Oct 31

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Game #3 starts with news of Game #4.

GAME 3: Pettitte vs. Hamels.

GAME 3: Pettitte vs. Hamels.

Joe Torre used to say Game 3 was the pivotal game, that it is the game where the momentum swings one way or another. Nine of the last 10 teams to win a Game 3 when the Series was tied went on to win the title.

The Phillies are home tonight, but the Yankees’ might have psychologically off-set that advantage with the announcement CC Sabathia will be the Game 4 starter on three days rest. Joe Blanton is scheduled to go for the Phillies in Game 4, but will manager Charlie Manuel reverse course and go with Cliff Lee?

If he does, the argument would be, and it wouldn’t be wrong, that the Yankees are now dictating what the Phillies will do. Should the Phillies lose tonight, absolutely it wouldn’t be surprising for Lee to be moved up in the rotation. Lee has never pitched on short rest.

SABATHIA: Starts tomorrow on short rest.

SABATHIA: Starts tomorrow on short rest.


That puts the pressure on the Phillies, who obviously can’t relish the idea of facing Sabathia to stay alive in the Series. Let’s face it, if they lose tonight, they are looking at falling down 3-1 and needing to run the table, including two games in New York.

Yes, they do play those kinds of mental gymnastics.

Sabathia has been a horse during the playoffs, going 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA in four starts, including beating the Angels in Game 4 on three days rest.

“CC has pitched extremely well for us this year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said today. “We wanted to see how he came out today, how physically he came out today, and he physically feels good.”

HAMELS: Needs to get back in form.

HAMELS: Needs to get back in form.


Should the Yankees lose tonight they would’ve gone with Sabathia on three days rest anyway. This just takes the doubt out of it, which is probably good for Sabathia’s mental preparation.

If the Yankees lose one of the next two games, count on them also going with AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte on short rest, with Sabathia pitching again on three days rest in a Game 7.

The Phillies can go back dictating their terms, which would include staying with Blanton tomorrow, if last year’s World Series MVP, Cole Hamels, wins tonight. A slamdunk last October, Hamels is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three playoff starts this year. Manuel waited to start him at home because he was reluctant to go with him on the road.

“It’s been a growing process,” said Hamels, who grew up admiring Pettitte. “It’s just coming back and delivering, and I still have an opportunity to help this team out and win some big games.”

Pettitte is underrated as a big-game pitcher, but he shouldn’t be. He won his record 16th playoff game when the won Game 6 of the ALCS against the Angels. He’s 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in these playoffs.

“He doesn’t seem fazed by anything,” teammate Derek Jeter said. “He’s pitched in every kind of big game you can think of.”

Oct 31

Rodriguez off to slow Series start ….

He sizzled against the Twins and Angels, but has come up cold against the Phillies. However, in the interest of fairness, so too, have most of the hitters – from both teams – in the first two games of the World Series.

A-Rod: Six strikeouts in eight at-bats.

A-Rod: Six strikeouts in eight at-bats.


Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were on in Game 1, but stifled in Game 2. Rodriguez is hitless in eight at-bats with six strikeouts. Horrible at any time, but this is Rodriguez we’re talking about, and afterall, weren’t we just talking a couple of days ago how he shed his October label?

“It’s eight at-bats,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not concerned at all. … Everything right now is magnified.”

The Yankees, of course, will keep him in the line-up. It’s not like benching Hideki Matsui or Nick Swisher. Rodriguez carried the Yankees during the first two rounds with a combined 14 hits, .438 average, five home runs, 12 RBI and 10 runs in the first two rounds. He’s strong enough, and streaky enough, to do it again.

There was no way the Yankees were going to beat Cliff Lee, and maybe they got lucky against Pedro Martinez. The Phillies are happy with the split, that was their goal. The Yankees will take the split because they know it could have been worse.

Truer words were never spoken when Rodriguez said: “The fact that I’m oh-for-the-Series and we’re 1-1 and the guys picked me up makes me feel really good about going into Game 3.”

Oct 30

Mets vs. World Series teams match-ups

Sure, it might be piling on, but with today being an off-day in the World Series, I think its a good time to see where our heroes rate in comparison to the Phillies and Yankees. If Omar Minaya and Jeff Wilpon are watching they can’t be happy how the talent yardstick is measuring their team.

If you were to select a starting team between the Mets, Phillies and Yankees, I believe the Mets would place only two players, Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana among the starters with perhaps a few bench players.

Here’s how I look at that team:

C: Jorge Posada, Yankees.
Mets note: Omir Santos would be a distant third.

1B: Ryan Howard, Phillies.
Mets note: Daniel Murphy would be a distant third.

2B: Chase Utley, Phillies.
Mets note: Luis Castillo would be a distant third.

SS Derek Jeter, Yankees.
Mets note: Right now I’d have to go with Jose Reyes third.

3B: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees.
Mets note: David Wright would be second.

LF: Raul Ibanez, Phillies.
Mets note: Whomever the Mets throw out there would be third. That’s how weak they are at the position.

CF: Carlos Beltran, Mets.
Mets note: When healthy Beltran is clear cut, because of his power potential.

RF: Jayson Werth, Phillies.
Mets note: Jeff Francoeur would be third.

ROTATION
Johan Santana, Mets
Cliff Lee, Phillies
CC Sabathia, Yankees
AJ Burnett, Yankees
Cole Hamels, Phillies.
Mets note: Right now, I’d have to place Andy Pettitte, Joe Blanton and JA Happ ahead of any Met candidate. That’s a pretty good indictment about what is wrong.

CLOSER
Mariano Rivera, Yankees.
Mets note: I’d put Francisco Rodriguez second.

Of course, the team the Mets need to immediately concern themselves with are the Phillies. Being healthy would close the gap a bit, and going crazy in the free-agent market would close it even more, but not enough to where you can say the Mets are close to their level.

So, if Minaya and Wilpon are watching and making comparisons to where they rate, they can’t be pleased. Let’s just hope it prompts them to follow through on their words at the season ending press conference.

Oct 29

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Game #2; Martinez no fool.

GAME 2: Martinez vs. Burnett

GAME 2: Martinez vs. Burnett

Don’t think for a minute Pedro Martinez didn’t know what he was saying the other day at his Yankee Stadium press conference. If the topic of his brawl with former Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer in Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS at Fenway Park wouldn’t have been asked, Martinez, no doubt, would have raised the issue. VIDEO

It has nothing to do with dissing the Yankees, but getting himself motivated. Martinez is one of those athletes who seeks the outside motivator. To be taunted tonight in Game 2 – “who’s your daddy?” – is what he lives for. Martinez relishes being booed. He has a me-against-the-world mentality.

THE BRAWL: One of Pedro's Greatest Hits.

THE BRAWL: One of Pedro's Greatest Hits.

Yesterday was for show, for fueling his competitive juices. Martinez is no longer the dominating figure who could back up the bravado with performance. Martinez is no longer the Cy Young Award winner who, when asked about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, said: “I’m starting to hate talking about the Yankees. The questions are so stupid. They’re wasting my time. It’s getting kind of old … I don’t believe in damn curses. Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I’ll drill him in the ass, pardon me the word.”

Just as he gets by more on guile than his fastball on the mound, Martinez isn’t in position to boast anymore, so he played the misunderstood, scorned role. It’s how he built his competitive fire for Game 2 tonight when he starts against A.J. Burnett with the objective of giving the Phillies a 2-0 games lead and a grip on the World Series when it heads to Philadelphia Saturday.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel tabbed the mercenary Martinez because of his ability to handle the pressure of Yankee Stadium. Martinez played his relationship with Yankees fans for all it was worth.

“I don’t know if you realize this, but because of you guys in some ways, I might be at times the most influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium. I can honestly say that,” Martinez said. “I have all the respect in the world for the way they enjoy being fans. Sometimes they might be giving you the middle finger, just like they will be cursing you and telling you what color underwear you’re wearing.”

Martinez also used the Zimmer brawl to his advantage. He said regrets the brawl and deflected blame by saying it wasn’t his fault, conveniently forgetting the fastball that hit Karim Garcia. That game also featured the snapshot of Martinez jawing with Jorge Posada while pointing his finger to his head. Martinez’s version was he was telling Posada to think, that he wasn’t throwing intentionally at the Yankees.

The Yankees’ version is different, saying he was warning Posada of what might happen next.

“It was an ugly scene,” Martinez said. “Zim charged me and I think he’s going to say something, but his reaction was totally the opposite, (he) was trying to punch my mouth and told me a couple of bad words about my mom. I just had to react and defend myself.

“It was something that we have to let go kind of, and forget about it, because it was a disgrace for baseball. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I was involved in it, and it’s one of the moments that I don’t like to see. I don’t like to see it because I’m not a violent man.”

Zimmer told reporters “Pedro is full of crap.”

MARTINEZ: Renewing acquaintances

MARTINEZ: Renewing acquaintances


To get the crowd fired up against Martinez, as if motivation was needed, it would have been interesting if Zimmer was on hand to throw out the first pitch. That’s my theatric side, but I know it wouldn’t happen.

Then, in an orchestrated gesture to avoid bad mouthing the Yankees, Martinez laid it all on the media, saying the New York press used and abused him. He spoke of how none of the media ever broke bread with him and got to know him a man, as if that were ever a possibility.

Scorned in the Bronx, Queens loved Martinez during his four-year, injury-plagued tenure with the Mets. Martinez was disappointed in not being offered the kind of contract he wanted with the Mets, but in the end walked away with $53 million. Martinez went 15-8 in 31 starts his first year with the Mets in 2005, but won only 17 games and made just 48 starts over the next three seasons.

Of course, beating the Yankees tonight also acts as a reminder to the Mets they made a mistake – in Martinez’s mind – for letting him go. The Yankees, the Mets, the press, Zimmer, the crowd, yes, Martinez will use them all to prepare himself psychologically and emotionally for tonight.

“I’m excited,” Martinez said. “I’m going to prepare, yeah, maybe, as another game, but deep down I know what it’s about. I know how real it is, and I don’t want to change it.”

Oct 29

Where should the Mets throw money?

As many of you would like to see the Mets throw money at all their issues – starting pitching, left field, first base and catcher – veteran watchers of the team know they aren’t the Yankees and can’t address them all.

Some reports have the Mets focusing on left field – read Matt Holliday – but I still see the team needing to focus on its starting pitching. There’s no lamenting watching Pedro Martinez pitch Game 2 of the World Series tonight as his tenure in New York ran its course.

Mets on their butts again next year without pitching.

Mets on their butts again next year without pitching.


However, there are no definitive reports on John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey. Maine finished the season strong, which is encouraging, but there’s no guarantees; Perez is coming off surgery, but they haven’t been able to give him a heart or head, not to mention control; and Pelfrey is an enigma. Plus, there are a handful of candidates as the fifth starter.

Go ahead, sign Holliday. Go ahead, add a catcher. But, if the Mets don’t fix their pitching they’ll be watching the Phillies again next October.

I’m still saying the greatest need is on the mound.