Uneven Performance

Image = thumbs-up-down.jpgThose of us that were not part of the mass exodus at the stunning conclusion of the seventh inning last night were rewarded in some small part yesterday, if not given the pleasure of a Mets win.

50364505.jpgNot a Good Night for the Tenor

Often, at the MET, if a singer is feeling “under the weather”, an official comes out onstage prior to the performance to announce that so-and-so “is suffering from a cold but has graciously decided to sing and asks for your understanding.”

Those of us sitting in the orchestra pit have heard these announcements more than just occasionally and often joke to each other that, in spite of not having any good reeds, we will each nonetheless perform.

No such disclaimers would ever occur in baseball, of course:  announcing to the opposition that your starting pitcher might not be having his best day would be tantamount to forfeiting the game.  However, when your starter is not consistently getting his regular velocity on his fast ball, it doesn’t take an announcement over the public address system for fans to notice.

And such was the case last night with John Maine’s first outing of the season on “Opening Night 2010” at Citi Field.

While he wasn’t awful, last night’s performance did not actually inspire you, if you are a Mets fan.

Major Memory Lapse

If there was one lesson the team and, specifically, Jerry Manuel and the coaching staff would’ve taken away from last season, I would’ve hoped it would have been the need to address what were some terrible base-running decisions and lapses of concentration on the base paths.

While Razor Shines certainly cannot be blamed for last night’s seventh-inning fatal error on Fernando Tatis’s part, the sight of Fernando being thrown out at the plate in an attempt to take advantage of a wild pitch by Veras–with David Wright up to bat with the bases loaded–seemed a continuation of last season’s faulty judgements.

040710.01crop.jpgRinging High Notes

In spite of the huge disappointment that was the end of the seventh, and the less-than-stellar outing by Maine, there were a few highlights worth the Yankees/Red Sox-length of the game:

  • A triple by Cora:  an exciting start to the bottom of the first.
  • An amazing catch by Jason Bay in the top of the fourth.
  • The excitement of seeing Mejia’s (pictured, at right; speed pitch, photo below) and Tejada’s first Major League appearances.
  • A Jose Reyes-like rattling of Marlins pitcher Nunez by Gary Matthews, Jr., invoking a balk.
  • Watching a comeback–during which time a “We Believe in Comebacks” promo played on the scoreboard.  While the power surge did not result in a win, it did show a collective resolve and grit that I do not remember seeing much of last season.

040710.03.jpgAlthough I woke up this morning feeling tired and somewhat frustrated that I had stayed at the stadium so late with so little to show for it, I’m trying to focus on these “high notes” and hope the team will build on those.


Fowl Play

turkeyshorts.jpgI’ve had difficulty “singing the praises of the Mets” lately…except in some sort of out-of-tune way.  Thus, the absence of recent posts.

I keep waiting for the chance to vocalize in a fully supported manner, but this less-than-encore-deserving run of Mets losses has only inspired me to warbling off-key humor.

Fact:  the Mets have suffered an unbelievable number of injuries (record-breaking?) this season.  Their struggle to stay competitive in spite of this has been admirable if not downright miraculous.  

I’ve seen and heard it all: 

“The Mets are playing hurt.” 

“The Mets are putting a Junior Varsity team out there.” 

“The Mets just have to tread water until the regulars get back.” 

“Just wait until after the All-Star break.” 

“You can’t blame them:  some of these players are minor-leaguers.”


But even with those disclaimers and glass-half-full observations, last night’s loss was a new low.

From F-Mart’s blooper-reel-worthy performance in the outfield to our ace Santana’s bases on balls and dugout temper tantrum, it was a night to test even the most ardent fan’s patience.

PhillySteakJockey.jpgMeanwhile, in that never-ending side-bar story to any Met fan’s daily digest–hoping the Phillies will at least lose (and barring that, the Yankees)–the Atlanta Braves did manage to help us out: aided by the mere threat of Jeff Francouer donning his magic underwear,

Go ahead and laugh.  I am.

Matt Cerrone of MetsBlog recently excoriated manager Jerry Manuel for jokingly looking for his (hidden) offense under the table when asked about the Mets’ bats at his post-game press conference on Sunday night following the derailed Subway Series.

Maybe, at least in Cerrone’s opinion, Manuel is not in a position to kid around.  And, granted, the Mets’ falling further and further below .500 is no laughing matter.

I, on the other hand, am in a position to joke around and, in fact, have now arrived at the “what else can you do but laugh” point.

And with that little prelude in mind, I offer up (with apologies to my Mom, a die-hard Braves fan) some contrasting themes between the Mets’ and Braves’ clubhouses:

The Mets’ offense has flown the coop and, especially last night, they are looking like a bunch of birdbrains in the field; the Braves are closing in on us, their right-fielder bluffing about lucky turkey shorts.

The Mets are awaiting the return of Major-League ready jocks; the Braves are talking jockeys.

The Mets need their A-Team; the Braves are talking G-strings.

The Mets desperately need the long ball; the Braves are talking long johns.


 You get the idea.


Laughing keeps me from crying: 

after all, I don’t want to be perceived as a pantywaist.


Original artwork “Phillie Cheese Steak Brand” From the “Orange Crate Label Series: The Unauthorized History of Baseball in 1-Odd Paintings” (2005) by Ben Sakoguch courtesy of the artist.

USA: Worst to First?

20obama_533.jpgI have to admit that I am more closely watching and infinitely more interested in the Presidential campaign than the World Series.  However, I must say that I am smitten with the Tampa Bay Rays and am rooting for them in the Series.

There are numerous reasons why I’ve been showing the Rays some love in this Post-Season.

1.  The “worst to first” success story of the Rays and manager Joe Maddon–on a very modest budget, I might add–has been a compelling story.

2.  Besides the joy of watching the young, eager players–many of whom are “home grown” talent–I’ve ADORED seeing Cliff Floyd (shown at far right in the above picture) playing the father-figure to these “kids”.  As a former Met outfielder, he was always a favorite of mine.  While he’s ostensibly been a bench player for the team (and is now out of the series because of a shoulder problem), everything that I have read indicates that his contribution as a veteran and leader on and off the field has been a very big part of the team’s success.

3. I do not think the Phillies are a better team than the Mets, quite frankly.  Furthermore, I REALLY don’t want them to win the World Series and would probably root against them no matter who the opposing team was.  Heck, I would root for the YANKEES if they had been playing against the Phillies.

4.  Undoubtedly, one of the reasons I’ve hopped on the Tampa Bay Bandwagon is the simple fact that I miss baseball.  Even being only half-heartedly involved in the Post-Season games feels better than the absence of the sport entirely…and helps pass the time until “pitchers and catchers report.”

Well after my Post-Season allegiance had been informally pledged to Tampa Bay, I had the pleasure of finding out that the “Captain” of my Democratic “team” had been introduced at his rally at Legends Field in Tampa Bay one week ago by Rays rookie pitcher David Price.  Barack Obama was also joined onstage by Rays players Fernando Perez, Carl Crawford, Cliff Floyd, Jonny Gomes, B.J. Upton, Edwin Jackson, and Jason Bartlett. 




000000000010obama.jpgAs seen in the first part of the above video clip, Obama quipped that perhaps he too would stay au courant and get a “Mohawk”.  Here, the Photoshoppery of Angus Shafer and Carl Lisciandrello of Tampa Bay Online imagines that look. 

Campaigning in Philadelphia, Obama had previously–when pressed for an answer to whom he was backing in the World Series–responded that–with his campaign manager being from Philadelphia–he had better say, “The Phillies.”.  Following the Tampa Bay appearance, it was no surprise then to see accusations by McCain of Obama “flip-flopping:. 

As has been noted, though, Obama actually made clear that his team is the Chicago White Sox: 


Any pandering Obama might have shown in these two appearances, paled in comparison to the way Sarah Palin sucked up to crowds in Florida and then New Hampshire.  Mark Leibovich, author of the New York Times political blog “The Caucus” citied Palin’s “duplicity” in a recent post:

Gov. Sarah Palin has added a twist on the old baseball maxim of “root root root for the home team” – as in, “root, root, root for the home team, depending on where you are.”

As The Caucus noted, Ms. Palin visited Salem, N.H. Wednesday night and said she looked forward to watching Senator John McCain debate Senator Barack Obama “right here, in the heart of Red Sox Nation.” Ms. Palin said that “Red Sox fans know how to turn an underdog into a victor,” a timely applause line given that the Sox trail the Tampa Bay Rays three-games-to-one in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

It seems, however, that Ms. Palin voiced a similar sentiment – actually, identical sentiment – last week at a rally in Florida.

“How about those Tampa Bay Rays?” Ms. Palin said after the Rays defeated the Chicago White Sox.

“You know what that tells me? It tells me that the people in this area know a little something about turning an underdog into a victor.” 


Bringing baseball into the campaign even resulted in an small gaffe for Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden: 

No matter how innocuous the preface to his comments may have seemed, he may be receiving a letter from the Tampa Bay Rays organization as did David Pinto, author of a popular sports blog, Baseball Musings.  Both Mr. Pinto and Mr. Biden have recently made the slipup of using the franchise’s OLD name–a crime for which the organization is issuing citations.  The Rays have requested that Mr. Pinto pay a $10 fine for doing so, depositing it at the nearest “Drop the Devil” donation box near him.

Obviously, politicians can get slam dunked when they bring sports onto the stump.  Which recent politician was it that confused hockey for some other sport when trying to make a connection with the locals?   Trying too hard to be seen as similar to one’s constituents can hurt a candidate’s campaign.  The Republican’s’ recent efforts to reach out to “Joe SixPack” and “Joe the Plumber” did not come off nearly as sincere when Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was caught with her RNC-purchased high-end fashion designer’s pants down.

That said, I was charmed to see the Rays players coming out in support of Obama.  After all, they were showing support at an event advertised as a political rally; when Governor Palin–a political figure in the midst of a contentious campaign–dropped the puck at two recent hockey games, those were supposedly non-partisan sports events held in tax-payer-financed arenas.

With his “9 = 8” season mantra and cerebral quotes not unlike Mets manager Jerry Manuel’s interesting analogies and sayings from diverse sources, it appears to me that Joe Maddon started the 2008 season with a lot of hope for his club.  It seems that very early on, he  generated a team-wide “Audacity of Hope” campaign of his own.  Even if the Rays do not win the World Series, going from the team with the worst record in baseball last season to first place in the American League this season represents a manager’s, a team’s, and fans’ hopes fulfilled.

I, too, have great hope right now:  for our country.  I have the audacity to hope that it might be possible to make changes we need and begin the process of our country going from the worst it’s been in recent times–economically, environmentally, diplomatically, managerially–to first.

Or at least a record over .500.


Please cast your vote on November 4th!

ADDENDUM:  I had assistance in recalling the incident involving confusing hockey and another sport:

The person in question was not, as I wrote earlier, a politician, but a person in the opera world, trying to make connections to popular culture.  The incident took place in 2007 during a live HD Metropolitan Opera telecast of Tan Dun’s “The Last Emperor”, featuring Placido Domingo. 

As an intermission feature, Beverly Sills–host of that telecast–interviewed Domingo live.  When the conversation turned to David Beckham coming to the U.S., Sills–knowing that Domingo is a big fan of Beckham’s sport–excitedly blurted out something about Beckham playing hockey. 

Umm.  No.