Feb 20

Delcos: Notes from the first day of camp.

* Quote of the Day: “I’m to the point now where I have to be developed and I have to be ready to play on a daily basis. That’s the biggest thing for me is not to use that as a crutch.”

That was Josh Thole talking about this being a make-or-break year for him. It’s true. Hard to believe, but this is Thole’s third year on the major league level and he needs improvement behind the plate and at-bat. Thole came up with a reputation for patience at the plate, but deviated from that last season. His game  calling also became suspect last year, as was his defense (eventually, he’ll have to learn to catch R.A. Dickey).

* Jenrry Mejia isn’t ready to throw yet. There’s no way he’ll be ready in early part of the season. The Mets still don’t know what role they are planning for Mejia, but what seems to be apparent is it isn’t a stretch to assume his arm problems might be linked to how the Mets have bounced him around from role to role.

* Word is the Mets aren’t giving out No. 7, the number worn by Jose Reyes. Why? Are they keeping the light on for him? The sooner they give out No. 7, the sooner they are moving on without him. He’s gone. Get used to it.

 

Feb 20

Welcome back

I always loved this day, when pitchers and catchers report. Actually, the first day of spring training has become blurred with players reporting earlier each spring. It seems the week after the Super Bowl is when  players begin to trickle in. David Wright has been working out in PSL for over a week now.

This is the day when enthusiasm and optimism run high for the summer ahead. This spring that has been tempered for the Mets with the Wilpon’s financial crisis and the passing of Gary Carter. Incidentally, of all the tributes to Carter, the one by the Montreal Canadiens was my favorite. Their players wearing No. 8 and Carter’s image on the ice were truly memorable.

I digress for a moment, but it reminds me how much I miss Montreal as a stop on the tour. I always used to like visiting that city. Historical town, great places to eat and the obvious European flavor.

I always thought Montreal got a raw deal from MLB. Yes, attendance was dwindling, but how could that have been avoided with MLB threatening to leave for years until the city built a new stadium. Just shabby.

The Mets, you’ll recall ponied up most of the money for Citi Field, and despite getting $20 million a year in naming rights, the new stadium hasn’t provided either the payday or the home field advantage the team sought.

Attendance was just over 2 million last season, and that is the first of my top issues facing the Mets as their 50th year in existence begins:

Q1. Will the Mets draw over 2 million?

A. The debate isn’t whether the Mets have enough to contend with the Phillies and Braves, but if they have the talent to keep pace with the Nationals and Marlins? They don’t on paper or the field and are projected to finish fifth in the NL East. With a brutal April schedule, they could be trailing by double digits before the weather warms. If the Mets aren’t competitive, there’s no reason to head out to Citi Field and the attendance will drop, and with it will come a further drain on their finances. Never mind winning, but the Mets need a competitive, exciting team for the turnstiles to keep clicking.

Q2. Will the Mets win their court case?

A. Seventeen days prior to Opening Day we should get an idea how much the Mets could be on the hook for because of the Ponzi scandal. Win or lose, there will be an appeal, but should they win there’s a sliver of hope the Mets might be able to add talent at the trade deadline if they are competitive.

Q3. Will David Wright be traded?

A. I don’t believe GM Sandy Alderson for a second when he says how good the team the Mets are will have no bearing on whether Wright is dealt. If they are playing beyond expectations and people are coming out, the Mets can’t afford to trade Wright and expect fans to keep showing up. If they are stinking, who can’t envision Wright not being traded?

Q4. What’s to become of Johan Santana?

A. He’s throwing in PSL, but there’s still no timetable for his return. If he comes back or not, he’ll still cost the Mets close to $25 million. It’s a pipe dream to hope for Santana being able to pitch and be healthy enough for the Mets to trade him. The odds don’t favor a complete recovery from his type of shoulder surgery. It’s a long shot, but the Mets are hoping he’s good enough physically to give them enough starts to create interest.

Q5. Will they get anything out of Jason Bay?

A. With the fences moved in 15 feet, perhaps Bay can’t help but hit for some more power. Bay has done nothing to warrant his contract and outside the fences, there’s no reason to believe anything has changed this season.

 

On the first day of spring training, you’d like to see the team’s primary questions divorced from the Mets’ financial problems, but that’s being naive. What happens on the field is directly linked to the Wilpon’s bank accounts. That’s just the way it is.

I’ll be back later with more baseball specific questions surrounding the team.

 

Feb 17

What is a hero?

We use the words hero and great in sports to the point where they become cliche and lose their meaning and impact.

CARTER: Lived a life of inspiration.

Gary Carter was a baseball player, who made a good living playing a game most of us played as kids and only dreamed of having the fraction of talent he possessed. We cannot use the word “hero,” in describing Carter and any other athlete when compared to a soldier who saves his comrades in a firefight, or a policeman who risks his life in protecting a person from peril, or an act of unselfish bravery by a nondescript man who runs into a burning building to save a child or stands up to a thug in a subway while coming to the aid of a stranger.

Or a parent who goes through the daily grind to set an example of morality to his child.

Carter would be the first to say he’s not a hero or great when compared to those examples.

In reading over the past 24 hours of testimonials from teammates, opponents and fans who never met him we get a glimpse into the player and man who meant so much to so many. He came to many of us as an athlete, but captivated our imaginations and captures our respect with the intensity he played the game and the dignity and integrity in which he lived his life.

With his faith, his genuine goodness as a human being, and his compassion for others, he touched many in a way that went beyond his hitting and ability to handle a pitching staff.

With the way he lived his life, Carter molded the lives of an adoring family and inspired many he never met. The ultimate testament came from teammates who said they wish they led their lives as Carter did his.

In that way, he was truly heroic. It is said a man with friends is truly rich, and Carter was wealthy in which many of us can only dream.

 

 

Feb 16

Gary Carter passes away.

It is with great sadness I report Gary Carter passed away a little over an hour ago.

CARTER; Lived a full, loving life. Rest in peace.

“I am deeply saddened to tell you all that my precious dad went to be with Jesus today at 4:10 pm.,” daughter Kimmy Bloemers posted on the family’s website. “This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write in my entire life but I wanted you all to know. He is in heaven and has reunited with his mom and dad. I believe with all my heart that dad had a STANDING OVATION as he walked through the gates of heaven to be with Jesus.”

Carter was diagnosed with four brain tumors last May, but several new tumors were found in January.

Carter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 after retiring in 1992. In 19 seasons, he hit .262 average, with 324 home runs and 1,225 RBI and was an 11-time All-Star.

“When you think of the great baseball field generals, you think Gary Carter,” Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said in a statement. “He ran the game from behind the plate with strong leadership and passion. The Kid’s contribution to our national pastime is big, but his heart was even bigger. We’ll always remember his caring way, ever-present smile and strong devotion to family, community and the Baseball Hall of Fame.”

Carter was an integral member of the 1986 World Series championship team. He handled the pitching staff with a firm hand and was clutch when the Mets needed a hit with the game on the line.

The Mets just released this statement: “On behalf of everyone at the Mets, we extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to Gary’s family — his wife Sandy, daughters Christy and Kimmy and son D.J.  His nickname ‘The Kid’ captured how Gary approached life.  He did everything with enthusiasm and with gusto on and off the field.  His smile was infectious. He guided our young pitching staff to the World Series title in 1986 and he devoted an equal amount of time and energy raising awareness for a multitude of charities and community causes.  He was a Hall of Famer in everything he did.”

I’ll always remember Carter on the field as a clutch hitter, but off it I’ll remember his smile, his sense of humor and his accommodating nature to myself and other reporters. I always checked him on my Hall of Fame ballot and was pleased with he was finally inducted.

Rest in peace, Gary.

Feb 16

Duda Hoping To Get It Right

Andrew Keh of the NY Times says the Mets have replicated the new dimensions at Citi Field at the team’s spring training complex in Florida. Field 6, which was initially constructed with fences that mimicked the original shape of Citi Field, was altered this winter to match the stadium’s new design.

So far, it has been left unused by the players who came here this week for voluntary workouts, and no one is expected to practice there before the team officially opens spring training next week. But when they do, the first fly balls there will carry with them a significant dose of intrigue.

Good call by the Mets in my opinion and it will be interesting to hear what kind of feedback we get from the players once they start playing some games there.

In addition to getting a feel for what it will be like to hit at Citi Field, it will also be useful Lucas Duda who really needs to elevate his play in right field.

Mark Simon of ESPN shared some insight on Duda’s defensive problems last season:

Duda had trouble coming in on balls and he had trouble going back on balls too. Duda had four Defensive Misplays for failing to anticipate the fence, which rated his biggest defensive issue. Pro-rated over a full season, Duda’s misplay rate would come equate to nearly 60 Defensive Misplays & Errors for an everyday player over a full season. That would be about as bad as could be. Last year’s major league leaders, Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks and Mike Stanton of the Marlins, had 49.

Yes, Duda emerged as a viable hitter with power for the Mets after he replaced Carlos Beltran in right field last season. But he looked like a train wreck defensively. Now with the new dimensions, he can gain some valuable reps out there that could make his job easier. Duda told Keh that he is eager to start the process.

“I can’t wait to get out there,” Duda said of Field 6. “My routes have to get a lot more precise, so it’ll be a good thing to go out there and start to get used to the dimensions.”

By the way, Mets outfielder instructor Tom Goodwin is already in camp and working with Duda on getting a better jump on balls.

Duda is going to be an important piece of the puzzle in 2012, and this focus on fielding his position well, should pay some nice dividends for Terry Collins and the Mets this season.

Collins, incidentally, sees the situation with Duda like this:  “This guy is going to be a monster.”

Written by Craig Lerner of Mets Merized Online.