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July 19, 2007

When a Pitcher Works in Consort With a Concept

Earlier this season, Gelf spotlighted the cliché-ridden baseball coverage of Mets.com beat writer Marty Noble. Among a crowded field of excitable sportswriters, Noble stands apart, like a beacon of banality in a bromide ocean. Below, Gelf shares a few more of our favorite Noble moments from the 2007 season.

June 24 Mets 10 A's 2

Some referred to it as a sweep. Others used pluralized phrasing; the Mets had won three games—and in succession, no less, they said. No matter how they cut or phrased it on Sunday afternoon, the Mets left Shea Stadium with three more victories and no more losses than they had when they showed up for work on Friday.

Noble carries his extended grammar metaphor throughout the first half of the piece, when he says that his question, "Which was the aberration—sweeping the A's or losing six straight series?" is not merely an exercise in semantics. He shifts metaphors, but not meaning, when he wonders if this series sweep "constitute[s] a correction in the Wall Street sense, or were the preceding 18 games, 14 of them losses, the correction?" Noble approaches Aaron "Wall Street" Heilman to answer the question. Gamely, Heilman forecasts "a bullish trend on the horizon."

Closing line: "Too tired," Reyes said. "I've never been so tired running the bases. When I had to slide, it was tough to get started again."

The words might have applied as well to the Mets' three-week slide and how difficult it was for them to get up and get going again. Perhaps that's why third-base coach Sandy Alomar explained Reyes' run in these terms. "We had to win any way we could. He was tired, but someone had to pay the price."

July 8 Astros 8 Mets 3

It is called the traditional halfway point of the season, though it is neither traditional—it varies from one summer to the next—nor halfway. What it is really is the baseball equivalent of a coffee break—a time to remove the foot from the pedal and the pedal from the metal and assess, dismiss, savor or ignore what happened in the first "half." For the Mets, it's a time for all of the above. Six games beyond the midpoint of their season, things aren't half bad. Their record, after an eye-sore 8-3 loss to the Astros on Sunday, says so. It's 48-39. Their manager and most of his soldiers agree: it could be better, it could be worse. And it can be rationalized like this: "It is what it is"—whatever that means.

The Mets' most recent four games convey that mixed message.

In the game before the All-Star Break, Noble stays on message, writing extensively that the first half of the Mets' season was a mixed message. Were he to describe his own performance, Noble might have written, "With even-handedness to spare, Noble balances every pro with a con, every right with a left, every bright spot with a dark cloud." Finally, he culminates with a neither-here-nor-there and strangely baffling statistical summary.

Closing line: They had split the final four games, too, and the most recent 22 and the most recent 54. They are in first place in the National League East because of how they performed in their first 33 games. They have been at .500—27-27—for 54 games or one-third of the 162-game schedule. And at 27-27, it is only half bad.

July 16 Padres 5 Mets 1

Conventional baseball wisdom says the effect of coast-to-coast flying is greater two days after flying than it is the day after, regardless of the direction traveled. It is a concept familiar to manager Willie Randolph, one he believes is born out by his experiences in bicoastal play, a concept he hopes doesn't apply to his team Tuesday night when it confronts the Padres again.

Monday night had been bad enough. The East-to-West Mets, their energy seemingly sapped, offered little resistance against the Padres in a 5-1 loss that was a yawner whether or not hours slept were considered. How, in the name of sleep deprivation, could Tuesday be any worse? Answer: Jake Peavy working in consort with the concept of deferred fatigue.

Ah, a Cy-Young winner working in tandem with a concept. Sounds like vintage Noble.

Closing line: Wright, ever the optimist, suggested facing the All-Star starter may be an elixir. "Maybe we won't try to do too much," he said.

But how can that be the solution? Not doing too much is the problem.

That may be true for the Mets, but for Marty Noble, not doing too much is never the problem.

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- Sports
- posted on Jul 24, 07

My goodness...someone else feels the same way about marty noble.


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