them were homers and he drove in 37 runs.

“When we got him, we became a different team,” Harrelson said. “We never had a three-run homer type of guy. He was always humble, never cocky. We were still young kids in that era. He was a veteran that came in and made us better. When you threw him into the mix with the rest of us, we became a dangerous force.

“We knew we had a good team with him, but we didn’t know quite how good. Gil (Hodges) thought we were better than we were. He was the MVP — a very dangerous player.”

While Clendenon gave the Mets pop, they won on a pitching staff that threw an incredible 28 shutouts. Seaver won 25 games.

That season the Mets got off to a slow start, but even after winning two series against the Cubs, they were still in Leo Durocher’s rear view mirror.

On August 13, the Mets were in third place, 9.5 games behind the Cubs, but overtook them with a 38-11 stretch. Included in that was a double-header sweep of Pittsburgh, winning each game 1-0 with the pitchers (Koosman and Don Cardwell) driving in the winning runs.

On Sept. 10, after a double-header sweep of the Expos and the Cubs losing that day to Philadelphia, the Mets moved into first place for the first time in franchise history.

The Mets swept Atlanta in the NLCS, and Seaver was beaten in Game 1 of the World Series at Baltimore. The Mets were about to come back to earth, but reeled off four straight wins … the final out coming on Davey Johnson’s lazy fly to Jones.

I remember a lot from that season: Seaver’s near perfect game; the July series with the Cubs; the black cat; all those shutouts; Steve Carlton striking out 19 Mets but Swoboda hitting a pair of homers for the win; the shoe polish incident in the Series; those catches by Agee and Swoboda; and the luck of J.C. Martin being ruled safe when he clearly ran inside the baseline.

What’s your favorite memory from that season?

Aug 21

About last night …. take another look at K-Rod.

Last winter when the Mets were pondering Francisco Rodriguez, I and other journalists took a cautious approach, saying his fastball was down and the violence of his delivery made him vulnerable to injury.

K-ROD: Not automatic.

K-ROD: Not automatic.


There’s not indication Rodriguez is injured now other than the normal aches and pains of a long season. But in reality, Rodriguez hasn’t had the work load he’s had in other seasons. The save opportunities are down and he’s had long stretches where he doesn’t appear in a game.

Even so, Rodriguez hasn’t been a walk in a park. Well, walks yes. His control is off and there have been times when he’s been hit hard. He’s averaging a strikeout for each of his 56 innings pitched, but he’s walked 32 and given up 40 hits. In short, he’s been far from flawless.

He’s not been automatic and the odds are he’ll break down before his contract is up.

Billy Wagner threw harder than him last night, but don’t read anything into that. Wagner is already on the waiver wire and the Mets are waiting to see who bites, and there will be interest.