We hold these truths to be self-evident: There can never be enough interesting/entertaining writing about baseball in general and the Mets in particular. Sure, the Mets play nearly every night and are covered by some 10 local papers and a fleet of blogs. But even then, eventually you've read everything the knights of the keyboard have written, and you're still wanting more. Because damn it, it's six hours (or 20, or two or 0.25) until there's a game on, and you're worried about Pedro's rehab, the state of the farm system, Mark Teixeira and what statistical simulations suggest will happen for the rest of the season, to name the first four things that pop into your head.
Over there on the left we've got a lot of links. But on this off-day, I wanted to spotlight two writers I find particularly entertaining and interesting.
The first is Marty Noble, the veteran reporter turned MLB.com scribe. I've got enormous respect for Noble's years of hard work, baseball knowledge and the unfussily straightforward way he offers insider analysis. But what I really love are his mailbags. (Truth be told, I don't read game stories anymore, no matter who writes them.) Noble seems to save up the dumbest questions Met fans can imagine for some day when he just can't stand it anymore. Then it's time for a mailbag — in which Marty lines up the witless and whacks away at them until he's got his equilibrium back.
Take this one. Things start off OK, as Noble uses a reader's disbelief about Rickey Henderson's leadoff homers vs. the Mets' to illustrate how great players can seem to distort statistics. But from there … well, buckle up.
Jordan R. supposes that Duaner Sanchez will be a free agent when he comes off the DL, at which point the Mets should sign him to a two- or three-year contract because “he is so valuable to their bullpen when he's healthy.” Noble's fairly restrained here, calmly correcting the record about Sanchez's contract status before getting a bit testy: “Now, why would the Mets want to offer him anything more than one-season contract, even if they were competing for his services?”
Alex X. wants to move Fernando Martinez to second base for no particular reason I could detect. “I've never quite understood the public's fascination with changing players' positions,” huffs Marty, then dispenses with a similar question suggesting Ramon Castro man first.
Next comes the overly sentimental Marty C., who wants Mike Piazza back as a backup catcher and World Series DH. “So you want the Mets to acquire a player who might serve as a DH for a maximum of four games in October and carry him for 2 1/2 months as a backup catcher with tarnished defensive skills?” asks Noble, and you can easily picture his eyebrows arching higher and higher until they're levitating and have to be retrieved with a stepladder.
My favorite Marty Noble mailbag, though, came in April. This one starts off calmly enough, with straightforward analysis of Pelfrey, Humber, Vargas and the rest of the waiting-in-the-wings pitchers. Marty's pretty even-keeled, except at the end, when his advice is “lest you all be labeled junior Steinbrenners, be a tad more patient.”
But then, oh, that next question. It still makes me laugh half a season later. The luckless Dan R. wants to know why the Mets keep using Aaron Heilman “when all he does is throw the same pitch over and over again and get destroyed by hitters.” Marty coolly acknowledges Heilman's recent woes and explains what Willie's thinking about the bullpen is. But then he can't keep it in any more: “He has been an invaluable asset for two seasons. You want to do what with him now? The rotation? The Minors? Exile? Prison?”
My other new favorite is the New York Sun's Tim Marchman, who's consistently very smart, bitingly acerbic and really funny. He first caught my eye with this terrific scouting report of the '07 Mets, including his pitiless, laugh-out-loud summation of Moises Alou: “a horrible defensive outfielder, with the range of a box turtle.”
But then whenever Marchman writes, I know I'll laugh out loud at least once, shake my head at a particularly pungent line, and come away thinking about something differently. Take this analysis of how Omar Minaya simultaneously finds diamonds in the rough like John Maine and Oliver Perez and wastes roster sports on Jose Lima and Chan Ho Park — “pitchers so bad no one was aware they were still playing professional baseball.” (The answer: Minaya likes reclamation projects, but only if they're flyball pitchers with decent peripherals and at least some recent success.) Or read this smart take, from June, on our vanishing outfielders and what we should and shouldn't worry about. (And now Beltran and Gomez are gone. What a bizarre year we're having.)
There's this, from our July near-death experience: “There is bad baseball, and there is pitiful baseball, and there is painful, embarrassing baseball, and there is the kind of baseball the Mets have played this month, which is none of these things, but is instead just depressing. Watching the Mets these days is like nursing yourself through a hangover, or looking at happy photos of yourself with someone who threw you over for your best friend.” There's this piece, that did a beautiful job explaining how ballplayers age and why Carlos Delgado should be fine. Or this reassuring take on our failures in the clutch, with a bit of priceless psychology: “When they miss every opportunity without fail, the team is glum and fans become pessimists, and big hits like Chip Ambres's game-winning single in the 10th inning yesterday can even irritate by their contrast with the usual shoddiness.”
Some weeks Marchman writes five times a week, and his consistency is awe-inspiring: When he's good he's the best sports columnist in New York by a wide margin, and when he's just OK he's the best by a small margin. Kind of like the 2007 Mets, I suppose. Read him.