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Trouble in Paradise?

Scratch everything I wrote last night, I think.

Tonight's Mets were entirely different, despite an ostensibly similar lineup on the field. What, you may ask, was the cause for that?

Well, first of all, "Magic" Wandy pitched like a sprig of holly with a core of phoenix feather, purchased at Ollivander's. [ED NOTE: Does a Harry Potter reference, albeit an obscure one, qualify as a new low for this space? Yes, yes it does.]

[ED NOTE: I write and edit (and read, while sobbing uncontrollably) these posts all by myself; I had hoped you, the reader, would enjoy this interplay in my tormented mind. Perhaps not. I'll return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.]

The Mets have been shut out three times this year. The first was at home, at the hands of Barry Zito, who undoubtedly wanted to prove to Mets management what they were missing when they passed on his ridiculous price tag. Another came against Johan Santana, whose agents are reportedly looking for $25 million per season over a long-term deal when he enters free agency after the 2008 season.

Each of those pitchers has at least one Cy Young award and a winning percentage above .600 for their career (Santana's is above .700). They're extremely well-regarded among their contemporaries.

Enter Wandy Rodriguez, of the 24-27 career record with a 5.23 ERA to boot, who dazzled against the Metsies in a near-surreal evening. Rodriguez only allowed four hits over the complete game, putting to shame another improved effort from youngster Mike Pelfrey, who regrettably drops to 0-7.

The Mets' shutout, though, was their third against a lefthanded pitcher. As Marty Noble notes at MLB.com's wrapup of the game, the Mets haven't been hitting lefties like they used to since Xavier Nady's departure, and, I might add, since Moises Alou hit the DL.

But regarding that Nady trade, you might have read similar sentiments in this space last August and again later that month. I really liked Nady as a hitter, though his defense in right was questionable at best. The X-Man, who has a .292/.343/.509 line in the City of Brotherly Steel this season, would have fit in very well on this team, though it would have meant no Oliver Perez. Take your pick.

The Mets stunk against lefties last year, and were routinely mastered by luminaries like Hong-Chih Kuo and Eric Stults. This year, the Mets have fared better OPS-wise against lefties than against righties, but a recent swoon versus southpaws and these three shutouts might argue otherwise.

Being shut out by Wandy Rodriguez wasn't the biggest problem, tonight, as the Mets are awfully depleted without Duck and Alou and with Green and Delgado essentially useless on most evenings. You might have hoped for David Wright to do something, as well, but home plate umpire Larry Vanover called the game as would a man with one hell of a dinner reservation.

The big question for tonight was Jose Reyes. Over the years, Reyes has brought enthusiasm to the team and has been something of an outgoing and charismatic individual. Remember in 2005 when he would dance with Doug Mientkiewicz? Poor Jose.

But he didn't seem to care much tonight. With the Mets down by four in the eighth, Reyes hit a ball down the third base line, which had all the traits of a ball that wasn't going to stay fair. He jogged a little, but was blind-sided when Mike Lamb picked up the ball and nearly ran it all the way to Lance Berkman at first base.

Reyes didn't run. For a player who makes a living on having legs in constant motion, the shortstop didn't plan on straying too far from home plate tonight.

So what? We've seen times where Beltran hasn't run, even times when the infallible Julio Franco (who must have incriminating pictures of Omar Minaya) hasn't. And what? Nothing usually comes of them, though sometimes the lazy are lampooned in the press.

When Mets infielders spend time with sunglasses upside down atop the bills of their caps, nothing comes of it. It's vanity, not baseball. Occasionally, they'll lose a ball in the sky, but at least they look really bad-ass doing it.

But Reyes apparently didn't explain that he didn't want to be caught hustling to Willie Randolph, who pulled the sparkplug from the game in favor of Ruben Gotay, who is probably best described as that revenge hookup for Willie Randolph. He's obviously not a better shortstop than Jose Reyes, but it made the All-Star seethe in the dugout.

Jealous of Ruben Gotay's playing time? Who are you, Esteban German?

Only time (and, perhaps, tomorrow's lineups) will tell whether a conflict has truly developed between Reyes and the skipper. The two hardly embraced after David Wright was caught trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt to end the game.

The team has, in recent days, shown something of an aloofness on the field, with the exception of Paul Lo Duca and his "Die Hard and Like It" at bat against Colorado. One hopes Reyes, who has looked a little unfocused in the field of late, will be able to set a positive example for other players with a newfound hustle and love for the game in these last two contests before the break.

If not? Perhaps Reyes becomes more like Rafael Furcal. I don't want to go there.



-I'm trying to develop a coherent way to phrase my thoughts and feelings about Dodgers GM Ned Colletti. Admittedly, it's something of a non sequitur, but he has done atrocious things with the personnel in LA and has won only on account of the talent developed by ex-GM Paul DePodesta and farm director Logan White. That post ought to be up sometime next week.

-As I write this, the Braves have defeated the Padres and the Phillies and Rockies are engaged in an extra-inning duel. Ground, unfortunately, must be gained by someone.

-I won't voice my thoughts on global warming (or Al Gore) in this space, but I'm pretty excited about Live Earth tomorrow, mostly because I get to see a few of my faves on stage, all the while blacking out the drivel emerging from their mouths. With hours upon hours of music, you might want to borrow some amphetamines from your good friend Tigers SS Neifi Perez. With a 25-game suspension, he probably won't be needing them anymore. [ED NOTE: Way to go! You could have very easily made a reference to Hermione Granger's time-turner from the Harry Potter series that allowed her to take all those classes. You really have made it in this biz!]

In addition, remind me to make this blog carbon-neutral by December.

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Straightened Out

Well, not really. I'd like to think the sorry excuse for baseball performed by your Metropolitans has ended, as of 10:54 PM EDT on this Thursday, but tonight didn't really show everything you'd like to see from the Mets.

However, John "Snubbed with a Vengeance" Maine took it to Houston tonight, showing his nastiest stuff as the Mets defeated the 'Stros 5-2, with the unlikely ace notching a career-high nine strikeouts and only two runs allowed in seven and two thirds sparkling innings of work.

He didn't really have much to straighten out, as he took no part in the Mets' four-game skid, and won resoundingly in his last start.

But Carlos Delgado did. Ramon Castro needed to step up, with Paul lo Duca finally dropping his appeal after the promotion of Sandy Alomar, Jr. to the big club. The pair combined for a whopping seven hits, including two doubles and three RBI.

The Mets made their imprint on that ridiculous malignant tumor in the centerfield of Enron Field (I assume you know the story of that ballpark's checkered past), and pounded nemesis Jason Jennings.

You might have hoped for something more from Joe Smith, who is no longer wondrous and closer to ponderous, or maybe for something more from Carlos Beltran, who was rather ghastly up until a ninth-inning home run into the short porch. I was expecting something more from Mr. Wright, and perhaps a little something more in the field from Mr. Green, but we have tomorrow for that.

In other news, the Carlos Gomez era has been put on hiatus for six to eight weeks, and it's now safe to wear your NEWHAN 17 jerseys back to the ballpark, for the utility man who embraced the Mendoza line has replaced our dearly departed speed demon.

Crosstown Rivals is sponsored by JustGreatTickets.com, your home for Chicago White Sox Tickets.


Talkin' Pitchin' With Aarin' Heilmin'

Cue lights.
Today, kids, we're going to learn about pitching. You can learn from me, and my good friends Mike Pelfrey, Scott Schoeneweis, and Rick Peterson. Here, at Talkin' Pitchin', having fun comes first, keeping the Mets in ballgames comes second!

I'm first going to answer some viewer questions.

Sal from Brooklyn wants to know: "Aaron, what is your key pitch?"

Well, Sal, my favorite pitch is the hanging changeup. I enjoy giving up home runs and scowling, and throwing the hanging changeup, especially to lefthanded hitters, makes it awfully easy to erode a lead in the late innings.

John from Staten Island writes in: "Aaron, how have you managed to earn six wins on the season, despite a VORP of only 2.6?"

John, thanks for the question. I learned the key skill of luck through communication with my good friend Joe Carter, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays. He would consistently drive in 100 runs, while hitting barely over .250, not walking, and sustaining his reputation on an especially clutch moment in the World Series.

You all can remember my great playoff successes, right? Remember a little duel I had with Yadier Molina? Exactly. So part of my ability to win is based on my impeccable postseason record.

Brady from Cleveland wonders: "What is the outlook for Notre Dame football this year?"

Well, Brady, even with Jesus and Charlie Weis on our side, I'm not sure the season is shaping up too great. Prep QB Jimmy Clausen underwent a little arm surgery, and I'm not sure the offense can withstand the departures of Jeff Samardzija, Rhema McKnight, and Darius Walker.

I've heard they're planning on facing some tough teams like the Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, and the TSA training program because the other service academies aren't difficult enough.

Okay, so now we're going to learn this week's new pitch. This one is a real favorite of mine. Victor Zambrano taught it to me, and starting a sentence like that automatically makes you a legitimate pitcher. I call it the changeup-in-the-dirt. How do you think I've managed 15 hit-by-pitches and 13 wild pitches in my short big league career?

So, you assume the normal changeup grip, with four fingers over the ball. Then, in an important count where you can't really afford to throw balls, you proceed to throw the pitch towards the ground, preferably way inside or way outside. Don't be afraid to bounce it to home plate, but take heed: it is of the utmost importance that you don't confuse this pitch with my hanging changeup, which I taught you last week.

With that pitch, you assume the changeup grip, and throw it down the middle or on the inside half of the plate to a lefthanded hitter. Guaranteed to provide fan-pleasing fireworks at all times, especially in opposing ballparks. Take a look at my home run rate: it's no coincidence that it's higher than those of all other Mets pitchers except my next guest, Scott Schoeneweis, and I intend to change that.

Speaking of which, Scott is joining us in studio now. Thanks, Scott, for comin' on Talkin' Pitchin' With Aarin' Heilmin'.

No problem, Aaron. I always would love to help out a fellow useless reliever.

Well, about that, Scott, I was a little upset when I noticed that you hadn't given up an earned run on the road all season. I understand there are small sample sizes and all, but I was a little disappointed in your road splits for the season.

I can understand that, buddy. I can try to give up long home runs, but somehow the opponents just can't touch my meatballs on the road. But I mean, look at you, you did manage to strike out the side today.

Don't you dare try and trick the fan base. I allowed two runs in that inning, and by all accounts I should have given up even more.

Fair enough.

And, to wit, I have managed to allow all those runs in a very short career. I was a first-round draft pick, and I have had the fan base turn on me several times. Remember 2005? Of course you don't, but I was nasty. Mets fans were even insisting that I replace Braden Looper as closer. Thank God those times are over.

Didn't you want to be a starter at one point?

I'll handle the questions here.

(awkward pause)

So, Scott, do you have any questions for me?

Aaron, I was just wondering about those days when you wanted to be a starter.

Well, ah yes. I still do want to be a starter, though the Mets seem to believe that failing in the bullpen doesn't seem to make me a better candidate for the rotation. I might add that I was sterling in the rotation in 2005, and although I have had bumpy times in my career as a starter, the Mets' campaign of hate against me is totally ridiculous.

I've been a starter before, and I'm not sure it's all that much better. Also, Aaron, I'm not sure exactly what campaign of hate you are referring to.

Oh, Scott, I'm not sure you really understand anything. I am great, and you might notice all of the options the Mets have utilized to keep me from entering the rotation: Jose Lima, Jeremi (né Geremi) Gonzalez, Alay Soler, Jason Vargas, Mike Pelfrey, Dave Williams, Steve Trachsel, Oliver Perez, Brian Bannister, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine... must I continue?

I'm not sure how many of those guys you mentioned have actually pitched for the Mets, but I digress. Aaron, have you not considered the fact that you throw only two pitches, neither of which is exceptional?

Take a look at Tim Wakefield. He throws only one pitch, and he's probably the most celebrated pitcher in the history of the major leagues. With double the pitches, I will double Tim Wakefield's success: he has 159 career wins, pencil me in for 318.

Aaron, I went to Duke, and aside from learning how to run an offense from Coach K, I learned a little thing about logic. That's flawless. I also met some very fine strippers there, though they kept trying to swab me in between dances.

That's quite enough, Schoeneweis. Win a few games, and we'll talk again, okay? Special thanks to Scott Schoeneweis for appearing on this program, and while I'm on the topic, I would like to note that all guests on Talkin' Pitchin' With Aarin' Heilmin' receive a $5 gift certificate, erm, coupon, to the Olive Garden, and a urinary tract infection. Let's bring in our next guest, Mike Pelfrey, joining us via satellite. Hi, Mike. You're appearing via satellite from New Orleans, as you've just been demoted, correct?

Aaron, I'm backstage. Making the footage a little grainy doesn't make it seem like I'm appearing via satellite.

Okay, okay, save the criticism for your parents, those who delivered such an incomplete pitcher into this world.

Aaron, you're a dick.

Dry, acrid wit from you as always, Mike. Tell us a little bit about your methodology on the mound today, managing to allow three runs in five innings to the Phillies with three walks despite not pitching in nine days, bringing your record to 0-6 on the year. I have six wins on the season. Mike?

Well, Paul Lo Duca told me to go out there and just throw, and I managed to --

Excuse me, Mike, but our good friends at Elias are telling me that in my last start, in 2005, I struck out 7 against the 2006 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. What are your thoughts on that?

(flips off camera, walks offstage)

Well, it looks like we're having a few problems with the satellite feed, but I'm sure Mike will be back soon. Then again, maybe he could use a little practice at pitching. Let me remind you, all guests on Talkin' Pitchin' With Aarin' Heilmin' receive five dollars off a meal for four or more at the Olive Garden and a real bitch of a urinary tract infection. At the Olive Garden, when you're here, you're family.

Let's welcome our final guest in-studio, Dr. Rick Peterson, the Mets' CEO of Pitching.

Namaste, young grasshopper.

So, Rick, do you think you could fix me in ten minutes, huh?

Time represents that which cannot be governed by the heavens, Aaron. We are trapped in this submarine, and doomed to repeat history's mistakes if we shall fail to pitch below thigh-level.

Yes, definitely. What do you think of my changeup?

Aaron, without your changeup, it would be as though Jimmy Page without hands, Louis Armstrong without a mouth. One cannot make beautiful music without sinking action on the changeup, or essential organs.

Absolutely. Let me take a second, Rick, to complement you on your fine polyester/nylon-blend jacket there. That is puffy beyond belief; you resemble a man of great stature with it and a Jheri-curl atop your head.

Why thank you, Aaron. But I ought to warn you- there's no chance of you becoming a starter, ever. We have some fine talent coming through this organization, as silk through the roads of China during the time of Marco Polo, and I fear you might have the wrong impressions of your likely fate.

HEILMAN (crying)
Is this really what you think of me, Jacket? I've made all of these sacrifices for you; I gave you my clean sample, and this is how you repay me? How dare you?

Relax, don't do it, when you want to go to it.

HEILMAN (still sniffling)
That's all the time we have, on Talkin' Pitchin'. I would like to thank my middling guests, and I'll be back at work, throwing some games for the Mets, as we continue along this road trip. For all of us here, at the Olive Garden, I'm Aaron Heilman, and I will haunt your excretory system. Good night.


  • Just a note: I was disappointed to find that my blog is only the seventh hit if one Googles the phrase "Aaron Heilman stinks". I'm determined to change that.

    Crosstown Rivals is sponsored by JustGreatTickets.com, your home for Chicago White Sox Tickets.
  • 7.01.2007

    In Defense of Steve Phillips and Joe Morgan

    Please accept my most sincere apologies for the title of this post, and understand that I have made these two my favorite punching bags in my years of watching Baseball Tonight, an absolutely atrocious program shoved down our throats by the good people at ESPN.

    The two mentioned actually bring some sense into the fray, for the first time ever.

    Now, tonight's 7 PM show featured discussion of the All-Star selections, something I was looking forward to while seething about the obvious ignorance of John Maine's great season. John Maine is tied for third in the NL in VORP among pitchers. Cole Hamels is nineteenth. Somehow he made it. Hamels ranks behind El Duque, by the way.

    Regardez, s'il vous plait: Maine isn't even in the final five left for voting. His stats: 9-4, 2.74 ERA.

    The final five:

    SP Brandon Webb: 8-5, 3.05 ERA,
    SP Roy Oswalt: 7-5, 3.42 ERA.
    SP Carlos Zambrano: 9-6, 4.20 ERA.
    SP Tom Gorzelanny: 8-4, 3.05 ERA.
    SP Chris Young: 8-3, 2.14 ERA.

    and, just for kicks,

    SP Cole Hamels: 9-4, 3.87 ERA.

    This is absolutely disgusting. I try to avoid putting too much stock into these things, but Maine outpitched all of the above but Young as measured by ERA, and he won more (or as many) than all. This is grotesque. Fire Selig.

    P.S.: Zambrano's ERA is 4.20. Look at that. Oliver Perez would sooner deserve a spot.

    Instead, the idiots on tonight's panel (Eric Young, Steve Phillips, and John Kruk) decided to debate why Jose Reyes made the All-Star team instead of Jimmy Rollins, who sucks, by the way.

    Reyes OPS+: 131
    Rollins OPS+: 116

    Reyes WARP: 4.5
    Rollins WARP: 3.9

    Listen to our good friends at BT:

    KRUK: "You don't go to the All-Star Game to watch a guy [Reyes] hit singles and run. That doesn't happen. Hit a home run."
    KARL RAVECH: "You know that's ridiculous."
    STEVE PHILLIPS: "Thank you."
    KRUK: (incredulous)
    RAVECH: You don't want to see Reyes run? Steal?
    KRUK: He's not going to. It's the All-Star Game. [ED NOTE: There were two stolen bases from the NL in last year's ASG, and Reyes wasn't even playing.] And Jimmy Rollins can't steal a base?
    YOUNG: I like Jose Reyes. I think he's one of the most exciting players in the game, but when we think about performance, who should be the all-star shortstop for the National League, no doubt about it, it should be Jimmy Rollins. Look at the numbers!
    PHILLIPS: Come on!
    YOUNG: His power, his slugging percentage, it's over .500! Take out the average and the stolen bases. What do you have?
    PHILLIPS: You have on-base percentage. There's a 60-point difference between the two.
    YOUNG: Ugh.
    PHILLIPS: You're playing this game to win! Here's the thing, Jose Reyes has 25 more stolen bases than Rollins, which means those singles become doubles. Jimmy Rollins slugs? When you look at Jose Reyes's OPS, it's better than Jimmy Rollins'! He puts himself in position to score more runs than Jimmy Rollins! Runs scored come from the people behind you in the lineup! He's the most exciting player in the major leagues. And 2.5 million of my closest friends agree.
    YOUNG: The Mets' lineup is not good?
    PHILLIPS: The Mets' lineup with Beltran and Delgado behind him struggled this year compared to Howard and Utley.
    YOUNG: They've been tearin' it up [ED NOTE: No, they haven't. They suck.] How about Ryan Howard earlier this season?
    PHILLIPS: I'll trade you right now, Jose Reyes for Jimmy Rollins, you'd take Reyes.
    KRUK: We're talking about an All-Star Game!
    YOUNG: Not about trades! [ED NOTE: So cute. They're finishing eachother's poorly-thought out arguments.]
    PHILLIPS: Okay, who would you say gives that team a better chance to win that game?
    KRUK and YOUNG (in unison): Jimmy Rollins! [ED NOTE: According to the Hardball Times, Reyes has four more win shares this season than Rollins. Just thought I'd point that out.]
    PHILLIPS (incredulous, once again): It's not even close. Jose Reyes does everything.
    KRUK (interjecting): You wanna throw situations out, let's throw this one out: bases loaded, 2-run game, bottom of the ninth inning, who do you want hitting? Jimmy Rollins or Jose Reyes?
    PHILLIPS: I'll take Reyes. Absolutely. He does everything, he doesn't strike out.
    KRUK: Then you'll lose. [ED NOTE: Rollins is 0-for-5 on the season with bases loaded. Reyes is 4-for-12.]
    YOUNG (changing the topic and making no sense): You also have to think about the opponents' batting averages against those guys. It's not going to be a piece of cake for him to get on base and steal. [ED NOTE: So is it going to be easy for Rollins? I don't understand... they would face the same pitchers.] You got Pudge behind the plate. Pudge shuts down.
    RAVECH (trying to save Young and Kruk from their stupidity): There are people in Milwaukee saying, why are you even having this discussion? Where's J.J. Hardy? People in Florida, the few that actually watch the Marlins, saying where's Hanley Ramirez?
    PHILLIPS: Hardy's 2nd best, Ramirez's 3rd best, Renteria's fourth best, and Rollins is 5th. [ED NOTE: By WARP (which takes defense into account), your top NL Shortstops: Reyes, Renteria, Rollins, Ramirez, Hardy.]
    YOUNG: I can't believe you're saying that.
    KRUK: That's why, as a GM, you're here with us.

    (later in the show, another exchange with JOE MORGAN)

    RAVECH: You were listening to that discussion we had, about Reyes and Rollins, and you were a speed guy. Who would you have selected, Reyes or Rollins, given that choice?
    MORGAN: Well, you know what, I'd flip a coin, either one that comes up, I'd be happy with. [ED NOTE: If you read Fire Joe Morgan, this must sound familiar.] But if you forced me to make a choice, I'd have to take Reyes. I think Reyes is the most exciting player in the game right now. [ED NOTE: He also leads all NL Shortstops in WARP!] I think Jimmy Rollins is exciting; he's a great player, a great clutch hitter. I just think that that's a real snub not to have him on the all star team. But I would have to take Reyes.
    RAVECH: [blah, blah] Some have compared Jose Reyes to you in your prime.
    MORGAN: I didn't get that. (having some audio issues)
    RAVECH: I just complimented you.
    MORGAN: Well, that's high praise, because I think he's an exciting player.

    One final ED NOTE: If Rollins is so bothered about being left off the roster, he might want to ask Tony La Russa why he took Aaron Rowand as a manager's selection. I don't think he's very good. Or why he took Albert Pujols, who has not been Albert-ly this season (SLG down by nearly 140 pts. compared to last year).


    I'll be back tomorrow with something coherent which hopefully can spear Aaron Heilman. Stay tuned.

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