Elster's World

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Reactions to a Number of Things

- Though not quite Teixeira, Omar Minaya's trade of 2 mid level (at best) prospects for Luis Castillo (who has had many a good day against the Mets while playing for the Marlins) was a very nice move indeed. Not only does it upgrade the second base position defensively (Gotay has far to go to become even an adequate defender), the bench is that much stronger with the switch hitting Gotay available late in games. In fact, assuming the Mets get healthy (yes, a big if but still a man can dream), you are potentially looking at a late September bench which includes some combination of Ramon Castro, Lastings Milledge, Rubin Gotay, Damion Easley, Marlon Anderson, Endy Chavez and Carlos Gomez. Heck that's not only a fantastic bench, its almost a horrible, but serviceable, starting lineup.

- Minaya is probably burning cell minutes working on a lights out eighth inning guy (probably takes too much to pry Cordero or Gagne) and a right handed power bat to replace Alou (always a bad sneeze away from the 15 day DL). However, the trade market is extremely thin and Minaya won't be giving up Gomez, Martinez, Milledge or Humber (though maybe Pelfrey) in a deal for borderline help. I can see another move made for bench depth, but unless Minaya works some magic, this is basically your team.

- The Teixeira deal has dramatically changed the landscape in the NL East. The Braves gave away what appears to be a king's ransom in prospects for the slick fielding slugger, but none of those guys were going to help the team this year. With no clear favorites, the Braves are in effect saying "why not us?". And you know what, they are right. This is definitely a good year to take a shot. As the Cardinals showed last season, if you make it to the series, anything can happen. The Mets currently hold a four and a half game lead on the Braves and a three game lead on the suddenly scorching Phillies. Unfortunately, the Mets have to play the Braves (I believe) nine more times and they still have not been able to beat them consistently.

- Though the Mets currently have the best record in the East (funny that this is true but the so called "experts" are dropping them behind the Dodgers, Padres and now Braves as contenders), it's never too early to think about securing the wild card berth in case the wheels start coming off. This upcoming road trip (three against the Brewers, three against the Cubs - both teams serious contenders right now), followed by a huge three game series against the Braves at home, may do a lot to shape how the rest of the season will go.

- Though Pedro Martinez is finally scheduled to begin his rehabilitation in Port St. Lucie, and by all accounts things are going really well, I will continue to take the "we aren't counting on Pedro for anything this season and if he happens to come back, well that's just great" stance. Because they guy is 35 years old and coming off of MAJOR ROTATOR CUFF SURGERY. As much as we'd like to believe him when he says he's never felt better and he's never been stronger, can we really expect him to get up on the hill and start ripping off 92 mph fastballs again? Isn't it more believable to think his arm will fall off? Al I'm saying is, if he comes back and is effective, great. if not, well.....let's not get too unrealistic.

Quick hit observations:

- Lastings Milledge is a different player this time up. The swagger is still there, but its been toned down a little, he's driving the ball and he doesn't look lost in the outfield anymore. Last season's struggles appear to have affected him in a positive way.

- Could Carlos Delgado finally be breaking out of his slump?

- Was I wrong -does el Duque still have enough in the tank to help for the stretch run and the playoffs?

- Finally, good luck tonight to Tom Glavine, going for career win number 300.

- Oh I must re-post this with an additional thought about Randolph's Saturday night bungle. In the second game of a double header, willie mis-managed his bench in the 6th or 7th, forcing him, a run down in the ninth, to use Tom Glavine as a pinch hitter with one out and no one on in the inning. It was so head scratching, Gary and Keith must have brought it up six times in the last 2 innings alone. I'm not saying it would have made a difference, but they Mets ended up splitting a 4 game series with Washington; a series they really needed to take 3 of 4 . Just needed to be said.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Dynasty?

With their third Arena Bowl title in six years, the question is simply this:

Have the San Jose Sabercats become a dynasty to be mentioned in the same breath as the patriots, Bulls and Celtics?

Monday, July 23, 2007

West Coast Swing

Strange trip for the Mets this weekend. After dropping 2 of three to the Padres, the Mets rebounded by taking 3 of 4 from the Dodgers in LA to finish the trip at 4 and 3. I guess you would have to call it a success (even if the Dodgers did gift wrap tonight's victory) still consider:

After David Wright hit his three run job against the Padres, the Mets should have won that game. Combine that with Rubin Gotay's gift in Saturday's game, the Mets could easily have gone 6 and 1 on this trip - which would have been a smashing success by all accounts - as well as a message to the National League that the Mets, despite an uneven season to date, are still the team to beat in the NL.

Instead, it was more of the same of what we have seen all season. The Mets win more than they lose, their pitching is uneven, and they have some issues at certain positions (2b, corner outfield).

Still they did go 4-3 against the two teams challenging them for NL supremacy. You can't exactly complain about that.

Strange trip.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Rant and Some Random Friday Thoughts

- I don't normally like to respond to critics and criticism in any forum where I write (because hey, if you don't have a thick skin as a writer, then you should NOT be writing). However, I feel that I do need to respond (finally) to Joe's constant criticism of me when it comes to commenting on the NHL (that's the National Hockey League for the uninitiated - which, sadly, is almost anyone alive right now). His argument goes something like this:

- You stopped watching hockey for the majority of a season - therefore you cannot possibly know anything about hockey anymore.
- You only watched the Rangers for the last month of the season, therefore you are not qualified to comment on hockey.

Ergo, whenever I talk about hockey I don't know what I'm talking about and everything I say should be dismissed, regardless of whether I'm right or wrong.

Um, huh? How does that make any sense? I rabidly followed hockey for over 20 years. Did I suddenly stop understanding the game in 7 months? Or is it rather that the Rangers changed so much since their humiliating sweep by the Devils 2 years ago that any commentary I have is outdated and just plain wrong?

Of course, it's neither. It's just that Joe is pissed that I stopped caring about the Rangers as much as he does. So when i say that Matt Cullen is making 3 million a year when in reality he's making 2.8 million (in other words big freaking deal!!) or when correctly pointed out that his trade to Carolina was nothing other than a salary dump, get lambasted even though I'm right. Do I agree with the trade? That's irrelevant. Because according to Joe, I don't have the right to even mention it. For all intents and proposes, Joe believes that I am not entitled to even discuss hockey. SO even if my analysis is correct (which it was - this was a salary cap related dump, nothing else) I am told I am not allowed to comment on hockey and that I'm just plain wrong.

(And yes I know Joe will respond it's neither of these things. Rather, he will say I just don't know what i am talking about. That my observations on the Rangers (and often on sports in general) are just plain wrong. But the thing about opinions is that they are just that, opinions. How can they be "wrong" per se?)

Am I trying to pick a fight? Of course not. Joe is the only person who even reads my blog, I certainly don't want to lose him as a reader. I also enjoy arguing with him about issues. And I understand that Joe is very stubborn in his beliefs and sincerely thinks his opinions are the correct ones. I on the other hand, am more apt to shout out a gut feeling and do a 180 degree flip on it the next day if someone can convince me I was wrong.

But (a) I have the right state my opinions whether he thinks I do or not and (b) his constant dismissal of my opinions crates an atmosphere where other people jump on that and summarily dismiss me as well (see Phan, Jets).

Either way, Joe I hope you don't take this personally, because it's not meant to be anything other than a rant.

Now, onto the thoughts:

- The NFL has decided to take a reactive, wait and see approach to the Michael Vick situation in Virginia. On the one hand, Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury - not a very good sign for him in terms of his repeated denials of involvement in the reprehensible dog-fighting taking place on his estate. On the other (as pointed out by Peter King on the Chris Carlin/Ian eagle show this morning), Vick has been in the league for 6 years and has not really been involved in any trouble. Unlike Pacman Jones, who was arrested something like 10 times in the last 5 years, the Commish is cutting Vick some slack until more details emerge.

In the meantime, it appears that the Falcons, with the league's approval, will urge Vick to take a break (paid of course) while this gets sorted out.

- What to make of this breaking news story that an NBA official bet on games, and fixed games that her was officiating? In a day and age where everyone has been crawling out of the woodwork to criticize the porous officiating of the last few years, this news is the league's worst nightmare - that not only do the referees suck, but they intentionally suck. Talk about destroying the integrity of the sport. A referee betting and fixing games is a travesty to a sport.

As an aside, who is going to be surprised when it comes out that the official is Joey Crawford (of the Larry Johnson, 4 point play fame).

- I know I shouldn't be stooping this low but how perfect is it that Tom Brady's kid with ex Bridget is scheduled for today - the same day as current squeeze Gisselle Buchehdjkdkej's birthday? I know I know, but anything that smears Brady and the Patriots, even a little, is a good thing.

- Impressions from last night's Met game - 6-0 after half an inning. 6-3 after 1. 9-3 after 1.5. Dodgers again rallying in the bottom of the second. I went to sleep 9-4 and woke up 13-9.

In other words, a classic pitcher's duel.

Is it me or is the Dodger stadium a sandbox? Maybe it's because San Diego's Petco Park is so cavernous.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Because Joe Is Too Busy

Well, someone has to mention the Rangers salary dump of Matt Cullen yesterday - traded back to the Carolina Hurricanes for essentially cap relief and spare parts. The Rangers save over 2 million dollars a season with this move. Cullen because expendable when the Rangers signed 2 free agent centers in the offseason - Gomez and Drury. All in all, a good move as Cullen never really found his game in New York (though, sadly, no one really cares. The Times gave this story about 2 inches of space in the paper this morning - and yes, I know this will come back and bite me in May when the Rangers are in the playoffs and I'm back ion the bandwagon).

- Nice win for El Duque last night, who continues to shine against weak, right hand heavy lineups. His pitches still dance. And his fastball actualy moved yesterday. He might even had beaten the Yankees with his stuff last night.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Impressions From The Weekend

Some thoughts on that baseball team I occasionally follow:

- Huge West Coast swing for the Mets. 3 against the Peavey's followed by a 4 game set against LA. In the olden days, the Mets would head off on these trips treading water in the East and then come back nursing their wounds from a 2-5 trip - totally out of the race. Last year they would have gone and won 5 out of 7. This year, who knows? It's impossible to know what the team has. 6-1 wouldn't surprise me, but neither would 1-6. With the Braves only a game and a half behind and playing St. Louis and the Reds, the Mets can easily come back from this trip in second place if they don't play well. All in all, this trip should tell us a lot about the team.


- Tom Glavine wants 300 wins bad. I have never seen him as focused as he is right now, as locked in. It's make a good pitch, get the ball back, lick your fingers and throw another. No wasted time, no wasted pitches. And he's been really good recently, shaking of a couple of hellacious outings with three really good ones, including his 8 inning, 2 hit, one run job this weekend. I cannot wait to celebrate 300 for Glavine, who seems to be a good guy and deserving of his accomplishment.

- I think what we have in El Duque right now is a very, very good number four starter. A guy who, when he has his stuff, can just destroy a bad team's lineup - but who can't pitch to a team of good, patient hitters. And since John Maine's and Oliver Perez's emergence, maybe that's not such a terrible thing. I don't want him starting game 2 against the Dodgers in a playoff series, but maybe it won't be so bad to send him out for game 4.

- The new and improved, and seemingly humbled, Lastings Milledge is really showing me something. He's getting timely hits, looks more comfortable in the field, and isn't displaying that cockiness that made him so unbearable last season. Right now, he's a more polished Carlos Gomez. He has 4 RBI in his last three games and looks to be a good fill in until Alou returns (or maybe to replace Alou's lost at bats when management finally admits that Alou won't be coming back from the quad). Either way, he's a huge upgrade over David Newhan and Friends.

The timing also works out nicely for him as well. Do to the dearth of outfielders created by injury, Milledge has a real chance to prove he deserves to be a permanent part of the Mets outfield for the next X years - as opposed to being trade bait for a starter or hardy reliever. With his new attitude, I have decided I'd much rather see Milledge play in Queens for the next 10 years than destroy the Mets when he visits.

- The captain has now officially turned off the "Carlos Brothers Issues Are Minor and They Will Soon Snap Out Of It" Sign. Beltran and Delgado are officially killing the Mets. Look no further than these two for reasons why the Mets are not driving in runs. When these 2 are mashing, it makes Wright, Green, Milledge/Valentin/Gotay/Gomez/Alou all that more effective. They take lots of pitches and wear down pitchers. Oh and they hit lots and lots of home runs and drive in a lot of runners. When they don't, it becomes the David Wright,/Jose Reyes show and the team has to scratch out three runs a game.

- Aaron Heilman is entering that part of the season when he remembers that he's much more effective when he actually concentrates. This is the point where his fastball gains 2 or 3 miles an hour, his change up dives and he goes on a scoreless innings streak. Sadly, this will be followed by the gives up game changing home run in huge game phase of the season which inevitably follows.

- Speaking of relief pitchers, 2 guys need to get special mention - Pedro Felciano, who has transformed himself from "lefty specialist" to "late innings lights out guy" and Billy Wagner. Wagner has converted 20 or 21 save opportunities (he still can't pitch well in non-save situations) and the good thing is he's not putting himself in trouble before pitching out of it. he looks a lot more dominant this season. Could be the effectiveness of his slider which makes the fastball (still humming between 94 and 97) all the more devastating.

Sorry the postings have been so uneven lately. There is alot going on for Elster and there is not nearly enough time to write. Keep checking though. With Joe out of commission recently, I will need my "other" faithful readers to pitch in.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Random Stuff

Despite the fact that my only regular commenter is very busy, I thought I would write anyway:

- Curious decision by the Mets, not so much firing Rick Down (firing coaches to jump start teams is very common) but hiring Ricky Henderson to some as of yet unassigned role. I guess I'm ok with him at first and HoJo as hitting coach, but I'm not 100% sure I understand bringing him back at all. This is the same guy who (i) still wants to play, not coach, (ii) played cards in the Mets clubhouse as the season was going down in flames and (iii) once ended up on first base after hitting a ball off the wall because he was in his home run trot (the Mets released hm the next day). The Mets have hustle issues - punctuated by Jose Reyes' recent benching and the fact that no one hustles down the first base line. Do we really think bringing Ricky into the mix is going to make that better?

- I applaud the Julio Franco waiver. Every one does, no great shock there. Thankfully Minaya isn't being overly ego about it and holding on to him despite his sub-Mendoza batting average and the fact that he can't run or play defense either. And you have to love the energy that Lastings Milledge brought to the game last night, scoring from first on a single. He was hustling all the way. And without the dreadlocks and elbow armor, he seems to be less brash. I am not sure if he is being showcased for the trade deadline or if he has a legitimate chance to stick for the rest of the season, but I hope that either way he's successful.

- On the injury front, there seems to be some good news. OP should start Sunday, Alou is playing a rehab game... ok, Alou's not coming back this season - and even if he does, he's just another injury away from being gone anyway. Then there's the Jose Valentin - I punched a wall in anger injury that somehow managed to hurt only his pinky. well, that wall may have cost Valentin his starting job. The way Gotay is hitting, it will be hard to Willie to keep him out of the lineup. Also, I'd like to see how Gotay does with a regular diet of at bats.

- The Knicks have been playing really well in the summer league in Vegas. In basketball importance, this translates to..nothing. Though with any luck, Nate Robinson will continue to excel and the Knicks can unload him and an expiring salary for something. The roster has too many players on it (especially the way D Nicholls has been shooting it, I can't imagine he's going to the D-League) and a couple of players need to hit the chopping block. Nate's game is perfect for Phoenix, and the Suns love giving away draft choices (rather than having to pay them). Maybe we can trade Robinson and Dickau's expiring deal for the Suns end of the first round draft pick next season. I'm on board for that.

Monday, July 09, 2007

As the season hits All-Star break, the New York Mets are floundering. The team is mixing together inconsistency on offense and defense, a number of tough injuries, a serious case of complacency as well as a general lack of hustle. The result? Um, well they are in first place in the National League East, but they are one Atlanta or Philly hot streak away from failing to reach the playoffs.

Of course, they also happen to be one hot streak away from running away with the division as well, but this is a more critical analysis of the team:

First Base - Carlos Delgado has been mired in an entire year slump. He's not hitting for power and he's not driving in runs. This is HUGE PROBLEM NUMBER ONE for the Mets. The middle of the lineup is not mashing like it did last year. The Mets need Delgado to take a longer look in that notebook of his and figure out what is wrong.

Second Base - Before his injury, Jose Valentin was at least playing lights out defense at second. Now he can't field or hit. With the recent emergence of Rubin Gotay, you wonder it Willie Randolph will start playing Gotay more in the second half.

Short Stop - His lack of running out a few grounders aside, Jose Reyes has been having a typically good (though not MVP type) season. He's walking more, stealing bases, hitting for average (though his power is way down this season) and playing flawless shortstop.

Third base - After a very slumpish start, David Wright looks as though he has righted himself (no pun intended). He's really starting to pick it up. His defense improves each season. Has been the only consistent bat in the middle of the lineup lately.

Right Field - After last year's debacle, Shawn Green has been playing decently in right. He's a poor fielder (doesn't get to many balls) and he doesn't have a great arm. He's batting just under .280 but he's hit some very timely home runs for the Mets. All in all, very average since he's off the juice.

Center - after an MVP-type season last year, Carlos Beltran has come back to earth a little bit this season. He just has not been consistent at the plate. Incredibly, he's still on pace for around 30 home runs and 100 rbi. And he's still a magnificent defensive outfielder. His catch on Saturday night gave the Mets a victory. But he's not impacting games like he did last year and often he's an easy out. Pitchers are killing him with breaking stuff.

Left - There's nothing to say. The Moises Alou experiment has been a complete disaster. Couple that with the Lastings Milledge foot injury and you get almost no productivity from a traditional power position. The only silver lining - the slow emergence of Carlos Gomez - who was starting to show he would one day belong in the Met outfield when he, too, was lost for 2 months with a broken leg. Not sure about you, but I'm not loving heading to war with David Newhan and Shawn Green as my corner outfielders.

Catcher - Typical Paul Lo Duca season. Lots of wear and tear, decent average, fiery demeanor, a lot of outs in key spots. How much longer can he play with the punishment his body takes? The Mets are betting not long, refusing to extend his deal. He does seem to handle the staff pretty well though.

Pitching - Sure they have been wracked by injury, but lots of disturbing signs. Tom Glavine has been maddeningly inconsistent, following up a gem with a 4 inning, 6 run, 9 hit 4 walk type performance. And he's the de facto ace of the staff. El Duque has very little left in the tank. Whe you have the bases loaded and you are 302 and all you can come up with is the Ephus pitch - well that's not a good sign at all. And his month-long August vacation is coming up. Oliver Perez has been a real turn-around. With luck, he'll be back after the all-star game and picking up where he left off. Still, I don't trust him in big spots (prove me wrong lanky-one). Jorge Sosa, another scrap heap find, was also lost for significant time with a hammy. Dave Williams was throwing 84 yesterday. He was also throwing batting practice. Jason Vargas is...Jason Vargas. And poor Mike Pelfrey. He is going to need one of those starts where the Mets score 10 runs in the first to help him break his 0-7 skid.

Then there's John Maine. Maine has been nothing short of fantastic this year. He should have made the all-star team over Oswalt. It's been a pleasure watching him develop over the course of the last season or so.

The bullpen - Simply put, Scott Schoenwiess should be gone. Aaron Sele is nothing more than an innings eater, Mota needs some 'roids to get back on track and Heilman is not trustworthy in big Spots. Smith has gone through the ups and downs of a rookie campaign. Only Feliciano and Wagner have been lights out.

Prediction: The NL East is wide open. Thanks to their torrid start, the Mets still hold a lead in the standings. And the truth is, if they get healthy, if Pedro comes back, if Alou or Milledge can give them anything in left, if Perez and Sosa come back. If Minaya can swing a righty bat and a top relief pitcher. If Beltran and Delgado start hitting. If these things happen, the Mets will run away with the East.

The problem - too many ifs. I still think the Mets will hold off the Braves and Phils, but the way things are now, I don't see better than a second round playoff flameout.

Halfway Point Prediction: Mets hold onto the top spot and get eliminated by the Dodgers in the opening round of the playoffs. Note that all bets are off if (i) the Mets get healthy and hot, (ii) the team keeps getting wacked by injuries or (iii) Minaya pulls off some crazy trade.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Artest Rumor

The latest Knick scuttlebutt, troubled Sacramento Kings forward Ron Artest to the Knicks in exchange for some combination centering around the expiring contracts of Jones and Dickau, is very interesting talk. And so what if there are currently 18 players on the Knicks roster?

On the one hand, Artest is insane - he was the key player in the Palace melee and he's been a cancer everywhere he's been. Teaming him with players like Randolph and Curry, with a little Marbury thrown in to simmer, is an absolute recipe for disaster. It appears that Isaiah has decided to make or break this year - throwing character out the window in exchange for as good a team, at least on paper, as he can put on the floor. And a player like Artest can easily cause a very volatile Knick team to implode in a truly spectacular fashion - practice fights, refusal to play hard, no one but David Lee talking to the media, nightclub "incidents" involving Randolph and Artest where thirteen people end up killed in posse drive-bys - the possibilities are endless.



On the other hand, isn't Artest exactly the player the Knicks need? He doesn't need the ball on offense, but he'll occasionally explode for 30 point nights. He can guard anyone defensively, he grabs tough rebounds and he protects the paint (you know, what the Knicks gave Jared Jeffries 30 million dollars to do last year). If the other players rally around him, he can glue a poor defense together. As for adding salary (Artest has 2 years and just under $16 million coming to him), this is the Knicks, what do they care? And therefore, why should we care? Dolan wants a winner so badly at this point, he'd rubber stamp this deal in a second.

And let's not forget the flexibility this deal would give Isaiah. He now can put out a front court of Curry, Randolph and Artest, with Lee, Q-Rich, Jeffries, Randolph Morris, Ronaldo Balkman and Wilson Chandler coming off the bench. So he has a.....let's see here..... 9 man rotation not counting any of the guards. Um.......

Obviously, a deal like this would make the Knicks an almost mortal lock to make the playoofs in the Eastern Conference (barring the Artest explosion factor) but also one of the most unlikeable teams in the entire league. Curry, Artest, Randolph, Marbury and Nate Robinson - it's just a dream team of players to dislike. But again flip-siding it, in one sense it will make the team a lot more competitive while we wait upon the Lee, Collins, Balkman, Chandler, Demetrius Nicholls, Morris nucleous to grow. And don't forget the Knicks will be signing Lebron James when he becomes a free agent in three (?) years.

UPDATE: The Post is reporting that in order for this trade to happen, the Knicks would have to package a young prospect, notably David Lee, to sweeten the deal for the Kings. I say, NO WAY. Not only is Lee the best liked Knick, he is one of the only likable players on the team. Sure he has limited upside, but he's a rebounding fool would will learn to be a better defensive player. And he's a model citizen. Why on Earth do you trade that for a trouble maker? The Artest deal only makes sense for the Knicks if they get him for 50 cents on the dollar. Packaging Lee in changes all that.

Other News:

I had been hearing all kinds of wild reports that Pedro Martinez had been throwing the ball in the mid-90's during his bullpen sessions. During last night's game (the tail end of an embarrassing sweep to the Rockies which I am simply not talking about) Keith Hernandez was telling over how his nephew hit against Pedro in a simulated game on Tuesday. According to the nephew, a low prospect in the Mets system, Pedro's pitches were moving like vintage Pedro....sadly, they were moving in the mid-80's. I think everyone needs to take deep breaths with Pedro - hope for the best but, despite his bravado, expect the worst.