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More Trades and a Win.

Some news:

(last updated: 11:30 PM EDT: 7/28/06)

--Breaking News: The Atlanta Braves have acquired RP Danys Baez and 3B Willy Aybar for 3B Wilson Betemit. Crosstown Rivals has confirmed this from the Dodger broadcast on XM Satellite Radio. The deal is close to official.
(EDIT: MLB.com has the story.)

--Nice win, boys. Nice work, Pedro.

--David Bell is a Brewer.

--Mike Stanton is a Giant.

--Star Cuban 2B/3B Yuliesky Gourriel (as seen in the WBC) has defected to Colombia. Scouts compare him to Alfonso Soriano and many teams are expected to try and sign him. The Yankees are obviously in the hunt and one can assume the Mets are going to be involved as they own two of the eight Cubans in the bigs (Marrero/Duque).

--The Astros are aggressively after both Alfonso Soriano and Miguel Tejada, with the Rangers and Angels darkhorses to land the All-Star shortstop.

--Kip Wells tossed seven scoreless innings tonight, which will most likely be followed by a trade in the coming days. In that game, Pirates closer Mike Gonzalez also recorded his seventeenth save. He has yet to blow one.

--I'll be back with some more trade news tomorrow morning.

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First Shot Across the Bow

ESPN is now reporting that Carlos "El Caballo" Lee has been dealt to Texas.

Lee was probably the second best position player on the market to Alfonso Soriano, excluding a potential trade of Miguel Tejada or Julio Lugo, two players who rank higher than Lee in VORP. Lee has a VORP of 27.4, good for 44th among position players.

Soriano ranks fifteenth.

The price paid for Lee and minor-league OF Nelson Cruz: RP Francisco Cordero, OF Kevin Mench and OF Laynce Nix.

That's not a ton for Brewers GM Doug Melvin to get, as Mench was a bench player for Texas, Nix was in the minors, and Aki Otsuka had supplanted Cordero's live arm in the closer role.

But, that said, Derrick Turnbow is no longer closing for Milwaukee and Nix and Mench will share time as extra outfielders for the Brew Crew, joining legends like Gabe Gross, Corey Hart and Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Here's to a busy weekend.

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The Off-Day Motivational Session

I wish it could be this easy, typing words in a blog post and having the Mets go out and do everything with everyone else's full cooperation, but it's not.

Say it was possible, though...

Make some Mets wishes, for the rest of this week, or rather from this off-day to the next (July 31, which is also the trading deadline).

The only wish for me and for the Mets is for burial in Atlanta.

Although vaguely reminiscent of 2004, another weekend in the hot Georgia sun where the Mets would decide their fate both on the trading market: bye-bye Kazmir, Huber, Wigginton, Diaz and Peterson, hello Keppy, Fortunato, Benson(s) and Zambrano, and on the field, as the Atlanta Braves thrust the murderous scabbard in once, twice, three times, 2006 is different. It has to be.

A sweep really can't do all that much to the Amazin' Mets. They'll still be nine games up on Atlanta with room to spare.

That being said, if anyone could destroy this season, it would be the Jones boys. Some current Mets helped ruin other teams' hopes: Tom Glavine's name is foremost among all those with Julio Franco also seeing Larry and Andruw to first-place finishes.

But here's one name most people won't remember in connection with Atlanta: Eli Marrero. Although he is pretty clearly the 25th man on this team and his Mets legacy will consist of him being traded for the biggest bust ever, he hit .320/.374/.520 for those Gravedigger Braves of twenty oh-four. Even though it was his only season in Atlanta, Marrero played in one of those games.

Sunday, August 1st. 2004. Eli went three for four against Tom Glavine and the battery of relievers that followed him: Ricky Botallico, Mike DeJean, Mike Stanton and Braden Pooper. While Andruw Jones' three-run shot made me forget the strange hope that season produced, Marrero did it all silently, while still complicit in the burying of the Mets. Julio Franco played a part as well, going two for four, scoring two runs and driving in another. Forget you not that Tom Glavine, ex-Brave extraordinaire, also helped the Mets bury themselves. He went five innings and gave up six runs on nine hits.

Maybe fortunes will be reversed, with Eli, Julio and Tom digging the grave for their former employers and on it helping the Mets to build new ground. Maybe even a new dominance in the NL East.

And that's where my Mets wish comes in. Maybe I'm selfish; I know I can be.

I don't want any doubt. Pedro's back. El Duque's here for the pressure. And, irony be damned, Tom Glavine is pitching the Sunday game just like he did two years ago.

The Braves are hot. There's no denying that. They got Bob Wickman, whose vast girth and copious facial hair is supposed to scare the Mets straight. Yeah, right. Smoltz saved Friday night and Sunday afternoon games last time these two met in this similar situation. Bob Wickman is not John Smoltz, who also will not face the Mets in this series. Thank god for that.

Instead, the Mets take on two lefties and a righty. First they face Captain Horacio Ramirez, who is basically Tom Glavine 10 years ago. Then comes the not-so-scary-anymore-are-we? Tim Hudson, who's scuffled to an 8-8 record on the season coupled with an ERA just shy of five. Then Sunday afternoon, in the finale, they see the new breed... I'm Chuck James, Bitch!

I think he plays Steve Avery in your old nightmares, or Mike Hampton in the shell-shocked 2004 flashbacks.

[[Mr. Lo Duca, if you're reading this out loud to the team, feel free to start here.]]

Now, the time has come for swift and decisive victory.

The Mets have to win this series to finally bury the Braves and make it the end of their dynasty.

And while a series win is just dandy, that's not what I'm calling for.

I'm calling for a sweep. And not just any sweep. A sweep where the Mets beat the crap out of the Braves every inning, never ceasing to rest or never lazily drifting behind a fly ball.

No bringing in Shingo Takatsu with the bases loaded and Miguel Cabrera at the plate.

No Takatsu either after Braden Looper blows leads in the ninth and the tenth.

Hell, why don't we just ban Takatsu altogether? I'm down with that.

The Mets need to do everything this series. They can't give up home runs to pitchers.

They can't let anyone on the tomahawk choppers play like Barry Bonds, circa 2001.

They've gotta throw the first no-hitter in the history of the franchise? How's that sound? Glavine, or Pedro maybe? Glavine's better for the storybook.

How about a twelve-run inning? How about a thirteen-run inning?

Why does it not make sense to make every Braves pitcher sweat like Ryan Dempster did in the ninth inning of Tuesday's game? Who cares if they lost? They played well for the first time in the entire game.

Every inning, let's threaten. Let's scare Andruw and Marcus and Smoltzie and Huddy and LaRoche and Wickman and Langerhans and Frenchy and all of those bastards. Most of all, let's get Larry.

He thinks he's such a hero, playing through whatever nagging injury he has this month just so he can try and ruin our season. Not this time, pal.

Let's sweep 'em, boys. Return the friggin' favor.

And then we'll talk about trading for Zito on Monday.

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One thing that has not existed with this Mets team is disappointment.

Rarely do you come away from the game saying, "Boy, they were really disappointing tonight."

And yet the Mets' effort today marked the third straight game displaying a lack of effort. It seemed as though winning wasn't as important to them as it was to me.

Jose Reyes wasn't getting to balls he normally handles and Cliff Floyd hardly made up for his expensive bases-loaded bobble with a laser-beam throw to second base. And Glavine made that bad throw, a little reminiscent of that start against Pittsburgh, where his failure to pick up a bunt nearly cost the slumping Mets another game.

Bad defense has been a hallmark of Mets' teams since the Greatest Defensive Infield Ever of 1999 broke up. Kaz Matsui comes to mind as a joke of a fielder. But his weak fielding never looked like a lack of effort or even a lack of focus.

Boy, these kids, though. They played their hearts out for two innings today, and figured that would be enough to beat a woeful team like the Cubs. Even with an ace like Carlos Zambrano on the hill, the Mets should be shredding the Cubs and making a cereal called "Shredded Mini-Cubs! Now with Phil Nevin!"

Glavine looked awful on the hill, allowing homers and walking batters, things hardly conducive to winning. Glavine seemed to be unable to land that big out, especially against Henry Blanco, a player who's cost his teams 19 runs in his career at the plate instead of a replacement player. But fellow Cub Neifi Perez makes Blanco look like Babe Ruth, as he's cost his teams 57 runs at the dish over a replacement player in his career.

Somehow, though, Phil Nevin and Aramis Ramirez, the new-age Bash Brothers, combined to squash the Metsies at Shea. Ryan Dumpster gave his best shot at putting the Comeback Kids right back into the game but was finally thwarted by player-coach Julio Franco, who's been hitting like a coach lately. I'd rather Willie or Manny Acta pinch-hit than he.

The Duck gave it his best quack aginst Bob (or is it Bobby) Howry, but came up just short on some freaky back-up slider that moved hard in the wrong direction.

I wish it was a time where one could say, "Ah, screw it, let's get 'em next time." Unfortunately, that's been the tune we've all been singing since the Mets stunk it up against Houston on Sunday. At this point, a more rational approach to take is to call this a Dog Days swoon and look at the standings. No one really wants to challenge the Mets, so the lead is safe for now.

A few quick hits:

-ENDY! Endy Chavez, the former Met farmhand, has been absolutely dynamite since beating out Tike Redman and Victor Diaz to become the Mets' fourth outfielder. As much as I criticize the Yankee great Randolph, it seems as though he really has the capability to make talented but enigmatic players work for him. Chavez is no exception and has been an amazing pickup.

-What the boys in da booth were saying about the bench is absolutely correct. Without Valentin (and occasionally Chavez) as pinch-hitters, the Mets lack any lefty capability off the bench. Not to mention that Eli Marrero, Julio Franco and Chris Woodward pose no threat to anyone's starting job with the way they've been hitting. Find a way to get a lefty version of either Marrero or Woodward who can hit. And yes, that last qualifier rules out AAA options Michael Sucker, Jose Awfulman and Anderson "I Couldn't Hit Like Keith/Hell, I can't even hit like Livan" Hernandez.

-Are you thinking Omar's gonna make a deal? Me too.

-Brad Chadford (also ESPN's NBA insider) went and proved today once again why inherited runners scored/stranded is a stat that lacks meaning for the most part and is not a matter of consistency.

-Boy, Willie used Heath Bell one game too early. If he's a mop-up guy who's not as good as Darren Oliver, he can't be used in high-leverage situations. I mentioned it earlier in a false alarm column after Duaner Sanchez's injury, but the time is now: Bring the Ring.

-Due to other obligations, I won't be able to watch tomorrow's game live. I do, however, have two TiVos armed and ready. If I'm not too tired to post, expect something well after the game's likely 3:45 end time.

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A Rotation Divided

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
-Abraham Lincoln, 1858

The Mets' rotation is a potpourri of good and bad, and at this point it's becoming apparent that... it's impossible to tell which is which.
With the news that the Mets will employ a six-man rotation, it's increasingly obvious that Willie doesn't give a damn.

The Mets' best pitcher this year by VORP? [Source: BP] Tom Glavine. That's pretty obvious, his recent underwhelming performances notwithstanding. Glavine looks like a four-inning pitcher out there, though.

#2 in VORP? Easy, again. Pedro Martinez, who was easily the Mets' best starter up until his hip injury, despite Glavine's gaudy win total. Pedro's only shortcoming was the propensity for allowing the longball.

#3 in VORP? Don't tell me... Trachsel? Think again. Duque? No. Soler? Ha! Wagner/Sanchez/Bradford/Feliciano? Not so much. Try Darren Oliver.

What does this all mean? Well, for what it's worth, Steve Trachsel allows over ten hits (and four walks) per nine innings, while whiffing about 4 in the same span and allowing slightly more than one home run. So let's look at this pitching line

IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR
9      10      _      _       4      4     1

Without the runs filled in, how on earth is that line supposed to look pretty? And these are stats from before tonight's game, where Trachsel only took 4.2 innings to give up ten hits and eight runs, walking three and allowing three home runs.

Even though Trachsel has been hot lately, his VORP pre-Monday night massacre was 15.0! That means he's only been worth 15 more runs to the Mets than a cheap AAA starter in his place pitching his 19 starts. So, despite being the third best starting pitcher (again by VORP) on a staff that leads the NL in ERA, he's actually not that good.

And this is only the beginning. While we hear all of this stuff about El Duque coming up large in the postseason (and it is true for the most part,; he's 12-3 career with a 2.55 ERA), does that mean he should be making the third start in a postseason series?

With a health-challenged Pedro, a Glavine who burns out after four innings and another forty year old in Duque, does this Mets team assemble a formidable rotation that can go head to head with the elite of the NL and a White Sox team loaded with power bats or a Tiger squad leading the majors in ERA?

The answer, unfortunately, is no. And the fact that the Mets nearly won this game (thanks in part to the left-field antics of Matt Murton) speaks volumes about one of the worst pitchers on the worst club in the NL since the end of April, not anything about how well Trachsel pitched tonight.

A solution? Milledge for Zito. I love Firstings more than anyone who's ever rooted for a Met team, but he has far more value to Oakland than he does to us. Carlos Lee is a possibility in the offseason, not to mention fixer-uppers like Alfonso Soriano and Gary Sheffield (!), players who Willie might be able to motivate, à la Cliff Floyd and Jose Reyes.

Who cares if we can't sign BZ long-term? The Mets'll get a first-rounder (because if he's not in Flushing, he'll be in the Bronx) and a sandwich pick! Last time we had a first-rounder and a sandwich, it turned into Aaron Heilman and David Wright. Pretty pretty.

As per Trachsel, the last two runs charged to him crossed the plate with Heath "Ez-Pass" Bell (who apparently has made a full recovery from his wheelchair) on the hill. I take issue with Willie using Heath there, as Pierre had been 0 for 2 to that point against Trachsel. Bell must have been rusty, what with not seeing game action in a long time. Juan Pierre was also 3 for 5 career against Bell going into that AB. Ignore his .600 career average and it still didn't make much sense, as Bell is hardly a pitcher suited to face a light-hitting lefty and moreover unable to pitch in high-leverage situations.

Nevertheless, the team didn't play with that sense of urgency you expect on a daily basis. Maybe Willie is to blame for not beating the shit out of them after yesterday's effort. For now, though, don't panic, but hold it in the back of your mind that the Mets lost to the friggin' Cubs.

Anyway, Tom Too Tired goes against Carlos "Not Victor" Zambrano tomorrow. Sounds promising. Uh-huh.

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Blogger/Backe/Buchholz... The Bastards

Well, I'm sure you missed me.

My internet's been down since before I returned from Friday night's brilliant John Maine extravaganza, marred only by rain (shown here above) and the fact that I had to leave before the merengue concert.

And when I came back to write today? Yes, that's right. Blogger was utterly and completely messed up.

Then, I went to Sunday's game, a much less pleasant affair. It led to a bunch of screaming and mixed blame. Why have Beltran and Nady appeared sloppy at times in the outfield? Why don't Reyes and Wright wear their sunglasses on their eyes instead of wearing them on the top of their hats? Why is Carlos Delgado such a butcher in the field? And, why, despite every reason to do otherwise, does Aaron Heilman jog to the bag instead of tossing the ball to Delgado or actually getting there before Met-killer-in-training Chris Burke.

I really am unsure of answers to any of these questions. My approach is now just... two out of three ain't bad. And I bet that's what Willie's saying, whether or not it's the right thing to do.

Despite the miserable conditions and my incredibly limited photographic acumen, I managed to snap a few shots from my seats in Section 44. I hope to have them up sooner rather than later. Moreover, I don't plan on pumping stress on my network when it has only recently returned to life.

Some thoughts:

--Jose Reyes really has looked out of sync at the plate since returning from his injury. He's looking like the pre-Rickey Reyes, hitting a lot of fly balls that die on the warning track or earlier.

--David Wright hasn't done anything power-wise since that two-run homer in the best inning ever. I liked what Willie did by resting him on Saturday, but it seemed not to matter much as he was still not exactly driving the ball on Sunday.

--As much as I can use my numbers to hate on him, Paul lo Duca (aka the Duck) has been great for this team and really seems to be a doubles machine.

--I know I haven't covered much football, but is Ty Law the only man in this world who still likes Herm Edwards? Apparently, as he inked a five-year deal with the Chiefs. That deal's just about as likely to be played out for its full length as Tim Wakefield's lifetime contract with Boston.

--The Rangers traded Dominic Moore? Can't you people tell me these things? And, no, Dominic. It's not "forget aboot it."

--Can Carlos Beltran hit at home? I'm thinking no.

--It was inevitable that Carlos Delgado would come out of this slump, and four homers in his last four games is awfully nice. I'm thinking we won't be seeing Franco, Marrero, Woodward or Nady back at first anytime soon.

--Jose Valentin is money in the bank. Despite his awful appearances at the dish pre-series against the Brewers, he's come out so well that he's blown away expectations from even before he stunk it up in PSL.

--Anything Tim Kurkjian says has to be taken at face value, mostly because he's not as good as Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark or Buster Olney, but also because he seems to think his opinion about his one Hall of Fame vote is more important than everything else baseball-related except the Astros and how they'll win the National League every year. But he said something pretty scary. The ChiSox with Soriano too... oh lordy lordy.

--You know something else? Kaz Matsui was supposed to only spend a little time in AAA Colorado Springs to learn shortstop. Traded in mid-June, he's still awaiting the call from the big club. But he is beating the snot out of the ball, hitting at a .364/.440/.409 clip in the Rocky mountain air.

--One great and lasting impression: Floyd Landis.

I'll be back later with some thoughts on tonight's game against the woeful Cubs.

Watch out for Aramis Ramirez, he's real hot right now. And just another thought. If the Mets were to trade for Greg Maddux (tonight's CHC starting pitcher, seen here doing Satan's chores) prior to gametime, would he make the start or would Trachsel?

That's a thought for another column.

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