Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New York, New York, It's a Wonderful Town!

An exciting summer continues: on Wednesday I'm off to New York City for a few days. Certainly not as far to travel as Ireland, but it does mean I'll need to be (relatively) early to bed, early to rise this  week. This wouldn't be a problem except the Mets are on the West Coast. So as much as it pains me, I'll be switching back to Weekly Recap mode this week. I'll include pictures from my trip in the next post and get back to writing nightly recaps again next Tuesday when the Miami Marlins come to town.

Till then, since that other New York team has co-opted Sinatra's song about the city, here's a number from that Gene Kelly classic: On the Town. And hey, Sinatra's in this one too!

See you in a week!


Monday, July 30, 2012

Game #102: Mets 5, D-Backs 1

The best place for a knuckleballer to get back on track? Try a dry place where there's nothing in the air to stop it from its motionless glide to the plate.

R.A. Dickey was back in his June form, limiting the Diamondbacks to an unearned run and giving the Mets a series split, 5-1.

The Good Stuff:
  • Bouncing back from only his second L of the season in his last start, R.A. Dickey reminded fans in Arizona why he was a rightful contender to start the All-Star Game. He went the Solid Seven, allowing an unearned run on 4 hits, walking 3 and striking out 8 on 111 pitches, which is more like just 95 for a knuckleballer. The W gives Dickey 14 on the season, making him the first NL pitcher this year to reach the number.
  • R.A. also got some help from the New York bats, who spotted him a 2-0 lead before he even had to step up on the mound. David Wright's RBI double drove in Daniel Murphy, and Scott Hairston followed with a double himself to score Wright.
  • The Mets added insurance runs in the 5th, 6th, and 8th innings on another RBI from Scott Hairston and run-scoring doubles from Murphy (his 32nd on the year) and Josh Thole.
  • David Wright had the best offensive line of the game: 1-3, 2 BBs, 2 Rs, 1 SB, 1 2B, 1 RBI.
  • Andres Torres went 2-3 and scored twice from the 7-hole.
  • The team as a whole hit a much more respectable 4-14 with RISP.
  • After Dickey made his exit, Jon Rauch and Bobby Parnell combined for two scoreless innings in relief.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Ike Davis followed up his 3-homer night with another trifecta: 3 Ks in an 0-5 day at the plate.
  • Jason Bay.
Final Analysis:
It was a rare post-ASB day when all three cogs in the machine (starting pitching, relief pitching, offense) meshed together in one game. Dickey was fantastic again, the bats hit well in the clutch, the bullpen did its job quietly and efficiently. The result was the Mets salvaging a hard-to-believe series split to start their West Coast road trip. The last couple seasons, the West was where seasons tended to be lost. To start out this year's trip out with a solid outing to try to save a season that may have already been lost is certainly a good sign.

More good signs for the Amazin's: the return of the Whitestone Kid. Mike Baxter will return after writing his name in Mets history by sacrificing his body for Johan Santana's no-hitter. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who needs some time to recoup in Buffalo, will be sent down to make room on the roster. It'll be about a week before he gets back to the hometown fans at Citi Field, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if he got an enormous ovation when he comes up to the plate for the first time. I'll be looking forward to that moment for sure.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Game #101: D-Backs 6, Mets 3

At least one guy showed up with his bat tonight.

Ike Davis' three home runs weren't enough to back up Chris Young's rough night as the Mets dropped their second straight to the Diamondbacks, 6-3.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Chris Young allowed one run in the 1st, two in the 2nd, then saved his three in the 3rd for the 4th inning instead, finishing with 6 earned runs in just 4 innings of work.
  • The team as a whole hit 0-9 with RISP, including a disastrous 8th inning in which they got the first two men on but failed to score after Daniel Murphy just missed a 3-run homer in the cavernous Chase Field outfield. He was followed up by the Brothers K, Jason Bay and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who topped of 0-4 nights with their second and third strikeouts respectively.
  • David Wright's slump continued as he also went 0-4 with a couple Ks, dragging his batting average down to .331.
The Good Stuff:
  • All this misery overshadowed another moment in Mets history. Ike Davis hit solo home runs off Arizona's Ian Kennedy in the 2nd, 4th, and 6th innings, giving the Scottsdale native and Arizona State graduate the 9th 3-homer game in New York history. Sportscenter anchor Linda Cohn, herself a Mets fan, relayed dubious information later on that Ike also became just the 5th man ever to have 3 solo home runs that accounted for all his team's runs in a loss. Something tells me those folks over at Elias have way too much time on their hands.
  • After Young made his exit, the beleaguered Met bullpen held the D-Backs to just one hit the rest of the way, as Ramon Ramirez, Manny Acosta, and Josh Edgin combined for 4 scoreless innings in relief.
Final Analysis:
At tonight's party, it was the bullpen who decided to show up, while the offense and starting pitching, save for Ike Davis's enthusiastic attempts at getting the rest of the bats to show up, were once again M.I.A. The result was a 14th loss in 16 games, meaning at least the Mets will likely get the top pick, presumably USC signal caller Matt Barkley, in next season's NFL Draft. But MM, that's the wrong sport. *sigh* I know, Random Italic Questioner. Just give me this one tonight. We all as New York fans need it.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Game #100: D-Backs 11, Mets 5

Well...Matt Harvey can't start everyday, after all.

Jon Niese was roughed up early and Arizona piled on during the rest of the game as the Mets dropped their 100th game of the season, an 11-5 affair to the Diamondbacks.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Jon Niese sailed through the 1st inning and entered the 2nd with a 2-0 cushion. Turns out he needed the kind of cushion the Queen of England would employ: more cushionier (it's a stretch, yes, but the Olympic Opening Ceremonies tired me out - give me a break). Niese walked in the opening run after singles loaded the bases, allowed the pitcher to single home one more, then turned a Willie Bloomquist RBI single into a bases-clearing 3-base error on the errant throw to first. A 6th run would come in before the third out was recorded.
  • Niese lasted 6 innings total and allowed additional runs in the 4th and 5th, but it was only really over after he handed the ball to his "trusty" relievers. Elvin Ramirez let a flood of 3 more runs come in during his 7th inning to provide the final margin.
  • Jason Bay.
The Good Stuff:
  • Ike Davis opened up the scoring with a solo home run in the 2nd, his 17th on the year, just 2 shy of his total from 2010.
  • David Wright broke out of his 0-15 slump with a 3-run homer in the 3rd, his 16th of the year and 70th RBIs.
Final Analysis:
The offense showed up tonight, but it was both sides of pitching that were too busy watching Mary Poppins slaying a 40-foot Voldemort in London. Overall, a disappointing effort from Jon Niese, a potential rock in the future rotation for this team. He may start feeling some heat with the emergence of Matt Harvey and knowing Zach Wheeler isn't far behind in Triple-A ball. Perhaps when it sinks in we'll finally consistently see the pitcher the team gave a major extension to in the offseason.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Game #99: Mets 3, D-Backs 1

Tonight in the blistering desert, there was no one hotter than the man making a historic major league debut.

Matt Harvey struck out 11 over 5 1/3 scoreless innings to power the Mets to a losing streak-snapping 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks.

The Good Stuff:
  • Still think he's not ready? Fresh up from Buffalo, Matt Harvey gunned down the first man he faced and never looked back. New York's stellar prospect never had a perfect inning but powered through the Arizona lineup, tossing 5 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing 3 hits, 3 walks, and sitting down 11 men by way of the K. It was the most strikeouts a pitcher handed out in a debut since Stephen Strasburg's 14 in 2010.
  • But what made tonight not just sensational but historic for Mr. Harvey was what he was able to to at the plate: a scorching double in the 2nd and single up the middle in the 4th made him the first pitcher in modern baseball history to strike out at least 10 men and collect two hits in his major league debut. Take a screenshot of the line on Baseball-Reference.com tomorrow morning: you'll see Matt Harvey with a batting average of 1.000 and a slugging percentage of 1.500. Who knew?
  • Scott Hairston provided all the run support Harvey and the rest would end up needing with a 2-run double in the 1st inning. He finished the day with another double (both to opposite field) and a single for a nice 3-4 night.
  • Rob Johnson provided the 3rd RBI of the night, knocking a sac fly in the 4th to score Andres Torres after his triple.
  • Harvey walked two in the 6th and made his exit after 106 pitches, but fellow 2010 Draft class mate Josh Edgin (taken in the 30th round, 29 after Harvey) came in to end the D-Back threat and toss a hitless 7th inning as well.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Of course, Edgin couldn't pitch forever, and the rest of the Met bullpen came in in the 8th to set up the roller coaster and jeopardize Harvey's Amazin' night. Jon Rauch allowed a run and Tim Byrdak hit a guy before sitting down Lyle Overbay on 3 straight outside sliders. In the 9th, Bobby Parnell survived 31 pitches and 2 walks to strike out 3 and give Mets nation a collective sigh of relief (no pun intended).
  • David Wright continued his slump, going 0-4 with a strikeout to make it 14 at-bats since his last hit. Keith Hernandez noticed the strikeouts are increasing because David's gone to a bit of an uppercut swing like he's had the last few years. Let's hope he breaks out of it and starts swinging level again.
Final Analysis:
It took awhile, but New York's 6-game losing streak comes to an end in a most spectacular fashion. Matt Harvey silenced his critics and the 'Zona bats to make his mark in the big leagues. Should his career be as good as it's been made out to potentially be, we'll all look back to this night as a wonderful sign of things to come.

With Harvey's spectacular debut following Jeremy Hefner's solid outing in a losing effort yesterday, the holes in the Mets' starting pitching seem to be healing up for the time being. Dickey-Hefner-Harvey-Niese-Young may not be the most flashy of rotations, but if it gets the job done, to heck with flashy. The road to climbing out of this sub-.500 ditch starts now. Only time will tell as to whether this team can pull themselves out of it.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rising Apple: Sport in Ireland

Let's face it: we all need a distraction from the past few weeks of Mets baseball. I wrote this for Rising Apple about my recent experience in Ireland. Read if you're interested in finding out about the ancient Irish games of Gaelic football and hurling, as well as the sports' governing body, the GAA.


Irish Sport: Gaelic Games Thrive on the Emerald Isle

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Game #98: Nationals 5, Mets 2

Today it was starting pitching's turn to show up for the Mets. What sunk the team this time was lack of bullpen, lack of offense, and an excess of starting pitching by the other guys.

Stephen Strasburg stymied the New York bats for 7 innings and the bullpen and errors in the field put it out of reach for the Mets, who were swept by the Nationals by last night's score of 5-2.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Today it was Tim Byrdak who came on to toss Washington some extra batting practice in the 7th, allowing 2 runs over 2/3 of an inning to give the Nats a grand total of 5 for the day.
  • On the other side of the hill, Stephen Strasburg delivered a worth encore to Gio Gonzalez's performance last night, tossing 7 innings of 1-run, 4-hit ball, walking none and striking out 11.
  • New York was charged with 2 fielding errors, including a missed-catch error by Josh Thole in the 4th that led to a Washington run.
  • The Mets hit just 0-4 in their limited chances with RISP. The team's best chance was in the 8th inning when they loaded the bases with none out but could only bring home one run on a Jordany Valdespin RBI groundout.
The Good Stuff:
  • Jeremy Hefner took on the herculean task of having to first face Strasburg and second replace Johan Santana in the rotation. Aside from back-to-back home runs to Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa to lead off the 2nd, Hef did a pretty good job. His final line reads a respectable 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits in 6 innings with 2 walks and 7 strikeouts. His ERA still stands at 5.40 but it's a small sample size. He won't get all the attention Matt Harvey does when he takes the mound tomorrow night in Arizona, but the best Hefner can do is quietly do his job and not make any negative noise.
  • Ike Davis gave the Mets their lone run of Strasburg, blasting fastball to start the 2nd into the right field corner for his 16th home run, the same kind of laser shot he had on Monday night.
Final Analysis:
Sixth straight loss, 12th L in 13, second straight home sweep completing an 0-6 homestand. Analysis determines...well, that sucked. Is this the bottom? We'll find out tomorrow when a future cornerstone of the rotation takes his first turn on the mound in the desert (although it can't be much hotter there than it is all around the country). Good luck, Matt.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Game #97: Nationals 5, Mets 2

For 5 innings R.A. Dickey's knuckleball was dancing brilliantly. Then in the 6th, it tripped over itself and threw off the whole routine.

Dickey allowed 4 runs with 2 outs in the 6th and New York's three hits in the game were far from enough as the Mets dropped their 11th of 12 against the Nationals, 5-2.

The Bad Stuff:
  • For 5 2/3 innings R.A. Dickey was his usual 2012 brilliant self. But a single, homer, single, single, and single+error later he went from a 1-1 tie to a 5-1 deficit. Dickey's 5 runs against (4 earned) ballooned his ERA to close to 3 (2.97) and gave him just his second L of the season and first in about three months.
  • On the other side of the mound, Gio Gonzalez was in control for Washington the whole night, giving up just one unearned New York run on 2 hits in 7 innings for his 13th W of the year.
  • The Mets had just 2 at-bats with RISP, going 1-2.
The Good Stuff:
  • Jordany Valdespin did his best to bring the team back in the 8th, coming off the bench to launch a solo home run to right center. The history-making shot was 'Spin's 5th pinch-hit homer of the season, a club record.
    • With Lucas Duda's demotion to Buffalo earlier today, it should be a no-brainer as to who gets the bulk of his playing time in right field. Valdespin has done more than enough this summer in limited action and can fill in the position of sparkplug left vacant by Jose Reyes' departure. While a potential trade chip just a couple weeks ago, Jordany Valdespin has made himself quite valuable to the club he's on now.
  • The bullpen actually held the fort after Dickey's departure. Manny Acosta, Josh Edgin (who struck out 3 guys in the 8th), and Ramon Ramirez combined for 3 scoreless innings to at least keep the team in striking distance.
Final Analysis:
It seems every night during this awful post-ASB slide at least one part of the team has done its part while others have failed miserably. Some nights starting pitching is great, but the offense and bullpen are dreadful. Other times the team scores a lot of runs but pitching requires them to do even more. Tonight, the bullpen was the group that showed up, but it could not be joined by effective starting pitching or strong offense. The result was a familiar tune: the Mets' 5th straight loss and 11th L in their last 12 games. As with yesterday, there is but one question left to ask: is this the bottom? We'll find out tomorrow.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Game #96: Nationals 8, Mets 2 (10)

Bryce Harper rounds the bases in the first inning after his two-run homer against Mets starter Chris Young. (NYDailyNews.com)
Midwestern Met makes its return to nightly recaps, but the game tonight is the "same as it ever was."

After keeping a lid on the Washington offense for 9 innings, Bryce Harper led a charge through the paper-thin New York bullpen as the Nationals thrashed the Mets late for a series-opening 8-2 win.

The Bad Stuff:
  • With Chipper Jones retiring at the end of this season, the position of "Met killer" is currently up for grabs. But with his 2-run homer to start the game and go-ahead single in the top of the 10th, Bryce Harper may have sewn it up. The Washington kid's latest audition for the role of nemesis was even more frustrating for Mets fans than his previous audition a month and a half ago in another extra-inning Nationals win. Coincidentally that was the first game I missed covering during my six-week excursion to the Emerald Isle. Turns out that whole trip gets bookended by Met-killings by this kid who I'm pretty convinced will be a future Hall-of-Famer if he stays healthy and stays out of trouble. And guess what, Met fans? He's 19 freakin' years old. We're going to have to deal with this for 20 more years. Think Bryce would be call if we started calling him Larry?
  • I can't add anything new to say about the bullpen. You know what kind of shape it's in by now. The only new development is that Pedro Beato, who allowed most of those 6 runs in the 10th to score, has been optioned to Buffalo to make room for Matt Harvey.
  • This time, though, the bullpen was also failed by New York gloves. Ruben Tejada dropped a sure double play ball from Tim Byrdak in the 10th that would've given the Mets 2 down and no men on in that fateful inning. Ruben tried to turn it before he secured it and paid the price both in-game and physically, getting spiked by Roger Bernadina in the process. He appears to be okay, despite a couple gashes in his right shin.
  • Aside from two individual swings (see Good Stuff below), the Met offense was completely anemic tonight. It was so ineffective tonight that the team's usual trademark of failure, RISP, doesn't even reflect it. They only went 0-4, meaning they couldn't even get guys to second before failing to score them. Ouch.
  • Jason Bay, enough said.
The Good Stuff:
  • Those two good swings came from the bats of David Wright and Ike Davis, who hit the 15th home runs of each of their seasons in the 4th and 7th innings respectively to tie the game at 2.
  • Wright and Davis helped redeem Chris Young, who after allowing 3 hits and Harper's home run in the 1st settled in and didn't allow a hit for the rest of his 7 innings, including retiring 14 men in a row between the 3rd and 7th.
  • Despite his fielding miscue in the 10th, Ruben Tejada had an otherwise good game, going 3-4 to increase his batting average to .318. Sure, he's no Bryce Harper, but 22-year-old Tejada has all the makings of a soon-to-be All-Star himself.
Final Analysis:
Mike Nichols on MetsBlog tonight started his recap by saying "when it rains, it pours." I'd like to take that a step further: we're in typhoon mode with a plastic Wal-Mart bag for a roof. 10 of 11, 2 games under .500, no end in sight. The only question that remains at this point is how far left we have to the bottom.


Weekly Recap, July 16-22

Back home again in Indiana! I arrived safely back from Dublin, Ireland on Saturday night and spent yesterday recovering from jet lag and the different time zone. I was hoping a nice Met victory would be a nice welcome home present...if you're reading this you know how that arrangement worked out. Without further ado, let's get through my last Weekly Recap of the goings on in Flushing.

Team Record: 1-5 (47-48 overall)
July 17-19, Nationals Series: L, 1-2
July 20-22, Dodgers Series: L, 0-3

The Bad Stuff:
  • (See past week...not enough just to put this and call it a day? Fine.)
  • Save for R.A. Dickey stopping the bleeding on Thursday afternoon (which we'll get to in Good Stuff), nothing went right for the New York Mets this week. Starting pitching was off most of the time, and the few times it was on the offense couldn't do the job. Not to mention that much-maligned bullpen. But when the dust finally settled after LA's 5-run 12th (all runs coming with 2 outs, by the way), the Mets were under .500 for the first time all season.
  • The biggest setback of the week, however, came in the form of yet another hole in the starting rotation. Johan Santana, after a third straight awful start on Friday night, was placed on the 15-day DL for some ankle troubles. This left open the prospect of a Dickey-Niese-Young-Batista-Hefner rotation, until...
The Good Stuff:
  • The Arrival. Matt Harvey was announced to be the starter for New York's Thursday night game in Arizona. Now last week I was recorded as being opposed to Harvey pitching in the majors this year, but I changed my mind after thinking about the alternative of seeing Miguel Batista in the rotation again. It's possible this season Harvey isn't much better than Batista on the mound, but Batista being 41 years old and on his way out of baseball (quicker than expected after the Mets DFA-ed him yesterday), it's more logical to prepare Harvey for what he'll see next season in the bigs now. I especially like how his first three starts will be out of the New York spotlight on the West Coast: gives him a chance to get his feet wet before pitching in the Big Apple.
  • New York's lone salvation this week came from its two All-Stars on Thursday when R.A. Dickey picked up a quality start and his 13th win, thanks in part to David Wright's 2-homer, 5-RBI afternoon in Washington. Even then, the Mets needed every single one of those runs as the bullpen almost gave it away.
Final Analysis:
July 22. I'm calling it. Earlier than last season, but so much more unexpected. The wheels have completely come off this team since the All-Star Break. They have no bullpen, half a rotation, they can't hit lefties. And now they aren't a winning ballclub in the standings anymore. This sounds a lot like giving up, I know. Maybe it is. But this team was a long shot to make the playoffs in the first place; now they're playing a lot closer to what those so-called "experts" predicted. Plus, the way they've been playing gives Sandy Alderson no reason to pull any sort of trigger at the trade deadline. As frustrating as it is to just stay the course, isn't that what the plan was in the first place? Do our best with what we have in 2012, begin an ascent in 2013? At this point maybe the best thing to do is to make the future now and prepare the talent for a run next year by getting them big-league experience. Perhaps that's the mentality behind bringing Matt Harvey up at this point. With things going the way they are now, I can't say I object. I just hope the team still plays hard every night.


And now, my last edition of:

Irish Pics of the Week

My neighborhood of Rathmines, just south of Dublin city center. It used to be its own town before it got swallowed up by Dublin's urban sprawl.

The Garden of Remembrance, commemorating all those who fought and died for Irish independence from 1798 to 1921.
IRISH COOPERSTOWN: The GAA Museum at Croke Park

Complete with tour of that fabled ground

This is where they give out all the trophies

Recognize this place? The 1947 Gaelic Football was played at the Polo Grounds. It was the only time a GAA final has ever been played outside of Ireland.

With a sizable Irish population, New York has its own GAA club that competes in the Irish tournaments. London is the only other non-Irish city that is afforded such a privilege.

The last stop in the city and one of the best.
The Mets are back in action tonight as they host the Washington Nationals, and Midwestern Met will be back in action with nightly game summaries once again. It's good to be home.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Weekly Recap, July 9-15

The All-Star Game has come and gone, and as has my final weekend in Ireland. One of my destinations was the famous Cliffs of Moher...appropriate considering the free-fall the Mets went into in Atlanta. Here's what you missed this week in Amazinville.

Team Record: 0-3 (46-43 overall)
July 13-15, Braves Series: L, 0-3

The Bad Stuff:
  • Oh boy, where to even begin? The Mets dropped all three games at Turner Field in a series that featured a no-show from starting pitching, relief pitching, and offense, as well as one too many appearances by certified Met-killer Chipper Jones (Hall-of-Famer for sure, but I'll be so darn glad when he finally calls it a career).
  • And that wasn't even the worst of it! After tossing his best game of the season last Saturday, Dillon Gee was bitten by the Injury Bug in the worst way. A blood clot was discovered in his right shoulder, and one serious surgery later he's done for the year. Such a shame because Gee was just starting to find himself. But these blood clots are dangerous (my high school's starting quarterback got one his junior year and needed surgery to save his career), and thank God they detected it in time. Get well soon, Dillon.
    • Now the focus has shifted as to who's going to fill Gee's spot in the rotation, more specifically whether Matt Harvey is ready to become a big-league pitcher. Everyone's got their opinions and most of them have been expressed. I myself fall on the side of looking for outside help. If Matt Harvey is supposed to be the anchor of the rotation for the next decade, he needs time to fully develop. If it's as soon as next season, great, but no use mortgaging his future for a short-term fix. It goes against the team's new philosophy.
  • And if it weren't bad enough that another starter is done for 2012, this breaks earlier today: Frank Francisco is going to be out for longer than expected. With the closer's role in question for even longer now, Sandy Alderson really has no choice but to make a trade. If New York is going to keep their surprising start going through September, that bullpen needs major reinforcements, more than just a little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke.
The Good Stuff:
  • Um...I didn't get to see most of it because I was in Howth and Galway? Wasn't good for the team, but it was alright for me. If you have anything more positive, please, throw me a line.
Final Analysis:
Second-half collapses have been a trademark of the Mets since 2007, and this opening series with the Braves isn't a good sign. Sure, it's just three games. They could just as easily turn it around against Washington and then we'll start talking about playoff contention again. But the foundations of this 2012 team are crumbling away before our very eyes thanks to termites of injury and the axes of bats swung against our bullpen. It may be just a matter of time until the whole thing comes crashing down, ready to be rebuilt with optimism for 2013.


Irish Pics of the Week:

Friday I got out to Howth, a seaside town a half hour's train ride out of Dublin. They like sailing there, clearly.

Not too much fanfare, but some incredible sea food.

Saturday I was in Galway, Ireland's "Gateway to the West," so to speak.

Found this down near the Spanish Arch in Galway. Hey, if baseball doesn't work out for him, he's got the restaurant business to fall back on, right?

Relaxing afternoon by the river near the Spanish Arch

The town about to go crazy for a Saturday night. Galway's a college town, so the music scene there is incredible. One of my favorite places in all of Ireland.

Tour through the countryside on Sunday. This is the Burren region of County Clare.

The famous Cliffs of Moher, where films like The Princess Bride and Harry Potter 6 have been filmed. A true wonder of the world.
That's it for my week. I'll be back home in Indiana late on Saturday, and sometime between then and next Monday night's game I'll put up one final weekly recap. By this time next week, I'll be back to posting nightly recaps right here on Midwestern Met. Ireland's great and has some amazing sports, I tell you, but nothing beats the Great American Pastime. Looking forward to coming back to it.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Rising Apple: The Trade Paradox

Here's my latest piece for Rising Apple on how to cope when a beloved player gets traded away.


The Trade Paradox: "No, Not Him!"

Weekly Recap, July 2-8

Independence Day has come and gone, and the All-Star Break is finally upon us. For the next four days Mets fans can take a break and reflect on their team, a group which has more than just exceeded expectations so far in 2012. Here's what you missed from this week in Flushing, New York.

Team Record: 3-3 (46-40 overall)
July 3-5, Phillies Series: W, 2-1
July 6-8, Cubs Series: L, 1-2

The Good Stuff:
  • With exception to the actual date of July 4, fireworks were flying over Citi Field as the Mets lit up the Phillies for a series win.
    • In the 100 degree heat, David Wright was a man on fire in this series, hitting .357 with 2 home runs and 9 RBIs. Thursday night was his finest hour of the year, as he won an incredible duel with Cole Hamels, took him deep, and then delivered the game-winning single off Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th.
  • Jon Niese and Dillon Gee showed ace potential during starts this week: Niese went 8 great innings on Tuesday during an 11-2 romp and Dillon Gee did the same on an easy Saturday afternoon against the Cubs.
The Bad Stuff:
  • After the emotional high of that Thursday victory, New York couldn't carry the momentum into their (de facto) first-half finale against Chicago, dropping 2 of 3 games for a season record of 2-4 against the NL Central's cellar dweller.
  • Starting pitching was like Jekyll and Hyde this week: you had Niese and Gee, then you had Niese's second start in which the Cubs roughed him up for a Sunday loss. Johan Santana didn't make it out of the 5th on Friday night. R.A. Dickey allowed 5 runs over 7 innings on Thursday, making it his second bad outing in three starts (I'm sure it's nothing to worry about, but rough outings stick out like a sore thumb in the sea of quality starts Dickey has turned in this season.)
  • Also a disappointment, and this one came across a couple hours ago: NL manager Tony La Russa has chosen Matt Cain to start the All-Star Game over R.A. Dickey. Cain's a respectable choice, no doubt, but he hasn't been the best pitcher in the NL this season. That's been Dickey. La Russa's official explanation will be concern over Buster Posey's being able to catch the knuckleball. But I call foul on this excuse: Posey is supposed to be the "best" catcher in the league. Surely he should be able to catch the butterfly for 2 measly innings. Knuckleball discrimination is alive and well, and the result is yet another Met snubbed in Kansas City. At this point I just hope Dickey gets into the game at all.
Final Analysis:
A disappointing way to go into the break, but all-in-all, a thrilling first half to the 2012 season for the New York Mets. Four and a half games out of first place, in second place for most of the run, Wild Card contenders. Not to mention an MVP candidate, a Cy Young frontrunner, and an actual no-hitter. I wouldn't have guessed this at the beginning of the year, but that's the beauty of baseball: the unexpected happens regularly. Let's hope the best is yet to come.


Irish Pics of the Week:

A hidden gem in Dublin: the statue of Philip Lynott, bassist and frontman of Thin Lizzy

The city of Cork in southern Ireland on an absolutely beautiful day

The spectacular St. Fin Barre's Cathedral in Cork

The Old Jameson Distillery, home of the smoothest whiskey in the world (it's the triple distillation that does the trick)

Another visit to Croke Park, this time for a hurling match between Galway and Kilkenny

The fastest sport on grass: a combination of lacrosse, baseball, even hockey. Absolutely thrilling to watch.
It's a short week next week, but I'll be back with the Mets' results and pics from my last weekend in Ireland.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rising Apple: An Amazin' Abroad

Here's the link to my first Rising Apple piece from Ireland. I talk about what an American does during the 4th of July overseas and how baseball is still the Great American Pastime.


An Amazin’ Abroad: Reflections on Baseball and an Overseas Fourth of July

Monday, July 2, 2012

Weekly Recap, June 25-July 1

I've reached the halfway point of my program in Ireland, and the New York Mets have just about reached the halfway point of the 2012 season. Pictures from my weekend exploring all Dublin has to offer are coming up later, but first here's what happened on the week that was in Amazin' baseball.

Team Record: 4-3 (43-37 overall)
June 25-27, Cubs Series: L, 1-2
June 28-July 1, Dodgers Series: W, 3-1

The Good Stuff:
  • The finale of the Mets-Cubs series was a day game, so with the time change it was the first game I've been able to watch overseas in full. Man oh man, what a game it was to see. Daniel Murphy breaking out of a slump, Ike Davis confirming his return to greatness, David Wright raking and making his case for the All-Star start (we'll get to that matter shortly), and a home run cycle to top off a 17-1 thrashing in the Friendly Confines of Chicago.
  • New York followed that up with a convincing series win in Los Angeles, including 2 shutouts from baseball's best 1-2 punch. R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana both tossed 8 scoreless innings on Friday and Saturday and were helped out with plenty of offense, each making their final cases for All-Star glory as well.
  • The best offensive numbers of the week belonged to the boys on the right side of the infield.
    • Ike Davis blasted 3 home runs and drove in 9 runs, pounding out an OPS of 1.188. Since hit pinch-hit RBI double in the finale of the first Yankee series (June 10), Ike's been raking with an 1.120 OPS and has finally gotten off the Interstate with a season's batting average of .203.
    • Daniel Murphy's June swoon took his average down to .268 after the first two games in Chicago, but aided by the outward winds of Wrigley on Wednesday afternoon, he was able to break out for a heck of a week. How's 4 games of 3 HRs (his first of the season), 10 RBIs, an 1.621 OPS, and just one strikeout sound?
  • One of the less-chronicled developments of June was the return of Ruben Tejada and his impact on the field. In 8 games since returning from the DL, Ruben's provided a more-than-solid presence at short and in the 2-hole, batting .353 and scoring 6 runs.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Such a great week was bound to produce a winning record, but at just 4-3 a touch of disappointment is in the air. The Mets, lost the series to the last-place Cubs after "running out of gas," as Terry Collins put it. I can understand his reasoning; it was the toughest stretch of the season headlined by an emotional Subway Series (plus saying goodbye to Little Jerry Seinfeld), but the creampuff Cubs were supposed to provide a winnable cushion for New York. The 17-1 thrashing in the finale makes up for a lot of the lethargy, but all-in-all it equates to a game lost in the standings.
  • New York also had the chance to take 4 straight from the Dodgers for the first time ever, but missed opportunities and sloppy field play sunk the team during their second straight appearance on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
    • On the bright side, it keeps the outside expectations for the team comparatively low. The Mets have thrived on defying expectations in the Alderson-Collins era, and they have a chance to continue doing so the rest of the way.
All-Star Disappointments:
  • On Sunday it was announced that R.A. Dickey and David Wright were named to the National League All-Star team. Both appointments were extremely well-deserved, and Dickey and his knuckleball remain frontrunners to start the game on the hill. But overall, it was a disappointing afternoon for fans of the orange and blue.
    • David Wright's rightful place starting at the hot corner was taken away by rabidly voting San Francisco fans, who produced a mutiny by getting Giant Pablo Sandoval the start at third base. Sandoval's only played half a season and has an OPS around 200 points under that of MVP candidate Wright.
    • The other big snub was the exclusion of Johan Santana from the roster. Johan's ERA sits at 2.76, doubly impressive considering he lost a whole year to a devastating injury. He's tied for the league lead in shutouts (2, with Dickey and Giant Matt Cain) and tossed the first no-hitter in Mets history on June 1. His W-L record stands at just 6-4, which is probably how he lost the roster spot. Heaven forbid an injury to any of the named All-Stars, but if fatigue from a weekend start should sideline any of them from the game in Kansas City, I would hope Johan would get the nod.
  • Aside from the big three of Wright, Dickey, and Santana, no other Met really stands out as a definitive All-Star. Daniel Murphy may have gotten some consideration if not for a lousy month of June. Had Ruben Tejada not missed a month and a half he and his .317 batting average and (would've been) around 26 doubles would've been borderline.
Final Analysis:
If this week was made into a sandwich, you'd have some pretty stale bread but over-the-top fantastic meat in the middle. The Mets were underwhelming in the first two and last games of the week that was, but were producing some extra-quality baseball during the four games in between. At 3.5 games out of first place with a 6-game homestand to go before the All-Star Break, a couple convincing series wins will be just the fuel the team needs to propel them to a second half in contention.


Irish Pics of the Week
The main wing of Kilmainham Gaol, a famous prison from the 1800s and early 1900s that housed the leaders of the unsuccessful Easter Rising in 1916. Those leaders were executed in the Gaol's stone yard by British authorities, turning public opinion in favor of Irish independence.
War Memorial Gardens, built in memory of Irishmen who died fighting in World War I

The actual Temple Bar, the pub for which the Temple Bar area is named

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Croke Park, national stadium of Ireland and home of the Gaelic Athletic Association
The stands are packed for a Gaelic football match between Dublin and Wexford
A rare sport I am unfamiliar with, Gaelic football is a combination of football, soccer, rugby, even basketball

No matter where in the world, sport is sport
Check back again next Monday for more pictures from Eire and Amazin' updates.