The Mets Are Killing My Relationship

Something new and wonderful and awful is happening.

In the three years that Danielle and I have been together, by June, the Mets have fallen out of the playoff hunt. Often during those three years, they have been borderline un-watchable. This has been great for our relationship, because although I have continued to pay a cursory level of attention to the goings on on the field for fantasy baseball purposes, I have not felt a longing to actually watch any of the games (you can only watch Mike Pelfrey get shelled so many times before you become numb to it.)

Unfortunately for our relationships sake, this is not the case this year. As a Mets fan, I could not be happier. Not only are the Mets in the thick of the playoff hunt, they are fun and entertaining to watch. They are young, they play hard, they pitch well and as evidenced by their 11 runs against the Phillies last night, they can hit the crap out of the ball at times. R.A. Dickey’s starts have become must-see-TV. Johan has already thrown a No-Hitter this year. Jon Niese gets better with every start (as does my fantasy team thanks to his pitching). David Wright is the MVP of the NL in the first half of the season. They are so good, it almost makes you forget about that guy who used to play short stop and wear uniform #7.

What this means for our household however, is that my attention is clearly not focused on being anything close to a good partner. At the Jazz Fest Saturday (check out Trombone Shorty!) I was more focused on the fact that Johan had given up only two hits in 8 innings than I was on enjoying our night out. Twice in the last week, Danielle has said something to me that I heard none of because I was thinking about the pitching match-ups in the Mets upcoming games.

They say the first step towards recovery is accepting that there is a problem. I am 100% aware that this is a problem. I am also 100% aware that until either the Mets fall flat on their faces and drop out of the race (I actually do not see any possibility of this happening) or the season ends, I am not going to become less interested in this team. There was a magical feel to the 2006 team, and looking back this feels very similar.

For now, I am going to stick to my “three games a week” rule and choose wisely which games I decide to watch.

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Mets Baseball- 4-0

I feel like I have been here before.

I actually started this post yesterday, and the title was “Mets Baseball- 3-0.” I had to change it this morning, because this team just keeps winning.

Look, I am not an idiot. I realize there will be a time in the next few weeks where this team loses 3-5. But, right now they are doing all the little things right and winning by playing good baseball, pitching well and getting timely hits.

They are fun to watch. They are young and hungry (enter Raheem Morris joke here).

I thought last night, as the wheels started to come off for Mike Pelfrey, that we were starting to see what this team would really be. Then something unheard of last year happened. Big Pelf calmed down, and battled through 5.2 innings allowing 3 runs and striking out 8.

There is something going on here. I am not prepared to announce that this team is a legit contender in the NL East. Due to the nature of the baseball season, you cannot read too much into any one game. You have to judge a team on 7-10 games at a time. I will reassess where the Mets are at the end of the week. But right now, Steven Strausberg v. Johan Santana Wednesday it must watch TV,

Lets Go Mets.

Opening Day- It’s Only One Game

Yesterday was opening day, and yes, it was only one game in the big scheme of things. The Mets are 1-0 on the season and in first place.

But, when I think about it, I wrote that first sentence wrong. It wasn’t only one game in the big scheme of things. In the little scheme of things, it was one game. In the big scheme of things, it was a giant leap away from what this team has been for so long. It was a massive stride away from the last five or so years. It was a breath of fresh air in a room that has been so clouded and stuffy for so damn long.

All I need as a Mets fan is a little bit of hope. Don’t give me a ton of hope, just a shot glass full. Too much hope is a problem, because with it comes expectations that too  many times this team has failed to meet. Just a little bit of hope fills me with just a little bit of excitement, and that is right where I want to be with this team.

I would be lying if I didn’t follow every one of Johan Santana’s 89 pitches yesterday on MLB Gameday. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t totally engrossed in the end of the game at the bar for happy hour with my coworkers.

The reality is, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till I am freakin’ dead, I am stuck with this team. If I am stuck with them, I am going to make the best of it. I am going to watch and enjoy the games, because for the first time in a long time, these guys seem to care. They are young. They are not 30-year-old millionaires. They are mostly guys making the minimum looking to get that first big contract. They are Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Jon Niese, and they are fun to watch.

The last few seasons, I didn’t go in feeling like this (or did I?). Like a battered spouse, I always forget about the bad times. They only do it because they love me, right?

Yes, it was only one game. And in the big scheme of things, it was a huge step in the right direction.

Opening Day is Here

I realize that this is basically the definition of insanity. But I cannot help myself. I am excited about opening day.

I am excited about Johan Santana pitching for the first time in over a year. I am excited about seeing if David Wright can bounce back. He hasn’t been the same player since Matt Cain drilled him in the noggin with a 95mph heater. I am excited about seeing Ike Davis, Lucas “the Dude” Duda, and others.

I realize that it is crazy for me to be hopeful for this season. At the end of the day, I don’t care. Just as you cannot tell your heart who to love, you cannot control which professional sports teams you will devote endless hours to supporting.

The likelihood that this season will end any different from any of the previous ten for the Mets is slim at best, and I don’t care. I wouldn’t be a Mets fan if I did.

The last few years have been brutal. From the moment that Carlos Beltran watched Adam Wainwright’s curveball bend in for strike three in the ’06 NLDS, things have gone terribly wrong for this franchise. I don’t believe that will change until there is a change in ownership, but it doesn’t mean that this team is doomed to be this epically terrible, all the time, does it?

I will save the rest of my rantings about the horrors of the last five years for another time. Today is opening day, first pitch is in 45 minutes, and I have to find a way to watch the game will also teaching until 3pm…

What a Mess…

I have had to be very real with myself and my Mets fandom in the last few weeks.

This team is terrible. Willie Randoph was not the problem.

Jerry Manuel was not the problem. Neither was Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, or any other single player.

The problem is mental. The problem is one of group psychology. There is something inherently wrong with he makeup of the players on this team as a group, and until it changes, nothing will change.

I look at Carlos Beltran, David Wright, and Jose Reyes, the longest tenured Mets at this point. Individually, they are all extremely talented players, who for whatever reason (and I don’t claim to have the answer) are unable to take that talent and succeed on the highest level. Carlos Beltran will forever be defined by Adam Wainwright’s curveball in ’06. David Wright will be forever defined as Captain Un-Clutch, or as I have taken to calling him K-vid Wright because I have never seen a more talented player look so consistently lost at the plate. Jose Reyes will forever be defined by plays like last night where he was caught napping leading off first, down one run in the ninth where he was doubled off on a failed bunt attempt. The frustration being that it was the fourth time he was on base last night, and scored only one run.

So, what is the problem then? I think I heard the answer last night. Not from David Wright, the supposed leader of this team, who is as full of excuses as he is terrible swings. Not from Terry Collins, who appears to have absolutely no control over what is going on with this team, and sounded totally fine during his post game presser last night, when he should have been airing out his lazy players for their awful play. It wasn’t from Carlos Beltran, who instead of taking Angel Pagan, his protegé, under his wing and explaining to him how god awful his base running has been and how his lack of production is killing this team, has been loafing after balls in the outfield.

No, I heard the answer from the least likely of sources. R.A. Dickey, the Mets knuckleballing “Ace”, who was as honest and candid as I have ever heard a major league player, or any player for that matter in my sports watching life.

Following the latest Mets implosion, Dickey threw himself, and his teammates by extension, under the bus, the classiest and most honest way I have ever heard. What he said in essence is that as 25 men, they have to stop saying “We are getting unlucky, we need to play better, we are better than this, we need to execute” as those are simply empty words, and be honest about who they are, what they are doing wrong, and find a way to fix it. To say I was left speechless would be an understatement.

Dickey’s exact words were:

“It starts with me. We have to find a way to be honest with ourselves about what  kind of team we are. We can’t just keep telling ourselves, ‘Oh, we’re a  better team than this.’ We may not be. And we’ve got to be honest about  that, and identify what we’re doing wrong, and do it better. That’s the  only way you have any real growth…If we keep waltzing through the season and saying, ‘Oh, we’re better  than this,’ or ‘We’ve had some bad breaks,’ or ‘The umpires are bad,’  we’re going to look back and kick ourselves in the butt because we’ve  done nothing about it. We’re walking too many guys, we’re  not hitting with runners in scoring position. If you can identify the  problem, it doesn’t have to be psychologically so overbearing.”

I think this was so powerful to me because this is how I try to live my life. Analyze what you do, think about the outcome you desire, determine what action is needed to obtain the outcome, if the desired outcome is not obtained, be real and honest about why not, and act differently in the future.

This is ground breaking because this type of talk has not come from the Mets in 4 or 5 years. There is 0 accountability for failure, because there has always been an excuse. David Wright is the face of this for me. He always has a reason why the outcome was what it was, without ever owning his own failure. He never says “We failed because I struck out with runners on first and third with one out.”

I have no idea if Dicky’s comments will have an impact, I have no idea what kind of voice he has in that room of men. What I do know is, Carlos Beltran isn’t speaking up, David Wright isn’t speaking up so someone has to.

I am still waiting for a beat reporter to ask Terry Collins this question: “If your entire focus this spring was on fundamentals and playing the game the right way, and your team has the worst record in the league for no other reason than they are the least fundamentally sound, most undisciplined, unfocused team who does none of the little things right, is that your failure, or your players failure?”

I am so disappointed. There is not Jerry Manuel to fire, there is no Oliver Perez to send packing. This is the team and the manager that I was hoping for, these just are the results I have hoping for.

More on the Mets

I don’t want to sound like I am harping as I just posted about this the other day, but this is clearly not 2010.

Everything that has been unwatchable about the Mets for the last 5 years, has been completely absent in the first 5 games of the 2011 season.

Like I stated in the previous post, I left the opening night of the season feeling “Here we go again”. Everything since then has felt completely new and different. Players hustling, taking the extra base, working at-bats, getting big outs, clean fielding, smart managerial decisions… Who is this team? None of these things were done with any type of consistency in the last 5 years. They would show flashes of these things, just enough to string me along. As a Mets fan, I am a human dichotomy, one part optimist, one part depressed pessimist.

Today, following last night’s hammering of Cole Hammels and the Phillies, I have every expectation that they will continue to play like this. I don’t think they will win every game. There is every possibility that they lose the next two games (Mike Pelfrey tonight, facing Roy Halladay Thursday). I don’t really care. Baseball is a long freaking season, there are going to be loses. What I cannot stand is watching sloppy, indecisive, poorly managed losses that should have been wins. Which is all we have had for years. The Mets only loss this season came not because Mike Pelfrey made a bad pitch against John Buck (it was part of it), but because Josh Johnson is a better pitcher, it is going to happen.

I do not have any misconceptions that this team will win 4 out of every 5, but they are a good team.

I think the biggest changes came at the top. This group of players is not all that different from the players that have been around the last few years. What has changed is that for the first time in as long as I can remember, the Mets have a smart, capable GM, who consistently delivers a clear, strong message and sets the tone for the entire organization. Omar Minaya was great at spending big money on free agents, and terrible with dissemination the message and communication. The Mets were a freakin’ circus the last few years. They couldn’t manage the roster without losing players like Darren O’Day to waivers. They couldn’t hold a press conference without accusing a beat writer of lobbying for a job. They couldn’t do seemingly anything right. I honestly think a lot of that has changed.

It will take the media and the rest of the country to change their opinions of this organization. They will focus on the Madoff thing. They will focus on Santana’s injury, and the losing of the past, and this and that. All the while, I honestly think the Mets will keep winning.

I keep saying it, this isn’t 2010 anymore.

Opening Weekend Thoughts

I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel some level of “Here we go again” Friday night as I watched John Buck’s grand slam sail over the right field wall in Florida. Last year was just so frustrating that it was almost impossible to avoid the crushing depression that has plagued the Mets entire organization since Carlos Beltran had his knees buckled on that fall night in 2006.

I watched Friday as Mike Pelfrey folded in the face of pressure and the head to head matchup with Josh Johnson who displayed Friday what an Ace looks like. Pelfrey, who is by default the “Ace” of the Mets, which in this case simply means that he pitched the first game of the season, is not an ace. Not in mental make-up (where is the guy who barked at Chase Utley to get back into the box when he stepped out on Pelf two years ago) not in “Stuff” (can you strike no one aside from Josh Johnson out?) and not in appearance (has another 6’7″ man ever looked smaller standing on a 20″ mound of dirt?).

That “here we go again” feeling carried over into Saturday night, when I checked the score on my phone only to see that the Mets were down by 2 in the first inning with Jon Niese (my pick for breakout performance by a Met this year) on the mound. As I checked the score periodically throughout the night, the innings kept passing by with the score against the Mets staying at 2. I arrived home to find the Mets in the lead late in the game with a chance to win their first of 2011. Enter K-Rod, exit Mets lead. “Here we go again”. But no, these are the 2011 Mets. These are not the same 25 men who have been followed by a black cloud that has swarmed around this team like a mass of angry, miserable bees. No, these Mets fought back, they took the lead, they lost the lead, they took it back. They hit when they had to, the pushed the envelope with good base running and tough at bats, they got outs when they needed them. This was a team that I did not see last year. They won a road game, a feat they repeated on Sunday en route to winning their first road series of the season, something they didn’t do against an NL team until August last year.

These are the 2011 Mets.

Do I think they are going to win 2 out of every 3 and finish the season with 100 wins? No, I don’t. But I do think they have the ammo to contend in the division. The reality is every team in the NL East has problems. The Phillies is their lineup and bullpen, their strength is their rotation. The Mets is their lack of an Ace, their strength is their lineup, the pitching depth and the fact that this is not 2010.

I think the Mets can take 2 of 3 against the Phils this week. But I know that if they don’t, even if they are swept, it will not mean this season is doomed. This is not 2010.