Thursday, July 31, 2003

Don't Look Now, But Here Come the Marlins!

Well, I been movin' down to Florida.
And I'm gonna bowl me a perfect game.
Well I'm gonna cut off my leg down in Florida, child.
And I'm gonna dance one-legged off in the rain."

Butthole Surfers, "Moving to Florida

You can call it official now. You can roll out the barrels, the fat is in the fire, jump on the bandwagon and start the party train because with the Florida Marlins concluding a three game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks last night in an outstanding pitcher's duel, the Marlins have now won six straight games to push them 10 games over .500. Since May 23rd, the Marlins are 40-20, the best in baseball, and are perched a mere game behind the Philadelphia Phillies for the National League wildcard spot. So don't look now ladies and gentlemen, but the Florida Marlins have arrived!

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Duquette Almost A Success

Now that the Mets appear to be done shaking and baking, here's a summary of Mets temporary GM Jim Duquette's work to date:

1. Roberto Alomar to Chicago White Sox for Royce Ring, Edwin Almonte and Andrew Salvo. Since he was traded, Alomar is hitting .315 with 0 homers and 4 RBIs and a current 11 game hitting streak. This goes to confirm what we already knew: regardless of his salary, Roberto Alomar is a gutless deadbeat who can't perform the job he's well paid to perform if the team isn't up to his standards. Either that, or he just can't hit NL pitchers. True enough. In his pathetic, spitting-in-the-umpire's-face career, Alomar NEVER hit .300 in the National League. Hall of Fame? Ha! How about Hall of Lame? So, getting anybody for this stiff was a boon.

As for the players that Duquette got: Royce Ring, has 5 saves in 8 appearances and a 2.53 ERA 10-5 ratio in 10.2 innings with AA Binghamton, Andrew Salvo appears to be a wash already and is hitting .205 with the A Capital City Bombers while Edwin Almonte, who has been sliding rapidly, has a 9.45 ERA in 6 useless appearances with the Mets surrendering more earned runs than innings. The best prospect acquired by the Mets in the deal is Royce Ring, who entered the season rated as the White Sox' No. 10 prospect and could possibly become the Mets' closer by this time next year.

Result? Future closer for current loser. Thumbs up.

2. Jeremy Burnitz to the Dodgers for 2B Victor Diaz and a pair of righties, Joselo Diaz, Jacksonville RHP Kole Strayhorn. Jeremy Burnitz suddenly discovered how to hit again this season and even when he was striking out every other at bat, was a happy-go-lucky kind of Met. But upbeat personalities alone don't win championships and Burnitz was certainly not worth the enormous salary he was stealing from the Mets. Now that he's on a "winning" team again, Burnitz is back to his old ways, hitting .239 with 3 homers and 7 RBIs in 12 games with the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, Victor Diaz, who claimed batting crowns in each of his first two pro seasons and was named MVP of the Double-A Southern League all-star game this year, is hitting .333 with a homer and 7 RBIs in 13 games with AA Binghamton. He looks like a solid hitter, something Burnitz was never able to achieve, but isn't a good fielder so maybe he'd be best stuck in the outfield where the Mets keep all their lousy fielders. The "other" Diaz with A St. Lucie, has 4 appearances, 2.84 ERA and a 1-1 record. He regularly throws in the mid-90s and has a decent splitter to go along with it. Strayhorn, in 6 appearances, has 5 saves and a 1.59 ERA and will either help out in the bullpen eventually, or work as trade fodder on another day.

Result? Way overpaid hole in swing hitter but likeable guy, Burnitz gone for the rest of the season and in return, at least two guys who will be worth something later down the road for future trades, and in a best case scenario, another starter and more bullpen help. Thumbs up again.

3. Armando Benitez to Yankees for RHPs Jason Anderson, Anderson Garcia and Ryan Bicondoa. All along I, like MANY others, have wanted to get rid of Armandogeddon, at any price. Getting ANYONE for him, even the stiffs the Yankees dumped on us, is a pleasure just to avoid having Armando to kick around any more. Jason Anderson has had 8 appearances for AAA Tidewater with a 0.71 ERA and a 16-3 K-BB ration in 12.2 innings. He could be a good set up man for the future. Garcia, who owned one of the best fast balls in the low Class A Midwest League, reaching 96 mph regularly, has pitched in only one game for the A Capital City Bombers with 3 strikeouts and no runs surrendered in 2.1 innings and also looks like a possibly solid future pen addition. Bicondoa, bothered by a nagging arm injury that sidelined him for a month, has not appeared for St. Lucie to date. Armando, as we know, has already lost a game for the Yankees and has a 3.00 ERA with 5 ks and 4 walks in 6 innings of work.

Result? Getting rid of Armandogeddon is good. If Jason Anderson turns into a decent bullpen addition, this trade will work better for the Mets than the Yankees.

4. Graeme Lloyd to Royals for Jeremy Hill, who will pitch for AA Binghampton. The Royals drafted Hill as a catcher out of a Dallas high school in 1996's sixth round. After he hit .229-14-123 in 368 minors league games, Kansas City decided to try him on the mound because of his tremendous arm strength. When he hit 95 mph, the conversion became permanent. Hill, 25, has a fastball that peaks at 99 mph, but he has struggled to add a breaking pitch (first a curveball and now a slider) and to maintain a consistent delivery. It isn't much but then again, neither was Graeme Lloyd if your not fighting for a playoff spot. Mets interim general manager Jim Duquette said Hill, a converted catcher who throws in the upper 90s, is at least a year away from the big leagues and needs to develop another pitch.

Result? Nothing for nothing.

5. Rey Sanchez to Seattle for Kenny Kelly. Sanchez, Mr. Haircut, no longer needed because of Reyes and his absurd .207 batting average, will be off to water down Seattle's batting order while Kelly is best known as Ken Dorsey's predecessor at quarterback at the University of Miami. The Devil Rays signed him to a two-sport deal as a second-round pick out of a Tampa high school in 1997, then got him to give up football with a four-year big league contract worth $2.2 million in February 2000. Strapped for cash and dismayed by his lack of progress, the Rays got out of his contract by selling him to Seattle in April 2001. He seemed to turn a corner in the second half of that season, and the Mariners started getting excited about his combination of speed, power and arm strength. However, Kelly has regressed since and remains an athlete who hasn't been able to turn his tools into baseball prowess. He hit .246-13-37 with 20 steals in 96 games at Tacoma this year, though he's still struggling to learn the strike zone (29 walks, 79 whiffs). He appeared in two big league games with the 2000 Devil Rays, going 0-for-1. The Mets assigned Kelly to Triple-A Norfolk.

Result? Another huge zero for a possible future player.

Overall, an unspectacular but stable beginning for Duquette, good enough to merit a contract if former Met assistant GM and current Expo GM Omar Minaya can't be brought on board.

Monday, July 28, 2003

"This is not about me, and it never was. It was about the people who put me here, the people who supported me. If I could, I would get plaques for each and every one of you." Hal McCoy, during yesterday's HOF acceptance speech.

Grey skies and the threat of rain hung over us as we rolled along a winding Route 80 with the translucent pea green algal blooms of a pristine Lake Otsego to our left and the Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown ahead of us.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Another Euripidean Hero Bites The Dust

"O ye sons of men, victims of a thousand idle errors, why teach your countless crafts, why scheme and seek to find a way for everything, while one thing ye know not nor ever yet have made your prize, a way to teach them wisdom whose souls are void of sense?" -- Theseus decrying Hippolytus' alleged act.

While it seems that common sense may well be one of the last virtues awarded today's athletes in their carefree world of sundry temptations, with modern public relations machines and sometimes seedier mechanisms employed to protect them, today's athlete, like today's politician, has plenty of resources with which to battle.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Ding Dong! Armando's Gone

"He's as reliable as a schitzophrenic on crack." David Wells, speaking about his new teammate in his book, "Perfect I'm Not! Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball"

One by one our local nemeses are leaving. First, it was Fat Mo and his cranky knees buckling under an elephantine torso of jelly belly lard. Then Mike Piazza, the recalcitrant DH, snapped his groin muscles like the strings of a five dollar guitar before the first base controversy could gather a full head of steam. Then Steve Phillips was finally rushed out to fulfill his future in obscurity. Later, went Roberto Alomar, Jeremy Burnitz and now finally, Armandogeddon, gone. All gone. Sifting through the embers, of this dying season, one can only be thankful that there isn't much dead weight left.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Taking The Heat

"Observe your enemies, for they first find out your faults." Antisthenes (445 BC - 365 BC)

It's evident that a bat and ball can cause much more anarchy than even the grand panjandrum of baseball, Bud Selig, would care to admit these days. Just this week alone we've had Pedro bringing George Steinbrenner to tears by going handhunting through the loathed lineup of the Yankees and knocking Jeter and Soriano out of a game on fewer pitches than it takes Tom Glavine to hit the strikezone on a given night. Then, a few nights later, we have the ridiculous Randall Simon tenderizing a human sausage by taking a T-Ball swing with his 33 1/2-ounce Louisville Slugger model R205. The funny thing is, while one of these abominations invoked a three game suspension for its primary participant, the other elicited nary a comment from the grand poohbah of baseball philistinism.

Monday, July 07, 2003

They Aren't All Stars

"We're all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. --Oscar Wilde

Every year it's the same story. The All-Star team selection is announced, fans start convulsing and squawking, hands start wringing, cities are insulted, bonuses are paid out or foresaken and in the end, just like in life, not everyone's superior performances are rewarded. Rotten eggs all around.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Mid Season Awards
"I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either." --Jack Benny

With the Allstar Game just around the corner and the season's halfway point finally breached, it's time to ponder the events of the 2003 season to date and hand out recognition where recognition is due: