Friday, September 30, 2011

Vote: Who Will Win the World Series?

The playoffs begin today with two AL match-ups: Tigers vs. Yankees and Rays vs. Rangers. The NL teams take the field tomorrow. With an exciting finish to the regular season lets see if the playoffs can provide similar intrigue leading up to the World Series. Many people predict that the Phillies will take it all with a starting pitching rotation that is the best in the league, with the pitching staff leading all of Major League Baseball with an ERA of 3.02. However, one can't forget that the playoffs are full of great, quality players that can be difference makers. There are 13 players in the playoffs that have 30 or more home runs, which means with one crack of the bat they can change the whole direction of the game. The Rangers and Yankees statistically may be the most offensively powered teams. The Rangers lead all of Major League Baseball in batting average, are second in slugging, third in runs scored, second in home runs, and third in RBIs. The Yankees lead in home runs, are second in runs scored, and third in slugging percentage. But statistics aren't always indicative of success - the Red Sox lead in runs scored, hits, and RBIs, and with all of that they couldn't make it to the playoffs. Teams need more than offensive power to win - they need smart defense and good pitching - a complete team effort. Plus, in sports anyone can be beaten on any given night. Anything is possible. Even AJ Burnett can pitch a good game every once in a while.

So vote for World Series pick below and leave a comment with why you picked your team. Thanks!

World Series Prediction: Who do you think will win?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jose Reyes: The Champ

After yesterdays bunt single to give Jose Reyes a batting average of .337, Ryan Braun took the field later that day against the Pittsburgh Pirates and went 0-4 with a batting average of .332. Reyes won the NL batting title and released a statement saying:

"I just want to say I’m humbled and honored to win the batting title. It means so much to my family and my country, the Dominican Republic. I have been through a lot over the past few years so this really means a lot to me. It’s also very special to be the first Mets player to win a batting title. There have been so many great players throughout our history. I want to thank Terry Collins, my coaches and all my teammates and of course all the Mets fans who have always supported me and been behind me 100 percent.”


I would also like to add that I have no problem with Jose wanting to leave the game after he got the bunt single. Reyes has never been one to disappoint the fans, he plays his hardest when he is out on the field. If he felt like this was that important to him than as a fan, a fan that went to Citifield yesterday solely to watch him play, I respect his decision. He has given so much to the fans with his exciting play and love for the game that I think people shouldn't complain about his decision. He deserved this, he was entitled to make his choice. I respect his decision, I think he is an amazing athlete, and am happy that he becomes the first player in Mets history to win a batting title - now come back and do it next year.

Wow What a Night

Last night and slightly into this morning baseball was at its best. As the final games of the season ended just after midnight, the Wild Card winners were much different than what had been expected at the beginning of the month.

Boston suffered the biggest collapse ever and will be spending their post-season at home. In a season where they got off to a bad start losing their first five games, then went on at times to lead their division, they finished third in the AL East. Their primary problem was pitching. John Lackey, who they signed a $82.5 million contract for 5 years in December of 2009, had the worst year of his career with an ERA of 6.41 - more than two points higher than his career average of 4.10. But even with the pitching problems there is one mainstay in their bullpen - Jonathan Papelbon. And last night with a 3-2 lead the Red Sox handed him the ball in the bottom of the ninth, and to their disappointment Papelbon blew his third save of the year.

As for the other side of the AL Wild Card the Tampa Bay Rays came from behind in the wild card race and took the lead when it mattered - on the last day of the regular season. During game 162 the Rays were down 7 - 0 to the Yankees and it looked like their only chance to get to the playoffs would be if Boston would lose and then the Rays would have to beat them in game 163. It wasn't looking good for the Rays for most of the games. Then suddenly the Rays mounted a ferocious comeback in the eighth and ninth innings that included the 30th home run of the year by Evan Longoria. And the game stayed tied with every baseball fan anxiously waiting until the bottom of the twelfth when Longoria hit his second home run of the night - 31st of the year - that stayed slightly fair win the game for the Rays.

If the AL Wild Card wasn't exciting enough for you there was also an NL Wild Card battle going on. The Atlanta Braves, the team that lead the Wild Card coming into the month, was playing divisional opponent the Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves took the lead in the bottom of the third inning 3-1, but the Phillies came back with runs in the seventh and ninth innings to tie the game up. The Braves offense never resurged after that third inning lead and the Phillies won the game in the thirteenth inning thanks to an RBI single by Hunter Pence. The crucial point of the game though came in the ninth inning when the rookie closer, Craig Kimbrel, experienced one of his worst outings of the year walking three and giving up the tying run, ultimately blowing his eighth save of the year.

Since the Braves couldn't hold on to the lead, the St. Louis Cardinals took the NL Wild Card with a fairly easy victory over the Houston Astros winning 8-0.

What made last night so remarkable besides the down to the wire finishes and extra innings was the teams involved in the games. In one game you had one team fighting to get into the playoffs against one team that already locked in the top spot of their league. With nothing to play for the Phillies didn't just rest and let the Braves them. They played as they did every other game this year - like it mattered. And as for the Baltimore Orioles - they played their hearts out against the Red Sox knowing that no matter what the outcome is they weren't going anywhere after that game. Teams play for pride every day of the year, even if that victory doesn't lead them to the postseason. Congrats to the victors of the Wild Card for battling a long season down to the very end. As for the teams with the biggest Wild Card collapses ever in their respective leagues, the Red Sox and Braves, see you in 2012.

And for those reading this that may not watch baseball and believe it is boring or slow - you missed an amazing day in sports yesterday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Emotional Day at Citifield ... Please Stay Jose!

Last night I stood in my front of my TV in my studio apartment in the East Village jumping up with my hands in the air then clapping repeatedly for Jose Reyes as he hit his second home run of the night and gave the fans a curtain call. I wished so badly I had gone to the game. This morning I woke up and took the long subways ride, taking the 6 and 7 trains, to Flushing, Queens because I wanted to be there to see Reyes in case it's the last time he wears a Mets uniform. As I sat on the subway the thoughts of a possible departure by Reyes brought up the same feelings I had when my favorite player ever to play at the University of Louisville, DeJuan Wheat, left. For Wheat's final season at Louisville my parents got a ticket package deal where we could go to five games, unfortunately one of those games wasn't senior night. A friend of mine got tickets to the game, but instead of taking me - the biggest Louisville fan in our school - she took someone else and I was heartbroken. My parents tried to get tickets but they were sold out, so the closest I would get to seeing Wheat's last home game at Freedom Hall was on TV. After that day I got to meet Wheat at the basketball banquet, but it wasn't quite the same. When the basketball season started the next year I sat in the stands with my dad and friend Elizabeth and watched Cameron Murray lead the team as the point guard against Western Kentucky. A lot of people didn't like Murray, but I did. But no matter how much I liked Murray, I felt like something was missing from that game - DeJuan Wheat. I anticipate that next year if Reyes doesn't return I will feel the same way. I will love Ruben Tejada, I will cheer for him like everyone else on the team, but something will be missing from that Mets infield - Jose Reyes. The difference though between Reyes and Wheat is that Wheat had to leave because his eligibility was up, but Reyes can come back. And I would probably love Tejada a little more if he was playing to the left of Reyes at second base.

Once I got to the game I bought the cheapest ticket I could because I'm currently not on a project. I watched a little bit on the lower level as some of the players warmed up, but eventually made my way to the promenade section of Citifield. As Reyes approached the plate for his first at bat in the bottom of the first inning I stood up with many other fans and applauded him as the crowd chanted JOSE JOSE JOSE. Reyes got a bunt single, which put him at .337 for the batting average - leading Braun in the NL batting title race. Then suddenly Reyes vacated the base and walked towards the dugout. Justin Turner came out to pinch run for him and fans started to boo. Everyone at the game was there to see Reyes play and after one at bat and one inning of defense he was sitting in the dugout out of everyone's view. Everyone thought Collins had pulled him and I was furious. How could he do that to the fans? Later it was explained that Reyes had asked to be pulled if he got a hit and Collins wanted to honor his request. I no longer felt angry because it was Reyes's request. I think as a fan I know how much Reyes loves to play and loves the fans, so I respect his decision because he could have not played at all since he came into the game with the lead for the batting title.

So with Reyes gone in the first and David Wright pulled a couple innings later the players on the field were basically all players playing for a place next season. I eventually got over my anger about not getting to see more of Reyes and Wright and enjoyed the game - especially the hometown kid, Mike Baxter's first home run in the Majors. As the eighth inning game around I started to make my way to the lower level because I like to leave as soon as the game is over to make the express train, but today I felt like I couldn't leave Citifield. I have a very special connection to the sports teams I love. For me being at a game for the Mets or Louisville basketball is almost like my escape or the place to go where everything just feels alright. I got cut from my project this week, I'm hopeful to get on another one, but being at Citifield today just revived me a little. It's the same way going to Freedom Hall always made me feel like I was somebody. Whether it was Nate Johnson signing an autograph or Hajj Turner remembering who I was or waiting as the players ran out in the tunnel before the game I always felt like I was a part of something. Among the players and the fans I fit in. I think there are some people that don't always understand that, but also I think its something that a lot of diehard fans like myself can relate to. So as the ninth inning came around I stood at the top of the section behind the Mets dugout and people started chanting JOSE JOSE JOSE and JOSE REYES and PLEASE STAY JOSE. There were #7 shirts every where and signs begging him to stay and saying thanks. The ninth inning came to an end with a Mets victory over the Reds 3-0. Reyes led the players in the dugout out to the field to shake hands. As the players returned and proceeded to the dugout entrance to the clubhouse a player, I believe Angel Pagan, suddenly flicked his hat into the stands. Other players followed him and some even ran to the other side of the field to throw hats to the those fans. Jason Pridie handed a bat to someone, Willie Harris followed his leave. It was unbelievable to see such interaction with the fans. The Mets players are by far some of the classiest, most appreciative professional athletes I have ever seen. But the fans still wouldn't leave. They wanted one more moment with Reyes. I wouldn't leave either. I made my way a little closer to the dugout. You could just feel it - everyone loves Jose Reyes. Every Mets fan standing there didn't want that moment to end because they knew when the left the ballpark Reyes would no longer be a Met. I stood there with them and clapped and cheered. JOSE JOSE JOSE ! Then eventually he appeared. He walked out of the dugout and turned around to face the crowd smiling, carrying signs, clapping repeatedly and saluted them. He waved, he made a motion to show his love for the fans. If this was his last game as a Met I will never forget that moment - it was the send off he deserved. Hopefully its not a send off though, but a thanks for everything and see you next year (in a Mets uniform).

I'm certainly not glad to be unemployed right now, but because of that I got to see the Mets last game of the year and that was something nice, something special I won't forget.

Today was probably the most emotional sporting event I have ever been to and I've been to a lot of games, including Louisville's last trip to the final four and three subway series. But I hope in the long run it was overly emotional for no reason because Reyes comes back. But just in case he doesn't ... Thanks for the memories Jose! Thanks for the exciting triples, the multi-hit games, the amazing stolen bases, the unbelievable defensive play, the smiles, the excitement, the love of the game, and even the claw/spotlight. You certainly made a mark on the Mets - in the history books and in the hearts of fans. Now please come back and make some more ... I truly believe you and David can be the center of team that wins the World Series.


Video of crowd chanting after the game:

Mets Review

Today the Mets played their last game of the season and it ended with a 3-0 victory thanks to a complete game shutout effort by Miguel Batista. The game had two notable hits. The first was a bunt single by Jose Reyes to give him a batting average of .337. He left the game after that hit and now awaits for Ryan Braun to play tonight to see if he will hold on the NL batting title lead. (More to come on Reyes in a separate opinion post later). The second notable hit was Mike Baxter's first Major League home run. Baxter grew up in Queens and one can imagine how much hitting a home run in front of the hometown crowd must have felt. The other run was driven in by Nick Evans.

All in all the season has been a difficult one for the Mets as they miss the playoffs and finish under .500. However, despite their overall record there were many high points to the season. They had a great stretch were they played division champions Detroit and Texas extremely well. They took both games from the Phillies in a doubleheader with come from behind wins. They played an extraordinary game against the Yankees where the struggling Jason Bay got the walk off RBI. Young players came up to the big leagues and played well, in place injured players. Jose Reyes had an amazing year. Jason Isringhausen got his 300th career save. And RA Dickey had a stretch of 12 consecutive quality starts. These are just some of the great moments that occurred this season.

With that said the Mets will need to do some things to improve the team this offseason. The first order of business is whether Reyes comes back. There is also the question of whether the Mets will re-sign Chris Capuano. Capuano wants to be a starter and with Niese, Gee, Dickey, and Pelfrey back the question really is how Johan Santana comes back from injury. The Mets are hoping Santana, who missed the whole year, will be ready to go for the team in spring training, but no one can predict whether he will suffer any setbacks. Capuano would be a great person to have just in case, but as mentioned earlier he wants to start and if he feels like he won't be able to here he might pack his bags and go somewhere else - two big name teams in the area in the need of some pitching: Red Sox and Yankees. Besides issues with re-signing Reyes and Capuano, there are a couple of other positions the Mets will need to look at. First there is the chance that Angel Pagan will not be back with the Mets next year. A lot of people have been saying that the Mets are not happy with mistakes he has made and may look to fill that need with a free agent. One of the most talked about outfielders in the minors, Fernando Martinez, isn't a likely replacement because he has suffered many injuries in the past couple of years. Also it appears that even though Jason Pridie has done a good job filling in for Pagan, he probably isn't an everyday player. Another position that will get some attention in the offseason is catcher and off course the bullpen could use some improvement - a closer will definitely be needed. Bobby Parnell is talented, but he isn't a closer and putting that kind of pressure on him probably isn't good. Manny Acosta's play of late though has been promising which definitely helps out the bullpen.

Given all of these considerations, the offseason will be interesting for the Mets and anything is possible. Obviously what happens with Reyes will be a big part of the decision making for the front office. It will be interesting to see what the 2012 Mets will look like. Also, it will be interesting to see how Santana performs when he hopefully returns next year and how the young pitchers in the minors may impact the team. Will Wheeler, Harvey, Familia, and Meija make any appearances in the big leagues next year? All four are said to be tremendous talents. Only time will tell what who the 2012 Mets are and where that team goes.

Thanks Mets for the memories. See you in Port St. Lucie.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All Eyes on Reyes

With three games left in the season for the Mets everything has to do with one guy - Jose Reyes. Will he win the National League batting title, the first Met ever to do so? Will he re-sign and be in the blue and orange next year? If you are a diehard Mets fan you are routing for him to win the batting title, but the ultimate thing you want is for him to stay around and win a World Series some day as a Met.

His talent alone would greatly improve their chances at bringing the World Series back to Flushing. His name is all over the Mets' statistics book, as it should be since he is the Met with the longest tenure. He leads in all-time steals, runs, and triples. He is second in total hits and at-bats. And as I mentioned before he is in a National League batting title race with Ryan Braun, with an average of .334 as of today. One would have to think that since he is only 28 years old, he would continue to play at this level for sometime.

Besides these amazing statistics Reyes also brings so many intangibles to the Mets. If you watch Reyes he is always smiling when he gets on base or when he crosses home plate. If he doesn't get a hit he is visibly frustrated. He conveys his love of the game for the fans to see and the fans show there appreciation by chanting his name throughout the game. He is simply the heart and soul of the Mets.

But one must also remember the no matter how much fans adore Reyes, this is still a business. When it comes time to negotiate years and dollars the Mets' front office is fully aware that Reyes has suffered many injuries in his career, including being on the disabled list twice this year for the same hamstring injury. With so many things to consider in the Reyes free agency saga, this off-season will have every Mets fan sitting on the edge of their seats until Reyes makes his decision.

The Mets without Reyes may be fine, as Ruben Tejada (his likely successor if he doesn't come back) has matured and improved a lot throughout the season. But even with Tejada's baseball skills and intelligence he isn't Jose Reyes. You can't replace the intangible things. You can't survive without a heart. But the decision is out the fans' hands and lies in two parties - Reyes and the Mets. Now its time to just watch and wait. Hold on Met fans it's going to be long off-season.