Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Keeping track of 2007's blessings -- and turkeys, too

I love Thanksgiving.

I realize the Lord has blessed me in many, many ways both large and small, and too often I forget to take a moment and express gratitude.

I have my health, an awesome family, 20 years of marriage, a job I love and a baseball team that was in it until the last day of the season.

So I like to use this day to pause and reflect on those things and the many, many others that make my life full.

And naturally, you can’t have Thanksgiving without turkeys, and there were plenty to try to spoil the fun in 2007. We need to keep track of them as well.

Speaking of turkey, this year I’m making one with an awesome maple glaze that was in my Rachael Ray magazine, proof to all that I get it for the articles.

So, before the balloons start making their way to Herald Square, here is the 2007 edition of things to be thankful for – and turkeys, too.

I’M THANKFUL FOR: David Wright. Let’s run down the list of accolades. Starting third baseman in the All-Star Game, Silver Slugger. Gold Glove. And you just know he deserved the MVP, too. Wright was a monster down the stretch when the Mets needed him most. Sadly, he coudn’t do it all by himself. They made a statue of Wright for Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum because darn it, you can’t have enough of him.

TURKEY: You know Derek F. Jeter is going to be on this list. The only question what did Mr. Yankee do this year to bring shame and disgrace to the baseball world and all of New York. This time, Derek allegedly hurt little kids and sick, elderly and poor people. DFJ claims to be a resident of Florida, where there is no state income tax. But New York’s Division of Taxation of Finance claims Jeter was more of a New York resident in 2001 through 2003 despite what he claims and could owe millions of dollars in back taxes. Taxes, I might add, that pay for things like schools, roads and medical care for the poor.

Nice, Derek. How many sick people went untreated because you couldn’t be bothered to pay your fair share?

I figure Derek owes dues to the actors union, too, after that performance where he caught the ball, kept running and jumped into the stands as if he was making some heroic diving catch.

I’M THANKFUL FOR: Tom Glavine getting career win No. 300 as a Met. We haven’t had too many players getting neat milestones while wearing our uniform. Lenny Harris’ career pinch-hit record is kind of cool, be we’ve missed on guys getting the big numbers that people celebrate, your basic 500 home runs, 3,000 hits and 300 wins.

Then again, Glavine has never been too close to our hearts, so it probably figured that he’d reach 300 on the road in Chicago instead of before semi-adoring fans at Shea.

TURKEY: Of course, those fans won't be even semi-adoring next time Glavine rolls into Shea. And that's because he's has been exposed as a saboteur — Will branded him a Glavateur — who snuck across enemy lines pretending to be one of us for five years. Then when we absolutely needed him to be halfway decent — and just halfway decent — to salvage a season he went and coughed up 7 runs and couldn’t get out of the first inning against the lowly Marlins.

At least with Chipper “Bleeping Jones,” we know where he stands. We know he plans to do us in. Sneaky Glavine was allowed to infiltrate and took us down at the worst possible moment. Now he scampers back to Atlanta where he will be greeted like a hero.

TURKEY: Speaking of Chipper “Bleeping” Jones. A bitter, cranky and shameless Chipper, it seems, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was “shocked” that Wright won the Gold Glove.

“I wouldn’t have been disappointed had someone like (Pedro) Feliz or (Aramis) Ramirez won it,” Jones said. “I’m a little confused by the final tally — that’s a head-scratcher for me.”

When asked if he thought Wright’s offense prowess got him the defensive award, Chipper said “Then (Miguel) Cabrera should have won it, if that were the case.” “When I find out [Wright won] I was speechless, for quite some time. Certainly the guys with the least amount of errors and best fielding percentage quite obviously didn’t win it.”

Yeah, and some guys win an MVP Award because they had one hot series against the Mets.

I’M THANKFUL FOR: The University of Missouri’s magical football season. I never once witnessed Mizzou win a home football game in the entire time I was enrolled there. In fact, it was considered a good season back then when the team could break 20 points against Nebraska. Not win the game, mind you, just break 20 points.

I keep waiting for the team to collapse, and it just hasn’t happened. I don’t think Missouri has ever sniffed a national championship before, certainly not in the BCS era, so we’ll enjoy this.

TURKEYS: The Jets. There is a reason I don’t get too emotionally vested in the NFL. Apparently “Mangenius” isn’t the sharpest guy out there after all. No playoffs for our J-E-T-S this year. On the bright side, we exposed the Patriots for being video-taping cheaters and we still have the best uniforms in all of football.

The mighty Grand River is wide, but not very deep, making it a good home to turtles and possible beavers.

I’M THANKFUL FOR: Kayak Version 2.0. I’m the least outdoorsy person you know. My idea of roughing it is staying at a Hampton Inn that doesn’t have a breakfast bar featuring a waffle machine, and I don’t like roughing it.

But I am completely enamored of my 10-foot kayak, which I launch into the mighty Grand River near my home.

There’s just something cool about paddling out there through the woods, seeing all sorts of wildlife. There are lots of turtles sunning themselves on logs and at least three big brown things I assume to be beavers. Hey, it’s not like they’re standing still with name tags, like at the museum.

TURKEYS: People on jet skis and in canoes, plus Kayak Version 1.0, otherwise known as the Ky-tanic. Nothing shatters the peace and scatters the turtles and brown things I assume to be beavers like doofs roaring down the mighty Grand in their jet skis. On the bright side, you can hear them coming from behind a mile away so you can prepare for the wake that will jostle us quieter river-users. Then you have people in canoes, who, while not noisy, are unfriendly and smirking, especially the ones I encountered in Kayak Version 1.0 as it appeared to be folding in half and sinking. And memo to sporting goods salespeople: The posted weight limit on small kayaks is not a suggestion.

I’M THANKFUL FOR: The Crane Pool Forum. It’s a spot on the Web where Mets fan gather to discuss our favorite baseball team and pretty much everything else. As games are being played, the CPF gang follows along, commenting on every at-bat. Since I can’t get to Shea, this is as close as I can get to watching a game with friends. It’s also neat that some of the posters are the folks behind some of the best Mets sites out there, like Faith and Fear in Flushing and the Ultimate Mets Database.

TURKEY: Alex Rodriguez, now to be called Gobble GobbleRod. Sadly, the CPF gang was force to spend time speculating whether the Saddest Yankee would be a fit on the Mets after he opted out of his mega-contract. Of course, he went to the only team stupid enough to roll out $275 million for a player, and that would be the team he just opted away from. At least the headline writers at the New York Post will be happy.

I’M THANKFUL FOR: The heck with Yankees, let’s talk about John Maine! When the Mets needed a win to stay alive in the next-to-last game of the season, Maine went out and darn near threw the team’s first no-hitter, taking a gem into the eighth inning and losing it on a lame infield squibbler. He piled up 15 wins with a 3.90 ERA, a breakout year for a guy we thought was a throw-in in the deal that sent Kris Benson and he wife to the Orioles.

So there you go. May you enjoy the holiday, realize the many blessings in your life and look forward to the year ahead.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Yorvit's already an all-time Met great

Should the Mets and catcher Yorvit Torrealba complete that deal they nearly signed this weekend, he move up on an all-time Mets list even before setting foot behind Shea’s plate.

Naturally, I’m talking about his name. The Mets have had 26 Mikes, 17 Bills and Bobs and 13 Johns. But we’ve never had a Yorvit before. Heck, we’ve only had one other player whose first name began with a Y, and that would be Yorkis Perez.

Using the amazing Web site that is the Ultimate Mets Database, I waded through all our players to find the ones with the strangest names.

And these had to be real names. No parent wrote filled out a birth certificate with a Yogi, Mookie, Duffy, Choo Choo or Tug.

And I eliminated the Asian players. I shamefully don’t know enough abut Asian culture to understand if Hideo, Takashi and Dae Sung are the Japanese and Korean versions of John and Phil and Rick.

So here they are, the most outlandish, tongue-twisting and head-scratching Mets names of all time.

1) Guerrand McCurdy Scarce. There’s a reason this 1975 pitcher was better known as “Mac.” And that’s good, because I can only imagine what might have happened to Ralph Kiner if he attempted pronouncing Guerrand. He came in the trade for Tug McGraw and left in a deal for Tom Hall -- better known as "The Blade." Lots of colorful names in those transactions.

2) Cleotha Walker. Here’s another guy who was better known by his nickname, “Chico.” He was with us in 1992 and 1993. I suspect many members of the dreadful 1993 team changed their names as they went into hiding.

3) McKay Christensen. He had a stint on the 2002 team, and I believe is our only player ever to have a capital letter in the middle of his first name. How many times as he been called Chris McKay by someone in a doctors office who assumed he filled out his form with the names reversed?

4) Bubba Trammell. We all know of people who have “Bubba” as a nickname, even presidents. But it’s right there on Mr. Trammell’s birth certificate. Technically it’s his middle name. But if he went by his given first name, Thomas, would anybody remember him? Bubba played for the 2000 team, and is known for going AWOL on the Yankees, as if anyone could blame him.

5) Elijah Jerry Green. Elijah is certainly becoming kind of trendy, but this was in the 1960s. One more guy better known by his nickname – “Pumpsie.” And his behavior off the field was as unusual as his name. His biggest claim to fame is that he is the first black player on the Boston Red Sox -- and shameful 12 years after Jackie Robinson made history.

6) Xavier Nady. I liked the X-man, and was sad to see him dealt to the Pirates in the middle of the 2006 season. He is the lone Met to have a first name start with X. Heck, we haven’t even had too many guys with an x in their first names at all. So Mr. Nady can share this spot with Esix Sneed, Ambiorix Burgos, Felix Heredia, Felix Millan, and a trio of guys named Alex -- Escobar, Ochoa and Trevino.

7) Herman Son Winningham. Let’s start with activity in the middle. I need to know if he has a sister who has “Daughter” as her middle name. As for the rest of it, Herman Winningham sounds more like a bank president than an outfielder. Come to think of it, this member of the 1984 team played more like a bank president than an outfielder.

8) Mauro Gozzo. This pitcher, also known as “Goose,” was another member of the dreadful 1993 team. They were terrible, but they sure were colorful.

9) Reid Cornelius. That sounds like a Hollywood name for a brawny, blonde and brainless action hero. And amazingly, he’s not our only Cornelius. That’s Cliff Floyd’s real name.

10) Timoniel Perez. A lot of people call him “Timo.” I call him “The Guy Who Cost Us Game One of the 2000 World Series.”

Honorable mentions: Roger Royce Ring, Orel Hershiser, Cleon Jones, Duaner Sanchez, Bartolome Fortunato, Blas Minor, Octavio Dotel, Lute Barnes, Ober Moreno and Blaine Beatty.

Now here's why I'm worried about our new friend -- or not -- Yorvit. With the exception of Cleon Jones, none of these guys was around too long. Sure, some of that was because of age, like Orel, or a trade, like Octavio and Xavier. But most of these guys pretty much sucked. So we're pulling for Torreabla to break that cycle of shame.

Here’s some other fun Mets name information. We’ve had five sets of guys with the same names: Mike Marshall, Bobby Jones, Bob Johnson and Bob Miller – who were on the 1962 team at the same time. As if Casey didn’t have enough problems. Fellow Crane Pool Forum poster Steve Rogers reminded me that we also had two versions of Pedro Martinez. The lesser-known Pedro pitched in five games in 1996.

Happy birthday, Tom Seaver!

Why this isn't a national holiday, I don't know. But a happy 63rd to "The Franchise." Celebrate by enjoying the final out of Tom's glorious 300th win.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

We're old -- in a young sort of way

The Mets brought back Moises Alou, 41, and Damion Easley, 38, and that got me thinking.

Both of these guys seem a little old — by baseball player standards, mind you. As a 43-year-old, I can announce that people in their 40s are indeed young.

But it seems like the Mets have a thing for players in this age group, more so than in the past. So I did some checking. And darn it, we are old!

The friends at www.baseball-reference.com have an amazing data base, and I checked the average age of the team for each of our years. Then I looked for the oldest player for each year, and the number of players over 40.

Last year we had our oldest team ever, with an average age of 30.8 -- beating out the 2002 disaster, which was 30.5.

The youngest teams were 1967 — 25.8 years old — and the 1969 champs, at 25.9 years old.

We’ve only had nine years with a 40-year-old. Last year we had six on the roster, a team record! We had six with five on the roster for the demise: Tom Glavine, Jeff Conine and Sandy Alomar Jr. (all 41) and Orlando Hernandez, (allegedly 41) and Alou, 40. Of course, we had Julio Franco, 48, through the All-Star Game.

The year before we had three, with Franco, Glavine and Hernandez. There were two in 1999 — Orel Hersheiser and Rickey Henderson — and 1965, with Yogi Berra and Warren Spahn.

We had one member of the 40 and Over Club in 2000 — Rickey Henderson — 1985 and 1986 — both Rusty Staub — and 1972 and 1973 — both Willie Mays.

And in case you are curious, our youngest oldest player was 33 — in 1974 and the 1986 champs.

Here’s average age per year, and the oldest player on the club:

1962: 29.0, Gene Woodling, 39
1963: 27.4, Gil Hodges, 39
1964: 26.9, Roy McMillin and Frank Lary, 34.
1965: 26.4, Warren Spahn, 44
1966: 26.9, Ken Boyer and Bob Friend, 35
1967: 25.8, Boyer, 36
1968: 26.0, Ed Charles, 35
1969: 25.9, Ed Charles, 36
1970: 26.5, Donn Clendenon and Don Cardwell, 34
1971: 26.7, Donn Clendenon, 35
1972, 27.3, Willie Mays, 41
1973, 27.9, Willie Mays, 42
1974, 27.8, Ray Sedecki, Jack Aker, 33
1975, 28.6, Joe Torre, 34
1976, 28.5, Joe Torre, 35
1977, 27.0, Joe Torre, 36
1978, 27.1, Jerry Koosman, 35
1979, 27.6, Jose Cardenal, 35
1980, 27.4, Dyar Miller, 34
1981, 28.2, Mike Marshall, 38
1982, 28.7, Rusty Staub, 38
1983, 27.6, Rusty Staub, 39
1984, 27.2, Rusty Staub, 40
1985, 28.1, Rusty Staub, 41
1986, 28.0, Ray Knight, Tim Corcoran, 33
1987, 28.0, Bill Almon, 34
1988, 27.8, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Terry Leach, 34
1989, 27.5, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Terry Leach, 35
1990, 27.5, Tommy Herr, 34
1991, 29.1, Rick Cerone, 37
1992, 30.0, Willie Randolph, 37
1993, 29.4, Frank Tanana, 39
1994, 27.8, Kevin Mc Reynolds, 34
1995, 27.4, Brett Butler, 38
1996, 27.2, John Franco, 35
1997, 27.3, Lance Johnson, 33
1998, 28.8, Tony Phillips, 39
1999, 30.0, Orel Hersheiser and Rickey Henderson, 40
2000, 30.4, Rickey Henderson, 41
2001, 30.3, Dennis Cook, 38
2002, 30.5, Steve Reed, 37
2003, 29.3, Tom Glavine, Al Leiter, Jay Bell, 37
2004, 29.8, Tom Glavine, Al Leiter, 38
2005, 28.8, Tom Glavine, 39
2006, 30.1, Julio Franco, 47
2007, 30.8, Julio Franco, 48

I realize Omar likes to have a mix of younger players and experienced veteans, but I’m wondering if he might need to spend a little more time looking at guys on the south side of 30, much less 40.

Not that people in their 40s are old. Which is what I keep telling myself.