Repeat After Me – Let’s Go Nats!

Posted in Baseball at 8:10 pm by

Pick for yourself which was the more improbable occurrence Saturday afternoon — the Phillies’ magic number stuck at 2 thanks to a fantastic performance by Matt Chico (well, competent enough), or the Padres’ clincher being denied via the bat of Tony Gwynn (Jr.). As a result, not only are the Phillies and Mets deadlocked on the eve of game no. 162, but the Rockies’ lifeline has been extended for at least a few hours. Colorado is currently leading the Snakes, 4-0, (Matt Holiday, 2-2, double, 2 RBI’s) and if that score holds up, they’ll enter play tomorrow needing another win over Arizona coupled with a San Diego defeat in Milwaukee in order to force a Monday playoff for the Wild Card.

In recognition of Manny Acta’s charges doing their best to aid the Mets this weekend (after beating New York 5 times in their last 6 meetings), here’s an except from Thom Loverro of the Washington Times’ admission the Nationals weren’t even close to as bad as advertised.

I might as well get the first, and most painful, atonement, out of the way ” general manager Jim Bowden. Why is it the most painful? Because it’s Bowden, of course.

First, he brought in two players no team wanted ” Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young ” at bargain prices. You could argue both of them have turned out to be among the most valuable players on the roster ” Belliard because of his ability to step in when Cristian Guzman went down and Young for filling in at first base and contending for the National League batting title.

Then he and his staff managed to invite the best scraps from the heap to piece together a pitching staff that performed well enough to keep a weak-hitting team competitive all season.

I may be atoning, but it wasn’t unreasonable to think the pitching staff would be a disaster.

After all, Bowden himself admitted in spring training that he had never seen such uncertainty about a starting rotation ” four spots open.

“I’ve never seen it or heard of it,” Bowden said. “I’ve been in the game since 1984, and I can’t tell you before that. But I’ve never seen it.”

And then the one starter they were counting on ” John Patterson ” made just seven starts this year. Let’s face it, they got lucky, but as Branch Rickey once said, “Luck is the residue of design.”

That’s as close as I can get to atoning to Jim Bowden.

And a lot of people probably need to fess up for doubting Dmitri Young. When I saw him in spring training ” in minor league camp, no less ” I wouldn’t have given him much of a shot to finish spring training, let along make the major league roster. And when he did make the roster, I figured he would last three weeks before he would be on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring.

So not only did he make it through the first month, Young wound up being among the best hitters in the National League, batting .323 in 452 at bats going into last night’s game. He was banished from the Detroit Tigers last fall, even when they were getting ready for the playoffs, became one of the leaders of the Nationals clubhouse.

Indeed, who doesn’t (heart) Da Meat Hook? The cuddly Chad Cordero? The handsome and highly intelligent Robert Fick? The Beltway’s no. 1 Mark E. Smith fan, Jon Rauch-Rumble? Who couldn’t possibly fall in love with a team whose fan base includes “Taxi Driver” enthusiast / noted sabermatrician John Hinckley Jr.? Who dares doubt these Nats can’t win their 74th game of the season tomorrow against 92 year old Jamie Moyer? I know all the residents humans in this house will be rooting for ‘em, perhaps even decked out in full Nationals regalia — depending on what time the game at Shea ends and what the result was.

I’m sorry. When it comes to fashion (and everything else), I’m kind of fickle.

Pitching Not the Problem at CBP

Posted in Baseball at 4:54 pm by

The usual post-Adam Eaton bullpen patchwork (including 2-plus innings from ostensible Monday starting pitcher Kyle Lohse) kept the Phillies in a 2-0 game until the 7th, but with a pair of errors the Nats now lead it 4-0. Guess David Wright had a good point:

If we go out and win the next two, it puts a lot of pressure on Philadelphia. We know what it’s like to be chased. Now all of a sudden, the pressure turns to them.”

Ok, I’m not superstitious (if I were, I’d blame GC for talking about Maine’s no-hitter) but Aaron Rowand just led off the 7th with a solo homer. Phillies’ offense vs. the Washington bullpen from here.

K-State’s Mastery Of Texas, In Progress

Posted in Gridiron at 3:43 pm by

Kansas State 14, Texas 7 (3:05 remaining, 2nd quarter)

Jevan Snead would like to know if he can transfer back to UT. Time to bust out the “FaceOff” identity change kit, I suspect.

(update: Kansas State 24, Texas 14, halftime. Colt McCoy left the game after tossing his 2nd INT in 3 possessions. I’d dig out the old gag about x-rays of his skull revealing nothing, but if every Longhorn receiver had the ability to catch a ball in traffic like Quan Crosby, McCoy would look a lot smarter. Of course, there’s a world of difference between giving Crosby a shot at leaping over defenders and chucking a pass directly into coverage.  As it stands, McCoy’s protection today has been as questionable as some of his decisions, but I’d still say the sophmore is running neck and neck with Jose Reyes for regression-of-the-month. More on this one later, I’m not used to typing in a monsoon.)

(update dos : Kansas State 41, Texas 21. I suppose it would be considered good news that McCoy returned in the 2nd half, but his 4 INT’s on the day have directly led to 20 Wildcats points. In addition, Texas’ special teams allowed a 2nd quarter 85 yard kick return TD to James Johnson, followed by an 89 yard punt return TD by Jordy Nelson.)

(kind of related update : Colorado 27, Oklahoma 24. Even Willie Randolph can’t believe the Sooners blew a 24-7 halftime lead. It isn’t even October and we can already rule out a National Champion emerging from the Big 12).

Mets On The Ledge, Rescued By Maine & Da Edge

Posted in Baseball at 2:33 pm by

Mets 12, Marlins 0 (last of the 7th)

An otherwise enthralling Kansas State/Texas game is going to have to wait. Or rather, I’m gonna have to wait to leave the house. Despite Fox’s assbackwards national blackout, through the auspices of Gameday Audio I’ve been following the Fish/Mets matinee, in which the not-quite-dead hosts hold a commanding 11-0 lead. Lastings Milledge, playing his first game in 8 days, has a pair of home runs, and starter John Maine has 13 K’s without allowing a hit through 7 innings.

I think most of us (other than say, Orioles fans) might agree there would be considerable satisfaction in seeing the pitcher who was swapped for Anna Benson throw the first no-hitter in the Mets’ 45 year history.

During a miserable week in which poise and professionalism have been in short supply, it’s kind of amazing no Mets were ejected over the course of two bench clearing incidents in the 5th inning.

There’s no score yet at CBP between the Nationals and Phillies, mostly because the game won’t start for another 10 minutes.

The late Gene Mauch suggests that Maine be made available for long relief tomorrow, when and if Tom Glavine runs into trouble.

(UPDATE : Mets 12, Marlins 0, last of the 8th. After striking out Mike Jacobs and inducing Jason Wood to line out to Carlos Gomez, Maine’s no-hit bid was broken up by Paul Hoover’s infield single. Maine, as you might expect, is receving a wild ovation upon being pulled for Willie Collazo. Presumably, the Mets’ pen can hold a 12 run lead. Though after the last few weeks, perhaps we shouldn’t take anything for granted).

The Penn State Offense, Summarized

Posted in College Spurts, Gridiron at 1:59 pm by

Because I need something to complain about today (though I suppose I could just be grateful I can’t watch).

1st and 10 at ILL 25 Austin Scott rush for 6 yards to the Illin 19.

2nd and 4 at ILL 19 Austin Scott rush for a loss of 6 yards to the Illin 25.

Timeout PENN ST, clock 09:59.

3rd and 10 at ILL 25 Anthony Morelli pass intercepted by Vontae Davis at the Illin 18, returned for no gain to the Illin 18.

The Nittany Lions trail lost to Illinois, 27-20 in the fourth quarter.

’64 Phillies To Mets : We Feel Your Pain

Posted in Baseball at 11:55 am by

Gene Mauch’s 1964 Philadelphia Phillies had a 6 1/2 game lead in the National League with 12 to play. They proceeded to lose 10 straight and were passed by eventual World Series victors St. Louis.  If none of that sounds familiar, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi — the “fuckin’ retard” of Brett Myers fame — tracks down a few members of that doomed ballclub, looking for quotes about the ’07 New York Mets. (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory)

“I feel sorry for them; they’ve been in first place the whole year,” Tony Gonzalez, a starting outfielder on the ’64 Phils, said yesterday from his home in Miami. “And there’s a chance they won’t even get the wild card.”

I was through it in ’64 and wouldn’t want it to happen to anybody else,” he said. “No matter what you do, you keep falling down. The Mets scored nine runs the other day and still lost. Their bullpen was the best in the league earlier in the year, and now they can’t get anybody out. The same funny things happened to us in ’64. . . .

“[Johnny] Callison hit three homers in a game, and we still lost. Chico Ruiz and Willie Davis stole home to beat us. In another game, Felipe Alou strikes out and reaches first on a passed ball with two outs, and then Hank Aaron hits a homer into the upper deck and beats us. I think ’64 was worse than what’s happening with the Mets because of the way we lost.”

Ray Culp, whose sore elbow kept him from pitching during the Phillies’ late-season ’64 collapse, said he “absolutely can sympathize” with the Mets, “because if they let it slip away, they’ll have some bad memories.”

“That,” said Culp, a real estate investor in Austin, Texas, “is not my most pleasant year to remember.”

Even if the Mets continue to falter, the image of the ’64 Phillies never will be erased, said Jack Baldschun, who had 21 saves for the ’64 Phillies. “I’ve always said if we had won the pennant, we wouldn’t have gotten as much press as we did for losing it.”

Dennis Bennett, who went 12-14 for the ’64 Phils, wasn’t as sympathetic to the Mets’ woes.

“I don’t feel sorry for them,” said Bennett, who owns a cocktail lounge/restaurant in Oregon. “I feel happy for the Phillies. I signed with the Phillies, so a piece of me is still with them.”

Taylor : There’s More To Sven Than A Zipper Problem

Posted in Football at 11:31 am by

(“no, I don’t think ‘sorry’ really covers it”)

In light of this afternoon’s 3-1 home win over Newcastle, the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor is in a contrite mood towards Manchester City’s Sven-Goran Erikkson, a manager he previous characterized as “nothing more a hopeless charlatan, lining his pockets, chasing blondes and chuckling at our expense while making himself super-rich without doing anything to justify his bloated salary.”

Yes, City have been a bit lucky at times this season – and against Manchester United they surely pulled off one of the flukiest wins of all time – but who could genuinely have imagined Eriksson would have guided them to the Champions League places heading into October? And who seriously could have imagined his cosmopolitan selection of new signings would have gelled so quickly to give City their best start to a top-flight season for 30 years?

The questions are posed because it is no exaggeration to say that, for spells against Newcastle, City’s slick, first-time, pass-and-go football was as fluid as it has been since this stadium was built. Elano, in particular, was majestic, the outstanding player by a country mile, but perhaps it is time, too, to recognise some of the unsung players. Most of the praise this season has been reserved for Micah Richards and Michael Johnson, but what of the impact Dietmar Hamann has had since being restored to the team? Or what of the way Vedran Corluka and Javier Garrido have slipped seamlessly into the defence? Not one of Eriksson’s signings has let him down and he must relish the fact Elano cost roughly a third of the money Manchester United forked out for Anderson, his Brazil team-mate.

For those of us who watched Eriksson from close quarters when he was England manager and wondered how on earth this bumbling little fellow had ever got such a lofty position, that deserves an apology.

The 7-4 scoreline in favor of Portsmouth over Reading is not a typographical error. And while Marcus Hahnemann took it on the chin at Fratton Park, there was a far more flattering result for fellow U.S. keeper Kasey Keller, who presided over Fulham’s 0-0 home draw with Chelsea.

I realize Colombian soccer isn’t under the jurisdiction of the NFL, but can’t Roger Goodell fine Leider Preciado, just for the fun of it?

The Hooded Casanova Is Sued…

Posted in Gridiron, The Law at 10:19 am by

…and for once, it has nothing to do with Bon Jovi tickets and a busted marriage. From the AP’s Dennis Waszak Jr. :

-A New York Jets season-ticket holder filed a class-action lawsuit Friday against the New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick for “deceiving customers.”

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., by Carl Mayer (above) of Princeton Township, N.J., stems from the Patriots being caught illegally videotaping signals from Jets coaches in New England’s 38-14 season-opening win Sept. 9.

“They violated the integrity of the game,” Mayer’s attorney, Bruce Afran, told The Associated Press. “This is a way of punishing Belichick and the Patriots.”

Mayer is seeking more than $184 million in damages for Jets ticket holders.

The lawsuit maintained that because other teams found illegal videotaping by the defendants, Jets ticket holders should be compensated for all games played in Giants Stadium between the Jets and Patriots since Belichick became head coach in 2000.

The two calculated that because customers paid $61.6 million to watch eight “fraudulent” games, they’re entitled to triple that amount — or $184.8 million — in compensation under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

Mayer and Afran, who consider themselves public interest lawyers, have been thorns in the side of New Jersey politicians for years, filing lawsuits and demanding investigations to advance their grievances. They are well known in the state but generally have had little success in their causes.

Both have lost bids for elected offices, and Mayer once served as a presidential campaign adviser to Ralph Nader.

The 2007 New York Mets : On The Brink Of History

Posted in Baseball at 2:14 am by

Marlins 7, Mets 4

I’ll say this much for Oliver Perez — he lasted longer in a must-win game than Steve Traschel. But that’s about it. Proving as capable of handling a high pressure spot as, well, Tom Glavine on Monday night, Perez grooved one to Jeremy Hermida in the first inning, went plunk-crazy in the 3rd (shortly after allowing Byung-Hyun Kim’s 4th base hit of the entire year) and was victimized by a ground ball Jose Reyes should’ve kept in the infield in the fourth.

Speaking of whom, just a year removed from an MVP caliber campaign, Reyes’ miserable 2nd half cannot end soon enough. The shortstop was 1-5 on Friday night, his 9th inning single being just his 4th hit in his last 34 at bats. I would hate to think Reyes’ regression can be blamed on Rickey Henderson’s supervision, but I’ll try to look on the bright side. Maybe Jose’s gotten better at cards.

I’m equally loathe to second guess the manager each time something goes wrong, but I’m still not convinced the urgency of the situation has been impressed upon Willie Randolph. Trailing by 3 runs in the last of the 8th with none out and Carlos Delgado on first, Randolph chose to let Paul Lo Duca hit, despite Captain Red Ass’s noticeable limp. (Ramon Castro would catch the top of the 9th). Boogie Shoes hit a weak fly to center, typically tossing his helmet a moment later.

Why, pray tell, are Marlon Anderson, Carlos Gomez, Lastings Milledge or Castro on the roster if they can’t be called upon to pinch-hit for a player in tremendous pain? Tom McCarthy opined the Mets wouldn’t worry about Lo Duca failing to beat out a ball on the infield “because he wouldn’t do that anyway”. Good to know, then, there’s no apparent relation between hitting and healthy legs.

Newsday’s David Lennon
— quick to point out that Omar Minaya let Brian Bannister and Heath Bell get away — spills the beans on a Flushing whispering campaign.

Common sense dictates that Randolph keeps his job. That the Mets don’t eat the $4.25 million they owe him through 2009. That, in a meltdown as complete as this, you can’t possibly target one person as the scapegoat.

Nevertheless, one person inside the Mets’ loop, asked about Randolph’s future, opined: “I think it all depends who gets in the Wilpons’ ear at the end of the season, and how ugly it ends.”

It’s an open secret, by now, that Mets vice president of development Tony Bernazard — brought into the organization by Minaya — is no fan of Randolph. Bernazard doesn’t seem to care who knows.

As to the “ugly” factor: Was last night ugly enough? Why wasn’t anyone warming up in the bullpen as Oliver Perez melted down in the third inning, hitting Cody Ross and Mike Jacobs on back-to-back pitches — after hitting Dan Uggla earlier in the inning — to force in a pair of runs?

The answer became clear in Randolph’s postgame session. The man who boasts of having seen everything explained, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.”

Philadelphia’s 6-0 victory over the suddenly mortal Nationals moved the hosts into sole possession of first place with two games to play. Cole Hamels (8 IP, 6 hits, a season-high 13 K’s) provided the sort of dominant, poised performance the Mets have been crying out for. It took 160 games, but it turns out J-Ro was right. The Phillies are the team to beat. And even if the Mets manage to get off the mat later this afternoon against Chris Sneddon, they’re counting on some help from Washington to stay alive over the next two days. It’s a desperate scenario, one a nearly tearful David Wright described as “pathetic”. As for this sickened observer, I’d like to think a 7 game lead with 17 to play was margin enough, even without Heath Bell in the bullpen, but apparently not. We’re watching history in the making, and unless something remarkable happens over the next 48 hours, these Mets will join the ’64 Phillies and ’78 Red Sox amongst history’s biggest (regular season) chokers.


Cubs Clinch 2007 NL Central; Steve Bartmann In House Arrest for October

Posted in Baseball, History's Not Happening at 10:35 pm by

As predicted in this space, the only thing stopping the Cubs from going over that cliff the Trib mentioned today was a roadblock called the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers’ season ended with their magic number dropping from 1 with the Cubs win over the Reds (6-0) and the Padre win over the Brewers (6-3). According to ESPN, the Brewers spent 133 days of the 2007 season in first place, essentially seat filling for the Cubs. There are those who cite history as against the Cubs winning the World Series, usually backed up by evidence of a mystical Greek goat and incontrovertible numbers proving that when Billy Corgan sings at Wrigley the Cubs lose. While the Corgan theory holds sway in my house, I also point out that history is definitely against the Cubs ever making the playoffs. So, Cubs 1; History 0. In fact, via CSTB technology, I have preserved the Cubs’ victory for readers of this blog, suitable for printing and framing (pictured).