Saturday, April 30, 2005

4/29 - Nationals 5, Mets 1

It's the plea of so many .500 teams: where are the timely hits? The Mets managed 10 hits last night against the Nationals, but only squeaked across one run. The sole run came in the first so when Allie and I left for the movie (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which we both enjoyed) I was optimistic. On the way home we tuned into Steve Summers' call-in show on WFAN and Yankee fans were bemoaning yet another loss (2-0 to Roy Halladay and the Blue Jays). That brought my mood up a notch until I heard about the Mets 5-1 defeat in Washington. If they win tonight and tomorrow, and take the series, all will be well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

4/27 - Braves 8, Mets 4

After pitching a good solid game in his last start on Friday night, this afternoon Tom Glavine reverted to the form Mets fans are accustomed to when he pitches against his old team the Braves. It got so bad that one of my co-workers wished that once again Glavine would get into a accident while riding in a back seat of a taxi and lose some more teeth.

If you think the Braves' pitching coach Leo Mazzone hasn't given the Braves hitters an insight into battering Glavine around, look at this stat I dug up: including today's debacle, Glavine is 1-7 with a 9.36 ERA in eight outings against them. Ouch.

Tomorrow is ostensibly a travel day, even though the Mets just have to take the quick shuttle down to Washington D.C for their first game at R.F.K Stadium against the Nationals Friday night. Zisk will be on hand for that first game (but I won't be taking a shuttle, just old unreliable Amtrak). Look for an expanded entry over the weekend about the Mets first game there, and an overview of the R.F.K. experience. (Of course, I might not be able to get to a computer. If so, it will wait until Monday, and I'll let Mike handle the day-to-day entries for this weekend.)

Pedro vs. Smoltz II

Pedro's starts have become an event in our house. The other day, Allie told me that, in general, she's found herself looking forward to watching Mets games after work, but "Pedro's pitching" has a special ring to it, makes her want to get home sooner. And that's saying a lot for a guy who's only played four games as a Met.

Whoever gets home first has to/gets to walk the dogs--Rosie, the 80-pound elder stateman, and Kaiser, the younger, 60-pound spazz. Last night the chore/honor was mine. But, like I said, Pedro was pitching, so I fended off anxious hounds for the first two innings. I was willing to wait nine, but the Braves were on Pedro like cold on ice, scoring three, two-out runs in the first inning.

By the bottom of the second, Rosie's stare was burrowing into the side of my head and Kaiser was bucking around in cirlces, like a bronco on acid. It was difficult to ignore their protests--and try to convince myself that the game was more important--with the Mets getting spanked. MSG announcer Keith Hernandez didn't help my cause...

Ted Robinson: This night in 1988, Keith Hernandez hit a grand slam in Atlanta. He drove in seven runs for the Mets that game.

Keith Hernandez: I also got divorced that day. Let me tell you, I was out late that night. HA!

Which reminds me of another Hernandez gem, this one from the night before. Bottom of the fourth, Mets down 1-0...

Fran Healy: He's been terrific!

Keith Hernandez: Who?

Fran Healy: (The Mets') Chris Woodward.

Keith Hernandez: I wasn't paying attention.

Error #1: daydreaming on the job. Error #2: telling everyone about error #1 just in case they missed it.

I think it's about time MSG sprung for one of those seven-second delay modules, one of those devices that allows the guys producing the game to hear everything a few seconds before the TV audience does. I'd take awkward silences of Keith.

In the meantime, I finally gave in and walked the dogs. When I got back, the Braves had pushed their lead to 4-1. Inning after inning, the Mets had baserunners but failed to muster anything approaching a comeback; John Smoltz would bend but he didn't break. Yet I stayed tuned in the whole time, this is the new Mets, afterall, even when Allie came home, saw the score, and asked if we could watch House on Fox. With all due respect to Dr. House and cast, I was planning to go down with the ship last night.

And so was everyone at Shea. There were a lot of people on hand making a lot of noise when Piazza pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth. Before I knew it, the Mets were back in the game: 4-3. Then Beltran singled and Piazza went first to third (When's the last time we saw that?); Reyes was dancing on the dugout steps. Two out, bottom of the ninth, and the team's hottest hitter, Cliff Floyd, at the plate. Bobby Cox went to the bullpen, pulling his closer, Danny Kolb. Unfortunately, Cliff popped up, but that's how you want to end games--a ninth inning with five hits, two runs, and a good chance to win. Tonight the Mets go for the series with Glavine facing Hampton. It's good to be a Mets fan.

4/26 - Braves 4, Mets 3

I missed much of this game due to rocking out to the ex-Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg at the Supper Club in midtown Manhattan. It was an odd start time for a New York show, 8:15pm, but the earliness didn't seem to matter to Mr. Westerberg, who seems to have falled off the wagon rather hard. In any case, I saw the first three innings and I thought to myself, "the sequel is never as good as the original." I'll count on my colleague Mr. Faloon to fill in the rest of the game, where the Mets mounted a ninth inning comebcack against Dan Kolb, who I stupidly have on my fantasy league team.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

4/25 - Mets 5, Braves 4

To paraphrase America's favorite caucasian rapper Eminem, "Will the real Aaron Heilman please stand up, please stand up, please stand up?" Two starts ago he looked like Tom Seaver; one start ago he looked like Tom Arnold on the mound. So of course last night he looked like Tom Glavine--great control, baffling the hitters with his off speed stuff. When I say "looked like," I'm just guessing, because once again Keith Hernandez and Fran Healy were paired up for the middle innings of this game, so I immediately decided to go to the laundromat and to listen to the game on WFAN. Once again it was a great choice, as listening Gary Cohen and Howie Rose call a game is just about the most enjoyable few hours you'll get in a day. Of course, I don't have to tell Time Warner customers that...

Tonight is the rematch of the great Pedro Martinez-John Smoltz duel that took place on April 10th. Alas, I'll be at Paul Westerberg, so tomorrow's recap will be short on details.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Strawberry On Broadway!

Like most Mets fans, Steve and I are men of refinement. We never wear white after Labor Day (pinstripes don't count), we tip 20%, and, from time to time, we check out the latest in off-Broadway productions. Last weekend, at the always reliable Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre, we saw Darryl Strawberry's one-man show, Darryl, and it was brilliant--even with understudy Chris Gethard in the title role. Rather than rehash well-known events, Darryl tracks Strawberry's long, slow, painful fall from grace, showing us never-before-seen sides of the troubled ballplayer--how he was inspired by wheelchair basketball, how he patched things up with Keith Hernandez, how he found the cure for cancer (heroin, of course), and how, briefly, he reigned supreme over the pits of hell. It may sound like an April Fool's Day joke, but it's for real. It's also hysterical and highly recommended (even if you know nothing about baseball). Limited engagements in May. Check it out: Darryl

4/24 - Nationals 11, Mets 4

Yesterday's game was like a Charles Dickens novel--this one would be claled The Tale of Livan's. The first Livan Hernandez, on display in the top of the 1st, looked like he was in love with the outside corner of the plate. And the Mets hit him hard. The second Livan Hernandez was masterful for the next six innings, bringing the 1997 Florida Marlins to mind.

And what to say about Victor Zambrano? How about this: Scott Kazmir Scott Kazmir Scott Kazmir Scott Kazmir Scott Kazmir Scott Kazmir Scott Kazmir Scott Kazmir Scott Kazmir Scott Kazmir Scott Kazmir.

Gosh, I feel better.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

4/23 - Mets 10, Nationals 5

I can't believe they got this game in! And I can't believe Tom Seaver called the Nationals the Expos less than 10 times! One week after Aaron Heilman surpirsed the team, today it was Jae Seo's turn. An emergency fill-in for Kaz Ishii (the third starter on the DL this season) Seo threw six solid innings, giving up only one run, and drove in 2 runs to help his own cause. Victor Diaz continues to be a revelation going 4 for 4. It makes me think that Mike Cameron will be traded away rather quickly once he shows he's healthy. The only downside of the game is that the Mets loaded up the bases multiple times, but only came away with 10 runs. I know that sounds like nit-picking, but hitting with runners in scoring position is something you want to carry over throughout the entire season.

I spent most of the game updating our archives, so check out the links to the old issues for new content in many of them.

Also, our own Lisa Alcock has a cool blog of her own with a baseball slant. Check it out here.

4/22 - Mets 3, Nationals 1

Tom Glavine finally gets his first win of the season, looking like the pitcher of old -- at least for one night. And who could have predicted that Cliff Floyd would be one of the hottest hitters in the NL once he rejoined the lineup? 2 games over .500? Say it ain't so!

As for today's game, looks like it will be a rainout. If it is, we'll be on a posting break until Monday a.m. If they play, we'll have something new up this afternoon.

Friday, April 22, 2005

4/21 - Mets 10, Marlins 1

So once again I was very wrong -- there was no pitcher's duel in sight at last night's game. Pedro Martinez, pitching for the first time this season without the benefit of an extra's day's rest, easily outclassed Al "Let's Go Back to 2003" Leiter. Martinez seems determined to prove that all his critics (myself included) were wrong--he can go more than 5 innings, he can pitch with or without the great fastball, and he can fit in and encourage his teammates. I guess Omar Minaya knew what he was doing.

I'm also sure Omar Minaya didn't expect that another one of his pickups -- Doug "Who Needs Spell Check" Mientkiewicz -- would deliver so much so far this young season. The former Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox first baseman was supposed to impress with the glove, which he has done again and again. But who would have thought the guy would have almost as many RBI's as Carlos Beltran?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

4/20 - Marlins 9, Mets 2

Somehow I knew Josh Beckett wasn't going to look human again, and I knew that Aaron Heilman WOULD look human again. This game was pretty much over once the Fish went up 4-0 in the bottom of the third, so I spent much of the night flipping to other games to check out how my fantasy roster was doing.

This game also help reinforced the fact that the Mets bullpen needs some help--when a 40 year old former closer that throws 96 mph (Roberto Hernandez) is the most talented of your setup men, that's not good.

Tomorrow night is the rematch of Martinez and Leiter. And with the way those two pitched last Saturday, that game should come down to which bullpen can hold on in the 8th inning.

Zambrano Triples to Center!

My dad was in town Monday night and by the time we got back from dinner the Mets were down 3-0. We turned it off at 5-0. (We missed their final flourish that closed the gap to 5-4.) Yesterday I was thinking how the past eight games--during which time the Metropolitans were 6-2--have been a perfect demonstration of how the Mets' starting pitching will dictate their fortunes this year, that they can't rely on their offense to overcome any subpar pitching performances. But then, last night against the Phillies, Victor Zambrano turned in just such a start and the Mets lineup opened the flood gates. Ironically, I turned on the TV just as Zambrano was helping his own cause by ripping a triple to right center. A two-run triple that pushed the score to 11-4. With the Mets so far out in front, Allie flipped over to the Yankees game to see if Hideo Nomo and the Devil Rays could hold onto their 3-1 lead. Nomo was gone by the seventh and when we went back to the Mets game it was 16-4--we missed David Wright's grand slam. I felt unfaithful at that point and voted to stick with the Mets game. But it seemed that the scoring was done by that point and when we returned to the Yankees game Tampa Bay had opened up a 6-2 lead. This time we missed an error by Derek Jeter that led to a Devil Rays run. It was just a night of being one step behind the action, but it was a relief to see that the Mets are capable of opening up a big lead early and then pitching well enough to win.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

4/19 - Mets 16, Phillies 4

I was optimistic earlier today, but not THIS optimistic! A team record seven home runs!?! Victor Zambrano hitting a 2 RBI triple? What in the name of Butch Huskey is going on here? Apparently Willie Randolph must have had a good conversation with his hitters, asking them to approach every inning like it was the 8th or 9th. I can even forgive Jose Reyes's error (which should have been 2 errors with his throw to Zambrano covering first) when he hits two home runs and makes a sterling play to end the 6th. I was so glad that I decided at the last minute to not go for a jog and just listen to the game.

And yes, I said listen. Even though I am not a shut-out Time Warmer customer, I wanted to see how the Red Sox game was going because I have Bronson Arroyo on my fantasy team, so I put WFAN on the tuner and watched the Sox without the sound. And I'm so glad, because there's no way Fran Healy could come up with quotes like this:

"This one is heading to Camden!" --Howie Rose describing Mike Piazza's home run in the 3rd.

"They are taking batting practice against Vincente Padilla." --Rose in the 3rd.

"I'm Mark Scott, and welcome back to Home Run Derby." --Rose heading into the bottom of the 4th, referring to the host of the '60s televised baseball show.

4/18 - Phillies 5, Mets 4

Lose 5, win 6, lose 2--it's the year of streaks so far for "the new Mets." This game was not a close as the score indicates, as Randy Wolf stymied the Mets into the 9th inning, and the returning Cliff Floyd was lucky to get a 3-0 fastball from Tim Worrell that Floyd blasted for a home run. Kaz Ishii returned to his Dodgers form by throwing 1100 consecutive balls to start the bottom of the 1st. (Or at least it seemed that many.) And Felix Heredia, the odd man out of the Yankees bullpen last season, seems destined for the same fate in a new borough, as he's been incredibly ineffective and reinjured his pitching hand last night.

Tonight Vincente Padilla makes his first start off the DL for the Phils against Victor Zambrano. For some reason I'm optimistic, and I can't figure out why.

Monday, April 18, 2005

4/17 - Marlins 5, Mets 2

I had planned on writing more about the end of the losing streak (such as the defensive disaster Kaz Matsui seems to be at any position), but when your real job requires so much writing over two days that you fear carpal-tunnel coming on, I figure it's best to just say I'm pleased that this team is at .500 right now. More after tonight's first game against the Phils.

(And just so folks and Mike know, Dave O'Brien is the Mets' play-by-play announcer on WB11. He also does play-by-play on ESPN's Monday night games, and he's quite good. And I feel he's getting better at poking fun of Seaver in a very subtle way.)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

How to Get More Reading Done

70 + sunny = sit out back with a paperback. That was the extent of my plans for today, but after soaking up about five minutes of bliss it became apparent that a cluster of bees planned to rule our back deck this afternoon. My bubble burst, I moved indoors and turned on the Mets game. It was a classic background game. Tom Glavine was off and the infield defense did nothing to help the cause (the errors made by Reyes and Matsui reeked of spring training, but with Reyes swinging a hot bat lately the Shea faithful easily forgave him and turned their contempt toward Matsui, whose every miscue inches Miguel Cairo closer to taking over at second). I kept the game on but had to mute the TV because of the Light Bulb Gang, represented today by Tom Seaver.

Act I: It's all about me!

Seaver's play-by-play cohort (I don't think it was Tom Robinson, but I can't recall who it was): Last night in Chicago, the Mariners' Ryan Franklin and the White Sox' Mark Buerle hooked up in a game that took only one hour and 39 minutes to play. What do you think of that, Tom?

Seaver: I was once involved in a game that went only an hour and 28 minutes.

Act II: It's not my fault!

Awhile later Tom implied that someone else was responsible when he got the daily trivia question wrong. The question was which left-handed pitchers have thrown more than 4.500 innings in their careers. (Answer: Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, Tommy John, and Jim Kaat) Seaver named the first two and also added Tom Glavine, today's pitcher. "Usually there's a connection between the answer and one of the game's players." (Proper interpretation: Had the people writing the question followed protocol, like we did in the Marines, and like we did when I was a player, I would not have offered the incorrect portion of my response).

Thanks, Tom, because of your broadcasting-like-a-pouty-seven-year-old style, I get a lot more reading done.

Fever Pitch

Yesterday was wonderful. I slept in and then finished a great book (Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood) before getting getting out of bed. I puttered around the house before watching the Amazin's pull off another last minute victory (first coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the 8th, then blowing the lead in the top of the 9th before winning 4-3 with two down in the bottom of the 9th). Shea was packed and some of that energy leaked out of our TV. Then Allie, my wife, and I enjoyed a movie & dinner evening. This is the way I envision retirement, doing what you want to do at your own pace, schedules be damned. I always hear about people returning to part-time work upon retiring, saying they don't know what to do with themselves with all of that free time. I find that very confusing. Have they read all the great books and seen all the great movies? Have they satisfied all their curiosities and answered all the big questions? Don't they have a team to follow? Given the means, I'd spend every day like I did yesterday. My wife enjoyed the day, too. At dinner, we talked about the movie, Fever Pitch, which we both liked. I thought it was a good, though not great, combination of a Nick Hornsby premise and Farrelly Brothers delivery. I wish we'd seen more of the kids because Hornsby writes great kid characters and I wish we'd seen more of the Farrelly's gags because they heighten jokes like no one else (at one point we debated what the Farrelly's second best movie is. We agreed that Something About Mary is the best, but Allie gave the silver to Dumber and Dumber while I went for Kingpin), but Fever Pitch is still worthy of a thumbs up. Jimmy Fallon and Drew Berrymore were likeable and believable, especially during the first 2/3 of the movie (there's a plot turn at that point that seemed inconsistent). And who doesn't like a cinematic world where hating the Yankees is a given? As we walked to the car, Allie said, and I've doublechecked this quote, "It got me thinking we should go to more Mets games."

Bring on the golden years and, while we're at it, let's bring that winning streak up to seven.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

4/16 - Mets 4, Marlins 3

My Zisk colleague Mike nailed it on the head earlier today--I liked Al Leiter and John Franco, but I'm glad they're gone. Pedro Martinez is definitely an upgrade, even with Leiter matching him inning by innning this afternoon, and it seems like this team has a spark of personality missing the past few years. I'm very happy that Martinez's three starts so far have proven me wrong--signing the ex-Red Sox ace was a genius move. It's obvious that this team feels it can win every time he pitches, and that feeling might start carrying over to when the other four pitchers take the hill. (And hopefully that magical arm won't fall off at somepoint.) It's obvious that the newcomers beside Pedro (Miguel Cairo, Ramon Castro, Chris Woodward) have a never give up attitude. Late inning combacks are becoming quite routine for this six-in-a-row team. Is it still to early to say I'm optimistic? And to say that maybe Mike Piazza is starting to get into a groove? For the second day in a row he came up with a clutch hit, making up for the wild pitch (I think it was a passed ball) that gave the Marlins a run. If Piazza gets hot, this team could really get on a roll for the rest of this month. Manager Willie Randolph continues to impress me, as he keeps pushing the right "small ball" buttions. I also like the fact that he shows confidence in his backup catcher Castro by putting him in often to steal some extra rest for Piazza whenever possible. When the backup can deliver a game-winning hit like today, it gets easier to put him in each game in the late innings.

On the minus side, is Braden Looper okay? I'll try to ignore his meltdown today and hope he gets it back on track soon.

All Hail Heilmann!

We’ve been doing a lot of role playing in social studies lately. I try to anticipate which way the class will lean and then stake out a position 180 degrees away; the joys of being the devil’s advocate. We’re in the 1760s now, studying the people and events leading up to the American Revolution. I do my lessons as the King of England, opening and closing each class by polling the kids: Are you a Loyalist, a Rebel, or neutral? Each day kids switch back and forth, swayed by our discussions. At the start of the unit only four of 24 students were Loyalists. I had a good week and by yesterday could count 14 Loyalists in the ranks, but the Rebels are stubborn. Talking about the Stamp Act, I point out that the Rebels are hypocrites, promising things they can’t deliver. (Me: “You complain so much about taxes, but you know that even if you get rid of English rule, you’ll have to set up a tax system of your own.” Linda, one of my students: “It’s better to try and make things better than just leave them the same, and at least that way we’ll get to decide about the taxes.”) Right now, most of the class appreciates the King's candor, while the others call me a dirty Lobsterback ("And the only good Lobsterback, Mr. Faloon, is a dead Losterback!")

Walking down the hallway yesterday after school, I passed a former student. We were both late for something but we managed to continue our conversation by talking as we walked backwards in opposite directions. I said goodbye a split second before stepping on one of the paper mache mask projects drying outside of the art room. I felt terrible. I thought to myself that it was the biggest mistake I’d made in a long time, and, as I tried to fix the mask, I, apparently, said as much out loud because out of nowhere I heard Linda, the class’ most outspoken Rebel, say, “So the King has made another mistake, good thing there was a Patriot here to see it.” Busted.

And while I’m clearing the closet of mistakes, I have one more: I want to take back my question about whether or not Pedro is an upgrade from Al Leiter. He is, and I’m in his corner. And I’m glad the days when Leiter and Franco and Piazza ran the Mets clubhouse are over. Each of them’s a stand up guy, but their version of the team was in a rut, a group of guys phoning it in. The new blood is making things happen, even, like last night, when four of the regulars (Floyd, Wright, Matsui, Cameron) were out of the line up, and an unproven kid (Aaron Heilmann) was on the hill (tossing a fantastic one-hit shutout, the team’s first whitewash of the season). I want that to be a matter of public record before today’s Pedro/Leiter match up which is just three hours away. Let’s make it six in a row!

4/15 - Mets 4, Marlins 0

Five in a row? Umm, what the heck is going on here? Mike Piazza, for at least one night, looked like the guy he was at the end of last century, with some great swings in all his at bats, and drove in three runs. And being a Red Sox fan as well, whenever I hear the name "Aaron," I feel like it will automatically be followed by "Fucking Boone." Maybe now the name Aaron will give me better memories, as Aaron Heilman's one-hitter tonight was the most impressive pitching performance of this young season by any pitcher. This is what the Mets scouting department dreamed of in 2001 when they drafted him in the first round. He had clear command of every pitch he threw and made the Marlins' best hitters look foolish. Kris Benson might have to start healing a bit faster if Heilman can follow this performance up.

Friday, April 15, 2005

We're 4-5! We're 4-5!

Today was the last day before spring break. A lot of parents think that we don’t do much on such days and so they keep their kids home or leave early for vacation. Such thinking is as annoying as it is inaccurate. My fifth grade students were kicking ass today--discussing the ethics of buying imported clothes, exploring the mysteries of pi, debating whether they’re Rebels or Loyalists in our Revolutionary War study. I appreciated their collective effort (in addition to their mere presence) and decided they deserved extra recess after lunch.

As the kids poured onto the playground, the kickball contingent was one person short so they asked me to play. I love playing kickball, yet I don’t want to steal anyone’s fun, so I let Henry pitch and I let Linda catch the pop up near second, and when I’m up I give it a 3/4 kick. But when I’m rounding first the Mets pop into my mind. Reyes stretching a single into a double. Victor Diaz lumbering home with the winning run. It’s the aggressive, ‘We dare you’ Mets of 2005 that I’m picturing as I head toward second. Willie Randolph’s Mets; the most exciting 4-5 team in baseball history, a team that is either going to win the late, close game or lose in an ugly blow out. Before I realize it, I’m half way to third. Davey’s thrown the ball to Gretchen in the infield and the logical thing for me to do is to retreat to second. But where’s the fun in that? Carlos wouldn’t stop, why should I? I keep running, and Gretchen’s face lights up: she’s going to help get her teacher out. Gretchen throws the ball, on the money, to Gary at home. The whole class is yelling, gathering near the plate. I see that Gary’s blocking the dish, so I weave a bit to his right. He bobbles the throw, but I can’t dodge the ball as it squirts out of his hands. The ball brushes my shoulder and I’m out. Davey, Gretchen, Gary, and their teammates celebrate like the Red Sox on 10/27. Henry and Linda and their teammates are doubled over in laughter.

Is it too early to unfurl my “Ya Gotta Believe” banner?

4/14 - Mets 4, Astros 3

I didn't get a chance to see this game because the bar I was at is a Time Warner customer, so they're shut out of MSG and FSNY like the other 2.5-million people in the five boroughs. But damn, that Red Sox-Yankees game made up for it. With yet another late-inning comeback, this team looks nothing like the 25 guys that stumbled horribly last week. Of course, I do fear that they'll hit .500, and then go into another funk. This could make for a long, Pepto-drenched season

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Hernandez Trumps Wordsworth

"For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."

-- William "Hell, Yeah, I'd Have Been a Mets Fan" Wordsworth

Last night...Mets vs. Astros...The dog is curled up at my feet, there's a finely chilled can of Natural Ice in my hand, and there are three pitchers duels on TV, chief among them, Kaz Ishii vs. Roger Clemens. I press 'mute' on the TV as my wife comes home and tells me that the bank has approved her small business loan (which gives her the green light to deliver the definitive "hasta la vista" to her nutjob boss). A delicate balance--between man, cheap beer, life, and ball game--has been achieved.

Then I pressed 'mute' again, and the voice of Keith Hernandez fills the room with all the grace of an airborn-pathogen.

What we see on the screen: "Craig Biggio - fielding percentage .993."

What we hear from Keith: "Biggio's fielding percentage is nine- nine-three..."

Or, same game, bottom of the 11th inning, score tied at zero, Keith, to play-by-play man, Fran Healey: "What, Fran? I was distracted."

Thanks for looking out for us, Keith. You and the rest of the Light Bulb Gang (Seaver, Healey) are always there to shatter the best of times. Keep stomping on daffodils, Keith.

4/13 - Mets 1, Astros 0

What could be more thrilling than a 1-0 win in the 11th inning on an infield single? Not listening to Fran "I Have Pictures of the Wilpons Killing a 5 Year Old and that's Why I Have My Job" Healey and Keith "Master of the Reeee-tarded" Hernandez calling the game on MSG. Mike warned me that the moronic twosome was calling the game in a voicemail I heard while standing in the Chinese takeout joint in my neighborhood. At that point, I almost lost my appetite and canceled my order of boneless spare ribs. Somehow, cooler and smarter heads prevailed, as got the yummy ribs, walked home, dug out my old A.M. antenna, plugged it into the back of my living room receiver, and listened to Howie Rose and Gary Cohen on WFAN show how a baseball game should be announced while watching the Red Sox-Yankees from Fenway Park with the sound all the way down. It was baseball heaven.

(Sorry I digressed, but H&H piss me off to no end. Every game with them is like a stab to my temporal lobe.)

So back to the game at hand. A favorite baseball cliché that gets tossed around is that pitching and doing "the little things" win games. So let's talk about Mets pitching first, specifically Kaz Ishii. So far, the ex-Dodger has been quite a surprise. Even with the extremely fluid strike provided last night by home plate umpire Paul Nauert, Ishii kept the Astros in check and was very economical with his pitch count. The much-maligned Mets bullpen somehow came up with four innings of scoreless relief. Of course, this may be the only four straight scoreless innings of relief that manager Willie Randolph will see all season.

And while it's early, it seems as if the Mets of '05 do many of "the little things" right, as opposed to the Mets of '04, who took sleeping lessons from Art Howe. Three well executed sacrifice bunts in one game is a very good sign. It's obvious that Randolph has put his stamp upon this team and that they follow his lead. Somehow I don't think Art Howe could or would be able to get his starting infield to take extra infield drills during batting practice just so they would be ready behind Ishii.

Four in a row after five in a row? Could be...

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Perspective: Two Takes

Steve's right, it's time for perspective. We're 1/23 of the way into the year and it's time to step back and look at what they Mets have hung on the wall to date. Let's hear from the pessimists first...

The bottle of Gatorade is half empty: They're 2-5, and the only way they've built up that paltry win total is by beating a converted relief pitcher (John Smoltz) and by having the good fortune to be the other team when the Astros defense collapsed (did you see those throws to home Taveras made from centerfield? I haven't seen anything so off the mark since Rush Limbaugh addressed a riot grrl convention back in '96). But don't worry, help is on the way...Kris Benson will be back soon! Can you reach the panic button from you're sitting?

The bottle, though dented, is half full: Back-to-back wins against playoff teams. Huge, late-inning offensive outbursts. Someone other than Piazza coming up with timely hits. Kaz showing he can bunt. Reliable infield defense for the first time since '99. Pedro pitching with purpose (asking to finish a game). Glavine quickly adjusting to this year's strike zone. Looper settling into the form he showed last year. And Willie's moustache. Hang onto to something stationary, we're just getting started.

Monday, April 11, 2005

First Wins and Facial Hair

Theory #1: The Mets, who have been planning all along to provide a lot of entertainment this year, wanted only their loyal supporters aboard at the season's start. And what better way to weed out the wimps than to drop five straight, right? Force the diehards to look for the positive in Kaz's first outing (only two hits allowed; Kaz is on pace to give up a mere 60 hits this year--that's a Cy Young stat, friends) or Heilmann's pinch start in Atlanta (dearest Aaron was the first Mets pitcher to toss a scoreless first inning in '05). Then, when I'm not looking, the Mets reel off a terrific two-game winning streak (yes, after opening 0-5 you get to call back-to-back wins "streaks"). Now that they've shaken off the casual fans, the Mets can get down to business. (Yes, that may very well be the scent of 'wishful thinking' wafting through your room/office at the moment.)

Theory #2: There's one surefire way to know when the Mets have hit rock bottom: when one or more players begin to gripe about the way Randolph runs his clubhouse. As my wife pointed out, Willie sports a moustache but frowns on his troops having facial hair. If (and I'll refrain from adding "when") things bottom out, the backpages will be overrun with comments about Willie's double standards.

Theory #3: You must be a diehard if you're reading a blog devoted to a 2-5 team. You're accumulating kharma points faster than you can possibly realize.

4/11 - Mets 8, Astros 4

Watching these day games at work is going to kill me. I can't totally be focused on it, and I feel like half the time I'm playing catch-up. And the part of the game I saw the most of wasn't even part of the game--it was when the ad board in center field got stuck, with Pedro Martinez's face exposed. The reaction shot of Martinez when he saw his face was stuck facing the field (delaying the game almost 15 minutes) might be the best dugout shot of the year.

As for the actual game, I felt like I was watching a replay of Sunday's matchup--great pitching on both sides until the Mets broke it wide open in the 8th inning. And Willie Randolph seems to be pushing the right buttons--a bunt for a hit by Kaz Matsui, a double steal, slowpoke backup catcher Ramon Castro stealing, this game had lots of small ball in it.

Day off tomorrow, which I hope will allow my compadre Mike to put the first week in perspective so far. To me, 2-5 seems like a huge achievement after how poorly this team has played.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

4/10 - Mets 6, Braves 1

Could this be the best game of the year? I'd have to say it's going to be tough to top. Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz put on one of the best combined pitching performances I have ever seen this early in a season. This was the Pedro of 1999, the stopper, the man who could do everything. And Smoltz looked like he had rested for the entire time he was in the bullpen. And Carlos Beltran might not hit a bigger home run this year. Incredible. At least now the fans won't boo the entire time the team is introduced at the home opener tomorrow.

4/9 - Braves 6, Mets 3

Didn't see this game, didn't even watch highlights due to the wedding. The headline in The New York Times said it all:

"Mets Can't Find a New Way to Lose in Falling to 9-5"

Ouch. Obviously Aaron Heilman (the fill-in starter for the injured Kris Benson) is never going to be a great major league pitcher.

Help us Pedro? Please?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

4/8 - Braves 3, Mets 1

"Uh-oh. Aw crap!"

I must have said that at least five times during this game. I watched most of it No Idea, a bar in the Gramercy Park area of Manhattan. It was the perfect place to watch a game because the bar had cleared out after happy hour, and they had 3 TV's--one had the Yankees, the big flat screen had the Mets and the midsize TV had the Red Sox. Only the Mets game disappointed me. Kaz Matsui made an crucial error, costing the Mets two runs, and the team hit into three rally-killing double plays.

On the plus side, Victor Zambrano almost looked like a real pitcher, getting out of jam in the fifth. Still, oh for four. Is bad. Very bad.

Tomorrow's report will be short, as I'll be missing the game for a wedding. Hopefully the box score will give me hope in the a.m.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

4/7 - Reds 6, Mets 1

I didn't get a chance to watch much of this game due to its 12:30 start, but after looking at the box score, I'm glad I only watched parts of two innings. A one hitter taken into the 7th inning by Aaron Harang? Who the heck is this guy? And Kaz Ishii was as advertised in his first New York start--too many walks killed him. (6 runs on only 2 hits? Ugh.)

Fortunately, David Wright is looking as good as advertised--1 for 1 today with 3 walks with the only run. This blog could turn into the David Wright Watch by mid-May if things don't look up soon.

And speaking of looking up, I looked up the last time the Mets started this poorly--1964, when the went 0 for 4 at the opening of the season. And with the Braves this weekend, 0 for 6 is a distinct possiblility.

Getting to Know Willie

Last night, down 5-3 in Cincinnati, Willie Randolph, was called for failing to inform the umps about a double switch in the bottom of the 8th. Fran "The Illuminator" Healy, calling the game on MSG, said, as the camera panned to Willie, sitting in the dugout post-scolding, "Willie's hot." But the Willie we saw on the screen was expressionless, placid. "Willie upset" looks exactly like I would picture "Willie checking mangoes in the produce section at Price Chopper," which, by extension, is probably just like "Willie's just learned that his daughter aced the SATs," or "Willie just convinced Bush to step down, conceed his inherent lameness, and turn the reigns over to Kerry." (I like Willie so I'm going to assume he runs with the anti-Bush crowd.) As we learned later in the game, "Willie's ticked" also looks just like "Willie's just watched journeyman Joe Randa crush a grand slam, to straightaway center, no less, off of the Mets already concern-causin' bullpen (aka The Dear-God-Make-Sure-They-Wear-The-Flame-Retardant-Pajamas-At-Night Crew)."

So if we can't get a sense of Willie's internal monologue from his facial expression (I use the singular there because I believe there really is but one possible look on the dude's face), what should we watch for? (And, subconsciously, am I merely giving myself other activities--like decoding Willie, for instance--to engage in because I fear the Mets are in for another long year?)

4/6 - Reds 9, Mets 5

In 2003 Tom Glavine couldn't pitch; in 2004 the Mets couldn't get runs when he pitched; and apparently this year Glavine will complain he doesn't get calls. At two different times last night he started walking off the mound, thinking he had strike three. Alas, no dice, as both Joe Randa and Ken Griffey Jr. used their extra swings to drive in three runs combined. Glavine must regret his decision not to resign with Atlanta every day.

The NL education of Willie Randolph continued as the umpires ruled he messed up a double switch in the 8th, leading to the pitcher's spot to come up in the top of the 9th. However, it didn't matter, as the Cincy folk hero-in-waiting Joe Randa hit a grand slam after Mike DeJean loaded the bases.

On the plus side, Doug "You Can't Use Spell Check on My Last Name" Mientkiewicz and David Wright both hit home runs--and Wright looks particularly comfortable at the plate this early in the season. And Jose Reyes made a rather impressive stop of a ball that Kaz Matsui would have never reached last year.

One last thought about the season opener--and to show that the New York papers didn't blow how horrific it was out of proportion. I have the MLB Extra Innings package and was switching back and forth between the Mariners-Twins and Angels-Rangers, and at different points during both games they were talking about the bullpen make-up of each club. And each color commentary said (I'm paraphrasing here), "Talking about bullpens, how about that Mets game yesterday? You can't find a worse way to lose a season opener." Ouch.

Monday, April 04, 2005

4/4 - Reds 7, Mets 6

So Pedro goes six innings, strikes out 12, gives up three runs but settles down quickly, hands over a lead, Beltran, Matsui and Floyd all homer--and then Braden Looper blows it in less than two minutes by back-to-back home runs? So the old Mets let down the "New Mets." Which leads me to ask, was Mel Rojas anywhere near the ballpark today? The picture of Willie Randolph seconds after the home run by Joe Randa was worth 10,000 words. Welcome to painful side of N.Y baseball, Mr. Randolph. You will experience many moments like this over the next 161 games. Being a Mets fan (or manager) hardens you for the ups and downs of life, I like to think.

On the plus side, Zisk is famous in the Chicago Tribune (you may have to register to read it).

I Blame it on Canada

So I wanted to make this post before the season started, but Blogger had some problems, so I look like the guy that is slacking on this daily diary already. Damn technology.

In any case, it is just before the first pitch of the season, and a co-worker has asked how I think the Mets will do. The short version: .500 ball would be a great season. The long version: I expect either Pedro Martinez or Carlos Beltran to break down, Mike Piazza to get hurt again, and Tom Glavine to never get close to 300 wins. After having optimism--which is rare as a fan of the Mets and the Red Sox--from 1998 to 2001, I don’t expect anything out of my team. Taking that attitude will make it that much sweeter when they exceed expectations.

I do expect this running commentary to get better, but I had to write about the Juno Awards until midnight last night, so I’m a bit fried. More to come after the game.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pedro and the Pope

What an afternoon. The Pope is dead and, previously unbeknownst to me, the Scottish have their own parade (there aren't a lot of people attending but those present are psychotically dedicated--it's a monsoon outside, on West 52nd Street, and the tartan-clad masses aren't going anywhere). But as I look down from the Zisk offices, I'm thinking of tomorrow night, when the Sox and Yankees kick off the '05 season, and Monday, when Pedro makes his Mets debut.

I'm excited about the Mets in '05, not because I expect them to win more than 75-80 games, but because I'm hoping there's a healthy dose of entertainment mixed in with this year's mediocrity, something other than the tired phrase "in the hunt for 3rd place" to keep the Mets masses tuned into our beloved boys in white (or blue or black or orange or green or mauve, it all depends upon that game's promotional tie-in). First of all, the Mets have two first name-only players in Pedro and Carlos, and, love 'em or leave 'em, players who can go by their first names are going to provide headlines. Think of the Babe. Think of Ichiro. Think of the Red Sox when they had Nomar, Manny, and Pedro--"I'm talking to the press"; "I'm not talking to the press"; "The press is misinterpreting what I say"; "The press is misinterpreting my silence." Easy fodder for the backpages. Good times.

The Mets of '04 were unsuccessful and dull, devoid of first name players, so new general manager Omar Minaya signed a pair of his own. Recognizing the rule of threes, Minaya sought a third personality to join Pedro and Carlos, but Carlos II (aka Delgado) opted for the Marlins. (I wouldn't argue that Delgado is a first name guy, but in the New York spotlight he had potential.) The 2005 Mets have promise, but there's work to be done. As evidence I offer the gallons of ink spilled on Kris Benson's wife. If the Mets had anything else to offer in terms of entertainment value, then we'd never hear about the wife of one of their number four starters. (The Mets are a haven for guys who would be number four or five starters for other teams--Kaz Ishii, Victor Zambrano, Steve Trachsel, Tom Glavine; everyone but Pedro. And speaking of Pedro--much as I love his potential to say foolish things and give us ample reason to say, "Oh, that Pedro!" a lot--is he really that much better than Al Leiter? Didn't the Mets merely trade one very reliable, six-inning starter for another very reliable six-inning starter?) They tried to push Piazza's wedding like it was news, but both days that tidbit made the papers it seemed tainted with, "See, we told you he's not gay." (Though I have no proof that said coverage was laced with homophobia, just a hunch.)

So I'm hoping that Pedro gets to shake his fist at Yankee fans and take down more AARP members, that Carlos has a chance to repeat his post-season heroics, and that Omar gets to ink his third marquee player. I'm hoping that out at Shea, like at the Vatican, it's time to usher in a new era.

Welcome to Zisk Online!

Welcome to Zisk Online, the internet home of Zisk Magazine. Intending to cover baseball from a fan's perspective, the first issue of Zisk was published in the summer of 1999. Zisk is now published twice a season, with the latest issue, #10, available in April 2005. Here you'll find articles from our previous issues (without the snazzy graphics, which Steve puts a lot of time into, that make the print version a highly sought after collector's item) as well as a running commentary on the New York Mets 2005 season by editors our Mike Faloon and Steve Reynolds (yeah, we ripped off the idea from Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan's book Faithful, but who says we're original?) and other web-only content.

Zisk, the print version, can be ordered online through the following great folks:

Thanks for reading!