Monthly Archives: May 2014

The 2014 Binghamton Mets in GIFs

The Manchester experience in 16 moving pictures

Less than two months into the 2014 season, the B-Mets already have played their last regular season game of the year in Manchester, NH.  They leave New Hampshire with a 7-3 record at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium after shutouts, blown leads, big hits, occasional downpours, and a 14-inning finale.  Through all of it, the Binghamton roster has remained almost completely unchanged.  Only backup catchers changed places, with Blake Forsythe (on the DL for his entire 2014 B-Mets stint) dealt to Oakland and Nelfi Zapata (who did not appear in a game in Manchester) replacing Xorge Carrillo after the latter’s call-up to Las Vegas.  That’s effectively a stable 25-man roster to work with.

While I try to cover minor league games with as much useful information as possible, I have my limits.  When it comes to giving an illustrated first-hand account that goes beyond what the box score will tell you, I can at least fake competence.  But when people start asking about mechanics, I’ve got nothing.  I don’t like watching games from behind home plate and I can’t tell a curve from a slider.  I can juggle multiple electronic devices and capture photos and video while live-tweeting a game though.  So I added a video camera to my usual game pack and quickly realized that getting sharp video at night games just wasn’t happening.  Oh well.  What does it all add up to?  Damned if I know.

Let’s kick things off with Wilfredo Tovar enthusiastically grounding into a double play.  Is this something he learned during his stint in the big leagues last year?  Wherever he got it from, that’s a heck of a follow-through.

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18 May 2014 – Binghamton Mets at New Hampshire Fisher Cats

20 innings or bust!  Fine, bust it is…

Brian Burgamy breaks a bat grounding out

Three hit batters, two broken bats, two blown leads…  So much was busted for the B-Mets on Sunday that everyone was going to need a day off after this 14-inning marathon.  What’s that, they had a doubleheader on Monday?  No rest for the winners, I guess.  The B-Mets salvaged a win after blowing a 7-run lead and making the kids wait until after 6pm to run the bases, sweeping the Fisher Cats in their final trip to New Hampshire in 2014.

Box Score

Tyler Pill was coming off two losses in Manchester and the B-Mets were coming off two narrow victories in which they held comfortable leads, so I had low expectations for Sunday’s game.  In a surprise twist, Pill pitched effectively, going five scoreless innings before giving up two runs in the 6th and getting pulled after recording two outs.  His stuff wasn’t overpowering, topping off at about 89mph, but it was the slow stuff in the high-70s that was keeping the Fisher Cats at bay.  When Pill went with mostly high-80s fastballs in the 6th, the Fisher Cats pounced on him and got on the board.  T.J. Chism came in and got the B-Mets out of the inning without further damage.

Kevin Plawecki drives in a run in the 3rd inning

The B-Mets offense did enough damage of their own early in the game to make those two runs largely insignificant.  Cory Vaughn followed up his double on Saturday with another double his first time up on Sunday.  He would come around to score on a Wilfredo Tovar single.  The next run came an inning later on a Matt Reynolds triple and a Kevin Plawecki single.  Jayce Boyd singled to put runners at the corners for Cory Vaughn.

Cory Vaughn hits a sacrifice fly in the 3rd inning

This time, Vaughn flying out was productive, driving in a run as a sac fly.  That would be it for Vaughn’s offense for the foreseeable future; he would finish the night 1-for-5 with a sac fly and a HBP before going 0-for-7 with a walk over his next two games.  That streak of two doubles over the weekend was it for Vaughn’s hot streak and his trouble at the plate in 2014 continues.

Darrell Ceciliani begins a home run swing

Darrell Ceciliani followed Vaughn’s sac fly with the game’s only home run.  The Mets scored two more runs over the next three innings, putting them up 7-0 before Pill started having trouble.  Trouble was also getting started with Wilfredo Tovar.

Wilfredo Tovar fouls one off himself and doubles over in pain

We’ve seen a lot of Mets taking a beating over the course of this series.  Kevin Plawecki took two pitches and a foul ball on Friday, then Matt Clark left Saturday’s game after being hit by a pitch.  Sunday was Tovar’s day, which started when he fouled one off himself in the top of the 7th.  Tovar has been getting a bit frustrated at the plate lately and this certainly didn’t help.  But this was just the beginning.

T.J. Chism runs into trouble in the 7th inning

The rest of the team felt the pain in the bottom half when T.J. Chism started things off with three consecutive hits to left field.  With the pressure on, Chism walked the next batter to bring up Ryan Schimpf, who was so feared on Saturday that he was given an intentional walk.  That wasn’t an option with the bases loaded, so he had to settle for a hit by pitch.  After allowing the first five batters of the inning to reach base without recording an out, that was it for Chism.  He would go on the disabled list the next day, so something was clearly wrong.

Jon Velasquez was handed the unenviable task of getting three outs with three runners already on base.  Those runners wouldn’t be a problem for long.  Velasquez gave up a double that cleared the bases to the first batter he saw but settled in and got through the inning, wrapping things up on a 95mph fastball with runners on second and third.

The B-Mets would get their lead back in the top of the 8th, but it was short-lived.  Jack Leathersich gave the run back in the bottom half but kept the game tied until the end of the 9th.

Chase Bradford and Adam Kolarek would each pitch two scoreless innings to give the B-Mets another four chances to score a run.

Oh, for the love of god, enough with the bunting!

Which they tried to do by bunting.  For three straight innings, the Mets bunted when they got a runner on base (twice that was by HBP).  In the 10th and the 11th, we got the scene above: out at second, just barely safe at first.  We’re in extra innings and the Mets are giving away outs.  Things went differently in the 12th, for better and worse.

Wilfredo Tovar leaves the game in the 12th inning after being hit by a pitch

Wilfredo Tovar started things off by getting hit by a pitch that had him on the ground in pain.  He would leave the game after being helped off the field but would be back in the lineup on Monday.  With Dustin Lawley running for Tovar, Kyle Johnson got a sacrifice bunt down successfully and moved Lawley to second.  Lawley took third on a ground out, but he would be stranded 90 feet from home.  The Fisher Cats answered back in the bottom half with speedy pinch hitter Kenny Wilson walking, stealing second, and stealing third with one out.  Wilson wouldn’t make it any closer to scoring than Lawley had.  Both teams would then strand runners on second in the 13th as this game looked like it would never end.

Matt Reynolds singles to drive in Kyle Johnson for the winning run

Kyle Johnson wouldn’t be bunting when he came up with the bases empty in the top of the 14th.  Instead, he hit a double.  A single from Brian Burgamy moved him to third and another single from Matt Reynolds brought him home for the first run in six innings.  That would be it, leaving it up to a depleted bullpen with only Saturday’s relievers left unused.

John Church would get a one-run Binghamton lead in the bottom of the 14th, leaving only Cody Satterwhite in the bullpen.  Church got things started with a pair of strikeouts and then got an easy ground ball to end the game and finally let the kids, if there were any left in the stadium, run the bases.

The 42nd out…

Final Score: Bingamton 9, New Hampshire 8

That’s it for the B-Mets at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in 2014.  See you next year…

17 May 2014 – Binghamton Mets at New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Rainy Lara’s weaknesses: 7th inning, Ryan Schimpf

Rainy Lara’s previous outing at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium consisted of 7 scoreless innings with just 3 strikeouts.  Despite the results, Lara was clearly gassed by the 7th inning and got lucky on a couple of fly balls to center.  This time around, the strikeouts were up but so was Lara’s 7th inning luck.  Ryan Schimpf had accounted for all of New Hampshire’s offense with a pair of solo home runs before Lara went an inning too far and nearly threw away a 4-run lead.  John Church did his best to limit the damage and Cody Satterwhite pitched a perfect 9th to close out a narrow 6-5 victory.

Box Score

They’ll let anyone to second base around here…

Rainy Lara kept things quick and clean for the first three innings, giving up only two hits while striking out three over that span.  The Mets struck first in the top of the third with three runs on hits from Travis Taijeron, Wilfredo Tovar, Brian Burgamy, and Kevin Plawecki plus a Matt Clark HBP.  Clark was in serious pain after being hit but stayed in the game to run the bases.  Cory Vaughn took his place as DH the next time through the batting order.

Lara got three more strikeouts in the 4th, but only after giving up a solo home run to Ryan Schimpf.  Schimpf hit a second solo home run in the 6th, but that was the extent of New Hampshire’s scoring over the first six innings.

The Mets added a run of their own in the top of the 6th on a Travis Taijeron double that missed being a home run by mere inches.  It was still enough to score Jayce Boyd, who walked earlier in the inning.

Darrell Ceciliani scores from first on a pair of throwing errors

The 7th inning got started with a Darrell Ceciliani single that apparently bugged New Hampshire pitcher John Anderson.  Repeated pickoff attempts have a way of going bad, though Rainy Lara got away with a whole bunch at once earlier in the game.  For Anderson, three was his limit.  Ceciliani made it to third base when the pickoff went awry and then scored when the throw to third had the same result.  I guess that’s one way to get rid of a runner…

In a surprising twist, Cory Vaughn, batting well under .200 this season, hit a double with two outs.  Kevin Plawecki, batting well over .300 this season, then doubled Vaughn home on what appeared to be a routine fly ball.  That would do it for the Mets’ offense, but when’s the last time they blew a 4-run lead?  Oh, right, last night…

It’s never a good sign when runners are rolling around the bases…

Three hits and one out later, Lara was pulled from the game with the lead cut to 6-3.  John Church would go on to allow both inherited runners to score, but neither team managed anything other than a strikeout or groundout over the rest of the game.

Cody Satterwhite strikes out Jon Berti to end the game

Final Score: Bingamton 6, New Hampshire 5

16 May 2014 – Binghamton Mets at New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Rain for Matthew Bowman, pain for Kevin Plawecki

The Binghamton Mets started their final series of 2014 in Manchester on a rainy Friday night with Matthew Bowman making his first start at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. The weather produced the bulk of the offense for New Hampshire, helping the Fisher Cats score 6 runs in the 3rd inning. It took a team effort, but the Mets were able to overcome a two-run deficit to take the first game of the series 8-6.

Box Score

Baseballs 3, Plawecki 3

The last time we saw Kevin Plawecki here, he was not a happy camper after a called third strike ended the series with a loss. Maybe it was karma or maybe it was lingering bad feelings, but Plawecki took a beating in his return to Manchester. He took the first pitch he saw for a called strike, which drew comments from the dugout where they could see that the pitch was just a few inches off the ground. The umpire shrugged off the criticism of a call that was ultimately inconsequential as Plawecki took first base after being hit by a pitch. The message to Plawecki was clear: you’d better swing at anything that doesn’t hit you.

Plawecki’s next time up came with one out in the top of the 3rd. Matt Clark had just driven in his second run of the game to put the B-Mets up 2-0. With the Matts in scoring position (Clark on 2B and Reynolds on 3B), Plawecki sent them home on a single to center. 4-0 seemed like a comfortable lead at the time, but then the weather started getting rough.

Special bonus commentary for lip readers

That was Kenny Wilson tripling to center and driving in Jon Berti to put the Fisher Cats on the board. The rain continued to pick up, clearly giving Bowman trouble with his grip. With the wetness came wildness as Bowman hit the next batter, somehow struck out the next one, and then threw one past Plawecki to allow Wilson to score from third.

Seems like it’s hard to hold on to a baseball in the rain…

It got even worse from there. With the rain coming down in buckets, Bowman walked the next two batters to load the bases. That brought up Andy Fermin, who tripled… His RBI total for the season with a grand slam. Bowman got out of the inning with a strikeout as the monsoon let up, but the Mets’ 4-run lead had evaporated in a deluge of Fisher Cats runs.

Things started getting weird in the 5th when Matt Reynolds reached on a throwing error for the second time and Plawecki, after fouling a pitch off himself and hobbling around in pain for a while, got his second HBP of the night. Cory Vaughn and Dustin Lawley would strike out to strand them, but Lawley’s strikeout was delayed because the catcher was slow to catch on when the umpire never called “Out!” at the end of the at-bat. After some confusion, the catcher tagged Lawley and we were on to the bottom half.

Moving on to the top of the 8th, Lawley singled to lead things off, but was out stretching for two. A Jayce Boyd walk and singles by Wilfredo Tovar and Kyle Johnson loaded the bases for Brian Burgamy, who sent a pitch to the left field warning track for an out his first time up. This time he got a better cut and sent the ball into the left field corner, glancing off Jon Berti’s glove to fall in for a 3-RBI double and give the B-Mets the lead. Kevin Plawecki would drive Burgamy in with his third hit of the night before Cory Vaughn ended his second inning in a row to conclude his 0-4 night.

As for New Hampshire, they didn’t have much fight in them after they dried off. They went down in order in the 5th, 6th, and 7th and had one runner in the 8th when Wilfredo Tovar misplayed a pop fly to the right of the pitcher’s mound. Adam Kolarek was brought in with two outs and somehow managed to induce a double play. Everyone was a bit confused on that one… A single in the 9th was the last of the Fisher Cats offense and Chase Bradford struck out Kenny Wilson to end the game.

Final Score: Bingamton 8, New Hampshire 6

Product Spotlight: 2014 Topps Gypsy Queen

Some good, some bad, and some ugly photographs

Gypsy Queen just isn’t my kind of product.  I’ve never been a fan of tobacco style products, though I can understand the appeal considering the popularity of that era among hardcore collectors.  At least you can get proper toploaders and binder pages for the tobacco size minis, unlike most of the other minis that are plaguing the industry.  And yet, even though I have no interest in building a set of these, I always find myself with at least the Mets autographs and relics plus a base team set.  There’s just something about the distinct simplicity that makes Gypsy Queen stand out.

Card Design

The formula for a Queen Design is pretty simple.  Take some earth tones, add some fancy frame squiggles, and slap a big Gypsy Queen logo on it.  This year’s version is similar to the 2012 design, which is a bit of an improvement over last year’s overly busy look.  I’m not a fan of the heavy use of filters to give the photographs a vintage painting look.  It’s not as bad as whatever went wrong with this year’s Turkey Red, but it looks less “vintage artwork” than “Hey look at this cool Photoshop filter I found!” to me.

Mets Selection

Overall, 8 cards is a bit below average for a 350-card set, but the split between base and short prints is even more off.  Only five Mets made the 300-card base set: Rookies Wilmer Flores and Travis d’Arnaud, Daniel Murphy, and newcomers Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon.  Three Mets are among the 50 short prints: Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and David Wright.  While it is strange to see all of the stars missing from the base set and loaded into the short prints, it’s another absence that is most notable – retired players.  Gypsy Queen is loaded with retired stars, more than 50 in total, but none of them are Mets.  This is the first year without Tom Seaver in the base set, though you could just make your own by cutting out a 2014 Gypsy Queen frame and slapping the Seaver picture they use every year into it.  If you were hoping for a full set of identical-photo Seaver Gypsy Queen cards, that’s the only way you’ll get it.


100 of the 300 full-sized base cards have blue (numbered to 499) and white (retail exclusive) framed parallels.  Flores, d’Arnaud, and Granderson made the list here.  These are always some of the nicest cards in Gypsy Queen and they’re common enough to be easy to obtain.  On the mini side, all 350 mini cards have a full range of parallels including black (numbered to 199), red (numbered to 99), and sepia (numbered to 50).  Despite the low numbering, many of these carry little or no premium.


Two inserts is actually pretty good for Gypsy Queen.  Seaver shows up here, though I’m not liking the sepia treatment of the overly filtered photos.  These would probably look more vintage without the filtering.  At least it’s not the usual Gypsy Queen Seaver photo.


Matt Harvey and David Wright have all of the photo variants this time around.  The full-sized cards get reverse negative variants (with different photos from the base cards to begin with…) and the minis get the usual photo variants that end up being far more common than the regular versions.


2014 continues the decline of Mets base relics in Gypsy Queen.  After having four in 2012 and three in 2013, we’re left with just two this year, one full-size and one mini.  And neither features a photograph that comes close to matching the material.  Wheeler’s shows him in home pinstripes, but the material is from last year’s orange Los Mets jersey.  Gee’s material is from his home white jersey, but the photo shows him in, um, black?  Gee hasn’t worn a black jersey in a game since 2011, making the photo more than two years old.  Apparently getting material from last year is easier than getting photos from the last two years…  The Gee also has patch variants numbered to 10 and 5.  Matt Harvey is the lone Met in the jumbo patch relics (numbered to 50 or less), though most of these do not feature patches as the name implies.


On the other hand, this year’s Gypsy Queen doubles the total number of Mets Gypsy Queen autographs that have been made.  The first three years of Gypsy Queen gave us autographs from Angel Pagan, Jon Niese, R.A. Dickey, Jeurys Familia, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.  2014 Gypsy Queen features the first certified autograph card from Jeremy Hefner, RC autographs from Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores, and autographs from David Wright and Zack Wheeler.  Interestingly, the RC logo is on the d’Arnaud and Flores autographs after being absent on rookie autographs in previous years, proving that nobody has any clue what a Rookie Card is these days.  Parallels include red (numbered to 49), gold (numbered to 25), green (numbered to 10), and purple (numbered to 1).  Wright and Wheeler also have mini autographs (numbered to 10) and autographed relics (numbered to 25).


Mixed bag.  On the one hand, the autograph checklist would be good for just about any product and there are a reasonable number of easily obtainable parallels and variants to chase.  On the other, the lack of retired players in the base checklist (even just another Seaver with the infinitely-recycled photo) and relics that are little more than filler (the orange Wheeler jersey has gotten a lot of use so far this year…) leave considerable room for improvement.  ‘Unbalanced’ might be the best word to use to describe this year’s Gypsy Queen from a Mets perspective.

2008 Mets Draft Class Autographs

A promising draft class goes down in flames

Full list of 2008 Mets draft picks

The 2006 Mets were just one big swing away from a trip to the World Series and possibly the third championship in the team’s history. Along the way to that painful defeat in Game 7 of the NLCS, the team’s flaws were clearly exposed. The game logs of 2006 are littered with the remains of Mets players who couldn’t go the distance and prospects who just couldn’t cut it. When your big hope is that Orlando Hernandez can be in shape to start in the next round of the playoffs, you know you’re in trouble. That round never came, but there’s always next year…

As we saw in 2004, drafting poorly can put you in quite a jam a few years later. The draft itself isn’t a quick fix, but it can save you from making desperate quick fixes down the road that cripple the team under a mountain of long-term contracts. With the consequences of failing to obtain and develop prospects never more apparent than they were after just falling short in 2006 and then utterly collapsing down the stretch in 2007, it was critical that the Mets got things right in 2008. Their first pick didn’t come until number 18, but that was followed by two more picks in the first/comp rounds and five total in the first 100 picks. They had to be able to get something out of all this, right?

1 Ike Davis 1 Reese Havens 1c Bradley Holt 2 Javier Rodriguez
3 Kirk Nieuwenhuis 4 Sean Ratliff 5 Dock Doyle 6 Josh Satin
7 Michael Hebert 8 Eric Campbell 9 Eric Beaulac 10 Brian Valenzuela
11 Jeff Kaplan 12 Mark Cohoon 18 Collin McHugh 22 Chris Schwinden

So far, what we’ve gotten is 10 autograph cards. The only player from this draft class who has been of any significant value to the Mets has been Ike Davis, whose 5.9bWAR with the team is better than all but three players picked later in the 2008 draft. For now. Davis was traded to the Pirates after two disappointing seasons, leaving questions about whether he can be anything more than replacement level going forward. At least we don’t have to play “Why didn’t the Mets draft [player] instead?” with this one, the only standout players drafted after Ike are Craig Kimbrel, who went 96th overall, and Jason Kipnis, 135th overall. At the time though, Davis looked like a good pick and was the only Mets pick with an autograph in 2008 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects.

Havens and Holt would have to wait a while for their autographs, an ominous sign given how the players around them fared. Javier Rodriguez was next up with autographs in 2008 Bowman Sterling (and later 2009 Bowman Chrome), followed by Davis, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Sean Ratliff, Eric Beaulac, and Mark Cohoon in 2008 Donruss Elite Extra Edition. Nieuwenhuis would get his own Bowman Chrome autograph in 2010, but the remainder of the 2008 top 5, Reese Havens and Brad Holt, wouldn’t get theirs until 2011. Chris Schwinden made an appearance in 2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition and Collin McHugh rounds out the bunch with his first autographs in 2013 Panini Pinnacle after he had been traded for Eric Young Jr.

That last bit makes Collin McHugh indirectly the most valuable player from this draft for the current Mets team. In less than a year since the trade, Young has been worth 1.6 bWAR. Of the players the Mets drafted in 2008, only Josh Satin (0.9bWAR) is currently on the team and only Kirk Nieuwenhuis (0.3 bWAR) and Eric Campbell are still with the organization, both at AAA Las Vegas. Davis and McHugh are the only notable trades, with the rest retiring or being released by the club.

And so, this entire draft comes down to six players and not the six you might have expected in 2008. Instead of overall picks #22 and #33 having an impact at the major league level, we got picks #554 and #674, though they be best known for a player they were traded for and a waiver claim merry-go-round, respectively. The top pick did produce as expected for a short while but didn’t turn into the much-needed franchise player to man the corner opposite David Wright. Three back-ups and part-timers complete the set, leaving the 2011-2013 Mets short on premium talent to call on from the minors. Eric Young Jr. was the prize of the 2008 draft for the Mets and he was drafted in 2003 by the Rockies.