Archive for July, 2007

Mets Fan Availability Issues Getting Resolved

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Some people have e-mailed me about availability issues regarding my book, Mets Fan.

The good news is that Mets Fan is selling well.  At one point last weekend it was the tenth best-selling baseball book overall on Amazon (ahead of Cal Ripken and David Ortiz and I actually wrote mine). 

The bad news is that distributors weren’t prepared for how well it would sell.  Amazon had to re-order and many people who have ordered their copies from Amazon.com have therefore not gotten their copies yet.  They will get them soon however as my publisher tells me that the new shipment was ordered on 7/23.  Barnes and Noble (bn.com) also took a few days before it listed the book.  It is taking orders now and will have copies very soon.  The book can also be ordered now from BaltimoreChop.com, the only independent baseball bookstore in the United States.  And the most reliable way to get a copy now is directly from the publisher, McFarland.

Mets Fan should also be available in some brick and mortar stores in a few weeks.  For a list of stores where it will be available, for all ordering information, and for any other updated information about the book and events related to it, please check out my website Mets Fan.

 

 

Fun

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Few things are more fun than what I did last night.  I watched a baseball game at Shea from a seat in the Mezzanine on a warm summer night.  Yeah, I had to park at the Hall of Science.  Yeah I had to ride the school bus shuttle to the LIRR station and then take the long walk over the plaza into the Subway station.  Yeah the escalators to the mezzanine weren’t working.  Yeah, it was kind of hot.  But nothing could mar the pleasure of watching a well-played Mets game.

I know it was against Pittsburgh and I know that they’re having serious trouble.  But everything just looked right last night.  Maine was formidable, winning his eleventh and striking out so many baffled batters.  Mets, even those who’ve looked kind of awkward lately, like Paulie and Shawn, were slapping out hits as if they knew exactly how to do it.  We always felt secure.  The only worrisome moment was in the first, when it looked as if Maine might be having another inscrutable early meltdown.  But I missed that anyway, because I was in the goddamn school bus, bouncing through the old World’s Fair. 

Last night had two moments that I think I will always remember.  The first of course was John Maine’s little homer that could.  I have never seen a home run that so surprised the man who hit it.  In the crowd it was like people wanted to shout out to him what he should do.  I’m sure he knew what to do, but it looked as if he wasn’t entirely sure how fast or slow you were supposed to run around the bases when you had hit a home run.  So there he was, awkwardly and dutifully plodding around the paths, touching every base, while Lastings Milledge, whom he was driving in, goes pounding around the basepaths as if he is leaping for joy.  When Maine finally got back to the dugout, we roared and he came out, sheepish-shy to take his curtain call.  He knew that it was important for us to exult, to savor the pleasure of the impossible event.  Oh, it was so great.

And it was so great too when to cap off a fabulous, electric night, Lastings Milledge, struggling to contain himself, encountered Jose Reyes at the entrance to the dugout after hitting his home run in the eighth.  They did this … dance.  What was that?  Did they both know what to do?  They couldn’t possibly have rehearsed it.  But with their loose, strong, and fluid arms and legs, and the powerful energy in their bodies, whatever they did looked spectacular.  It was an awesome moment.  Profound and moving.  Youth happy to be alive, to be playing a wonderful game, to be playing it so well.

I’m so glad I saw that.  And I say “get a life!” to anyone who had a problem with it.  What I saw last night was what I go to a ballgame to see.  I go to see young people playing a game they love and I love.  I don’t go to see grim competitors repressing their emotions in order to do their job.  Let them save that kind of thing for war. 


 

 

U-Haul

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

 

Someone left a comment on my blog asking why I have a picture of “U-Haul Building” on my website

I’m not entirely sure what the U-Haul building is.  I know that there’s a big U-Haul sign out there with a beautiful old tower behind it.  I noticed it at my first game at Shea in 1964 and I have greeted it as an old familiar friend at every game I’ve gone to since.

I have a picture of whatever it is because it is something that people rarely mention but every Mets fan knows.  Every Mets fan has lived with the U-Haul building for as long as they have been a Mets fan. To me, it symbolizes some true, deep essence of Mets fandom. Anybody could pretend to be a Mets fan by looking up some facts and history. But you are a true Mets fan if you have spent hours of your life gazing at the U-Haul sign and the tower behind it.

I think it is very significant that Citifield is now growing to the point where it is beginning to be hard to see the U-Haul building. Once we can no longer see it, something will be gone forever. 

Mets Fan is Published!

Friday, July 20th, 2007

It exists!  As a physical object.

 Dear friends,

I am very happy to announce that my book Mets Fan has been published, as of today.  It is available for order from the publisher and from Amazon.com and will be available from other sources soon.  If you go to my website,  Mets Fan  you can find ordering information (from either McFarland or Amazon) at the upper right.  Please note that the Amazon site says “usually ships in 4 to 6 weeks.”  This isn’t true!  It is being updated.  If you order from Amazon, you will receive your copy quickly. I want to thank all of you for your kind encouragement and support.  I hope you enjoy the book.  I hope you’ll feel that it was worth waiting for.  Thanks, everybody!

Dana

Revised Website

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

If you go to my main website, Mets Fan Book you will notice that I re-designed it yesterday.  The reason, as you should be able to tell, is that my book is on the very verge of being released.  Yesterday, I went to the website for my book at McFarland and it said for the first time, “available for immediate shipment.”  Yesterday, for the very first time, the book was on Amazon available for pre-order.  So, at this point, while the book would not be on Amazon or in bookstores yet (I myself have not seen a copy), it is, today, available from the publisher.

I will make the announcement that the book is published as soon as I hear something official from the publisher.  In the meantime, if you click on the image below, it will take you to a site from which you can order the book “available for immediate shipment.”

 

What Needs to Change In the Second Half?

Monday, July 16th, 2007

What needs to change in the second half?

We do.  No, kids, I don’t mean the Mets.  I mean the fans. 

Why should we change?  Will that help the Mets do better?  Maybe.  And maybe not.

Why do we need to change?  Because we’re not having enough fun. 

But that’s the Mets’ fault, you say.  They have to do better. 

Yes and no.  The Mets have played pretty well this season.  At the All-Star break, they had won 48 and lost 39.  Last year, at this time, the Mets were 51 and 36.  What can account for the 3-game difference?  Pedro.  He’s enough to account for the whole difference.  He had a great first half of last year and he hasn’t played at all this year yet.  That means that if you take Pedro Martinez out of the equation, this year’s team is playing JUST AS WELL as last year’s team. 

Why doesn’t it seem that way?  Well, one reason is that last year we played practically the whole season without there being another team in the division over .500.  This year our rivals are not quite that bad.  So we’re just a couple of games ahead of Atlanta..  Last year we were something like 12 games in front at the All-Star break.  That affects our perception of how well we’re doing. 

Another reason is that last season the Mets won 97 games, tied for the most in baseball.  We think of the Mets as a terrific team again, the way they were in 1986 or 1999.  So their current level of play is disappointing.  Last year, if we thought about “last season,” we remembered our September 2005 collapse and our 83 victories.  We had fresh memories of the year before that, when we won 71 games.  We had memories of the year before that, when we won 66 games.  We had memories of the year before that, when we won 75 games.  So our recent success has also affected our perception of how well we’re doing.  This isn’t a breakout year.  And it has the potential to be a breakdown year.

One way to think about this phenomenon is to compare 1984 with 1987.  In 1984, the Mets won 90 games.  In 1987, the Mets won 92.  In both seasons, they were in a tight pennant race and fell behind in just the last week.   But 1984 was heaven because it came after 1977-83.  But 1987 was disappointing, all the way through, because it came right after 1985 and 1986.  The teams were equal but the spirit (and our perceptions) of the teams were different.  In terms of team and fan mood, context and recent history is everything.  This is a major reason why we’re bugged this year.  It may be why the Mets are bugged.  Last year, everybody was happy.

Our batting average is higher than last year’s.  Our power numbers are down but power numbers are down in the whole league by about 12%.  If you make that 12% adjustment, they’re pretty close to even.  Our E.R.A. is actually better this year than last.  Our starting pitching has definitely been better.  Our relief pitching has been worse, but it hasn’t been bad and it looks as if it may be getting better.  This is a fine team we’re following.  And as players come back from injuries, there are reasons to believe that they will do better in the second half than they did in the first. 

But you say that they seem listless, that they lack spirit, drive, and verve.  I know what you’re saying.  I see this too.  But I suggest to you that our altered perceptions, our optical illusions, are combining with those of the media, and yes, those of the Mets to produce an “atmosphere” that feels sour, damp, and unhappy.  We are affecting them, the press is affecting them, they are not sufficiently believing in themselves.  And yet they are still playing better than we are giving them credit for. 

Yet they still have some kind of tic.  They are not hitting enough with runners in scoring position.  Nobody can explain this.  But even if it is psychological, do you think it will actually will help to boo Carlos Delgado when he flies out weakly after having hit two previous balls in a game that almost went over the wall.  Does the record of Carlos Beltran suggest that booing him will bring him out of a slump and not contradict our appreciation for his 16 home runs and 55 rbis?  I am not telling you people who like to think of yourselves as demanding fans with high standards that players who are not driving in the runs you expect don’t deserve to be booed.  I don’t think they deserve it but I’m not telling you that you don’t have the right to judge it as you see fit.  What I’m telling you is that your booing will do no good.  It has never done any good.  So why do it, even if you have a right to?  You have a right to gamble away all your money in a casino, if you feel like it.

We have to enjoy them more.  That might help them play better.  That’s the best hope, in fact, for making them play better, because I certainly don’t like the sound of any rumored trades.  Do you?

Here’s hoping that things change in the second half.  It shouldn’t be hard for this to happen.  A great second half for Delgado, a successful return of Pedro, Lastings Milledge playing with the exuberance and spark he’s played with for the past few games, health and consistency for and from all of our starters, any of these things could produce a chain reaction of confidence.  We could start to relax.  The press could stop acting like vultures.  The Mets could win. 

It could happen.  The odds are actually good.  Please let’s have some fun again.
 

Kiner’s Korner Music and a Request for Those Going to the 7/14 Game

Friday, July 13th, 2007

http://trnmusic.com/sounds/flagofvictorymarch.mp3

I know that it’s not the same arrangement as the one they played on the show, but if you remember Kiner’s Korner, this may bring tears to your eyes. 

I will be on the radio program New York Baseball Talk (WGBB1240AM; live webcast at WGBB , don’t download Chinese characters and just click Listen Live, podcast after the broadcast at Free the Fan) at 9:30 on Sunday, talking about my memories of Ralph Kiner and my impressions of the Saturday tribute.  You can help me by leaving a comment here about your impressions of the tribute to Kiner.  I will mention some comments on the air.  Also, if you get any really good pictures, please e-mail them to me at danaabrand@yahoo.com and I’ll put them up on the blog with credits.  Thank you.

Let’s hope this tribute is moving and not lame.  Ralph deserves it. 

 

A Milestone

Friday, July 13th, 2007

Julio Franco will always be the last person to play for the Mets who was born before the Mets existed.

Getting Psyched for Ralph Kiner Night

Friday, July 13th, 2007

 

I can’t wait to go to Shea tomorrow night for Ralph Kiner night.  I have always had a particular affection for Ralph and I can’t wait to cheer him until I’m hoarse.  I know that millions of others feel the same way.  There is something so reassuring, so pleasant, so Ralph-like about him.  I am so grateful that I got to spend so much time with him for so many years.

This week, I have a tribute to Ralph posted on New York Baseball Online:  Remembering Ralph and on Sunday, I will be sharing memories of Ralph, and impressions of the Mets’ tribute to him, on the New York Baseball Talk with Mike Silva at WGBB 1240 AM in Long Island.  Mike’s show is on from 9 to 11.  I’ll be on around 9:30, right after Mike’s interview with the great sportswriter, and great ghostwriter, Phil Pepe.   You can also listen to the show on the Free the Fan radio website.  Just click on the banner for New York Baseball Talk and choose the July 15 show. 

I’m already feeling good about the second half of the season.  Let’s hope the tribute to Ralph is not lame, and that it inspires the fans and the Mets by reminding us that we have traditions worth celebrating and flags worth waving.

 

 

 

Book Launch Party!

Monday, July 9th, 2007

 

I just got something from my publisher that suggests that my book will be out by the end of July.  I’ll keep you posted.  I’m 90% certain that I’m going to  have a book launch party at some point in August or September.  I checked out a venue this weekend called Mo Pitkin’s in the East Village (34 Avenue A).  One of the fans of my site and blog recommended it to me because it is a very Mets place (Mets banners over the bar, Mets memorabilia all around).  The main owners, the Hartman brothers of the Two Boots restaurants, are enormous Mets fans.  Jimmy Fallon is also a part-owner of Mo Pitkin’s, but I’m hearing that he’s a Red Sox fan now, after “Fever Pitch,” although maybe he has room in his heart for both teams.

Anyway, the place is really cool, funky, and homey, and the food has a great reputation.  So what I’m thinking is that once I know the date of publication, and choose the date for the party, I will send out invitations to everybody on my mailing list.  (It’s not too late to join, click here.)  I will also send invitations to all of the Mets bloggers I can find, because I see my book as a phenomenon connected to the whole Mets blogosphere.  I want it to be part of the way in which creative fans, through the Internet, are creating a new and dynamic Mets fan culture that is so much more interesting than what the conventional media provides us with.  I am also going to invite members of the press, who may or may not come, and some Mets-associated celebrities, who almost definitely will not come.  After you get your invitation, you need to e-mail me back if you are certain that you are going to attend.  Then I will send you an e-mail that will get you into the party (there has to be some numbers control because food will be ordered and space is not infinite).

Whoever shows up, it’s going to be a fun time.  It’ll be a chance to meet other Mets fans, “famous” bloggers and forum posters, a chance to meet me, perhaps a chance to mingle with celebrities (yeah, and perhaps Pedro pitches next week) and a chance to enjoy Mo Pitkin’s eclectic mix of Jewish, Latin, and ordinary American appetizers.   I hope lots of you will join me to celebrate the eternal creative spirit of Mets fandom, a spirit that is sweeping, well, some websites at least.  Just think of the tribute to Ralph Kiner we would have been able to get together for Saturday!   Someday, folks, we fans will rule the Mets world, and this is going to be the start of it all.  Stay tuned for more information as dates and plans become firmer. 

 

I Am Not Disappointed

Friday, July 6th, 2007

 

Carlos Delgado, who had an impressive evening last night, is now batting .242, with 13 home runs and 47 runs batted in.  In his career, Delgado has traditionally had more impressive offensive statistics in the second half of the season than in the first half.  With just a very minor increase in his offensive production in the second half of this season, Delgado will end up with a batting average in the .250s, about 30 home runs, and about 100 rbis.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, I was taught that one should not show disrespect to baseball players who hit 30 home runs in a season and drove in 100 runs.  Of course, the Mets did not have players like this when I was growing up and they wouldn’t have any such players until the middle of the 1980s.  But if they had had players like this when I was growing up, it would not have been considered proper for me to be disappointed in them.

I am not disappointed in Carlos Delgado.  What is it with everybody else? 

Well, people are saying that he is not hitting as well as he did last year.  Last year, he ended up hitting .265, with 38 home runs and 114 rbis.  He had a good year.  That 38 was one of his highest homer totals ever.  Players have good years and one of the reasons we call their good years good years is that the season that comes after the good year will probably not be quite as good as what we are calling the good year.  If next seasons tended to be better than what we call good seasons, then we would not call them good seasons.  We would call them off years, or even bad years.   

Have you looked at the team offensive statistics lately for this season and last season?  Right now, the Mets have hit 86 home runs.  They are sixth in the league and the median home run total for teams in the National League is 80.  Last year, at the end of the season, the median team home run total was 170.  The Mets hit 200, 4th in the league.  These numbers suggest that the number of home runs hit by the National League is down by about 12%.  So if you want to compare anyone’s offensive statistics this year with their statistics last year, you have to make an adjustment.  If you knocked Carlos Delgado’s homer and rbi totals for last year down by 12%, you would get 33 home runs and 104 rbis.  That’s pretty much where he is likely to end up.  But what about batting average, you say?  Well, if Delgado ends up hitting .255 and you know perfectly well that he could hit higher than that, that would be just ten points lower than what he hit last year.  One hit per 100 at bats.  Thank you for noticing. 

Still, you whine, he doesn’t look at ease up there!  Yeah, like you know.  There’s something wrong with his swing!  Maybe, but there have been an awful lot of games in which there doesn’t look as if there’s anything wrong with his swing. 

I don’t suppose that there could be anything wrong with your expectations?

Look, most division-winning teams win between 90-95 games.  Teams that win 90-95 games have a lot of flaws, unlike teams that win 108 games, like the 1986 Mets.  Baseball fans, I think, have a tendency to forget about those flaws once the team has won its division, even though they are obsessed by the flaws when the season is actually happening.  Look over the statistics for the 2006 Mets.  Do you remember how incredibly weak the starting pitching was in the second half?  Do you remember how weak we were against lefties?  Well, maybe you do.  It wasn’t so long ago.  But you’ve repressed it to some degree.  You are doing the retrospective idealization thing so that you can complain about the flaws of the current team because you’re afraid that the current team isn’t going to win it.  This is natural human behavior.  But for someone like me, who gets no intrinsic joy from complaining, this is very annoying.

Still, you may say that you think that something could have and should have been done about these flaws during the offseason.  What?  I am still waiting for someone to come up with the thing that Omar should have done that he didn’t do that would have made the difference.  And even if you come up with such a thing, please remember that on April 1, we really had no way of knowing what the flaws of this particular team would be.  Make a list of the ten things that have happened this year that you could not have predicted. 
 

You see what I mean?  Bear with them.  Calm down.  Cheer real loud.  You don’t have to be complacent, but it may be better to be complacent than to be a whiny pain in the ass.  The cavalry is probably not on its way and we will look really stupid if we behave as if we think that it is.  Suzyn Waldman learned this the hard way.  A great righty bat and another John Maine are not going to fall into our laps at this point.  We’re probably stuck with this crew.  But they can win a division.  You know they can.  They can certainly win this one, probably with not much more than 90 games, 7 more than last year’s World Champs.  I know it’s well past a cliché by this point.  But Believe.
 

 

What the Hell is Happening?

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

I have to be honest.  I have no idea what’s going on or what is going to happen.  I’ve never seen anything like this season.

I’ve never seen a starting pitching staff composed of two brilliant yet occasionally erratic pitchers in their forties; two flashes in the pan miraculously resurrected, in their youth, after reasonable people had given up on them; and one middle-level prospect throw-in who steadily starts looking more and more as if he might at least deserve, if not win, the Cy Young award.  Even if there had been a pitching staff like this in the past, I’ll bet it wasn’t the best starting staff in the National League through the first half of the season. 

I’ve never seen a team win 3 out of 16 games, RIGHT AFTER winning 20 out of 30 and JUST BEFORE winning 8 out of 9.   I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a winning team that can looks so good and so bad in such rapid and unpredictable succession. 

This season is nutty with injuries.  Yet here too, it’s not in a conventional way.  Unless you count Martinez, none of the most important players on the team have been affected by this sneaky injury plague.  But almost the whole middle layer of the team is out or has been out for at least 15 days.

The best players on the team are not exactly slumping, but they’re not exactly not slumping.  With the exception, for the most part, of Reyes, they all have more than their share of 0 for 4 days and right in the mix they have days when they dominate.  None except Reyes is at last year’s level, but offense in the league is not at last year’s level.  It seems quite possible that with just a very small increase in production in the second half, Beltran, Wright, and Delgado, could all clear 30 homers and 100 rbis.  All three will once again have their bizarrely identical rbi totals.  Yet, it doesn’t really feel that way.  Still, look at their numbers.  Where did they come from?  Why are we complaining?  Look at the standings.  The number on the left is 46, one of the best numbers in the league.  That’s right, isn’t it?  That feels right, doesn’t it?  Yes and no.

One thing that throws everything off is that the team is lacking focal personalities.  LoDuca was absolutely central to the team’s spirit last year, and for the first part of this year.  But all the bullshit lately may have caused him to lose his footing.  Bullshit (i.e. off-the-field press-related, paper-selling crap) often affects pennant races and offseasons.  Remember when Cone was rattled by the article he wrote about the Dodgers in 1988?  Delgado was our smooth sure rock last year.  I still think he’s a great player to have on the team and a great bat in the lineup, but as a force and an influence, he has faded a little this year.  I am positive that David Wright is going to end the season with something almost identical to his numbers for the past two seasons.  But he seems ill-at-ease this year.  He doesn’t feel like a miracle or a boy wonder.  He feels like a young man struggling to live up to his enormous reputation.  The Mets lack the guy on the smooth and steady tear, the guy who gives the season ballast, the guy we can hold onto in our heads, when it feels like we may be going under.

We are lucky that there are no better teams in our division.  But I’ve rarely gotten to the middle of the season with such a confused sense of how good or not good the Mets are. 

My prediction is that the story of this season will be written in the second half by the unexpected success or failure of injury replacements.  That’s not normally the way things work, but that’s what it may come down to.  That can be really interesting.  And it can be really disastrous. 

Why is it that every time I try to take stock of what is happening this season, I feel like I am saying something obvious, that I am shrugging, that I am helpless and mystified, hopeful but frightened.  It is because I have reason to feel all of these things, along with all of my fellow Mets fans.  I don’t know what the hell is going on.  But I know that I am along for the ride.