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.

Aug 20

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #121; Wagner activated.

CHAT ROOM

CHAT ROOM

The 56-64 Mets conclude their series tonight against Atlanta with Johan Santana (13-8, 3.10 ERA) going against rookie Kenshin Kawakami (5-9, 4.13 ERA).

The Mets were torched last night in one of the worst defeats of the season.

Gary Sheffield was in the original line-up but was scratched leading to speculation something might be cooking.

Instead, here’s the line-up against Kawakami:

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

NOTES: Lefty reliever Billy Wagner was activated from the 90-day disabled list. Look for the Mets to attempt to make a waiver deal for him. … Santana is 1-1 in two starts against Atlanta this season, but has yet to allow an earned run. … Carlos Beltran is shagging fly balls, but still needs to test his knee running the bases.

Aug 20

Reading between the lines

Gary Sheffield says he’s feeling fine, but nonetheless was scratched from tonight’s line-up. Could it be the Mets have something brewing? It’s possible. Trouble is the Mets pulled Sheffield off waivers earlier, which means they can’t make a deal for him. If they put him through waivers again and he’s claimed he’s gone and the Mets get nothing.

Gotta wonder.