Second photo of Cole Hamels with dolphin emerges

Longtime readers might remember this classic Embarrassing Photo of Cole Hamels, in which our man is playing with a dolphin. Dolphins are sweet and I don’t think there’s anything particularly embarrassing about playing with them, but for whatever reason this feels like it qualifies for the archive. From the Internet’s second best website, ColeHamels.com:

Dolphins <3 Hamels.

Please donate to the Hamels Foundation. The archive has been updated.

Friday Q&A, pt. 2: Other sports stuff

I don’t hate the Yankees the way most Mets fans do. Because I’m typically drawn to the underdog and the Yankees are never that, I rarely root for them, but I don’t surround myself with the type of Yankees fans who make it difficult to like Yankees fans. I owe a lot of that to the two Yankees fans with whom I most frequently chat online these days, Tom Boorstein and Alex Belth, both of whom are generally reasonable and not at all entitled.

That said, I am partial to Alex Rodriguez in part because he’s great and hilarious and in part because of the way the worst Yankee fans seem to hate him so much despite how great and hilarious he is.

My favorite Yankee ever, though, is easily Rickey Henderson. And I know Rickey spent way more time with the A’s and later played for the Mets, but he was a Yankee when I first became conscious of baseball. Henderson was, in fact, the man on the first baseball card I ever got for myself, at card show at the Holiday Inn in Rockville Centre before the 1987 season. There was a lottery at the show, where for a couple of bucks you could pick from a pile of envelopes featuring nine cards apiece, each envelope containing a different team’s starting lineup. My brother got the Brewers. I got the Yankees, with Rickey in front. (I also took home the grand prize from that same lottery, by the way: A coveted Kevin Seitzer rookie card.) I suspect I would have ultimately liked Rickey anyway, because Rickey.

I rarely watch them. I’ve got nothing against college football and if I’m someplace where people are watching, I’ll tune in and enjoy all the particulars of football at that level that don’t exist in the NFL. I’ve always loved offensive strategy in football, dating back to afternoons spent drawing up formations and plays with my friend Bill in perhaps the nerdiest jock activity ever. So I like watching the replays of successful plays and trying to figure out how everything worked and why it worked, identifying who made key blocks, and which players who probably aren’t getting credit for the play on the broadcast that will definitely get credit for the play in the team’s film review.

But I’ve never had any rooting interest in a college football team, and since I spend so many of my waking hours watching baseball, the NFL and college basketball, I rarely feel the desire to take on new sports at this point. I’ve watched a lot more NBA this season than I have in the past, but I still prefer the college game even if the players are clearly nowhere near as good.

Pretty sure it’s the media. Sad thing is, I’m not even kidding. And that’s not to diminish Tebow’s desire or anything.

Ben! Don’t let Ben’s humble egg-avatar fool you, he’s as triumphant a guitar shredder as you’re ever going to play in a band with for several years, provided you are me. No joke: One time I went to see him play at Carnegie Hall only to be turned away because it was sold out.

Also, that’s awesome. I claim no exclusive dominion over fake mustaches, and Blake Griffin wears his well. I’d ask for context, but I think I prefer to dream on it.

Friday Q&A, pt. 2: Food stuff and randos

I’m tempted to say the Breaded Steak from Ricobene’s, the highest rated sandwich ever reviewed on this site, but I’m pretty sure I’d go with the Full Bird, the sandwich that made me love sandwiches. I think I’d want something comforting in my final hours on earth, and that’s a sandwich that makes me feel like I’m at peace with everything, and home.

No disrespect to the bankers out there, but no. I do often dream of having much more money, though, and banking would probably be a good way to get about that. But I really don’t have the head for the particulars; I’d start thinking about how much money changes hands, and how that money rarely takes physical form and is instead just this weird ethereal wealth-cloud zipping through wires and how serious everyone’s being about this formless thing that seems six steps removed from anything of real, tangible value, and then I’d giggle a lot and lose focus on whatever banking stuff I’m supposed to be doing. Also, I don’t even really know what bankers do.

I think the only way I could actually do it would be as concept art. I’m not even sure if it’s true, but I read one time about David Byrne scheduling business meetings with executives, then showing up and putting on bizarre Powerpoint art presentations. I think I could do that type of banking.

Thin, definitely. No one wants a steak-sized portion of deli ham. Thinner slices allow for better ribboning, and better ribboning makes for better sandwiches. That’s proven.

One issue I’ve had though is it feels like people go so crazy with requesting their deli meat sliced thin that everyone’s always trying to one up each other, like, “Sliced extra thin!” First off, the deli man at anyplace worth its salt knows that you probably want your meats sliced thin, so even if you don’t say anything you’re going to get reasonably thin slices of meat. Second, there’s no “extra thin,” at least not that you want. When you specify you want your meat sliced thin, the guy’s going to set the slicer to make it about as thin as it can be without shredding the meat. Extra thin is a big (delicious) pile of shredded meat that’s impossible to do anything with after it’s wrapped up and it basically reconstitutes.

At good New York pizza places, they’re largely unnecessary. A good, well-proportioned slice of New York cheese pizza is like a perfect thing. There’s no need to upset the balance. Sometimes I’ll order one slice of cheese and one slice of something meaty (buffalo chicken, perhaps) for the sake of having protein, but chicken works better than pork on pizzas — and no disrespect to pork here, obviously — because pork is crazy greasy and so is pizza.

Also: Pepperoni pizza is wildly overrated. It’s fine, and I’m not going to turn down a slice if you hand me one. But I would way rather you give me a small stack of thinly sliced cold pepperoni and a slice of cheese pizza than watch bake that pepperoni onto the pizza. Not a synergistic relationship. Once the pepperoni heats up, the fat drips out and the pizza becomes unreasonably greasy.

Do you eat seafood and shellfish, or no? This sushi sandwich was awesome. And if I could eat lobster rolls without getting sick from them, I would do so as often as my budget would allow. Plus, I’ve recently decided to learn to like fish, so I’ll get back to you with more ideas if you’re open to fish.

If not, it’s pretty much falafel. The upside is that falafel’s amazing. Also, I’ve heard really good things about the broccoli sandwich at No. 7 Sub, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to order it when there are so many meatier options.

Our man Ceetar’s referring to a weird recent Twitter thing wherein I have been accused (by many people, multiple times) of Tweeting as @JedSmed, a now defunct account known for making jokes about the Mets. It’s just not true. I don’t particularly care if people think it’s true, but I don’t want to take credit for the guy’s material either. Also, I can’t understand why anyone thinks I’d do that. I make jokes about the Mets on Twitter under my own name, both for sad pathetic Twitter validation and because it increases my exposure and helps me promote this site. Why would I put effort into making other jokes about the Mets on a second, anonymous account? Also, I write thousands of words here every day and manage all the real-job parts of my job, to boot. How much time do people think I have?

I started a fake Twitter once. I’m not going to tell you what it is. It was a stupid meta-joke about fake Twitters, no one seemed to get it, and it lasted about two weeks. That was the only time I’ve been moved to do so. Have I mentioned that I’m incredibly vain? I like having my jokes attributed to me.

Friday Q&A, pt. 1: Baseball stuff

Via email, Steve writes:

Hi Ted. On the Mostly Mets Podcast, the assertion was made that RA Dickey is one in a lifetime. I am of the mind that RA has provided a blueprint for a bunch of unsuccessful, hard throwing prospects and teams controlling them that there is a way to squeeze some success out of a proverbial lemon. RA is undoubtedly showing teams that the pitch can be thrown hard and for strikes, so it might be worth nurturing.

That’s a good point, and I suspect Dickey’s success will open up teams’ minds about grooming knuckleballers. But there are a bunch of things to remember here: For one, Dickey had a knuckleball when the Rangers decided to make him a full-time knuckleballer. Tim Wakefield had one when the Pirates converted him from infield. I suspect most baseball players mess around with knuckleballs at some point or another, but it’s an incredibly difficult pitch to throw and far, far from a guarantee a full-time knuckleballer will win with it. Dickey and Wakefield are great success stories. Recent knuckleballers like Jared Fernandez, Dennis Springer, Charlie Zink and Charlie Haeger are not. (Steve Sparks had some success too, but hardly on the level of Dickey and Wakefield.)

Moreover, from the Knuckleball! documentary it seemed Wakefield, Dickey and their predecessors Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough brought more intellectual or more reasonable approaches to the game than many of their teammates. As I said upon seeing the movie (and asked Wakefield about later): Tim Wakefield willingly, repeatedly threw 65 mph pitches over the plate in the heart of one of baseball’s best offensive eras, in one of its best hitting environments, in front of one of its most hostile fanbases. That takes a special type of resolve, and a certain philosophical leap that I’m not sure every pitcher could make.

Lastly, and this is utterly speculative (and something I’ve wondered about before): I wonder if there’d be a law of diminishing returns on knuckleballers across the league. If there were a knuckleballer on every team, would so many hitters still have so much trouble hitting the knuckleball? Would managers get a better sense of the guys who tend to get good swings off knuckleballers and figure out the best way to fill out their lineup cards when facing one?

I actually looked this up around the time of the trade when I was vaguely planning a trip to Toronto. It seems like the Toronto area’s local sandwich delicacy is something called peameal bacon, a type of Canadian bacon rolled in cornmeal. Sounds pretty delicious to me.

That’s not particularly close to Cornwall, though. Am I missing an obvious joke here? The Cornwaller? Also, like half of the Wikipedia’s list of notable current and former residents of Cornwall are hockey players.

Chipotle. There’s a Chipotle in Port St. Lucie, and Minor Leaguers — it has long been proven — f–ing love Chipotle, much like most people. Minor League free agents everywhere would want to be part of the Mets’ organization so they could train and play in Chipotle Park, or as we call it around here, the Burrito Bowl.

Seems like we’ll have a pretty clear idea sometime next offseason, right? After 2013, basically everyone’s off the books. It’d be hard to play that card with a $50 million payroll or whatever.

I agree it’s weird, for sure. But if you listened to the Internet, you’d know it was because Jeff Wilpon himself obviously oversees the production of the Mets’ holiday e-card, working long and late at MLB Advanced Media’s offices in Chelsea to carefully position the blue and orange scarf on the image of Mr. Met so that it hangs naturally but does not cover the Mets logo on his jersey. Really, it’s amazing he found the time among all the other things the Internet seems certain he does, from setting ticket prices to devising the Citi Field menus to meddling in contract negotiations to controlling the content of every one of my Tweets. Busy dude, I guess.

Look: I don’t know who produced the video or how it all went down, but I can practically guarantee it’s no top-down conspiracy. Somewhere, a video producer and editor were charged with creating a minute-long holiday e-card of Mets highlights under the headline “Season’s Greetings from the Mets.” R.A. Dickey, as sad as this is to say, is not on the Mets. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, right? If the Season’s Greetings from the Mets card did include footage of R.A. Dickey, that would seem weird, too. That would also prompt LOLMets, without a doubt.

And I’d say it’s entirely possible the original version of the video included footage of R.A. Dickey, since Dickey was traded just a couple of days before the card was sent to fans. If anything — and again, I don’t know that this is actually how it happened, I’m just guessing — I’d figure someone who put together that video was really irritated that the trade talks were dragging out that long because he or she needed to know how to handle the Dickey thing in the video, and the deal happened so close to the producer’s deadline that he or she just said, “screw it, let’s just cut out the Dickey footage and go with Wright, Davis and Santana.”

There are a lot of things the Mets do that we can and do complain about. But a baseball team is a huge operation, and it’s downright silly to assume everything coming from a baseball team is the direct, ordered output of its upper management.

If I can’t choose both, then it has to be Swisher. I only suspect Uggla likes to bro it down, whereas there’s ample evidence that Swisher loves to bro it down. I’d like to hang out with him for one night just to see how long I could keep up, honestly.

I don’t think so. His fate is tied to the Mets. If d’Arnaud stinks and the Mets start winning anyway, people will remember the trade but forgive him for it. If d’Arnaud’s awesome and the Mets don’t win with him, people will argue that the deal was not enough and say Alderson should have done more.

A brief note on A.J. Pierzynski

Several Mets fans have suggested to me they’d like to see the team sign A.J. Pierzynski. Assuming that would require a multi-year deal or even a lucrative one-year deal, it’s just not a good idea.

Here's what A.J. Pierzynski (right) looks like. As you may know, Pierzynski hit 27 home runs last year. As you may also know, regression to the mean is a extraordinarily powerful force in baseball, and Pierzynski has never before been as good as he was at age 35 in 2012.

In fact, using park- and league-adjusted OPS+, Pierzynski’s 96 career mark in the stat is actually one point lower than Josh Thole’s rate from 2009-2011. Thole fell apart offensively after returning from a concussion in 2012, but if he can return to form, it’s at least even money he’ll be a better hitter than Pierzynski in 2013. And Thole is a full decade younger than Pierzynski.

Oh, and by the best efforts of those who evaluate catcher defense, Pierzynski was actually worse than Thole behind the plate in 2012. And 2011. And 2010.

Teams with financial limitations and almost no outfielders to speak of should not hand out big contracts to 36-year-old catchers coming off the best seasons of their careers.

If Pierzynski hit right-handed and came cheap, he might fit as a platoon partner for Thole. But since Pierzynski and Thole both hit left-handed, the Mets would be paying a premium to displace a 26-year-old who hit like a league average catcher from 2009 to 2011 in favor of a 36-year-old who hit like a league average catcher from 2009 to 2011. If Thole can bounce back and the team can find a suitable right-handed complement, it should be able to get at least the production Pierzynski would provide at the catcher position and dedicate the resources that would be required to sign him toward outfielders.

If the season started today

Here’s my best guess at how the Mets would be set up if the season started today. This is only based on guys on the 40-man roster, which is silly because they’ve got a couple open spots and will inevitably have a bunch of non-roster Spring Training invitees. But the whole exercise is silly; that’s kind of the point:

Starting pitchers
R.A. Dickey
Johan Santana
Jon Niese
Dillon Gee
Matt Harvey

Bullpen
Frank Francisco
Bobby Parnell
Josh Edgin
Elvin Ramirez
Greg Burke
Robert Carson
Jeremy Hefner

Lineup (vs. righties, at least)
1. Ruben Tejada – SS
2. Daniel Murphy – 2B
3. David Wright – 3B
4. Ike Davis – 1B
5. Lucas Duda – LF
6. Mike Baxter – RF
7. Kirk Nieuwenhuis – CF
8. Josh Thole – C

Bench
C Anthony Recker
INF Justin Turner
INF Brandon Hicks
OF Juan Lagares
UTIL Jordany Valdespin

So the starting pitching should be pretty good. The bullpen looks shaky and the outfield scary.

The Mets will not enter the season with the above-listed 25-man roster. Changes will come. How many and how important they are remains to be seen, but it’s pointless to fret now when Spring Training’s still months away. We’ll have plenty of time to fret then.

A friendly reminder

This is as much for me as it is for you, as I’m as guilty as anyone of getting caught up in the hype around big-name MLB prospects. But most MLB prospects suck, and it’s important we not lose sight of that.

I don’t know why that’s important. Actually, it’s not important all you want. Continue overhyping prospects all you want. But before you start swooning for some dude with a cool name and a strong reputation that you’ve never seen play, you should probably check out this post from Royals Review last offseason.

Players ranked in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects “bust” — i.e. contribute little to nothing at the big-league level — nearly 70 percent of the time. 70 percent! And Baseball America is awesome at what it does. It’s just that trying to figure out which baseball players will be good and which will suck is an extraordinarily difficult task.

Mets fans — and I again include myself here — love to get all woe-is-me and recount the series of big-name Mets prospects who have failed at the Major League level: Alex Escobar, Alex Ochoa, Generation K. But check out that Royals Review post again: From 1990-2003, the Mets prospects succeeded at roughly the league average rate. Every team in the Majors has its Alex Escobar.

And this is obviously not to say teams should give up on grooming prospects or we should give up on tracking them. When a young player turns into a legitimate Major Leaguer, his team has a cost-controlled contributor for up to seven seasons. That’s enormously valuable.

But there are no sure things, and when leafing through prospects lists to determine good trade packages the Mets can get in return for R.A. Dickey, remember that the large majority of guys you’re reading about won’t ever provide their teams a quarter of what Dickey gave the Mets last year. And same goes for the guys on the Mets’ list.

Bahts and balls

Good read from John Manuel at Baseball America about Steve Meinke, a Thai-American hand model who made Thailand’s World Baseball Classic team despite not having played baseball since a two at-bat Division III career in the late 90s:

“I had to deal with the language barrier, chickens, oldness, no medical training, more oldness, blown hamstring, water and food poisoning, more injuries, the whole cultural aspect of society there, and of course their approach to baseball, which many times drove me crazy,” Meinke said. “And I loved every minute of it.”

For his trouble, Meinke got to make a WBC-paid trip to Taiwan as a member of the Thai national team, where Damon was his teammate. “Johnny was always awesome and considerate to his teammates,” Meinke said, “and always warmed up with the non-Americans and even had the players sign his jersey.”

Meinke never got into a game, though. He was warming up in one game that Thailand lost by mercy rule, and was set to pinch-hit in another game that also ended early by mercy rule.

Before the WBC qualifiers, I started and scrapped a post about all the new participating teams to jokingly determine if there were any I might be good enough to play for. Once I realized that basically every country in the games has its own domestic baseball league, I figured I was eliminated not only by heritage but by utter lack of practice and athleticism. My grandmother was born in Scotland, though, and I’m hoping Scotland goes independent in time to field its own club for the next WBC just so I don’t have to give up the dream.

I’m going to Thailand in January, for what it’s worth, but by my best Internet research there isn’t any baseball in the places I’ll be. Also, though there’s little I’d rather do than watch baseball anyplace, it doesn’t seem like the best use of my limited time in Thailand to spend it doing the exact same thing I do all summer long at home.

Louis CK on meeting Luis Tiant

At Vanity Fair, Louis CK fills out a questionnaire covering a broad range of topics. It’s predictably pretty funny, with language (also predictably) NSFW. Of note: When asked to name “when and where [he] was happiest,” he says:

I got Luis Tiant’s autograph at a paint store when I was nine years old. Some local paint store hired him to sit at a table for a day and autograph these leaflets advertising their special prices on paints. He looked miserable. I remember thinking, This is the best moment of my entire life and the worst moment of his. Luis Tiant was a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, by the way.

I would pay a whole lot of money to hear Louis CK do color commentary for a baseball broadcast, FWIW.