May 04

Mariano Rivera Reminds Mets Fans How Fragile Things Can Be

This is a Mets blog, but also a baseball blog, and part of baseball is Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ Hall of Fame closer. Mets fans remember Rivera because he snuffed out many games over the years, including Game 5 of the 2000 World Series.

RIVERA: The end of an era? (YES)

When the ball left Mike Piazza’s bat with a crack I thought it had a chance, but like many before, because of that awesome cutter, Piazza didn’t get all of it and the ball died. It is one of baseball’s most dominating pitches, like Tom Seaver’s slider, Doc  Gooden’s fastball and Johan Santana’s change. Not many solved it.

After watching the Knicks get pulverized last night and getting bored watching the same about the Mavericks, I started to channel surf and caught the tease about Rivera being hurt and his career possibly being over.

Watching him crumpled on the warning track I recalled my eight years covering him and recalled several moments. Coming to mind immediately was his constant demeanor. Whether he sawed off another bat to end a game, or when Luis Gonzalez beat him with a bloop single to win the 2001 World Series, he was a stand-up guy.

However, one time after he blew several save opportunities in a row he got testy and said he was a human being and not a machine with oil running through his veins. It was surprising to hear, but it showed he was, indeed, human.

I enjoyed stopping by his locker to chat about things non-baseball. One spring I told him a joke three days in a row. On the fourth day, he came up to me and said, “where is my joke?” I loved that.

Another time I asked if he could play any position but his own what would it be and he said centerfield. So, to see him shag fly balls was not a surprise. He did it on a daily basis throughout his career.

But, to be injured shagging flies is a freak, unusual thing. Somewhat like his cutter, it is something that can’t be explained. He wasn’t injured because he is over 40 – see Derrick Rose also tearing his ACL – but being over 40 will make the comeback all the more difficult.

Sure, I can see him retiring, but I can also envision his pride not letting him go like this.

Yes, it was an unexplainable injury, but a reminder of how fragile things can be for an athlete. Mets fans have seen more than their fare share in recent years, like Ike Davis’ ankle, David Wright playing a month with a fracture in his back, the concussions of Jason Bay and Ryan Church, and how Billy Wagner’s elbow injury might have cost them the playoffs in 2008 and subsequently brought on the Francisco Rodriguez era.

Followers of the Mets know better than most how an injury can’t be projected, but can determine the course of a team. If Jose Reyes didn’t have an injury history would he have been re-signed? How things might have been different in recent seasons without injuries to Wright, Wagner, Carlos Beltran and Duaner Sanchez.

If Sanchez doesn’t get hurt in that taxi accident, the Mets never would have traded Xavier Nady for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez.

Just think of how things could have been different.

 

May 03

Mets Must Sort Out Rotation And Houston Mess

Terry Collins spent much of the day deliberating his options regarding Chris Schwinden and the Mets’ rotation. After two rocky starts in place of Mike Pelfrey, Schwinden has proved not to be the answer.

After yesterday’s blowout, Collins wouldn’t say if Schwinden would come out of the rotation. He didn’t say he’d remain, either.

The Mets’ tissue paper thin depth was always going to be an Achilles Heel this year and it has come to pass. There are pitchers doing better than others on the minor league level, but nobody screaming for a promotion.

One option might be to keep Schwinden in the rotation in the hope he works out of this or if Chris Young is ready.

Whether it be on the minor league level or unsigned scrap heap free-agent, the odds against the Mets landing a workhorse in the rotation seems slim. I would have liked the Mets to sign a pitcher in the off-season, but that’s 20/20 hindsight.

There wasn’t a lot of things to like about the Houston series, although listening to the “Eyes of Texas,” during the seventh-inning stretch was good to hear, including David Wright’s comment the Colorado series drained the Mets.

That can’t happen, which Wright acknowledged and is a good sign. No excuses, said Wright, the Mets just played flat.

“You know, we knew we were going to have some ups and downs, especially with a lot of the young guys that we have on this roster playing right now,” Wright told reporters. “But this is what we need to fix if we want to become the team that we think we are capable of becoming. There are way too many inconsistencies right now. It seems like we play great for a series and then poorly for a series. And we’re going to have to straighten that out.”

One of the flaws of recent Mets teams has been their inconsistency. Win three, lose four. Managers constantly say they want their teams to just win series, one at a time. Win two or three, win three of four.

That is what the Mets did in 2006 and for five months in 2007.

Of course, consistency is easier to attain with better pitching which leads us to the hole in the rotation. The key game in the Houston series was the Jon Niese game. R.A. Dickey pitched well the previous night and Schwinden was awful. The game they needed to salvage the series was Niese’s start and he was anything but solid.

Growing pains? That all depends on how the Mets respond. Coming up are Arizona and Philadelphia, both good tests.

 

 

May 02

Mets Had Their Moments In Houston And So Did I

The thing I will take most from this series is the thought of missing the Houston Astros in the future even though the Mets might not. The Astros are moving to the American League, a move I don’t agree with on any level.

THE ASTRODOME: An original.

The Astros were born the same year as the Mets and have a 50-year tradition in the National League. If any NL team should move to the AL, it has to be the Milwaukee Brewers who originally switched from the AL. The Brewers have a AL history and should move back. They switched because when Bud Selig owned the team he wanted the Cubs to come to his park for the draw. Connect the dots.

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May 01

This Could Be It For Mike Pelfrey As A Met

Mike Pelfrey will undergo Tommy John surgery today in Alabama, a procedure that could mean the end of his nondescript career with the Mets.

PELFREY: The end? (AP)

The recovery period will take up to a year, which would eclipse the December date a team has to tender contracts. With Pelfrey to make $5.6 million this season for a handful of starts, the Mets will probably not tender a contract and allow him to become a free agent.

Yes, the Mets received positive news in the Ponzi scandal, but that doesn’t mean they will suddenly become frivolous. The Mets certainly won’t extend him at this time or go through the arbitration process.

If Pelfrey is to continue his career with the Mets, they’ll cut him loose, then attempt to re-sign him and start over at a lower figure.

Preventing the Mets from rolling the dice and keeping him is that Pelfrey never became the pitcher they envisioned. Pelfrey appeared to have a breakthrough season in 2010, but dramatically regressed last year. He’s lost more than he’s won, and his career has been marked by lapses in concentration (three balks in one game at San Francisco), a lack of developing his secondary pitches, and an inability to put away hitters and close out innings.

Yes, he’s lost close games and had bad luck, but aces are able to improvise and pitch through adversity. They find a way to win, something Pelfrey has been unable to do.

Maybe he’ll catch on somewhere else and develop into a solid starter. Maybe he’ll meet the expectations. But, he’s not shown much to compel the Mets to give him another opportunity to do it here.

May 01

David Wright, Kirk Nieuwenhius Shine in April For Mets

April is in the books and the Mets are sitting well in the National League East at 13-10.  I am first to admit I never envisioned that record for the Mets a month into the season.

When the schedule came out, I penciled in seven or eight wins, tops. However, the Mets exceeded all expectations to make me wonder just how good a summer this could be.

WRIGHT: April Player of the Month

There’s been a lot to like, so let’s touch on some of April’s high points:

PLAYING THEM TIGHT: Including last night’s loss in Houston, the Mets are 8-2 in games decided by two runs or less. That is one of the best indicators a team is heading in the right direction. A team gives itself a chance to win when the score is close. There have been few games when you feel like turning off the TV in the early innings. The Mets are making you watch, and the record shows they have been worth the wait.

WINNING THE DIVISION: The Mets lost series to Washington and the Braves, the latter on the road. However, they swept the Braves and Marlins at home and won a series in Philadelphia. The NL East hasn’t been kind to the Mets in recent seasons, but they are standing up to their division rivals in the early going of 2012.

THE WRIGHT STUFF: Despite missing several games with a fractured pinkie, David Wright is back and stroking the ball with authority. Wright has hit in the clutch and posting good numbers. I’d like for him to hit with more power, but would take the average and RBI than have him slip into bad habits swinging deep. Wright is playing at a level where the contract extension should be a given.

THOLE TAKES A STEP: At the start of the season I wondered about Josh Thole, both offensively and defensively. He’s shown improvement in both areas and the staff likes throwing to him. The Mets’ catching will longer be a concern if Thole continues at this rate.

MURPHY TAKING TO SECOND: We all knew Daniel Murphy could hit, but just as important is his comfort level at second base. Last night he went into the hole and threw back to second for the force. Both catching the ball and throw have been problems. Murphy’s defense was a significant question now being answered in the positive.

TEJADA PLUGGED THE HOLE: We all wondered how Ruben Tejada would respond replacing Jose Reyes. Tejada’s glove was never in doubt, but he’s hit better than anticipated. Before it is over Reyes might have better numbers, but Tejada has not been the weak link.

HELLO NIEUWENHUIS: Andres Torres’ calf injury gave Kirk Nieuwenhuis an opportunity and it looks like one he won’t relinquish.  Nieuwenhuis plays an aggressive center field and is confident at the plate. There’s a lot to like, such as a swagger that says he belongs.

SANTANA IS BACK: Johan Santana’s recovery from shoulder surgery was one of the spring’s leading questions, and save one bad outing, he has been stellar. Wisely, the Mets have monitored his innings and will continue to do so. All they need is to score some runs for him.

ROTATION HAS BEEN GOOD: The Mets received a serious setback when they lost Mike Pelfrey to Tommy John surgery, but Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey have been solid. The Mets need more innings from their starters to stay out of the bullpen, but mostly the innings they’ve received from Niese, Dickey and Santana have been good. Much better than expected.

SURVIVING THE STORM: How the Mets respond from Pelfrey’s injury will dictate a lot about this season. They have been a resilient team and played through injuries to Wright, Jason Bay and Torres. They’ve also compiled a winning record despite little production from Ike Davis and an erratic bullpen. The pen has its positive moments, but there have also been several head-scratchers. Frank Francisco regressed after a fast start and now is nursing a hamstring problem.

I am picking Wright as my Player of the Month. Please check out the newest poll question and share your thoughts. Thanks.

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