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February 20, 2007
  
Surprise Parties

It seems like every year at least one guy seemingly comes out of nowhere to win a job out of Spring Training. These are usually guys who either aren’t on the 40-man roster or are buried below other guys and are thought to be a year or so from contributing to a major league team. Actually, it doesn’t just seem like it; it pretty much happens every year like clockwork. Whether these guys stick around for a whole year and become solid contributors is another matter, however.

In 2006, Darren Oliver resurrected himself from the dead to earn a spot in the bullpen, tossing twelve spring innings with a 1.46 ERA and eleven strikeouts. Oliver, who hadn’t had an ERA below the league average since 1999, threw 81 innings with an ERA 25% better than average.

In 2005, two guys made the bullpen who I would have given little-to-no shot prior to the start of camp: Roberto Hernandez and Manny Aybar. Hernandez, at the age of 40 and two years removed from his last truly successful campaign, became the Mets’ most effective reliever. Aybar did not.

In 2004, Tyler Yates shocked the hell out of me when he won the job as the Mets’ fifth starter out of Spring Training. His competition wasn’t terribly strong—Aaron Heilman, Scott Erickson, James Baldwin, and Matt Ginter were the other competitors, but another spot opened up when Jae Seo fell into disfavor with Mets management. Erickson was named the team’s fourth starter, and Yates earned the fifth slot. Yates was a kid recovering from Tommy John surgery with a live arm and shaky control, and I had him pegged for the bullpen. Instead, he pitched competently in Spring Training and won the job by default, only to lose it soon after. Eric Valent also qualifies here, as I was barely aware he was in camp, and he wound up the team’s top option off the bench.

Like 2004, the 2003 Mets’ had two spots open in the rotation. The principal candidates were Jason Middlebrook, Aaron Heilman, David Cone, Donovan Osborne, and Mike Bacsik, but Seo had a very successful spring, and forced his way into the fourth spot with Cone taking the fifth. The sentimental choice, Cone didn’t surprise me very much, but I thought Seo was Norfolk-bound. He wound up with a better ERA than any starter on the staff save Trachsel.

Each of the past four years has featured some kind of guy who slipped by beneath the radars to win a job no one really expected him to win. The obvious trend that emerged is that all of these guys, except for Valent, have been pitchers filling in the last spot in the bullpen or the last spot in the rotation. Sometimes they’re veterans who are settling for a minor league deal after a couple of off seasons (Oliver, Hernandez, Aybar) but occasionally they’re young guys who get selected by demonstrating what they’ve always done well in the minors (Yates, Seo).

So, what about this year? Who’s going to be our little surprise in 2007?

The way I see it, there are really only three question marks on the roster prior to the start of the season: the last spot on the bench, which will go to either Ben Johnson or David Newhan, the last spot in the rotation, and the last spot in the bullpen. There are a number of candidates for that last spot in the rotation, and I’m not sure there’s a true dark horse among them. Jason Vargas and Alay Soler are probably the closest things to one out there—Newsday listed their odds of success at 30:1 and 50:1, respectively—so I guess they qualify.

The bullpen has two guys who I think could surprise the club right off the bat in Spring Training and earn the last spot in the bullpen, which likely belongs to Ambriorix Burgos at the moment. The first guy is Joe Smith, the sidearming righty who could take Chad Bradford’s place as the team’s right-handed specialist. Smith, who has a phenomenal slider, seems picture-perfect for the role, and despite his limited minor league experience, he always figured to move through the system quickly.

The last guy is Marcos Carvajal, who was just acquired off waivers from the Devil Rays a couple of days ago. Carvajal is a smoke-throwing righty who already has some major league experience despite being just 22, thanks to the Rule 5 draft a couple of years ago. He has a fastball that can get into the high 90’s, and a solid changeup. However, his slider is still a work in progress by all reports, and he only pitched in Double-A last year, where his control was still shaky. Still, his strikeout rates were solid, and he kept the ball in the park reasonably well. If anything, he looks rather similar to Burgos, who is only slightly older and has an additional year of experience. However, if Burgos struggles this spring, and Carvajal impresses, they might find their positions switched.

Of course now that I’ve said it, can it be a surprise if either wins a job?


889 Responses to “Surprise Parties”

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  1. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 9:13 pm (#236512)

    Was the catcher’s interference (goaltender’s interference) call on LoDuca (Avery) legit? Or was it another example of John Smoltz (Martin Brodeur) getting all the calls?

  2. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 9:14 pm (#236513)

    Ok I have 1B,2B,3B,HR,Rbi,R,SB,Sac,BB,HBP,PH for hitting

    and W CG,SHO,Hld,Sv,10K,7ip,iDP,3Kip? for pitching

    yes CG is there

  3. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 9:14 pm (#236514)

    A little rank

    I’m a Mets (Suns) fan. When Pedro (Nash) got hurt, we lost a bunch of games. Now, the media is making a big deal about it. I know how important Pedro (Nash) is but I think it needs to be noted that Williams (Diaw) & Padilla (Thomas) were also hurt during the same time. Thats 3 guys from our 12 man pitching staff (8 man rotation).

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  5. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 9:17 pm (#236515)

    I think we’re starting to be a little transparent (tipping our hats about talking off topic).

  6. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 9:18 pm (#236516)

    20 catagories is a good round number. If someone gets 10 i’ll be suprised. How about a tiebreaker being guessing how many you will get right, whoever is closest? noone expects to get 20 right correct?

  7. Comment posted by bcuster on February 20, 2007 at 9:20 pm (#236517)

    i wouldn’t worry about being off topic anymore, if i were you…

  8. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 9:21 pm (#236518)

    20 catagories is a good round number. If someone gets 10 i’ll be suprised. How about a tiebreaker being guessing how many you will get right, whoever is closest? noone expects to get 20 right correct?

    I think their should be a better tiebreaker like combined HR for the month of april

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  10. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 9:21 pm (#236519)

    But what if, in fact, I WAS me?

  11. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 9:21 pm (#236520)

    Thats right 7 more days and ST games begin baby!!!

  12. Comment posted by bcuster on February 20, 2007 at 9:22 pm (#236521)

    be not afraid, the head geeks are merciful and just geeks…

  13. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 9:23 pm (#236522)

    combined HR for the month of april

    yeah that would be better

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  15. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 9:25 pm (#236523)

    Would the combined HR for April be Price is Right style? (closest without going over)

  16. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 9:27 pm (#236524)

    secondary tiebreakers can be:

    -How many 1000’s PLD loses betting in april
    -How many drive by’s milledge does in april
    -How many Pouty faces heilman makes in april
    -How many balls drop in front of Green in april
    -How many days Delgado misses waiting for his kid to pop out in april

  17. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 9:29 pm (#236525)

    86 would ahve done the secondary tiebreakers more justice then me im sure ;-)

  18. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 9:31 pm (#236526)

    OH nylander so close!!!!!

  19. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 9:37 pm (#236528)

    Knockout rangers !!!!!

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  21. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on February 20, 2007 at 9:45 pm (#236529)

    It sounds good, Wdwrkr. I spoke to Eric just now, and we’ll match your contribution with a Mets World Series DVD (the single-disc, not the box set). We’ll throw a thread up there once the season is in sight. Just keep track of the categories you want to use, and e-mail them to one of us.

  22. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 9:46 pm (#236530)

    Ok great thanks alot Alex. Is that the 2007 WS DVD ? ;-)

  23. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 9:49 pm (#236531)

    Ok I have 1B,2B,3B,HR,Rbi,R,SB,Sac,BB,HBP,PH for hitting

    and W CG,SHO,Hld,Sv,10K,7ip,iDP,3Kip? for pitching

    This is what we settled on so write up a thread and just list them.

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  25. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on February 20, 2007 at 9:52 pm (#236532)

    Ok great thanks alot Alex. Is that the 2007 WS DVD ? ;-)

    Nah, the 2006 one. You know, Mets sweeping the Tigers. Glavine throwing a perfect game in Game 2. Beltran’s grand slam in the 10th to win Game 1.

  26. Comment posted by C Low Ta Life on February 20, 2007 at 9:55 pm (#236533)

    According to Eric Enders, a researcher with the Baseball Hall of Fame, there are 23 legal ways to get to first base (including a base hit). They are:
    1) Walk
    2) Intentional walk
    3) Hit by pitch
    4) Dropped third strike
    5) Failure to deliver pitch within 20 seconds
    6) Catcher interference
    7) Fielder interference
    8) Spectator interference
    9) Fan obstruction
    10) Fair ball hits an umpire
    11) Fair ball hits a runner
    12) Fielder obstructs runner
    13) Pinch-runner
    14) Fielder’s choice
    15) Force out at another base
    16) Preceding runner put-out allows batter to reach first
    17) Sac bunt fails to advance runner
    18) Sac fly dropped
    19) Runner called out on appeal
    20) Error
    21) Four illegal pitches
    22) If a game is suspended with a runner on first and that player is traded prior to the makeup, another player can take his place

  27. Comment posted by Sir Udamn on February 20, 2007 at 9:59 pm (#236534)

    From mclite

    At his blog for the Bergen Record, Steve Popper writes about 18–year-old OF Fernando Martinez, who took batting practice today at Tradition Field, in front of Fred Wilpon, Omar Minaya and others.

    According to Popper, Martinez will likely begin the year in Double-A, while Carlos Gomez will likely begin the year at Triple-A.

    I figured Fernando would start in the PSL not AA.

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  29. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on February 20, 2007 at 9:59 pm (#236535)

    This is what we settled on so write up a thread and just list them.

    OK. We’ll post them when there’s a week or two until the start of the season. It’ll help get people amped for the start of the season.

  30. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 10:01 pm (#236536)

    Martinez will likely begin the year in Double-A

    Bingo here we come ;-), you guys will get a full report.

  31. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 10:03 pm (#236537)

    What a BS goal for the rangers to lose on ;-(

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  33. Comment posted by El Deppo on February 20, 2007 at 10:04 pm (#236538)

    fernando! is expected to start the year at Double-A.

    wow.

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  35. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:04 pm (#236539)

    Devils win again thanks to a complete lack of penalty calls by the officials….

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  37. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:05 pm (#236540)

    Wdwrk, is it just me or was that odd man rush that the Devils scored on essentially due to about two blatant crosschecks in front of Brodeur?

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  39. Comment posted by El Deppo on February 20, 2007 at 10:05 pm (#236541)

    carolina and toronto lost too.

    now montreal just has to blow it and its near perfect!

  40. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 10:05 pm (#236542)

    That pooholes dipstick was the Ramon on Ed’s blog. I think hes been banned here. He posted on Delcos blog.

  41. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 10:07 pm (#236543)

    hell yeah Fook, what BS. They will get theirs you wait and see.

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  43. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:11 pm (#236545)

    Get theirs? You mean, get first round home advantage during the playoffs? I don’t get it. Every game against the Devils, the Rangers only get 1 to 2 power plays despite that fact that the Devils “commit” just as many penalties as any other team. You can’t tell me the Devils play more “disciplined”. I watch them regularly and they don’t. They do just as much grabbed and hooking and tripping and crosschecking as any other team. They just NEVER get called for it.

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  45. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:12 pm (#236546)

    Sorry, I’m just especially ticked off because they scored that goal RIGHT when I got home from work and turned on the TV….

  46. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 10:14 pm (#236547)

    The NHL wants the devils seeded #1 for sure, and Pittsburgh #2, we cant have them meeting early in the playoffs can we. Its like Jordan getting away with everything.

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  48. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:17 pm (#236548)

    If it was an NHL conspiracy, you’d think they’d be ramrodding the Rangers into the playoffs. I dunno. I’ve always been of the opinion that the Devils organization were just very good at teaching how to get away with penalties but when they miss blatant s### like those crosschecks in front of the goal that single handedly led to an odd man rush….

  49. Comment posted by Sir Udamn on February 20, 2007 at 10:22 pm (#236549)

    fernando! is expected to start the year at Double-A.

    wow.

    Exactly. I knew Omar liked to push prospects but damn and 18yo kid in AA that is insane.

    Lunk I agree with you that the Devils get away with a ton shit.

  50. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:23 pm (#236550)

    Maybe I’ll win the mega millions tonight

  51. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:24 pm (#236551)

    You know why the Devils get away with stuff? Cause if the Devils werent good, the NHL would lose fans. 9/10 canadians who root for a American team root for NJ (according to me)

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  53. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:25 pm (#236552)

    Lunk I agree with you that the Devils get away with a ton ####.

    I was watching the Devils/Penguins came over the weekend. At one point, Dominic Moore was nudged into Brodeur, then crosschecked to the ground, and Brodeur did a two handed pile drive into Moore’s face.

    Guess how many penalties the Devils got for that? I’ll give you two guesses.

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  55. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:25 pm (#236553)

    9/10 canadians who root for a American team root for NJ (according to me)

    hahaha, this despite the fact they can’t sell out their own arena.

    The crowd of 18,537 was the Devils’ second highest this season, trailing only the 18,589 on Feb. 3 against Buffalo. They have not had a sellout in 32 home games.

  56. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:26 pm (#236554)

    I’m a predators fan for geographic reasons. I dont know crap bout them but they are my team

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  58. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:27 pm (#236555)

    fernando! is expected to start the year at Double-A.

    Is it just me or did F-Mart hit .193 in high A?

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  60. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:28 pm (#236557)

    #

    I’m a predators fan for geographic reasons. I dont know crap bout them but they are my team

    I liked the Preds a lot. Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan are heroes to us short hockey players. But I can’t forgive you guys for having Forsberg. I hate Forsberg more than I hate shellfish.

  61. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:28 pm (#236558)

    Is it just me or did F-Mart hit .193 in high A?

    He did hit .253 against double A and Triple A guys in the fall league

  62. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:29 pm (#236559)

    I’m not even in to hockey and I hate Forsberg

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  64. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:29 pm (#236560)

    He did hit .253 against double A and Triple A guys in the fall league

    I don’t know about you but I have trouble comparing fall leagues to regular summer leagues *cough* Ahern *cough cough*

  65. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:30 pm (#236561)

    Michel Abreu was 8th in the fall league in ops

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  67. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:31 pm (#236562)

    Well, Michel Abreu is a budding superstar. He just hasn’t ripened yet (will ripen sometime in his 40’s).

  68. Comment posted by Sir Udamn on February 20, 2007 at 10:31 pm (#236563)

    I was watching the Devils/Penguins came over the weekend. At one point, Dominic Moore was nudged into Brodeur, then crosschecked to the ground, and Brodeur did a two handed pile drive into Moore’s face.

    Guess how many penalties the Devils got for that? I’ll give you two guesses.

    I saw that. I watch a lot of Devils games when nothing good is on which happens a lot.

  69. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:32 pm (#236564)

    I don’t know about you but I have trouble comparing fall leagues to regular summer leagues *cough* Ahern *cough cough*

    There is more consistant talent in the fall league than the winter leagues. In the fall league, your going against the top pitchers of the high minors. In the winter league, one day you might face Julian Tavaras and the next day you might face unknown 31 year old LH who a stupid commentator says that he could be the next Francisco Liriano.

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  71. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:32 pm (#236565)

    My girlfriend is Pens fan which is why I watched that game. It’s just so frustrating to watch a team like that, the complete antithesis of what they want to NHL to be, win over and over again on blown calls and lack of calls.

  72. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:33 pm (#236566)

    I watched the Panthers-Rangers game last week on replay.

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  74. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:34 pm (#236567)

    In the fall league, your going against the top pitchers of the high minors.

    True, but it’s also where you put guys who are talented but don’t seem to be quite getting it yet and you hope some extra at bats/pitches will help them straighten out.

  75. Comment posted by Sir Udamn on February 20, 2007 at 10:35 pm (#236568)

    But we know Michel can hit he just is a statue with no glove at first

  76. Comment posted by Danny on February 20, 2007 at 10:35 pm (#236569)

    I just got back online and TLC is absolutely right about the AZ Fall League.

    It’s actually better everyday competition than merely Double-A. Fernando! will be up the the task.

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  78. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on February 20, 2007 at 10:36 pm (#236570)

    But we know Michel can hit he just is a statue with no glove at first

    If that were entirely true, some AL team would be drooling over him. There’s a reason (besides AgeGate) that Boston let him go.

  79. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:37 pm (#236571)

    Michel was also 7th in slugging in the fall league

  80. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:39 pm (#236572)

    If that were entirely true, some AL team would be drooling over him. There’s a reason (besides AgeGate) that Boston let him go

    AT the time, he was a two sport athlete. He decided to give up his other sport Artistic gymnastics.

  81. Comment posted by Sir Udamn on February 20, 2007 at 10:41 pm (#236573)

    I think Fernando! is great, but him starting at Bing suprised I figured he would be there mid to late season. If he is in Bing I will go see him play in Trenton.

  82. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:42 pm (#236574)

    Brokenbat Mountain

  83. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:44 pm (#236575)

    Another Yankee couple

  84. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 10:45 pm (#236576)

    gayrod

  85. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 10:48 pm (#236577)

    Not that theres anything wrong with that.

  86. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 10:50 pm (#236578)

    from hotfoot

    One of the more impressive sights of the afternoon was watching Fernando Martinez, the 18-year-old centerfielder, put on a power hitting display during BP. The lefty-hitting Martinez blasted a shot that sailed over the 400-foot mark in center and caromed off the 40-foot high batter’s eye. Asked for his opinion of the youngster, principal owner Fred Wilpon, who had been watching behind the cage, simply uttered, “Wow.”

  87. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 10:51 pm (#236579)

    hotfoot also has a great Milledge highlight video

  88. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 10:54 pm (#236580)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpHy0RLK9IY

  89. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 10:56 pm (#236581)

    Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 10:54 pm (#236580)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpHy0RLK9IY

    Should be a better song

  90. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 10:57 pm (#236582)

    Mets beat Wankees

  91. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 11:01 pm (#236583)

    2007 Mets

  92. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 11:04 pm (#236584)

    hahahaha did you see Newhans picture, he looks like alfred e newman

  93. Comment posted by C Low Ta Life on February 20, 2007 at 11:06 pm (#236585)

    Should be a better song

    Nice video wdwrkr. Yeah, he needs The Game or something. Fat Lip by Sum 41 doesn’t cut it.

  94. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 11:08 pm (#236586)

    The clincher still gives me chills

  95. Comment posted by C Low Ta Life on February 20, 2007 at 11:10 pm (#236587)

    Wow wdwrkr. I was in the upper deck that night probably in the same section (it looks like Section 3)

  96. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 11:16 pm (#236588)

    Has anyone seen how cerrone has taken credit for naming valentin “Stache”. What a maroon!

  97. Comment posted by C Low Ta Life on February 20, 2007 at 11:16 pm (#236589)

    I still get over how much our bullpen improved from 05 to 06. It was insanely different.

  98. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 11:18 pm (#236590)

    Alou & Delgado interview

  99. Comment posted by C Low Ta Life on February 20, 2007 at 11:21 pm (#236591)

    I can’t wait to lose my voice on Opening Day. Endy is going to get some reception.

  100. Comment posted by PHL on February 20, 2007 at 11:27 pm (#236592)

    News 4 in NYC sports coverage waxing about the “cohesiveness” and “camaraderie” of the Mets camp as a contrast to the Yankees.

  101. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on February 20, 2007 at 11:27 pm (#236593)

    C Low me and metswin were in left fiel;d Loge right at the foul pole for the clincher. Great seats and we saw Cliff make that catch right below us.

  102. Comment posted by Future on February 20, 2007 at 11:47 pm (#236595)

    So I guess everyone else saw this, right?

    Lastings Milledge not only made himself look bad last year with a series of immature missteps, but ultimately angered his Mets teammates, too. The low point came in Washington toward the end of last season, when Milledge had a sign waiting for him over his locker that read, “Know Your Place, Rook.” It appears his teammates are ready to forgive and forget. Billy Wagner, who eventually owned up to posting the sign, is not holding a grudge.

    Didn’t see that Wagner owned up to it.

  103. Comment posted by TLC on February 20, 2007 at 11:52 pm (#236596)

    Wagner owned up to it. Wow!

  104. Comment posted by lucienlc on February 21, 2007 at 12:16 am (#236605)

    I don’t recall Wagner in particular owning up to it, but I do recall reading somewhere that supposedly it was the work of a trio of Wagner, Glavine and Floyd.

  105. Comment posted by lucienlc on February 21, 2007 at 12:17 am (#236606)

    I love the idea of picking firsts for hitting and pitching, but I still kind of like the idea of picking who gets the first hit of the season (whatever kind of hit it may be). Maybe that could also be a tie-breaker?

  106. Comment posted by Future on February 21, 2007 at 12:33 am (#236608)

    Floyd would never do something like that. Maybe Glavine and Wagner were in on it together. But never my boy Cliff Floyd, he’s a honorable straightfoward man who would have said his beef right to Lastings’ face.

  107. Comment posted by TLC on February 21, 2007 at 12:35 am (#236609)

    Wagner’s Cold Blooded like Rick James

  108. Comment posted by lucienlc on February 21, 2007 at 8:46 am (#236635)

    Floyd would never do something like that. Maybe Glavine and Wagner were in on it together. But never my boy Cliff Floyd, he’s a honorable straightfoward man who would have said his beef right to Lastings’ face.

    Just sayin’ what I read in the papers last fall. Those were the three names mentioned.

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