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Home » Baseball

Squared Up: Rainout Theater

Submitted by on April 7, 2011 – 3:11 PM43 Comments


As much as I love spring baseball, because it's baseball and thank God and can we all please stop talking about stupid college basketball please?, it does rain a lot in the spring, so I get all excited to park it in front of a day game and then it gets rained out. The Mets are underway today as scheduled, but then, it's…the Mets. Heh.

That said, I've seen a few reasons for hope. (Hope for the Mets fan in 2011 is something along the lines of "hey, we might win 70 whole games," so: hunk of salt here.) Last night's game against the Phillies did not fill me with optimism about Mike Pelfrey, but I have found when it comes to Pelfrey that a "happier living through lowered expectations" approach works best, and between Pelf and Ollie, obviously I will take Pelf. (And have to, now, hallelujah Jesus.) And yeah, it's "only" Joe Blanton. But the team didn't roll over; they stayed in it and kept fighting. That isn't an attitude I've gotten used to seeing in the last couple of years — in that situation, Mets teams of '09 and '10 would have looked beleaguered and overmatched, and once a seven-run lead opened up, not much else would have happened. I didn't get that already-beaten sense last night.

But…you know. The team isn't good. The long-overdue punts of Perez and Castillo please me, and on that same tip, I would really like to see Reyes play his ass off in his walk year and get rewarded with a trade out of town. Reyes is a very good player — but he is not a great player; I think he still has head-case qualities; he's not getting any younger, and I worry about recurring problems with his legs; and the team is best served by moving him to a team with pennant hopes in exchange for a barrel of middle-infield and pitching prospects. (Note: he just led off against Halladay with a sharp single, making me an asshole. Thanks, guy!) Previous regimes would have let him overperform, and then overpaid him accordingly for his aging process; let someone else make that mistake this time around. It's not entirely his fault that he's never going to live up to expectations — mostly, it's the expectations. But if another team still cherishes those expectations, let them retire his number. We've got work to do.

A few other thoughts from various sources…

Reader FloridaErin complained recently about the FOX broadcast:

I told my husband I was basically listening to them make verbal love to the Yankees. Which is how I feel anytime I watch a national broadcast of Anyone vs. Yankees, really. They mentioned about 10 times that the Yankees were "underdogs" this year but we shouldn't count them out, yet not a single mention that the Tigers are favored to win the AL Central. Or anything about the race in that division, really. ::twitch::

I don't enjoy defending Buck and McCarver, but I haven't heard a single mention that the Tigers are favored to win the AL Central anywhere else, either. Everyone I read or listen to picked the Twins. I can't say that makes sense to me, mind you; the Twins always do more with less, but I would want to see a few more weeks of Morneau before I call that return complete, and their defense doesn't look so great. That division is a crapshoot, where one team isn't going to do anything because the front office can't find its ass with both hands (Cleveland), another has to wait a couple of years for its prospects to get ready (KC), and then the others could all win 90…or 70. I don't see a clear winner there, so I would have no problem picking Los Tigres — but the fact is, I haven't heard it done anywhere.

I will also say that "Yankees, AL East underdogs" storyline is baffling; I kind of don't get it, and I didn't get it before the season, either, the conventional wisdom that the Red Sox have the best team in baseball. Not that they don't, but maybe it's because a lot of the other teams look like shit? I'm…just saying, and I know it's easy to type that when they've just gone 0-5, but they didn't look that imposing to me before that, either, or not to a degree the Yankees couldn't handle if they hit. And they're hitting well right now. The Posada-at-DH thing does not seem destined to succeed, to me, but the rest of the line-up looks pretty on point so far, the bullpen is doing reasonably well, and nobody is fat and out of shape who isn't usually fat and out of shape, Beckett. I'd like to hear from Boston fans about that presumptive-heir narrative is hitting them, because…okay, but where's the pitching, exactly? Seriously, I'm asking. I'm not putting money on that bullpen.

And on that same note, I hope Phillies fans will forgive me, but I do not find that team as fearsome as I think the press would like me to, either. I don't hate the Phillies like a Mets fan is supposed to, and in fact it's a privilege to get to see that legendary rotation a bunch of times in a year. But unless the "plan" is to CG the rest of the division into submission — and while I could get behind such a plan, Grandpa Charlie better hope nobody gets a blister — I don't think they've got the bullpen to stick it, and Rollins looks old to me. It's not a bad team, but I would not clear my October schedule if I were a Phillies fan, because I think that month will belong to the Braves.

All right, fans of all teams: how ya feelin'? Still full of hope? Already freaking out over a statistically meaningless 5 or 6 games? Think the Mets should get on their knees and beg Maine to come back? (I don't, and the kind of numbers he'll likely put up with the Rockies won't change my mind. Cute; not worth it.) Want to help me and Bean build the Keith Hernandez Booth Drinking Game? Complain about Joe Buck?

It's spring baseball, folks. Everything is either possible, or horrible. Or both! Discuss.

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  • BSD says:

    I wish a certain team had six rainouts thus far.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Can't they all just take shelter under Beckett? HE'S BIG ENOUGH.

  • BSD says:

    Maybe under Youkilis's beard.

  • MH says:

    As a Jays fan I'm pretty pumped about the fact that the Red Sox are 0-6 to start the season while we're at 4-2. This isn't going to be the Jays year, as we've got too many young guys, especially in the starting rotation, but this team is going to be exciting to watch and it won't be many seasons before we're contending in the East again. I still have fond memories of back-to-back World Series wins…

  • attica says:

    I was alarmed the other day when Girardi went to an already overused Soriano (who promptly horked a shutout and a four run lead). That's a Torre thing to do! Don't do that! You had other, rested relievers. You've been so good (i.e. anti-Torre) with your bullpens these last three years. Let's let this be an aberration, 'kay?

    Flaherty in the booth was as alarmed as I was, but he was diplomatic: "I wouldn't second guess him…" before the lead evaporated, and "……" after the lead evaporated.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I meant to mention the Cashman/Feliciano "You guys overused him!!!1!" kerfuffle, but: why bother. You can listen to Law's response to it on, I think, Tuesday's Baseball Today podcast, where he seemed barely able not to curse while talking about how ridic the charge is.

  • Emily says:

    I'm feeling okay about Justin Morneau, though I'm still nervous every time the camera zooms in on him and he's making a dumb face (all the time), that the never-ending concussion is rearing its ugly head, and he'll fall down and have to retire or something. I'm pretty positive about the Twins in general, though we're starting a little rough.

    And, I do have to chime in with the broadcast complaint–watching the Twins vs. Yankees on ESPN the other night was excruciating, with the consistent pro-Yankee talk. Every routine play by the outfielders was heralded as clear evidence of that player's supreme ability, and they were basically just congratulating the Twins on having the courage to show up and play in Yankee stadium. Argh. I cut over to watch the Minnesota feed and announcers, to hear Bert Blyleven introducing the 'question of the night': "Is Derek Jeter the greatest Yankee ever? How fast can you say 'no'?" (Answer: very fast.)

  • Amanda says:

    I kind of think the Red Sox thing is hilarious. Then again, I've also become completely apathetic about that team over the past couple seasons.

    And speaking of apathy: the Dodgers! Theirs, not mine. They are performing roughly as expected, in that they have no offense, and their pitching staff is what one SoSG writer called "Kershaw and Bills and take your blood pressure pills," to which I will add "especially in the ninth inning, BROXTON." Frustrating as it is that they're, you know, them, I'm just enjoying what's good, which is Kershaw, mostly, and occasionally Billingsley and Kemp. And Vin hasn't just up and said "fuck this shit" and retired mid-inning. Yet. So we've got that going for us.

  • Lizzie says:

    I root for the Nationals. Need I say more? Last night's game was particularly uninspiring. Way to blow a four run lead, guys. Sigh.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    And THAT'S why Bertie is a Hall of Famer. (Not really. Still, hee.)

    Morneau just biffed a pick in this afternoon's game, and the NYY announcers made a hairy deal out of it (Flash: "You need to make that play at the major-league level"), but the throw looked shitty to me, so, enh.

  • Barb says:

    I'm an O's fan and I am VERY excited. 161-1, baby! I'm kidding, of course, and a bit wary, after the Epic Collapse of 2005. But this is a much stronger team than that one was, and I'm optimistic that we'll be over .500 and into at least 4th in the AL East, maybe 3rd.

    That would be easy if the Red Sox and Rays continue to not win games; sadly, they'll have to play each other 19 times, so my dreams of each going 0-162 are bound to be thwarted.

  • Marie says:

    As a Yankees ex-pat in Red Sox land, can I say I am already tired of the whole anointing of the Sox?

    Well, that, and the Jordan's Furniture's schtick re: "do this and win FURNITURE!" Nice try Jordan's but I know math AND baseball, and a Red Sox player hitting a tiny sign 421ft away in right centerfield…is not likely, I don't care how many times you tell me the number of at-bats they get. It might actually be LESS likely than them winning the World Series, because, see also, "The Anointed Ones".

  • BSD says:

    And just like that, the Red Sox are underdogs again. heh.

  • Alan says:

    I'm all for the Hernandez drinking game. At the very least it needs to include mentions of Tootsie Pops, his rainbow of highlighters and how long it takes him to drive home after the game.

  • bristlesage says:

    Well, I'm taking my A's for second place (out of fourth, oh yeah!) in the AL West. I think while Texas got pretty lucky last year, they are a pretty good team and "pretty good" is enough to win the division. My team is still made up of too many of one type of guy (actually, we're up to two types of guy now, I think) on the offensive side to take it from the Rangers. The pitching should be fun to watch, though, and since I'm a pitching person, well, hey. I do expect there to be a fair amount of back-and-forth for first, too.

    We're back to the Extra Innings package this year after a couple of years off because a) who knows how much longer Vin is going to make it (sad face), and b) my Cubs fan husband needs a year away from his team's messes, but not from baseball entirely.

    I don't like the Braves much and I like the Phillies even less, but we'll probably have a particular eye on that division. I expect it to be the most fun. The AL East will be pretty tough, I think, with the improved Orioles and Jays (and hey, we'll be seeing our first game in Toronto this July), but I'm so over the Yankees and Red Sox that I can't hardly care. The NL West, a lot of teams all grouped around the same point of goodness (that is, mediocre), so that'll be a slog 'til the end (I pick the Rockies, aka the only NL team I'm allowed to root for that's not the Cubs, per my husband). AL Central, I've got the Twins, too, because I'll take them in every year where there's no clear winner in that division. And the NL Central will probably get pretty much ignored at our house since we're ignoring the Cubs and my husband has very particular reasons for disliking all those teams (but I'm picking the Reds again).

    I'd say I'm hopeful but realistic.

  • Sean says:

    Cubs fan. 'Nuff said. Although .500 ball after the first week is a gift given last year's start.

  • Leigh in CO says:

    The Rockies jibber jabber includes Troy Tulowitzki changing his walk-up song (I call it a plate song, but whatevs) from Katy Perry ("Firework") to Justin Bieber ("Baby," natch), and proceeding to get his first hit of the season (a homer). I fear we fans must suffer with the Biebs for the rest of the season. (It should be noted that this is a marked improvement over Tulo's selection last year, which was Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA.")

    More seriously, though, is our Ubaldo landing on the DL with a cuticle problem, and DeLaRosa getting a blister in his first start (though he is pitching tomorrow). This pitching kerfuffle has had the effect of giving Maine the Sky Sox opening game start tonight.

    AND we have had our first snow-out. Ahhhh….Colorado baseball.

  • Rachel says:

    Ooh, do tell with the Keith Hernandez drinking game! The guys were all cute in the booth with their knit caps on (aside from Ron Darling who was all "um, FULL HEAD OF HAIR, yo"). Whenever Keith stops smoking, all his commentary is food-based, which turns into the Keith Hernandez Buffet party game. Ha.

    My only serious wish for the Mets is that they will put Daniel Murphy at 2nd base forever and ever amen because he's adorable and I don't care if he's good or not.

    Heading to the home opener tomorrow!!

  • Deanna says:

    @Lizzie I hear you. It's so depressing to cheer "Come on guys! You can make it to .500 this year! THIS IS THE YEAR!"

  • Nilda says:

    This weekend should be fun. The Red Sox are 0-6 and will try to win their first game against the Yankees. God, I hope the Yanks do well.

    I knew when Girardi took out CC after he was basically cruising for 7 innings and put in Soriano that bad things would happened. I predicted that Twins would tie the game and I was right. I hate when I can sense a loss like that. Also I was pissed throughout the game with all the talk of the Yankees always beating the Twins. Jinxes.

  • Sarah says:

    @Leigh – "Firework?" Really?! That must be amazing.

    We were at the Rangers game over the weekend (against the BoSox) and they played "Dynamite" during one of the interludes (maybe a visit to the mound? I don't recall.) All the local fans are like "this is our (Rangers) year." It's hilarious. My sister and I spent the entire game snickering at the weird t-shirts that EVERYONE was wearing, with "The Claw" on the front, and "The Antlers" on the back. What does it even mean?!?!?!?!

    Yanks – Personally, I like Jorge at DH. I think he's off to a good start, and I hope it lasts. I was sad that he was being moved from catcher, but it seems like a good fit, for now. I also like that Girardi moved Gardner to lead off. He's speedy speedy.

    Giants – Kind of a rough start against the Dodgers. The season is long, so I'm not too stressed though. Was pretty pissed at Barry Zito and his porn-stache on Sunday night. And then the middle reliever made it worse? I was screaming at the tv.

    I wish wasn't $100 a year. I want to watch games that don't involve the Rangers or the Astros more often than once a week, you know?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Dear Sarah,

    "Overrated," eh? How'd you rate that 11-0 POUNDING WE JUST LAID ON YOUR BOYS?

    Shut it next time maybe,
    The Phillies

  • Josh says:

    Did anyone see the Swisher take-out slide on Nishioka? I'd love to hear some less biased opinions on whether or not it was a dirty play. I'm inclined to think it was at least a little dirty, but that may be because Nishioka broke his damn leg, Swisher's a douche, and I'm sick of the goddamn Yankees.

  • kategm says:

    Ah, the Phillies. My roommate has been in a panic over what's up with Chase Utley and his knee of woe. This has led to wild speculation– my favorite part of professional baseball :)

  • Melerin says:

    @Josh – I despise Nick Swisher in all his douchiness, but I actually don't blame him for the injury. (Much as I would like to – go inhale a bee, Nick Swisher!) Nishi was awkwardly placed and he's frankly lucky he didn't blow out his knee instead. I'm kind of wondering what infield defense is really like in Japan if he won a Gold Glove, because that biffed catch at first earlier in the game was Nishi's fault also. He had 2 errors in the first couple games. Gotta think the kid is nervous, but some things really should be on auto-pilot by now, don't you think?

    Not that Nishioka was exactly my biggest worry with the Twins' infield, not when we've got Alexia Casilla and his twistable, turnable, distractable brain (and his sad little noodle arm) over at short. Valencia is my baseball boyfriend over at third but even I will not be surprised if he falls off the sophomore cliff. (He's so silly and cute though! Like a puppy! I just want to throw him a stick!) And Morneau….well, it's just nice to see him playing, that's all.

  • Stephanie says:

    Padres fan here, which means I'm doing the annual "who the hell ARE these guys" dance. No matter, I'm just happy to be watching baseball again.

  • FloridaErin says:

    I guess, in clarification, all the people I've heard say the Tigers could be the favorites were MLB Network talking heads, so maybe they all got together and decided it? Still, even with some of them picking my Tigers, the consensus there was that it will come down to the wire with the White Sox and the Twinkies, so I agree that it could be up for grabs. We do have a history of doing spectacular swan dives at the end of the season. I mean, these are the same people who said repeatedly that Boston had a magically epic starting rotation and . . . yeah.

    I think most of my annoyance with the two of them was that they seemed far more interested in talking about the good things the Yankees were doing and how suspect they found parts of the Tigers defense (Rhymes, left field in general, Peralta). And then Ken got all smarmy about how he wasn't allowed to ask Cabrera any non-baseball questions, and then they showed a video of Cameron Diaz feeding A-Rod popcorn, and that's about the point where I gave up.

    So, I may have been going off a small sample size, but I would have liked a bit more balance in the comments!

  • GracieGirl says:

    My sister and I spent the entire game snickering at the weird t-shirts that EVERYONE was wearing, with "The Claw" on the front, and "The Antlers" on the back. What does it even mean?!?!?!?!

    @Sarah, the claw and antlers are like long-distance high fives: claw for good performance at the plate, antlers for something speed-related. The players actually started them – the gestures were a way to congratulate and encourage each other. Eventually, the fans cottoned on and it spread into the stands. We like to have a little fun with our baseball. : )

    I’m pretty jazzed about how Texas has started – the bats are working, pitching seems solid so far, and the team still has a real positive energy. I know that baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, but I see enough good stuff there to feel confident in a strong showing. And if it turns out they tank the rest of the year, well, I’m still pretty high from last October, so that oughta hold me for a while.

  • Sarah says:

    @GracieGirl, I know all of that but I don't know what it means. What does the claw represent? No one can tell me. I heard the antlers are something like "swift like a deer" which….okay. I don't understand the relationship between the Rangers (a form of law enforcement) and claws and antlers! And the mascot is a horse! Color me baffled.

    And did they give the t-shirts away? I didn't see as many of these t-shirts last year in the entire season as I did on Sunday. They are everywhere.

    Had they not been playing the Red Sox, we probably would not have cheered for them. Oh well, we snarked, we had fun, and we got some quality baseball time.

    @FloridaErin – I thought Ken Rosenthal was exceptionally smarmy and obnoxious about the Cabrera thing. But I find him annoying on a good day.

  • FloridaErin says:

    @Sarah- Indeed! "Obviously, that was unacceptable. ::smirk::" Guh. Of course, the fact that he was wearing a bowtie wasn't helping the impression, even if it was for charity.

    I saw Inge give someone antlers during warm-up at a spring training game and was so confused. I always thought it was just a Rangers thing, so either it has kind of spread to other teams, or he was having some unrelated conversation about antlered wildlife with another player. I find the second possibility highly amusing.

  • amber34 says:

    As a Rangers fan, can I just say, from the bottom of my heart: best opening week ever! The whole presumptive-AL-champs vs. actual-reigning-AL-champs line was a bit oversold in the DFW press, but nonetheless it was fun. And more importantly, the young rotation looks really promising, and besides there's three more where that came from.

  • Cats says:

    Heh, Sars, definitely snickered at your "overrated" comment, since I read this thread just after yesterday's "pounding". Born and raised just outside Philly (raised by a midwestern father– "There will be no 'wooter' in MY house! You'll have no accent and you'll like it!"), so I'm a rabid phillies fan.
    I do have the same concerns about expectations vs. reality with the team this year, but.. you know, sometimes they surprise me. At the very minute my brother and I were moaning that Ibanez needs to be done, he… hits a two-run homer. But yeah, we'll see if the bullpen (aaand the offense) is good enough to justify all the obsession over our team's starting rotation. I tend to blame Brad Lidge for the stress-wrinkle on my forehead that has appeared since 2008.

    kategm, Utley's "knee of woe" is the perfect way to describe it. For a few days there, I don't think our local sports casters knew anything else existed. Geez. Although my boyfriend called me from work the other day to ask me for details on Utley because a coworker was curious. He "knew [I] would know", which both makes me proud. And less worried that he finds my baseball obsession disturbing.

  • GracieGirl says:

    @Sarah: I don't think there is any real meaning to the claw and antlers beyond what they've come to symbolize for the team. From what I understand, the gestures were just something that resulted from the players goofing around on the field; an inside joke that caught on with fans. I try not to spend too much time puzzling out the whithertos and wherefores of sporting traditions/nicknames/mascots lest the furry green wonder that is the Phillie Phanatic give me a headache.

    …or he was having some unrelated conversation about antlered wildlife with another player. I find the second possibility highly amusing.

    @FloridaErin: Hee! Me, too!

  • attica says:

    The antlers I know! They represent a player 'running like a deer.' I forget what the other is, sorry.

    Ah, Manny, Manny. What a sorry story.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Oh, SEATTLE.

  • Halo says:

    Alas, I am a Seattle fan.

  • Rachel says:

    Oh, Manny. People could forgive your buffoonish behavior and Bad Choices while you were still smacking the cover off the ball, but this… this is JUST SAD. Manny. Manny, Manny, Manny. You dumbass.

    Anyway, the Mets home opener happened. Despite freezing rain and a bit of wind, we stuck it out until the very end, where I was rewarded by the sight of Daniel Murphy getting the last at-bat (and the last out, sigh). I'm pretty sure he heard me yell "I LOVE YOU DANIEL" since I was the last person in the ballpark by then.

    My 4-year-old daughter yelled "That's Mama's boyfriend!" and my husband just moved over a few seats and pretended he didn't know us.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Halo: Well, you have Ichiro!. I love that guy. But every year, it seems like Seattle is going to be better than they're given credit for, and then they just…aren't. Must be frustrating.

    @Rachel, as Reynolds put it on MLB Tonight last night, once you've already had a violation, they add SO much testing to your schedule that it's not even a drug test anymore: it's an IQ test. And Manny failed. It's a good line, and it's tempting to be like, pfft, what an idiot, but I don't think he's dumb. I think a part of him just wanted to quit and didn't know how, and I think another part of him is content to have fans and press argue over what his legacy is, so that he can tell himself he really was the greatest righthanded hitter of the modern era. If he hadn't juiced, he'd have had to stand or fall with his own accomplishments, which might not have been as impressive (or at least not as ambiguous). In other words, we'll never know how he could have done without the help, and that's how he wants it.

    I don't know if that makes any sense and I can't swear it's the truth; maybe he is just dumb, but for some people the answer to "Wouldn't you rather do it on your own and know that you stood or fell on your own achievements?" is a pretty firm "no."

  • Rachel says:

    @SDB – I'm leaning toward "dumb," myself. In at least one of the articles I read, they mentioned that time in Cleveland when he got pulled over for too-dark tints (…and seriously? No other crime happening in the CLE?), didn't have ID or anything but they let him go so he promptly made an illegal u-turn and got pulled over again for that. Not smart!

    I don't envy the pressures these guys live with every single day, but still – he knew they were watching him. So, okay, maybe not dumb, but definitely in the "self-sabotage" column.

  • Drew says:

    @ Sars: Tom Verducci made the same point in his column on, but I liked Joe Lemire's theory that pointed out how poorly Manny played after the suspension in 2009, and posited that maybe Manny saw no other way to get back to playing the way he had.

    I hadn't heard the Tigers were favored, either. Most everyone had them finishing third, and now (of course) the teams that were picked to finish fourth and fifth are the ones with winning records… Tigers could pull something out, but they've got to stay consistent, which they have a hard time doing, even in the years they were successful (the '06 team that won the Pennant played terribly in September and wound up settling for the Wild Card after leading that division almost wire-to-wire).

    Verlander, though? Man, that guy is good. I saw him in pre-season, and he was already throwing like it was June. If the bullpen hadn't blown it for him against the Yanks, he'd be 2-0 already.

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