This excerpt from The Boys of Shea, the Unforgettable 2006 Mets
is highly relevant today after the Mets assigned Jose Valentin to minor league status, and presumably a trade to another team. Let’s hope its not the Orioles.
Copyright © 2006 by Evan Pritchard for Amazine
Originally posted July 29th, 2006
The day was October 12th, 1969, a sunny Sunday afternoon. The place was lovely Manati, in northwest Puerto Rico, where small huts scattered amid the sands were shaded by gently swaying palm trees. It was as far away from Roosevelt Avenue, Queens as one could travel, in a state of mind. Amid humble, not-quite manger-like surroundings, Jose Valentin’s parents to be were awaiting the birth of their new baby. Mrs. Valentin lay in the bed, in labor, while her nervous husband helped the midwives with their chores. The proud papa was a baseball fan, and hoped for a boy he could play pepper with in five years. He would get much more than he bargained for….
The following is historical fiction, a scholarly reconstruction of the mystical events of the next few hours of October 12, 1969, moments that would change the course of history for baseball, and for mankind. (This article, a salute to Jose Valentin and to the Met-fantasy movie Frequency, is respectfully posted pending comments from Jose Valetin’s family)
Dad looked at his watch. Two PM. He had already missed the first hour of the World Series game, the Mets versus the Orioles. He had friends in New York City, and, like everyone else in the world, was aware of the Mets unlikely climb to the top of the NL East, and had been following the NL playoffs against the Braves on the radio. Now the Orioles had won the first game of the fall classic, and the Mets were at the disadvantage. Too nervous to simply sit and watch the birthing, with his wife’s permission, the expecting father switched on a beat up AM radio to listen to the local feed from NBC radio’s Puerto Rican affiliates. The description of the game did not cure his nerves.
It was the top of the fourth inning. No score. It was an intense pitching duel between Mets’ Jerry Koosman and Oriole ace Dave McNally, both future Hall of Famers. The visiting Mets were coming to bat. The leadoff hitter in the inning, Donn Clendenon, hit a solo home run, and the Mets took the lead. It was only the second run in Mets World Series history, and put them ahead for the first time. The man, weary from hours of bedside manners and hand holding, gave a little “Let’s Go Mets!” cheer until the midwives succinctly shushed him.
The pitching duel continued and Baltimore was not able to tie it up against Koosman until the bottom of the seventh. Now it was the top of the eighth, one to one. If the Mets fell two games behind, it would be tough to recover. The Orioles had one of the best pitching foursomes in history, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, (all 20 game winners) and **** Hall, and one of the best quartet of sluggers to date; Frank and Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell and Curt Blefary. The Mets had four great pitchers, but one of the lowest team batting averages in World Series history. The situation in Baltimore was tense. Koosman was pitching a two hitter, but McNally was looking masterful as well. The light-hitting Al Weis, a career .238 hitter, had gotten one hit and an intentional base on balls so far. The eighth inning passed without a run scoring. It was still tied.
Señora Valentin was heavy in labor now, working her breath with the help of the midwives. The baby would come out any second. Dave McNally was tired, too, from his own labors, but stayed in to go the distance.
In the top of the ninth, Ed Charles and Jerry Grote got on base for the Mets, and the usually faint-hearted eighth-spot hitting second baseman Al Weis got an RBI single that scored what was to be the historic winning run, and it put the Mets ahead 2-1. Koosman was taken out for a pinch hitter, and Taylor came in to save the lead, and the Mets won their first World Series game to tie the series. Some point to that run as a turning point in baseball history.
It was at this joyous moment (or perhaps within a few hours) that the infant Jose Valentin was born into this world. “It’s a BOY!” senior Valentin shouted with pride. “He will be a ball player!” He hugged his wife, and soon was holding the baby in a blue blanket. “Let’s call him Jose!”
One of the midwives, an ancient and wise woman apparently of Taino extraction, with a mysterious look in her eyes, turned to Jose’s father and said in a husky voice that seemed to come from the world beyond, “It’s a SIGN! The radio! The base hit! Victory! Your son is going to be a great baseball player in USA with Los Mets! He will lead them to victory in a distant World Series, at a time when the world will be in turmoil and distress. He will lead them to a promised land, free of steroids.”
“What’s a steroid?” the new father asked.
“Never mind! This boy, whom you have named Jose, Jose Valentin, will follow in Al Weis’ footsteps! He shall be a switch-hitting second baseman for the White Sox, who will be traded to the Mets in an off year. In his second year as a Met, although starting out as a platooned player like Weis, he will lead them to World Series victory. This is why he was born at this moment. To show us his future. He will bring a boon to our village.”
“How do I know that these things you say are true?” the incredulous father asked with wonder.
She answered, “If what I am saying is true, the Mets will miraculously defeat the Orioles in four straight games, and in that last game, Al Weiss will hit an important home run at Shea, even though he has never hit one in a home game in his life before. That home run will fix the term “Miracle Mets’ in the minds of baseball fans forever.”
“Al Weiss? I find that hard to believe!” the father stated soberly.
“You GOTTA BELIEVE! In fact, Señor Weiss will hit .455 for the series!”
“Wait a minute? You expect me to believe that against Palmer, McNally, Cuellar and Hall that a .215 hitter will bat almost .500? No way Jose!”
“Deba Creer” (You Gotta Believe!) she exclaimed. “It will be a sign to you. Yes!” she said, suddenly dropping her accent for one more appropriate for Queens. “During that last game, you will doubt my words, as the Orioles will go ahead three-zip. But Cleon Jones will dispute a hit-by-pitch call by showing the ump the shoe polish on the ball. He will be awarded the base, and then Donn Clendenon will take McNally deep for two runs. That’ll bring the score to 3 to 2, and then Al Weiss will tie it with the long ball. Then you will know the truth about your son’s future.” The old woman left the room uttering a Spanish phrase meaning, “Mark my words!”
Good field-no hit Al Weiss was to go on to lead the Mets to victory in the World Series with an amazing .455 batting average. Cleon Jones got his famous shoe-polish free base, and was knocked in my Donn Clendenon. The Al Weiss home run off McNally did indeed tie the 5th game at 3-3, leading to victory and the Series Championship. In the words of George Burns playing God (in Oh God!) His greatest miracle was the 1969 Mets; before that you have to go back to the Red Sea.
The amazed father bought his son a second baseman’s glove and took good care of it until the boy was old enough to wield its power. The boy did become a great second baseman for Chicago,
but he was no light hitter. He hit 25 homers for them in 2000, 28 in 2001, 25 in 2002, 28 in 2003 and 30 in 2004. During that time he bought the Santurce Crabbers baseball team of the Puerto Rican Winter League and moved them to his small and impoverished home town of Manati, in the far northwest corner of Puerto Rico at the urging of the town mayor. Valentin changed the name of the team to the Athenians, and the team went on to break league attendance records, another minor miracle, thanks in part to Valentin electing to play second for his own team, and more recenlty amid rumors that Beltran might join him. It helped bring prosperity to the village. Last winter, the Athenians won their division title and made it into the playoffs.
Valentin was traded to the Mets in 2005 and had an off year as the Mets dallied around .500. He played sporadically behind Kaz Matsui in 2006. Around June 2nd of this year, Kaz Matsui was finally benched and Valentin took over, going 6 for 13 with two homers in the first few days. He has never looked back.
This is the time. This is the team. We must cheer our Mets to World Series victory so that eighth-spot hitter Jose Valentin can fulfill his destiny as a Met, and fill the shoes of Al Weiss. The opposing team will not be the Orioles this time, but may in fact be his own former teammates, the Chicago White Sox.
Some of the facts in the above story are true. Jose Valentin was born the day of Al Weiss’ game-winning single, in Puerto Rico, where he still lives. The baseball stuff is true. The rest is, shall we say a “historical reconstruction.” Is that part true? Well, as they say in Queens, “You gotta believe.”
NOTE: The author met with Ron Swoboda on September 17th, 2005, and discussed his role as advisor in the creation of the Met-Fantasy movie Frequency, starring Dennis Quaid, a film that used actual footage from the 1969 World Series. In that story, a man from the future proves his bizarre claim by foretelling the improbable events of the 1969 series. His prediction of the Cleon Jones shoe-polish incident played a part in solving an inter-dimensional murder mystery. Ron Swoboda and the author talked at length about Swoboda’s good friend Donn Clendenon, whose three homers did so much to win the contest and win himself an MVP. A few moments later, it was announced on the radio that Donn Clendenon had passed away. This incident only increased the author’s interest in the movie Frequency, in the 1969 Mets, and opened his mind further to chronicalling the supernatural where the Mets are concerned. Donn’s published book “Miracle in New York,” discusses Clendenon’s insider view of the amazing events and coincidences of that miraculous season.
High-powered Baseball Agent Said His Lawyer Gave Them to Him, “Didn’t Know They Were Illegal,”
Copyright c 2009 Amazine (For Parody Purposes Only)
Tuesday, March 10th, 2009, a surprise urine test administered by the American Association of Agents, Showbiz Lawyers, and Former Governors, caught
controversial baseball agent Scott Boras in a compromising position with unacceptable levels of Negotiorone in his body. This substance, banned last year by the ABA, American Bar Association, for its members, is said to increase testosterone levels in a way that makes users more verbally aggressive. It is said to unfairly enhance strategy-making skills and assists users in thinking several steps ahead of their opponents in chess games, verbal confrontations, and in the clever exchange of pickup lines with women in bars. Donald Trump is now also being investigated for Negotiorone abuse, however he is not a member of the ABA or any particularly important organization.
In an illusory interview with Amazine, Manny Ramirez, left fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and a client of Boras, said, “Hey, I knew his behavior was a
little off sometimes, a little odd, you know? …but I just thought to myself, ‘that’s just Boras being Boras. I didn’t make anything of it. Some guys never really mellow with age for some reason. Go figure!”
Mike Pelfry and Carlos Beltran are both clients of Scott Boras, and both expressed shock at the test results that implicated Boras in the abuse of Negotiorone. Carlos and Mike both said together in unison, “Wow, jeez! Man! I can’t believe it!”
Alex Rodriguez, Yankee third baseman, in an imaginary interview with Amazine,
arod.bmpsaid, “With a guy like Scott Boras, he has so much natural ability as a negotiator, that its hard to tell when he’s using his own natural strengths as an arguer, and when he is juicing them with illegal substances. I was shocked when I heard the news. I had no idea.”
Pelfry, who is not yet a guest blogger for Amazine, and who has been a client of Boras since he was 13, said, “Why a guy like that who is so successful, why take a chance of getting caught? It is such a shame. It’s a bad example for the little kids! Now instead of playing ball in trashy, rockstrewn sandlots and slum-bound basketball courts all over America, these little kids are gonna hang out in law schools and business colleges, trying to organize pick-up debate teams so they can show off their new-found prowess. I tell you, it’s a real shame!”
Scott Boras, whose business operations, including the ambiguously titled “Impact Marketing,” (“impact” is a word used in association with nicotene and other addictive drugs) are centered in Newport Beach, California, could not be reached for comment, and did not respond to several imaginary inquiries by Amazine. He got a degree from the McGeorge Law School of Eastern Lompock, California, and then, showing a conspicuous degree of forethought even then, went into medical malpractice law, a type of practices that would bring him into contact with a wide variety of prescription-only substances including steroids, and eventually, Negotiorone.
Players, apparently, once sold as commodities to these high-class buyers, seem to have trouble playing baseball for several months afterwards. Andruw Jones, for example, always performed well for low salaries with the Atlanta Braves, but choked up when paid $36.2 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers and never broke .200 at the plate. A-Rod, Johnny Damon, and even Beltran (in his first year with the Mets) had lesser slumps after working with Boras. If Manny Ramirez has had new emotional problems after the recent negotiations with the Dodgers, no one seems to be able to tell. It now seems evident that most normal players who work with Scott Boras soon need to take Negotiorone in order to deal with and become blissfully oblivious to the responsibilities involved with playing a child’s game for a salary greater than the Gross National Product of Paraguay.
Barack Obama may establish a new congressional panel for discussing regular testing for members of congress and used car dealers for the possible abuse of Negotiorone. Voters are calling for The Onion and other responsible newspapers to investigate other possible misuses of this long-abused drug. The irony is, it may take the entire U.S. congress, under the influence of Negotiorone to negotiate with Scott Boras to talk him into bringing baseball players’ salaries back down to earth. As the old expression goes, sometimes you need the hair of the dog that bit you to heal the wound.
This is from a book published in 1744 that mentions baseball.
This was uncovered by David L. Pritchard, our Midwest correspondent.
From an English children’s book:
A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, intended for the Amusement of Little Master
Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly with Two Letters from Jack the Giant Killer.
1744, John Newbery
What Do You Do When You Peak at Twenty-two? Ask Livan, the Prodigal Son of Baseball
Copyright c 2009 Evan Pritchard
What do you do when you leave home at 21 and conquer the known world at 22? Even John Lennon of the Beatles didn’t do that (he left home at 16 and recorded Please Please Me at 22, the Beatles didn’t conquer the known world until the following year). Even Mozart didn’t quite do that.
Who’d Mozart pitch for? He had perfect pitch as a player-manager for the Salzburg Nine in 1778. Child prodigy Mozart broke with his father Leopold at 22 and left to seek his fortune in Paris; he wrote the Paris Symphony, violin sonatas 24-30, and piano sonatas 8-13, with errorless performances all over Europe, before his 23rd birthday. Just after his 24th birthday, he had his opera Idomeneo premiered in Munich for the inauguration of the Elector of Bavaria. Within a year he moved to Vienna and the rest is….history. He was recognized as a world-class composer at 25 and now his bust is in the Hall of Fame.
What Livan Hernandez did back in 1997 was in some ways even more dramatic. A child prodigy of baseball, Livan left his impoverished family in Cuba in 1996 to move to the US and work out with the Marlins. One year later, still 22, he was World Series and National League MVP and a living legend. What do you do for an encore?
Its been a long, strange ride for Livan as it was for Mozart. In 1787, at about the age of 32, Mozart, worn out and dissolute, composed Don Giovanni, an opera with a story that seems to express his remorse for disappointing his father as a prodigal son. On or about Valentine’s Day 2009, Livan’s baseball father Omar Minaya signed the worn out and dissolute pitcher with the New York Mets (no not the opera company, the baseball troupe!). Five days later, Livan became 34 years old. When Mozart was 34 he had one year left to live. Livan may have one year left in his arm. It’s an interesting comparison.
Livan, like the child prodigy Wolfgang, is the prodigal son as well. Like many Mets players, he was with the Marlins when they went all the way in 1997. He did well against the Giants in the NLDS that year, 3 hits in 4 innings of relief, a 2.25 ERA. He was 2-0 in the NLCS versus the Braves in ’97, with a remarkable 0.84 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched, and a complete game victory, earning him series MVP. The World Series against Cleveland was his masterpiece. He started twice and won twice with a 5.27 ERA in 13.2 innings pitched, and was the Marlins’ World Series MVP as well as the National League MVP at the age of 22. His regular season salary that year? A paltry $1,050,000. Like Wolfgang he lived for his art, and he was the virtuoso that other masters traveled to see. His band members that historic year included Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Moises Alou and Cliff Floyd as well as Gary Sheffield and Jeff Conine. Jim Leyland was managing.
Why Does This Name Seem Familiar?
Livan Hernandez? Where have I heard that name before? If you were a Met fan in 2000, you remember that exciting NLDS playoff series against the Giants, which earned the Mets the right to face the Cards then Yankees in the World Series. In that NLDS, we faced Livan, a 17 game winner on the year, and he was tough, giving up 1 run on 5 hits in 7.2 innings. But our pitching was tougher and he lost, but with a 1.17 ERA for the game.
In 2002, Livan found himself pitching again for the Giants. (Barry Bonds was also on that team) He started once in the 2002 NLDS against the Braves. He went 1-0 and had an ERA of 3.24 in 8 innings. Then he went 1-0 in the NLCS versus the Cards. He started one game and had an ERA of 2.84 in 6.1 innings, helping the Jints get to the fall classic versus the awesome Anaheim Angels. He did not do well in that World Series and went 0-2 in two starts against that explosive lineup, giving up 9 runs in only 5.2 innings for a disappointing 14.29 ERA.
But Livan was not a quitter. Omar Minaya was managing the Montreal Expos that year, and soon after the series, on March 24th, 2003 Omar traded Jim Bower to the Marlins for Livan. A few months earlier he had traded for Cliff Floyd. On January 5th, 2004, Minaya traded Scott Stewart to the Indians for Ryan Church. So in 2004, Livan Hernandez, Ryan Church and Cliff Floyd were all playing in Montreal under Omar Minaya. Also on the team were Brian Schneider, Endy Chavez, both Francis and Rigo Beltran, Chad Cordero, Carl Everett, Juan Rivera, and Tony Armas, Jr.,
After some time in Montreal, and then making the plane to Washington, where he almost made it to the post-season, Livan ended up on the Arizona Diamondbacks (who gave him $7M for the year) and started a game in the 2007 NLDS against the favored Cubs and was terrific. He went 1-0 with one run in 5 innings, for a 1.50 ERA, helping to crush the Cubs’ World Series plans. Then the Diamondbacks faced the miraculous Colorado Rockies in the NLCS, probably more exciting a matchup than the World Series that year. Livan started and lost giving up 4 runs in 5.2 innings for a 6.35 ERA. To his credit he had 4 strikeouts versus only 2 walks in that big game. He was only 32 but the years were already beginning to show on the early bloomer from Cuba.
All told, Livan has a post-season ERA of 3.97 with 47 strikeouts and a won-loss record of 7-3 in 9 different series. There are pitchers in the Hall of Fame with worse post-season numbers. But there are other highlights we need to mention.
Livan was in two All Star games, once with the Expos, and once with the Nationals. In 1998 and again in 2004, he had nine complete games, with two shutouts in 2000, 2002, and 2004. In 2004 he had a career high of 186 strikeouts in a career-high 255 innings. His fielding is excellent; he enjoyed a 1.000 fielding percentage in 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2007, including one stretch of at least 77 appearances without an error.
His big seasons:
1997 9-3, 3.18 ERA 72 K
2000 17-11, 3.75 ERA 165 K
2003 15-10, 3.20 ERA 178 K
2005 15-10, 3.98 ERA 147 K
I have a feeling that Omar is going to give him that big chance to prove himself after that terrible season in Colorado. Win or lose, let’s cheer him on, let him know we are Mets fans and that we love the tragic opera that is baseball history. On Saturday, March 14th, in a 6-2 loss to the Nationals, Livan’s old team, Hernandez pitched two scoreless innings, and will almost definitely be a major league Met this season, either as fifth starter or in long relief, as predicted here at Amazine. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was also known to conduct without a score, in other words Mozart had many “scoreless outings!” Check in at Amazine for more updates on the return of Livan Hernandez and strange comparisons to Mozart.
The Minaya Syndrome
Whatever happened to Willie Mays? Duke Snyder? Gil Hodges? Mickey Lolitch? Mo Vaughn? They all became Mets, had mediocre years and then retired. I’m sure you can think of more examples. Really great players who joined the Mets after their prime and faded right before our eyes. Some would add Pedro Martinez to the list, and El Duque Hernandez, Livan’s Cuban cousin. (I like to think these guys and Moises Alou were stopped by injuries rather than spotty performance!)
Some young Met fans who started following the National League in 2006 may not be old enough to remember 2005, that was a long time ago. But in that year of antiquity, Livan Hernandez won 11 consecutive games for the Washington Nationals in their first year in our Nation’s Capitol. And people said, “Gee, wish he was on our side!” Well now he is.
Remember the Montreal Expos? No, okay, I’ll explain it to you. They used to play in a place far away called Canada, and a man named Omar Manaya was involved. Eisler Livan Hernandez pitched for them after three and a half years each with the Marlins and the Giants. Then the Expos moved to Washington, and went from being our least American team to our most. The first year, the Nats were awesome, right up until the end, when they had a big September slide. Even for those who were not former Senators’ fans like myself, it was sad to watch the Nats during that last month.
The following year Hernandez pitched 24 starts with a 9-8 record and was traded to the Diamondbacks, (where he saw post-season action) and then Minnesota and then Colorado where he had an ERA of over 8.00 in 8 starts last year.
Now he wants to be our fifth starter. Of course it would be great to go out to spanking new Citifield and see such a legendary hurler pitch in a spanking new Mets uniform. But then would come the fifth inning. What would happen? I recall a certain poem by Lewis Carroll; “Humpty dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, and all King’s horses and all the King’s men, could not put Humpty together again.”
Can King Omar put this Hernandez together again the way he put El Duque Hernandez back together and, for a while, Pedro, Cliff, and Moises (all players he helped to develop when they were young)? Pitching coach Rick Peterson was around then, he’s not now. Will that make a difference? Sometimes the old player with the heart of a champion can be inspired by younger players eager to get into that post season to do phenomenal things. Livan might be that guy. Looking at Omar’s record with other players from “Hispaniola” that he’s worked with before, I say let’s give him a chance. It’s only a couple of million dollars out of our pocket. Livan has the kind of post-season experience that seems to rub off on kids like David Wright and Jose Reyes. In fact, like Moises Alou before him, he was born too be part of the Mets musical family. We just didn’t know.
Author Evan Pritchard to appear at book signing in Saugerties on April 3rd, 2009
The Boys of Shea, The Unforgettable Story of the 2006 New York Mets, the book inspired by AMAZINE is now available in paperback. It is available on amazon.com or via http://createspace.com.335341. Evan Pritchard will be reading from the book and signing copies at a special event to cheer on the Mets and literary experiences of all kinds. It is to be held Friday April 3rd at 7 PM at the Hudson Valley Guild and Book Trader at 252 Main Street, Saugerties, NY 12477. The Mets have agreed to play no major league season games on April 3rd just to accommodate this important event. (Actually, it was the other way around) For reservations call (845)246-7205 or email email@example.com. Ticketron will not handle this event, as the admission is free.
Amazine’s “Take it to the Bank” Scouting Report on the 2009 Mets
Identifying Where the Question Marks Are On the Team
Copyright 2© © 9 by Evan Pritchard
During Spring Training, the owners, managers and coaches work hard to try to identify the real question marks on the team. Will the team make the playoffs? Who will be in the starting lineup on opening day? Who’s ready to make the team roster? Who’s healthy and who’s not? What kind of year will each player have? This column will answer these questions with such certainty that you will be able to take it to the bank, but you better run, so you get there before the doors close and the “OUT OF BUSINESS” sign goes up.
Speaking of banks (no, not you Ernie!) for the Mets, this whole season is a big question mark. What will happen to Citifield now? Will their bailout put Citifield in jeopardy? Should we change the name to “Pity-Filled?” so that impoverished fans and the U.S. government will be sympathetic with the plight of poor little Citibank, ignoring some of their unsavory past? It is, as they say, a “question mark.” Citibank stock recently went from under a dollar to $1.45. This surge was not based on savings the Mets experienced by dumping Duaner Sanchez on March 10th.
Jerry Manuel: The first big question mark is the manager, Jerry Manuel. They say the owners will finally put him in charge, with real managing authority. What was he doing last year? Passing notes from the Wilpons to the players? If he is good enough to be a real manager this year, what would have happened last year if he had been the real manager then? If he wasn’t good enough those years, why is he good enough now? Now they are saying he’ll win 96 games this year because he had his hands tied last year. (He went 55 and 38 last year a .591 win percentage, which if extended over 162 games equals 96 wins) On the other hand, critics are saying he might be terrible without guidance from on high and win only 70 games. After all, he hasn’t been the official “boss” of a team in many years. Who knows?
Prediction: Jerry Manuel as a “real manager” will bring the team between 70 and 96 victories!
Marlon Anderson: Another question mark is left fielder/pinch hitter Marlon Anderson. In 2007, he hit .319 for the Mets with 25 RBI’s in only 43 games. In 2008 he batted .210 in 87 games with only 10 RBI’s. In other words, last year he hit less than half the RBI’s in twice the games and cut down those unsightly batting average points by 119. In fact, as a pinch-hitter during September’s last ten games, he batted all of .111 without batting in a run. If he continues where he left off, it’s going to be a long season. Let’s hope for 2007.
Prediction: Marlon Anderson will hit between .111 and .319 and bat in between zero and 25 runs.
Fernando Tatis: Left fielder and all-position player Fernando had a terrific year last year, batting .297 with 11 homers, 16 doubles and 47 RBI’s. During September last year he hit .333 only to be stranded on base more often than not. Last year he batted .350 at Shea Stadium–the problem is, there is no more Shea Stadium. It’s just a pile of rubble. This year, they plan to play him at every position. He may even have to pitch middle relief if Pelfrey can’t get through the sixth. If Manuel doesn’t work out in his new role as manager as opposed to last year’s role as manager, Tatis will come in to manage as well. Unlike the other Mets, he is a Dominican in his mid-thirties.
Prediction: The entire team will go into a slump in September and Tatis will play all nine positions simultaneously, like Bugs Bunny before him, and clinch the pennant with a no-hitter on October 4th versus the Astros at Citifield, on the 400th anniversary (plus a day) of Henry Hudson’s famed farewell to Manhattan in which he shut down the entire Delaware Nine singlehandedly.
Ryan Church: Ryan “The Deacon” Church, the right fielder competing with Dangerous Dan Murphy for press coverage, is the Question Mark Kid. He batted .276 last season, in spite of a problem with left-hand pitchers and a recurring concussion (“is that one fly ball coming towards me or two?) with 12 homers and 49 RBI’s. He made a premature comeback and struggled with midgame cognition issues. After September 18th he batted only .176 with 2 RBI’s, no homers and 13 strikeouts. If he picks up where he left off, he’ll be lucky to get 25 RBI’s and 6 homers. However, assuming he is healthy once again, he has the potential to match his 2007 numbers; a .272 average, with 15 homers, 70 RBI’s and 43 doubles, which is why Manuel is threatening him with Hellfire and Brimstone. Modern medical science is baffled by the behavior of his EKGs, but the Mets’ season dangles by its little zigzags anyway. We hope that all good Mets fans go to church in 2009, but that no devilish fly balls do.
Prediction: Ryan Church will hit between .176 and .276, with between 6 and 15 homers, and bat in between 25 and 70 runs.
Dan Murphy: The third player promised a starting position in left field is Dan Murphy. With all the hype you’d think Dan is the reincarnation of Don Mattingly. However, Mattingly was recently seen on Yankee TV looking fairly alive, so that’s out. Dan, 24 year old wunderkind left fielder, has only had 131 at-bats, but has 3 triples and 17 RBI’s, with 2 dingers. Manuel likes his swing, but in the September slide he batted only .152, bringing his season and career average down from .374 to a miserable .313. He got his first at-bat on August 2nd of last year, but already the Mets are giving him the keys to the Metmobile and plan to blame him if they don’t win the World Series.
Prediction: His batting average will definitely be between .152 and .374…for sure!
Nick Evans: The fourth player promised a starting position in left field is a bit of a question mark, Nick Evans. He was a Mets rookie last year, starting his first game on May 24th. He batted .257 on the year, and smacked 10 doubles, but is a big striker-outer, 24 strikeouts to 28 hits. He hit .302 during day games and only .227 at night; he hit .319 against southpaws, but only .135 against righties. During the September slide of ’08 he hit only .214, but was strong in May.
Prediction: If Evans plays only in day games against lefties in May through July, he should hit .305, but otherwise he’ll hit .200.
Carlos Beltran: Carlos is over the first-year New York jinx and is in his peak years as a Met. He just needs more post-season experience, just as we need more post-season experience as fans. The big question mark is, will he wear his goatee this year or not? Last year (2008) he achieved his highest batting average as a Met (.284) the most doubles as a Met (40) the most triples as a Met (5) the most hits as a Met (172) the most stolen bases as a Met (25) the second most RBI’s as a Met (112) the most total bases as a Met (303) and the least strike outs as a Met (96). He also had his second highest number of walks (92) in a Met uniform. He was too busy to hit a lot of silly homers (27). He batted .308 during the last ten games of the September slide, so don’t look to him to kill our chances this year either. Unlike the other Mets, he is a Dominican (not born there tho) in his mid-thirties.
Prediction: Beltran will continue to phase out homers and inch upwards in all other categories, hitting only 25 dingers but breaking .290, with 44 doubles, 7 triples, and 29 stolen bases. No one will think he’s on steroids.
Other question marks for center field: There’s no question about it, whoever plays behind the “Marquis” of Center Fielders, Carlos Beltran isn’t going to get a lot of playing time, but three guys are trying out for the job. Cory Sullivan , Jeremy Reed , and Angel Pagan. Cory Sullivan, a veteran of the Rockies organization is not a power hitter so he can’t phase out homers. Even with Coors Field as his home base he hit only 8 homers lifetime. The big question mark is, will he hit like he did in 2006, (.267) 2007 (.286)or 2008 (.217)? He’s hardly played much the last two seasons. Jeremy Reed from the Mariners had a good 2005, but has been struggling since. In 2005 he had 33 doubles and 45 RBI’s, batting .254. In 2006 he had 6 homers, but dropped to .217. In 2007 he batted only .176 in 17 at bats. In 2008 he batted .269, but only .115 versus lefties. Not surprisingly, he lost his job to Ken Griffey, Jr. who seemed like a better choice this year for Seattle. That leaves Angel Pagan from the Cubs, who batted .247 in ’06, .264 in ’07 and .275 in ’08, improving every year. Following that trend, he should hit .281 this year, or better. He also steals 4 bases every year.
Predictions: I predict that Angel Pagan will get the nod. He will bat between .247 and .281 and steal 4 bases.
Carlos Delgado: The big question is, will Delgado play this season like he did the first 2 ½ months of 08 or as he played the last 3 months of 08? If he plays like he did the first half of last year, he’ll have 5 homers and 30 RBIs and a batting average of about .200. If he plays like he did during those first 67 games under Manuel, he’ll lead the league in homers with 58 (based on 24 in 67 games) and knock in 165 RBIs,(based on 69 in 67 games) and sport a .285 batting average, while making brilliant saves every inning at first.
Prediction: Carlos Delgado will hit between 5 and 58 homers, knock in between 30 and 165 RBIs and bat between .200 and .285.
Luis Castillo: Another question mark is the one at second base; why did the Mets pay this guy so much money? During last September’s slide, he hit only .167 with one RBI over ten games to bring his season batting average down to .245. On the other hand, in 50 games with the Mets in 2007, he hit .296 with 10 stolen bases and 8 doubles. In fact he has a lifetime .292 average with 342 stolen bases, (Reyes has 290 lifetime) (Castillo swiped 25 bases and knocked in 49 runs in 2006, and batted.304 in 2007) Unlike the other Mets, he is a Dominican in his mid-thirties. If he bats like ’07, good, if he bats like ’08, bad.
Prediction: Castillo will steal between 10 and 25 bases, bat between .167 and .304, and knock in between 16 and 49 RBI’s.
Jose Reyes: The question mark is, can he hit more homers than Handley Ramirez? The answer is no, the Mets are steering away from home runs this year. That’s why the new ball park has long fences with no “sweet spots.” They’re turning into a pitcher’s team. Now all they need are some more pitchers. However, a few surprise home runs while batting third in visiting ballparks will be fun.
Prediction: Jose will finally hit 20 homers this year, but mostly on the road, and will appear at least once in every level of the batting order. He will finally steal 100 bases and collect 204 hits again.
David Wright: The question mark about David is, how far can that tongue stick out? Can he still hit homers in the new ballpark? Will he make MVP this year? Will he get to play in a World Series?
Prediction: Wright will not be caught taking steroids, will not hit 50 homers, and will not date Madonna. But a World Series would be nice.
The Catching Squad
Brian Schneider: The next big question mark is Brian Schneider, first string catcher. Stolen bases are nice, but it is rare for an entire team to slide into second, and that’s what the Mets did last September. Schneider, who only got one hit after September 18th of last year, contributed to that slide. He also can’t hit lefties (.187) but is pretty good against righties (.277). He did hit 9 homers last year. He is not getting any younger. He will be 33 this November. In fact, our entire catching squad is 32 years old, probably one of the oldest in the majors. If he is platooned and only faces righties, he could bat .277 and hit maybe 12 homers and break 40 ribbies, as long as the runners sliding into home don’t break his little ribbies. If he plays like he did the end of the season, he’ll be lucky to “hit a lick,” whatever that is. He only has 4 stolen bases lifetime.
Prediction: Brian Schneider will bat between .187 and .277, and hit between 6 and 12 homers and knock in between 25 and 50 RBI’s. He will never steal a base the rest of his life.
The entire catching staff: Given that Schneider is a big question mark the Mets have wisely chosen two other catchers to back him up. These two would be Ramon Castro, whose neck is bigger than his head, (who never takes steroids) and Robinson Cancel, a man who is not Robinson Cano, of the Yankees, but who would like to be him some day, and was apparently mistaken for same when hired by the Mets. This other catcher balances out Schneider in many ways. While Schneider is old, (32) Cancel is young (32). While Schneider is a long ball guy, Cancel has one lifetime homer (2008) and had 10 RBI’s last season. While Schneider can’t hit lefties (.187) Cancel can’t hit righties (.107). While Schneider will never steal another base, Cancel has never stolen a base previously (okay, one, but he was caught two other times). While Schneider hit .257 last year, Cancel hit a robust .245. While Schneider slumped last September, Cancel slumped in August, diving to .200 on the year. It must give Schneider comfort knowing that he can be platooned by someone who compliments his strengths so well.
The other catcher on the squad to platoon with Schneider is Ramon Castro, a popular veteran Met with some heroic newsreel plays and key hits to his credit, most of them from 2007. While Schneider is old (32) and Cancel young (32), Castro is right in the middle (32). While Cancel is a 32 year old Puerto Rican, Castro on the other hand, is a 32 year old Puerto Rican. In 2007, he hit 11 homers, 31 RBI’s, and batted .285, including 6 doubles Castro batted .245 last season as opposed to Cancel’s .245. Whereas Schneider got only one hit after September 18th last year, Castro got only three after September 18th of last year. Whereas Schneider hits .277 versus righties, and .187 versus lefties, Castro hits .277 versus lefties, but only .218 versus righties. If Castro hits like he did in 2007, he will again have 11 homers, 31 RBI’s and bat .285. If he bats like he did in 2008 but sees a lot of righties due to injuries to the other two, he could hit 4 homers (like in ’06) and bat .218 if he’s lucky.
Prediction: Castro will platoon with Schneider, both get hot and hit .285 while hitting 12 homers, or he and Schneider will have off years, and both will hit 4 homers each and bat .218.
The Starting Pitchers
Carlos Santana: Another big question mark is Johan Santana. Will his left elbow be in shape to pitch opening day, against the Reds in Cincinnati on April 6th? And if he does pitch opening day will he ever pitch again? And if he pitches, will he pitch well? And if he pitches well, will he win any games? Why couldn’t it have been the RIGHT elbow?
Let’s look at the facts. Santana’s overall contract is worth $137.5 million, which works out to $23 million a year, the cost of running the School System for the Borough of Queens. The human elbow only has four muscles in it of any consequence: 1. the Biceps brachii, 2. the Brachialis, 3. the Coracobrachiatis and 4. the Triceps Brachii. That’s it. If his pitching elbow stops working for one year, that’s $5.75 million per muscle. Do we really want him pitching on opening day in a game that is not even in New York with stakes that high? And of course a permanent injury would cost the Mets $34.375 million per muscle, amortized over the space of five years.
If his arm falls off on April 6th, OR at the Citifield opener against the Padres on Monday, April 13th, he will win zero games this year. If his elbow is healed by some faith healer in southern Ohio, and pitches like last year, he could win 24 games. Really? Yes, if the Mets give him four runs per game. In his last 10 starts in 2009 he never gave up more than 3 earned runs, and went 7-0 during that stretch. Using that as an improbable standard, he could go 24-0 this year in 30 starts. The problem is the Mets don’t give him four runs and although he gave the team his all, a 2.53 ERA last year, he only went 16 and 7, not a Cy Young year. This is too bad, because that ERA was better than Met Saberhagen’s 2.74 in 1994, and just short of Met Tom Terrific’s 2.38 in 1975 when TT won 22. It was also much better than Santana’s own 20 win season in 2004 (ERA 2.61) and his 19 win season in 2006 (ERA 2. 77). I think we should take care of Mr. Sanatana, and use his foot cream as well!
Prediction: Johan Santana will win between zero and 24 games this year!
Mike Pelfrey: Young 6’7″ left-handed starter Mike Pelfrey may be one of the true question marks that will make or break the Mets this year. They keep expecting him to have a big year, which hasn’t happened yet. 2006 was so-so, and 2007 was a disaster; going 3-8 and sporting an ERA of 5.57. Though he struck out 45 in ’07, he also walked 39. Last year he lowered his ERA to 3.72 and reached 110 strikeouts, but also recorded 64 bases on balls and went 13-11 with 2 complete games. Lefties batted .307 against him, but he was strong against the right handers. If the trend of improvement from ’07 to ’08 continues to ’09, this year he should win 16 games, have 130 strikeout and have an ERA of 3.00.
Prediction: Pelfrey will win between 3 and 16 games, and have an ERA of between 3.00 and 5.57. He will register between 45 and 130 strikeouts. He could also be much worse or much better depending on the number of lefties he has to face.
Oliver Perez: Starting left hander Oliver Perez may be the least unpredictable guy on the Mets roster. He is the only player who had pretty much equal 2007 and 2008 seasons, although stats were rather different. He is awesome against lefties; they bat only .158 against him. Right handed hitters bat .258. He also handles more innings each passing season, 194 last year.
Prediction: Perez will jump over a lot of foul lines this season to increase his wins to between 11 and 16, pitching over 200 innings for the first time in his career. He will do well in the post-season especially against left-handed hitters during day games. His ERA will be between 4.22 (as last year) and 6.38 (2006 regular season).
John Maine: Right hander starter John Maine is a question mark this year. His ERA has been rising steadily since 2006; 3.60, 3.91 and 4.18 last year. By that trend, his 2009 ERA should be 4.40. His other stats have been all over the map, but in general 2007 was better than 2008. He won 15 in 2007, and only 10 in 2008. Perhaps he can repeat or top 2007′s performances, with an impressive 180 strikeouts against only 75 walks. Otherwise, the current trend is going to get him benched. His spring training is not off to a great start.
Prediction: Maine will win between 10 and 15 games, and have an ERA of between 3.60 and 4.40. He will record between 100 and 200 strikeouts, and top 200 innings pitched.
Pedro Feliciano: The question is, will Feliciano pitch like he did in 2006, 7-2 with a 2.09 ERA and 54 strikeouts? Or like he did in 2008, 3-4 with a 4.05 ERA and 50 strikeouts? During September of ’08, his ERA was 8.10, a major factor in the Mets self-destruction that month. Overall, right hand hitters had a .357 average against him in ’08, but he was strong against lefties.
Prediction: Pedro will win between 3 and 7 games, have an ERA between 2.00 and 8.10 and get about 50 strikeouts to 25 walks.
Duaner Sanchez: This guy was the biggest question mark in Mets history when he was in a car accident just before the trade deadline in 2006. He didn’t play in 2007, but made a nice comeback in 2008, with a 5-1 record. He had a 4.32 ERA, with 44 strikeouts versus 23 walks. However this was not good enough for the Mets who dumped him, apparently in favor of Bobby Parnell, who is 0-0 in 5 innings of major league play. The important statistic of course is missing; Sanchez’ salary is $1,687,500, Bobby Parnell gets stock in Citibank at $1.45 a share. For our evaluation of Bobby Parnell, see “cattle call.”
If Wagner suddenly gets better, we’ll have three closers who only “do” ninth innings, and only pitch for “saves,” and only two real middle relievers. The question mark is, how did this happen?
J.J. Putz: The question about J.J. is, the minute he throws his first home run ball, how will Mets fans, trained in Yiddish and four other street languages, resist yelling out, YOU PUTZ? More importantly, will he pitch like he did in 2007 or in 2008? In 2007, as the Mariners’ closer, he went 6-1 with a 1.38 ERA with 40 saves, with 82 Ks versus only 13 walks. These are good stats, folks! On the other hand, in 2008 he went 6-5 with 15 saves out of 23 opportunities, with an ERA of 3.88 and 56 Ks versus 28 walks. In other words, between ’07 and ’08, his ERA almost tripled, his saves were cut to a third, his strikeouts lowered by 26, while his walks increased by 15. Which will show up? The Total Putz of ’07, or the total putz of ’08?
Prediction: J.J. Putz will enjoy an ERA of between 1.38 and 3.88, and strike out between 56 and 82 batters, while walking between 13 and 28 men. He will earn somewhere between 15 and 40 saves.
Billy Wagner: Question–What if…just what if the Big W had a miraculous recovery from arm surgery and reported to the bullpen back to his old high velocity tricks? Do you think the now iffy-hitting Mets would ignore his pleas to get his old job back? I think not. Wagner had a 1.64 ERA in his last 10 appearances in 2008 with 10 strikeouts to 1 walk. His ERA at Shea for the year was 1.40, but then, Shea is now a pile of rubble. The problem is, what do you do with three great closers with three big egos? Only one pair of feet can fit on that little white piece of rubber at a time, and a team can only award one save per game.
Prediction: I predict that Wagner will either play or not, and will get between zero and 20 saves and between zero and 60 strikeouts working part time as a Met and part time as a busboy at Bobby Vee’s.
Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez: The big question about K-Rod, is will he go on a pilgrimage to see Madonna, and then confess all his sins and steroid use to the embarrassment of all New York, like the other Something-Rod in this town? Or will he use other kinds of drugs like the other K-Met, Dwight Gooden? I really doubt it. In fact, K-Rod is a very consistent pitcher. While the Mets were losing many of their last ten games, K-Rod gave up no runs in his last ten appearances with the Angels. His day game ERA for all of last year was 0.46. Right handers batted .205 against him, and on the road his ERA was just two. If we can send him out only during day games against righties on the road, he might finish the year with a perfect record. It’s too bad Citifield does not have Astroturf: he never gave up a run on Astroturf last year, but then he doesn’t tend to give up many runs. Lifetime he has 587 Ks versus 198 bases on balls, which is why they call him K-Rod instead of W-Rod. In 2006, his ERA was 1.73 with 98 strikeouts in only 73 innings pitched. In 2008 with the Angels, he had 62 saves. He just turned 27. The other question is, will he have a first year jinx in New York like Beltran and the other Rod? Of course not.
Prediction: Wagner, Putz, and K-Rod will all be healthy in 2009 and will all compete for the closer’s position, trading off 7th, 8th, and 9th inning appearances, giving the Mets a 1.000 winning percentage in games they lead entering the 7th.
Cattle Call for Pitchers: The biggest question marks on the spring roster are all those pitchers from nowhere who saw the ad in the Village Voice and are trying out, just so they can brag when the get back to the farm
Connor Robertson, had an 18.00 ERA with Oakland. No.
Brian Stokes had a home game ERA of 5.17 with Tampa Bay, and a 6.75 ERA down the pennant stretch. His 2007 ERA was 7.07. Sorry. Next.
Rocky Cherry: This guy’s name sounds like a hermaphroditic wrestler/stripper with an ice cream business on the side. However it is his real name and he had a decent year with the Cubs back in 2007, with a 3.00 ERA in 15 innings, with 13 K and 6 W. He is Hell on left handers! However he had a 6.35 ERA last year with an 0-3 record; a 10.80 ERA on artificial turf. Ooops. Bye.
Tim Redding: This is the guy who had a 54.00 ERA with the Yankees back in 2005, then went 0-5 with the Padres to round out the year. In ’06, he couldn’t land a job. Then in ’07 he went 3-6 for the Nationals but had a 3.64 ERA, his best ever. Last year he had 120 Ks to 65 Ws, and went 10-11 with a 4.95 ERA. Try us back next year.
Bobby Parnell: This young rightie has only pitched 5 innings in the majors, but gave up 3 earned runs. Keep in touch.
Darren O’Day: This rightie played his first major league game for the Angels on March 31st, 2008, and threw 43.1 innings, but gave up 22 earned runs for an ERA of 4.57. He also had 29 strikeouts. Interested in working for tips?
Brandon Knight: This right-hander has pitched 31.1 innings lifetime, with an ERA of 8.62 , with 24 strikeouts to 15 walks. He is 1-0 for a lifetime winning percentage of 1.000. Maybe he’s good luck on hitters.
Eddie Kunz: This guy’s first game was August 3rd, of last year. He only pitched 2.2 innings in 4 appearances, but now has a life time ERA of 13.50. DCUWCY (Don’t call us we’ll call you)
Carlos Muniz: He pitched 2.1 innings for the Mets in 2007 in 2 games, for an ERA of 7.71. In 2008 he pitched 23.1 innings and kept his ERA at 5.40, with a 1-1 record. Last year he had 16 Ks and only 7 W’s. There may be some promise here. Here’s our business card.
Sean Green: Wasn’t he an outfielder? Oh, different guy. This 30 year old threw a lot for Seattle and has a lifetime win-loss of 9-7 and an ERA of 4.32. His 2007 was good, but last year was not the greatest. Been there done that. Take a number.
Final Prediction: Even with all the question marks surrounding this team, I’m willing to go out on a limb and predict that the Mets will win between 60 and 120 games this year and end up somewhere between first and last. I personally think they will do well in the playoffs, but the Royals will give them a hard time in the Fall Classic.
Hope for the Yankees? Look Out Mets Fans!
The Bronx Bombers are the team to beat in Octobers with Democrats in the White House. All we have to do is block them from getting past October 4th!
c 2009 Evan Pritchard
There’s hope for the Yankees this year, and trouble for the Mets, in the form of Barack Obama. He is a formidable lefty, but that’s not the reason for pinstripe paranoia. He does have the mind of a Tony La Rusa, but that’s not the problem. The problem is, he’s a Democrat. The Yankees do really well when a Democrat is President. Why? Nobody knows, but if you don’t believe me, keep reading.
In their early years, the Yankees did not win any pennants or World Series. There were Republicans in the White House from their inception until 1913 and the Yankees did not enter the World Series. Then Woodrow Wilson, a Dem, came into office, and the Yankees did not play in the World Series then either.
There were Republican presidents from 1921 to 1933, and the Yankees were in seven world series, winning four (1-2 under Harding, 2-1 under Coolidge, 1-0 under Hoover) and losing three. There does not seem to be much of a pattern…yet.
But starting with FDR in 1933, things change for the Bronx Bombers. The new jinx or charm began, depending on your point of view. Without the Babe (whose voting record is not known) a mysterious pattern emerges. Under FDR’s democratic administration, the Yankees won six out of seven World Series they entered. (winning in 36,37,38,39, 41, 43 and losing in 42) Under Truman’s democratic leadership, the Yankees won all five World Series they entered. (47, 49, 50, 51, and 52.)
Under Eisenhower, they continued to do well, even though he was a Republican. (he would probably have run as a Democrat if he had to, for example if Dewey had won the previous election). They entered six World Series and split, three wins three losses, winning in 53, 56, and 58 and losing in 55, 57 and 60.
Under John F. Kennedy they won the pennant every year he was in office, and won the World Series in ’61 and 62, losing the series just a month before his untimely death on November 22nd, 1963. They lost the World Series again in 1964 under Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson.
The pattern doesn’t quite hold up after that. Under Republican Gerald Ford they played in two World Series, losing in 76 and winning in 77. They won the World Series again under Democrat Jimmy Carter in 78. They won the pennant once under Ronald Reagan, that was in 1981, but lost the World Series that year.
The Yankees never won a pennant while George HW (Poppy) Bush was in office, Republican. They won only one pennant under George W. Bush, that was in 2001, but lost the series that year to the Diamondbacks. But under Clinton, they won four World Series and lost none, going all the way in 96, 98, 99, and 2000. As mentioned before, they did not win any World Serieses during any Bush administrations. Which brings us to Barack Obama. Will he be good luck for the Yankees? Or will the White Sox suddenly start winning all the marbles?
What does that all add up to, my friends? Not a convincing curse, but some interesting and lopsided stats.
FDR 6-1 in World Series Championships
Truman 5-0 in World Championships
Kennedy 2-1 in World Series
That’s 16-3 in World Series play for the Yankees while a Democrat is in office.
You’re probably saying to yourself, that’s 19 Democratic World Series contests between 1933 and 2000; not too shabby.
Now let’s look at the Republican World Series record with the Yankees since FDR.
GW Bush 0-1
Their World Series record under a Republican administration since FDR is a disappointing 4-6. But 10 World Series isn’t bad either.
All told, the Yankees are 16-3 under Democrats and 8-9 under Republicans in World Series competition. What that means is that they won 19 league pennants under Dems and 17 under Reps, not much of a difference. But in terms of October, we see the difference is quite dramatic. Under an Obama administration, there’s no telling if they’ll get to the Fall Classic, but if they do, they will most certainly win. They have an .842 winning percentage in World Series championships with a Democrat in the White House, so you gotta like their chances if they can get there. All we have to do is block them from getting there.
Any ideas how to do that?
Can we still get this guy?
With all the hype about Murphy, maybe we could get him in a trade for Murphy.
I hear he can play the outfield!