11th and Washington

11th and Washington: September 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

When the magic number is an illusion

I'm a bit surprised at how many tweets and posts I've seen that say the Mets were eliminated from the postseason after last night's loss to the Marlins. They weren't -- it happened over the weekend against the Braves.

I'll admit, I didn't realize that the Mets' technical tragic number of one was inaccurate, but I also admit that I wasn't paying attention to what it was. In my mind, they were eliminated when they were swept in Arizona coming out of the All-Star break (if not the previous series, when they dropped three of four and were lucky to win that one in San Francisco). If you can't beat a last-place team -- nevermind a contender -- on the road, you're not going to be playing meaningful games in August, let alone September.

But when Mets Police directed me to Adam Rubin's post on ESPNNY, it made sense. I guess I figured that if it was on Mets Police and ESPN, it would be more widely known. It's a revealing article, but here's the gist: Yes, the Mets' elimination number was technically one, because after Sunday there were 14 games left to play and they were less than that behind the Phillies, which would lead one to believe that if the Mets won out and the Phillies never won again, the Mets would catch them. The only problem is that the Phillies still had six games with the Braves, meaning if Philadelphia lost every remaining game, Atlanta would pick up six wins -- and just one of those wins would eliminate New York. The Mets could catch the Phillies, but not the Braves.

So what it all means is that doing the math on won-lost records and games remaining can get you the magic number in a vacuum, but then you have to look at who the contenders have left to play.

We can only hope we're dealing with this issue from the other side next September, but somehow I doubt that.

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On a personal note ...

I first went to Cooperstown in 1988, when my family stopped over for a night in August on our way to Boston and Maine for our regular summer vacation. The second trip came in 1992, when we went -- and my sister and I each brought along a friend -- for Tom Seaver's induction into the Hall of Fame. That's the origin of this photo, Matt and myself next to a display after a long day of touring the Hall. I've long wanted to go back, not really caring when, and in fact thinking I'd do it in the offseason, when it would both be less crowded and, at least for lodging, cheaper (not to mention easier to reserve).

Then, rather suddenly last Saturday, it was determined that Casey and I will be going to Cooperstown on Thursday to spend the night. Friday is our fifth anniversary and in discussing what we wanted to do this year, we weren't really keen on another fancy dinner in New York City, which we've done for each of the past four. Last year, after reading a story in The Times about Block Island just after the summer season, I suggested that a four-day weekend on the island would be a good fifth-anniversary trip. But as September approached, we re-evaluated and determined four days away wasn't in our best interests, so we started thinking of other options.

Casey brought up the idea of using our National Parks Pass, bought in March and thus expiring in March 2011, but there's not much outside of NYC/NJ within four hours where we could use it. So I started putting into Google Maps random destinations to see how long the drive was from our home. Gettysburg fit within four hours, as did Cooperstown. I suggested the latter but played it down. Casey, after briefly perusing some dining options in town, was more enthused. "Let's do that," she declared.

So we booked a room at the Tunnicliff Inn, with plans to drive up on Thursday after Casey finishes work at noon, walk around town to decide where to eat, and then spend Friday at the Hall. We don't have a set time to be back, other than before too late Friday, because Casey has to work on Saturday morning.

Strangely, though, each day seems to have brought a new Cooperstown connection since we decided on this quick getaway. First, the Hall will be featured on Wednesday's "Ghost Hunters" on SyFy. And then there was this post on Baseball-Reference about the recent visit by one of the site's editors.

Before deciding on Cooperstown, we consulted the traditional anniversary gifts and saw that the fifth is wood, but that didn't give us any ideas. So now we're wondering if we should mark the occasion with a personalized bat. It's much better than the designated modern gift: silverware.

Beyond our lodging, the Hall of Fame and Friday's lunch, I don't think we'll plan much ahead of time. With Thursday morning now open, we can leave earlier and get into town to have a slightly later lunch on Thursday afternoon, then take more time to walk around a bit. We'll decide where to eat that night after we've checked out a few places in person. That Baseball-Reference post already has me eager to walk around the village for the first time in 18 years and see how it stands up to the memories of my 16-year-old self. And I wonder if I'll remember anything from inside the Hall that isn't in the photos I took or the video Matt and I made as we walked the galleries. (A video I hope to soon digitize, though it won't be before this trip.)

A quiet, start-of-autumn getaway to the shores of Otsego Lake should be the perfect break from hectic city/suburb life and a nice chance to recharge before the craziness of October.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

For the love of ... the game

I haven't felt an urge to write here in a few weeks because football -- specifically, college; more specifically, Notre Dame -- has begun and I find myself somewhat playing out the string when it comes to baseball. I'm still invested in it, seeing if the Rays can outlast the Yankees for the AL East (though what incentive does either team have to win the division?), if the Padres can hold on in the NL West, if the Rockies can make it another magical September and if the Braves really are the lesser of two very different but equally annoying and sickening evils in the NL East.

But with the Mets' season now a matter of whether they can get to 82 wins (not quite qualifying as "games that matter in September"), the discussion here in the blogosphere has naturally turned to next year. (And annoying, only-a-story-because-it's-New-York, off-the-field stuff like where the players go when they're in Washington.) We all know Jerry Manuel won't get a new contract when this one runs out, but I don't see him getting fired before the end of the season unless the Mets want to bring in Wally Backman for a seven-game tryout on the final homestand. (I just think it's unlikely they'll want to pay Manuel not to manage, even for a week.)

We don't know when Johan will pitch again, so I'm just going to try not to think about that. And it seems a given that Luis Castillo won't be on the team, one way or another, in 2011, if for no other reason than his contract is the easiest to eat out of Castillo, Oliver Perez and Carlos Beltran. (Personally, I would be fine with having Beltran next year, because I think of the three, he's the only one who can come close to a return on his salary, but without Johan, there's little point, so might as well see who'll give up what for him.)

There's one thing, though, that I keep reading here and there that really turns me off and makes me consider unsubscribing from all the Mets blogs I read and people I follow on Twitter -- trading Jose Reyes (and, though much less speculated, David Wright). I understand there's a difference between "listening to offers for a guy" and actively shopping him or considering a trade, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the posts that say Reyes has to go, that he's part of the problem and won't be part of the nucleus of a Mets playoff team during this decade. His enthusiasm and love for the game aside (how can you not smile when he gets up from a slide into third on a triple and claps his hands violently?), there aren't that many comparable leadoff hitters or shortstops who could replace him, let alone one player who could do both. The Mets are lucky in that they do have another leadoff option in Angel Pagan, but the lineup could be that much deeper if both are on the team. In fact, as of this writing, they have eerily similar stats, despite the fact that Reyes has played in 18 fewer games. With their problems on offense, the Mets can't afford to look for a good-field, no-hit shortstop -- especially if Ruben Tejada might be next year's second baseman.

Trading Reyes is the kind of move that would make me reconsider my allegiance to this team. (Trading Wright might just make me give up on the spot.) I love baseball and enjoy Citi Field too much to stop going, but on some days, the inaction by the front office or the refusal to acknowledge reality has me smirking at the crowds I see on TV. Yet, every February, just when winter's wrath starts to get old and even Florida seems inviting, I begin to think about Opening Day and can't bring myself to snap the string of attending the Mets' first game of the season in Queens. And so long as Nos. 7 and 5 are out there on the left side of the infield, I'll keep enjoying that day.

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