A week to go, good lord. At least there's some bits of news: Scott Strickland, Scott Stewart, Orber Moreno, Jae Seo and Jeff Keppinger took that long walk. Supposedly that has us down to 37 guys.
David Wright hit eighth. That seems insane to me: Beyond the fact that Wright can flat-out rake, to use the currently fashionable cliche, his minor-league numbers show he knows how to take a walk. I know he's a rookie, which would argue against putting him in the 3, 4 or 5 hole for now for fear of putting too much on him too early and bruising some veteran egos, but can we really give up that many David Wright at-bats? In my batting order he'd be hitting sixth. Of course, I have a mental block about who's a lefty and who's a righty, so my batting order is worth a bucket of warm spit.
There's a great new blog called Metsgeek.com which kicked off with, among other things, an interview with Bob Klapisch that supplies plenty of dirt without being irresponsible about it. As might be expected, it's hard on the Wilpons, the medical staff, Aaron Heilman and Jae Seo, among others. Actually he was easier on Seo than I figured he'd be: Vern Ruhle couldn't reach him either. If you refuse to listen to two pitching coaches in a row and keep carping to the papers, the problem probably isn't the pitching coaches. Here's betting a trade this week gives Mr. Seo a new address.
Sticking with the news front, Jeremy Heit, one of the Metsgeek guys, did our boys' Five Questions over at Hardball Times. Good stuff — lots of the newfangled stats I love and imperfectly understand, but not so many that old dinosaurs like me can't follow along.
Some good quotes today, too. Both, oddly, are concerned with speed:
“Velocity can win stuffed animals at the circus.”
So saith Dr. Peterson about the fact that Ishii didn't hit 90 in his first pitching session.
“I think adrenalin-wise it would have created a little more velocity rather than being on Field 14 with two crows in the stands and one umpire.”
That's from the departed Mr. Strickland, whose velocity wasn't where it should be but who also didn't get much work in spring-training games.
Of course Todd Zeile was a great quote too.
Re the boys in the 20s, your request for snarky Wayne Garrett quotes brought me back to my first year of being a fan, which was 1976. I had said the Mets were my favorite team for a couple of years before that, and Rusty Staub was my favorite player, but in truth that mostly had to do with one of my earliest memories, which was my mom jumping up and down cheering, “Yay, Rusty!” To employ a little pop psych, I think my four- or five-year-old self was so taken aback by this display that I had to know why she was doing this and who this Rusty was, and reflexively took team and Rusty to heart so my mother jumping up and down yelling would be a good thing and not a scary thing. Fandom wells from strange springs.
Anyway, in '76 I turned seven and became a real fan. My entry into Metdom was twofold: baseball cards and the tale of '69, probably absorbed through George Vecsey's Joy in Mudville. This made the baseball cards odd, though: I treasured all the remaining '69 Mets, regardless of team (what was Tug doing wearing maroon?) and adored the players left on the actual Mets, but I couldn't help noticing that nothing particularly miraculous happened on the field. Koosman and Seaver would pitch, Garrett would play third, Buddy was at short and Kranepool was on the bench, but they'd win and lose in various combinations and finish third. Hey, I was seven: Show me a miracle, and I'd think it was great — and then want to know where the next one was.
So all those players were icons to me — I'd watch them play baseball, but mostly I treated them like guys who'd walked on the moon: They'd done something marvelous and it meant a lot to me, but watching them doing workaday things was disorienting and a bit disappointing. The first player I ever rooted for the way I root for players now was Lee Mazzilli. After all, he came up after I did.
Given my weakness for brawling, of course I loved Ray Knight. That game against the Reds should be replayed weekly on the new Mets channel: The moment where Ray's eyes go square right before he slugs Eric Davis is priceless. And his putting both hands on his head right before he vanishes into the crowd of Mets around home plate to end Game Six always makes me cry. (In a quiet manly way, of course.)
Putting aside the recent unpleasantness, the thing that always struck me about Al Leiter was how friggin' smart he was. There was some locker-room interview in which Piazza had said “centrifugal” (or maybe it was “centripetal”) and Leiter laughed and said Piazza was always using fancy words but had used this one wrong, and launched into an explanation of how centrifugal or centripetal was what he'd meant, and how it related to pitching. It was the kind of thing geeky writers like us wish jocks would say, but he really said it. (Ken Burns got Bill Lee to do this too.)
Given my weakness for boozing, of course I loved Lenny Dykstra. Crashing cars, spitting chaw, high-stakes gambling, doing 'roids when it was flaky instead of criminal, boozing it up in Paris, you name it. A couple of years ago Emily and I watched a Behind the Music about Iggy Pop. At the end, she was horrified by what a wreck Iggy Pop had made of his life. I was horrified by the realization that it was too late for me to be Iggy Pop. Lenny was my baseball Iggy.
David Cone was another player I loved for being all too human. One of the best pitchers in baseball, and still capable of letting runners wheel around the bases because he'd blown a fuse and was giving both barrels to the ump. It's the kind of thing I'd have screwed up too.
Ah, Robin Ventura. It ended poorly, what with the Yankee uniform and all, but I'll always have the memory of sitting in the top of the upper deck for the Grand Slam Single game. We were behind the DiamondVision, which blocked out most of the announcements, so there'd just be various booms, and up there it was Bob and Gary (transmitted via dozens of nearby pocket radios) providing the narration. Which was nice. Afterwards I walked down the steps and every couple of feet had to stop and just scream into the rain and the darkness.
Wally Backman stepped on my foot as we were both leaving Al Lang Field when I was 16 or 17. I was amazed that he was my size. He was in full uniform, so he spiked me, and it hurt. He didn't say sorry or anything — just hopped on the bus. That was OK, though. He was Wally Backman. He could step on my foot anytime he liked.
By the way, Mientkiewicz has cats. But not cats like you have cats. This is a strange story.