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What's this I hear?

The Mets acquired a living, breathing human being for Guillermo Mota?

That Guillermo Mota?

And even better?

The living, breathing thing is Johnny Estrada: a former All-Star catcher at age 31.

He may have only walked 12 times last year – but his 2.3 WARP3 easily bests Mota's .9.

More later.


A Return

It's been 48 days since I last spoke to you. Since that fateful day, there have been many tears shed, many culprits named, many pitchers who weren't devastated.

But there have been no Mets wins.

Sure, we saw some life out of favorite whipping boy Kaz Matsui – who has been offered a three-year deal by the Chicago Cubs – during the playoffs, en route to a surprising show from the Colorado Rockies.

But it was all about the Red Sox: forget the Phillies, the Yankees, all the teams about whom, as Mets fans, we once cared.

The season is long since over, and the offseason is kicking into gear. Sure, we won't have hours and hours to agonize about the fate of Alex Rodriguez – and whether David Wright will move to second base, first base or left field, and we most likely won't spend our time thinking about what will happen should the Mets sign A-Rod and send Jose Reyes to Minnesota for Johan Santana.

We won't be thinking about obtaining hot trade commodities like Jake Peavy, who unanimously won a Cy Young Award earlier this week, Santana, or Miguel Cabrera, who, along with his apathy and exponentially growing waistline, is allegedly up for grabs.

Jorge Posada is gone, having returned to the Yanks for top dollar, and the fate of Tom Glavine as a New York Met – who was referenced, not by name, but by a wretched image, in my last post – seems to be resolved. The Mets don't really have any tremendous needs.

Right field is open, perhaps for Carlos Gomez, or Lastings Milledge, and for second base the Mets seem to be torn between David Eckstein and incumbent Luis Castillo – a combined 19 big-league seasons and 54 home runs.

Hope springs eternal in Flushing, and there are some things to be excited about: David Wright won a Gold Glove, Pedro Martinez was sterling after coming back, and even Mike Pelfrey started to emerge anew as a potential member of the starting rotation. John Maine threw a near no-no to keep the season alive. What great news!

We've heard the bad – save for that Brian Bannister, acquired for Ambiorix Burgos, who makes Armando Benitez look like is Armando Benitez, came in third in the voting for AL Rookie of the Year as the ace of the KC Royals. Good thing we had such a surplus of young and capable starting pitching, like Brian Lawrence.

And we were perplexed this week to learn of the strange saga of Yorvit Torrealba.

You may ask "Why?" or "Who?" or "Are there any peanuts in it?"

We heard three years, $14 million. Then it was gone. His shoulder they suggest, but we can't tell for sure.

Is Ramon Castro the future? Not unless the future includes half of its days lost to injury, solely for being out of shape.

Now would be a nice time to have Jesus Flores, who will backstop Manny Acta's Washington Nationals to glory in the near future, while the Mets twiddle their thumbs trying to avoid calling Jason Phillips' agent.

They can't. The catching situation is bad: maybe the Mets will go after Jason Kendall, whose 63 OPS+ would really buoy the team, or maybe they should sign Michael Barrett in hopes of nabbing a true clubhouse leader.

Did you know Kris Benson is a free agent? Sign me up. When Carlos Silva (CARLOS SILVA?!) is slated to earn nearly $40 million in a contract, doesn't the prospect of Kris playing for damn near free sound appealing to you? That's a return – unlike mine – that we can all feel happy about.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving.



to quote radiohead,

You do it to yourself, you do
And that's what really hurts
Is that you do it to yourself
Just you and no-one else
You do it to yourself.


Scarred and Scared

Please ignore my last post.

The cruel joke appears to be over, but another win might help.

I'll be back writing regularly when I stop sweating.


Smooth Sailing

You may have been wondering why I haven't joined you in this space of late. You're probably all the better for it, and I have ridden myself of nearly all anxiety regarding the Mets, except a nasty rash that breaks out when Guillermo Mota's "I Like to Move it Move it" song plays over the Shea sound system.

The team has entrenched themselves as increasingly infallible. I didn't think I'd be saying this after the sweep against the Phillies, after the Braves were the Mets' kryptonite this year, and after the entire starting pitching staff and bullpen looked to be on the brink of collapse.

But the Magic Number is 11... it's possible to count it on Antonio Alfonseca's fingers. That's always a good sign.

And I don't think a comeback for anyone is on the way: after three games against the hated "Team to Beat," the Mets play six against the Nationals and seven against the Marlins alongside one against the Cardinals to close out the season. That's a game every day, and you can bet the Mets will be sending out the big guns: Conine, Gotay, Endy, Carlos Gomez, and maybe even Anderson Hernandez will take the field for some meaningless games in September.

Once the Phillies are dead and gone (the Braves are practically there already), the Mets can relax and set the yacht to auto-pilot. Moises can lay on the beach, glove extended, provided he doesn't strain anything. Pedro can find a Dominican dwarf-horror film actor to carry around.

It's smooth sailing until October.


Five the Hard Way

Well played, Mets.

After five devastating losses in a row, I guess this was the best they could do. They've put on nightly shows more entertaining than Celine Dion's, and that's not easy.

Tonight, the Duck played unlikely hero in a contest that one couldn't have called for the Mets from the get-go. Oliver Perez continued to be erratic, banking tonight's start as the opening argument in the case of why wins are a relatively useless statistic.

Ollie walked five for the third straight start, though this time he did not bring the ten strikeouts that he showed in Philly, allowing five runs to cross the plate in five innings. Only three of those runs were earned, though, on account of Paul Lo Duca's errant throw, his seventh error of the year. Is it just me, or does Paul Lo Duca make you want to trade for Mike Piazza, if only as a late-inning defensive replacement?

But Duck did another Mike Piazza impression tonight. He drove in seven of the Mets' 11 runs, blasting (erm, they were at the GABP, and the ball went like, two feet over the fence) two three-run shots and a single as well. Perhaps Paul had some money on the long side this evening?

Get this: the Duck had five homers and 34 RBI coming into tonight's game, and he leaves with seven and 41. I'll bet a chunk of his winnings are made out to Todd Coffey and Matt Belisle, who, apparently, are major league pitchers.

Yesterday, they run out a half-rate thespian in relief and a pitcher whose last name makes me think I'm watching a certain SNL sketch, and today they have Bill Bray (who came along with Gary Majewski in one of the worst trades in recent memory) giving up three runs in zero point zero innings of work and some dude named after a fish walk two in an inning of work.

To think, all but one of those replacement-level clowns have better ERAs than Guillermo Mota (2 years, $5MM) and Scott Schoeneweis (3 years, $10.5MM). In Omar We Trust? Yeah, right.

I'll keep my criticism curt, for I have little choice but to be pleased with five straight victories. These games took a contribution from everyone in the rotation (even El Duque, whose achy foot forced Pedro back into active duty), and, more importantly, the bats have started clicking again.

David Wright is still firing on all cylinders, Beltran is putting together some strong showings, Alou is using a touch extra of urine on his hands, and even Carlos Delgado is clobbering the occasional ball. Hell, Shawn Green and the Duck combined for six hits today! If Jose Reyes were clicking, this would be the dream team all over again.

Who knows: Baseball Prospectus gives the Mets a 95+ percent chance of winning the division. I think he can get a little rest.


Memo to SNY: I know the quirky announcers are often the best, but can someone remind Gary and Keith that at least one of them has to be the straight man, even in lopsided games. It was getting so bad, as they were one-upping eachother with memories of Underdog, that I was thinking of muting their game and going over to WCBS just to hear John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman have awkward pauses and cut eachother off.

Tomorrow: John Maine looks to push forward against the legendary Tom Shearn. 12:35 p.m. is your first pitch.


Four Straight

I can't blame Guillermo Mota for this one. Can't blame Willie, Delgado, or even Shawn Green. The usual scapegoats are gone.

The lack of scapegoats crippled the Mets this evening, as they lost 3-1 to the Phillies in absolutely heartbreaking fashion. You'd think losing on a Ryan Howard walk-off shot with Mota on the hill would be rough.

But you haven't seen the wrath of C.B. Bucknor.

While pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson is probably absolved of blame on account of a hit that put the Mets in good position to tie, he was obviously trying to interfere with second baseman Tadahito Iguchi. But he's a veteran! Keith would say that he has tailor-made fundamentals, or something.

And obviously you would know that Shawn Green, slower than MetroNorth, would actually have made it safely to first, and Endy would have crossed the plate, and the game would have been tied. The Mets would have beaten wife-beating Brett Myers.

But Marlon Anderson thought it best to make up for Pearl Harbor with his pugilistic skills at second base, and Iguchi acted with the adeptness of a seasoned veteran of the West End.

So, we're here. The lead is three, gentlemen, and we're headed to Atlanta for the weekend. Color me scared.



Durb your enthusiasm. I'm back, but the Mets are taking a little bit of a vacation.

Sure, they didn't play like their overrated Bronx counterparts, who witnessed the magic of Mike Mussina and Quality Veteran Pitching, en route to being three-hit by Justin Verlander and losing 16-0.

The Mets learned a little bit about why the Quality Veteran Pitching doesn't buy you much tonight. Brian Lawrence, a Quality Veteran Pitcher himself, the former ace of the 64-98 2003 San Diego Padres, took the hill against J.D. Durbin, a pitcher with 7 starts to his career ledger and a 5.68 career ERA.

Who won? It should have been Lawrence, the Quality Veteran Pitcher, the one who was promoted by the Mets despite having zero upside and a fastball that would be lucky to touch 85 on the gun.

The Mets didn't want to lose him on account of his opt-out clause should another club offer him a major league deal. Lawrence would be a major loss: a 3.87 ERA in AAA is impossible to replicate. So they promoted him and let him take the fifth starter spot. Jorge Sosa was slipping, and Mike Pelfrey wasn't going to hold it either.

Fair enough. I was all for Lawrence getting the first shot. And he looked okay, at times.

But now, this is a nightmare that just won't end. Thank Moises that Pedro is on his way. He nearly beat the Class A Palm Beach Cardinals tonight!

However, Pedro isn't your ordinary Quality Veteran Pitcher. He throws a filthy changeup and curve, and also happens to have three Cy Young Awards and is two strikeouts away from three thousand.

Brian Lawrence has a career ERA+ of 95 and once was the ace for some last-place Padre teams, and, well, things didn't go as well as planned tonight.

J.D. Durbin held the Mets hitless through four innings, and shut 'em down afterwards.

I love Quality Veteran Pitchers, don't you?


A Sigh of Relief

I'm not sure Tom Glavine has been the Mets' ace this year- he has shown periods of extreme inability to pitch like one, and he frequently is in trouble with walks and too many balls. But he sure as hell pitched like one tonight.

Sure, to repeat the all too common refrain, they're still in first, et cetera, but they needed to win this game tonight. Despite that necessity, we saw something of the B-Team out there again: our good friend Mike DiFelice (of the +.1 WARP1 since 2004) was behind the plate, Shawn Green was in right field against a lefty, and Damion Easley was at first base. Not exactly the team you'd want in Game 7 (though Yadier Molina might not be on that team either).

The gang of misfits became the unlikeliest of heroes tonight. Green was on base twice, DiFelice drove in three and hit a long triple (the ninth of his long career), and Easley set the tone with an early home run and managed not to screw up at first base.

Factor in a slick double play from Reyes and Castillo, both of whom were on base twice tonight, and great plate discipline and contributions all around the lineup, and you have the seeds of a win. Seeds, mind you, that were grown into nice shrubbery by Tom Glavine.

Glavine threw seven innings, allowing eight hits and a walk, but whiffing six and keeping the Nationals, a pretty hot team, to one run. Although we heard the rumblings of "here we go again. . ." when Jorge Sosa took the hill and proceeded to have a rough go of it, there was Pedro Feliciano returning to form and inducing a ground-ball right to Reyes for the double play. Pedro even went the extra mile, as it were, by not melting down in the ninth inning, which allowed Alpaca Man to remain in the bullpen.

This game was one of those which you expected to win, like last night's, and the feeling afterwards is less rejoicing than it is relief. You'd like to have your regular lineup back, and you'd like to beat Matt Chico a little bit more resoundingly, but for now, the Mets will take it day by day.


Another One

I know they won two out of three. But still, might we be able to question Willie's field managing skills?

Read my Talkin' Pitchin' With Aarin' Heilmin' sketch from the archives.

I promise I'll be back tomorrow– though this is starting to resemble Groundhog Day.


A Few Business Notes

Hi, all:

  • Sorry for not posting anything all that meaty or pithy of late; I wish I had an excuse other than "Willie is really starting to turn my stomach." I'll be back tonight.

  • If you're bored, check out my piece about the bullpen of woe at Mike's Mets.





Nobody's perfect, including Billy Wagner.

Back to back poor showings: maybe there's some money in alpaca farming.

Carlos is back, but he's no Hess truck: better than ever is hardly true.

The offense is awful. Terrible.

I can throw harder than Brian Lawrence. With my toes.

Where have you gone, Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Jose Reyes, Paul Lo Duca, Moises Alou? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

I'm aghast.

Alejandro De Aza, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Olivo, and Hanley Ramirez all had more hits than Delgado, Wright, and Beltran combined. What a wonderful world.

Pinch me. This must be a dream.

Mike Piazza cleared waivers. Is he available to be a defensive replacement for Lo Duca?

Daniel Barone? Kevin Gregg? Matt Lindstrom? This isn't a major league team.

Have a good night, but you might want to load up on the Ambien rather than tossing and turning and reflecting on this one.


Nothing Perpetuates Momentum Like a Brick Wall

Tom Glavine won his 300th game on Sunday evening, and there was much rejoicing. (YAYY!) But the Braves know how to take wind out of the Mets' sails. Tom Glavine was theirs before he was ours, and they wanted to assure us wholeheartedly that they were aware of that.

They came out firing against the Mets' Braves specialist, if you will, Oliver Perez, and the game appeared lopsided early. Matt Die-Az jacked one in the opening frame, and it was all downhill from there. The Mets weren't able to muster much offense, notching only three runs all game. Who opposed them this game? Was Smoltz on the hill? Tim Hudson? I think not.

My friends, it was Buddy Carlyle, of the 7-6 record and 5.60 ERA for his career, who toed the rubber against the Mets tonight.

I'm not sure what it is about the Braves that ruins the Mets so: double plays and shoddy pitching abounded tonight.

One thing is sure, though: the curse is not broken.

Another: I hate the Braves.


Questions Unanswered

I wasn't really watching tonight's game in Milwaukee to discover the outcome. It was totally secondary. Sure, I would always prefer that the Mets win, but tonight was Tom Glavine's night. Maybe the Mets had to win for Glavine to get three hundred. I think that's mostly a technicality.

We've seen ups and downs from Glavine, but he rarely has put together efforts as strong as tonight's against the top dogs of the NL Central. Six innings of two-hit ball? Awesome. I won't mention that he had five walks, but even seven baserunners in six plus innings is nasty.

Everyone looked great tonight, for the most part. Heilman was a man on a mission. Castillo played tight defense in his debut. Moises and Wright did what they had to at the plate. But someone forgot to send that memo to Pedro Feliciano, who has traded places with Scott Schoeneweis of late, becoming an incredible liability in close games.

But you can't blame Pedro. He's been ridden like Secretariat for the second straight season, and this year he hasn't even been able to tag-team with Chad Bradford to bring the funk. The Mets have had a revolving door for righty setup men, featuring luminaries like Jon Adkins, Ambiorix Burgos, and Lino Urdaneta. Don't tell me to check my facts: all three appeared in at least one game.

Most importantly, though, they don't have Duaner Sanchez, who last year followed Heilman many eighth innings, like clockwork. Joe Smith, too, was overworked the first half of the season, and was demoted to AAA.

Apparently, though, our dear manager was too busy to read scouting reports, spending his time instead hobnobbing with this fine thespian on your right, who, perhaps non-coincidentally, believes that the alien ruler of something called the "Galactic Confederacy" brought people to earth 75 million years ago in spaceships and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. The people, not the spaceships.

So, he used Heilman for the seventh and one out in the eighth. That's fine; Aaron's been hot lately. Unfortunately, as they say, the best laid plans. . . Nevertheless, Willie opted to call on Pedro Feliciano to face the lefty Prince Fielder. That's where he lost me. Feliciano has been ice cold lately (21.60 ERA this past week). But given the way he has faced righties all season, one would think that Willie wasn't just leaving him in for one batter.

Instead, Pedro can't find the strike zone, and Willie has to go to the rock of the Mets' bullpen. The go-to-guy. The man with a plan. The equalizer. Guillermo Mota. The reliever of a 5.40 ERA. The same one who needed anabolic steroids in 2006 to attain a 4.53 ERA.

Was Willie drunk? Did he forget that Chad Bradford no longer pitches for this team? Did he forget that Joe Smith was sent down for Jon Adkins, who in turn was sent down for David Newhan? The Mets' groundball funk machine in the pen was sent down for David Newhan. Read that sentence again.

Actually, aside from the first little blemish on Mota's evening (a rocket of a ground-rule double off Bill Hall's bat), he managed quite the little escape act. Sure, Gary Cohen can call Jorge Sosa, who is probably going to be displaced from his Thursday start, Houdini, but Mota's feat was similarly impressive.

Weirdly, though, this game had a playoff atmosphere. Perhaps it was because of the implications of Glavine hunting for 300. But he will live for many other starts. Maybe it was the fact that Jeff Suppan started this game. By the way, if you were asked which opposing pitcher would be responsible for foiling what could be one of the Mets' greatest nights of the season, the Supp' Nazi would definitely be near the top of your list. That's a fact.

How does this guy dominate the Mets? He doesn't strike anyone out, walks too many, has an awesome 114-110 career record (with the sterling 4.64 ERA to boot), and has a 5.89 ERA in July. Maybe if Steve Trachsel's not too busy losing games in front of three fans in Baltimore, he could give Jeff a few pointers. Inexplicably, he has a 2.81 career ERA against the Mets.

And after Suppan, the crack staff of Brewer relievers looked pretty good. Maybe Carlos Villanueva doesn't scare you, but he scares the rest of us. Derrick Turnbow and Francisco Cordero were both tough. And then comes Matt Wise. Maybe you're not incredibly familiar with him, but I've been pumping him for a while on account of his filthy change. Oh, no, I thought. We're toast.

And then, ten straight balls. This game's script was starting to read like an Alec Baldwin SNL sketch. But then Brian Shouse, who brings the funk, came in to face Moises, already with two balls on him. [ED NOTE: :::chuckles:::] And Shouse gave him a third. But then Moises being Moises did what Moises does. Six. Four. Three.

If game-ruining double plays were game-winning hits, Moises Alou would be David Ortiz.

So the bottom of the eleventh came, as it invariably will, when only David Newhan (our unlikely and untalented hero!) is capable of mustering a hit against the indomitable Chris Spurling. Aaron Sele took to the hill, a bastion of Metness, throwing soft curveballs and soft fastballs to the Brewers.

Unfortunately, Geoff Jenkins greeted him rudely with a single. Corey Hart, who couldn't lay down a bunt, never surrenders (look it up), and he blooped a single. Thankfully, Delgado atoned for his error in the ninth with a nice throw to third on a failed bunt, and Luis Castillo started the double play against the next batter.

And madness, as per usual, ensued. Firstings was diving left and right, all the while looking like a near-great in center.

But at the end of the day, there was one last mistake left up Willie's sleeve. He left Aaron Sele in to face Geoff Jenkins, instead of bringing in Scott Schoeneweis, and the outfielder scalded a two-run walk-off shot after Tony Graffanino's leadoff double in the thirteenth. And Willie ought to answer for that.

Transaction Reaction: 2B Luis Castillo

Although GM Omar Minaya hasn't swung any blockbuster trades this year, the Mets on Monday made a minor move in acquiring second baseman Luis Castillo from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for minor league catcher Drew Butera and minor league outfielder Dustin Martin.

Castillo, 31, was putting together an average season in his second year in Minnesota, batting .304/.356/.352 in 85 games. Butera was batting a rather anemic .231/.297/.344 for St. Lucie and Binghamton in 82 games, and Martin was hitting at a .289/.359/.422 clip in 95 games, all but two at St. Lucie.

I can't help but be somewhat nonplussed by this trade. Obviously the Mets aren't giving up much here, but I'm inclined to wonder why Minnesota opted to deal the impending free agent, a move which forced unproven prospect Alexi Casilla into a starting position on the depth chart.

I am also confused about the Mets' methodology behind this trade. I would understand the move if they were somehow in possession of a secret time machine capable of resurrecting the Castillo of a few seasons ago, but at present he is a singles hitter with hamstrings more torn than Natalie Imbruglia.

Obviously the Mets have not been enamored with Ruben Gotay's recent showing as the full-time second baseman, but Castillo is hardly a defensive upgrade over Gotay. Baseball Prospectus lists Gotay's Fielding Rate as 97 with a -2 FRAA. That's below average, but Castillo's numbers are far worse: Fielding Rate of 93 with a -6 FRAA.

As recently as 2005, Luis was a whiz in the field and a sparkplug in the lineup, but offensively there's no comparison: Gotay's EqA is .311 and Castillo's is .269.

This year, Castillo is posting his lowest OBP since 2001, and he has only stolen nine bases. Nine! Even Shawn Green, who, according to Joe Benigno, stinks, has nine steals. Castillo, unfortunately, isn't much more than a washed-up singles hitter.

I'm not sure how to evaluate this deal, when all's said and done. The Mets gave up almost nothing to acquire an impending free agent who fills a near-void at second base (despite the Mets retaining the services of every second baseman in the nation: Anderson Hernandez, David Newhan, Marlon Anderson, Easley, Gotay, the injured 'Stache), but he's not much of an upgrade over Ruben Gotay, who's been absolutely raking at the dish.

I hope Omar can think of something better, because I'm not entirely certain the Mets have exactly counteracted the Braves' addition of Teixeira by acquiring a latter-day Chuck Knoblauch.

The Deadline Dish

Deadline Dish

12:18 PM Tuesday: Not too much news to announce. The Cardinals acquired Joel Pineiro from the Red Sox, and Scott Proctor is headed to the Dodgers for Wilson Betemit.

More importantly, though, are the potential moves on the horizon. Although Octavio Dotel is possibly headed to Atlanta, he may, in fact, still be available for the taking. The Red Sox are still aggressively pursuing Jermaine Dye, and their trade of Pineiro indicates, perhaps, that they believe ESPN's Buster Olney, who calls the Sox the frontrunners for Eric Gagné. Olney also lists the Mets and the Brewers among the three top teams.

I'll keep you posted.

1:45 AM Tuesday: Okay, kids, maybe I'm getting a late start on this, but throughout today we will be top-notch rumor mongers and critical thinkers regarding the 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline for Major League Baseball.

What to watch for:
  • Transaction Reaction: Luis Castillo for two soon to be ex-baseball players
  • Full coverage of all Mets rumors and some others, too
  • Breakdown of division-impacting moves: Teixeira to Atlanta, Lohse to Philadelphia, and are others on the way?

    Stay tuned; it's a going to be a mostly forgettable journey. Don't forget that Tom Glavine's gunning for 300, A-Rod for 500, and Barry for 755* once the sun sets on the Wild West. See you then.
  • 7.28.2007

    The Dull Flame of Doubleheaders

    I don't have much to write about this morning's win and this evening's loss.

    However, à la Spy Magazine, I will present two lists, representing my feelings about today as a whole...

    LIST 1:

    • Moises Alou
    • Willie Randolph
    • Jose Reyes
    • Pedro Feliciano
    • Paul Lo Duca
    • Marlon Anderson

    LIST 2:

    • El Duque
    • Aaron Heilman
    • Jesus Flores
    • Ruben Gotay
    • Carlos Delgado
    • David Wright

    Gut-wrenching, isn't it? I'll see you on another occasion, but for now, I implore you to read the italicized text below.

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    A Routine Affair

    Well, you'd expect a bit more of a take-no-prisoners attitude from a self-dubbed band of pirates, wouldn't you? Instead, this group seemed a little less than swashbuckling. Perhaps the Friendly Manatees would be a good name, unless you're describing their incredibly charming treatment of Lastings Milledge, who might as well be a chest of buried treasure under nonstop pillage.

    Pardon my kidding about piracy. I watched a segment on Sean Hannity's vanity program on Fox News Channel, Hannity's America (and the nation really is his, you know), where he explained that piracy was still a huge problem affecting our society. So huge, in fact, that I postponed my yearly sailing voyages to Indonesia and Somalia out of fear.

    I'm proud of Glavine's 299th, but he's been absolutely awful since about mid-May this year. I too noticed that stat on SNY showing Glavine's 4 no-decisions in 5 seasons while with the Mets after being staked to 6-run leads, compared to 1 in sixteen seasons with Atlanta. He's been struggling so much lately, it wouldn't be a stretch to compare him to another of the worst pitchers in my Mets memory: himself two seasons ago.

    Glavine appears to be out of tricks hidden up his sleeve, as evidenced by his barely quality start tonight: six innings, eight hits, three walks, 113 pitches (47 balls, 66 strikes), and only two strikeouts. He feasts on the naivete of young hitters, and this Pirates lineup is filled with 'em, not to mention the fact that they're second to last in the major leagues in runs scored, third to last in OPS, third to last in total bases, and last in on-base percentage. A real murderer's row they have there.

    While the Mets notched a win in a fashion that has become surprisingly routine during this hot streak, with early scoring and Lastings Milledge swaggering his way to victory, Tom Glavine's shoddy showings have become equally numerable. Sorry, Tommy, but maybe you might be better suited going out on a high note. If he has a lead after five innings next start, it might be advisable for him to just run off the field, à la Victor Zambrano. Who knows, maybe the Braves will pick him up.

    It might be rather meaningful when analyzing Glavine's season to discuss what transpired this offseason, when the lefty desired to return to Atlanta and instead re-signed with New York after the Bravos were reportedly unwilling to put his name on a check.

    Did the Braves have the right idea in opting not to pony up for a starter whose better days are behind him? Only time shall tell, but to my knowledge the Mets are on the hook for next year should Glavine pitch 160 innings. He retains an opt-out clause should that option become guaranteed.

    For a pitcher who has lost the mystique and fastball that guided him through his best years with Atlanta, one must only hope for continued strong run support on the offense's part and perhaps better command from Tommy.

    A prediction? Moises Alou injured his shoulder while punching Jose Valentin when their paths crossed at the orthopedist's office. Carlos Beltran injured his abdominal muscles while attempting to punch off his own mole (left).

    Lastings Milledge looked alright in centerfield tonight, though one certainly does not hope that Anderson and Green will be starting in the corners everyday. Maybe Ben Johnson and his .185 average are worth another look. What's Shane Spencer doing these days? Hey, Eric Valent hit a whopping .209/.284/.256 for the Portland Sea Dogs. I hear he could really use a major league job to lift his spirits.

    I know Green had a good night, and that Anderson's looked good since joining the Mets, and Milledge is probably a future star, but can the Mets really do no better than two thirtysomething lefthanded hitters with no defensive range and weak arms against a nasty lefthanded starter? We hear Beltran's day-to-day, but for him that usually means a ten-day absence and a subsequent period of total ineffectiveness.

    Seriously, the guy can get back in the lineup after a gut-wrenching collision of faces at high speed in the outfield, but he has a little muscular pain and he's suddenly Jeff Duncan at the plate, if he even bothers to play.

    Who taught Beltran how to become an ironman and win the hearts of Mets fans? Carl Everett? Just kidding, Carl. I referenced Sean Hannity in the post, so it's just as though I'm with you on the dinosaur thing.

    It was nice to see Damion Easley back in the lineup and even nicer to see a game without any major defensive blunders at second base. I like Gotay a lot, but I can understand how the Royals gave up on him for Jeff Keppinger.

    Just a quick note: at the price of Ty Wigginton and prospects Matt Peterson (who spent most of this year at AA for Pittsburgh, despite being at the same level four years ago with the Mets and being way too old for it now, and still hasn't surfaced on the big league roster of an awful team) and Justin Huber (who is hitting .243 for the Royals' AAA affiliate, stuck behind former Met folk hero Craig Brazell and his 25 long balls on the depth chart), the Mets netted Gotay, John Maine, and El Duque. Too bad we had to suffer through a year and a half of Kris and Anna to complete that deal.

    Tomorrow's a bright and early start, 12:10 p.m. It's swell for the kids in summer camp, not so much for the unemployed alcoholic set. See you then.

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    Off-Day Blues

    It is a little disconcerting around here, in Metland. Sure, the team just won an incredible game against the Dodgers, taking three of four against some of the NL's steepest competition, but something just doesn't feel right.

    Sure, they put a little distance on the Braves and Phillies in the process, but something just doesn't feel right. Some of the most moribund components of the Mets' offensive attack were revived, call it the HoJo Effect, but something just isn't right about this team.

    Maybe it's the fact that Chip Ambres, Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Anderson Hernandez are on this team with a week and change until the trading deadline and no hope on the horizon. Maybe it's that the Mets are likely going to rely on an increasingly out-of-gas Glavine, a noble but still injured Sosa, an injury-prone Duque, and youngsters Maine and Perez to shepherd this starting rotation through the season. The rotation is (allegedly) a key strength.

    It could be the bullpen's struggles, which have resumed to haunt it after an incredible stretch prior to this road trip. Willie has two relievers who are to be counted upon in close games, and they're both lefties. Joe Smith isn't showing any of that magic we grew to love earlier this season, Aaron Heilman is liable to blow the game at any turn, Guillermo Mota still has a 5.53 ERA, and Aaron Sele, while not exactly disappointing, has made us lust for the 2006 Darren Oliver.

    Thankfully, the Mets are outperforming their Pythagorean record by three games. Coincidentally, perhaps, the Mets narrowly retain a lead of three and a half against Atlanta, inexplicably swept by Cincinnati earlier this week, despite almost identical Pythagorean records.

    I can't help but worry about this team, whether or not Pythagoras intended for that. You can still look at the lineup and find non-contributors in Shawn Green and whoever is slumping with him. Recently, we have seen Jose Reyes in near-freefall, Paul Lo Duca redefining useless, and the now-injured Jose Valentin showing nothing near last year's performance.

    This all makes us wonder: how on earth did this year's club, with ostensibly similar roster construction, manage to underperform so much compared to the magic of 2006? Was it really the departure of Chad Bradford? Was it Cliff Floyd? Eli Marerro? X-Man? Sancho?

    It's hard to say, but the Mets this week will attempt to embark on a new phase of the season. Moises Alou has parted the Atlantic and returned to action, as he is slated to join the Mets tomorrow. It's reasonable to assume there shall be platoons abounding in the corner outfield positions, with Firstings supplanting Green and Marlon Anderson spelling the fragile Moises.

    When Damion Easley, who receives the deepest condolences from this space, returns sometime this week or next, he, Anderson, and Ruben Gotay will form a triumverate at second base with Jose Valentin absent for the forseeable future.

    The pitching staff will remain relatively unchanged this week, but the Mets are undoubtedly looking to acquire relief pitching at the deadline, and the farm system is quite deep. Perhaps the Mets will pick up the righty setup man of their dreams. And speaking of righty setup men, Duaner Sanchez is a candidate to make an appearance sometime next month, according to his agent, Bean Stringfellow, seemingly a Monty Python character. Have we forgotten Pedro, too, the key rotation cog from last year's club who has been nothing more than an urban legend in 2007?

    Relish the future for the Mets. The adversity is slowing, but with seven at home prior to the deadline against the Pirates and Nationals, is a clean sweep too much to ask for? I think not.


    A few quick notes:
    • I'm not sure if I have expounded on ESPN's organized takedown of the National Hockey League in this space, but others certainly have. I think that blog has someone reading my mind.

      Anyhow, isn't it odd that ESPN's golden boy, David Beckham, who received hours upon hours of his own programming on the Worldwide Leader despite minimal playing time in his first contest, referred in his inaugural press conference to "the three big sports in America?"

      Perhaps you should consider sharing some of your time with hockey while savoring the fixing of games by an NBA ref, the seizure of a hallowed record by a misanthropic felon drug abuser in baseball, and the ritualistic electrocution of dogs raised to fight by an NFL superstar.
    • I am slightly ashamed to admit that various Harry Potter 7-related experiences kept me from posting this weekend (read: consuming the entire book in a day, and then suffering the requisite headaches), but I would love the opportunity to discuss my displeasure with the series' ending, which I will not reveal in this space. As always, I can be reached by email or in the comments section.
    • If the weather would deign itself to cooperate, I will be attending Thursday's Mets-Pirates contest. I will be the one unendingly whooping and cheering for Xavier Nady. Regrettably, it seems like there are few fan clubs I can join to channel this adoration of the X-Man. Oh, well.

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    A Wild Ride

    Well, after that first inning, I made an immediate move to clear my schedule for Wednesday night's game against the Pirates: Tom Glavine would be gunning for 300 wins. Eh, not so much.

    I'm not sure that I have all that much complaining to do about tonight's game, after Ramon Castro got the start and proved why he should be an everyday player, after the slumping Beltran and the suddenly resurgent Delgado contributed jacks to the effort, and after Aaron Sele "Posturepedic" (No, Berman, you can't have that one!) managed somehow to contain a club that blew away a great on the cusp of 300.

    I guess I now have to agree with the so-called baseball traditionalists who whine about pitchers not going deep into games anymore: tonight's two starters, Derek Lowe and Tom Glavine, have 12 All-Star appearances, 2 Cy Young Awards, and one no-hitter between them, and they combined to throw five innings. Five innings between them! It would have been a short start for just one of them, although perhaps a marathon effort for Greg Maddux.

    Apparently Marlon Anderson is back on this team. Fair enough. He looked decent in left field, making a nice sliding catch in the ninth when Guillermo Mota was somehow struggling to hang on to a big lead. Perhaps he could give Shawn Green some pointers, who continued to look marginal at best out there, despite a laser rocket arm-type throw to nail our good friend Jeff Kent at third base.

    On an aside, did anyone watch that game and not have to vomit in between innings. I'm not exactly a master cinematographer, but what was going on with the SNY crew? They seemed to miss shots, pan to the wrong parts of the field, and just generally provide a weak showing. Perhaps Billy Walsh is available to take over for Bill Webb.

    Also re: SNY, has anyone noticed that the score bar keeps changing. Tonight's FSN-type graphic was the third different one employed by the Mets this season on SNY alone. If I had my way, there would be a separate channel just showing a live feed of the scoreboard at the ballpark. Saves the problem of digital snafus, and, at home, you can catch the "Professor Reyes" segments if the Mets are getting pounded.

    Anyway, I guess, what with the game being in LA and all, there are celebrities present, some of whom are adorned with Mets paraphernalia. Note two-time Best Actress Oscar winner Hilary Swank on your left. However, Hilary probably has some other types of paraphernalia lying around her house, courtesy of ex-hubby Chad Lowe, if you believe her side of the story regarding her recent divorce.

    All in all, I'm not sure if there is any way to describe this game besides surreal. There were some encouraging signs, but the performance from Tom Glavine made it appear as though he has very little in the tank. He was nasty against Cincy last week, to be sure, but Glavine's low strike percentage obviously has contributed to this season, where he has witnessed some of the worst outings of his career. 300 is nice, when it happens, but we need Glavine to be Glavine again. Perhaps getting the milestone monkey off his back will help.

    First pitch is at 10:40 p.m. tomorrow, Ollie vs. Brett Tomko. If tonight's matchup was any indication of these games' potential length, you might want to go with the double espresso.

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    Some Grades

    Perhaps it has become clichéd to award somewhat arbitrary marks to members of this club at midseason, but just because something has been done far too often and by those more capable than myself doesn't mean that I won't make a futile attempt at it. I have reels and reels of film of my attempts to remake Air Bud with a duck. Unfortunately, YouTube's policy against explicit content makes it impossible to host them on the net.

    Anyway, onward and upward:


    C Paul Lo Duca: C
    • This just in: the Duck has refused to discuss this grade with anyone who has ever set foot in New York State. Perhaps he had his money on a solid B. While he had an incredibly hot month of May, the Duck has slowed down somewhat and appears to be just your average catcher, though he's not hitting for any power. His .274/.321/.372 line is a disappointment compared to last year's, and he appears to have entered the same downward spiral that besets any 35 year-old catcher. His ten doubles to this point show a decrease from last year's 39, as we are more than halfway through the season. He won't be back next year, despite the slim pickings on the free agent market. Boy, I really do miss Jesus Flores.

    1B Carlos Delgado: F+
    • Carlos, I'm awfully sorry about this. You seem like a pretty nice guy, so I might otherwise be inclined to give you a semi-positive mark. But you have to get on base more often than your dreadful .305 OBP clip. Your career average is .386. Your slugging percentage is equally bad, compared to your previous numbers: a .435, compared to last year's .548 and your career .551. The doubles numbers are nice, but for someone who also lumbers around in the field at a position where offense is required, we might ask for a hint more. Thankfully, we have a nice capable backup in Julio Franco who can slide into the lineup in the second half. Groan.

    2B Jose Valentin: D-
    • We were all pretty impressed with what Valentin did last year, replacing the ineffective Kaz Matsui/Anderson Hernandez duo at second base when we had given him up for dead after his atrocious pinch-hitting. He hit for solid power, played very well defensively, and hit for an average better than his career clip. Perhaps the real JoVal caught up with him in the playoffs, as the pixie dust emanating from his magic mustache ran out when he failed to drive in anyone in Game 7. This season, Valentin hasn't done much of anything for anyone, playing defense with zero-range courtesy of a knee brace. He sustained something of a freak injury earlier this year, and we all would have understood if he had bowed out and retired or taken time to get surgery. Instead, he came back and displaced Damion Easley, the only Met hitting for much power in April/May, and has posted this season a wretched .243/.297/.388 in 164 plate appearances. Other scribes have mentioned the fact that Valentin has an option for next year which vests at 400 PA, possibly forcing Willie's hand. Whether Valentin is being selfish or courageous, we can glean that he is a far cry from the player that surprised us all last year.

    3B David Wright: B+
    • The Great Wright Hope has turned his season around after a powerless April where we quickly placed blame on the Home Run Derby and worried about that massive contract extension on the Mets' books. Although he may not be exactly where he was last year (SLG down from .531 in '06 to .506 in '07), he has been walking more and stealing more bases alongside improving defense and resurgent home run power. In the end, his numbers will be right around where they were last year, and, after all, he's just 24.

    SS Jose Reyes: A-
    • Regardless of whatever idiots like John Kruk might say, Reyes is the best shortstop in the National League, which is high praise given competition like Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Edgar Renteria, and J.J. Hardy. Ramirez might be superior offensively to Reyes, whose power is down from last year, but Jose has nearly everyone in baseball beat with his glove and his arm. Despite the aforementioned drop in power (after all, he hit 19 homers last season), Reyes' OPS+ is up, thanks to an incredible increase in walks. That is partially due to the fact that teams now intentionally walk Reyes often, but he is no longer the free-swinging player whose most valuable aspect was "excitement" or something. The recent situation with Willie appears to have blown over, and Reyes appears to be firmly entrenched on that depth chart. I might add that Reyes is still extremely young, and that, with time, perhaps he can homer, steal, walk, triple, and field with total proficiency, all in the same season.

    RF Shawn Green: C-
    • It's been something of a peculiar season for Green, who seems to be the least noticeable member of this team. He is quiet, rather average offensively, and often batting towards the bottom of the lineup. Maybe, though, quiet refers best to his bat since returning from the disabled list in early June. Green has hit barely above the Mendoza Line in that span, and save for a few notable games, hasn't anything power-related to his credit. His defense has been barely average, courtesy of a noodle arm and no range. Granted, the Mets didn't expect him to be a forty-homer player like he was in Los Angeles and Toronto, but a little bit more might be expected for the salary unloaded on him. Is it excessively optimistic for me to see a Gomez/Beltran/Milledge outfield next year? Maybe, but Green will be a platoon player elsewhere when he departs the Mets after this season.

    CF Carlos Beltran: C+
    • I like Beltran as a player, and what he did last year was amazing. The 2007 Beltran, though, has contained quite a bit more of the 2005 Beltran than we might have liked. All of his stats are down compared to '07, as we might have expected, but a 48-point decrease in OBP (.388 to .340) stinks. Perhaps that is especially evocative of his struggles as a hitter, since one who isn't seeing the ball well is probably going to walk less and hit less. With Beltran, though, one has to wonder why he seems to be dogged by some nagging injury each and every year. And unlike other players, who manage some sort of offensive effectiveness despite an injury, Beltran seems to lose it all when he wakes up with a little tweak in his quad. That being said, he has shown some signs of resuming production of late. But how many seasons of average baseball are we going to wind up with over the life of this contract due to a little pulled hamstring, strained quad, or whatever it may be? He's making an AAV of $17 million, and one would hope that he'd be outproducing Curtis Granderson. Not so much.

    LF Moises Alou: INCOMPLETE
    • It's tough to give any other grade to Moises, who has missed since forever with an injury that didn't initially appear to be all that severe. He was a constant for April and about half of May, but Endy Chavez (another injury case) and Carlos Gomez (ditto) have amassed almost identical numbers of plate appearances as Alou. We all knew that Moises would miss some time with injuries, but nobody apprised me of his insatiable desire to hang out at home during the baseball season. While he was on the field, he produced a decent .318/.374/.445 line that was somewhat short on the power. He also hit into a ton of double plays, for whatever that's worth. It would be nice to have him back healthy, but wherever Moises goes, he has to be followed by a capable sub. Count on a retirement or a minor-league deal with another club in 2008.


    pitchers/bench tomorrow!

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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.

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    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.

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


    Schoene' Him The Door

    Tonight's game, a 5-3 extra inning loss to the hated Cardinals, which ended the Mets' one game winning streak against the Redbirds at Shea, was a failure on many levels despite the unlopsided score.

    One ought to view this failure in three parts: the failure of the entire team to hit Todd effing Wellemeyer, who has all of eight major league wins to his credit (alongside an utterly sterling career 5.51 ERA), the failure of Scott Schoeneweis to do anything that could possibly help this team at any point in time, and the respective failures of Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph on this night and others.

    You might say I'm overreacting, but the Mets' offense, in deslumpifying itself, managed only one run against Oakland on Saturday, one run in the first nine against St. Louis last night, and only three in the first nine tonight. You might remind me that I am forgetting two blowouts against Oakland in the Mets' favor, but then I will remind you that they faced Lenny DiNardo and Joe Kennedy in those games.

    So, the Mets didn't fare too well against a replacement level starter tonight. They didn't last night, either. What can I do? There's nothing to second-guess: Delgado looks atrocious at the plate (1-for-5, 4 LOB, including a crucial groundout with men on first and third), and when Jose Reyes isn't hitting (1-for-5 tonight), he isn't stealing bases, and the Mets' offensive wheels aren't turning. No Met had a multi-hit game tonight, and six hits in eleven innings isn't a winning pace. Oh, well.

    But, really, that's been a trend of late. The Cardinals don't hit all that much either, despite having one of baseball's top sluggers on their roster. (TAGUCHI!) They have Albert Pujols, too. Yet they manage to circumvent offense and win at the same time, at least when facing the Mets.

    How does that happen? Two words: Scott Schoeneweis. He's awful. Totally horrendous. I can't really think of a time, save for a few April and Spring Training games, where I was able to heap praise on Schoeneweis. You might recall this post (scroll down a little), where I discussed and criticized the initial signing. However, I'm not sure there was anyone who expected Schoeneweis to be an instant curse upon entering the game.

    Schoeneweis can't be used. Baseball Prospectus lists his VORP as -1.7 runs, which is pretty terrible, and that doesn't even include tonight's poor showing, including a home run ball served up to a rookie who most likely idolizes David Eckstein's power production. His ERA is 5.86, and he seemingly walks/allows a home run to each and every batter he faces.

    Perhaps I'm exaggerating: the Mets' record is only 1-5 in the last six games in which Schoeneweis has pitched, and he really wasn't directly responsible for any of those losses, except tonight's. He claims to be injured, but it wasn't that mysterious severed leg tendon serving up the 3-2 meatball to Brendan Ryan.

    Even in a best-case scenario, Schoeneweis is a mediocre pitcher who has little place on a major-league roster aside from a left-handed specialist role. And Pedro Feliciano already fills that role like convicted shakedown artist Tony Sirico as Paulie Walnuts on the Sopranos. Schoeneweis can't be a mop-up guy: that's Sele's job. Maybe he and Julio Franco could take a ride in a late model Yugo driven by Duaner Sanchez's cabby. I'm just saying.

    But we have become accustomed to Schoeneweis' failure: he is the Mets' version of a white flag, at least in the minds of the fanbase. Why hasn't the coaching staff gotten that memo yet? We're putting new cover sheets on the TPS reports, too.

    This is why much of the onus for the loss must be put on Willie 'n Omar, Omar 'n Willie, the inseparable duo who brought Scott Schoeneweis and Julio Franco into our Mets family, and who now refuse to cut their losses and acknowledge the mistakes. Even George Bush (a friend of Minaya and Franco, I smell a conspiracy!) knew it was time to pull the plug on Rumsfeld and Ashcroft at some point.

    What was Willie thinking when he took Wagner out after a nine-pitch tenth? I understand he would have had to go two innings on back-to-back nights, but it would have been more like one and a half after that stress-free frame. It's not as though he had to bat, or as though their most feared hitters were due up in the next frame.

    If he is so hell-bent on saving his closer, then what exactly was his reasoning behind selecting Schoeneweis to pitch the next frame? Although his four best relievers were out (although it shames me to include Mota and Heilman in that assessment), he did have Joe Smith to go to. Even Aaron Sele has been better this season than Schoeneweis.

    That decision didn't pan out well, and the degree to which it was so poorly rewarded might have overshadowed the even more questionable decision to pinch-hit Julio Franco in the ninth with men on the corners. Franco hasn't had a pinch-hit in three weeks, and his .196/.333/.261 line doesn't exactly instill confidence in anyone.

    While utilizing Ramon Castro in that spot probably wouldn't make sense, Willie would have been much better off using Damion Easley instead of Franco. Either option was 0-for-his career against Izzy, but at least we can recall Easley having hits in this millennium that were not bloop singles to right field.

    In fact, Willie could have opted to leave Carlos Gomez in to bat for himself against the closer, who had lost all control of his curveball, and then sent up Ledee to bat for Mota. The game had already been tied, and Gomez has been getting on base at a higher clip than Ledee this year.

    Instead, Ledee walked, and Julio "Out Machine" Franco went up and was a role model to all the young players, showing them how to overstay their welcome and how to minimize their bat speed and, simultaneously (!), maximize their outmaking potential. The jokes make themselves with Julio on the field. He is absolutely useless, and it befuddles me why Willie chooses to use him as his "ace" pinch-hitter.

    Randolph might say that it's nice to have a bullet like that for late in the game: the Mets play Russian Roulette with themselves when the amazing egg-white guzzler steps up to the plate. By the way, did you know that Julio is older than Ron Darling? Almost two full years older? Ron retired in 1995. Hell, Franco's only three years younger than Lee Mazzilli.

    Those two decisions are where Willie's at fault: Franco shouldn't be in any major league games at all, and Schoeneweis should be in even fewer than that. But it's someone's fault that these two found their way onto the roster in the first place, and that blame falls squarely on the shoulders of our beloved Omar.

    Some have found significant fault with his offseason dealings, and I count myself in the crowd that only vilifies him for a couple of those moves. He deserves praise for passing on Barry Zito's ridiculous price tag, and outfielders like Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee. He showed incredible foresight in making both Maine and Perez parts of this year's rotation, and the Moises move might even turn out well, if his legs can be reattached.

    But Minaya's failures this offseason lie in a few atrocious moves: two trades and one signing. The signing was Schoeneweis at 3 years, $11 M, just for the hell of it, apparently. The Mets passed on one of their relief aces from '06, Chad Bradford, at an almost identical clip, and he has a 3.49 ERA in 40 games for the Orioles this season. He's younger than Schoeneweis, too. That move has been discussed to death, and with good reason.

    Minaya's two trades were even worse: Royce Ring/Heath Bell to the Padres for Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson, and Matt Lindstrom/Henry Owens to the Marlins for Adam Bostick/Jason Vargas.

    Lindstrom has a 3.52 ERA in 33 games for Florida; Owens a 1.96 clip in 22 games (4 saves) for the Fish, before going down with an injury. Heath Bell has a 1.42 ERA in 36 games with San Diego, and Ring (right) hasn't given up a run in his four games of MLB work, alongside a 4-0 record and 1.23 ERA in 25 games for AAA Portland.

    Three of the relief pitchers the Mets sent away have ERAs under two, and the other still has a respectable 3.52. Do you want to know what the Mets got in those trades?

    Adam Bostick has a 3-5 record and 6.71 ERA at AAA N'awlins. Vargas made one forgettable start for the Mets and has a 6-4 record to go with a 4.35 ERA on the farm. Jon Adkins is the gem of the bunch, with his 3.68 ERA in 29 games for the Zephyrs. Ben Johnson posted a downright adorable .185/.233/.222 line in 27 AB for the Mets, and has fared rather middlingly at AAA, with a .264 average and zero power (.368 SLG).

    Might it be a little bit more than a coincidence that the Mets have lost or been aided in their losing of several games due to spotty middle relief? The Mets traded away four dynamite major league relievers for nothing. Zero contribution to the big club for the Mets' acquisitions. Ahem, there was actually less than zero contribution as Vargas and Johnson combine for a -3.8 VORP at the plate and on the mound.

    It pains me to say that the players the Mets chose to give up have been worth 34.9 runs over replacement level to their teams. Considering that the Mets gave up about 40 runs in two trades, and that a win is worth about ten runs, the Mets cost themselves four wins to this point during the season in these trades. Four wins extra and four losses subtracted would have given the Mets a 46-29 record, which would have been tops in the NL and third in major league baseball.

    I hope that this doesn't sound like an excessively impassioned rant, but at this point in the season, there has to be some blame assessed for a 2.5 game lead that could have been 6.5. Minaya has time to remedy his mistakes: promote Willie Collazo (the AAA squad's best reliever, as long as Ambi "The Lorax" is disabled) and 1B Andy Tracy (.311/.418/.571, 18 HR, 58 RBI) while DFAing Julio Franco and DLing Schoeneweis.

    Just a humble suggestion, but one that's intended to avoid all too certain failure.


    Two quick notes:

    -Check for an article regarding Delgado, Franco, and Andy Tracy by me (!) on Mike's Mets tomorrow. I will be writing there weekly, for the foreseeable future, but I'll still be here to provide you coverage on my usual semi-semi-regular posting schedule.

    -I'm going to tomorrow night's game (Anthony Reyes and his 0-9 record and 6.69 ERA vs. Tom 296, 7:10 p.m.) and hope to fare better than I did last time. If I don't, be sure to keep your cursor on that refresh button to indulge yourself in my horror.

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