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The Great Leap Forward

The Mets have a chance to take the Great Leap Forward today, after being aided on Thursday night not by Mao-Tse Tung, but rather by Hong-Chih Kuo.

After what seemed like every "expert" picking the Mets to go down without a fight, the Mets are facing their crusty old nemesis Greg Maddux at 7:30 tonight with a chance to clinch a spot in the NLCS against the Padres or Cardinals.

At this point, it seems like the Mets won't have too many worries. The NLCS won't be starting for a little while, and that means no Oliver Perez starting an important game.

Of course, keeping Oliver off the hill means winning tonight with our other weak link, Steve Trachsel, throwing pitches in the dirt.

Trachsel has been an enigma this year, generating a ton of run support for the other team's starter while simultaneously receiving more from his own hitters. Trachsel is ranked by Baseball Prospectus as having the National League's luckiest win-loss record, which at this point makes a ton of sense.

The data backing Steve up are not promising. His BB:K ratio is 78:79. He served up 23 gopherballs on the year, while giving up 185 hits in 164 innings.

However, all hope is not lost. Trachsel has had a few good outings this year, including his seven innings of one-run ball against St. Louis as well as his 6.1 innings of shutout pitching against Florida in the clincher.

And I'm not sure I am living up to my responsibility as a pseudo-journalist by suggesting that Steve Trachsel can pitch well tonight. Let me just suggest that Trachsel has never made a postseason appearance before. Whether that's good or bad in determining how he'll throw is up to him.

Trax will be facing a lineup devoid of firepower, though. The Dodgers have lost Nomar Garciaparra for the time being, meaning we will likely see James Loney at first base tonight, given the righty on the mound.

The 22 year-old Loney had a field day at Coors Field about a week ago, going 4-5 with 2 HR and 9 RBI. At Dodger Stadium, however, the rookie first baseman is hitting only .220.

My prediction: a gutty five innings of two-to-three run ball from Trax, while the Mets manage just a little bit more against the equally gutty Maddux and the marginal set-up men between him and Takashi Saito.

Champagne gets in Vin Scully's eyes tonight.


I'm sure all of you heard the Joe Beimel story, but if you haven't, Beimel cut his hand in a bar after lying to management and saying he cut it in his hotel room.

Did this story remind no one of Shane Spencer cutting his foot in a bar while drunk with Jason Phillips in 2004? Because the story at that point was just a downright silly note on a season getting siller, given Spencer saying something along the lines of "Well, I couldn't really feel it in my shoe, but then I noticed I had a three-inch gash."



The Rangers visit the Flyers today in what will be the home opener for a Philly team that was deeply embarrassed by Marc-Andre Fleury (right; who is my darkhorse pick for the Vezina Trophy this year) in a 4-0 loss. Fleury stopped 40 shots. 40!

I don't know where I read it earlier this year, but one of the writers noted that the Penguins had hired a French-speaking goalie coach to aid Fleury's development by removing the language barrier.

So the Flyers will be coming out angry today at the Wachovia Center.

The Rangers won 5-2 vs. Washington on Thursday, with new captain Jaromir Jagr netting a goal thirty seconds in followed by Brendan Shanahan scoring two to reach six hundred for his career.

Blair Betts and Martin Straka also scored, while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 25 of 27 shots. The unsung hero of this game was the Rangers penalty kill, which succeeded in shutting out Washington over 14:23 of kill time, despite missing last year's killers Jed Ortmeyer (leg injury) and Dominic Moore (trade).

My pick: Rangers take this one, with another strong showing from Lundqvist in net and hopefully better discipline from this team regarding stupid penalties.

Just a few other notes:
-Darius Kasparaitis, still recovering from two offseason surgeries, should not play tonight, but he will be ready in the coming week.
-Watch this as a developing storyline: veteran backstop Kevin Weekes will no longer be splitting time with Henrik Lundqvist. King Henrik has been cemented as the starter, with recent first-round pick Al Montoya moving up the organizational ranks in the coming days. Expect Weekes to be in some other city well before the trading deadline.


The Jets will face the Jaguars tomorrow, with nothing really to be gleaned from the injury report. The Jets have listed thirteen players as probable, with starters Chad Pennington, Kevan Barlow, Justin Miller, Kerry Rhodes, Kimo Von Oelhoffen, and Anthony Clement on that list.

Listed as questionable are wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Tim "I'm so White" Dwight. Also there are cornerback David Barrett and offensive linemen Pete Kendall and Trey Teague.

Cedric Houston, the only bright spot in this year's running game, is doubtful with the knee injury he sustained last week.

For the Jaguars, Marcus Stroud and Marcellus Wiley are missing from the defensive line, both out, with Matt Jones also out for the week.

However, secondary terrors Rashean Mathis and Donovin Darius are healthy and ready to go.

A few storylines for this game:
  • Last year, Pennington tore his rotator cuff on a huge hit by 6'6" Jaguars defensive end Bobby McCray. McCray only has five tackles on the year, but two of them are sacks. Remember that game last year? Of course you do. Fiedler got hurt too. In that game, Pennington was 9-19 with 76 yards and two INTs. One of them came from Rashean Mathis.

  • The two quarterbacks in this game, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich, are both recent Marshall products. That's not all, though. CBS, which co-owns the CW network with Warner Brothers, is televising this game. And Warner Bros is releasing a movie about an entire Marshall football team that was killed in a plane crash. So expect to see a lot of promotion for this film, to be released in December, starring Matthew McConaughey.

    My pick: Jaguars win by a field goal. Hopefully, the Jets O-Line will be able to get the running game going and prevent huge hits on C-Penn. It's a big hopefully though.

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  • 10.04.2006

    Hell Yes

    To quote the great Scientologist poet Beck,


    Nice work, Maine.

    Delgado/D-Wright. You guys are the future.

    Wagner, Guillermo, JoVal... step yo game up.

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    Duque In Agony, Maine to Open, Perez to Join Rotation

    Well, God would never make it easy on Mets fans, would he?

    The Mets rotation seems to look like this:

    Game 1: John Maine
    Game 2: Tom Glavine
    Game 3: Steve Trachsel
    Game 4: Oliver The Nutcase

    And Royce Ring made the postseason roster. Here's probably the most optimistic way to put it: wouldn't winning be better if we had some sort of exciting storyline involving injuries to like, every man who has started a game for the Mets this season?

    Or maybe the man upstairs has something against me. The Rangers, appearing in the playoffs for the first time since forever earlier this year, lost 6-1 to the Devils while their superstar, Jaromir Jagr, was hurt. The Rangers weren't the same afterwards.

    Hockey season starts tonight. Rangers play tomorrow.

    I would be remiss not to note that Will Carroll, the outstanding medical guru over at Baseball Prospecuts, has confirmed my suspicions that Carlos Beltran has a much more serious leg injury than he has been letting on. His thigh and quad are both strained and nagging the centerfielder. Since returning from his post-Houston respite, Beltran has hardly been himself.

    Maybe things can't get any worse.

    Nevertheless, the game is at 4 p.m. on ESPN today. I'm sure the Worldwide Leader will give us Steve Phillips (who just before this picture was taken had sexually harassed 100 women) and Orel Hershiser with some generic announcer guy to make the Mets-Dodgers rivalry more apparent.

    But then again, Steve Phillips once acquired Orel Hershiser, making them both Mets employees at the time.

    However, in 1988, Mets fans hated Hershiser and his pitching against the Mets while with LA, and they were getting ready to start hating Steve Phillips.

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    Letting It Sink In

    The Mets are in the playoffs. If you haven't believed it yet or have been skeptical all year, thinking that the entire team would want to make a run for Dominican food at 3 AM and they'd somehow miss the dance entirely, you were wrong.

    It's time now. We've all been through this together. We saw the great things, like frigid Opening Day and Paul lo Duca faking the tag. We saw Cliff Floyd smash a game-tier against Chris Reitsma, while David Wright won it later. We saw David Wright beating Mariano Rivera, with Wagner slamming the door in the freezing night on Sunday. We saw Pedro Martinez win his 200th game. We saw Carlos Delgado hit his 400th home run. We all watched the wicked westward road trip, where the Mets couldn't do anything but score runs. And we watched scoreless innings streaks from Duaner Sanchez and John Maine. We saw Lastings Milledge and his game-ending sprint from third, and we saw him high-five everyone. We saw Jose Reyes jack three balls one night and then hit for the cycle another. Remember that night where they had the eleven-run inning? Two grand slams? And then another one the next day? And we saw that Carlos Beltran walk-off against Jason Isringhausen. We also had the clincher.

    And sure, we've seen our bad things, as well. We suffered through Jose Lima and Geremi (that's how he spells it now) Gonzalez, not to mention Alay Soler. We watched Cliff Floyd roll his ankle, and we saw Pedro get hurt about twenty times, the worst of which was a savage beating in Boston, where we saw the problems with Firstings. And we've seen other badness too, like Billy Wagner being defeated at the hands of the Yankees; Aaron Heilman's slippery fingers against the Phillies or Trevor Hoffman blowing the All-Star Game.

    But never once, did we, as Mets fans, question our faith. This was our year. We suffered through Wilson Delgado and Karim Garcia. We had to deal with Bobby Valentine's impression of a stoned hitter, Fred Wilpon talking about "Skill Sets" while lowballing Vlad Guerrero and Alex Rodriguez and Art Howe's hyper-conservative style of managing where everyone except Kaz Matsui got hurt.

    It's been a long time since 2000, and an even longer time since 1988. The Mets still have old friends from October, with Al Leiter in the Yankee booth and Kenny Rogers taking the hill for Detroit. And let's not forget who will be receiving for the Mets' likely NLCS opponent.

    In a lot of ways, this is a new and improved October, complete with weaker NL competition and a Mets team that no longer has anything to prove against their Atlantan brethren. This is their time. Maybe that was the point of the slogan: The Team, The Time, The Mets. Even though I didn't like that stupid song, which surely you remember, the slogan is now ringing true.

    This is not "The Worst Team Money Could Buy." Bobby Bonilla and Mo Vaughn might still be on our payroll, but there's no sign of those evildoers anymore. And who knows? With Joe Girardi, Frank Robinson, Felipe Alou and Dusty Baker already fired, maybe Art Howe or Bobby V. could come up for a managerial position. Hell, maybe Jeff Torborg and Dallas Green aren't too busy these days.

    The Mets, as well, are no longer living in the Yankees' shadow. Maybe this is what's of most importance. Some have noted that New York was always a National League town; a Mets town. The Mets outdrew the Yankees in their early days, and they did so right up until the Yankees' recent run of dominance in the 1990s. The Mets will not outdraw the Yankees this year, and the new stadium in Flushing will be smaller than Shea, but it is unquestionably a change from the old times.

    Who wouldn't want to go see a Mets game right now? You've got Reyes, Delgado, Beltran and Wright for excitement value, and you've got Floyd, Green, Lo Duca and Valentin for support. And hell, you've got Glavine on the hill. He's pretty exciting.

    I would like nothing less than to sound like a long-winded ancient baseball guy, who idolizes Rogers Hornsby or whatever, but there's nothing better than October.

    Except when the Mets are part of it.


    I won my fantasy baseball league. Anyone proud of me? Didn't think so.


    Morning Paper Roundup:

    Mike Vaccaro says the Mets should bench Cliff in favor of Endy Chavez.

    Kevin Kernan breaks down the NLDS, while Mark Hale does a position-by-position breakdown.

    Lee Jenkins reminds us of the great postseason had by Carlos Beltran in 2004 when he was with Houston.

    Adam Rubin says that Pedro's absence isn't huge, while Bill Madden goes on to pick the Dodgers in five.


    Are you pumped for the playoffs yet? If you need any extra motivation to beat LA, read this game recap from 1988.

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    A Few Unpleasant Thoughts Breaking Through

    The Mets today finished their season with another year and another improvement, taking an 82-80 record in 2005 to a 97-65 record in 2006, gaining their first division title since 1988 in the process.

    But yes, there were some bad things about this season. And since everyone has today and tomorrow marked off on their calendars as days to wax poetic about the Mets' wonderful season, I decided to provide a few sour notes.

    These are my deepest and darkest fears, placed online only because of my pessimism. Be forewarned, though, most of these stats are taken out of context and therefore are far less meaningful than you'd think.

    The Mets ended the year with a cold streak, epitomized by their 14-15 September, their only month of the season without a .500 winning percentage.

    Billy Wagner's OPSagainst climbed from .494 in 2005 to .598 in 2006. His playoff ERA in 5 games is 7.71. His teams have lost all four series he has appeared in.

    Chris Woodward hit .283/.337/.393 last year. He hit .214/.287/.309 this year... in 47 more at-bats.

    Carlos Delgado hit .301/.399/.582 last year, hitting 41 doubles. This year? .295/.361/.548, with 30 doubles.

    His sometime platoon partner Julio Franco knows a little bit about going downhill. Franco had no extra-base hits or RBI in August after having 8 XBH and 12 RBI over the previous three months.

    Darren Oliver's ERA pre-All-Star Break? 2.15, with a 0.97 WHIP and .190 batting average against, allowing 5 home runs in 50.1 innings of work. Post-break, Oliver had a 5.58 ERA, a 1.37 WHIP, a .290 BAA and 8 home runs allowed in only 30.2 innings of work.

    Last year, Cornelius Clifford Floyd hit .273/.358/.505 with 34 homers. This year, Corn has 11 homers and a .243/.323/.404 line, while missing a great deal of time due to injury.

    Lastings Milledge doesn't know his place.

    Shawn Green has hit .241 in 33 games since joining the Mets.

    El Duque, who is the game one starter in this series, has started three games against the Dodgers this season. In those games, his ERA is 5.40, while Tom Glavine has a 4.63 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers this year.

    Duaner Sanchez is hurt. So is Pedro Martinez. So is Victor Zambrano. So is Juan Padilla.

    I could scare you with more stats, but it doesn't matter.

    I could make a prediction that the Dodgers will use Hong-Chih Kuo and Eric Stults as their third and fourth starters and that both will throw perfect games en route to a 3-1 series victory over the Mets.

    I could write that Derek Lowe has a 3.05 ERA in 17 career postseason games, against AL lineups most almost all of the time. I could write that Greg Maddux has a 1.93 career postseason ERA against the Mets in two starts.

    But that's not important.

    What's important is that the Boys of Flushing are going to war as exactly that, for better or for worse. What got us to October will determine whether we make it out alive.


    I hope you all were watching the Jets' game today, because it was a doozy. Although I was not initially an Eric Mangini backer, mostly because of his 3rd round selection of this page's favorite punching bag, Anthony Schlegel, but also because of his lack of experience.

    What Mangini understands, however, that Herm Edwards didn't, is that you have to play aggressively and take risks to beat teams with far superior on-field ability to yours.

    I was rooting for Mangini and Co. to go for it on that fourth down in the red zone, if only because grabbing a field goal with a chance for seven was not going to help the Jets.

    In the end, it would have, but that wasn't all that important. The Jets were seven-point dogs in this game, and the fact that they played well with an undefeated team and Super Bowl contender does mean a lot about them.

    At 2-2, with two home losses albeit against good teams, it's hard to pencil the Jets in for a championship just yet. But it's not at all difficult to see this team finishing 9-7 or 10-6, possibly good for a Wild Card spot, barring any injuries to starting players on crazy lateral plays.


    Broadway Blueshirt hockey starts on Thursday, with the Rangers having posted a 5-2 record this preseason. In their preseason finale at Boston, Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan scored their first goals of the year, with each getting an assist on the other's. This bodes pretty well for the Rangers power play.

    Larry Brooks, the great hockey columnist at the New York Post, has the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup this season. Lofty goal, but I could see it happening.

    SI and ESPN also have their NHL season previews on newsstands this week.

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