Saturday, July 30, 2011

Don't look now but every team in the AL Central has a negative run differential

I have no comment other than the label I have borrowed from Neil.


Blue Jays 3, Rangers 2 and Rangers 3, Blue Jays 0: I Hope You Enjoy Crispness

Crafty lefties are maybe the best kind.
Neither the Blue Jays nor the Rangers are messing around this weekend, and that is what I like to see (something I also like to see: when everybody just messes around, so either way I'm good, really). Friday night, Brett Cecil got the best of the totally solid Alexi Ogando for the second time in less than a week, getting all the run support he needed from a J. P. Arencibia three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth. I'm not here to tell you that J. P. Arencibia is some kind of unstoppable juggernaut of a dude -- there is, after all, the .284 OBP to consider -- but he has been hot lately, and it is just straight-up factual that here we have a rookie who is leading all AL catchers in home runs with 17, and who trails only Carlos Santana (who is awesome) in extra-base hits. He's second only to the Angels' Mark Trumbo in rookie home runs, I hasten to add. I know the thinking is that Travis D'Arnaud is actually the top catching prospect in the system and probably has the higher ceiling; all I am saying here is that I am enjoying J. P. Arencibia as a rookie catcher with some power despite his .220 batting average. The only other thing I want to mention about Friday night, really is that Jon Rauch worked for the third straight night (to which: cheers!) and gave up a home run for the second straight night (to which: jeers, sadly). Oh yeah finally: both Bautista and Lind are turning in nifty plays at the corners of late, and that is rad!

The story of today's game was starting pitching. Brad Mills came up for the Blue Jays, and pitched admirably despite having what scouts like to call "fringey stuff," by which I think they mean that everything he throws has little shit fringes around it. This is a guy who puts pretty much nothing behind the ball, and to make matters better, he leaves it up in the zone like all the time. But hey: two runs on six hits over seven innings, that's awesome. Unfortunately for him, Derek Holland only needed 95 pitches to shut the Blue Jays out, the Rangers fourteenth of the season. These guys can pitch, and it would be neither surprising nor in any way awful to see them back in the World Series this year. I had a friend from Houston visiting all week, and when the subject of the Rangers came up, he just looked disgusted and scoffed, like "pppppppffffffffffffffff the Rangers" and I get where he is coming from on that, I really do, but I'm not there with him. 

Another feature of this weekend's series I am enjoying so far is that Michael Young has brought his "IRL Roger Dorn Fielding Shitshow" with him to Toronto, and it is an absolute joy to behold. The best is listening to the commentators try to make sense of it. "Uh, I guess he was battling the sun a little on that one? Uh, that was maybe a bit of a tricky hop? Uh, Young is really battling out there today." It's pretty much the best. Also I'm totally going to pretend this isn't just sour grapes over how the Blue Jays traded Young and his eventual 2000 hits away as part of the Esteban Loaiza deal a million years. 



Friday, July 29, 2011

Blue Jays 3, Orioles 0, and Blue Jays 8, Orioles 5: Undefeated in the Colby Rasmus Era

Bein's believin'
It does not matter to me that Colby Rasmus went 0-5 in the Blue Jays' 8-5 win over Baltimore last night, or that he wasn't even there the night before when Ricky Romero continued to be awesome and shut the O's out. That is not relevant to point I would make right now, and that is that the Toronto Blue Jays have posted a winning percentage of 1.000 since the trade that shocked not just the world but also me. 

Also, R.I.P. Hideki Irabu; it seriously wasn't right how George Steinbrenner called you a fat toad that one time.


Go Giants

Fred Wilpon on Carlos Beltran (New Yorker, May 2011): “We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series [Wilpon is referring to himself]… He’s sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was.”

Carlos Beltran, after being asked if he felt any pressure on him to live up to his 2004 postseason performance at his introductory press conference, July 2011: “I’m not thinking about ’04. I already got paid for ’04.”

World Series Champions Defeat Phillies 4-1

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 28: Starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick #38 of the Philadelphia Phillies walks off the field after being relieved during the game against the San Francisco Giants at Citizens Bank Park on July 28, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Giants make the Phillies so queasy they get Andy Capp-style nausea bubbles

Today was pretty great. First, the Belt/Burrell rumors weren't true. Then the Padres came back -- twice -- to beat the Diamondbacks, taking some of the pressure off of the Giants. Then Carlos Beltran arrived and said all the right things and didn't look weird in the Giants uniform.

Heck, it almost didn't need a weakened Tim Lincecum to shut down the Phillies for six innings. Almost. Chase Utley can't hit Lincecum. Can't even see him. Jeremy Affeldt? No problem, bro. Utley can crank a double off him no probskis. Lincecum? Utley's standing up there like he's batting against a...g-g-g-ghost!

Beltran went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. No worries, pal, don't rush things, we'll take it from here. The Phillies lost their first back-to-back games at home since MAY. The Giants took the series. Feels good, man.

In less-than-awesome news, Brian Sabean today pretty much came out and said that Brandon Belt has no chance of winning the starting first baseman job. That stinks out loud, but now that it's out in the open, it's a little easier. Belt will be coming into games late and getting maybe one at-bat per. It's better than nothing. Huff is bound to have SOME positive regression. He certainly can't get much worse. There's also a tiny, tiny, minuscule chance that Sabes is working on a Zito trade. That would be...well, that would just be spiffy.

But for today, a series win. A four-game lead. A shiny new Beltran. I'll take it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011



This Was a Bonkers Game - Mets 10, Reds 9

Jason Bay and Lucas Duda with three RBI!  Miguel Cairo a three-run homer!  Three more hits for Wright!  MANNNNYYYYYY ACCCCOSSSSTA (is terrible).

It's nice to see them put up 18 runs in the two games since Beltran was dealt, but I can't expect them to keep up this kind of pace for much longer, (CAN I?!)  

Anyway, sorry for wrecking your postseason hopes, Cincy!  At least there's always Bengals football!  Let the Bruce Gradkowski era commence!

Neil What the Hell is Going on Over There

Mets Trade Clubhouse Cancer, Win, Will Never Lose Again: Mets 8, Reds 2

UNCLUTCH & MOODY (Amazin' Avenue)

And so, the Carlos Beltran era ends in New York. I've already written enough about his time here, and now it's time to focus on the future. Before this season, fans were content to let Beltran play out his contract and let him walk, and if he was able to fetch a prospect in return at the trade deadline, all the better.  His play made him one of the most desirable pieces at the deadline this year, and Alderson was able to pry one of San Francisco's top prospects (a power pitcher, no less!) in return, which is very exciting.   

It was nice to see Lucas Duda, whom Terry Collins said would get the bulk of playing time with Beltran gone, step up and hit a homer last night, but even more encouraging was the play of David Wright, who has been just great since coming off the disabled list, batting almost .500 with two homers and 11 RBI in the six games since he's been back.  Best of all, he's comfortable with two strikes and hitting with power to right field, which is a good indication that...
Even Mike Pelfrey was good, going the distance and only allowing 2 runs.  Anyone could have waved off a bad performance last night, and understood a team letdown.  Instead they won't out and put up an eight spot.  Good to see.  

Sweep today plz.  


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Giants Win, 2-1, but Somehow Lose

Today started awesome, then got better. The Mariners ended their losing streak. The Giants obtained Carlos Beltran without giving up Gary Brown. Then the Giants took a game against Cole Hamels while having both Aaron Rowand and Aubrey Huff in their starting lineup.

But then, the other shoe dropped. The Giants needed to free up a roster slot for Beltran, and CSN Bay Area is reporting that the planned moves are to DFA Pat Burrell and to send Brandon Belt back to the minors. Splashing Pumpkins has the full breakdown as to why these are the worst ideas of all time, but if this is true, this is probably the least faith I have had in the Giants organization since...I don't even know when. I'm just sad.

Bill Hall is staying with the team. Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand and Manny Burriss are staying with the team. Mark DeRosa is staying with the team. But Pat the Bat, bench player extraordinaire, a better hitter than Rowand, Ross, and Schierholtz, is leaving. The guy who should have been starting at first base, and should STILL be starting at first base over the historically abysmal Aubrey Huff, is yet again sent to the minors, yet again for no good reason.

I'm hoping this rumor is false. I'm hoping Sabean is working on a package deal to ship Rowand and Huff the hell out of town like he did with Molina when Bochy refused to start Posey. But we'll see what tomorrow brings. We'll see what Beltran contributes. We'll see the repeated failings of Rowand, and Huff, and Ross, and see Belt in the minors and Schierholtz riding the bench.

Sad. Just sad.

UPDATE: The Belt/Burrell stuff is probably bunk, because CSN Bay Area are a bunch of unprofessional hacks. The Burrell thing is impossible since he's on the DL and Mychael Urban has been assured Belt isn't being sent down. If it were me, I'd release Hall and send down Burriss but what do I know? So the news isn't necessarily accurate, but still. I am on pins as well as needles.

- Bill

Orioles 12, Blue Jays 4: But What Really Matters Here is that Alex Anthopolous is Still Totally a Ninja

It was unfortunate that the Blue Jays' streak of seven straight wins in games started by Brandon Morrow came to a crashing halt against the lowly Baltimore Orioles last night, but what was really worrying was the 0-2 fastball that drilled Jose Bautista in the head and put him out of the game. Seriously, it sucked, but he was back in the lineup Wednesday night, so in the end, no big deal.

The three-way deal that landed Colby Rasmus in Toronto, however, is totally a big deal. The particulars:

To the Blue Jays: Colby Rasmus, Trevor Miller, Brian Tallet, P. J. Walters, and Mark Teahen.
To the Cardinals: Edwin Jackson, Corey Patterson, Mark Rzepcynski, Octavio "Don't Ask" Dotel, and three players to be named later (or cash)
To the White Sox: Jason Frasor, Zach Stewart 
My first reaction to this trade was "oh man awesome," and I have yet to see anyone suggest that this was anything but an excellent deal for the Blue Jays, another totally solid Alex Anthopolous move. "Worst Trade Ever! Cardinals Send Colby Rasmus to Toronto for Spare Parts," writes Aaron Schafer of the Riverfront Times. Keith Law, to whom I look for guidance in all such times of change, said on the Baseball Today Podcast today that this is a horrible long term move for the Cardinals, sacrificing a potential star player (who is already not exactly bad) for a better rotation this year (he was on the Fan590 today, too). But you can kind of see why that might be: this could very well be their last season of Albert Pujols, so you go all-in to win your not-so-s-hot division and make this a championship year regardless of what this does to your team in the medium-to-long term. Also apparently Tony LaRussa doesn't like Rasmus, who is probably a bit of a jerk with a loudmouth dad who is probably an even bigger jerk, but Law was like, Tony LaRussa isn't exactly a part of the long-term future of the club either, so who cares? As has been pointed out at Drunk Jays Fans, the Blue Jays are clearly not averse to picking up players with lousy reputations: Escobar, Morrow, Lawrie. It's a chance to get potential star players on the cheap, basically. All reports are that Lawrie is no longer a dick; Bautista has by all accounts straightened out Escobar; and I actually didn't know Morrow had a bad reputation until like a minute ago.

What did the Blue Jays give up? Chiefly Zach Stewart, whom Baseball America has rated as Toronto's sixth-best prospect, and whom Keith Law thinks could be a number two or number three big-league starter someday (though he is by his own admission a Zach Stewart optimist). Beyond that, it's Corey Patterson, who is pretty terrible, Rzepcynski and "Don't Ask" Dotel, who are both serviceable bullpen arms (and Scrabble is maybe a fifth starter), and Jason Frasor, who if I'm remembering this right is the longest-serving Blue Jay and a guy who was on the cusp of setting the all-time Blue Jays record for appearances. I am fond of Frasor, but he is another pretty basic bullpen guy, you know? And in return, they get Rasmus, who will be the everyday centre fielder immediately and who has the potential to be at least pretty good for a pretty long time for basically no money; Mark Teahen, who is a Moneyball guy who is a total bust; and a bunch of bullpen arms. I am not going to pretend to know anything about P. J. Walters, but Trevor Miller we've seen before, as we have Brian Tallett, regrettably:

But whatever, man, I will take it. I can't see this as anything other than another good move from Alex Anthopolous, and one that nobody saw coming. This Alex Anthopolous is my kind of guy to the extent that he is making things happen, and those things that he is making happen are awesome.


Poetic Feelings at With Leather

I was asked to contribute an episode to one of the greatest things ever on the internet, The Dugout.

You can view the results at

Or, for further things related to Charles Bukowski, you can read my work that tangentially inspired this installment of The Dugout, Peanuts, by Charles Bukowski.

Thanks to Brandon at With Leather for the opportunity, and thanks to everyone who takes the time to read things that include Grantland insults.

- Bill


A few quick words on last night's game even though I usually don't do that sort of thing here: Justin Verlander is fucking unbelievable. He wasn't at his best last night. He gave up two home runs and 4 earned in 8 innings but that was maybe his most old-schoolish "This is a fucking ace" performance all season. In the 8th inning, after Wilson Betemit singled to put the Tigers up 5-4, Verlander came out there and hit 100 mph on his 120th pitch of the game. Read that shit again. 100 mph on his 120th pitch of the game. Sure, sure, it's obviously more impressive when he tosses a -1 hitter and strikes out 42 guys in a game, but there are moments when the great ones break away from the rest of the pack and do things that no one else can do and last night Verlander had one of those moments. He was beaten up a little bit, dirtied, bloodied, but he just smiled and blew those motherfuckers away when it mattered the most. And that's why he's the best.

Phillies Win 7-2, Giants Still World Champions

Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley, left, dives past San Francisco Giants catcher Eli Whiteside to score on an inside-the-park home run in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, July 26, 2011, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 7-2.

Look, everyone and their mother knew that the Giants were losing the Barry Zito start. It just wasn't supposed to be game one. Tim Lincecum was scratched on account of the flu, and the Phillies ended up hitting five home runs last night, one of them an inside-the-park job by Chase "have you heard of this band Social Distortion? they're like my favorite punk band" Utley.

As I watched tater upon tater leave the yard last night, and as I watched the Giants get three-hit by Vance "Clarence" Worley, I became numb, and greatly thankful that we were just getting the Zito game over with. He even had the good grace to go seven innings, saving the bullpen for the remainder of the road trip.

So maybe the Giants can still win a game this series. Maybe they'll stop sucking. Because the Padres shat the bed last night against the Diamondbacks, and the NL West could find itself in a tie for first in short order the way things are going.

Guessing that both Aaron Rowand and Aubrey Huff start today. Rowand had a pinch-hit homer and Huff drew a walk. Gotta play the hot hand, Bochy.

P.S.: Hey Giants. START HITTING.

- Bill

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Still on the Subject of Roberto Alomar: He Seems to Have Taken A Guy's Shirt

This showed up at Drunk Jays Fans. Honest misunderstanding, or final step in a decades-long plot to steal a shirt from a guy? There are different ways to read this.



An Almost Impossibly Square Video Tribute to Roberto Alomar, Narrated by Stephen Brunt

I saw this at FanGraphs/NotGraphs. Pretty amazingly square, but tons of great clips here, some good writing, and here's how Brunt ends the piece:

It doesn’t happen often: A player for the ages turning up on your favorite team. In a perfect world, Roberto Alomar would have stayed a Blue Jay longer. In a perfect world, there would have been more championships to go with that magical pair. But what a great thing to have had him here, at his best. And now, to have him bring the Blue Jays to Cooperstown.

Pretty much, yeah.

If that's not enough Brunt on Alomar for you, there is also this.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Baseball Feelings Congratulates the 2011 Hall of Fame Class

Not pictured: plaques bearing passable likenesses of Pat Gillick, Roberto Alomar, or Bert Blyleven 
The entire staff (lol) of Baseball Feelings wishes to extend its most heartfelt congratulations to the 2011 inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. There is kind of an unreal amount of nonsense surrounding the Baseball Hall of Fame, and I am actually totally into that nonsense, but this is a no-nonsense group of inductees: Pat Gillick built champions in Toronto and Philadelphia as well as winners in Baltimore and Seattle; Bert Blyleven had been one of the Hall's most inexcusable oversights for years; and Roberto Alomar was the greatest second baseman of his generation and arguably the second best since integration. 

There has been an enormous amount written about all three of these first-rate baseball men over the last few days, and to all of that I will only add the following: 

(i) Pat Gillick is of course best known for the trade that sent Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to San Diego in exchange for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, in one of the great pure baseball trades in baseball history, but his character is perhaps best revealed in the deal that sent Alan Ashby to Houston after the 1978 season. Ashby, soon after word of the trade came through, found himself on the phone with Gillick, who made him an offer on the condo he kept near the Blue Jays spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida, because, I mean, it's not like Ashby was going to need it anymore, right? That is some shrewd, coldblooded stuff right there, and that is how you build a winner.

(ii) For non-Blue Jays fans, the biggest moment in Blue Jays history is no doubt Joe Carter's home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of game six in the 1993 World Series. That is entirely reasonable, and I totally get it: it's one of the most dramatic World Series endings ever. I am pretty fond of it too. But the pivotal moment that turned the Blue Jays from perennial contenders who always came up just short -- that is to say, chokers -- to champions came a year before, and it wasn't Dave Winfield's double down the left-field line that brought in the winning runs in extra innings. It was Game Four of the 1992 ALCS. It really, really seemed like it was all falling apart for the Jays, and then to make matters worse, the utterly loathsome Dennis Eckersly had the gall to point at Ed Sprague in an aggressive and confrontational manner after striking him out. I could not have hated what was happening any more than I did. And then this happened:

What still gets me about the Alomar home run that finally made the Blue Jays winners is that reaction, arms up the moment the ball left the bat. You look at that, and you'd think Alomar had hit it a ton, but it was actually kind of a scraper, just enough to make it out of the Coliseum. Somehow, thought, it was a complete no-doubter to Robbie. For me, it's the most important moment in Toronto Blue Jays history. Statements like "Roberto Alomar was the best player to ever wear the uniform," which you see sometimes, are complicated by Roger Clemens' two seasons with the team and Rickey Henderson's half-year stint, but I appreciate where they're coming from. When you look back at it all, it's strange how brief Alomar's stay in Toronto really was -- 1991 through only 1995 -- but at the same time, there's no doubt he's a Blue Jay, and no doubt one of the best.  

Also, he did a goofy add for McCain's Fruit Punch one time and he is still living with the consequences of that decision. It inspired the following image, in which I used every one of my Photoshop skills to what I think you'll agree is startling effect:

The last thing I want to tell you about Robero Alomar right now -- aside from saying that if you are still mad about how he spit at John Hirschbeck years after Hirschbeck and Alomar put it totally behind them, I don't like you -- is actually a Stephen Brunt story. Brunt signed on to write a book with Alomar at the last minute after the previously contracted writer bailed. Brunt is not particularly proud of the literary merits of the work, but he talks warmly about his time with Robbie and meeting the various Alomars and all of that. The best part about the whole deal, though, was going to book signings with Alomar where scads of young women would line up for Robbie's autograph, scowl at Brunt when he dared profane their books with his signature next to their boyfriend's, and then pretty much say the filthiest stuff you've ever heard to Robbie. This did not happen just one or two notable times, Brunt says, but instead like all the time. Invariably, Robbie would turn to Brunt and ask in delight and disbelief, "Stephen, d'you hear what she say?"   

(iii) As long as there are baseball feelings there shall be Baseball Feelings, and as long as there is Baseball Feelings, there shall be Bert Blyleven and his t-shirt. Blyleven might be fifth all-time in strikeouts and the thirteenth-best pitcher ever by WAR with 60 shutouts to his credit and one of the best curveballs anyone has ever seen, but it's that shirt, man, that shirt that really does it for me. Also, he's pretty open about it:

Q: Speaking of pride, what about this T-shirt you've been photographed wearing that says, "I [heart] to fart"?
BB: I LOVE to fart.
Q: What's wrong with you?
BB: I'm honest. Have you ever farted?
Q: One or two times.
BB: And did it feel good?
Q: Always.
BB: Probably so. That's why I wore it. I love to fart. I do. When the time is right, I do it. I'm not going to hide it.
Q: You're so blunt about your love for flatulence.
BB: Yeah. Well, someone gave me the shirt because of my history of farting, so I wear it. I LOVE to fart. I think I still have it.
Q: What gets you really gassy?
BB: Anything. The air we're breathing right now.
Q: Should I be ready for something?
BB: I have no trouble.

He has no trouble. It's not a threat; it's a statement of fact. He has no trouble.

And that, friends, is your Class of 2011.


The Philly Phanatic: Philthy Degenerate

This guy is a character, straight up.


Blue Jays 5, Rangers 4: Brett Cecil's Velocity has Returned in a Manner that is Pleasing to Me

Above: not Brett Cecil, but in fact Pam Greir. Who is awesome.
After the unspeakable bullpen debacle of Saturday night, it was a relief (that's right I went there a relief) to see that Brett Cecil did not any help at all to put the Rangers away Sunday. It was no less relieving to see Cecil, who has spent time in the minors this season trying to find his velocity, touch 94 MPH on the gun in the ninth inning as he put everything he had into those final pitches in his complete game four-hit shutout. It was actually . . . it was actually awesome. And he couldn't have gotten away with much less, as the Blue Jays only managed three runs off the tough Alexi Ogondo, all of them coming in the sixth: Bautista doubled in Escobar's single; E5 and Travis Snider followed with doubles of their own. 

And so here we are, all even at 51-51. That's .500 with exactly sixty games to go. The O's come to town starting tomorrow night, and they're legitimately awful, and I'm legitimately into that.


These Pitchers Are Good: Giants over Brewers, 2-1

Human anime character Ryan Braun's disappointment is palpable.

Do you know how many walks Madison Bumgarner has allowed since June 1? Two. Look at every one of his metrics besides W-L record and prepare to have your mind blown. Then look at his age. Yeah, that says "21." That sound? Your mind, being blown once again.

Do you know how many runs the Giants bullpen has allowed since the All-Star Break? One. You don't even know how amazing that is. Your puny brain can't even comprehend it.

Brian Wilson must have read my post-San Diego blog where I talked about what a lousy closer he is, because on Saturday night he threw a five-pitch save, and Sunday afternoon he struck out Fielder looking, induced a Rickie Weeks fly to right, and struck out Yuniesky Betancourt swinging. The Fielder at-bat was both his most important and best retired batter since a little gem you may remember:

The Giants pitching staff is so unbelievable that the Giants -- who have maybe two active roster members hitting above league average -- have the fifth-best record in baseball. They have taken 18 of 22 three-game series this season. THEY'RE WINNING GAMES WITHOUT RUNS. MLB should rename the Cy Young Award "The 2011 Giants Pitching Staff Award."

So the Giants remain four games in front of the Diamondbacks and helped the Pirates reclaim a share of first place in the NL Central. Unfortunately, the Giants have seven games on the road against the Phillies and the Reds. Who do the Diamondbacks play their next seven games against? The Padres and the Dodgers, that's who. Yeah. The Phillies series should be nice and gut-wrenching. It's really a worst-case scenario because the Giants will not be facing Cliff Lee nor Roy Halladay, who they really beat the piss out of. Please see below for photographic evidence.

It's going to be a crazy week, and the Giants may -- just may -- emerge on the other side of it clutching a shiny new Carlos Beltran.

- Bill

This Is Probably Going to Suck For Awhile: Marlins 5, Mets 4


In which I begin discussing the future of the Mets, rather than the 2011 season, which is, for all intents and purposes, over.  

That's not to say that the rest of the year won't be fascinating to watch, with Wright returning from his back stress fracture with six RBI over the weekend and a clutch homer indicating that he's ready to go, Reyes chasing the batting title (but no MVP, I think that ship has sailed), Johan Santana's return (?), what the Mets will get from the Beltran trade, and seeing what the final two months hold for guys with unestablished 2012 roles like Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Dillon Gee, and Bobby Parnell.  

Granted, Parnell didn't look like a closer of the future yesterday, coughing up a one-run lead in the eighth inning, but his predecessor isn't exactly missed these days either.  All HE'S done is blown the one save he's gotten a chance at since going to Milwaukee, and then flipping off the camera.  We are richer for having lost him...$17.5 million richer, to be exact. 

No matter where the Mets finish up this season, (SPOILER ALERT: .500 even, there must always be balance this year) I am eagerly anticipating what should be a very eventful winter, and am about ready to out myself as an unabashed Sandy Alderson fan.  I admit that I knew very little about him when he was named the GM last winter, but my mindset being "Anyone's better than Omar," I was cautiously optimistic. Having now seen him in action, I'm very encouraged about the future. He found some hidden gems during his first offseason (Capuano, Ronnie Paulino, and Isringhausen), and handled the potential K-Rod disaster deftly and candidly. Listen to this interview where he clearly gives no fucks who hears that K-Rod would have been a non-factor in the Mets' playoff chances.  

Of course, in the same interview he states that trading Beltran would be a clear white flag, which is why it's kind of a relief that the team has made the decision so easy for him.  I can stomach some more disappointing Sundays in the upcoming weeks if it means the possibility of some thrilling autumns in years to come.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Rangers 5, Blue Jays 4: This Bullpen is For Shit

You will note that exactly none of the above players is a Toronto Blue Jay 
I totally get that you can't really play day games in Fort Worth in July, but I nevertheless choose to really, really mind that there's no Jays game on the radio in the afternoon when they play Texas. So I come into these games already minding things. Then Rzepcynski and Rauch combine to blow the one-run lead that came out of a three-run sixth on an Arencibia home run (his third in his last two games), an Escobar double, a Thames triple (and we all love triples!), and a Bautista single, and that seriously ups the amount of minding that I do. It is not helping that Corey Patterson can't catch a reasonable proportion of balls that are, you know, totally catchable.

This is brutal.


Giants Win Rad Game 4-2

Milwaukee Brewers' Rickie Weeks, right, is tagged out San Francisco Giants catcher Chris Stewart after a single by Casey McGehee during the third inning of a baseball game in San Francisco,  Saturday, July 23, 2011.
A catcher! Who can catch the ball!

In truth, I was only able to listen to a half-inning or so before spending a night at the theater (the new staging of Les Miserables is fantastic. Catch the tour if you can.), but looking at the highlights, it looked like a real fun and intense game. The crowd, fueled by master showman Tony Plush, was as raucous and engaged as a hometown crowd can get in a non-playoff game. This was a big one, and contributions up and down the lineup on both offense and defense were appreciated.

The Giants go for the series win today, and regardless of the outcome, it should be lively. I am excited.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rangers 12, Blue Jays 2: DFA for Jo-Jo

It has finally come to this for poor, sweet, Jo-Jo Reyes, a lefty for whom we have all prayed. What remains to be said? He has been tried; he has been found wanting; he has been designated for assignment. Had he been born right-handed we would have never known his name. I had no expectation he was going to stay with the team after the early-season series in Anaheim, where Alan Ashby referred to Jo-Jo's struggle to "have a career out there." That is when I saw not just the Jo-Jo on the mound, but the Jo-Jo in all of us. I was overcome not with pity, but with fellow feeling. I say again now, as I did then, Jo-Jo Reyes, c'est moi. I feel that even more deeply now than I did those months ago. 

This is it for Jo-Jo. May god have mercy on us all.


Less "A Game" and More "A Big Bag of Butts," Brewers Over Giants 4-2

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 22: Eli Whiteside #22 of the San Francisco Giants can't hold on to the throw as Yuniesky Betancourt #3 of the Milwaukee Brewers scores on a two-run double by Jonathan Lucroy #20 in the second inning during an MLB baseball game at AT&T Park July 22, 2011 in San Francisco, California.

Okay, see that up there? That's Eli Whiteside, the guy who was the Giants' starting catcher today, being unable to catch a baseball thrown from left field. He catches the ball, the Brewers score one less run, which the Giants actually have a chance to overcome. Two runs? Not a chance.

Putting that aside, the Brewers have been lousy on the road all season. Seriously lousy. They come to AT&T and score four runs off of Matt Cain, which, adjusted for park and pitcher, is like two hundred and seventy-three runs. The Brewers are supposed to have insanely, laughably bad defense, yet Nyjer "Tony Plush" Morgan was running hither and yon, tracking down scalded line drives and grabbing his crotch at the entirety of the bleachers, then flipping off the field level seats. (An aside: T-Plush is the absolute best. He's the Ochocinco of baseball, but with less talent. I'm planning on obtaining a "PLUSH 2" Brewers throwback jersey at some point in the next few months. I just don't like when he's playing against the Giants. My rooting interests clash. It's messy.) Casey McGehee and Corey Hart were making sparkling plays. I watched most of the Brewers/Diamondbacks series. Two days ago, K-Rod couldn't throw a strike to save his life. Tonight, he strikes out a pair of Giants and makes a pinch-hitting Brandon Belt have his worst-looking at-bat of the year. When Brandon Belt is up there looking like Anthony Rizzo --or, worse, like a left-handed Aaron Rowand -- that's very, very bad.

So the Giants offense looked like the Giants offense, and Matt Cain had one of his worst starts -- four runs? Are you kidding me?? -- and the Brewers lived up to none of their expectations, all in the worst way. It wasn't the worst game of the year by any means. Heck, I'll even heap praise on Aaron freaking Rowand. He had probably the most impressive pinch hit home run this season, by anyone on any team. Watch some replays. The location of that pitch he hit was totally unreal. Plus, the Rockies beat the Diamondbacks, so it's not like any true damage was done.

Still, an offense is needed. Sorely needed. If the Phillies are closing in on B.J. Upton, maybe the Giants could still land Carlos Beltran. I'd give up Zach Wheeler for a rental at this point, sorry to say. My guess is a deal won't be made until the deadline, and it will be a deal that sends Gary Brown away for, oh, let's say Ivan Rodriguez. I want to believe in Sabean, but I'm thinking that this season is one of his classic trades where he lays an egg.

- Bill


Friday, July 22, 2011


Emperor Justinian Verlander

Blue Jays 7, Mariners 5: Sweeeeeeeeeeeep

Mike McCoy: lovin' it.
A day after I extended my sympathies to the Mariners and lamented Ichiro Suzuki's slide into submediocraty, Seattle dang near won it late and Ichiro went 3-4. And so I have learned that pity is weak and wrong. Ricky Romero left with a five-run lead but the bases loaded in the eighth, and when Casey Janssen came in, it was like, OK, maybe a couple of these runs will come across, but we're fine, right? Wrong: grand slam, Miguel Olivo. Happily, doubles from Mike McCoy and Rajai Davis, who has not been nearly as awful of late but who is still fundamentally awful, put the Blue Jays ahead for good. Eight of the last ten! One whole game above .500! A mere eight-and-a-half games out of the wild card! Let's do this, whatever this might be.  

Oh yeah also, it was so hot in Toronto yesterday (37C!) they actually played with the roof closed just due to the heat! I don't know that that has ever happened before in TO.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blue Jays 11, Mariners 6: Kind of feeling bad for the Mariners, actually.

Such mustache.
I am pretty jazzed yeah that's right jazzed that Brandon Morrow turned in a solid start at home, where he has struggled this year, and I am equally jazzed that Travis Snider (2-4, HR, 5 RBI) is hitting .357 since being recalled from Las Vegas, that Jose Bautista looks fine (1-3, 2B, 2 BB) coming back from his ankle sprain, and that the streaky E5 is raking right now and stole second and third in the fourth inning. But I am also kind of sad about the Mariners, our 1977 expansion cousins. Eleven losses in a row, that's rough, especially when the team you were only a couple of games behind in your (joke of a) division rattled off a dozen straight wins. 

And it is painful to watch Ichiro struggle through his first truly bad season. It's not just that he isn't going to end up with his customary 200 hits; it's that he has been legitimately bad: he's hitting .260 with a .306 OBP. It's brutal. He still steals bases with an amazing rate of success (he's 23 for 27 this season, and an unreal 406 for 498 in his career), but he's not getting on enough to be a respectable lead-off hitter. Hopefully he gets crazy hot in the second half, but at 37 he might just be done. 

This would sadden me greatly, because that guy was awesome.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Hotspur, you son of a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch

Tim Lincecum Has the Temerity to Allow One Run, Giants Lose 1-0

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 20, 2011, in San Francisco.

Even knowing that the Giants were going to avoid the sweep today, even knowing that the Giants were going to look like the merest of chumps against Clayton Kershaw -- as they do -- it was still infuriating to see them trot out the absolute worst lineup I've seen so far this year. (Aaron Rowand batting third!)

Tim Lincecum and the Giants staff were awesome, with Tim giving up one fluke home run to Dioner Navarro -- Dioner Navarro! -- that was fair by inches. The Giants bats were awful, striking out thirteen times (twelve by Kershaw) and only managing three hits. Just the worst game. Hoping for the Brewers to mangle the snakes again, but I'm not holding my breath. O Carlos Beltran, where art thou?

Blue Jays 6, Mariners 5 (F/14): Well I'll be.

Walkin' off.
It is perhaps worth noting that the two players I explicitly slandered last night out of sheer frustration with this endless game -- Rajai Davis, who pinch ran for Escobar in the ninth, and John McDonald, who then came in to play short for extras -- are the two who figured in the winning run. A couple innings into extras, I was very much of the opinion that there was no way the Blue Jays were ever going to score, unless Bautista or Lind did it entirely on their own, because of the deadbeats in front of them in the order. How wrong I was! Davis singled, stole a couple, and Johnny Mac (as he is known to all but me) lifted a sac fly to win it. 

Lots of ups and downs and near misses in this one, but I would like to extend a special "lol" in the direction of Mike Carp (possible nickname: "Hiroshima") who got picked off at second after a leadoff double in the eleventh as Chone Figgins tried to bunt him over to third. I would also like to salute the Blue Jays bullpen. After Brett Cecil allowed five runs through his seven innings, Camp, Rauch, Frasor, "Don't Ask" Dotel, Rzepcynski, and Janssen who took it the rest of the actually-kind-of-long way. The Blue Jays have used more relief pitching than any other team in the American League this year, which is obviously horrible.  


Mets 4, Cardinals 2 - Nearing the End of the Most Complicated Baseball Relationship of My Life

After a deflating weekend against the series, and a completely flat game against the Marlins, the Mets finally got Jose Reyes back from the DL, (he promptly picked up where he left off collecting another multi-hit game) and Carlos Beltran back from his brief bout with the flu. The team, which had been in an offensive funk, with the exception of Saturday's 11-2 clouting of the Phils, woke up, led by Beltran's three hits, but it was a bittersweet night for me as I realized that Beltran could be gone just as quickly as he returned.  

I've written before about the baseball gods toying with my emotions, and an agonizing sequence of events in my life that all started out with a happy occasion.  I proposed to my girlfriend in May of 2008 and, shortly thereafter, left my job and lifelong home in the New York metropolitan area to move to her location in hated Philadelphia. As some kind of penance for an sin of mine long forgotten, I happened to arrive just in time to watch the Mets be eliminated from postseason contention on the last day of the season and the Phillies storm through the playoffs on their way to a World Series title.  

As the years have gone on and the Phillies have coasted to four straight division titles (with a fifth all but sewn up at this point), and the Mets have been cursed with a slew of injuries, bad personnel decisions, and generic ineptitude, my emotions have cooled from rage ("Urgh, how could this be happening, it's like I'm in a Hell for one," to a kind of warped amusement, where I'm almost morbidly curious to see how long this can go on.  

It was in that spirit that I found myself at a beach house in Wildwood over the past weekend staying with my in-laws, eight Phillies fans strong with only myself waving the blue and orange banner.  The Mets had gotten trounced on Friday night, R.A. Dickey had gotten knocked around, and the offense was held in check by the immortal Vance Worley.  With Pelfrey slated to pitch on Sunday, Saturday was a must-win game.

Win they would, with the legendary Scott Hairston filling in for Beltran with three hits, a homer, and 5 RBI and the Mets offense doing what they do best, which is embarrassing Cole Hamels more than he is used to.  

I watched a majority of the game by myself, which was unfortunate because I was hoping to replicate my father-in-law's methodical, rage-inducing slow clap, which he likes to pull out whenever we are watching Phillies-Mets games together.  My wife assures me that he does this regardless of who the Phillies are playing so maybe I am hypersensitive, but it is positively incendiary all the same, and I was looking forward to turning the tables somewhat.  Despite not being able to, I had a wonderful time watching the game, with one notable exception.  

Shortly after Hairston's home run gave the Mets an 11-2 lead, the clueless Fox announcers, who had clearly done no preparation whatsoever, opined on their surprise that the Mets were looking so offensively robust.  Never mind the fact that a cursory glance over their stats this season would show that they are among the league leaders in OBP and batting average, this was clearly an unexpected offensive explosion! National boob Mark Grace went one step further, proclaiming that it was all because "Carlos Beltran couldn't answer the bell and Scott Hairston stepped up."


I usually don't let national announcers get to me, since I'm used to them showing up on the day of a game, making some observations that even the most casual of fans has already heard four or five times, and leave town shortly after the last pitch.  This, however, really got to me.  

Beltran entered this season with questionable knees (residual worries about the surgery he had at the beginning of 2010 that kept him out until July) and, for many Mets fans who anticipated the 2011 season to be nothing more than a showcase to see what kind of team Sandy Alderson had to build on, was considered as good as gone.  His expensive contract would come off the books, and the Mets would be able to get younger and healthier in the outfield.  

All Beltran did was give up his center field position, knowing that the younger, faster Angel Pagan was more suited for the role, and say the right things. He loved playing in New York, he was just going to go out and do his best, and whatever happened would happen.  

What's happened has been that despite the preseason worries about his knees, Beltran leads the team in games played, home runs, and RBI, and has adapted seamlessly to his new position in right field (no easy feat in Citi Field, considering that the wacky architecture of the outfield can make playing a ball off the wall into a pinball game).  He has made himself a valuable part of the clubhouse, and, perhaps more important for the team's future, a valuable trade chip as the July 31st deadline approaches.  Terry Collins told him that he shouldn't come to the clubhouse and get other players sick.  All of this, and Mark Grace says that he couldn't answer the bell.  

It's just the latest in what's been a truly bizarre seven years since the Mets outbid the pack and picked up Beltran in the offseason between the 2004 and 2005 seasons.  On a team where David Wright is seen as an upstanding stalwart, a media darling who says all of the right things and can't hide his love for the franchise, and Jose Reyes is seen as an enthusiastic, energetic sparkplug whom every teammate says has an infectious passion for the game, Beltran has gone through so many ups and downs since he became a Met.  He's been called selfish, a baby, brittle, ornery, bitter, and a choke artist, but was probably cheered loudest of all the Mets during the 2006 team's season, which ended with the bat on his shoulder and the fans booing.  The Mets haven't been in the playoffs since.  

After he carried the Astros to the World Series in a postseason that an agent dreams of, as Mets fans applauded his signing and he stood at the Shea Stadium podium and said that this was "The new Mets", there was a feeling around the team that they were relevant again, a feeling that hadn't existed since their improbable run to the 2000 World Series.  

That feeling quickly soured as Beltran had a miserable 2005 season, hitting just 15 home runs and stealing 17 bases.  I'll admit it, I wasn't fond of him. He was booed, slammed, and labeled an overpaid bust, and the animosity became so harsh that, after homering early in the 2006 season with the fans cheering for a curtain call, he had to be coaxed out of the dugout by Julio Franco.  Others saw this as petty.  I loved it.  This guy was a person and felt under appreciated.  One home run and now you love me?  It was the embodiment of the New York fishbowl.  He went on to slug 41 homers and drive in 116 as the Mets won the division for the first time in 18 years.  
He homered three times during the postseason, and drove in five.  The Mets, picked by so many to steamroll their way to the World Series, didn't have as easy a road as people thought, and what's been forgotten among many is that they were without two of their best pitchers for those playoffs, as Orlando Hernandez and Pedro Martinez were both sidelined with injuries.  Nobody remembers that, because all they see is this.  

I have to watch.  I have to remember.  

As I stood in the upper deck of Shea Stadium and watched that pitch drop in, watched the ump's hand move, I turned immediately, punched the wall, and walked down the ramp into the concourse.  I'm not proud.  I was numb.  I couldn't believe it.  I was dumbfounded.  And I was pissed.  How could you not swing.  How could you go down like that, YOU DIDN'T EVEN FIGHT. 

It was days before I watched a replay.  When I finally got around to it, I couldn't help it.  It was a perfect pitch.  It was the pitch Adam Wainwright will be remembered for long after his career is over, and all of the credit had to go to him.  I could not be mad.  I honestly believe that 99% of all Major Leaguers would have fallen victim to that pitch.  

Beltran had great 2007 and 2008 seasons, but those are waved away because of the Mets' late-season collapses.  He's so good in the outfield that he's underappreciated, gliding to make simple catches on the run that other outfielders would have to dive for.  He was off to a great start in 2009, but fell victim to the injury plague that claimed seemingly every team member that season.  2010 was abbreviated for the already-mentioned surgery.  When he did get hurt, he would always take much longer to come back than was predicted.  He would be scratched from games, and never seemed to be completely healthy, and estimated his health levels at strange percentages.  80%, 90%, etc.  

Injury-prone.  Superstar. Moody. Five-tool.  Effortless.  Bitter.  Introverted.  Leader.  It all applies.  They're all accurate to describe periods of this complicated player's time with the Mets.  A time that looks like it's pretty much over.  

I have a feeling that when Beltran goes, it will be some time before the Mets fans, beat writers, and critics can start to appreciate what they had.  And it's a real shame.  Many writers have said that Beltran's contract was a bad one.  What do you think?  

7 years.  862 games.  545 runs.  148 RBI.  100 steals  .281 BA. .368 OBP.  3 Gold Gloves.

I hope that if/when Beltran is traded, he winds up on a good team with a chance to win the World Series.  And I know that I'll be cheering for him during the postseason.  

Just, please God, don't let it be the Phillies.