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He's Back...

Well, ladies and gents, that day on your calendars finally has come. The day where you can stare down Mrs. and Mr. Anna Benson when they return to Shea for the first time since being traded.

At this point last year, despite missing most of April with a strained muscle, Benson was a godsend. He was 5-2 with a sub-4 ERA, while Glavine was awful, Trachsel was hurt, Ishii was awful and Zambrano was in the midst of one of the oddest hot streaks ever.

But then things went downhill, as the knock on Benson has been his problems with sustaining good health. Last year, after missing the first month with an injury, Benson just seemed to run out of gas after he was stretched out to 125 pitches against the Dodgers in July, a game I was fortunate enough to attend for the purpose of heckling Jeff Kent. After that game, his starts were a mixed bag of good and bad, the best coming in an 8.1 inning stint against the Padres and the worst his 1.2 inning performance against Esteban Loaiza and the Nats, a game which I attended and will remember as Mike Jacobs' first AB. And first three-run homer.

So, this offseason, little miss Anna did some bad things. First she rails on Delgado as un-American, while noting that her negotiations to pose for Playboy are as American as apple pie. Clearly, this was going to create some tension in the clubhouse. Anna's tendency for being over the top and inflammatory didn't add to her credibility.

So what's a better idea than having a christmas party for kids? Paul Lo Duca and Willie both were there with smiles on their faces. And then Anna and Kris showed up.

Two thoughts:
  • Can Santas get any skinnier than Kris Benson?
  • And did Anna really have to wear that dress?

    While the answer to both questions was no, the Mets opted to try and find a taker for their Tom Glavine lookalike. Interested teams included the Diamondbacks, who, shopping Javier Vazquez, opted for a package of El Duque and outfield prospect Chris Young from the White Sox, the Royals and the Orioles. The Royals' supposed package included flamethrowing lefty Jeremy Affeldt, but the Mets pushed them to include righty closer Mike MacDougal. The Royals backed down and Baltimore came into the forefront.

    They were offering Jorge Julio and a prospect who wasn't Nick Markakis, Chris Ray or Hayden Penn, so Mets fans had a similar reaction to the Mike Cameron-Xavier Nady trade. That's all? Julio was a nutcase with filthy stuff but control problems and the prospect, John Maine, was a 24 year-old whose stuff failed to dominate at the big-league level while he struggled last year. Was Minaya planning to pull the trigger on another deal after weakening his starting corps by subtracting Benson and Jae Seo?

    Not really. He signed Jose Lima and Victori Gonzalez. And promoted Brian Bannister.

    So the outraged Bensons return to Flushing today to pitch with a purpose.

    Up until this year, Benson's only former team was the Pirates. He was unsuccessful in facing them, going 1-1 with a 5.54 ERA against them in two starts, while trying to show up his former manager, Lloyd McClendon, and his staff, who Benson blames for the injury problems.

    Against the Mets, though, Benson has been relatively succesful, with a career ERA of 3.47 and a 2-3 record in 7 starts. Let's see if the first family of pitching can do anything against the Mets, who are looking to rebound after a crushing loss last night.

    On the topic of Aaron Heilman, he stinks. He flat-out stinks. That's because his pitches are flattening out. I could have hit that changeup he threw to Melvin Mora last night. Right down the middle, nice hang time. Heilman needs to work with the jacket. And, honestly, without Zambrano or Julio around, can't the jacket spare a minute of his ever-valuable time? Fix him so Randolph has a bullpen.

    And until he's fixed, Bradford and Feliciano should be pitching the seventh.

    Any questions before we start another streak? Good.

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  • 6.14.2006

    What to do about X. Nady?

    Well, at least there's something to worry about. The Mets are 40-23, after taking advantage of Philly blunders en route to their sixth straight win and a 7.5 game lead in the NL East with eleven to spare against the Braves. They even have a 15 game headstart on the Marlins, despite the Fish Club's recent hot streak.

    And yet there are problems. There's the issue of what to do with Aaron Heilman.
    Glavine has been rocked his last two starts. And Soler and Hernandez are touch and go at this point.

    The best part about controlling first place, though, is the issue of good problems. Last year the Mets had a big starting pitching surplus that allowed them to get rid of Kaz Ishii, stick Aaron Heilman in the pen, stick Zambrano in the pen and leave top prospect Yusmeiro Petit at AA. While they have not experienced such flexibility with the rotation, as Trachsel sucks and the revolving doors at SP #4 and #5 have yet to be permanently filled, Omar has gotten close to fixing that, all while Jose Lima and Victori Gonzalez have been displaced and Brian Bannister and Victor Zambrano have all the time they want on 60-day DLs. Top prospect "Bats in the" Pelfrey, sizzling after a shaky AA beginning, is not going to be called on out of necessity.

    Another surplus is in the outfield. The Mets have five outfielders capable of being everyday players and that's excluding the capable Jose Valentin and Chris Woodward. One is a guaranteed mainstay in Carlos Beltran. If healthy, Cliff Floyd won't be riding pine except the occasional day game after night game or against a tough lefty. So that leaves three players to fill the right field spot. The problem presented is Xavier Nady's prognosis. He should be ready to return to the team in a week, leaving the Mets no longer with a surplus, but with a glut, of outfielders.

    Endy Chavez: .300/.341/.425 in 120 AB.
  • I like Chavez a lot. He's unquestionably a great defensive outfielder who brings a ton of speed to the table. He's versatile at the plate and in the field, as he can hit extra-base hits or lay down a bunt for the base hit. He can play all three outfield positions. He's a left-handed hitter who is susceptible to the strikeout.

    Xavier Nady: .267/.331/.484 in 161 AB.
  • Nady presents an interesting conundrum. He was rushed to the hospital, with an urgent need for an appendectomy, provoking the promotion of Firstings Milledge. X had been providing good power throughout the year, though his production slowed in the last two weeks before being placed on the DL. While a veritable long ball threat, X strikes out a lot and is a weak defensive player. The right-handed hitter was acquired in the offseason for Mike Cameron.

    Lastings Milledge: .255/.308/.532 in 47 AB.
  • Lastings is the toughest to break down. He's more athletic than both Nady and Chavez, but is obviously less experienced. The right-handed hitter has whiffed 12 times in the 47 AB, slightly more than one-fourth of the time. While that will hopefully come down with experience, Lastings needs exactly that. He's not as solid in the field as Chavez and presents greater speed than Nady but he's nearly dropped quite a few balls along the way. He plays both corner outfield spots and could be used as an emergency player in centerfield.

    I think the decision here is tougher than it looks. The easy choice would be to give Nady his job back, demote Milledge and stick Chavez back on the bench. And one of those things will come true. Endy Chavez should be on the bench once Floyd returns to the lineup. If Floyd missed a more significant chunk of time, Chavez would probably return to the bench and Milledge would take his spot.

    The Mets should trade Xavier Nady. Interested teams could include the Cardinals and Yankees, both of whom are in need of a corner outfielder. Nady could also man first base when Jason Giambi plays DH or until Albert Pujols returns from the DL.

    The Lastings Milledge era has begun. It makes no sense for him to go back down to AAA nor does it make sense to have Floyd, Nady or Milledge on the bench in favor of another. Cliff Floyd's stock is at zero, despite a recent hot streak. Let him play and see how things go and take the draft picks in free agency instead of moving him at the deadline.

    The only problem is that moving Nady would create a void in one of the corner outfield spots in '07 without anyone to fill it. Carlos Gomez, currently in AA, could be pushed up to the big leagues to fill the spot, though chances are he'd be overmatched.

    Don't forget, though, potential free agents in LF include Carlos Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Jose Guillen, Moises Alou, and, dare I say it, Barry Bonds.

    Trading Nady is about winning now, and I'd do it. But if I could trade Floyd and get something meaningful in return? That would be ten times better.

    Myers vs. Hernandez. SNY/ESPN. 7:05. Let's make it an 8.5 game lead.

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  • 6.13.2006

    Phinishing them off?

    First just a quick note--
    You may see a changed layout here at Crosstown Rivals. This is not all that has changed, as we will also be adopting new formats in series previews and game recaps here. The series previews will be abbreviated in favor of longer game recaps and general interest articles. This is the first such preview.

  • Mets:After romping in the desert and shutting up the Hollywood √©lites, the Mets will now face the Phillies to conclude their road trip. The Mets have the best record in the NL, and the second best in baseball behind Jim Leyland's Tigers. They've nice leads against the rest of the division, including the all-important ten game lead against the Braves. A sweep here, or even two out of three, though, would certainly help the Mets in securing division victory.

  • Philly pitching is currently plagued by a dearth of capable guys, especially men to set up Tom Gordon. Veteran ace Jon Lieber went down with an injury this year after a sour start and phenom Cole Hamels (1-1, 3.68 ERA) returned only recently from the DL. Changeup artist Ryan Madson (6-3, 5.71 ERA), he of the seven-inning relief stint against the Mets, was forced into the rotation to replace pounded prospect Gavin Floyd (4-3, 7.29 ERA). Callup Eude Brito (0-2, 10.38 ERA), who was recently promoted, was shelled in two outings and sent back down to AAA. So for now, they're going with a four-man rotation featuring ace Brett Myers (4-2, 3.44 ERA), who always seems to pitch well against the Mets, Hamels, ex-Met Cory Lidle (4-5, 4.63 ERA) and Madson. The bullpen has been led by Billy Wagner's replacement, Tom Gordon, who has a 2-2 record with a 1.61 ERA and 18 saves. Arthur Rhodes (3.63 ERA in 25 games) and Ryan Franklin (1-4, 4.71 ERA in 28 games) comprise a double-barreled setup corps. The rest of the bullpen has been pretty good, with lefty specialist Rheal Cormier's 1.25 ERA, versatile righty Geoff Geary's 4-0 record and 2.86 ERA and long man Aaron Fultz's 3.41 ERA. The bullpen also features the inexperienced Clay Condrey and Brian Sanches.

  • Philly hitting is a mix of both good and bad. Thumping first baseman Ryan Howard came out of his early season power slump and is now near the top of the NL with 22 HR and 54 RBI. He's also hitting .294. Although second baseman Chase Utley has seen his average drop more than twenty points in the last ten days, he's still producing well, hitting .303 with 12 HR and 40 RBI. He always seems to pose problems to the Mets. Jimmy Rollins, whose season began with so much promise on the wings of a hitting streak, has been a drag on the Phillies offense, where he is posting a measly .253/.308/.389 line, despite his recent hot streak. David Bell has also been something of a disappointment, posting a .259 average with a small 4 HR and 24 RBI despite being in a great hitter's park. Starting catcher Mike Lieberthal is on the DL, requiring Sal Fasano to play everyday. He's only batting .253. The outfield, typically a strong one, has been a beneficiary of Pat Burrell's production (16 HR, 47 RBI) despite a .259 average. Aaron Rowand, of the great catch in centerfield, has been pretty good, hitting .290, though he was admirably spelled by Shane Victorino's .327 BA and sheer speed. Bobby Abreu has been his usual on-base machine self in rightfield, posting a .455 OBP while batting .288. He's been a disappointment power-wise, though, hitting only 7 HR at this point in the season. He's driven in 46 runs. Outfield super-sub David Dellucci, acquired earlier in the season from the Rangers, has not produced that much, hitting only .254.

    Game 1: Tuesday, 7:05
    Tom Glavine, LHP (9-2, 3.06 ERA) @ Ryan Madson, RHP (6-3, 5.71 ERA)
    Edge: Glavine

    Game 2: Wednesday, 7:05 (National TV: ESPN)
    Orlando Hernandez, RHP (4-5, 5.48 ERA) @ Brett Myers, RHP (4-2, 3.44 ERA)
    Edge: Myers

    Game 3: Thursday, 1:05
    Steve Trachsel, RHP (3-4, 4.70 ERA) @ Cory Lidle, RHP (4-5, 4.68 ERA)
    Edge: Push

    Players to Watch for:
    PHI: Chase Utley. I can't pick Burrell any more to massacre the Mets because it's starting to lack originality. He has a .289 career BA against the Mets, though, with 7 HR. That's his greatest total against any team.

    NYM: Carlos Beltran. Let's keep that crazy train rolling, B-Man!

    Player of the Series: Carlos Beltran

    Picks: Two of three from the Mets, despite another shaky outing from Trachsel, who pitches like Trash, not like Trach.

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  • 6.12.2006

    What a trip!

    This time the Mets really did it. They went out west and took two of three from LA, despite Pedro and Glavine putting together shoddy efforts. They swept four from the D-Backs, who actually were a first place team. They're 6-1 on the trip.

    And the Mets have a chance to put a hurting on the Phillies. If they sweep the Phillies at the Bank, the lead in the division becomes 9.5 games... in mid-June! The Mets already have ten game leads against perennial nemesis Atlanta and last year's upstart Nationals. The Marlins are even further smoked.

    I'll give credit to Willie and Omar for putting this team together for winning. It can pitch, it can hit and most importantly it can win. But the Mets' dominance over the NL has been overshadowed by a much darker tale.

    Jason Grimsley is a rat and people hate him for it. In an attempt to save his own skin, Grimsley sold out some of the steroid users he knew. But instead of the names coming out quickly, like those in the BALCO scandal, and users just coming clean like Jim Leyritz, Grimsley's affadavit had hidden names. Special Agent Jeff Novitzky's black pen caused more controversy in baseball this week than Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi put together. Because the speculation kills.

    On Thursday, the excellent blog Deadspin released a story naming names from the affadavit. The story cited an anonymous source who named Albert Pujols' personal trainer Chris Mihlfield as one of the redacted names. I always thought Big Al was a juicer, and at first I thought this was vindication. Finally, there's evidence. And what a coincidence as Albert Pujols went down with a freak injury, nothing more than a strained muscle, a few days before the storm came. He went on the DL immediately and vanished. Was he faking it because he didn't want to take the heat?

    But as Mihlfield denied his presence in the affadavit after allegedly receiving confirmation from Grimsley and Grimsley's lawyer, I wondered if Pujols got a fair shot. Here was this player who drew so much steroid suspicion in an era where baseball can't test for HGH and conducts private testing and arbitration for performance enhancing drugs. This time, though, the problem of speculation took over. There's no evidence saying any of this is true.

    Albert Pujols is not necessarily a steroid user and he is not necessarily clean. Jason Grimsley, to my knowledge, has suggested exactly that in his affadavit by silence. The Grim One and Pujols only shared a trainer.

    So, for now, forget the speculation. Let's play ball with the greatest club in the NL and one of the best Mets teams in recent memory to this point.

    Posting Schedule:
  • Tomorrow: Some excitement for a trip to Philly, Game 1 Wrap-up
  • Wednesday: What to do about X. Nady, Game 2 Wrap-up
  • Thursday: Whatever happened to Heath Bell?, Game 3 Wrap-up
  • Friday: Preview for a showdown with Baltimore, Game 1 Wrap-up
  • Saturday: Tribute to the returning Kris Benson, Game 2 Wrap-up
  • Sunday: The wondrous Melvin Mora, Game 3 Wrap-up

    Ambitious? Yes... but you'll join me anyway, won't you?

  • 6.11.2006

    New Feature

    From now on, this will be what Yankee previews and recaps will look like. Picked it up from Yankees Chick, seems like a good idea.

    Next Game:
    Tues, June 13th:
    CLE @ NY, 7:05 PM
    Starting Pitchers:
    NYY: Wang (6-2, 4.52)
    CLE: Byrd (5-4, 5.15)

    Last Game:
    NYY vs. OAK
    Oakland 6-Yankees 5
    Good News:
    Bob Cano went 3 for 4 with 1 RBI. His average is currently at .323, second on the team behind Jete.
    Posada got his groove on with a 2 run shot in the 5th of off Zito
    Frank Thomas didn’t play. (whew)
    Bad News:
    Dan Johnson toyed with us, going two for three with 2 RBI. Oh, and those two, both homers, one the go ahead.
    Eric Chavez, two for two, two B’s.
    That heinous inside the park HR for Swisher.
    Why we lost:
    I’ll give you a hint. It starts with Kyle and ends with Farnsworth. Why, Joe, why? I try to back you up, but then you leave Kyle Farnsworth in for 6 batters. WHY?
    Shawn Chacon didn’t do his part either, in a downright ugly start. As much as I hate to say it, his ERA is up to 5.23.
    Andy Phillips and Miguel Cairo. I don’t have any real evidence, but why does it seem like they keep coming up in important situation. They’re outs, plain and simple. Oh, here’s some evidence. Andy left 4 on base,
    Bernie Williams batted 5th. I love the guy, but WHAT?
    Final Thoughts:
    Well, we’ve lost four straight. I knew this series would be bad but I wasn’t thinking sweep. Compound this with David “Everyone thinks I’m so clutch” Ortiz’s walkoff shot, and we’re 1.5 back of the Sawx heading to Cleveland. Time to stop the bleeding guys, go out there and have a good series. Nobody wants to see this homestand get ugly.

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    Trade Rumors (Part 1)

    Over the past few months (since Godzilla’s booboo), trade rumors, as they do every year, are swirling around the Bronx. Up until now, I had decided to abstain from succumbing to the ideas, but now, I figure, if you can’t beat the rumors, join ‘em. Here is a list of possibilities (that include the Yanks), how I feel about them, and how likely I believe it is that they’re gonna go down.

    Barry Zito:
    As much as the addition of yet another pitcher born to fail in the Bronx would amuse me, this one is not happening. The A’s wouldn’t want to get rid of him unless they’re sure they won’t win their division, and as I have already expressed, I believe they are a lock out West. Furthermore, are Cash and Boss ready to accept the media backlash of trading away someone like Hughes? Do they even want to trade Hughes? And most importantly, is Hughes even enough to satisfy the deal? I don’t think Zito’s going anywhere, but if he does, don’t look for him wearing pinstripes.
    Do I like it? C- Will it happen? D

    Bobby Abreu:
    I love Bobby. I really do. The way I see it, we add someone with a great power/speed number, don’t pick up the option on Sheff, and we’re set. Sure, Abreu is due more than Sheff in ’07, but he’s also more valuable. That is, if he isn’t on the roids. In addition to this, that Victorino kid would need to keep playing well, and I don’t see any long term success in this future. The only question is what do the Phils want for him? The universal problem for the Phillies is pitching, so it seems to be Hughes or maybe if they’re desperate someone like Steven White w/ another lower level prospect thrown in. In addition to this, I don’t think Abreu has got the starpower that Steinbrenner wants.
    Do I like it? B+ Will it happen? C-

    Alfonso Soriano:
    No no no no no no. Please. Listen, I loved this kid as much as the guy, but what we can least afford right now is another problem child. Although it is in our nature to sell the team’s soul for 45 HR’s, I don’t know if George wants him back. It would be a kick for him to end up with A-Rod and Soriano, considering the trade. Kinda like an ego-trip or something. As much as I want to believe that Sori would shut up and play in NY, it’s too much of a risk. Plus, you’ve seen the guy swing at every pitch within a mile; do you really think Donnie Baseball can fix that? Also, we’re forgetting the most important part. We don’t have to give anything up to get him. He’s an FA at the end of this season; we can just scoop him up then. I honestly don’t think we’re stupid enough to make a trade when we can have a go at the guy in like 100 games. If we trade for him now (does he have a no trade clause?) we might have to give up something for an unhappy player. If we wait, we give him an offer and if he doesn’t want to play for us, he refuses us.
    Do I like it? D Will it happen? D-

    Reggie Sanders:
    Ah, Reggie. A nice piece of the puzzle that can help us win a ring. He’s not gonna bitch and moan, he’s not worth THAT much (about 5 mil), and we can drop him in two years. What’s the problem? We’d have to give up a whole less to get him; I mean we’re dealing with the Royals after all. They’d probably ask for Duncan or if they’re feeling bold Tabata, we’d say no way in hell, they’ll be intimidated and just be like, oh, we’ll take Matt DeSalvo in that case. They don’t want Reggie there. They’ve got this Costa fellow. All Sanders is doing is eating up cap space during a worthless season. Give him to us, get a couple bad prospects, everyone goes home happy, right? So he’s having a down year. He’ll pick it back up with a few bats around him. They better not ask for too much though, because we better not give any real talent away.
    Do I like it? A- Will it happen? B

    Coming in part 2!
    Carlos Lee, Jose Guillen, and Craig Wilson stop by, as well as Adam Dunn and Shannon Stewart in lieu of their higher regarded trade bait teammates! Sounds like good fun. Will Pedro Feliz make a guest appearance? Who knows?


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