Aug 11

Which Johan Santana Shows Up Tonight?

Watching Johan Santana pitch this season has been much like reading the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, The Strange Case of Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde. A twisting tale of the agony and ecstasy in the duality that some say exists in all of us. Although not quite as extreme, the concept is not lost on what has been s strange season for the Mets left-handed ace.

Leading up to and including his date with Mets history and lore on June 1st, Santana was on top of the baseball world as he led the Mets with a 2.38 ERA and subdued any talk that he was on the decline after an 18 month recovery from anterior capsular surgery in his left shoulder. The Mets ace was back and had once again become an intimidating presence on the mound – capped off by tossing his 131-pitch no-hitter, the first in Mets franchise history.

However, that night would become a turning point to the season for Santana and just like that a change set in that transform him and his performance into the antithesis of what we had come to expect.

After June 1, the former Cy Young award winner was suddenly in the throws of a pitching slump – unquestionably the worst stretch of his career. In his next eight starts, Santana pitched to an unsightly 6.54 ERA, The swagger was gone, the confidence at a season low, and the dugout whispers suddenly turned into worries and a deep and abiding concern. The Mets say an ankle injury was the cause and soon the southpaw was placed on the DL which seemed like a good excuse to give his seemingly dead arm some much needed rest. Hey, whatever it takes, right?

That said, Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal offers up an encouraging report on Johan Santana who will take the mound tonight against the rival Atlanta Braves. Fresh off Santana’s three inning rehab start in Brooklyn, pitching coach Dan Warthen spoke with Costa and if he’s right, we may see the crafty lefthander who thrilled us for the first two months of the season:

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said the difference was evident in Santana’s overall demeanor. “There were four or five starts where it just wasn’t Johan,” Warthen said. “He generally lights up a room. He has enough energy to light up this whole city on game day.” After the no-hitter, Warthen said, “He was having the kind of energy that would light up a 20-watt bulb.” The fatigue led to reduced arm speed, Warthen said, which led to lapses in control. Santana initially dismissed the ankle injury. But two more dreadful outings convinced the Mets he needed a breather. Now, they will find out if it was enough.

Santana’s fastball hit 90 miles per hour during a rehab start in Brooklyn last weekend, a benchmark he hadn’t reached in a while. “I think you will see pretty much what you saw early in the season the rest of the year,” Warthen said. “I think we’ll see 87 to 90 miles per hour. I think we’ll see better control. But I think you’re going to see a stronger, probably more consistent high-end velocity guy next year. I don’t think you’re going to see the whole Santana package until next year.”

Maybe this journey in duality will have a much happier ending than the one in Stevenson’s classic did.

NOTE: John had to have emergency surgery on Thursday and will be hospitalized until Sunday. Please wish him a speedy recovery and in the meantime I’ll post here in the interim.

Aug 09

Mets Lineup, August 9, Against Miami

After last night’s disaster, the Mets talked about showing up again tomorrow. Well, tomorrow got here a lot faster than normal. There’s no time to stew on 13-0 as the Mets and Marlins are back at it today at noon.

Here’s the lineup:

Ruben Tejada – SS

Mike Baxter – RF

Daniel Murphy – 2B

David Wright – 3B

Ike Davis – 1B

Jordany Valdespin – LF

Andres Torres – CF

Josh Thole – C

R.A. Dickey – RHP

LINEUP COMMENTS: Interesting to see Ruben Tejada and Mike Baxter 1-2 in the order. … Good to see Baxter and Jordany Valespin getting time. … I think we’ve seen the last days of Andres Torres as a leadoff hitter.

 

Aug 09

Mets Embarrassed At Home; Should Invite Everybody Back

 Do you remember Terry Collins’ passionate speech about showing a different team and not being embarrassed? Seems so long ago. Maybe he needs to que up the Knute Rockne music for an encore.
The Mets came out of the break five games over .500 and after last night’s 13-0 rout are five games under. They’ve lost nine straight at home, with only 26,000 bothering to show up to witness last night. Chris Young, coming off a strong outing against San Francisco – where the Mets may have left both their hearts and game – gave up seven runs in just 4.1 innings.
“When you get beat like this tonight, it’s one of those games, you just check it off the calendar and get ready for tomorrow,” said Collins, speaking in a classic managerial cliche.
Hell, last night unfolded as if the Mets checked it off after batting practice. Maybe saying that is piling on, I don’t know. What I do know is the team is about to face the Braves, Reds and Nationals.
The Mets talked about showing up, but that’s not enough. All the goodwill from the first half has been eroded as they are 2.5 games out of the cellar. Want to bet Miami and the Phillies will eventually catch them?
During the dog days at Shea when the team was playing poorly the paltry crowds were embarrassing to see in that cavernous ball park. Citi Field is getting that ghost town look, too. As a gesture of thanks to their disappointed fan base, the Mets ought to invite those people who watched last night’s carnage to show their ticket stub and come back again.
There’s plenty of room in Citi Field and it demonstrates goodwill. Actually, there’s no good reason not to do it.
Aug 08

Mets Need To See Valdespin

The Jason Bay Platoon as begun and tonight we’ll see the left-handed side in Jordany Valdespin against the Marlins.

Good.

Actually, we should see Valdespin full time because when you come right down to it, they have no real outfielders to speak of. Arguably, their best outfielder is one who should be a role player and that’s Scott Hairston. Andres Torres hasn’t given the Mets anything to get excited about. Neither has Lucas Duda. Kirk Nieuwenhuis provided a jolt of energy for awhile, then plummeted to Earth, and later to the minor leagues where he’s nursing a foot injury.

And, of course, we all know about Bay. An ESPN poll had 76 percent eating Bay’s contract, but it’s not their money and GM Sandy Alderson will wait things out in hopes of finding somebody stupid enough to trade for him.

Until then, he’s on the bench, and we should see Valdespin in all situations the rest of the way to see what kind of player he is. This should be a six-week audition for 2013.

Here’s tonight’s line-up, which features Valdespin in left and batting sixth.

Ruben Tejada, SS
Mike Baxter, RF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Daniel Murphy, 2B
Jordany Valdespin, LF
Andres Torres, CF
Josh Thole, C
Chris Young RHP

Aug 08

Alderson: “Bay’s Not Going Anywhere”

Sandy Alderson must say he won’t eat Jason Bay’s contract, even with the announcement the perpetual slumping outfielder is now a platoon player.

Sure, right now, nobody believes Bay won’t ever be the player the Mets envisioned when they signed him to a $66 million package over four years. 

Currently, Bay has little value as a player in the market, but saying the Mets will eat the contract reduces it to nothing. By saying that, teams will hold back and wait for the eventual DFA. Yes, the Mets could always DFA Bay, then pull him back if they can’t work a deal. If nothing else, it’s another way to test interest. Consider it a given Bay has cleared waivers.

There’s a timing to these things, and now it is not the time.

You’d better believe Alderson is working the phones trying to pull off a waiver deal with a contender. Maybe if the Mets eat part of Bay’s deal for next season he can do something. We all thought he’d never deal Carlos Beltran – who didn’t expect a revival? – or Francisco Rodriguez, but he did.

Stranger things have happened. There could be interest in Bay.

If not now, there’s always the offseason to work a trade. But, with the free-agent market, the Mets won’t find takers. There are plenty of quick fixes during the winter so bet the Mets will still have Bay after Christmas.

The Mets’ only hope is for Bay to find it next spring. If he does, that could ignite trade talks. But for now, Alderson’s proclamation of Bay staying will hold.

At least, until there’s a team with a desperate need that makes poor decisions. Yes, the way the Mets were when they signed Bay in the first place.