Friday Q&A, pt. 1: Baseball stuff

If you’re not on Twitter, you missed the announcement: Starting Monday, I’ll be writing about baseball for USA Today Sports. I’m very excited.

For Edgin: Why not? It’s difficult to predict which relievers will ultimately earn closer jobs and the elusive “proven closer” label, but Edgin seems to have as good a shot as any. He throws hard, he’s got pretty good control, and he strikes out lots of batters. His ERA wasn’t great in his tiny-sample first Major League stint, but his peripherals (besides his home-run rate) look strong. I’d say the biggest thing working against him is his handedness, as unless the Mets have one or two more viable lefty options for middle-inning specialty work, they’re probably going to want Edgin there.

Also, I’m not ready to write off the idea of Bobby Parnell eventually emerging as the Mets’  closer. I know he has struggled in limited opportunities in the role, but Parnell’s been a good big-league reliever for three seasons. Now that he seems to be settled on the knuckle-curve as a second pitch, I don’t know why he couldn’t succeed in a ninth-inning job.

As for the fat sandwich: Yes. I wrote about it here, back before I reviewed sandwiches proper.

I don’t really want to troll on my way out the door here, but I’d say this seems like LOLMetsing of the highest order. Especially the caption on the bottom photo. I mean… c’mon. But then I clicked it, so the joke’s on me.

UPDATE: Actually, on second thought I’ll amend that. Clicking through the rest of the Daily News’ website after reading that story, it seems like they’re blowing out every possible angle of the A-Rod/PED/Miami thing. So that’s probably just one of them, and hey, a Mets connection. Only the caption is LOLMetsy.

That’s a tough question. My natural inclination is to pick the five worst players on the Mets so the team can stay competitive throughout the Mars project. But since that doesn’t seem like the spirit of the question, I’ll say David Wright for leadership and interstellar diplomacy, Lucas Duda for brute strength, Dillon Gee for guile, Daniel Murphy for determination, and Johan Santana for general awesomeness.

Hey, I’m still a member of the baseball media, and I’m still going to be based out of New York. If there’s one of those tasting events this year, I’m going to do everything in my power to go. Obviously.

Honestly, if they can get the draft pick protected I don’t think signing Michael Bourn is such a terrible idea for the Mets. It depends on the deal, of course, but it sure seems like Bourn’s price tag has fallen far, far below the $100 million figure he was reportedly seeking at the offseason’s outset. We keep hearing about how the Mets will have money to spend in the coming years, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to do so with a protected first-round pick again anytime soon. Plus, watching Bourn play center field is a thrill. Guy gets to everything.

Sandwich of the Week

So this site looks a bit different today. Welcome to the new and far less active TedQuarters, I suppose. There are still some kinks to work out, all of which will take me way longer to figure out on my own than they would have with the support of my men Adam Rotter and Matt Cerrone at SNY, so be patient. And because I’m now using a stock WordPress theme, I had to make some concessions in the navigation and sidebars.

Most notably: The “Embarrassing Things about Cole Hamels” section of the blog is now just a “Cole Hamels” tab on the sidebar to the left, as spelling out the full title made the text wrap to two lines and look awful. So it goes. Know that “Cole Hamels,” here, is an abbreviation for “Embarrassing Things about Cole Hamels,” always.

Also: The Sandwich Hall of Fame list is currently a sub-category in the sandwich tab, but it’s too long for the format and you can’t access most of the sandwich reviews from many browsers. Soon, perhaps later this afternoon, I’ll create a new Sandwich Hall of Fame archive page with links to all the Hall of Fame sandwich reviews. So fear not.

Because of the theme switch, the site again uses WordPress comments instead of Disqus, meaning that two full years’ worth of awesome, hilarious, insightful comments are sort of lost to the ether. And it makes every post on this site from 2011-2012 look pretty lonely, so if you stumble upon one you like and want to leave some love, please do.

And thanks so much for all the flattering and supportive comments left on the going-away post from earlier this month. It feels incredible to know that my efforts on this site for the last several years were apparently so thoroughly appreciated. I love you, too.

The sandwich: Banh mi thit nuong, Banh Mi Cart 37, 37 Nguyen Trai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The construction: Grilled pork meatballs, pickled vegetables, cucumbers, cilantro, chili paste and some sort of brownish sauce on a baguette.

Important background information: I spent six days in Vietnam and tried seven different banh mi. This was the best, and it wasn’t all that close. Most of the sandwiches came from street carts or slightly glorified street carts, and in Ho Chi Minh City — where I ate the large majority of my banh mi on vacation — most of the street carts sell banh mi filled with various cold cuts, familiar and otherwise. They were all delicious, but once I tried this style, all I wanted were more like this. In fact, about an hour after I had my first, I went back for a second.

Also: Throughout our vacation, my wife and I struggled to convince locals to serve us spicy food. Many European and Australian tourists (and perhaps Americans, too, but we didn’t meet nearly so many), it seems, want no part of typically spicy Thai, Lao or Vietnamese cuisine — something we witnessed to a hilarious extent in a cooking class with some British couples who were put off by the spiciness of ginger and garlic.

So before I carry on, a plea to the Australian dude we met on a boat in Thailand and others like him: Give spicy food a chance, please. You told us you were miffed at all the restrictions they had at the place where they let you in a cage with a tiger. I promise no pepper used in common cooking anywhere presents nearly so much danger, and that developing a taste for more spice will ultimately broaden your culinary horizons and enrich your eating life. I’m not here to tell you what to do; I’m just sayin’s all.

Also, if it catches on, it’ll mean a lot less work on my end in Asia attempting to locate every vendor’s peppers or hot sauces, pointing at them, smiling, nodding vigorously and giving thumbs up. Luckily for us, the woman at the banh mi cart at 37 Nguyen Trai held up a spoonful of chili paste as she constructed the sandwich and shot us a quizzical look, so we were able to point at it, smile, nod vigorously and give thumbs up.

What it looks like:

How it tastes: Awesome. Just… awesome. Everything I could imagine wanting in a banh mi.

The banh mi cart at 37 Nguyen Trai grills tiny pork patties — think seasoned ground-pork sliders — over charcoal on a small barbecue, and there’s enough turnover that every sandwich comes with pork patties hot from the grill. They’re tender and porky, juicy but not greasy, with just a hint of black pepper flavor.

We read somewhere that much of Vietnamese cuisine is fueled by contrasting textures and flavors, a concept that should sound familiar to any loyal readers of these sandwich reviews.

This banh mi seemed the perfect embodiment of that idea: The warm pork and toasty baguette (they threw the baguette on the grill right before they put together the sandwich, a very appreciated touch) complemented the coolness of the vegetables. The intense spiciness of the chili paste matched up with the sweetness of the brown sauce. The sharpness of the cilantro complemented the acidity of the pickled vegetables.

It was crunchy and soft, spicy and sweet, hot and cold, comforting and adventurous, everything. Just an explosion of flavors and textures and general greatness. Damn. I have to go back.

What it’s worth: Oh, that’s the other thing. It cost 14,000 Dong, or about 67 cents. Plus the cost of airfare, of course, unless you’re already in Ho Chi Minh City.

How it rates: 97 out of 100. Inner circle Hall of Famer.

My Taco Bell expertise finally legitimized

Yesterday, the Internet heralded the coming of the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco as if it’s a newly verified thing even though this site and many others have been all over that news for nearly half a year. Longtime friend of the program Gina Pace at the New York Daily News took time off from her diligent work on the Tom Brady moat beat to report and clarify the Taco Bell news, citing the research of one well-coiffed “sports writer and Taco Bell aficionado.”

Pack my bag and let’s get movin’

This I’ve mentioned before: Tomorrow I’m leaving for vacation. I’ll be out of the country for a few weeks, visiting various points of interest in Southeast Asia and ideally eating all sorts of delicious food that I will tell you about when I return. I may check in here a couple of times, but I’m not really planning on it and I don’t know how often I’ll have access to the Internet.

thailandThis I haven’t mentioned: After I get back, I’m leaving my job at SNY and this blog will no longer update with anything like the frequency it has for the past three and a half years. It will still exist in some fashion, and I hope to continue discussing sandwiches and Taco Bell and nearly everything else here when I’m so moved. But it will live outside the SNY umbrella, and it will not even nominally be a sports blog.

You definitely haven’t heard the last of me, and, in fact, I hope you’ve only heard the first of me. But I’ll discuss that more once I’m back from my trip and stuffed to the gills with banh mi. For now, in lieu of anything more creative, I wanted to use this post to express some gratitude.

Maintaining this blog is awesome. So is working at SNY. I became a Mets fan sometime in the winter after the 1986 World Series, and went to my first game at Shea Stadium on Opening Day of 1987. Bob Ojeda won the game and Darryl Strawberry hit a home run. Thanks to this job, I get to chat about baseball with Bob all the time. And one time Darryl Strawberry bought me a sandwich. That’s so unspeakably crazy to me. I hauled soda and hot dogs around Shea Stadium in the summer heat in 2000 and it seemed nuts then that they’d pay me to go to Mets games. Now they pay me to go and I don’t even have to lift anything. Please don’t take that as bragging. It’s just… how is that real?

I have this forum here in which I can write about nearly anything I want, from the fringes of the Mets’ roster to the far reaches of outer space. And actual human people read it regularly, and comment on it and email me with links to other things to write about or sandwiches to try. It’s so amazingly flattering, and it makes me feel awesome, and I love it.

I should say, also, that this blog would never have been possible if it weren’t for my excellent colleagues here. In making the real-job aspects of my job easier, the entire SNY.tv team afforded me time to write from the office. So thanks to Jeff, Jay, Adam, Fred, Jaime and Gil, Tom at MLBAM, and to Matt Cerrone for encouraging me to start this site and getting it set up in the first place. All the bloggers whose sites are, for now, linked in the left column here are excellent people producing good stuff and far less demanding of my time than they could have been, so thanks to them too. Really, thanks to most everyone here for being cool.

And thanks, of course, to the larger Mets blogosphere for hooking up the traffic, especially my friends at MetsBlog, and Eric Simon and the folks at Amazin’ Avenue.

When I spell it all out like this, it makes me wonder why I’m leaving. But I’ve been here five years, and new frontiers await, and it’s time. The Mets’ front office seems to be in good hands, and all your yelling isn’t going to convince me otherwise. Increasingly, I find myself explaining the team’s decisions rather than berating them. Hell, not only did the Mets just actually sign the Minor League outfielder I clamored for, but Paul DePodesta then tweeted Andrew Brown’s Minor League slash line against lefties immediately following the announcement. This is fantasy-land stuff for the True SABR among us who were blogging during the Omar Minaya era.

Plus, when you get to interview Keith Hernandez on stage immediately after he publicly shaves his mustache, you drop the mic and walk away. I started writing about the Mets for SNY.tv in Oct. 2006, when I was an MLBAM employee, a couple weeks after Carlos Beltran struck out to end Game 7 of the NLCS. At the last Mets game I attended for SNY.tv, Keith Hernandez shaved his mustache on stage and R.A. Dickey won his 20th game. Those seem like as good a way to bookend this phase of my career as any I can think of. And I got to witness the Mets’ first no-hitter as part of it.

I’m straying from the point, which is this: Thank you so much. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for emailing. I have put a lot of thought, a lot of effort, a lot of words, and, occasionally, a lot of emotion into this site over the past few years. On the whole I’m proud of the output, and it’s led me to the next step in my career. And there’s no chance I’d have done any of it if I didn’t know there were people out there enjoying it.

Like I said, I’ll be back — both here and elsewhere. But it’s 2013, so you can also get at me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or via email at dtedberg-at-gmail.com.

Since I expect this post will sit here at the top of the site for a while, here are some links to select past posts to entertain you while I’m gone. Some of these were popular, some of these I just kind of liked and remembered this morning when putting this together. For lack of a better system, I categorized them the same way they are in the tabs up top:

Baseball

Feb. 2, 2009: Moving out, moving on
Oct. 15, 2009: Embarrassing Photos of Cole Hamels
March 1, 2011: Beltran selfishly punishing Digital Domain Park scoreboard
June 15, 2011: What we carry
March 7, 2012: The lobster pot

Other sports

June 12, 2010: For the Internet
Sept. 24, 2012: Is anyone really ready for some football?

Taco Bell

Aug. 31, 2011: Dear Taco Bell
Sept. 14, 2011: Mets as Taco Bell menu items

Other stuff

March 18, 2010: From the Wikipedia: The Great Auk
Feb. 25, 2011: Spaced out

Sandwiches

June 30, 2010: The sandwich that made me love sandwiches
Sept. 8, 2010: Sandwich of the decade

Video
2008ish: Matt and Ted go to Philly, Mets Weekly vendor piece
March 18, 2009: The Nooner
Oct. 5, 2012: Requiem for a mustache

What wouldn’t you trade for Giancarlo Stanton?

Look: The Mets aren’t trading for Giancarlo Stanton. It’s just a fun thing to think about, because Giancarlo Stanton is a fun thing to think about. And with speculation about potential Stanton trades pummeling the Internet, I polled Mets fans on Twitter to see what they wouldn’t be willing to trade for Stanton.

Most, understandably, said they’d give up practically anything. A few said they wouldn’t trade Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler or Travis d’Arnaud, which is… well, I think any deal for Stanton would have to start with at least one if not two of Harvey, Wheeler and d’Arnaud.

Think about it: The Mets just got d’Arnaud and fellow top prospect Travis Syndergaard in a package for one year’s worth of R.A. Dickey, plus the negotiating window in which the Blue Jays signed Dickey to an extension. It’s hard to draw a clear parallel because it’s hard to determine the value of the exclusive negotiating window, but trading for Stanton would mean acquiring four seasons’ worth of his cost-controlled services — plenty of time, of course, for an acquiring team to lock him up to a longer-term contract extension.

Harvey, Wheeler and d’Arnaud have a combined 10 games’ worth of Major League experience. Stanton has been unspeakably awesome for almost three full seasons. And Stanton’s younger than both Harvey and d’Arnaud, and only six months older than Wheeler.

One of these things is not like the others

Per MetsBlog, the Mets are looking for a free-agent starting pitcher on a one-year deal and have been “most linked in rumors to Shaun Marcum, Joe Saunders, Carl Pavano and Chris Young.”

One of these things is not like the others, in that only one of these things is a pitcher I have any inclination to see starting games in Flushing in 2013. First, the stats. Over the last three years:

Marcum: 85 GS, 520 IP, 113 ERA+, 1.179 WHIP, 1.1 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, 7.5 K/9

Saunders: 94 GS, 590 IP, 100 ERA+, 1.368 WHIP, 1.1 HR/9, 2.6 BB/9, 5.1 K/9

Pavano: 76 GS, 506 IP, 95 ERA+, 1.292 WHIP, 1.0 HR/9, 1.5 BB/9, 4.5 K/9

Young: 28 GS, 159 IP, 112 ERA+, 1.252 WHIP, 1.1 HR/9, 3.3 BB/9, 6.6 K/9

Notice anything? Of the four, Marcum’s pretty much the best at everything except eating innings. That title goes to Joe Saunders, who belongs to the larger category of boring, league-average innings-eaters who don’t strike anybody out and don’t really get enough ground balls to be dominant best known as “Pelfreys.”

Pavano’s got the best control of the group, but he’ll be 37 next week, he pitched to a 6.00 ERA in 2012, and he’s Carl Pavano.

If all of these guys are actually available on one-year deals — no safe bet, since lots of teams still need pitching — then Marcum seems like the best choice for the Mets. Apparently there are some concerns about arm issues that cost him part of his 2012 season, and though Marcum finished the season in the Brewers’ rotation, he was hit pretty hard in September.

But since Marcum’s got the highest upside of the group by a pretty wide margin, and since a one-year deal wouldn’t hamstring the Mets down the road, and since the 2013 Mets are in a position where they need risks to pay off to be able to contend and since it’s really, really hard to envision any scenario wherein Carl Pavano carries the Mets to meaningful games in September, Marcum’s the guy here. But you probably knew that already.

I’ve got a doctor’s appointment and some meetings this afternoon. Enjoy yourselves. Here’s Method and Red:

Taco Bell’s new Beefy Nacho Griller, briefly

I hope to have a more thorough review of Taco Bell’s new line of Grillers upon my return from vacation later this month. But last night I had the opportunity to enjoy a Beefy Nacho Griller at the World’s Weirdest Taco Bell — in the back of Liberty Cafe on 3rd Ave. in Manhattan — and, in lieu of a qualified defense of Rex Ryan’s decision to flee prying questions about Tim Tebow’s future for Bahamian beaches, I figured I’d provide a quick write-up now.

pdp_griller_beefy_nacho_1The Beefy Nacho Griller contains nothing new or unfamiliar to longtime fans of Taco Bell. It’s a burrito shell, wrapped and grilled around seasoned beef, nacho cheese and — this is important — crunchy f-ing red strips.

Reconfiguring longstanding Taco Bell ingredients into new Taco Bell menu items is right in Taco Bell’s wheelhouse, and Taco Bell knocks this one out of the park. It’s not large — the Griller series is marketed to snackers, and the Beefy Nacho Griller contains roughly the meatlode of a MexiMelt or Crunchy Taco.

But it’s delicious. The seasoned beef and nacho cheese combine to create a comforting, salty, peppery Taco Bell flavor. It’s not unlike the MexiMelt, actually, only the distinction in cheese styles renders the Beefy Nacho Griller more creamy than melty, and it comes without the frustrating need to specify no tomatoes.

Also, the tightly wrapped and grilled tortilla aptly contains the Taco Bell on par with the most portable prior products, producing a great treat for the drive-thru set or, in urban settings like this one, those who prefer to eat their Taco Bell while walking. And those red strips, by far the most underrated Taco Bell ingredient, continue to defy the ubiquitous orange Taco Bell grease, maintaining their crunchiness and creating a pleasant diversity of textures.

My one small gripe with the Beefy Nacho Griller is its somewhat high ratio of tortilla to filling, which seems unavoidable fallout from repurposing the burrito shell for a snack-sized product.

The Beefy Nacho Griller hardly launched to the type of hype that came with the Doritos Locos Tacos or the Cantina Bell menu, but Taco Bell traditionalists will find it far better than all those things.