Archive for March, 2008

A Prediction for the Record

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

I predict that the Mets will win 95 games.  This is just my obligatory prediction, for the record.

I feel this way because if the Mets play exactly as well as they did last year, the addition of Santana and having Martinez for more of the season should make possible an improvement of 7 games.  I guess.

There are excellent reasons to think that Reyes will have a better season this year and good reasons to believe that Delgado will.  All kinds of things can happen with right field and left field and second base and the bottom of the rotation and the middle relief, but when I look them over, I think that there’s a reasonable balance between legitimate hopes for improvement and legitimate fears of decline. 

For insurance, I am banking on at least some improvement in attitude.  I have defended the attitude of last year’s Mets before.  I don’t think they lost last year because of complacency.  But they did go into a mental tailspin last year in September.  I don’t think that will happen again.  But who knows?

I don’t know enough about the pitchers in Atlanta or Philadelphia.  I don’t have a sense, from what I read, that anybody does.  Both of these teams could surprise or disappoint.  So could the Mets.  My gut tells me that Atlanta and Philadelphia are going to be better than they were last year and that we could have a serious pennant race, which could be fun.  Or not.  My gut, I should mention, is not a terribly reliable predictive instrument.  Trust me.

Like everyone else, I think the Mets are a good but not great team and that there are no great teams in the league.  Anything can happen.  I like it when anything can happen.  I am so excited.
 

Opening Day Show

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

At 8 pm on March 31, right after the Mets Opening Day game in Florida, I will be sharing Opening Day thoughts and memories with Mike Silva at his Blog Talk Radio podcast Gotham Baseball Live.  Please listen and please call in.  Here’s the link:  Gotham Baseball Live

Going Into the 2008 Season

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

Right now, in blogs and in columns, people are analyzing the upcoming season in the way that cable news analysts cover a political election.  Baseball is being treated as if it were a horse race, a game, a mere competition between entities whose real and potential strengths and weaknesses can be analyzed 24 hours a day for the entertainment of everyone who is addicted to following its swings and reversals and triumphs and collapses and blunders and all the rest of it.

But just as politics is more than a game, we all know that baseball is more than a game.  Every once in a while something like Senator Obama’s recent speech on race reminds us that we’re not watching a game, we’re watching history.   Baseball is history too.  Like “real” history, it is a personal and communal narrative that involves our deepest emotions, our senses of ourselves and our world, our loyalties, prejudices, fears, and dreams.  I want to try to step back for a moment and see if I can talk about the upcoming season with this in mind, without giving you my sense of the strength of our lineup or our starting rotation.  Anything I said about that would just come from reading what other people have written anyway.

I am worried.  I am fearful.  Not about the Mets themselves.  As far as I can tell, they’re the best team in the National League.  I’m worried about whether or not we are actually going to be able to enjoy this season. 

In baseball as in history, context is everything.  All baseball fans can really ask of a season is a “good rooting situation” and whether a situation is good or not depends entirely on context. 1984, 1997, and 2005 were not the most successful Mets seasons, but they were great rooting situations.  After years of misery, an exciting and sympathetic team was performing above our expectations.  The Mets won more games in 1987 than they did in 1984, but which season was more fun?  The Mets won more games in 2007 than they did in 2005, but which season was more fun?   It’s all context, it’s all in what you expect.  Every new season is expected to complete the story of the previous couple of seasons.  In a good way.  Think about this.   After 2006 and after 2007, what could possibly make you happy?

We all have different answers to this question, but here is a big part of the problem.  Will you be happy to just make it to the postseason?   How will you react if it looks, at ANY POINT in the coming season, that we may not?  Will you cheer on this great bunch of guys to show that you have faith that they will make it, with our support?  Or has your faith been so abused by what happened last season that you will boo or just stay home?  I won’t boo.  I think that making it to the postseason is enough of an accomplishment in any season and can be expected to be difficult in all seasons.  But as others are booing around me, I am going to be terribly torn.  I will want to leap out of my seat and strangle my fellow fans.  Yet I will know exactly where they are coming from.  The same bile will churn in my stomach and the same screech of pain will rise from my gut, only to be stopped by the clenching of my teeth. 

Well, let’s say we win the division.  Will you be satisfied with any postseason that does not at least take us further than we got in 2006?  Hell, will you be satisfied with any postseason that does not take us further than we got in 2000?   I’ve already said that I’ll be satisfied with any postseason.  But if you’re not, and if I understand perfectly well why you’re not, am I going to have to deal with the moral dilemma of wanting to strangle you again?  As a way of wanting to strangle myself?

Brothers and sisters, this is not good.  I wish I could say, on the verge of what I hope will be a happy and redemptive season that I am pumped and psyched and all that.  I am.  But I want to get it out on the table that I fear that 2006 and 2007 have done a real number on our heads.  I’m not even talking about 2000 and everything that followed it, and well, maybe even 1973 and everything that followed it, or 1962 and everything – oh, forget it.   I think that the Mets have a real good chance to have a really successful season this year.  But I don’t know what the chances are that we are going to have fun.  

   
 

Hillary Clinton and the 1986 Mets

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

This morning, I saw a picture of Hillary Clinton on the front cover of Newsday.  Above her smiling face were these words:

The Underdog?  Like ‘86 Mets, Clinton will pull it out, aides say. 

Opening the paper, I read the following by Glenn Thrush on Page 6, “A few hours after the polls closed, a Clinton staffer e-mailed a friend an Oct.26, 1986 New York Times story of the World Series Game 6 win over the Red Sox, with the subject line: “Deja vu.”" (Read the whole story here.)

Okay.  I love sports metaphors.  Let’s see what we can do with this.  Here are:

TEN THINGS THAT HILLARY CLINTON AND THE 1986 NEW YORK METS HAVE IN COMMON:

1)  They’re both wide awake and ready for anything at 3 o’clock in the morning.

2)  They represent New York, but they’re not from New York.

3)  They both win contests in Florida that don’t count because they’re played earlier than the season is supposed to begin. 

4)  A lot of people like them, but a lot of people hate them and want to throw things at them.

5)  They both have a good-looking, charismatic guy on the team who’s not perfect, and has been known to stick his foot in his mouth.

6)  They both wear a kind of uniform that you’re not likely to find anyone else wearing. 

7)  They both have no support and very little name recognition among people currently under the age of 30.

8)  The face they present to the world is kind of rigid, smiley, and possibly augmented by Botox.
 
 9)  Sometimes, if they can’t hit a pitch, they will accuse the opposing pitcher of scuffing the ball.

10)  They both want to be remembered as the Comeback Kid, even though they were ahead from the very beginning.

As a bonus, here’s one thing that Hillary Clinton and the 1986 Boston Red Sox have in common:

They’ve both gotten a lot of sympathy because of a situation someone couldn’t control between his legs. 

 


 

More on Winning the World Series Since 1962

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

My post about the idea of the “goal” of winning the World Series provoked some interesting responses and questions.  One reader asked to see a list of the number of World Series won by each major league team since 1962.  He wondered where the Mets would rank, wondering what legitimacy there might be to the idea of the Amazins as perennial underdogs, as a team that has not had its expected share of World Series success.  Here’s the list of World Series won since the Mets came into existence in 1962. 

Yankees -7
Dodgers – 4
Cardinals – 4
A’s – 4
Orioles – 3
Reds – 3
Marlins – 2
Blue Jays – 2
Mets -2
Pirates – 2
Red Sox – 2
Twins – 2
Tigers -2
White Sox – 1
Angels – 1
Diamondbacks – 1
Braves – 1
Royals – 1
Phillies – 1
11 teams with 0

By my count, 8 teams have been more successful than the Mets, as measured by the number of World Series won (I have included the Marlins and the Blue Jays, who have won two each, because they have not been in existence as long as the Mets).  4 teams have had as much success as the Mets.  17 teams have had less success, including the 11 teams that have not won a single World Series since 1962, or in the time in which they have been competing in the majors.    
Among teams that have been in existence since 1962, 6 teams have been more successful than the Mets, 4 teams have been as successful, and 9 have been less successful. 

Winning two World Series since 1962 is pretty good, if not stellar.  Please keep that in mind if you are ever encouraged to think that winning a World Series is something any team has any right to expect in a particular year.  For any team other than the Yankees, it is at most a (roughly) 5 times in a lifetime event.  On average, a fan who roots for a team for all of a long life will see his or her team win the World Series two or three times.