Free Bartolo campaign = INSTANT SUCCESS

The greatest MLBlog in the history of MLBlogs is also the most influential.

While I didn’t exactly make it a point to say in any of my posts from this season that Bartolo Colon should be in the Yanks’ rotation, I did title one post “Free Bartolo,” and everyone should have realized that was just short for: “Free Bartolo from the shackles of the bullpen and put him in the rotation for he is a stud.”

I’m not going to lie and say I was on board the Free Bartolo campaign from the beginning (well, since I started it, I guess, technically, I was).  When I heard that the Yankees signed Colon to a Minor League deal, I, like most everyone else, thought it was another example of how unprepared they were for the possibility that Cliff Lee would reject their big-money offer AND Andy Pettitte would end up retiring (I know Colon signed before Pettitte retired, but I think they were pretty sure he was retiring at that point). Colon didn’t pitch in the Majors last season, he hasn’t been all that good/healthy since he won the Cy Young in 2005, and the thing I always think about whenever someone mentions Colon is the time A-Rod took him deep three times in the same game.

Also, the man is a bit portly. I know he wasn’t exactly lean when he won the Cy Young, but it’s never a good sign when a candidate for your favorite team’s starting rotation is being compared to Andre the Giant. However, despite the time off and the plus-sized pinstripes, Colon was impressive throughout Spring Training, and I was surprised when he lost out to Freddy Garcia for the fifth-starter’s spot (thus, Free Bartolo was born). Apparently the biggest supporter — outside of this MLBlog — of the Free Bartolo campaign was Phil Hughes, who imploded in all three of his starts this season and is now on the DL with a dead arm, which has allowed Colon to join the rotation and strut his stuff.

So, successful campaign, and while I’ll be rooting for him, I can’t wait to ignore Colon’s start against the Blue Jays on Wednesday while I watch the Rangers battle the Capitals in Game 4 of the NHL playoffs. #fireableoffense

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Free Bartolo campaign = INSTANT SUCCESS

Izzy Izzy Izzy!

The Mets continued their recent run of fakeness last night, but more importantly, Jason Isringhausen is back in action! The man is a straight-up stud, and came back with a bang last night, getting the Mets out of a jam with one out in the top of the seventh inning. Big Izzy came out to a hero’s welcome (by hero’s welcome, I mean I was chanting his name in my living room), and proceeded to get a ground out (almost a double play), and then an F8 to retire the pride of the Rockies, Todd Helton. Izzy had some decent pop on his fastball (low-to-mid 90s), and he snapped off some filthy curveballs as well.

I would have been pumped up to see any pitcher in the Mets’ bullpen get out of a late-inning jam, but the fact that it was Izzy doing the work made it certified Grade A Realness. He would have been in line for the W if Tulo didn’t make an absurd (Jeter style) play in the hole to rob Daniel Murphy of the go-ahead RBI base hit (after a two-out triple by Reyes, his second three-bagger of the night). Bobby Parnell ended up getting shelled in the next half inning to break the game open (terrible fielding on the mound, because apparently the Mets didn’t focus during pitcher’s fielding practice in Spring Training; followed by a Tulowitzki biiizooomb), and the Mets went on to lose … again.

As much as I am growing more and more frustrated by the Mets’ bullpen giving away games, for a night my anger was tempered by the return of one of my childhood favorites. Growing up as a Mets fan, Izzy was my favorite player in the mid 90s. Izzy was a highly-touted prospect in the Mets’ farm system (Generation faKe), but as a young kid, that was not the basis for my Izzy love. My adoration of Izzy stemmed from him being one of the first autographs I ever got as a child. There are countless stories across the baseball fandom of people loving or, sometimes, hating players based on an encounter they had with them in person (especially as a kid). Getting Izzy’s autograph before a game at Shea Stadium as a kid forever made me a huge fan of him, and made me want to be a pitcher.

I was a fired-up 12 year old when the Mets traded him to the Oakland Athletics for crap (Billy Taylor … who? Exactly) only a few appearances after he returned from Tommy John surgery. Along those same lines, I was also probably one of the few people (outside of Izzy himself, and possibly some of his close relatives) that was ecstatic to find out that the Mets were bringing him to Spring Training this year. Izzy went on to have a very successful career as a closer for the A’s and Cardinals. He ended up making two All-Star teams, and led the league in saves (2004) once. If he can stay healthy, and K-Rod has any injury issues, he has a chance to reach 300 career saves (currently at 293, second most among active pitchers behind the almighty Mo).

This season is still very young, but if the Mets starters do not start pitching deeper into games, and the mess of a bullpen (except for Izzy, obviously) does not start throwing significantly better, this is going to be a very long season for the Mets faithful. The bats are giving them plenty of chances to win games (especially the RBI machine that is Ike Davis), but it ultimately comes down to solid pitching, and the Mets have not shown much of it. Hopefully the play will improve, but for now I will just enjoy watching my boy Jason Isringhausen back on the mound for the Mets.

Pizzas for all.

-Kevin McRainoutsallovertonight

Izzy Izzy Izzy!

Beckett bringing the high, stinky cheese

Yes, I am typing this while watching “Rookie of the Year,” because I obviously have not watched enough baseball this weekend (fireable). However, “Rookie of the Year” is a tremendous movie with a great soundtrack (Bill Conti of “Rocky” fame … at least I’m pretty sure it’s the same Bill Conti. The movie is not listed on his Wikipedia page, and that’s obviously the most reliable source of information for getting one’s facts correct), and while I would have liked for Josh Beckett to have pitched like Chet Steadman during the first half of that movie tonight, he instead looked like Henry Rowengartner during the second half (minus the floater, of course).

Now, most people have naturally compared Beckett’s performance tonight to how he pitched against the Yankees in the 2003 World Series, but the thing I found most impressive was the fact that, unlike then, when he was a fresh face to New York, tonight’s performance came in his 25th career start against the representatives of Pride, Power and Pinstripes. Beckett’s career stats against the Yanks — not including the World Series, of course — aren’t all that impressive (10-7, 6.26 ERA, 92 earned runs on 155 hits in 132 1/3 innings), which isn’t all that surprising (at least to me) because New York always has a loaded lineup and has faced him so many times. So to be as overpowering as he was tonight against a team that’s seen him a ton of times and has a strong lineup, even with A-Rod out (hell, A-Rod’s replacement, Eric Chavez, got one of the Yanks’ two hits off Beckett), sort of blew my mind. It’s one thing to blow away a team when they’ve never seen you before and you throw in the mid-90’s with a ridiculous 12-to-6 hook like Beckett does, but to dominate them when they’ve already seen you at your best  … I begrudgingly (as a Yankees fan) tip my hat to Beckett (Pedroia gets no hat tip, even though he was piling up the big hits all weekend. Guy is clearly a dirtbag. Hate hate hate.).

Now, speaking of pitchers with overpowering stuff (at least at one point in the past), Joba (Joba Joba) Chamberlain had one of his performances tonight that hurt my head. I know young Kevin brought up Joba’s additional pounds in his post below this one, but that’s not what bothers me about Joba. A large belly didn’t stop David Wells, Bartolo Colon (Free Bartolo!) or Hideki Irabu from being top-notch pitchers (OK, Irabu was only a top-notch pitcher in my childhood fantasies … that sounds creepy). Joba’s problem, as always, is his lack of control (leadoff walk to Big Papi in the seventh) and dumb pitch selection (walking J.D. Drew that same inning on a 3-2 slider). Three of the four balls to Ortiz were fastballs: you can’t be an effective pitcher in the big leagues if you can’t control your fastball, and Joba’s tendency to throw 3-2 sliders is something that’s bothered me about him since the 2008 season.

So, decent first week for the Yanks — outside of some poor bullpen performances and whatever is going on with Phil Hughes’ right arm. And this upcoming week brings two more interesting matchups in the Orioles (are they for real?) and the Rangers (off to a red-hot start, and will they continue where they left off against the Yanks in the 2010 ALCS?). I also might head out to Citi Field tomorrow or Tuesday to give some support to Kev’s boy, Izzy. Funky buttloving.

— Brian Cougar

Beckett bringing the high, stinky cheese

Bring up Izzy!

A weekend of straight fakeness from the New York Mets. Dropping two out of three to the scrub Nats with some weak pitching and continued weak sauce at the plate with runners on (especially runners on third with less than two outs!!!).

Opening Day at Citi Field was not surprisingly a cold and rainy day of grossness — to match the grossness on the field. R.A. Dickey could not find the strike zone (five walks), and for the second time in a week, the Mets have given up a two-run single with the bases loaded to the opposing starting pitcher (Joe Blanton, Jordan Zimmermann). This, ladies and gentlemen, is not how you play winning baseball.

Game 2 of the series went a lot better for the Mets, with some good news coming on the field in the form of a decent outing by Chris Capuano in his first start, and two bombski’s from Carlos Beltran. I have never been the biggest Beltran fan, but I understand his importance to this team. If he bounces back to anywhere near what he used to be at the plate, the Mets lineup should put up a lot of runs.

Today’s game continued the trend of losing baseball. Chris Young threw a gem for seven innings, and now has two impressive starts to begin his tenure with the Mets (one earned run, one hit), but good ol’ Blaine Boyer quickly sabotaged the W. Mr. Boyer and I got off on the wrong foot with the Mets foolishly keeping him on the big league roster over my main man Jason Isringhausen. I didn’t like this decision for a variety of baseball reasons, but the main source of my dislike stems from the fact that Izzy was my favorite player on the team growing up. Izzy brings a lot to the table for this Mets bullpen. He has plenty of experience pitching out of the bullpen (mostly as a closer), to go along with the fact that he’s proven that he can get big league hitters out when he is healthy. The Mets have a very young ‘pen that could really gain a lot with Izzy there to mentor them. Something tells me that K-Rod is not the best guy to turn to for words of wisdom, or encouragement (avoiding a cheap joke about beating up old people).

Well, needless to say, the Mets went the jabroni route, and decided to keep Boyer and have Izzy stay down for an extended Spring Training to prove his health. Blaine has thanked this show of support by getting smacked all over the park every time he has touched the mound (two losses, ERA over 10.0, and almost two hits per inning). That is First Team All Fake material. He retired the Nats in order when he entered in the 10th, then allowed four runs on four hits in the 11th to give the Nats the win as the Mets dropped their second consecutive series to drop to 4-5 on the year. So far, the Mets are doing a good job confirming most of the preseason hate.

Quick thoughts: Beckett is absolutely dominating the Yanks right now, looks like old school Beckett from the 2003 World Series. (Brian’s boy Pedroia is on fire also). … Joba is fat, and way too much was made of his good pitching this spring. He is a mutant, and is definitely not going to be better with the 25 lbs of gut he added this offseason. … The Orioles are going to be a pest in the AL East, and could compete if their young arms stay healthy. Either way, that lineup is going to put up a lot of crooked numbers.

Pizzas for all.

— Kevin McMetsjustcalledupIzzyREAAAL

Bring up Izzy!

Free Bartolo!

There are crimes and there are tragedies, and while this is neither, Bartolo Colon was by far the Yankees’ best pitcher today (4 1/3 innings of relief, one run — which wasn’t exactly his fault — and five strikeouts), yet he gets the loss, while Phil Hughes (six runs in two innings) and Boone Logan (one run on two hits in two-thirds of an inning … both those hits coming from left-handers) simply get bloated ERAs. I’m aware that wins and losses, especially for relievers, aren’t the best statistics to determine how a pitcher performed, but still, : (

That was the first time I’ve used an emoticon in my LIFE (might be a lie).

— Brian Cougar

Free Bartolo!

What a difference an ace makes

After wasting an impressive seven-run comeback last night once Big Pelf was done vomiting out of his right arm, I did not feel very good about this afternoon’s chances agains Doc Hallady … sadly, my feelings were correct. The only good thing about today’s 11-0 beat down was that I did not have to watch it because I was at work. The Mets had a great opportunity to take an early road series from the Phils, but the well documented differential in aces on these two staffs, not surprisingly, proved to be the difference.

If Pelf shows up to the ballpark and throws like the front end starter he’s supposed to be, the Mets would be heading home for Opening Day with back-to-back road series wins against an NL East rival. Instead, the Phillies sent a strong reminder that they are the team with the big gun at the front of the rotation. They also surprised me with the amount of runs they put up without Chase and D. Brown (this is probably more a result of fake Mets pitching than realness at the plate by the Phils, but either way, I was surprised).

In order for the Mets to remain competitive this season, the pitching staff is going to have to do a much better job. The hitting has been very good (the two bad games at the plate were against two studs in Josh Johnson and Doc Halladay), now it’s time for the arms to start pulling their weight.

Opening Day is tomorrow at Citi Field, and I am confident in America’s favorite No. 3, Mr. R.A. Dickey, to pitch a good game and send the Mets faithful home with a W against the Nats, to match the realness of the free Mr. Met bobblehead doll.

Eat your pizzas and read your American History, people.

— Kevin McJabused by the Phils today

What a difference an ace makes

A.J. Burnett has more wins than the Red Sox

The fact that we’re six games and two Burnett starts into the season and the title for this blog entry is true is amazing. Was that available as a prop bet in Vegas? Do I know what a prop bet really is? Loyal readers will have to help me out on that question (I will NOT google it).

But it is true, and while Burnett hasn’t been amazing, he has been closer to “Good A.J.” than “Bad A.J.,” which is (sadly) all most Yankee fans ask from him. Should a person being paid $82.5 million over five years be expected to simply keep his team in games? Nope, but as Kurt Vonnegut said, “so it goes.” (Vonnegut hoped that phrase would be used to justify mediocre performances from subpar pitchers, right?)

Back to the Red Sox … this first Yankees/Boston series, which gets overhyped as it is, will now be hyped through the roof due to the fact that the Sawx are going into it (home opener no less) winless. SEASON ON THE BRINK! Are the Red Sox buckling under the pressure of being the team to beat heading into this season? (And were the Yankees smart by pretending to be $200 million underdogs?) Will Boston sweep and immediately return to being most people’s pick to win the AL East? Will the Yankees sweep and cause Red Sox Nation to despair about a season already lost in April? However it ends up, the Red Sox will be happy to know they get to face the Rays starting Monday, and that team is in much worse shape than they are right now (seriously, that offense is little league).

— Brian Cougar

A.J. Burnett has more wins than the Red Sox