Mar 02

Trying To Understand The World Baseball Classic; David Wright Departs

David Cone once told me there could never be a true World Series after the real one because there are only so many pitches in an arm.

It just wouldn’t be practical for one to put his career in jeopardy for a mythical world tournament. Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander – neither of whom are in the World Baseball Classic – instead remain in their spring training camps preparing to pitch for teams that pay them.

WRIGHT: Playing for USA

WRIGHT: Playing for USA (AP)

Make no mistake, the World Baseball Classic is about two clashing financial perspectives. First, there is the noble objective of trying to promote baseball globally, and yes, that means selling even more Yankees and Dodgers caps in countries where the $20 to buy such a hat could more than feed a family for a week.

The other financial viewpoint is from the athletes who are training for their jobs. Mike Trout, arguably the best player in the sport last year, isn’t playing. There are dozens of others staying home.

David Wright is going. This is important to him.

However, baseball is not like soccer or basketball, sports that can be played in a tournament format. Excellence in baseball takes a month in the United States, with three levels of competition. And, that’s with ten teams.

To do a baseball justice on a world stage would require at least two months, not the two weeks they are trying to jam this in.

And, can it be a true tournament if many of the best players in the major leagues aren’t present? Another thing I find puzzling is why don’t the major leaguers – who represent teams in the United States – not play just for the United States. There is not even a masking of their loyalties.

Johan Santana wanted to play for Venezuela, his native country and not for the United States, the home of his employer who will pay him $31 million this season whether he throws a pitch or not.

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Mar 02

Jonathan Niese Next In Line For Opening Day Start

Jonathan Niese, whom I called the Mets’ most significant starter at the opening of training camp, threw three scoreless innings Friday against Detroit.

A key for Niese will be how he controls his change-up.

Niese, incidentally, will be the Opening Day starter if Johan Santana can’t go. I say book it. No way would Terry Collins send Matt Harvey out there just ten starts into his career.

Harvey will get the ball his afternoon against Miami.

As far as pitching assignments go, figure Bobby Parnell as the closer because Frank Francisco, who is down with a sore elbow, will likely not be ready.

AROUND THE HORN: David Wright leaves today for the World Baseball Classic. (I’ll have something on the WBC later today). … Lucas Duda was a scratch yesterday because of a medical issue. The Mets are saying it is minor. … Daniel Murphy has started hitting off a tee. He’s nine days away from playing in a game.

Mar 01

Sandy Alderson On Evaluating Terry Collins

General manager Sandy Alderson stopped short of saying manager Terry Collins’ job was secure, but in a conference call this week, left the impression he will be judged with a broad paintbrush.

COLLINS: He's smiling now.

COLLINS: He’s smiling now.

As GM, Alderson’s job description entails building for the future, while his lame duck manager has nothing guaranteed beyond this season.

That doesn’t mean the two perspectives can’t co-exist.

Collins’ extension will be assured if the Mets have a winning season, but even if they don’t – very possible considering their holes – he could be back in the dugout in 2014, when the spending is supposed to begin.

“Well I think there are two things upon which a manager is evaluated,’’ Alderson said. “One is wins and losses, and the other is the improvement of the players on the team. And regardless of whether you have a veteran-dominated team or a younger team, players have to improve.

“And more importantly, they have to be motivated to improve, and that’s really partly where the manager comes in. I think that Terry will be evaluated on both of those bases, with the understanding that the wins and losses are not an absolute – to some extent they are relative to the talent that we have.’’

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Mar 01

Mets’ Outfield Remains Muddled

After a handful of games, this much is certain about the Mets’ porous outfield situation: Nothing has been settled.

We know Lucas Duda is expected to play left field, but center field and right field are open. Wide open, it seems.

Going into spring training, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill were penciled in as a platoon in center, while veteran Marlon Byrd and Mike Baxter were going to be a right field platoon.

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

“The outfield is definitely a question mark, collectively,’’ Sandy Alderson said. “I think we’ve liked what we’ve seen from Cowgill. I don’t think that (Andrew) Brown and (Jamie) Hoffman have had much of an opportunity to play at this point.

“Nieuwenhuis, (Matt) den Dekker, still have some work to do offensively. Marlon Byrd is what he is (which hardly qualifies as an endorsement. Mike Baxter is certainly in that mix- expect him to be on that team.’’

Nieuwenhuis if off to a horrible 0-for-12 start with six strikeouts, and both Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin have outperformed him offensively. Nieuwenhuis was given the first opportunity to with the leadoff spot because of his speed, but he’s shown nothing in that regard. Last night, he batted fifth.

Den Dekker has a great glove, but Jim Edmonds comparisons quickly end when his bat is mentioned.

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Mar 01

Beltran Sings Wheeler’s Praises

Carlos Beltran left the Mets for San Francisco two summers ago with the hope of playing in the World Series.

Beltran did his part, batting .323 with seven homers in 44 games with the Giants, but it wasn’t to be. Even so, Beltran believes the Mets got the better end of the deal that sent pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to New York.

“It worked out better for them,’’ Beltran recently said. “I thought we were going to go to the playoffs and it didn’t happen. But it is what it is. I took the chance of going to the team that was fighting for a playoff spot and it didn’t work out for me. But it worked out for the Mets.’’

While Beltran has a few more years left to his career, the ceiling seems unlimited for Wheeler, currently sidelined with a strained oblique muscle.

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