11th and Washington

11th and Washington: April 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

Baseball dating game

A quick one before I go out to enjoy the beautiful afternoon: A Mr. Met dating story, or not. I like how he pokes holes in the account the way only an insider would know. Pretty interesting.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Photo flashback: Enjoying the meat of the sweep

A busy weekend has made this look back at Saturday's win over the Braves a little outdated by now, but it's still fun to look back on the middle of a sweep sandwich involving one of the Mets' biggest division rivals -- especially when one Larry Wayne Jones Jr. played such a big part in two of the losses.

We had a friend visiting from California for the weekend and four free tickets from my wife's dad, so we invited a fourth who was also making her Citi Field debut (more for Shake Shack and the company than the baseball, but I always enjoy explaining the game to others) and were treated to a gorgeous day and dozens of pooches for Bark in the Park. I couldn't help but think of the fans' criticisms of all the nods to the Dodgers while bringing Lauren, a UCLA grad like Jackie and Dodgers fan, in through the rotunda and snapping her picture in front of the big No. 42. To top it off, Steve Garvey -- who works with the Bark in the Park sponsor, Natural Balance Pet Foods -- threw out the first pitch.

This team sure isn't perfect and this run of six wins in seven games -- coinciding with Ike Davis' arrival -- could be little more than the yang to the yin of the first two weeks to put this team one game over .500, but it is nice to be one game on the good side than one on the bad. Another series win against L.A. would be a nice springboard into a weekend in Philadelphia and a Sunday night series finale with Roy Halladay on the hill.

And, hey, look at this: Monday's rainout, which pushed Oliver Perez back to the second game of today's doubleheader, means that both Ollie and Johan Santana will have four days of rest between now and Sunday. So it's Jerry Manuel's choice of who goes up against Halladay and the Phillies on Sunday night on ESPN. Had Ollie pitched on Monday, it would've been his turn in the rotation and Johan would've been left to open the series in Cincinnati on May 3. Hmm, which would you choose for Sunday night? [2:51 p.m. update: YES!]

Here's hoping the good fortune keeps coming.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Johan's pitching tonight. Unfortunately.

It's Santana Day in the Citi tonight. With Johan on the mound, the Mets have their best chance of winning out of every five games.

But it bothers me that he's pitching tonight, rather than two nights ago. Why? Because Jerry Manuel and Dan Warthen have decided that, despite all the off-days during the early part of the schedule, they're giving all five starters their regular turns in the rotation. For the life of me, I can't see how this was a good plan -- particularly for two men who have to know their jobs are on the line. With your team's catalyst (Jose Reyes) out for the first week and the anchor of its lineup (Carlos Beltran) out indefinitely, it's more important this year than in others not to get off to a slow start. One way to prevent such a thing from happening, I would think, might be to use your best pitcher as often as possible, without overworking him.

I can understand that Johan is coming off of surgery that ended his season early last year and that the Mets wouldn't want to have him worn out at the end of the season. But, um, you have to get to the end of the season in contention before that becomes an issue. So why not use Johan every fifth day instead of every fifth game and then work the rest of the rotation around that? Even if Manuel wanted to give John Maine, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez regular work in the early going, I can't see how it would have been a problem to start Jon Niese off at Buffalo and bring him up when a fifth starter was finally needed.

This problem with Johan's use struck me this week, when I realized that because of the way Manuel set up the rotation, Santana will not pitch against the Braves this weekend or the Phillies next weekend. Sure, all games are equal, all wins and losses count the same, but don't you think there's a mental boost -- especially with this team -- that could come from having your ace shut down the top two contenders in your own division?

For a visual comparison, below is the Mets' schedule for April and May (click each one for a larger, clearer view) with the dates Santana pitched or will pitched based on starting every fifth game (in green) as he is now vs. when his starts would fall if he went every fifth day (in blue).

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Where Jackie's impact was felt most

I still remember April 15, 1997, when I sat in a lounge in my dorm at Notre Dame and watched as Jackie Robinson's No. 42 was retired throughout baseball by Bud Selig, standing at a podium at Shea Stadium. Behind him stood Jackie's widow, Rachel, and President Bill Clinton. The significance of the occasion, the 50th anniversary of Robinson's debut with the Dodgers, was clearly underscored by the presence of these heavyweights. That night inspired me to write a short story based on Robinson's debut for a class that semester. If I ever dig it up and decide I'm not going to try to have it published, I'll post it here.

But in that rec room at O'Neill Hall, 700 miles from home, no Major League baseball within two hours, I felt a bit of pride at being a Mets fan far away from New York that night. I'm sure the choice of Shea Stadium for the ceremony had more to do with the Dodgers being in town than the Mets being home, but maybe only a little. New York, after all, was the city in which Jackie played all 10 years of his career. He worked in the city, lived in Connecticut, died there and was eulogized and buried in New York. When the Dodgers left for Los Angeles -- a year after Jackie retired ... after being traded to the Giants -- Jackie remained in New York. He may have starred in four sports at UCLA, but once he left L.A. and made his way through Kansas City and Montreal to Brooklyn, New York was where he stayed.

The Dodgers, of course, do a fine job of celebrating their history, even the Brooklyn Era now more than 50 years since they left the borough, and they deserve to have Robinson as a focal point of their legacy. But if there is one place where Jackie's impact should have a permanent footprint, I think it's New York.

I first started contemplating this argument a year ago, when Mets fans regularly criticized the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field. That commotion has died down a bit this year, now that the Mets have made an active -- and admirable -- effort to celebrate their own history (because they're not going to be adding much to it this year, I'm afraid), and I'm glad. I love the Robinson Rotunda. I don't look at it as celebrating the career of a Dodger; I see it more as championing the life of a man who changed not just baseball, but America. Ebbets Field is gone and now, too, so is Yankee Stadium. The only place left in New York to truly get close to Jackie is his gravesite. Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, where he played his first game for the Montreal Royals, is also long-gone and the city's cool statue stands miles away from the stadium site, near a subway station in the Journal Square business district. Brooklyn has a middle school and a statue where the minor league team plays, but Coney Island is a long way from Sullivan Place. Even Robinson's Hall of Fame plaque is different from the one he knew.

Robinson obviously has a connection to L.A., but it's as a college athlete, even if that's all Los Angeles had in the '30s. He made his name in New York, and it's what he did in New York that he's known for across the country. The Yankees wouldn't set aside a corner for Jackie if they were the only team in New York. I have no problem with Mariano Rivera continuing to wear No. 42 for the duration of his career, but up until a few years ago, they refused to include it among the retired numbers at the ballpark, when the other 29 clubs had long displayed the number on their walls. So to me, Queens, the borough bordering Brooklyn, and the Mets, the National League successor to the Dodgers, are the next best option for a baseball shrine to one of its seminal figures.

I'm not old enough to remember a burning Bronx (I -- or my family -- celebrated my first birthday only that September) let alone three-team summers in New York. A lot of what I know of the Dodgers in Brooklyn comes from Doris Kearns Goodwin's memoir, but after reading that book, I had a strong feeling that if I had grown up in the '40s or '50s, I would've been a Dodgers fan. So maybe that's why I'm proud that it's the Mets' ballpark that is home to a great tribute to a great man who died four years before I was born and whose lasting legacy did little for me, personally, beyond giving me the opportunity to watch guys like Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Torii Hunter, CC Sabathia and Jason Heyward play ball.

The rotunda's a great way to enter a ballpark, and for all the unique touches designed for the stadiums built since the early '90s, it may be the most inspired and unique. Petco Park and Oriole Park may have their warehouses, Coors Field the Rocky Mountains in the distance, Busch Stadium the Gateway Arch, PNC the Pittsburgh skyline and AT&T McCovey Cove -- but those were already on-site and the architects just had to work them into their designs. The rotunda, obviously copied from Ebbets Field, was resurrected, and just as a generation of Dodger fans recalled walking through it in Brooklyn, a lot of young Mets fans today will grow up to have what hopefully become fond memories of Citi Field's rotunda.

This year marks just the third time since 1997 that the Mets have not been home on April 15. Only in 2000 and '03 did they wear gray uniforms, and those weren't even official Jackie Robinson Days -- the moniker took hold in 2004. The Mets are 8-4 on April 15 since the ceremony at Shea in '97 and have won six of their last seven on this date. Both road games prior to today's happened to be in Pittsburgh, in 2000 (a loss) and 2003 (a win). The one loss since '04 came in 2006, with the 2007 game getting rained out when a nor'easter hit the East Coast, wiping out several games that Sunday. The Mets honored Robinson at their next home game, the following Friday, and lost to the Braves, but because the game wasn't played on April 15, I'm not including it in the 8-4 record.

Today, they'll honor Jackie in Denver and 14 other cities. But every day, he's honored in New York.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Catching up on Brodeur

After shutting out the Panthers on Jan. 20, Martin Brodeur went more than two months without a whitewash, and then -- BAM! -- two in a row, just as he's setting himself up for the playoffs. He blanked the Hurricanes and Thrashers in consecutive games at the beginning of April. Of course, those came heading into the first week of the baseball season, so my attention was elsewhere. I noted them, but didn't take any time to comment on them.

And so, as I have been marking all along this year, Brodeur has now tied Walter Johnson for the career lead in shutouts, with 110, in a category I'm making up: the most shutouts by a man charged with keeping the other team from scoring in a team sport.

Here's hoping that bodes well as the Devils begin the march to their fourth Stanley Cup tonight...

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Long ball lists x 30

Quick! Name the Padres' franchise leader in home runs.

It's not Adrian Gonzalez, though it may be by the end of the season ... depending on if (or when) San Diego trades him. Gonzalez entered the season needing 34 home runs to claim the top spot from an original Padre whose name you probably don't know unless you're a big Padres fan or have committed to memory the franchise home run leaders for each team. Ladies and gentlemen, the all-time leader in home runs by a Padre, No. 17 in your scorecard, Nate Colbert!

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound first baseman and outfielder hit 163 home runs in San Diego from the club's inception in 1969 until he was traded to the Tigers after the 1974 season in a three-team deal that sent Ed Brinkman to the Cardinals. Colbert's season-high was 38 long balls, accomplished in 1970 and '72, and he averaged 27 a season in his six summers in brown and gold.

Every slugger to play for the Padres since has left the team one way or another, never to get closer than seven dingers of Colbert's 163. Phil Nevin ranks second with 156, Dave Winfield hit 154, Tony Gwynn -- not a slugger but on the list because of his longevity -- hit 135, Ryan Klesko launched 133 and Gonzalez now has 132, having recorded two already this season.

Maybe it's the Curse of Nate Colbert. Hank Aaron told the Detroit media following the deal that Colbert was unhappy in San Diego and welcomed the trade to Detroit. Whatever the reason, no one has managed to surpass Colbert's home run total for the Padres.

With that in mind, I went through each franchise's career long ball leaders to see who's got a stranglehold on the top spot -- curse or not -- and which ones might soon fall. Home run totals for active players are through Sunday's games.

Leader: Luis Gonzalez, 224. Active leader: Mark Reynolds (fourth), 91. Reynolds is 26 and has hit 17, 28 and 44 home runs in three seasons with the Diamondbacks, averaging 35 per 162 games. He's signed through 2012 with an $11 million club option for 2013 and if he averages 35 homers through '13, he'd get to 231, likely passing Gonzo in September 2013.

Leader: Hank Aaron, 733. Active leader: Chipper Jones (third), 427. As good as he is, Chipper's not going to get there. Even second place on the list, held by Eddie Mathews with 493, is in question with his age and injury history. But from the accolades in the media, it sounds like Jason Heyward's countdown to whatever Barry Bonds' total was (755 is still the highest home run total I have memorized) has already begun. (Seriously, though, Heyward is fun to watch. As a Mets fan, my dislike of the Braves has subsided since 2006 and replaced by the Phillies, but I think Heyward will bring it back up soon.)

Leader: Cal Ripken, 431. Active leader: Miguel Tejada (24th), 103. Had I written this post at the end of last season, Melvin Mora, whose 158 home runs rank 11th, would have been the candidate. Tejada's not a threat, either, and it's too early to tell whether any of the Orioles' young core of Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones or Nolan Reimold will have both the power and the longevity to break into the top five.

Leader: Ted Williams, 521. Active leader: David Ortiz (sixth), 259. Considering his struggles last year and so far this year, Big Papi can set his sights no further than Manny Ramirez, fifth on the list with 274. Teddy, Yaz (452), Jim Rice (382) and Dewey Evans (379) are safe in the top four.

Leader: Sammy Sosa, 545. Active leader: Aramis Ramirez (10th), 189. I can't see anyone approaching Sosa (or Ernie Banks' 512) without a Sosa-like, ahem, surge. With a career-average 30 homers (though he hasn't reached that number since 2006), Ramirez can climb to seventh. He's currently just one behind Hack Wilson's 190.

Leader: Frank Thomas, 448. Active leader: Paul Konerko (second), 322. Paulie K. is the only active ChiSox in the top 10 and even his fast start (three homers in the first week) won't be enough to approach Thomas, because Konerko is in the last year of his contract.

Leader: Johnny Bench, 389. Active leader: Brandon Phillips (30th), 89. With the departure in recent years of Adam Dunn (fourth, 270 homers) and Ken Griffey Jr. (seventh, 210), the active Reds leader is Phillips. Joey Votto is 48th with 54 dingers and Jay Bruce 65th with 43.

Leader: Jim Thome, 334. Active leader: Travis Hafner (10th), 163. Pronk reached the top 10 with his long ball in Detroit's home opener on Friday, tying Ken Keltner, a third baseman in the '30s and '40s. Grady Sizemore is 14th with 129. Cleveland's is an interesting list. The top three -- Thome, Albert Belle (242) and Manny Ramirez -- all played the majority of their home games in Jacobs Field, the next three -- Earl Averill, Hal Trosky and Larry Doby -- played in the '30s, '40s and '50s, as did No. 8 Al Rosen and No. 9 Rocky Colavito. Andre Thornton, seventh on the list, played in the late '70s and '80s.

Leader: Todd Helton, 325. Active chaser: Brad Hawpe (eighth), 113. Perhaps one day we'll be talking about the Curse of Todd Helton with the Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki is 10th with 65 homers.

Leader: Al Kaline, 399. Active leader: Brandon Inge (23rd), 123. No one has moved into the Tigers' top 10 in 15 years. Cecil Fielder (fifth, 245), Lou Whitaker (sixth, 244) and Kirk Gibson (10th, 195) are the only sluggers on the list who played into the '90s. Eighteen more long balls from Inge would tie him with Darrell Evans for 20th. The Tigers' biggest home run threat, Miguel Cabrera, is way down at No. 46, with 73, behind Curtis Granderson (30th, 102), Magglio Ordonez (34th, 92) and Carlos Guillen (37th, 86). Signed through 2016 and averaging 33 per season in his career, at that pace Miggy would reach 304, good for fourth, two behind Hank Greenberg's 306. Norm Cash is second with 373.

Leader: Mike Lowell, 143. Active leader: Dan Uggla (fourth), 122. Uggla's first home run this year tied him with Gary Sheffield and he's now seven behind Derrek Lee's 129. Uggla has never hit fewer than 27 in his four seasons with the Marlins, and 22 more this season will give him the Florida franchise lead. But maybe not for long. Hanley Ramirez, because I know you're wondering, is ninth, with 104. If he can match his career high of 33, Ramirez will climb into the top four at 136. Miguel Cabrera remains second in Marlins history with 138 -- the consequence of being traded from a new franchise to an original one. And 10th on the illustrious Marlins home run list? None other than Alex Gonzalez, the one still playing, in Toronto.

Leader: Jeff Bagwell, 449. Active leader: Lance Berkman (second), 313. The Astros hold an option on Berkman for next season, and even if he were to somehow come back from the disabled list and hit his career average 34 homers this season and next (and he hasn't reached that number since 2007), he'd only have 381. Craig Biggio is third with 291.

Leader: George Brett, 317. Active leader: David DeJesus (20th), 56. The Manalapan High and Rutgers graduate became the Royals' active leader in the offseason, when John Buck (15th, 70 homers) and Mark Teahen (19th, 59) left via free agency and was traded, respectively. Brett's mark is pretty safe. Considering the Royals' recent history and financial resources, it's hard to speculate if a young, developing star like Billy Butler (33rd, 41) will stay in Kansas City long enough to crack the top 10. No. 2 on the list is Mike Sweeney with 197, and Carlos Beltran checks in at No. 8 with 123.

Leader: Tim Salmon, 299. Active leader: Juan Rivera (17th), 79. L.A./California/Anaheim/L.A.'s top five include three players from their 2002 World Series championship team and another who left last year: Garret Anderson (second, 272), Troy Glaus (fourth, 182) and Vladimir Guerrero (fifth, 173). Brian Downing's 222 are third ... and Brandon Wood's seven homers rank 146th.

Leader: Duke Snider, 389. Active leader: Andre Ethier (32nd), 75. Duke is pretty safe. He's one of three sluggers in the top four on this list who played in Brooklyn; Gil Hodges (361 homers) is second and Roy Campanella (242) is fourth. The home run leader in the Chavez Ravine era? Eric Karros, with 270.

Leader: Robin Yount, 251. Active leader: Prince Fielder (eighth), 160. Prince is tied with Paul Molitor and should he reach 40 for the third time in four seasons (his career average is 38) in 2010, he'll climb to fifth, just one behind Cecil Cooper's 201. Another 40-homer year in 2011 -- currently the last year the Brewers have him under contract -- gets him to second place and 240, within 11 of Yount. So there's a good chance Fielder becomes the Brewers' franchise leader with a.) either two huge years in '10 and '11 or b.) a long-term contract extension. Prince's 160 home runs are already the Brewers' Miller Park-era franchise high -- he passed Geoff Jenkins' 148 last year -- but Jenkins still holds their National League mark with 212.

Leader: Harmon Killebrew, 559. Active leader: Justin Morneau (ninth), 165. At his average pace of 31 per 162 games and signed through 2013, Morneau would climb to third with 287, just six behind Kent Hrbek. But the Twins move into Target Field today, a new outdoor ballpark with dimensions that are believed to benefit the left-handed power of Morneau, Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel. So should he stay healthy, Morneau will likely get to 300 and take over second place before his deal is up. Even the Minneapolis record is safe for the life of Morneau's contract, because Killebrew hit 475 after the team moved from Washington.

Leader: Darryl Strawberry, 252. Active leader: David Wright (fifth), 141. I'm not going to project where Wright will end up until after this season, when we see how he responds in his second year at Citi Field. He needs 15 more home runs to pass Dave Kingman for fourth place and current hitting coach Howard Johnson is third with 192. Mike Piazza hit 220. Carlos Beltran sits sixth, with 127 long balls with the Mets, and it's a shame he's missed so much time last season and this with injuries, or he'd be setting his sights on Kingman as well.

Leader: Babe Ruth, 659. Active leader: Alex Rodriguez (ninth), 238. A-Rod may break Hank Aaron's record (for a right-handed hitter) and he may surpass the Bonds number, but he might not catch the Babe for pinstripe power. At his current average of 43 per 162 games and with his contract carrying through the 2017 season -- and that's being generous to give him 43 homers a year through the end of the deal -- Rodriguez would only get to 582. In fact, Mickey Mantle's 536 might be the number to shoot for, considering A-Rod's age at the end of his contract (39, 40 and 41 over the last three years). Rodriguez will pass Jorge Posada this year, and Derek Jeter ranks 10th on the Yankees' list.

Leader: Mark McGwire, 363. Active leader: Eric Chavez (sixth), 229. It's a shame Chavez has had so many injuries, because there's no telling where he'd rank, considering second place on this list is Jimmie Foxx with 302. Chavez hasn't homered since June 17, 2008. Next on the active list behind Chavez is Mark Ellis at 33 with 80, so no movement in the top 10 is imminent, outside of Chavez.

Leader: Mike Schmidt, 548. Active leader: Ryan Howard (fifth), 225. Howard's three homers this year already moved him up a notch and another 40 -- and yeah, he's averaged 49 per 162 in his career -- would secure second place, above Del Ennis' 259. Howard's playing this season at 30 years old (he was born in November 1979) and would have 265 even if he hits a career full-season low of 43 in 2010. Schmidt, born in September 1949, had 283 when he finished his age-30 season in 1980. But Schmidt only averaged 37 per 162 and didn't play in a bandbox. Yes, Howard has the power to hit it out of any ballpark, but I'm sure he's benefitted from some first-row landings over the years, especially to the opposite field.

Leader: Willie Stargell, 475. Active leader: Ryan Doumit (55th), 47. Yeah, Doumit's not catching Big Willie. In fact, only seven players in the top 20 debuted after Stargell's last year in 1982: Barry Bonds (fourth, 176 homers), Brian Giles (sixth, 165), Jason Bay (eighth, 139), Kevin Young (10th, 136), Andy Van Slyke (13th, 117), Bobby Bonilla (15th, 114) and Al Martin (18th, 107).

Leader: Stan Musial, 475. Active leader: Albert Pujols (second), 370. I believe El Hombre will pass The Man. Adding his average of 43 homers for 2010 and '11, Pujols will get to 452. He'll pass Musial and very possibly hit his 500th career home run in 2012, the first year of his new contract with the Cardinals.

Leader: Nate Colbert, 163. Active leader: Adrian Gonzalez (sixth), 132. Next up, should Gonzalez not get there before a trade, is ... Scott Hairston. He ranks 35th with just 36 homers as a Padre. This franchise has had so little in terms of power hitters that Kevin Kouzmanoff, the third baseman traded to the A's in the offseason after just three seasons at PETCO Park, ranks 20th with a mere 59 dingers. Khalil Greene is in the top 10, with 84, tied for ninth with Fred McGriff.

Leader: Willie Mays, 646. Active leader: Bengie Molina (55th), 55. Had Rich Aurilia managed to force his way into a bench spot, he'd be 15th on the list with 143 homers, but with his retirement over the weekend, it falls all the way to Molina. Bonds' 586 couldn't pass his godfather overall, but he did pass both Mays (459) and McCovey (469) in San Francisco.

Leader: Ken Griffey Jr., 417. Active chaser: Ichiro Suzuki (15th), 84. Seattle's another relatively powerless franchise. Seven of the top 10 and 13 of the top 20 have played in the 21st Century and at Safeco Field. Following Griffey, No. 2 Edgar Martinez (309) and No. 3 Jay Buhner (307) is A-Rod (189). Ken Phelps is hanging on at No. 10 (105) and Adrian Beltre's 103 in his five seasons stand 11th.

Leader: Aubrey Huff, 128. Active leader: Carlos Pena (second), 117. Here, folks, is your least powerful franchise. The Rays' top 10 -- which goes 11 players deep because Jorge Cantu and Toby Hall are tied for 10th with 44 long balls -- averages out to 73 homers per player, the lowest of any club. Huff last played for the franchise in 2006. Carl Crawford is fourth with 85 and Evan Longoria, with all of 1,206 plate appearances in two seasons, is sixth with 62. In fact, Barry Bonds' "record" 73 homers in 2001 would put him fifth all-time in Tampa Bay franchise history had he hit them in green and black.

Leader: Juan Gonzalez, 372. Active leader: Michael Young (11th), 138. Eleven behind Larry Parrish, Young is knocking on the top 10 and should get there this year. Two of last year's Rangers, Ivan Rodriguez (fourth, 217) and Hank Blalock (ninth, 152), appear in the top 10.

Leader: Carlos Delgado, 336. Active leader: Vernon Wells (fourth), 197. Wells is the only active player in the Blue Jays' top 10 and his fast start -- five homers already -- put him just seven away from taking second place for himself. He's only got George Bell (202 homers) and Joe Carter (203) ahead of him, other than Delgado. If this start truly represents a rebirth for Wells, who hasn't hit his 162-game average 26 homers since 2006 -- when he hit 32 and prompted the Blue Jays to hand him a seven-year, $126 million extension -- and he can hit 26 a year through the end of the contract in 2014, Wells would get to 322, just 14 behind Delgado. One interesting note I discovered when looking for the terms of that deal: Bonus payments aside, the big salary didn't kick in until this season. He earned $5.6 million in '07, before the new deal took effect, and $500,000 in '08 and $1.5 million in '09, with bonus payments of $8.5 million on March 1 of 2008, '09 and '10. He's making $12.5 million this year, $23 million next year and $21 million in each of the final three years. With those numbers, he should get a chance to stick around and get a shot at Delgado.

Leader: Vladimir Guerrero, 234. Active leader: Ryan Zimmerman (13th), 91. That's right, Mr. National is the active chaser of Vlad and, as a result, the leader since the franchise moved to Washington. My favorite part of this list is Nos. 31-32. Brian Schneider hit 47 homers in his eight years with the Expos/Nationals from 2000-07. Alfonso Soriano, in his one and only season in D.C., hit 46.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Diving into Mets history

Earlier this week, I went to the Mets' website and searched for tickets to last night's game on Stubhub. I considered two seats in the front row of the Pepsi Porch -- I can't wait to sit there, hanging over right field -- but then when I checked the weather and saw 50 degrees and a chance of rain, I thought better of it. Instead, I bought Promenade Club tickets that also gave us access to the Acela Club -- providing us with three options (they had Caesar's Club access, too) to get out of the cold, rain and/or wind.

Smart planning, if I do say so myself, but I'll get to that. We arrived early to walk through the new Hall of Fame and Museum in the rotunda. Unlike Opening Day, there was no line, so we could take our time without being crowded. It's a great display of the team's history and a nice touch going into the club's 49th season, giving them some space to work with next year for any 50th anniversary exhibits they may consider.

I particularly enjoyed the uniform displays. There's a timeline that shows examples of each style worn throughout the team's history, plus more jerseys in the front to highlight various players and moments in the last 48 seasons. Looking at the sizing tags gives some idea of the evolution of ballplayers' physiques -- David Wright wears a 48 jersey, Tom Seaver wore 44, Jerry Grote caught in a 42 and Bud Harrelson sported a 38. Manufacturers and technology probably play a part in jersey sizing over the years, but I can't imagine there's a Major Leaguer today who wears anything smaller than a 44. And those who do go that low are the likes of Alex Cora (I checked on one of his game-worn jerseys for sale on the concourse, $200 for a white Coolbase version), not any pitchers of Cy Young ability.

I also dug the World Series press pins. The four from 1969, '73, '86 and 2000 are on display, and the '69 and '86 ones are also mounted at the center of the Commissioner's trophies. Compared to the sparse Yankees trophy in Trenton on Thursday night, these are blinged out. Of course, press pins are probably a thing of the past anyway.

Another historical touch comes as the result of the lineup's new display at the top of the escalators in the rotunda. Above a field level concession stand on the first-base side are nine Topps reproductions of former Mets: Keith Hernandez, Rusty Staub, Cleon Jones, Wally Backman, Ron Darling, Tug McGraw, Bernard Gilkey, Bud Harrelson and Robin Ventura. It's a fun collection to look at, both for the card designs and the players themselves ... except for Gilkey. Really? He's one of the nine Mets chosen for this display? The obvious question is, Why not Piazza? But there are a host of other candidates for the spot: Koosman, Matlack, Carter, Alfonzo, Garrett, HoJo, Mookie, Gooden, Strawberry, Knight, Olerud, even Hundley. Or even Nolan Ryan.

I didn't dwell on it much. From there, we went on to a pregame dinner at the Acela Club and watched the game from the Promenade Club, out of the wind, until the eighth, when we decided to split a Shackburger and didn't have to wait in line for it -- though did have to wait for them to make it. It was there as we waited when Jeff Francoeur hit his second home run of the game, establishing two interesting marks. It was the first four-homer game for the Mets at Citi Field and the first time two Mets hit two home runs each at home since Shea's first year, 1964. Earlier, while in the Promenade Club, I noticed a graphic on SNY that showed visitors hit 79 home runs at Shea in 2008 and 81 at Citi in 2009 -- perhaps another indicator that the Mets' lack of power in '09 was not because of their new ballpark but more an indication of their depleted lineup and, hopefully, a change in approach for the one constant in the lineup through the season, namely David Wright. So if Rod Barajas and Francoeur can hit two apiece and Wright can pound one off the wall on a chilly, windy night, I'm hopeful there's a rebound afoot this season.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Photo Flashback: Opening night in Trenton

I've been to 11 Mets openers and four or five Lakewood BlueClaws openers, but last night was my first opening night at Trenton's Waterfront Park. And while it may have only been April 8, with a gametime temperature of 75 degrees, it felt like July 8. A gorgeous night all around -- with the exception of Christian Garcia's injury.

It seemed like as many fans were there to see the Yankees' World Series trophy as for the game. The line on the concourse was longer than any concession line, Chickie & Pete's included. The roar of the crowd was a little subdued at times for the first game of the season, but that's not the fans' fault -- those in line reacted to those in the stands reacting to the play. Even the players and coaches wanted a closeup look.

I spent pregame on the field and the first inning in the photographers' box at the end of the Thunder dugout. Catcher Austin Romine, the No. 2 prospect in the Yankees' system, was the first player out of the clubhouse, stashing his gear at the end of the bench and getting himself loose for the game. He introduced himself to me and spent 15 minutes chatting with me and team photographer David Schofield. If first impressions hold, he's a good kid -- not many players go ahead an introduce themselves -- with the right level of confidence and cockiness to make it to the Majors. And though the only player ahead of him on Baseball America's list of Yankees prospects is also a catcher, it may not be Jesus Montero's career-long position, so Romine may be the heir apparent to Jorge Posada. Romine went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored in his Double-A debut.

After back-to-back championships in 2007-08, the Thunder missed the playoffs last year, finishing three games under .500 and 13 1/2 out of first place. They started off on the right foot in 2010, though they may now have to replace their opening night starter. One way or another, there's going to be plenty to follow in Trenton this season.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ready to open up the farm

The Minor League season is upon us, with all full-season circuits getting under way today. For the first time in several years, I'll be at one of those games. I'm heading down the Turnpike to Trenton, where the SeaWolves and Thunder will face off at Waterfront Park.

It could be a prospect-filled spring in the Northeast, with the South Atlantic, Eastern and International leagues not just filled with top-tier talent for those levels but stocked with the two biggest players to watch who didn't make their organizations' Major League rosters: Stephen Strasburg and Aroldis Chapman. They'll both be making their professional debuts on Sunday, when Strasburg's Harrisburg Senators are in Altoona, Pa., and Chapman's Louisville Bats are in Toledo, Ohio. That sets up each one to pitch at home for the first time next Friday, not a bad night to show off the organization's top talent down on the farm. I'm sure the Senators and Bats front offices are giddy over that good fortune. True, the first Friday night home game of the season would probably draw well, but both teams open their home schedules the night before, so the two prospects will provide an enticement for game No. 2. Plus, it lines them up to pitch five days later, when both teams finish homestands with morning getaway games. That'll be sure to tempt some folks to take a long lunch.

I'll be tracking the Senators' and Bats' schedules closely, hoping the dates line up so that I might catch Strasburg or Chapman pitching before they're called up to the Majors. The window for Strasburg seems to be tight -- everyone fully expects to see him with the Nationals sometime in June, and as Ben McGrath points out at the end of his Spring Training piece in The New Yorker, the schedule has Washington in Atlanta at the end of the month, and there's no telling what kind of physics experiments might develop from a Strasburg vs. Jason Heyward matchup. Harrisburg, Pa., is just about two-and-a-half hours from where I live, and I've driven further for games. That Wednesday morning outing by Strasburg is tempting, because it's the only guaranteed chance I may have. The Senators don't come to Trenton before June, and though their visit to Reading the following week is likely to have a Strasburg start included, all three games are scheduled for nights I work. Decision to come.

The Eastern League is stocked with top stars, including Strasburg's teammate and potential future closer in Washington, Drew Storen. The Reading Phillies have three of those 10, including Philadelphia's No. 1 name to know, Domonic Brown, though I have to think it's a longshot that he'd still be wearing Reading's powder blue when the R-Phils make their only trip to Trenton July 15-18. Of course, Austin Romine, the Yankees' No. 2 prospect and reigning Florida State League MVP, is likely to be catching for the Thunder all season because the only player listed ahead of him on Baseball America's list of Yankees farmhands is catcher Jesus Montero, a Thunder star last year.

Back to Chapman: The Bats have a four-game series at Scranton to close out April, but if Chapman pitches every fifth day and there aren't any rainouts (which will be a big key to all of this tentative pre-planning), he'll be the one starter who doesn't face the Yankees at PNC Field. The Bats are back in Eastern Pennsylvania from May 18-21 to play the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, so his starting dates will be worth watching.

The SWB Bombers boast two of the IL's top 10, Montero and right-hander Zach McAllister, plus several other names to know -- or known, as the case may be with Columbus Clippers catcher Carlos Santana (wanna bet the DJ at PNC plays "Oye Como Va" when he comes to bat during the Clips' visit from May 10-13?). There's also Chapman's teammate, 2008 first-round pick Yonder Alonso, and Rays No. 1 (and potential Carl Crawford replacement) Desmond Jennings. He's joined on the always-stocked Durham Bulls (they have to love their relationship with Tampa Bay) by right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, whom I saw pitch for Hudson Valley in 2006.

As for the third league to touch New Jersey, the Lakewood BlueClaws open their South Atlantic League campaign tonight in Asheville, N.C., and won't open at home until next Friday. If I'm not away that night, I'll probably make that drive, too. Prospects at the low-Class A level are longer shots to gauge, but it can't be a bad sign that Lakewood boasts three of the top 10 to watch. Also on that list: Seton Hall grad and Yankees prospect Sean Black with the Charleston RiverDogs (in Lakewood May 3-6), Mets prospect Wilmer Flores with the Savannah Sand Gnats (who follow the RiverDogs at FirstEnergy Park from May 7-10), fifth-overall pick by the Orioles Matt Hobgood with the Delmarva Shorebirds (in Lakewood for two five-game series July 8-12 and August 12-16) and two Astros prospects, outfielder J.D. Martinez and first-round pick shortstop Jiovanni Mier with the Lexington Legends (in town June 14-16).

Summer can't come soon enough, can it?

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Opening Day 2010

Row 1: Arizona, Atlanta, Boston, a fan in Boston.
Row 2: Cincinnati, Houston, a base in Houston, Kansas City.
Row 3: Anaheim, Milwaukee, New York, Oakland.
Row 4: Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Texas, Washington.

I decided to go with a little more than just the logos this year, as opposed to last year.

The count on the fields this year includes seven Opening Day logos (Arizona, Boston, Cincinnati, Houston, Kansas City, New York and Tampa Bay, three Opening Series logos (Atlanta, Oakland and Pittsburgh) and three Opening Week logos (Anaheim, Milwaukee and Washington). Ironically, Boston, which had the one true Opening Night game, went with Opening Day on the field, but one fan drew up Opening Night for her sign. All the bases, I believe, had Opening Day on them.

Comparing 2009 and '10, all teams that started at home both years went with the same logo, except for Texas. The Rangers chose Opening Week this year after using Opening Day in '09. And for some reason, the White Sox did not have an Opening Day/Week/Series logo on its field at all on Monday.


Monday, April 05, 2010

How I saw Opening Day


A sunny, warm mid-70-degree day. Is this really Opening Day?

Indeed it was, yet we kept pinching ourselves and discussing whether it really was as good as it seemed. My mom and my pal Dave arrived separately from Casey and me, but we all met up in Danny Meyerland in center field before the game, munching on garlic parmesean fries and washing them down with Brooklyn Summer Ale, new to Box Frites this year.

Color guard After our appetizer, we made our way to our seats in the first row of section 137 in left-center field. I decided to splurge a little for the opener, choosing seats in a new vantage point and in a location where we'd be comfortable. Mom commented several times throughout the day how nice it was, especially the legroom as she stretched out and propped her feet on the screen in front of us. Looking over the wall before the game, we found ourselves situated between the banners for the 1986 World Series champions and the 1988 NL East champs, directly above the 384 mark. When Jason Bay hit his triple, I stood up and leaned out a little to watch Chris Coghlan pick up the ball on the warning track and fire it in, too late to third base.

One out to go Sitting in left-center made for some good scouting. Gary Matthews Jr. surprised many out there, and to me he looked like he had a good read on fly balls, taking charge in calling off Bay and Jeff Francoeur at times and going back and coming in with ease. Yes, he looked shaky on some, but that seemed to be more from the effects of the wind on the baseball than Matthews' ability. I certainly hope we don't have to critique Matthews' and Angel Pagan's play in center for too long, but at least they each got off on the right foot.

Maybin in center The same could not be said for the Marlins' Cameron Maybin, who flailed at the plate (as many do against Johan) and had an adventurous day in center field. A couple of bloop hits fell in front of Maybin, out of the reach of any infielders or Coghlan, but that isn't necessarily Maybin's fault. It is a vast outfield, and who knows how the Florida coaches had Maybin positioned. But on Rod Barajas' double in the four-run sixth, it seemed that Maybin was overmatched and out of position from the moment Barajas swung.

It was very easy to get caught up in David Wright's home run and Johan Santana's solid six innings. We didn't care that it's just Opening Day or that Johan can't pitch every game. It's the start of a new season; Spring Training is over and we'll worry about Game 2 on Wednesday. In fact, as Marty Noble's game story in that last link pointed out, the Mets did a lot of things right to start off 2010 that were problems in 2009 -- they brought home runners in scoring position (4-for-10, plus a sacrifice fly), tacked on runs (extending a 2-1 lead to the eventual 7-1 final) and put up a big inning (a four-run sixth immediately after Florida had cut the margin to 2-1).

Wright's home run Wright's homer was a particularly good sign after all the talk in the offseason about his power outage last year and the discussions in Spring Training about his enhanced physique. I truly believe he'll hit 20-25 out this year for a variety of reasons, not least among them the fact that Bay provides some protection in the lineup and once Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran return, Wright will hopefully bat with some threats on the bases more often than he did in '09. And after having the foresight to record Wright's home run in last year's home opener, was pleased to snap a photo when he hit his first this year. It wasn't until later that I realized that it was the first long ball of Wright's career that did not count for at least one of my fantasy teams. After some fortunate draft positions in the long-running keeper league (three players per team, with no one player allowed to be kept for more than three years in a row) Dave and I are in, this year I couldn't keep Wright and didn't have a chance to draft him before Dave did. But at least another Mets fan benefitted.

On Opening Day more than other days, I find that I want to see as much of the game as I can and am not as interested in walking around for other vantage points. I crossed Shea Bridge a couple of times and we entered through the rotunda, passing the Home Run Apple's new home out front. And after leaving through one of the exits on the first-base side, we saw Jerry Seinfeld and family (plus Tom Poppa, the host of the Seinfeld-produced The Marriage Ref) walking to their car in the ultra-VIP parking lot. They were in a small group and stopped at the edge of the lot, which would've been an easy opportunity to politely ask to take a photograph, but we chose not to bother him with his kids in tow.

So we didn't see the new Mets Hall of Fame (other than in passing as we walked up the stairs in the rotunda) or make our way down to McFadden's in center field. But we're already going back on Friday; I went to Stubhub and bought some slightly reduced Promenade Club tickets for the game against the Nationals and I hope to get there early to visit the museum and get a good spot in the Acela Club. We'd like to try fine dining at the ballpark just once, and I figured a cool, possibly rainy night against the Nats in April isn't a bad choice. I could've bought first-row Pepsi Porch tickets instead (another Citi Field goal for me), but with the possibility of rain, I figured sheltered was better -- even if Adam Dunn is in town.

Here are the rest of the photos of Opening Day, a truly beautiful and gorgeous day at Citi Field.

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Playing the predictions game

After a particularly bad showing -- even for me -- in my NCAA tournament pools (though I did do better than the president; however, I did not organize an historic change in public policy), I decided to continue with the horrific prognostications and I filled out a sheet in Wezen-Ball's predictions pool. I did not put much in the way of specific thought into my choices; my picks are more an on-the-fly guess based on reading a lot of preview material.

So here goes nothing ...

AL East
Boston (95-67)
New York (93-69)
Tampa Bay (91-71)
Baltimore (70-92)
Toronto (65-97)

Predicting these top three is a tossup. It wouldn't surprise me to see any of the three get to the World Series, with two of them facing off in the ALCS to do so. I'm kinda with Keith Olbermann in thinking that it might be expecting a lot for the Yankees to get through another season with all their aging stars avoiding DL time. ... Baltimore doesn't quite have enough pieces and I'm afraid Toronto is on for one loooooong season. Eh.

AL Central
Chicago (85-77)
Detroit (83-79)
Minnesota (83-79)
Kansas City (70-92)
Cleveland (69-93)

Another division in which I could see any of the top three winning it. I sort of took the easy way out putting Detroit and Minnesota in a tie (though the win totals are even more of a shot in the dark than the positioning), but the Twins' move to Target Field may be the biggest ballpark change we've seen out of them all. Though I also feel that if Joe Nathan weren't lost for the season, his presence would be good for at least three or four wins -- and the division title. So in looking at Tom Verducci's list of teams with losing records last year who could reach the playoffs this year (at least one team has done so in all but one year of the Wild Card era), I went with Chicago. ... Poor Zack Greinke. He'll have so little help. I'm not sure the Royals made a single good move in the offseason. Jason Kendall for two years? Really?! ... I just hope the Indians are able to keep Shin-Soo Choo beyond this season.

AL West
Seattle (86-76)
Texas (83-79)
Anaheim (81-81)
Oakland (80-82)

Yeah, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid on the Mariners. I can't say I'm too confident in that choice, especially with Cliff Lee off to an inauspicious start in Seattle. I just don't know if the Angels still have the pitching. I do think the Rangers are set to make some more strides this year, but the A's just don't have the offense -- they're even more anemic than the Mariners.

NL East
Atlanta (90-72)
Philadelphia (88-74)
New York (84-78)
Florida (83-79)
Washington (67-95)

I admit, this is as much hoping as it is predicting. I'm just tired of the Phillies. Though, as you'll see by the other records, I think they make the playoffs. I'm just not sure -- again, like Olbermann -- that Philly will be as fortunate with the injuries. I mean really, did the Mets take their share, plus the Yankees' plus the Phillies' last year? ... My choice of 84 wins for the Mets is down from what I thought at the start of Spring Training, when I was saying about 88 in discussions with friends and colleagues. But after seeing how the Maine-Perez-Pelfrey trio performed in Florida, losing Daniel Murphy (and not taking that opportunity to give Ike Davis a shot) and hearing that Alex Cora and Gary Matthews Jr. will get the Opening Day starts over Ruben Tejada and Angel Pagan, my faith is again shaken. And 84 is still a hopeful pick -- as in hoping the Mets can have one of those inspired spurts after changing managers. ... Florida definitely has some great stars, but who's after Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco? Who's in the bullpen? And it's a bit of a top-heavy lineup. ... Washington will score runs and Stephen Strasburg will draw the fans and live up to the hype, but the back half of the rotation, the bullpen and the defense aren't enough to get them to 75 or 80 wins this year.

AL Central
St. Louis (88-74)
Chicago (84-78)
Milwaukee (84-78)
Cincinnati (80-82)
Pittsburgh (74-88)
Houston (65-97)

I just think that Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan are a strong enough nucleus/braintrust and there wasn't enough improvement elsewhere in the division to close the gap. ... Chicago might be too high, unless Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez improve over last year to make up for the inevitable regression by Derrek Lee. Love the guy, but not sure he can repeat last year. ... Milwaukee brought in Doug Davis for the rotation and last year's Opening Day starter, Jeff Suppan, had a horrible spring and was placed on the DL in favor of ... Manny Parra. ... I can't buy into the Reds because Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo haven't been pitching like front-of-the-rotation pitchers for a couple of years. ... The Astros are plummeting so fast that I think the Pirates beat them out of the cellar.

AL West
Colorado (87-75)
San Francisco (84-78)
Los Angeles (83-79)
Arizona (78-84)
San Diego (77-85)

Big fan of the Rockies. I love Troy Tulowitzki and think their pitching is solid and they've got a great collection of young stars to offset Todd Helton's golden years. ... The Giants' big three in the rotation is great, but Jonathan Sanchez needs to put it together and they need to score more runs to win the division. ... As great as Joe Torre is -- and he's probably the perfect manager to guide the team with the off-the-field drama of the McCourts' divorce -- I don't know that he can manage around Manny Ramirez's fade or a depleted pitching staff. This is a team that was one step away from the World Series the past two years, but has only subtracted (at least from 2009 to 2010) and not added the pieces it would need to get past the Phillies. ... Arizona could reverse that record with a healthy, uninterrupted season from Brandon Webb. Well, once he comes back from the DL, that is. ... Does Adrian Gonzalez finish the season in San Diego, or in October? That is the question.


Don't forget your appetite at Citi Field

As I promised, here is my wife's write-up of the new culinary offerings at Citi Field this year. It's much better than I could've done, and not just because I don't like sushi.

I really should be having only a light breakfast right now so I can fully partake in the fare this afternoon.

It's a gorgeous 62 degrees in the metropolitan area this morning, folks, heading up to a beautiful 76. Time to play ball!

Happy Opening Day!

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When the Sox and Yanks meet to start the season

Five years ago, the last time the Yankees and Red Sox opened the season against one another, I wrote this post. So here is the updated list, with that 2005 season reflected (the starred years of 1917 and 1919 featured Babe Ruth on the Red Sox):

Season Winner NY record BOS record
2005 Yankees, 9-2 95-67 (1) 95-67 (2)
1992 Yankees, 4-3 76-86 (5) 73-89 (7)
1985 Red Sox, 9-2 97-64 (2) 81-81 (5)
1973 Red Sox, 15-5 79-76 (4) 85-70 (2)
1971 Red Sox, 3-1 82-80 (4) 85-77 (3)
1970 Red Sox, 4-3 93-69 (2) 87-75 (3)
1964 Red Sox, 4-3 99-63 (1) 72-90 (8)
1960 Yankees, 8-4 97-57 (1) 65-89 (7)
1959 Yankees, 3-2 79-75 (1) 75-79 (5)
1958 Yankees, 3-0 92-62 (1) 79-75 (3)
1951 Yankees, 5-0 98-56 (1) 87-67 (3)
1950 Yankees, 15-10 98-56 (1) 94-60 (3)
1945 Yankees, 8-4 81-71 (4) 71-83 (7)
1944 Yankees, 3-0 83-71 (3) 77-77 (4)
1939 Yankees, 2-0 106-45 (1) 89-62 (2)
1938 Red Sox, 8-4 99-53 (1) 88-61 (2)
1935 Red Sox, 1-0 89-60 (2) 78-75 (4)
1933 Yankees, 4-3 91-59 (2) 63-86 (7)
1931 Yankees, 6-3 94-59 (2) 62-90 (6)
1929 Yankees, 7-3 88-66 (2) 58-96 (8)
1926 Yankees, 12-11 91-63 (1) 46-107 (8)
1924 Yankees, 2-1 89-63 (2) 67-87 (7)
1923 Yankees, 4-1 98-54 (1) 61-91 (8)
1919 Red Sox, 10-1* 80-59 (3) 66-71 (6)
1917 Red Sox, 10-3* 71-82 (6) 90-62 (2)
1912 Red Sox, 5-3 50-102 (8) 105-47 (1)
1910 Tie, 4-4 88-63 (2) 81-72 (4)
1906 Yankees, 2-1 90-61 (2) 49-105 (8)
1904 Yankees, 8-2 92-59 (2) 95-59 (1)

These two storied franchises have now played 30 times to start the season, the Yankees now winning 18 of the 30, with one tie one hundred years ago, in 1910. (New York won the following day.)

So in the 29 years leading up to this one in which these two teams have started it all against one another, the Yankees have finished higher in the standings than the Red Sox 23 times -- counting 2005, when they tied with the same record but New York won the division and Boston got the Wild Card, though they both lost in the ALDS -- while also winning 10 pennants. Boston's won two pennants while finishing higher six times. Yet only one of the six meetings in the expansion era (since 1961) has led to a pennant-winning Yankee club, and that was in '64.

In all years, the Yankees' average record is 88-66 (.571) and their average place in the standings is 2.34. For Boston, it's 77-78 (.497) and 4.69.

New York has 26 winning seasons on the list to Boston's 14 (plus two at .500). The Yankees have 16 90-win seasons (one of which was a 100-win campaign) along with one 90-loss season, which was also a 100-loss season. The Sox won 90 or more five times (topping 100 once) and lost 90 six times (twice surpassing a hundred).

Now, in years when the Yankees win, they've gone on to have a 91-63 (.591) average record with an average standing of 1.83. When the Sox have lost the opener to the Yanks, they've gone 71-82 (.464), on average, to finish 5.33. But when Boston takes the first game, both teams finish with an average record of 84-71 (.542); however, Boston's standing is 3.60 while New York's is an ever-so-slightly better 3.30.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Photo Flashback: 1989 Exhibition Finale

I missed Friday and was never married to the "Photo Friday" moniker anyway, so I'm going with "Photo Flashback" for this one.

While thumbing through an old photo album the other day, I came across several shots from various trips to Shea Stadium and Cooperstown. They were all taken with my meager Kodak Disk camera, so they images aren't great. The players look like specs on the film, so you'll pretty much have to take my word that they are indeed from April 1989.

It was a Sunday, the final day of the exhibition season. The Mets and Yankees had agreed to resume playing Spring Training games against one other in '89, culminating with two in New York during the final weekend. On Saturday, April 1, 1989, they played in the Bronx. On Sunday the 2nd, they were at Shea. And so was I, along with my father, his brother and my cousin, the only Yankee fan in the bunch.

The Yankees won, 4-0, their fourth win in six exhibition games against the Mets. But it was the Amazin's who would have the better season, finishing 87-75, though six games behind the NL East-winning Cubs. The Yankees went 74-87, trailing the champion Blue Jays by 14 1/2.

What follows are the photos I found worthy of scanning from that day (you can see them individually on my Flickr account). In the second one, you may notice two hands in the air, reaching just above the foul line in the center of the photo. That's Mayor Ed Koch, who was on hand for the game. Oh, and those pregame shots with players in the infield? Not batting practice -- infield practice. When's the last time you saw that at a big-league ballpark?

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