Friday, July 17, 2009

Baseball Quarterly Report - Healthy Met Wishes and 20 year old Knishes

Well here we are folks.. at the official midway point of the 2009 season. After last years Yankee Stadium extra inning marathon that ran until close to 2 in the morning, this year's All Star Game was a much shorter contest. It was close, but sadly for us National League fans, we lost again, and thanks to that silly rule imposed after the infamous 2002 tie, it means that the AL will get home field advantage for the World Series, not that this really should be an issue for my fellow Met fans!

Once again we also survived the boredom of All Star Week… I checked in for a few minutes of the Home Run Derby and Wednesday’s day of no sports was definitely bailed out by an incredible Letterman with Paul McCartney delivering an outdoor concert from the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater, the same building where he and the rest of the Beatles took America by storm in the mid 1960s. McCartney did 2 songs for the TV show and apparently 5 more for the hundreds of people who watched from the street. If you watched closely, the street was not closed and occasionally a cab would try to maneuver itself down Broadway.

The McCartney performance was a great warm up act for his appearance this weekend at CitiField. The concerts there this weekend send the Mets off to the road which is not necessarily such a bad thing because they have been hitting quite poorly at their home ballpark.

This year the NY teams have new stadiums and each team is going in a rather different direction. The New Yankee Stadium has become a hitter’s paradise with balls leaving the stadium as often as personnel used to exit the building during George Steinbrenner's heyday. CitiField on the other hand while just miles away from that crazy Yankee ballpark, is NOT conducive to the long ball.

David Wright who hit 33 home runs last season, has only hit a measly 5 during the first half, although he also has not been hitting 'em on the road either so maybe its not entirely due to the ballpark. While Wright has lost his power stroke, he has improved his speed game and has been stealing a ton o' bases bringing back memories of Lenny Dykstra.

It was 20 years ago that the Mets acquired their new centerfielder - Juan Samuel... after we traded away that sparkplug in one of the sillier trades in Mets history. Nowadays the terms Lenny Dykstra and trading take on a murkier meaning. Dykstra fancied himself as a post baseball stock expert touting his success on various financial shows... But now that the market has taken a dive, so has Lenny's reputation. He recently filed for bankruptcy and a recent episode of Real Sports with Bryant (Gumbel to) Gumbel showed a very dark side.

The reporter on the piece interviewed several people who had recently worked for him and each person talked about how Lenny had stiffed them out of thousands of dollars. All of them had filed suit against the former ballplayer. The reporter went back to Lenny's unlocked and barely furnished mansion, and finally found Dykstra wandering around the house. Lenny spoke to the reporter with both eyes on some computer screens as if he had something more important going on than that interview, and when the reporter mentioned the numerous lawsuits and asked Lenny if he had anything to say to the people who claim he owes them money…. Dykstra's words were "Fudge ‘em all" except to paraphrase Ralphie in A Christmas Story... he did not say "Fudge".

Maybe I should have compared David Wright to Mookie Wilson instead.

Today, we’ll pick apart my preseason predictions.. but first an amusing anecdote.

With all this talk swirling around about Facebook wisecracks coming back to haunt you years down the road, I was sitting at my office Tuesday afternoon when I got a call from a lady who asked me if I had been involved in a knish eating contest in 1988. She was right… I had participated in one, and the woman on the phone informed me that she is a knish expert and is doing research on the History of the Knish… possibly for an upcoming book.. It turns out the contest was held back in March of 1988 at the Carnegie Deli in honor of the newest member of its well stocked artery clogging menu – The Knish.

I actually wrote about that event right here in NWOW in a column from last July 7th . Here is what I wrote:

“I ran into this guy I knew from college a few years ago and he told me that he had launched a side career as a competitive eater. I actually did the Carnegie Deli Knish Eating Contest approximately 20 years ago and after meeting Henny Youngman and hearing him say “Take My Knish Please” and having Vic Miles stand over me as I took an early lead… I knew this type of craziness was not for me. I blew my lead, but not my lunch… lost to a skinny guy and finished in the middle of the pack. This other guy from college subsequently won a knish eating contest on Jewish Night at a Brooklyn Cyclones minor league game.”

And here I was on the phone 20 years later with a knish expert facing down my sordid past! I was most curious how she got my work number and figured out that I had been in that crazy contest… surely she didn’t read it here on NWOW. As it turned out, she had obtained info about the results of the ’88 contest and tracked down the winner. When she interviewed him, he showed her an article in the Star Ledger which showed my cute punim… ( and clean shaven!) and she googled my name. But instead of snagging my phone number off my podcast… she took the longer route… found me on Linked In and got my number from there… I guess leaving my work number on my Linked In profile really does generate calls to my office!

We chatted briefly about that fateful day… I corrected an error in the Ledger article that said prior to that day, I had never eaten a knish, when in reality I had said I had never eaten a “Carnegie Deli” knish. She also asked me if I still eat knishes… I’m trying to lose poundage so I rarely eat them.. and there was a long disapproving silence on the other side of the telephone. She then asked if I was thinking of getting into competitive eating, I laughed… telling her that the Knish Eating Contest was a one shot deal. I mentioned my college friend Joel who does the competitive eating circuit,…. and it turns out she knows him!! And wouldja believe.. exactly one year to the day that I mentioned college chum Joel in last July 7th’s column….he was at the Knish Eating Contest for the Brooklyn Cyclones Jewish Heritage Night…. And he won!!

Contrary to my preseason picks…this year's World Series will probably not include the Mets.. .Too many injuries have done them in for '09 and it looks like they might just have to compete for 2nd or 3rd place in the NL East as the much improved Giants continue to chug along towards the Wild Card with the excellent rotation led by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Even non descript Jonathan Sanchez made baseball history on the late West Coast game last Friday, when he tossed a rather improbable no hitter. He actually had a perfect game going to the 8th but his shortstop made an error and when Sanchez retired the remaining batters, he achieved the oddity of throwing a no hitter with the only baserunner reaching due to an error.

As for my 14 most relevant teams from the spring – I picked 6 from the National League and with mediocre teams still contending in both the East and Central Division…. It looks like all 6 (The Mets, Phils, Reds, Cubs. Cards and Dodgers) are all in contention. But the Mets are ready to drop into a 4th place no mans land due to the injuries to 5 key players.. Reyes, Delgadio, Betraaaaaaaan, Putz, and Maine. But all of the other teams still have a decent shot.

This year we also started a “Player to Watch” feature for each team.. the Mets player was Brian Schneider for catching the pitching staff including the improved bullpen. I said Hong Chih Kuo would be the player to watch on the Dodgers… but honestly who east of the Mississippi pays attention to Dodgers other than the ones you have on your fantasy team? I just looked it up.. he has pitched 5 innings in 2009… and hasn’t been in a game since April 29 and is on the 60 day DL with an elbow injury. Yet despite that, the Dodgers have a big lead in the division.

My four playoff teams in the NL were the Mets, Phils, Dodgers and Cubbies so I have a decent shot at getting 3 outta 4.

In the AL, I picked 8 relevant teams and with the exception of those dud Indians and A’s, we seemed to be going in the right direction. My 2 laughable “Players to Watch” were David Price of Tampa Bay who has not been able to duplicate his 2008 post season heroics… and Carlos Quentin of the White Sox who has been sidelined by injury for most of the season. My Rays, Red Sox, White Sox, Angels playoff predictions could be on the money.. even though Yankee fans may beg to differ, but after a slow start the Rays look very strong and the Yankee pitching looks very suspect. Has anyone thought of flip flopping Joba and Hughes from their current starter-8th inning roles??

Here are my midseason post season award predictions:

MVP – Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer
Cy Young – Tim Lincecum and Josh Beckett
Rookie of the Year –Tommy Hanson and Andrew Bailey

And there you have it… I wont change my Mets pick for the World Series although the Dodgers look pretty worthy of being their replacement, but for now I will just stick to my guns that people will be leaving Citi Field with happy memories,… and Im not just talking about the ones who get to attend the Paul McCartney concert!


Here is Paul McCartney from Letterman – and this clip also explains how he got up there too!!