Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

Lost weekend encapsulates a lost Mets season

The New York Mets are in the middle of one of their most disappointing seasons of my lifetime. And this weekend seemed like a perfect representation of it in miniature.

The Mets opened the second half on Friday in last place, percentage points behind the rebuilding Miami Marlins. But there were reasons to pay a little bit of attention. Sure, after 21 years of interleague play and an actual World Series meeting, the Subway Series isn’t what it was, but it’s still something. And the Mets had Noah Syndergaard on the mound and Yoenis Cespedes playing for the first time since May 13th. If the on-field aspects didn’t draw you in, there’s still the speculation about what the Mets’ would do leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of the month.

In short, this was about as good as it was going to get for the rest of 2018. And the Mets delivered on the field Friday night: Syndergaard scattered eight hits over five innings and limited the New York Yankees to just one run, Cespedes hit a home run and Michael Conforto drove in three runs to lead Mickey Callaway’s squad to a 7-5 victory.

But that’s never the whole story. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman combined to throw 100 pitches over the final four innings of the game because Syndergaard left with what was termed “a little dead arm” and closer Jeurys Familia was unavailable since the Mets were in advanced trade talks with a then-unidentified team.

And then it got even worse. Cespedes told reporters that calcification in both of his heels was at the root of the leg issues that made him miss more than two months of this season. The only way to fix it is surgery.

When asked if it could be done during the offseason, Cespedes said he was still thinking about it, noting, “The recovery process takes over eight to 10 months.”

The Mets being the Mets, nobody was prepared to deal with this bombshell Friday night. Nobody was prepared to address it Saturday morning, either, though Callaway had to face the press.

This is how Callaway opened his pregame news conference: “I didn’t get to read any of the stuff he said, or hear it. I’m not quite exactly sure what he said. I just know that he came in pretty sore today.”

Cespedes did not play on Saturday, as the Mets lost to the Yankees 7-6. Neither did Familia, who was traded to the Oakland Athletics for minor league RHP Bobby Wahl, 3B William Toffey, and international bonus money.

Seven years ago, I met a 21-year-old Familia outside of Mercer County Waterfront Park in Trenton. He signed a couple of baseball cards for me and tried to teach the small group of Mets fans who waited to see him after the game how to pronounce his first name correctly. (Hey, he was years away from becoming a National League All-Star, and none of us had much more than high school Spanish.)

Familia seemed like a good kid who would go far, and he did. Remember his failings in the 2016 World Series, but also remember that the Mets wouldn’t have made the playoffs that year without him. Familia finishes his Mets’ career with 123 saves, more than all but Armando Benitiz and John Franco.

Was he a perfect closer? No. But then again, there is no such thing. Mariano Rivera came the closest of anyone I ever got to watch, and just ask a Yankee fan about the 2001 World Series if you need proof. But hey, at least Familia has a chance to play in games that matter over the last two months of the season, and that’s more than most of his ex-teammates will do.

The annual sell-off sucks, but how about the players the Mets got back from Oakland?

Well, we’ll probably see the 26-year-old Wahl in New York sooner or later. He made his major league debut with the Athletics last season and was putting up decent numbers in Triple-A at the time of the trade. Lord knows, the Mets need all the bullpen arms they can find since they don’t want most of their starters to face lineups more than twice.

Toffey, 23, was assigned to Double-A Binghamton. He was the 17th best prospect in Oakland’s system and a fourth round draft pick in 2017. Does he have a major league future? Who knows? But if he does, it’s years away. And maybe the international bonus pool money helps the Mets stock their farm system some more.

I don’t pretend to be a prospect expert (very often, anyway) and I was willing to accept this as a reasonable return for two months of Familia’s services… until I saw people with actual expertise criticizing the deal.

Sources from rival teams interested in Familia told The Athletic’s Jim Bowden (subscription required) that they didn’t know why the Mets didn’t approach them one final time to give them a chance to top Oakland’s offer…

I now find myself hoping very strongly that the Mets do not trade off Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard, Steven Matz or Zack Wheeler this month.

Sunday, the Mets finally made one of their three co-GMs available to talk to reporters about Cespedes. (I’m having a very hard time not referring to them as Larry, Moe and Curly.)

“It’s something that he has managed and we have managed with him,” [assistant general manager John] Ricco said. “It’s one of those things he has good days and bad days with it. He brought up surgery with it — surgery is kind of a last resort. The way you treat this is with various conservative methods, whether they be stretching, orthotic, anti-inflammatories, and that is kind of how he’s managed those symptoms over the past few years.”

“To our knowledge, the first [time] he even was considering this surgery was when he said it on Friday.”

Cespedes is planning to see a foot specialist and Dr. David Altchek this week as he tries to decide what to do going forward.

As I currently understand things,

  • We don’t know if Cespedes will play again in 2018 or if he will have surgery.
  • If Cespedes does have surgery now, he will still miss a significant portion (perhaps all) of the 2019 season.
  • There is no guarantee for how well Cespedes will be able to perform, regardless of what treatment he receives.

It really makes me wonder what Cespedes was doing on the field on Friday night, and whether the Mets know what they are doing with their best hitter and highest paid player.

And since it never rains, it pours, there was also a health update on Syndergaard on Sunday. He went on the 10-day disabled list after recently exhibiting symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease, a viral illness that normally affects young children.

You just can’t make this up.

“Sounds like once the blisters and everything — or whatever he’s got going on on his hands — clears up, he’s going to be fine,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said Sunday.

Let’s hope that’s how it turns out this time. Syndergaard’s last trip the the DL was only supposed to cost him one start, too.

The bright side on a rainy Sunday night? The final game of the Subway Series was postponed, giving the Mets a chance to avoid further losses for 24 hours.

Tonight the nightmare season resumes, with the Mets facing the cellar-dwelling San Diego Padres (weather permitting.) The reason to watch tonight? Jacob deGrom, pitching for the first time since the All-Star Game. And then maybe just check the scores and watch the highlights until it’s deGrom’s turn to pitch again….

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Posted in Odds & ends

Twilight photos

Here are a couple of photos that I took earlier this evening. The first shows my NJ Transit train arriving in Bridgewater right around sunset. The second shows the crescent moon and the planet Venus, which appeared unusually close together tonight.

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Posted in Doctor Who

Doctor Who meets some Muppets

I hope that everyone had a good weekend. Doctor Who released a new teaser for Series 11 today… while I am looking forward to the Doctor’s return, this new video didn’t really grab me.

So to make up for it, here are a couple of the past Doctors meeting the Pigs in Space crew. You can’t get much better than the Doctor and the Muppets, right?

Anyway, let me know what you think in the comments.

 

Posted in Autographs, comic books, Lego, Odds & ends

Borough Con 2018

Yesterday I went to Borough Con, a second-year comic and anime convention being held at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint. After a successful first year at St. John’s University, the show organizers hoped to transition to the new space and unfortunately, the crowds did not exactly follow.

There were a couple of dozen people waiting to get in when the doors opened a little bit before 10 a.m., and it took just a few moments to wander the show floor since the majority of the vendors and artists were still setting up. So, panel time… I went to “You are not the father,” a Maury-style examination of familial relationships in Dragon Ball, Naruto and Yugi-Oh… which ended up being a fun way to start the day.

I got to listen to Jim Starlin, Ron Marz and Fabian Nicieza talk about creating some of comics’ best villains Thanos, Parallax and Deadpool (yes, Deadpool started out as a villain until he got crazy popular.) That was fascinating, but it pivoted onto a topic that is sadly always relevant – what happens when you change a character in a way that pisses off some fans. At least when Hal Jordan became Parallax, it was before social media was around to amplify negative reactions to the degree it does today.

Then it was time for the one panel that I’d been planning to attend — Whoprov NYC: The New Adventures. Whoprov NYC is exactly what it sounds like – a Doctor Who-inspired impov group based in New York. And despite the group members outnumbering the audience, they put on an amazing show with two original “episodes.”  One was built around bubble tea, garlic and linoleum. The other featured Weeping Angels and alien chickens. Steven Moffat and Chris Chibnall might not have much to worry about, but they were good fun in the spirit the sillier classic Doctor Who serials.

I went to one more panel before lunch, “Life as a Professional Cosplayer,” just because I was curious about how people managed to turn their hobby into a profession. This was the only panel that pretty much filled the room, which seemed like it could accommodate around 20 or 30 people comfortably.

The panel turnouts should have been a clue, but I was surprised how empty the show floor still was after I’d had lunch. I bought art prints from Jim Starlin and Mark McKenna, found a polybag to add to my Star Wars Lego collection, and looked at what everyone else had to offer.

By looking through the tables I discovered just how far out of the anime scene I’ve gotten… I think KonoSuba was the newest show I’d watched, and that’s from almost two years ago at this point.

I hung around for the media guests’ panel in the afternoon, which again was lightly attended. According to the BoroughCon program, the lineup was originally planned to feature Hale Appleman (Elliot on The Magicians), Isaiah Mustafa (Luke Garroway on the recently-cancelled Shadowhunters), and Jamie Chung (Blink on The Gifted.) As it turned out, only Chung made it to the convention. She was joined by Daniel Newman (Daniel in The Walking Dead.)

The panel was planned as a Q&A, but Chung and Newman ended up having a conversation with each other for most of it. And they were awesome. Chung told us about buying comics when she was a kid. She picked based on the cover, then put them away in plastic unread because she didn’t want to mess them up. Since this was the Death of Superman overproduction era, it’s probably pretty safe to open them up to read now.

Chung saw my Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 t-shirt with Groot on it and told us about going for the part of Mantis in the movie. She didn’t get it, but she said she’s ok with that because she’s friends with Pom (Klementieff). I ended up with a unique inscription on my Blink photo when I got Chung’s autograph after the panel.

It ended up being a fun day… I got to see panels I wouldn’t have been able to go to at a larger convention and talk to guests in a way I wouldn’t have if there’d been a bigger crowd. It was a very nice change of pace from New York Comic Con, but I’d have to guess it will be tough to get vendors, artists and guests to come back next year based on the small crowd numbers.

Did you do anything fun this weekend?

Posted in Nature Photography, Odds & ends, Toy Photography

Photos

I’ve got about a million things that I want to do, but I only have the time and energy for a fraction of them. So tonight I’m just going to show you a few of my favorite photos that I took in May.

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I took this photo of my Matt Harvey Oyo Sports minifigure after learning the New York Mets had designated him for assignment last month, bringing an end to an era where he was supposed to be the Mets’ ace. They later traded Harvey to the Cincinnati Reds, where he continues to struggle. For a brief period, Harvey was awesome and on the nights he pitched, every Mets fan had to stop what they were doing and watch to see if Harvey would do something for the history books.

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My other favorite photo subject is my flowers. This is an allium, a plant in the onion family that produces a round ball of tiny star-shaped flowers in the spring. I usually look at the whole ball of flowers, but this photo is a closeup that’s more interested in the lines of the flower stems than the flowers themselves.

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I think it rained on all but one Saturday in May… it kinda took the fun out of having them off for a change.

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Lego ‘me’ doing some gardening

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Actual me looking at a clover plant I’ve been growing since last summer. It’s gotten another six or eight inches taller since I took this selfie.

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A peony flower near sunset

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A nearly full moon

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An alternate of the highwayman photo I posted on my Instagram account… I like the lighting better here, but I noticed that Lego horses don’t photograph well head on.

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My Memorial Day 2018 photo

Do you have any cool photos that you want to share? Post them in the comments & I’ll take a look.

Posted in Star Wars

A quick review of Solo: A Star Wars Story

I finally made it to see Solo: A Star Wars Story today with my friend Vinny, and we both enjoyed it.

Solo is a fun, action-packed summer popcorn flick that can be enjoyed whether it’s your first Star Wars experience or if you’ve seen all nine previous live-action films plus all six seasons of Clone Wars and three seasons of Rebels. 

Alden Ehrenreich may not be Harrison Ford, but he ably brings a younger version of Han Solo to the screen. (Solo primarily takes place 10 years before the events of the original 1977 Star Wars film.) He’s got good chemistry with his co-stars, particularly Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca.)

Veteran actors Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany created wonderful new characters in the Star Wars universe, though Newton’s Val was shamefully underused. Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian and his co-pilot L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) stole the show for me, though.

There are some amazing action sequences (including the best “car” chase in a Star Wars film) and a lot of fun Easter eggs and cameos.

I hope that Solo’s disappointing opening weekend won’t prevent us from seeing some additional adventures involving Ehrenreich’s Han, Glover’s Lando and Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra.

What did you think of Solo? 

Entertainers, drug dealers, fans and junkies

I’ve been reading Saga, a critically acclaimed comic series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Think about a cross between Romeo and Juliet and Game of Thrones by way of Star Wars, and you’ll have the general idea.

Alana and Marko are our star-crossed couple, members of two warring species in a conflict that has lasted so long that the origin has largely been forgotten and the actual fighting is done by proxy through conscripts and allies on different worlds. Yet somehow, they end up falling for each other and have a baby… and that puts them on the run from both sides. Can’t have someone showing that it might just be possible to not be at war, after all.

While they’re on the run, Alana briefly works as an actor on the Open Circuit, a kind of virtual reality successor to television. And she has this conversation with Yuma, a set decorator for the bad soap opera she works on:

Alana: We’re not soldiers, we’re entertainers.

Yuma: Like hell. We’re drug dealers.

Yuma: It’s true, the Circuit has only ever existed to pacify an angry and hopeless population.

Alana: Maybe shitty shows like ours, but what about actual good ones? I got into “Filament City” when I was young, changed the way I thought about poverty.

Yuma: And what did you do? Join a nonprofit organization? Volunteer at a soup kitchen? Or did you lock yourself in a tiny room, shut the blinds and mainline every transmission like a junkie?

Yuma: Some art might have the power to change people, but the Circuit can only ever change the way we feel, and never for very long.

— Saga Chapter 20, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

And you know what? It kinda hits home, not just about television but about a lot of our entertainment in 2018.

Art can change people and give them something to aspire to… just look at all of the folks who ended up in science because of Star Trek, for one example. People have found love through fandoms. People went on to become authors and artists after starting with fan fiction and fan art.

But Netflix, Hulu and the internet put so much entertainment at our fingertips that it’s easy to get lost in the escapism. And as someone who’s managed to watch whole seasons of a series in a weekend, I do wonder what I might accomplish if I pulled the plug.

But that’s just it… I wonder. And odds are pretty good that I’ll go back to watching Lost in Space shortly after I hit the “publish” button.

So yeah, I might be a junkie…

(But check out Saga and Lost in Space, they both look pretty good so far.)