In a pre-game celebration, the Mets honored the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Miracle Mets World Champions.  They are so proud of that season that they recently hired 82 year old Phil Regan as pitching coach.  His apparent qualification for the position is that he was a prominent relief pitcher for the Cubs in 1969 as they collapsed and surrendered their large lead to the Mets.  Regan faced the Mets 7 times in 1969. Hey, maybe he can bring back that magic.  You gotta believe! (as Faith Hill’s father-in-law often said)

Sure, that was a great moment in Mets history, but there was apparently no mention during the ceremony of another significant date in Mets history. Ten years ago today, June 29, 2009, Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison. The federal judge who imposed the sentence stated that Madoff’s crimes were “extraordinarily evil.” Madoff apologized in the courtroom, saying, “I am responsible for a great deal of suffering and pain.”

At first blush, it appeared that a good deal of that suffering and pain was inflicted on Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon. When Madoff went bust, the Mets’ ownership had, according to their eventual settlement, approximately $500 million invested in Madoff accounts. The Wilpons also had used that money as collateral for other loans. Financing these debts, as well as the $43 million annual payment on Citi Field, costs the Mets over $100 million each year, before any of the principal is paid down.

But before you start to feel sorry for the Wilpons or the Mets, you should know that though their $500 million disappeared, the Wilpons allegedly had been reaping false profits for years. The trustee for the Madoff victims sued to recover those profits, and eventually settled, with the stipulation that the Wilpons and their associates had made $162 million over the years in accounts with Madoff.  (I’m not making this up—see the Mets’ own SB website:

So no, never feel sorry for the Mets.  Not even when they’ve lost 7 in a row, as they now have after the Braves defeated them on Saturday.  The Braves had them right where they wanted them—trailing in the 8th inning.  With one out in the 8th and the Mets leading 4-3, Markakis and Riley went back to back.  Those two runs were the difference as the Braves won 5-4.  In addition to late inning magic, bullpen success has marked the Braves’ run since the middle of May.  And on Saturday, Webb and Jackson shut the Mets down in the 8th and 9th.  Luke had to pitch around an error by Freeman on a grounder by Alonso and his own walk to Davis, but he then struck out Conforto, got Frazier on a slow roller to third, and struck out Smith to end the game with the winning runners in scoring position.  Most impressively, he got both Conforto and Smith on fastballs.

Teheran started for the Braves, and he was the quintessential Julio.  After two innings, he had surrendered two hits, walked two, and hit two batters (for a WHIP of 3.00).  Of course the Mets failed to score in either inning.  Meanwhile, the Braves jumped on Matz in the first on singles by Ronald and Swanson, a HBP by JD, and then a two run single by Ozzie.  (Swanson and RAJ each had three hits on the day.)  Rain came after the second, causing a rain delay of over an hour.  When they resumed in the top of the third, Matz could not continue, so the Mets turned to Chris Mazza, who was making his major league debut at age 29.  After 3 pitches, Mazza had surrendered his first major league run, on a single by Acuña and a double by Swanson.  It looked like the rout was on.  But the Braves never scored again against Mazza, who pitched 4 innings. 

Julio did return to the mound after the delay, even though he had thrown 50 pitches in the first 2.  Not surprisingly, he gave up 2 runs in the next inning and a third, whereupon he was relieved by Blevins.  With runners on second and third, Blevins got Cano and Conforto to end the threat. Props to Snit for using Blevins appropriately against the two lefties.  While the Braves continued to hibernate against the Mets bullpen, the Mets took the lead with two in the 6th against Touki and Newki.  But Newk pitched a scoreless 7th, and Neck and The Human Cheat Code did their thing in the top of the 8th.  In April, you would have been certain that the lead wouldn’t hold up.  But now, I was cautiously optimistic that the pen could hang on.  Luke almost gave me a heart attack, but he came through again.

Freddie Freeman is the greatest Brave, and my favorite, but today’s game revealed once again that baseball is hard.  He went 0 for 5 with 3 K’s, leaving 5 on base.  To make matters worse, he made a crucial error on a fairly routine grounder by Alonso who was the first batter in the ninth.  It didn’t look good.  But this team has so many guys performing so well, they could afford a rare terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day by Freddie, and still win.

In other good news, the Phillies lost to the Marlins (again!:)) and the Nats to the Tigers. The lead is 6 and a half on the Phils and 8 on the Nationals.

They go for the sweep, and a 7-3 road trip, on Sunday behind Max Fried.