More HB: NY Baseball, NBA Playoffs

The big bat of Ike Davis has changed the Mets season.

The big bat of Ike Davis has changed the Mets season.

-The Met season didn’t truly begin until Ike Davis was recalled. Since, the Amazin’s have turned it around going 5-1 on a huge homestand, including an impressive sweep of the Braves which only featured the big first base slugger’s first home run. A moon shot that went 450 feet. Still amazing to think they played the first dozen without him, opting for Mike Jacobs and Fernando Tatis. Makes you question what the thinking was. Well, that and Jerry Manuel’s decision to bat Frank Catalanotto cleanup. But hey. At least they didn’t wait till May.

-Is Mike Pelfrey really this good or will he hit a rough patch? In Year 3, the true test won’t come till July-August. Still have to love what they’re getting from a guy who was a huge question mark entering the season.

-Jose Reyes third at least gives them a solid middle even with David Wright scuffling.

-Jonathon Niese has pitched well meaning maybe 1-2-3 are good but Oli Perez and John Maine remain sore spots.

-Amazing what happens when Robby Cano takes advice from Alex Rodriguez on hitting in key situations. He’s finally starting to look like the player we always envisioned. MVP year??? Ironic too because A-Rod’s struggles were well documented till last October. Well, at least the Yankee second baseman hasn’t followed Alex’s other oddities. Some things are better off not being explained.

-I was in favor of bringing Javier Vazquez back. Especially for Da Melk Man. But here he is in phase II emulating the nightmarish 2004 that ended with one swing of the bat from Johnny Damon. He’s pitched well everywhere else including the White Sox. So, the AL argument is weak. Yes, Javy serves ‘em up but maybe it’s a New York thing. Uh oh.

-Joba’s better in the pen while Phil Hughes is better in the rotation. Just what we thought all along.

-How come I think of the Curtis Granderson trade as not just for Austin Jackson and Phil Coke but also Damon? Nice to see Jackson off to a good start in Motown.

-If only the rest of Melo’s Nugget teammates had the same kind of determination he does. He did all he could before they woke up which turned out a little too late to get it even against the harder working Jazz coached by Jerry Sloan. Coincidence? We think not. Especially with Denver minus George Karl. Charles Barkley’s right. They need a good kick in the ass. Adrian Dantley was a great player but he’s way too passive. Just look at his press conferences. Still, what a disappointing series for the Nuggets. Can they save it? It says here they win Game Five big and won’t lose Game Seven. All comes down to Salt Lake. We’ll see what they’re made of.

-Anyone else surprised that the Mavs are down to the super experienced Spurs 3-1?!?!?!?!?! Quoting 2Pac, “Some things will never change.”

-Watching Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s Thunder is refreshing. It’s also what young legs are capable of against older ones. Especially the banged up Lakers. Figure Kobe to will them through.

-Gotta love D-Wade, whose team trailed 3-0 to the Celts. With it tight and it essentially over, all he did was set a franchise playoff mark with 46 points, including five from downtown and a couple of monster jams including a poster on KG, who looked like he was biting his lip after getting victimized. Considering what a cheap shot artist he is, it was perfect.

-Everyone talks about the Magic who derailed LeBron and the Cavs last year. But the Hawks also could make some noise. First, they have to get Game Four at Milwaukee and ice this series. We’ll see if they’re up to the challenge.

-The Garden is quiet with little going on in May. Great job Jazzy Jim! When the Knicks don’t get LeBron, Wade or Chris Bosh, what will they think?

-I’ve always been a big fan of Jameer Nelson and now he’s showing why. How do you think all those teams that passed on him feel these days?

-Gotta love Joakim Noah. The dude is a great interview. That stuff he said about Cleveland following Game Two was classic:

 

 

But also, the kid from the Bronx can also ball. He’s developed into the Bulls’ leader. Yep. They got that one right.

-I still say the Celts are too old and can be picked off in the second round.

-One chance to win or lose. Who do you want with the ball? Kobe, LeBron, Wade or the Spurs big three: Duncan-Parker-Ginobili?

Happy Monday

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Random Thoughts: Jerry’s right

Yankee closer Mariano Rivera and teammates had plenty to smile about while Met skipper Jerry Manuel and his team didnt this weekend.

Yankee closer Mariano Rivera and teammates had plenty to smile about while Met skipper Jerry Manuel and his team didn't this weekend.

It’s been an interesting week here. So let’s get to it. Shall we?

1.Is Jerry Manuel really wrong about his battered team? I mean they do have to basically be perfect just to win games. Against the Cards, they were and took three of four. But this weekend that wasn’t the case with too many mental mistakes leading to Yankee runs as their crosstown rivals came into Citi Field and swept them. So, they fell short. What does Manuel’s sarcasm in a postgame have to do with that his players aren’t that talented right now? Zilch. He is begging Omar Minaya to wake up from the doldrums and do something. Maybe if the Phillies were eight up, there’d be more urgency…

2.The two games off seems to have done the trick for one Alex Rodriguez and that couldn’t come at a better time for the Yanks.

3.When does Robby Cano, who statistically speaking is having a solid season finally deliver a big hit?

4.Daniel Murphy can’t be the best the Mets can do at first. What happened to Fernando Tatis?

5.Phil Hughes is pretty automatic these days out of that Yankee pen.

6.So wanted to see Team USA hang on over Brazil yesterday but there’s a reason they’re so skilled and unfortunately, it showed in that second half of the Confed Cup championship. Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and especially Tim Howard have nothing to be ashamed of. Tell ya one thing. That Kaka is some player. What a soccer name!

7.Looking forward to seeing how Roger Federer fares in the French Final rematch later today in the same Round of 16 situation Robin Soderling slayed the dragon on clay in Rafa Nadal. Wimbledon did Roger no favors with either big serving Ivo Karlovic/Fernando Verdasco waiting in the quarters and Novak Djokovic on pace for a semi clash, assuming the five-time All England Club champ gets through.

8.Really want to see that Andy vs Andy semi between Murray and Roddick on the other side. Might Lleyton Hewitt have something to say about it? Yes. He’s playing well. We’ll see.

9.It sure looks like Venus will cruise past Ana Ivanovic and through her section to another final. Can she three-peat? Bigger question is will younger sis Serena make it with a potential tough quarter against emerging power house Victoria Azarenka? Have to figure Serena will take care of looker Daniela Hantuchova today to help set it up.

10.Only Knick fans could boo the first round pick of Jordan Hill which was really a no-brainer once Stephen Curry went to Golden State. Way to be. Speaking of the Draft, loved the Nets’ pick of Terrence Williams. Not just cause we called it either but because he’ll be a good pro. Great move too getting rid of Vince Carter. Now, Orlando can deal with that headache and relive his cousin Tracy McGrady.

11.So much for all that suspense regarding the Islanders’ first overall selection. John Tavares and Isles’ fans breathed a huge sigh of relief. Still found it amusing how they celebrated like they won a Cup.

12.Is trading for Darko Milicic really the best Donnie Walsh can do? Let’s see Mike Lupica defend that one.

13.How the heck does Tim Wakefield have 10 wins? Remarkable.

14.Imagine if the Mets played in the AL East.

15.At least Mark De Rosa was traded for a top 100 prospect.

16.It doesn’t get more bizarre than Francisco Rodriguez walking Mariano Rivera with the bases loaded. Just listening to Howie Rose told ya all you needed to know. Wonder what Brian Bruney thought at that moment? You know. The invaluable setup guy who couldn’t get three outs against Buffalo before Mo bailed him out by getting Omir Santos looking en route to his 500th career save.

17.Does Lori Rubinson realize how bitter she comes off when she asks Yankee fans if they should really be happy that they swept a bad team? The same scrappy bunch that took three of four against the game’s best hitter that’s tied for the NL Central. Word to the wise. You don’t get style points. Like Bill Parcells used to say, beat who’s on your schedule.

18.Okay. I get that Citi Field isn’t a hitter’s paradise but how come the Yanks had no problem hitting a few out including lightweight Brett Gardner?

Besides, doesn’t this fact baffle some?

David Ortiz: 8 HR

David Wright: 4 HR

It doesn’t mean the Met All-Star third baseman’s having a bad season. He’s still hitting for a great average (.342) with 39 RBI’s, 47 runs and 20 steals. But at some point, he has to start going deep. With how battered his team is, they need him to.

19.Fernando Nieve or Oli Perez?

20.Given all the weird injuries and even odder end results, any truth to the rumor Dr. Seuss is employed in Queens?

21.Finally, this just in. The local JCC is run better than the T-wolves. That’s not a ringing endorsement.

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-Thanks to Milwaukee’s continued slide dropping a fifth straight falling 5-4 to the Cubs at Wrigley, the slumping Mets are still in playoff position half a game in front of the Brew Crew for the NL wild card. At this point, frantic Amazin fans will take it as long as it means October baseball. After giving a run back, Cubs closer Kerry Wood pitched out of a first and third jam by getting Brewer first base slugger Prince Fielder looking to move the Cubs within a couple of wrapping up the NL Central.

For Milwaukee who tried to get a ‘W’ for new interim skipper Dale Sveum, it was a blown opportunity as ace C.C. Sabathia was handed his first defeat and they wasted a two homer game from Fielder. A couple of weeks ago, it looked like they were a playoff lock and might even push the Cubbies for the division. Now, they’re fighting for their playoff lives against the NL East runner-up, the slumping Astros, fading Cardinals and possibly even the Marlins if they suddenly keep on winning as they did last night for a sixth straight win.

-Meanwhile, the Mets trail by half a game cause NL MVP candidate Ryan Howard slugged his major league leading 45th- a two-run shot on a full count with two outs in the eighth lifting the Phillies to a come from behind 8-7 road win over Atlanta. The Phillies’ first base slugger has caught fire this month doing everything he can to get his team another division title by hitting .396 with eight dingers and 22 RBI’s. In fact, the past four seasons, he leads the majors with 38 long balls in September. Still, the 2006 NL MVP has no clue as to why he heats up at the right time of the month:

“Maybe it’s just the pennant races are heating up. I’m just trying to go out there and do what I can to help my team.”

Whatever the reason, his teammates have to be very pleased because he’s coming up money. Last year’s MVP Jimmy Rollins has also come around at this key time batting .368 with a couple of homers, nine RBI’s, four steals and 11 runs scored. So, while Chase Utley and Pat Burrell remain MIA, Charlie Manuel can at least take solace knowing a couple of his best stars along with underrated gritty players Jayson Werth (3-for-4, HR, 2 RBI’s, 3 R) Shane Victorino (3 hits, RBI) and even Carlos Ruiz (solo HR) are raking, he has to feel good about his team’s chances. Even if closer Brad Lidge made it interesting loading the bases on three walks before striking out pinch hitter Gregor Blanco to go for 37-for-37 in save opportunities in his first season with his new club.

-What can be said about the Mets when they couldn’t come up with one run against Odalis Perez in seven-plus innings? Not much. Apparently, they left their bats at Shea or are stuck in a time warp thinking it’s 2007 all over again. Thing is there’s still plenty of time to turn it around. But the best they can do is a split against baseball’s worst team after having scored one run in 18 innings. Not only did they not score last night despite a quality effort from Mike Pelfrey in which he went seven permitting one run which was enough to take a hard luck loss. But they also lost the services of surprise left fielder Fernando Tatis, whose diving attempt at a two out Perez double resulted in a separated right shoulder ending his season. Sadly, that missed catch led to a Nats’ two out rally as Willie Harris walked and then Met killer Christian Guzman’s ground rule double scored the only run of the game.

It was a half inning later that Harris would make the defensive play of the game robbing David Wright of a sure two-run go-ahead double ending the inning instead with a nice running over the basket catch. Now, I’m not a Met fan. But how come everytime I see highlights, Harris is always making some sorta defensive gem against them? You just gotta wonder.

-Congrats to Derek Jeter on breaking Lou Gehrig’s all-time home record with a single to left in the home first in the Yanks’ 6-2 loss to the White Sox. With this being the final homestand ever played at Yankee Stadium, Jeter will forever be the man who needed fewer games (more ABs) to beat out one of the all-time greats. With two hits last night, he’s up to 1,271 with still five games left with the finale closing out Sunday Night versus the Orioles. In as disappointing a season as his team’s had, at least Jeter continues to put forth the effort and give Yankee fans something to take with them as closing time approaches:

“It’s kind of hard to enjoy it because we lost the game. But this is something that is pretty special. I mean, I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t. Records are made to be broken, but this one at least will never be broken.”

At least for once the elegant Yankee captain admitted that it meant a little extra. It should. :-)

-I’ve heard a few Met fans call up WFAN and mock Jeter referring to most of those hits as singles and even a couple using “overrated.” Say what you will. But there has never been anything more ridiculous uttered about a shortstop who became the model of consistency and defines all the success the Yankees had when they weren’t a team full of superstars at every position. That’s what the Mike Lupicas of the world who’ll mention payroll till their death beds never seem to grasp. The old Yankee way saw them not always go for the top star and fill voids with underrated gritty performers such as Scott Brosius and Tino Martinez through trades when management actually let the real baseball people evaluate the farm and sell high.

Now, it’s become a circus where suddenly Melky Cabrera goes from starting center fielder to never to be seen again with only Brett Gardner getting every start down the stretch. This is really what you’re dealing with. I like Gardner and remember him here but why even have Cabrera back up if he’s not even going to get another chance? That btw opposes what Brian Cashman said at the time the struggling 24 year-old got sent down. I guess he’s already washed up.

-Kudos to the Rays for pushing across a run edging the Red Sox on Dioner Navarro’s walkoff to stay atop the AL East. That team has shown tremendous resiliency amidst all the injuries and pressure. What heart!

-You want a manager who should get axed. Look no further than what’s happened in Arizona where the D-Backs got out of the gate great but have fallen apart and now trail the Dodgers by four and a half on the verge of extinction. Bob Melvin had arguably the best pitcher in ace Brandon Webb and got Dan Haren along with a mostly healthy Randy Johnson. Plus they went out and got slugger Adam Dunn on the cheap to address the middle of the order. You would’ve thought it would be enough to stay afloat in such a poor division. Someone has to take the fall if they don’t put together a miraculous comeback.

-Is there any more dominant starter than the Giants’ Tim Lincecum? The former 2006 No.1 pick has been lights out on a subpar team with little offense posting a 17-3 record with a 2.43 ERA while pacing the bigs with 237 strikeouts. In his last outing, he went the distance three-hitting the Padres walking three and fanning 12 while throwing an unheard of 138 pitches. How did this happen? You mean a manager actually let their young pitcher stay in the game and finish it?!?!?!?!?! Well, it was his first ever complete game shutout. He had been going into the eighth a few times. Even more amazing is that on a team which has won 68 games, the 24 year-old has won five of his last six and six of his last eight decisions. In fact, his last defeat came on July 20 to Milwaukee giving up five earned including two dingers in five frames. He’s allowed only 10 long balls all year and just one since that outing.

Terrific Tim (Since 7/20)

10 GS, 6-0 Record, 72 IP, 44 H, 16 R, 14 ER, 1.75 ERA, 26 BB, 94 K’s+

+Struckout at least 10-or-more in five games

Note: Lincecum has eight games where he’s hit double digits this season.

Does it get any better than that? What happens when Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s Giants figure out how to win? Just how special can this kid be? Keep your fingers crossed.

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-It was a mixed night for both New York ballclubs. Let’s start with the positive if you can call hanging on for dear life against the lowly Padres that as the Mets did in a 6-5 win to kick off a vital six-game homestand on the right foot. Most of the offense was supplied by resurgent left fielder Fernando Tatis, who slugged two home runs including a huge two out three-run go-ahead shot in the home sixth which put the Mets up 4-2. The Mets tacked on a couple of key insurance tallies including a Nick Evans eighth inning run scoring double which wound up being the difference due to the pen. Though Aaron Heilman wasn’t helped much by his defense as he attempted to close out the game with Billy Wagner on the DL, he still served up a three-run homer to Jody Gerut which suddenly made it a nerve wracking one-run game with still a couple of outs to get. Jerry Manuel opted for Joe Smith to get the second out and then lefty Scott Schoeneweis came on to pop out Brian Giles to deep center on one pitch notching the save.

-Still, it was an important win snapping a four-game skid and allowing the Mets to regain some momentum as they also gained a game on the first place Phillies, who dropped an 8-2 contest to visiting Florida, who pulled within a game and a half while the Amazin’s are two behind. They need to go at least 4-2 on this stand against the Padres and Marlins to feel good about themselves as the stretch drive nears closer.

-There was no such encouraging news for the other New York team as the Yankees again lost in Texas- this time falling 8-6 despite a Richie Sexson eighth inning grand salami which at least made the outcome respectable. Truthfully, the Rangers aren’t a bad team and in fact are just a game and a half worse now than those Yanks in that wild card race. AL MVP candidate Josh Hamilton did some damage hitting his 27th home run off an ineffective Andy Pettite, who lasted only five while permitting five earned. Struggling rookie David Robertson and Brian Bruney provided little relief allowing three more Rangers to come home highlighted by a Chris Davis two-run double in the seventh that was the difference. The rookie knocked in half his team’s output as Texas captured the first two of the four-game set.

-That combined with a damaging walkoff defeat the previous night where Marlon Byrd got the better of Damaso Marte for a winning slam has New York seeing red. Boston won as Jason Bay had four hits and four RBI’s in an 8-2 win over the Royals increasing their WC lead to 3.5 over the Bronx Bombers. Oh btw…with the Twins and White Sox deadlocked in the AL Central both with superior records, the Yanks will also have to jump over them as well with Texas hot on the trail and even Toronto lurking in the background. They better get it in high gear soon or it really will be first October in 14 years without the Pinstripes closing out the House That Ruth Built for good earlier than expected.

-The worse news is that budding young ace Joba Chamberlain left Monday’s game in the fifth with shoulder tightness and already will miss his next turn in the rotation. Following an MRI, he’ll be reevaluated by Dr. James Andrews later today. Yankee brass and supporters better keep their fingers crossed it’s not too serious as they can ill afford to lose the 22 year-old former No.1 draft choice for an extended period. Especially when their staff is so thin after Pettite and rejuvenated vet Mike Mussina. Are you putting a lot of faith in veteran Sidney Ponson and the unheralded Darrell Rasner? Speaking of Ponson, he’ll face his former team tonight trying to give the Yanks a much needed jolt. So, who gets Joba’s next start? Ian Kennedy? He’s pitched well lately in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. You’d think it would make sense to recall the rookie and give him another shot over say Japanese failure Kei Igawa or <gulp> Carl Pavano.

-I’m no genius here but good California buddy Brian Sanborn informed me that ESPN SC showed the replay of Prince Fielder getting into it with teammate Manny Parra over and over again. Why must they always show such replays of something negative when a younger audience just might be watching all their shows? Because if you know the biz as I have come to, it’s all about the most evil word in TV. RATING$. They don’t care just as you watch. When is enough enough? Sad to say but we all know the answer…

-Brett Favre’s back with Green Bay but won’t be for long. The question is if you were them, would you deal the legendary quarterback who’s meant so much to their franchise to the bitter rival Vikings? Tough question to answer. Personally, I think they should call the shots here for the reinstated 38 year-old future Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Don’t expect a happy ending made for Hollywood.

-Remember when the Phillies were supposed to miss former center fielder Aaron Rowand, who left for greener pastures in San Fran? Truthfully, he’s not performing badly but given how well the gritty Shane Victorino is swinging the bat these days, they aren’t missing Rowand all too much:

Aaron Rowand

Shane Victorino

-Who would ever believe that Evan Longoria would become the leader of the first place Rays during his rookie season after signing a big extension? What a player!

-Alfonso Soriano missed all those games yet still leads the first place Cubs in homers slugging his 20th on a three hit, four-RBI night in an 11-7 victory over Houston. If he hadn’t gone down, 40 homers and 30 steals probably would have been locks.

-Daily News columnist Mike Lupica had another good piece in yesterday’s paper on long time Yankee catcher Jorge Posada having to be reduced to spectator status the rest of the way after undergoing successful surgery on his torn right labrum and capsule last week. It’s a good read with some very solid quotes from the 37 year-old veteran who’s been a huge part of the team’s success.

-As I noted in another entry, I really enjoyed the festivities of the final Yankee Old-Timer’s Day Saturday but when WCBS play-by-play man John Sterling actually referenced the weather holding off due to a rainy forecast as, “Once again, the sun is shining down on the Yankees,” that even got me. Talk about being overly dramatic.

Gee wiz.

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Random Thought

It’s way late and I shouldn’t even be up as we have a very busy day heading out with close buddies to see The Police play at PNC Art Center in Jersey. Naturally, I’m amped to see Sting, Copeland and Summers rock the stage again a year removed from a dope concert at MSG exactly a year ago during their 30-year reunion tour. This will be one of their final shows and I know it’s going to be off the hook. I’ll give a full report later.

As for the sports news of yesterday, I could write a lot more but the only one which sticks in my head at the moment is this:

-The Mets have been an unpredictable team all season long. Just when it looked like they had it all together working so well, they drop the first two in Houston and lose the second game in excruciating fashion blowing a four-run lead including 4-2 up in the ninth only to see Billy Wagner implode allowing the Astros to tie it in bizarre fashion with two runners sliding in almost simultaneously past Ramon Castro who couldn’t handle the throw. They lost the game in 10 with veteran Darin Erstad’s sac fly to short left scoring Lance Berkman from third easily due to Tatis making a tough catch and falling down which made his throw way off line.

These Mets have had some brutal losses including that ridiculous one to the Phils which cost them a sweep even if they have owned the defending NL East champs this season taking all four series thus far. However, this defeat was the latest one which tormented their fans who are probably wondering why they continue to root for a team that always seems to do this. Maybe they’ll bounce back and wind up winning the division like they should cause deep down, they’re the best team out of the three even though the Phils lead it by one and a half over the now second place Marlins and two over New York.

Still, how can a team cause so much heartache for their own fans? You have to wonder how much more they can take.  Only Jets and Knicks fans have it worse in this area.

When does it end?

Also, regarding Johan Santana, he has to do better than pitching into the seventh inning with his pen taxed. Especially against such a good hitting club as Houston. They will hit. 103 pitches don’t cut it for one of the elite aces in the game. The Mets needed more and paid the price.

Just inexcusable.

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-The Mets rebounded with a 4-1 win over the Marlins thanks to Carlos Beltran’s two out go-ahead single in the sixth plus some insurance off the big bat of Carlos Delgado, who took Marlins’ lefty Renyel Pinto deep for a two-run blast in the eighth for his club best 23rd of the season. Oliver Perez went six innings allowing only a run on five hits while walking three and fanning five tossing 100 pitches. He wasn’t lights out but did just enough to give his team a chance escaping a first and second one out situation with a 1-6-3 double play. He notched his seventh victory dropping his ERA to 4.02.

New York also got solid relief from Aaron Heilman, who after walking a couple in the seventh settled down to toss two scoreless while fanning four. Billy Wagner retired the side in order whiffing a pair for his 27th save.

-For the Marlins who dropped a couple out of first, Scott Olsen wasn’t bad by any stretch matching Perez for nearly the same amount but couldn’t get that final out in the sixth walking Delgado and then giving up Beltran’s go-ahead base hit. Following a Fernando Tatis single, the lefty was pulled having gone five and two thirds while allowing two earned on six hits walking a pair and striking out five.

You have to wonder why Florida skipper Fredi Gonzalez didn’t stay with reliever Matt Lindstrom after he baffled the Mets for one and a third scoreless with two K’s. Something Howie Rose and Wayne Hagan alluded to on the radio cast when Pinto came in to start the eighth, allowing the Mets to ice the game.

If there’s an aspect the Marlins lost this game, it was stranding runners as they left 16 on compared to New York’s nine. They aren’t the most fundamentally sound club as evidenced by their D the previous night and their continued free swinging approach which saw them K 11 times including All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez going for the hat trick. There also was a big at bat where former Met Mike Jacobs pinch hit in the seventh with the tying run just put on via a walk on five pitches by Heilman. Instead of being patient, he swung at the Met setup man’s first offering harmlessly popping out. It might have been wiser to be more patient in such a big spot. But often with younger teams, they’ll be overly aggressive showing inexperience.

That’s an area Florida will have to continue to get better at if they want to seriously contend over the next couple of years.

-The Yanks again were victimized by the opportunistic Orioles who broke open a one-run game by putting up a four spot in the seventh off the combo of Darrell Rasner and recent lefty pickup Damaso Marte in a 7-6 win. With Rasner in trouble, the ex-Pirate came on and subsequently gave up three consecutive hits including a bases clearing double to hitting star Aubrey Huff and a Melvin Mora RBI two-bagger making it 6-1. Till that point, the Yanks had their lone run on Alex Rodriguez’ solo shot for his 22nd off Daniel Cabrera.

With Joe Girardi sending out Mariano Rivera to get some work after a few days off, the closer couldn’t escape Huff, who earlier in his at bat just missed a right field upper deck homer. It would take a couple of more pitches before he straightened out a fastball which got too much of the plate serving it out into the short porch for his 22nd putting the stamp on a four hit, four RBI night. As it turned out, that big swing proved large because the Bronx Bombers rallied for three in the home half versus closer George Sherrill.

Following a Johnny Damon leadoff hit, Derek Jeter walked. Then Bobby Abreu doubled in a run putting the tying run to the plate but A-Rod struck out swinging. A Jason Giambi two-run base hit suddenly made it a one-run game. When pinch runner Justin Christian swiped second, they had two shots to get him in but Sherrill buckled down getting both Robinson Cano and Wilson Betemit swinging to end any chance of a miraculous Yankee comeback.

-The loss prevented the Yanks from gaining a game on the Red Sox, who were no-hit for eight and a third by Angels’ ace John Lackey Fenway before second baseman Dustin Pedroia broke it up. Though he lost his shutout bid on a Kevin Youkilis two-run dinger, Lackey finished the game with a two-hitter walking a couple and K-ing four on 120 pitches with 91 for strikes in improving to 9-2. The 29 year-old Angel ace who tossed his 12th career complete game got a nice hand from the Boston faithful.

-Off the field, Lackey’s team made some big headlines by packaging first baseman Casey Kotchman along with 24 year-old Double-A pitching prospect Stephen Marek to the Braves in exchange for 28 year-old first base slugger Mark Teixeira, making it the second straight year before the deadline the former Texas Ranger star was dealt. In 103 games this season, the former Georgia Tech star was hitting .283 with 20 homers and 78 RBI’s plus a .390 OBP and .512 slugging. In 157 total games as a Brave, Teixeira totaled 37 home runs, 74 extra base hits and 134 RBI’s. In the final year of a contract, he’ll now go West to LA to try to help deliver the Angels’ second world championship in six years. He’s making $12.5 million in the last year and could become a UFA this November.

Said Teixeira of the deal:

“Hopefully, I can just go over there and be one more piece of the puzzle.”

It should make the Halos even tougher to get out. Particularly with a middle of the order which now features Vlad Guerrero, Torii Hunter and Teixeira.

The slugger also added of his new ballclub:

“The Angels have always been one of the best teams in the league. They’ve always had great pitching, great defense and find a way to win games. I want to be the one who hopefully gets them over the top.”

The two-time Gold Glover also paid tribute to his former team where he enjoyed his brief stay:

“The last couple days I knew it was coming, so I prepared for it. It’s a little bittersweet. I really enjoyed my time here. I had a great year here. I love this team. I love this organization. I love this city. It’s tough to leave.”

Class all the way.

-In Milwaukee, Carlos Zambrano helped the Cubs to a second straight win over the Brewers easily outpitching Ben Sheets by going eight strong scoreless scattering five hits walking two and fanning nine as the NL Central leaders prevailed 7-1 extending their lead to three games. Four Cubs had at least two hits and Aramis Ramirez finished with four, two runs scored plus an RBI as Chicago put a hurting on Sheets scoring six times on 11 hits in five and a third to hand him his fourth defeat. Every Cub had at least one hit including Zambrano, whose infield RBI base hit to short highlighted a five-run sixth which broke open a one-run game. Japanese rookie Kosuke Fukudome and veteran utility man Mark DeRosa each drove in a pair giving the Cubs their third straight victory while dealing the Brewers their third loss in a row.

-With the Cards prevailing 8-3 against the DL-plagued Braves who just lost Tim Hudson for the season and placed leading hitter Chipper Jones on the DL, they’re within a game of the wild card behind Milwaukee. Albert Pujols slugged his third long ball in four days scoring three times and catcher Yadier Molina added three hits and two RBI’s.

-The Phillies remained a half game behind the Mets thanks to a stellar effort from Brett Myers, who went seven innings allowing just one unearned on four hits, walking one and striking out a couple for just his fourth win. A much better effort than his prior one against the Amazin’s which was good news for the Phils, who just sent Adam Eaton back to Triple-A to get straightened out. The Phillies got a two-run homer from Chase Utley (26th) which was enough to edge the Nationals 2-1 keeping pace with New York.

-The first place Rays gained a game on Boston going two up and four on the Yanks thanks to a 3-0 complete game shutout by Matt Garza, who outpitched Roy Halladay for win No.9. He got an Eric Hinske inside the park homer and a two-run Evan Longoria two-run eighth inning triple as he five-hit the Jays on 106 pitches walking one and striking out five. In a losing effort, Halladay went eight frames allowing three earned on six hits walking a trio while fanning eight in falling to 12-8. He tossed 118 pitches. What a horse.

-The Twins rallied from 4-0 down scoring five in the fifth and one in the seventh to comeback and beat the White Sox 6-5, pulling within half a game of first. Justin Morneau’s bases clearing double was the big hit but as it turned out teammate Joe Mauer’s run scoring single proved to be the difference due to a Nick Swisher solo homer off closer Joe Nathan in the ninth. Nathan then got the final batter to notch his 29th save.

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More HB

-The Mets cameback to pull out a 10-8 win scoring four times in the ninth with one out against Reds’ closer Francisco Cordero to win their 10th in a row pulling into a first place tie with the idle Phillies. Even with ace Johan Santana laying an egg by giving back a 2-0 lead off the bat of Carlos Delgado while permitting five in the fourth including two more homers allowed (that’s 16 people), it didn’t matter because the Amazin’s kept battling back against a hapless Cincinnati staff getting a two-run shot from Fernando Tatis which tied it a couple of innings later. David Wright had gotten it started with a two-run single in the fifth. Appropriately, the Mets’ third baseman would get the huge tying hit after the Reds went ahead, going the opposite field off Cordero for a two-run shot (No.18). Sadly, even though Cordero entered with good numbers, anyone who knows the game knows he can’t be trusted. That Wright was allowed to hit his third best pitch (a fat slider) for the tying dinger summed it up. The Amazin’s then strung together four more consecutive hits including a go-ahead Delgado RBI single to left followed by a Tatis double which capped the comeback. Billy Wagner retired the Reds in order for his 23rd save.

-With there only being eight teams in action on the first night back from the All-Star Break, the Phillies bolstered their rotation by overpaying for A’s starter Joe Blanton coughing up a couple of top prospects including pitcher Josh Outman, second baseman Adrian Cardenas and outfielder Matt Spencer. How did Oakland get so much for a pitcher who was 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA and 12 dingers served up?!?!?!?!?! They got garbage for Rich Harden from the Cubs but that’s cause he’s a DL spot waiting to happen. The Phillies better hope Blanton is rejuvenated coming to the Senior Circuit.

-I’ve said it before that I never bought Santana as the best pitcher in the game. Most of my buddies argued it but come on. There’s no debating this. The former Twin who won two AL Cy Youngs is living on his past reputation. He’s still a quality starter who can go seven or eight but let’s face it. He’s now given up 49 home runs in the last year and a half. Far from what you expect from the “game’s best.” I’ll take Brandon Webb, Roy Halladay, Jake Peavy, Josh Beckett and Carlos Zambrano over him. Just remember. The Mets are paying top dollar for the next few years when Johan will be in his 30′s. Think he’s going to be worth it?

-The Yankees agreeing in principle to sign Mariners’ failure Richie Sexson is just another quick fix. If it works, they got him for nothing. In all likelihood, it won’t and they’ll still have to go out and acquire another big bat.

-Does anyone think Luis Castillo would’ve come through with that big one out basehit that rookie Argenis Reyes did in that spot?

-Kyle Lohse is now 12-2 with a 3.35 ERA for the Cards after winning again working seven solid innings permitting a couple of runs. It just proves once again how good a pitching coach Dave Duncan is. Bet the Phils didn’t bank on that happening.

-3B Trade comparison:

Troy Glaus (Stl) 95 GP, .279-17-61*
Scott Rolen (Tor) 70 GP, .267-6-28

*hit 2 HR tonight

How does J.P. Riccardi keep his job?

-The folks over at Hot 97 get it about the overblown Jesse Jackson comments and had some interesting observations about oil and gas prices being way up with President George W. Bush in office. Coincidence? If you think so, then hey. The tooth fairy must be real instead of imaginary. ;-)

Just my two cents.

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The blame game

Copyright Getty Images

Willie Randolph was still managing the Mets tonight in Los Angeles against the Angels. But for how long? 

The Mets have become the biggest story here in NYC. They finally have all the back pages as many of their diehards have craved for so long. Only thing is it’s not for how well their team is playing on the field and certainly not for the unnecessary distractions off it.

Just call it the circus in Flushing. For years, it’s always been the Yankees who perfected the art not knowing how to handle situations. Joe Torre had to deal with so much garbage. Well, now it’s former bench coach Willie Randolph who’s on the hot seat never really knowing day to day whether he’s staying or going.

Truthfully, it’s not all the former Yankee second baseman’s fault that his team has underachieved headed into a three-game set at the Angels two under .500 at 33 up and 35 down. Does the manager have a responsibility in this mess which has the Amazin’s trailing the Phillies by six and a half entering tonight? Of course. Ultimately, his ballclub hasn’t played the brand of baseball needed to make fans forget last year’s dreadful September collapse.

There’s just been zero consistency for a team many expected to not only win the NL East but had going to the World Series. That’s why they play the games. If talent and highest payrolls always won, then the Yankees wouldn’t be first round failures since that colossal choke job against the rival Red Sox. You can spend all the cash you want on a few of the best players the league has to offer but it doesn’t always account for chemistry.

Last winter, Omar Minaya patiently waited playing a perfect game of chess before cornering the Twins for lefty ace Johan Santana. This was the big deal that would put the Mets over the top. The same way once the Yanks acquired Alex Rodriguez, it was over for the rest of baseball. Despite two MVPs to his collection and a record-breaking new contract, how has that worked out? It’s been eight years since the Bronx Bombers won a 26th World Series.

There’s no such thing as a guarantee in sports unless it’s Rafael Nadal on clay or the Knicks continuing to suck no matter who Jim Dolan brings in.

Are the Mets a colossal disappointment through the first 68 games this season? Undoubtedly. So too are their crosstown rivals who finally got to four over by sweeping the Astros over the weekend. Despite that, they still got bad news when ace Chien-Ming Wang sprained his right foot tearing a tendon while scoring a run in yesterday’s 13-0 win. He’ll likely be lost till September. What that means for New York’s postseason aspirations is a giant sized question mark.

It’s never too late for the Mets to turn around their season. Five in the loss column can be made up quickly. Especially with this much time left. All they have to do is put together a hot streak and the Phils could comeback to the pack. It would be nice for the Queens club to at least demonstrate to their fans that they’re actually capable of that. A couple of weeks ago, it looked like they were coming around but then came that awful four-game series in San Diego and three vicious losses during a mediocre .500 homestand against Arizona and Texas.

Pedro Martinez did his part tossing six solid innings to help the Mets win the second game yesterday.

After splitting a doubleheader with the Rangers thanks to a solid six from Pedro Martinez and the right move by the much maligned manager pulling his starter for pinch hitter Robinson Cancel who delivered the clutch two-run hit, the Mets headed West for six games against the Angels and the Rockies beginning tonight.

Despite taking two of three over the weekend, there was still a lingering question as to whether Randolph would still be managing them. Such is the chaotic nature of Met management letting the classy former player who grew up in Brooklyn hang in the wind. A published NY Post report indicated that Fred and Jeff Wilpon had given Minaya the authority to axe Randolph and his coaches if he felt it was warranted.

How nice. The owners have no backbone or common decency. Instead, they let their GM who hasn’t exactly done a good job this year bolstering a shaky pen or making the bench younger do all their dirty work cause they want nothing to do with it. It can’t possibly be that the $140 million they shelled out could produce such a mediocre club. Never occurred to them. At least Hank Steinbrenner is hands on even though he’s extremely irritating.

Where’s the accountability? If Minaya fires Randolph or say Howard Johnson, guru Rick Peterson or Sandy Alomar for that dreadful decision sending Brian Schneider which cost them a chance at a great comeback in the first game yesterday, who’s to say it’s going to change a team which can’t rely on Carlos Delgado or Moises “DL” Alou. Luis Castillo isn’t much better due to his knees yet was signed to a four-year extension.

Then there’s Ryan Church who was on his way to the All-Star Game in the Bronx before the Mets rushed him back from a concussion. You don’t ever do that under any consequence.

Will a new skipper automatically change Jose Reyes’ approach? What about the streakiness of stars Carlos Beltran and David Wright? Is it just Randolph’s fault that John Maine throws too many pitches to go more than six most nights? What about Oliver Perez’ continued Jekyll and Hyde act?

They also don’t have a complete game from Santana who makes too much money not to at least go nine once or twice and save the bullpen from wrecking a probable win as what transpired last week. Remarkably, Mike Pelfrey came the closest pitching into the ninth before Billy Wagner blew it serving up a tying three-run dinger. At least the Mets still won thanks to a Beltran extra inning blast.

The options to setup Wagner aren’t great with Pedro Feliciano and Scott Schoeneweis proving to be the best thus far. But both are lefties who can be taken yard. Aaron Heilman has struggled and Duaner Sanchez hasn’t done much better. Joe Smith’s been alright but is never a lock due to comman.

How can it all be on the skipper when this mess of a pen has repeatedly blown games? Isn’t that the GM’s responsibility?

How come a vast majority of the late inning options off the bench are all aging vets such as Damion Easley, Fernando Tatis or Marlon Anderson?

It sure seems like one person is being given a lot more leeway than the other. Why?

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