From the Wikipedia: Theodore Roosevelt

The Wikipedia page for Theodore Roosevelt is far too long to thoroughly recap in this space, especially while I’m here in Buffalo and out of my normal routine. Plus it contains lots of politics, obviously, and I don’t want to open the door for a comments-section Ron Paul flame-war. So these are bits and pieces of Roosevelt’s Wikipedia page that seem worth highlighting.

From the Wikipedia: Theodore Roosevelt.

Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States of America. He held the office from 1901-1909, then ran for it again in 1912 (more on that in a bit). He is known, per the Wikipedia, for his “exuberant personality” and “robust masculinity.”

(Is there a better adjective to pair with “masculinity” than “robust?” Vigorous? Potent? Hulking? I’ll take robust. Good work by the Wikipedia there.)

Here are some highlights from Roosevelt’s Wikipedia page:

– Roosevelt was born to a wealthy Manhattan family in 1858. But unlike the uppity pencil-necks the city produces these days, Roosevelt took an early interest in killing and collecting wild animals after obtaining the head of a dead seal from a local market when he was 7. The young Roosevelt learned rudimentary taxidermy and began displaying the animals he had caught, killed, stuffed and studied at what he then called “The Roosevelt Museum of Natural History.” The Wikipedia doesn’t say where exactly this was or how it smelt, or why no one thought it was weird.

– While studying at Harvard, Roosevelt competitively boxed and rowed, edited the school’s literary magazine, and began work on a study of the U.S. Navy’s role in the War of 1812 that is still considered a seminal research work on that war.

– In February, 1884, Roosevelt’s wife and mother died on the same day due to unrelated illnesses. Later that year, he grew frustrated in his political career and moved to a ranch in the Badlands he had purchased on a buffalo-hunting expedition a year earlier. There, he learned to be a cowboy and wrote books about it, and became a deputy sheriff. Three outlaws made the mistake of stealing Roosevelt’s riverboat and escaping with it, so he hunted them down, caught them and stayed awake for 40 straight hours to guard them en route to Dickinson for a fair trial.

– Roosevelt found the name “Teddy” vulgar and called it “an outrageous impertinence.” He preferred to be addressed as “Colonel Roosevelt” or simply “The Colonel.” He achieved that rank during his time with the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War, during which time, presumably, he developed the military tactic known as “Stop, drop, shut ’em down, open up shop.” That’s how Rough Riders roll.

– After his presidency, Roosevelt went on a safari in Africa with some game-hunting luminaries. They killed or trapped 11,400 animals, including 512 big-game animals. They ate 262 of them.

– During his second campaign for presidential election in 1912, Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a criminally insane New York bartender named John Schrank. Schrank had stalked Roosevelt for three weeks because William McKinley’s ghost came to him in a dream and told him to kill the presidential hopeful. He did not; the bullet went through Roosevelt’s eyeglass case and a folded copy of the 50-page speech he was about to give then lodged in Roosevelt’s chest. Roosevelt knew from his hunting and zoological studies that if he was not coughing blood the bullet had not reached his lung, so he declined suggestions that he go to the hospital and spoke for 90 minutes with blood all over his shirt. The bullet stayed in Roosevelt’s chest for the rest of his life.

– In 1913, Roosevelt — bullet still in chest — was commissioned by the Museum of Natural History to expedition through the Brazilian jungle to bring back uncharted animal specimens and seek the headwaters of the River of Doubt. (Seeking the Headwaters of the River of Doubt, by the way, is almost certainly the title of a forthcoming Sufjan Stevens song.) During the trip, Roosevelt jumped into the river to stop two canoes from crashing and suffered a minor flesh wound. The wound became so infected that Roosevelt grew delirious and at times would endlessly repeat the first line from Samuel Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan.” Roosevelt even asked to be left behind so the expedition could continue on schedule, but his son Kermit convinced him to remain with the group. He made it home, and after his return the River of Doubt was renamed Rio Roosevelt.

– Roosevelt said a lot of things that were implicitly or explicitly racist and endorsed the forced sterilization of criminals and “the feeble-minded.”

– During his presidency, Roosevelt liked to skinny-dip in the Potomac River in the Winter.

Season in preview: Starting pitchers

Opening Day is Thursday, and since 20 posts about how great baseball is between now and then would probably grow tiresome, I’ll take up my annual season preview tradition today and try to crank nine more out in the next few days. First come the starters, then around the diamond, then the bullpen.

The starting pitchers in April: Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee.

Overview: Hey everyone! It’s Johan Santana and he’s pitching baseballs!

That part is awesome. Santana’s actual returns this year seem likely to be less awesome, since he was declining before he got hurt, he’s coming back from a surgery very few pitchers have ever returned from and his velocity is not where it once was. If all goes well for Santana he can still be effective, but it would be a near-miracle for him to again emerge as a true Major League ace.

That role — or something close to it — is more apt to be filled by R.A. Dickey or Jon Niese. The knuckleballer Dickey has fluttered unpredictably to the ranks of the better pitchers in the National League over the past two seasons, posting a 124 ERA+ since joining the Mets by commanding his signature pitch and yielding a lot of weak groundball contact. Since Dickey is 37 and relies on the defense behind him, it’s unlikely he’ll get much better in 2012. But another season like the ones he gave the Mets in 2010 and 2011 would be… well, awesome and bearded and knucklebally.

Niese represents the team’s best hope for improvement. The 25-year-old lefty strikes out a good number of batters, doesn’t walk many, and yields a lot of groundballs, but he has yet to post a performance that matches his peripherals. Maybe 2012 is the year he does, or maybe it’s the year we throw our hands up and decide he’s doomed to underperform his peripherals.

Behind Niese, the Mets have Mike Pelfrey. Many Mets fans hate Mike Pelfrey for his inconsistency, but Pelfrey is quietly becoming my favorite player a) because of his consistency and b) because I’m a massive troll. He can be maddening to watch (unless you love fastballs), but Pelfrey posts remarkably consistent walk and strikeout rates every year. His performances vary based on how many hits and how many home runs he yields. From here it seems just as likely Pelfrey repeats his 2010 success as he does his 2011 struggles. Most likely, he pitches somewhere between the two.

It’s harder to know what to expect from Dillon Gee, besides his ridiculous chin beard. Gee did yeoman’s work in the back of the Mets’ rotation last year and won 13 games despite few strikeouts and a high walk rate and ERA, but the glimmer of hope should come from how he whiffed more than a batter an inning in Triple-A in 2010. Gee doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but since he’s still reasonably young, it’s not outlandish to hope he can improve in 2012.

Top prospects Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia both appear ticketed to start the season in Triple-A Buffalo. The Mets want their pitching prospects throwing about 130 innings in the high Minors before they reach the big leagues. Though I’m not sure that’s a hard-and-fast number, Familia needs just over 40 to get there and Harvey needs 70. It’s never smart to bank on pitching prospects, but there’s some chance one or both could be in the rotation by August. There are arbitration clocks to factor in, though, and the Mets will want to be careful with their young pitchers’ innings totals.

The starting pitchers in September: Dickey, Niese, Gee, Harvey and Chris Schwinden. Hunches all. I’m going to proceed with skepticism on Santana and hope like hell he proves me wrong. But this figures Pelfrey gets dealt near the deadline.

How they stack up: Again — and obviously — the Mets’ starting pitchers do not actually face off with the other starting pitchers around the division; they face the hitters. This is just a means of comparison.

The Mets’ starting rotation doesn’t look awful, but it doesn’t look great either, and it likely won’t get much help from the defense behind it. And the rest of the teams in the division have some pretty good rotations.

The Phillies’ rotation is the standard-bearer, followed by the Braves’ and Nationals’. The Marlins have the only starting staff the Mets can hope theirs will best, and then only if Josh Johnson struggles in his return from injury, Ricky Nolasco continues to underperform his peripherals and Mark Buerhle suddenly ages.

Virginia drivers

I’ve discussed this before: There’s no shortage of bad drivers anywhere there are drivers. But after years of research, I believe there are clear regional tendencies in bad driving styles.

I have no idea why this might be. Maybe it has something to do with intricacies in state-by-state traffic laws, the ways in which various local police departments enforce those laws and the long-term effects. Or perhaps certain bad habits just become socially acceptable in some places due to years of lousy role models and impotent driver’s-ed instructors.

It was a gorgeous day for a drive yesterday and for some odd reason, traffic along the northeast corridor mostly obliged. But I was coasting along about 12 miles per hour above the speed limit in the middle lane of a three-lane highway with very few cars on the road when a silver compact car pulled up right behind me and started driving maybe 10-15 yards from my tailpipe. I maintained a consistent speed and he could have easily passed me (on either side, no less), but he stayed there for minutes, making me nervous: What’s he up to? Why’s he chasing me? Is this some sort of unmarked cop car about to pull me over? Does he even see me or is asleep at the wheel and just plowing forward?

Finally, he lost patience and whizzed past me on the left, only to speed forward to the next small crop of traffic down the road and do the exact same thing to some other car in the middle lane. As he passed me, I took a look: Kid in his early 20s with a baseball hat slightly askew, a decal for his college occupying the bottom half of his rear window, a factory spoiler and New Jersey license plates. Classic Jersey driver.

Later on the drive, the Mazda Tribute in front of me in the left lane slowed from about 78 to 60 despite no traffic ahead of it and no obvious obstructions in the road. The car’s break lights never lit; it looked like the driver simply, suddenly took his foot off the accelerator in the left lane on I-95. As I craned to see what could be going on, the car veered toward the shoulder then jerked back into the lane. The driver, a salt-and-pepper haired man with glasses, turned his attention back to whatever it was he had splayed out across his steering wheel.

I looked at his plates: Virginia, of course.

No state I know of breeds more oblivious drivers. I’m staying with some friends in Fairfax County and I walked to a 7-11 on Lee Highway this morning. At an intersection, I tried to judge how many of the passing motorists were occupied by something other than the massive two-ton, fuel-filled steel machines hurtling around them in every direction and the ones they were themselves charged with piloting responsibly.

I would guess — and this is no exaggeration — that 75 percent of the people on the road were paying attention to something besides the road. Mostly their smartphones, but also their clipboards and knitting projects and novels and rosary beads. It was kind of beautiful to see, actually: People of all ages, shapes, races, and creeds unified by a cavalier disregard for all the dangers beyond their dashboards.

It rained today, and maybe 50 percent of the cars did not have their headlights on. People still don’t know about that! Does it not often rain here? Don’t many new cars do this by default now?

Won’t you Tebow my neighbor?

I missed this, but apparently a poll last month revealed that 11 percent of Americans would choose Tim Tebow over all other celebrities to be their next-door neighbor. And that kind of makes sense: He’s by all accounts a nice dude — if perhaps a little preachy — plus he’s young and handsome and rich and popular, and if you live next to Tim Tebow you’re probably doing alright for yourself. Plus I bet you’d catch him Tebowing in his backyard every now and then, and you could call your friends and be all, “HE’S DOING IT RIGHT NOW!”

But I’m wondering where you all stand on this one.

[poll id=”51″]

 

Oh well if that’s the case…

I was hoping the Mets would land Jonathan Broxton as a low-cost reclamation project for the back end of the bullpen, but the beefy right-hander would hardly be the first man to be lured in by Francoeur’s charming set of intangibles. One could only imagine the scene in those Georgia backwoods, Francoeur smiling maniacally with a rifle in one hand, a fresh kill in the other and a glimmer in his eye, convincing Broxton that this time he really has turned the corner and that if win-loss record was so important, well… you know.

They say free-agent relievers are the most dangerous game.

Broxton’s deal is reportedly worth $4 million for one year, hardly chump change but not unreasonable considering the way he dominated hitters from 2006 to 2009. Crasnick also tweeted that the Mets were among Broxton’s “most ardent pursuers,” which at least vaguely contradicts various vague reports from earlier in the hot-stove season. But I guess that’s all part of the game.

Anyway, there are still a handful of potential low-risk high-upside reliever types out there. Smart money says the Mets will land one eventually. Unless the Royals keep sending out Francoeur as an emissary. If that’s the case, we’re screwed.

Dear Taco Bell

Taco Bell chief marketing officer David Ovens has resigned from the company. Mr. Ovens, who has been with Yum since 2007, reportedly resigned for personal reasons and is returning to Australia with his family. Mr. Creed is expected to oversee the company’s marketing function until a replacement for is found.

Maureen Morrison, Advertising Age.

Dear Taco Bell,

Perhaps you know me. I write a sports and sandwich blog of minor repute and I am your biggest fan.

I chose my current place of residence in part because of its proximity to a Taco Bell location. I went to Taco Bell on my wedding day, in between the ceremony and reception. I own an autographed copy of Glen Bell’s authorized biography, Taco Titan. I co-founded the Taco Bell Wiki.

I enjoy my current job very much; I cover the baseball team I grew up loving and I have the freedom to write about pretty much anything I want. But I’m willing to give all that up to be Taco Bell’s new Chief Marketing Officer, assuming the position comes with a hefty salary and a boatload of free tacos. A company car would be nice too, but we’ll settle that when we get to the negotiating phase.

And though I lack any sort of marketing experience, I trust you’ll follow the sage advice of my predecessor and Think Outside the BunTM on this one. What exactly does a Chief Marketing Officer do? I have no idea. But I bet it involves telling people about how great Taco Bell is, and so I bet I’d be pretty damn good at it. I believe in your product, Taco Bell.

If I were to be hired as your Chief Marketing Officer, I would implement my Triple-Decker Taco agenda, the following three-tiered plan to further strengthen the Taco Bell brand. The three tiers are: Interactivity, Accountability, and Crunchy Red Strips.

Interactivity: Let’s face it, Taco Bell: They’re onto you. Every savvy taco eater realizes that almost all new Taco Bell menu items come from creating new combinations of ingredients already present on the Taco Bell menu. Let’s put pretense out to pasture and turn taco innovation over to the community.

I’ve presented this idea before but I fear it fell on deaf ears: The Taco Bell website should feature an interface wherein Taco Bell fans can create new menu items out of existing Taco Bell ingredients. Think of it like a paper doll, except instead of putting clothes on a doll we’re putting Lava Sauce on a theoretical Gordita. Then someone with access to a Taco Bell kitchen — specifically me — can test out the most promising suggested Taco Bell creations and select a few to feature in an online poll. Users vote on the best-looking new product, and we serve it for a limited time at participating locations.

That’s Taco Bell 2.0, brother.

We could also poll users on which classic limited-run menu item to bring back. Except we’d have to rig the poll, because I’d really like to try a Bacon Cheeseburger Burrito.

Accountability: Have you ever been to the Taco Bell restaurant in Elmsford, N.Y.? It’s the Worst Taco Bell in the World. Sometimes you have to wait like 20 minutes in the drive-thru line. You could make your own tacos in that much time. Plus, they almost never have the red shells for Volcano Tacos. And heaven forbid you want no tomatoes on your Baja Beef Gordita, it’s practically even money they’ll serve it to you with tomatoes and without Baja Beef.

We can’t have this happen, Taco Bell. Someone needs to hold local franchisees accountable for their restaurants so that every Taco Bell store can operate as efficiently as the ones in Hempstead and Oceanside, N.Y. — fine Taco Bells both. The only way I can think of to ensure quality-of-service across all locations is to have one guy travel the country ordering and eating Taco Bell.

I can be that guy, Taco Bell.

That bell on your logo should mean something. I know it means something to me. We need to make sure it resonates with the melodious ring of cheese-drenched awesomeness, not the discordant clang of a disappointing dining experience.

Crunchy Red Strips: Seriously, Taco Bell, do you have any idea how good the Crunchy Red Strips are? Why are they not in more stuff? They’re the perfect way to add crunchiness to portable menu items, and yet they’re only included in like four things.

Let’s change that. As Chief Marketing Officer, I would see to it that we create more driver-friendly menu items featuring and/or focused around the Crunchy Red Strips. And I’d make sure all Taco Bell employees are trained to add Crunchy Red Strips to any existing menu item (for a small additional charge, of course) in an even and appropriate manner.

Clearly, increased interactivity, accountability and Crunchy Red Strips will help power Taco Bell — all Taco Bells — to the forefront of fast-food dining experiences. This is how we win the franchise wars. I am your destiny, Taco Bell.

I eagerly await your response, Taco Bell. My resume is available upon request.

Love,
Ted

 

Next year

The Mets will inevitably make a bunch of moves, major and/or minor, before they break camp next April. But out of curiosity, I took a look at the players under team control for 2012.

Obviously there’ll be a ton of turnover at the fringes of the roster, and possibly a certain shortstop returning to the fold. But even if Sandy Alderson decides to Rip Van Winkle the offseason, the 2012 Mets should again score a lot of runs. With Ike Davis returning to first base, David Wright at third, Daniel Murphy somewhere and a host of decent if unspectacular hitters through the rest of the lineup, the club will likely boast another deep offense capable of maintaining rallies.

But one thing came up on the podcast last week: How long can the Mets keep carrying Jason Bay as an everyday corner outfielder? Can they really enter 2012 with a left fielder coming off two seasons like the ones Bay has suffered with the Mets?

Even this year, Bay has hit lefties well. The righty half of a left-field platoon is certainly not worth what Bay will be paid, but of course Bay will get his $18 million regardless of how he’s used. The Mets have a slew of Major League ready and near-ready lefty bats without obvious positions on next year’s club: Murphy and Lucas Duda already producing at the Major League level, and Fernando Martinez and Kirk Nieuwenhuis in Triple-A.

Even if one of those guys emerges as the team’s regular right fielder, would the Mets be best served using another to split time with Bay in left? In between injuries, Martinez posted an .836 OPS against righties in Buffalo. Before shoulder surgery ended his season, Nieuwenhuis rocked a .986 mark in the split. Duda has mashed Major League righties to the tune of an .823 OPS in his short career, and Murphy a .793. As a point of comparison, Bay has a .579 OPS against righties in 2011.

Granted, none of those guys has established that he can be a Major League hitter as good as Bay was from 2004 to 2009, so the top priority should always be getting Bay straightened out and hoping he returns to something like his old form. But if that doesn’t happen and the Mets still want to be winning as many games as possible, they’d likely benefit from choosing a lefty to share at-bats in left field in 2012.

The Mets’ front office showed no fear of cutting bait on sunk costs last spring, but Bay is set to make as much as Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez combined and can likely still provide the team some value in a limited role. But if he’s inked in as an everyday starter for 2012, Bay looks like a pretty big hole in an otherwise solid lineup as long as he keeps performing (or not performing) like this.

Growing pains

I spotted Josh Thole playing catch before Tuesday night’s game using a regular fielder’s glove, so I asked him about it. He dismissed it as something he used for fun in warm-ups and said he didn’t think it helped or hurt or affected his catching at all. So no story there.

Thole called his defense “a work in progress.” “There are growing pains,” he said. “But it’s coming along.”

After an encouraging 2010 campaign, Thole’s work behind the plate in 2011 has shown more growing pains than progress. Until recently, he struggled to throw out basestealers. He sometimes appears to stab at or try to backhand pitches in the dirt, rather than block them with his body. He leads the league in passed balls, though part of that is due to being charged with handling R.A. Dickey’s knuckleballs every fifth day.

Citing batters who claim that swinging at a knuckleball screws with their timing against conventional pitchers, I asked Thole if he thought catching the knuckleball might affect his handling of the rest of the staff.

“Not at all,” he said. “The stance is a bit different, but it’s all the same thing.”

So nothing there, either.

Defense is tough to quantify, especially behind the plate. Beyond the Boxscore takes crack at it by assigning run values to catchers’ errors, passed balls, wild pitches allowed, and stolen-base rates relative to the league averages. As of July 19, Thole ranked 91st of 94 big-league catchers in 2011.

Granted, part of that is because he serves as Dickey’s personal catcher, a task that inflates his number of passed balls and wild pitches allowed. Also, Thole has thrown out a handful of runners in the past week, and since the stolen-base rate stat inherently deals in relatively small numbers, the recent run of success is probably enough to lift him up a bit in that category.

And it’s worth noting that in 2010, Thole’s defense rated as above average by the same methodology. It seems likely that the fluctuation has more to do with the innate finicky-ness of defensive metrics than Thole actually getting worse, and his actual level of ability behind the plate — by stats or otherwise — lies somewhere in between: passable, but not great. His struggles this season, though real, have not come with such an alarming frequency to forebode further or worse problems moving forward; even struggling, he is within the range of Major League catchers

There’s more to catching than blocking balls and throwing out runners, but for as much as pitchers talk about their batterymates’ game-calling, it’s difficult to find any evidence that any one catcher is better at it than any other. It seems possible and even likely that some catchers work better with some pitchers, but if you look at teams’ ERA splits by catchers from year to year, you’ll see there’s no real pattern to it.

Pitchers throwing to Thole in 2011 have yielded a slightly higher ERA (4.14) than pitchers throwing to Ronny Paulino (3.94), but Thole boasted a better catcher’s ERA than Rod Barajas in 2010 and the memorable Brian Schneider/Omir Santos tandem in his small sample in 2009. It’s not a stat worth investing much time or space in (whoops).

Offensively, Thole has also taken a step backwards this year after a promising half-season in 2010. Though he has not completely collapsed, his numbers are down across the board in 2011.

Still, the largest possible body of evidence for Thole — 166 games now — shows a 24-year-old catcher with a career .271/.350/.347 hitting line. That’s a hair better than the league-average .243/.315/.380 mark for Major League backstops in 2011.

Thole hits for almost no power, so he’ll never maintain that aspect of the Mets’ catching tradition. But there’s a lot to show he can hit like at least an average big-league catcher, if not a touch better. He’s 24, after all, so he’s probably still improving.

Around the trade deadline, talk spread that the Mets could be looking to upgrade behind the plate, and it seems likely the same discussion will resurface this offseason. And indeed, Thole is not now and does not look apt to ever be a great catcher on either side of the ball, so it’s a position at which the Mets could feasibly improve.

But Thole is young, under team control through 2016, and a left-handed hitter — especially valuable at a position that demands some form of time-share. So I question the logic of dedicating much of the team’s offseason resources to a spot at which it has what appears to be a viable and inexpensive if unspectacular Major Leaguer. Not when they have a shortstop to re-sign and need pitching help like they do.

I’d chalk up Thole’s 2011 to growing pains, like he said. Sometimes it’s difficult to stay patient through the struggles, but it’s important to remember that not every young player hits the big leagues and starts consistently producing like David Wright did. There’s a growth curve, and Thole should still be on the front side. This is what this season is for.

 

Following up

Following up on Saturday’s post: As of right now, 37 percent of TedQuarters readers would choose Bobby Parnell to close games if Francisco Rodriguez were traded. Count me among that 37 percent, assuming the team is locked in to using one guy in a traditional “closer” role.

Parnell leads all active Mets relievers in ERA and strikeouts per nine innings. Plus he’s relatively young and under team control for a while, meaning a stint as closer in the tail end of the 2011 campaign would amount to an audition, where inserting Jason Isringhausen in the job would shed little light on the team’s future bullpen makeup.

Baseball Prospectus currently has the Mets’ chances of making the playoffs at 2.5 percent — a longshot, if not an insurmountable one. If you’re looking to be optimistic, the odds are better that the Mets make the playoffs in 2011 than they were that they would have missed the playoffs on Sept. 17, 2007. Crazier things have happened, in other words, and we’ve seen them.

But regardless of how voraciously the Mets will be pursuing that 2.5 percent chance, they should look to trade Rodriguez in the next few weeks. Though his loss will make any playoff hunt more difficult, Rodriguez has not been so overwhelmingly great that his absence necessarily precludes contention, and his much-maligned vesting option will make it more difficult for the team to contend in 2012 by limiting the front office’s financial flexibility this offseason.

Plus, if the Mets can trade him to a team that will not use him to finish games — one not concerned about his option — they might get back a player to help mitigate his loss in the short term and help them in the future.

Well-run teams can find effective closers on the cheap. Converted starters and scrap-heap acquisitions often pay huge dividends in the back ends of bullpens. The Mets should be able to replace Rodriguez’s production — or something close, at least — at a fraction of the price, allocating that cash to positions that spend more than 70 innings a season on the field.

Wilpon’s curveball

I listened to most of this weekend’s Subway Series while driving. And because my car has terrible AM reception, I suffered through a whole lot of the Yankees’ broadcast on XM radio. I wanted to hear what was happening in the games, but I was instead treated to the mostly uninformed thoughts of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman on the various complicated decisions facing the Mets in the coming months.

(Is it me – are my ears and brain just not accustomed to their broadcasting style – or do Sterling and Waldman often just ignore what’s actually going on in the baseball game? I felt like they’d often be in the middle of a conversation and Sterling would casually note, “the 2-0 pitch,” without having mentioned the first two pitches in the at-bat or even the name of the batter. How can that happen? They call the game like it’s television and the listener can also see the action. It’s baffling.)

Anyway, I came to the office this morning planning to write again about how, though the opinions of many members of the media – and many of my fellow Mets fans for that matter – can be difficult to bear sometimes, it is easier to ignore all the negativity this season because we can take comfort in the hope that the Mets’ front office, for once, seems to be run by people that understand the nuances of the team’s situation better than the sensationalists writing and reading the New York Post.

I thought I would briefly recount a ridiculous Twitter spat I had on Friday in which someone accused the Mets’ front-office of “cronyism” for selecting Brad Emaus in the Rule 5 Draft – as if 51-year-old executive J.P. Ricciardi and 25-year-old career Minor Leaguer Emaus might be cronies, smoking cigars, drinking scotch, chuckling about all the other obvious second-base options the Mets had coming into the 2011 season. And I’d have tried to explain the screwed-up way in which defending the club that partially owns the TV network that signs my paychecks knifes at my punk-rock soul, the messy self-consciousness I feel doing it even when I’m confident that what I’m writing is correct and, in my best judgment at least, not biased by anything more than the ways I watch and understand baseball.

Then I read “Madoff’s Curveball,” Jeffrey Toobin’s profile of Fred Wilpon for the New Yorker, in which the Mets’ owner declares David Wright “not a superstar,” alludes to Carlos Beltran striking out to end the 2006 NLCS, speaks candidly about Jose Reyes’ contract status and calls the team “shitty” and, worse, “snakebitten.”

Well that doesn’t help anything.

But it’s probably important to put the quotes in context. As Adam Rubin pointed out on Twitter this morning, clearly Wilpon spent lots of time with Toobin for the feature and at some point let his guard down. The profile is otherwise a sympathetic piece about Wilpon’s financial saga, and the game Wilpon was watching with Toobin was the April 20 loss that left the team 5-13 – inarguably the low point of the season.

Does that make it right? Of course not. Understandable? Maybe a little bit.

Still, in a season when it seemed the ship had finally been set back on course, it’s disappointing to hear the owner of the team resort to the same blame-Mighty-Casey rhetoric bandied about by WFAN callers screaming to send Wright packing.

Each one of the quotes can and will be turned inside out and debated, and though it’s tempting to join in, I’m not really eager to do so here. The most troubling one, I think, is “snakebitten.” Though in context – “we’re snakebitten, baby!” – it sounds like Wilpon is being at least a touch sarcastic, it’s the type of purposeless woe-is-me defeatism seemingly so prevalent among Mets fans these days, and something I waste an awful lot of words railing against here. There is no curse in baseball that cannot be overcome with smart management and a little bit of good fortune.

As for the short- and long-term fallout from all this? I don’t know. Seems like people have already determined conclusively that Wilpon’s words will a) create a distraction for the current club and b) make it so future free agents will not want to join the Mets. Both seem possible, but also quite possibly overblown.