Elster's World

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Absurdity of Sports

Consider yesterday's sports related stories:

- A-rod allegedly screamed "mine" to the Blue Jays infield, causing a harmless pop fly to fall in for a hit. The Jays accused A-rod of being bush league (hmm, I know we have heard that before). A-rod counters - I said "hi". Uh -huh.

- The New York Post runs a two-day spread alleging that the aforementioned Rodriguez is cheating on his wife.

- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is reportedly involved with a group trying to start a new professional football league. His reasoning: The demand for professional football is outweighed by the demand. This reasoning did wonders for the XFL and the USFL Mr. Cuban. Don't people realize you cannot mess with the NFL? At this point, could anything stop the NFL from taking over the world?

- Mets fans had mixed feelings for caught cheater Mota when he made his return to the diamond - though it was mostly applause at the end of his two scoreless innings.

- It was all negative reaction for alleged cheater Barry Bonds, who faced the wrath of new York fans. These same fans were pretty tough on Barry Zito as well. Apparently none of the paying customers in Shea last night could understand not leaving 51 million dollars on the table for the chance to play for the Mets.

- and strangest of all, the Mets got shut out for the first time all season.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Live, In Game Update

The Mets are losing 3-0 and let me just say this:

With the exception of Steve Trachsel only, i cannot think of a less enjoyable pitcher to watch than Tom Glavine. I respect his march to 300 and the fact that he's done it with a 20 mph fastball. But watching a master craftsman throw a change-up - just not that interesting. Unless it's offset by a 97 mph fastball.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bodies Bodies Everywhere

And no, I'm not talking about the season finale of lost where at least 13 people kicked the bucket.

Despite a less than perfect start to the 2007 baseball season, the Mets are actually going at a better early season win/lose clip than they were last year - along with a four game cushion over the Braves who are suddenly more shaky than an Aaron Heilman relief appearance.

To make matters better, the Mets have accomplished this despite:

- (i) losing their ace since last year, (ii) their number three starter for a month (who became their number 2 when their number one was lost for the season last year), (iii) with two starters in the rotation (Perez and Sosa) who went a combined 6-829 last season, (iv) injuries to their left and right fielders, (v) a knee injury to their starting second baseman and (vi) the continued loss of their lights-out set-up man from last season. All this, mind you, without a deep bench.

(Ok, I don't agree with that last statement - the facts obviously speak for themselves, at least to me - but certain people certainly seem to feel that way.) But either way, the Mets are managing to put some separation between them and their rivals and can feel good about the fact that they will start to get a lot of hurt guys healthy in time for the stretch run.

From what we have seen or heard:

- Pedro will not only be back in August (says Minaya), but he'll be vintage 1990's Pedro. Also, even though he hasn't thrown off a mound yet, he can still pitch better than Clemens right now (from Pedro). To be honest, I've been saying since day 1 that it's not realistic to expect anything from Pedro this season and if he does return, it's all icing on the cake. His words make me more optimistic, but I'm trying not to get too excited.

- Valentin is a week or two away. His return strengthens the lineup and the bench (Easley becomes another right handed option off the bench).

- Alou is still a few weeks away, and then it's only a matter of time until the next thing breaks down on his old body. Green - his status is unclear.

- According to ESPN baseball "experts", the Mets don't expect Duaner Sanchez to return this season. I agree.

- El Duque was very good in his first start and felt pretty good after. The emergence of Sosa, the continued improvement of Maine and the the explosion from Oliver Perez gives Willie Randolph the ability to rest Hernandez a little bit more than perhaps he would have been able to if Maine was 4-4, Perez was 3-6 and Sosa was pulling a Jose Lima.

Mets will be facing some interesting starters against the Giants starting tonight.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Looking Back, Part II

How can you argue it wasn't a successful homestand? The Mets went 7-3, showed the upstart brewers who is boss and took two out of three from the Yankees to boot.

Sure I feel disappointed that the Mets failed to take advantage of Tyler Clippard - who looked like he should have been sweating his bio exam tomorrow, not stifling the Mets for 6 innings. But overall, the Mets took care of business all series and all homestand long.

Couple of notes:

- While i do think it's safe to say the John Maine as Dwight Gooden honeymoon is over, let's realize that he's supposed to be the number 3 starter, not the ace. and he's a pretty good number three. While he's certainly starting to plummet back to Earth, he still has a fine, late moving fastball and he's just learning how to be a pitcher. No reason to think he can't go 14-9, 15-10 ish with a sub-four ERA. With Hernandez coming back and a big pre-trade deadline trade on the way, the Mets will be just fine (and yes, i guess I AM on the record as saying the Minaya should pull the trigger on a win now type deal if available).

- I remember many seasons when the Mets had to dig deep to win that embarrassment saving third game of the series to avoid a Yankee sweep. Doesn't feel too good, does it Yankee fans? The Mets are clearly the better team right now, though the Yankee's struggles are mystifying. They are too good to be this bad.

- I officially proclaim David Wright's slump over.

- I officially declare Carlos Delgado's slump to be worrisome.

- Endy Chavez does more with his limited at bats and irregular playing time than any Met in quite some time. He chips in with his bat, legs and glove. When Shawn Green eventually starts slumping (right around the time Alou finally returns from his injury of the month) Chavez can step right in and fill that breach. All without rapping lyrics that are disturbing to Mets brass.

- Damion Easley has been doing a very good job keeping the seat warm for Jose Valentin. It will be great to have him as a bench option when Valentin gets back. The Mets have a deep bench.

- Schoenweis looks like the winner of this years Jorge Julio "It Was Too Good To Be True, Some Of These Guys Are Going To Fall Apart Soon" bullpen collapse award. Previous winners include Aaron Heilman and, of course, Julio himself.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Looking Back - Part 1

7 games into a very important homestand (3 against the surging Brewers, 4 against Lou's Cubbies and the always dreaded three game Yankee set) and the Mets are 5-2.

But it's been an interesting ride. They took 2 of 3 from the Brewers, essentially serving notice to the Brew Crew that they aren't quite in the Mets league as of yet.

They dropped the first game against the Cubs, took the next two (including a game won on a bases loaded walk to Delgado and a strange rain-delayed Jorge Sosa gem last night).

Which all set the stage for today's dramatic win.

Going in, this was a pretty important game. A victory would mean that even a 1-2 crapping of the bed against the Yankees insures a 6-4 record - which while not great is certainly palatable. However a loss would have meant a 5-5 homestand - which would have been a travesty. Sadly, the Mets had Jason Vargas, an untested rookie on the hill (very limited MLB experience).

So what does Willie do? Does he stack the lineup and hope the Mets pour it on and give Vargas a nice big cushion? Nope - he brings out his little league world series all-stars line up complete with Newhan at second, Gotay at short, the suddenly Methuselah-ic Franco at third, Castro behind the plate, Chavez in center and Gomez in left. If I'm Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green I'm wondering what I did to piss off my manager last night.

Predictably, Vargas sets down the first 10 batters he faced and is looking like Tom Glavine out there. He is 5.1 innings through - having given up one run on 2 hits - when the wheels came completely off. Two, 2-run home runs did him in. Down 5-1, Willie keeps Vargas in to finish the sixth and pitch the seventh (conceding the game perhaps?). Then Randolph pitched Burgos, only up in the majors because the guy who replaced him was just suspended 50 games for failing a drug test (conceding the game perhaps?) who manages to not create more damage.

Of course, the Mets rally in the ninth - and Willie has a murderers row of pinch hitters to use because he didn't play anyone (Beltran walked to load the bases, Wright singled in a run) before Delgado (having just an atrocious game until that point) rocketed a 2 run, game winning single to right (his second walk off winner this series). Just a strange series all the way.

So Willie looks like a genius but he could have severely botched this homestand because he was saving his bullpen for the Yankees. Go figure.

Looking forward - Why is it that even when the Yankees are not playing well and the Mets are 12 games about .500, Mets fans experience dread before this series? How many world series rings are necessary until Mets fans can feel confident about these things? hopefully the one the Mets win this season.

We will look back, part 2, after the Yankee series concluded Sunday night.

Friday, May 11, 2007

There's No "Moss" In Team

On the day that the evil Bill Belichick hastily wrote his version of a dear john letter on a cocktail napkin and told his about to be bosses that he didn't want to be the "HC" of the "NYJ" two significant events took place - he set the New York Jets organization back about eight years and he turned the New England Patriots into an absolute football powerhouse in an era of flashes in the pan champions.

Belichick came to New England and instituted a plan. The team would build through the draft and cheaper free agents, eschewing high priced, me first athletes for a team concept. He managed to get the team veterans to buy into the concept. The results were spectacular - the team won the Super Bowl in 2002, 2004 and 2005 and were in the hunt in 2006 and 2007.

The amazing thing about it was Belichick's ability to squeeze the utmost out of every one of his players. Were his linebacking corps of Ted Brusci, Ted Johnson, Willie McGinnest and Mike Vrable really the modern day equivalent of the 1986 Super Bowl Bears? Think about that - he was playing defense with three white linebackers. And it wasn't 1956!

And when his defensive secondary corps was ravaged with injuries, he figured out how to plug those holes with spare parts - even famously converting wide receiver Troy Brown into a decent dime defender.

And when Tom Brady spent this season throwing to a bunch of misbegotten castoffs, the team still was one bad pick away from going to another Super Bowl.

Between his ability to pick players, scheme game plans and maximize talent, it seems the only negative things you can say about Belichick have to do with his horrid fashion sense, his lack of human emotion and the fact that he supposedly bullies his players into playing with bad injuries (see Johnson, Ted). But every single fan of an NFL team would trade their coach for him in a heartbeat. No questions asked.

So when the Patriots opened the vault this offseason to sign Adalious Thomas (the best and most expensive linebacker on the market), Donte Stallworth (high credit risk) Wes Welker (in a trade with Miami) etc., etc., it seemed a little strange. This was certainly off the beaten track for Belichick teams and they did have a couple of first rounders in the upcoming draft but hey - they had the money, they had a franchise quarterback throwing to terrible receivers, they were way under the salary cap - why NOT spend a little dough and bring in some better players. Even us Jet fans could appreciate this logic. If you were so close and you had the money, why not reach slightly outside of your no expensive free agents philosophy to add the final pieces.

But then came the draft day shocker - the Patriots had traded a fourth round pick for famed malcontent and shirker Randy Moss. "Wait a second," we all said. "Randy Moss? That can't be right. Can it?" And indeed it was. This move wasn't just a reach outside the philosophy, this was a total 180. The man who put the team concept before anything had brought in the biggest "me" guy in the entire National Football League. Remember, this is the team that wouldn't come out of pocket to keep the most clutch kicker in the NFL - even letting him go to their rival, the Colts. and this guy's bringing in Moss??

Sure, there are a variety of reasons why this move made perfect football sense for the Pats. It's not costing them that much. They can cut him at any time. Brady is great with no targets, imagine how great he can be with Stallworth, Moss and Welker flying all over the field. Belichick might be retiring this year and he wanted to give Pat fans one more championship before he leaves. And no, it's hard to really argue with any of these reasons.

Except

there's this one thing.

The Patriots were supposed to be above guys like Moss. They are supposed to be better than that. They show the world that you can win championships with linebackers like Johnson, with re-tread running backs and safeties that can't run well. They are supposed to smugly look at teams like the Bengals and say - you don't need criminals and egos to win Super Bowls.

But now...now they are just like everyone else. only worse. Now they are the New york Yankees of football - spending their way to another championship. Now all non-New Englanders have yet another reason to hate the Patriots.

Which, in truth, isn't necessarily a bad thing.

And honestly, is it really so terrible what new England is doing? Aren't they what every other football franchise strives to be? Perhaps, but it won't stop me from hoping and rooting for Randy moss to single handedly destroy the team's chemistry the same way I'll be rooting for Roger Clemens to fall on his fat face too.

And maybe, just maybe Mr. Evil Belichick will walk away from this with his perfect reputation at least slightly tarnished.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Quick Hitters

Right from the brain to the keyboard - with not much thought in between.

- The Nets are a pretty good team and I think will eventually win a couple of games before being bounced by the Cavs in 6, but no matter how talented your perimeter players are, you can't win in this league without at least one quality big man. And please don't say Mikki Moore or Bosjy Nachbar. Also, it would be nice if Vince could turn it on every game, not just when he has some extra motivation to succeed like he did in the Toronto series. shooting 38% from the field ain't gonna cut it Vince.

- I would like to see Jorge Sosa get another start with the big club - against wither the brewers or Yankees - to see how he pitched against good teams. The D-backs simply stink and were not really the best of tests. But Sosa definitely deserves another start after his fine performance the other night.

- I cannot even describe how excited I am getting for football this season. Just the words "mini camp" have ratcheted up the anticipation. I love all sports but nothing touches New York Jets football.

- Steve Nash is a brilliant basketball player and it's a real joy to watch the Suns play ball. After suffering through a Knicks season (and the Eastern conference in general), I sometimes forget how good basketball can look when it's played at high level, high octane offense, in a team style.

- As much as I respect Curt Schilling, he did overstep his bounds by stating that Bonds admitted to using steroids, cheating on his taxes and cheating on his wife. Though Schilling has a big mouth to begin with so nothing is surprising.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Summing Up (Part Of) A Busy Sports Sunday

- Joe has a nice and fitting summation to the Rangers season ending loss to Buffalo this afternoon. Since I'm not in the mood to get into a fight with him as to or not I have the right to comment on it, all I'll say is that the team provided me with two entertaining rounds of playoff hockey. They did lose a couple of winnable games and a few small bounces their was and they could have been celebrating tonight instead of going home empty handed. But considering they made the playoffs only on the strength of a do or die run at the end, it seems to me the Stanley Cup was a pipe dream for them this season.

And Buffalo was the better team playing with home-ice, which didn't help matters. Even if the Rangers won today, I couldn't really see them winning game 7 in Buffalo.

As Joe implied, they do seem to be only a few pieces (and an offensive defenseman) away from being a true contender. Certainly the goaltender is there. Jagr is still an elite player. Shanahan doesn't have that much left in the tank, but is still a strong leader. They have a good system and a good coach. One or two smart signings and this team can loft the Cup again.

- I have no energy to write the rest of the re-cap. You will have to live with this.

Sorry.

Friday, May 04, 2007

LMVP?

- In light of the Dallas Mavericks' flameout for the ages, the question becomes - will Dirk Nowizki's winning the MVP award this year make him the least deserving MVP award winner ever?

I think the answer is no. You can argue all day as to whether Dirk should win the MVP this season - I believe that he award should probably go to Steve Nash - the man responsible for keeping all those scorers in Phoenix happy. You could also make a pretty good case for Kobe or Dirk.

But the fact remains - the MVP is a regular season award. Dirk led his team to an NBA best record and a couple of really dominant stretches of the season. Regardless of his disappearing act in the playoffs (kudos for at least some of that should go to his former coach Don Nelson), Nowitzki had a very good regular season. and since there was no clear cut winner this season, you can simply shrug your shoulders and say "Why not Dirk?".

- With the Yankees about to start their 10th pitcher in 30 games (a very dubious record) and Manny watching his game winners leave the park in awe, we may have lost sight of something pretty amazing this week. it seems New England's most favored son, the golden boy of golden boys (no, I'm not talking about Randy Moss), Tom Brady IS A YANKEE FAN.

Tom, in light of your past season (threw a clutch interception in the final minutes against the Colts, left your hot actress girlfriend pregnant with his love-child for a supermodel) is it really the time for you to be donning Yankee hats in public? Tom the only place people (and by people I mean men) don't hate you is in New England. Do you really want to alienate your only remaining male fan base?

In fact, in light of this outrage, I think the only thing management can do is trade Brady. And for extra punishment, send him where he is hated the most - New York. even though his trade value is low, I think we can convince Team Tangini to give up a seventh rounder in next year's draft for the fallen angel.

- While Moises Alou is showing signs of being brittle (had to leave the game again last night with a balky knee) David Wright has shown signs of finally snapping his season long funk. He is 6 for his last 15 (.400) with 2 home runs. I am liking the Mets lineup even more than last year. Alou and Green are providing great balance in the 6 and 7 slots, allowing Jose Valentin, when healthy, to bat eighth. Honestly, this is an American league lineup that simply wears opposing pitchers down until they find and exploit a weak link (like last night when they scored 6 runs in the ninth to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 9-4 win).

When you add on to that very surprising seasonal starts by John Maine and Oliver Perez (and even Mike Pelfrey had a good start his last time out (3 runs in 6 and a third) and this Mets team is in pretty good shape.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

This Bridge Is Out

In light of Aaron Heilman's latest setback - a 2 run home run in the eight inning of this evening's loss to the Marlins (and the second straight loss to the Marlins), it's time for Willie Randolph and the Gang to realize that Aaron Heilman just doesn't have what it takes to be the eighth inning bridge to Billy Wagner any more.

Heilman has been unable to protect leads and now he has added opening up larger deficits to his resume of failure this season (and let's not forget it was Heilman who gave up the bomb to one of the light hitting Molina brothers that cost the Mets game seven of the NLCS last season).

Sadly, there is no clear cut favorite to nab this role. It will probably have to be done by committee until someone steps up and takes it. Or until Mota comes back from suspension and grabs the role by default by virtue of his 97 mph fastball.

In the meantime, the Mets will have to score lots and lots of runs and keep pummeling teams until they get a decent bridge.

In other news kudos to the Rangers for grabbing the 2 goal lead and then hanging on for dear life to even up their series with Buffalo at two games apiece.