Mar 27

Will Mets hold back Santana?

This injury-riddled spring for the Mets has had one bright spot and that is the rehab of Johan Santana. His velocity has increased, topped off at 92, then leveled off to the high 80s in yesterday’s start.

SANTANA: Will they hold him back?

Santana’s arm strength has improved, but not to where the Mets would have hoped to start the season. I don’t believe a final start will get him to the level the Mets want, so after all the work he and the Mets have put in, why push the envelope now?

It’s been two years, so what’s another couple of weeks? The Mets must be cautious with this decision because Santana could represent a competitive and fun summer. I see the Mets holding back a couple of weeks to give Santana more time to build his strength with an extended spring training.

 

 

 

Mar 26

New look here; same old look for Mets.

As you can tell, the blog has a new look. Many thanks to Joe DeCaro for his help. There will be some more subtle changes over the next few days with the overhaul complete by Opening Day. The new look has energized me and I’m looking forward to the season more than ever. As they have been for the past few seasons, I know the expectations are low for the Mets. Even so, there’s always something about the start of a new season. With Opening Day a little over a week away, the Mets have several questions that must be answered:

Q: Will David Wright be ready?

A: He hopes to play today, but said the odds are 50-50. I don’t know if a week is enough time to get ready. He could possibly open the season on the DL. If not, a slow start is almost assured.

Q: Will Johan Santana be ready?

A: It would be just like it for the Mets for Santana to be ready and not Wright. Santana made strong progress this spring and his availability will give the Mets a spring to their step. Santana will start today with a target of 90 pitches.

Q: What about the other injured?

A: Andres Torres, Ruben Tejada, Garret Olson and a few others have nagging injuries. Tim Byrdak will open the season on the DL and that’s also a possibility for Scott Hairston. On the plus side, Ike Davis seems fine.

Q: What’s going on with Mike Pelfrey?

A: Pelfrey said his ankle is fine and shouldn’t be used as an excuse. Too bad. That would mean his awful pitching is because he’s awful. I don’t believe Pelfrey can turn it on immediately after a lousy spring.

Q: Will Jason Bay find his stroke?

A: He’s been looking for several years now and is still struggling to be the player the Mets hoped.

 

Mar 23

Pelfrey just doesn’t get it.

Mike Pelfrey continues to tick me off. This time, it is hearing the news has been pitching with a high right ankle sprain during spring training. Pelfrey said he injured his ankle in the offseason and aggravated it the beginning of camp.

PELFREY: Will it ever happen for him?

There are several ways to look at this, none of them good for the Mets:

* If Pelfrey is injured, then he’s a complete idiot for not telling the Mets’ trainers and medical staff immediately. It is common knowledge in the sport that leg injuries often lead to arm injuries because it alters the pitcher’s mechanics and puts a strain on the arm.

As a pitcher, how does Pelfrey, either not know this or chooses to ignore it? Just plain stupid.

Pelfrey came to camp saying this could be a make or break season for him, so given that, why would he take such a risk? Just dumb.

* These get their ankles wrapped every day. How could a trainer miss this? There has to be tenderness, soreness, slight swelling or change in color.

* What does pitching coach Dan Warthen have to say about this? Warthen told reporters the ankle is why Pelfrey has primarily pitched out of the stretch most of this spring and why his velocity was down. So, with that answer, Warthen is saying he sent Pelfrey out there knowing he had a bum ankle. That’s got to be a new level of stupid.

Continue reading

Mar 22

Chipper Jones – Mets Killer – to retire.

Some opponents you loathe. You watch with venom in your heart for how they destroy your team. Or you despise their arrogance and swagger.

Other opponents you respect and admire, and salute for their longevity and talent. Such is the case with the Braves’ Chipper Jones.

JONES: His Topps' Rookie Card.

You figured it was coming soon, but it became official this morning when Jones announced this would be his final season playing third base for Atlanta and tormenting the Mets.

Jones will be one of the rare players, something I hoped would be the case with David Wright and Jose Reyes, to play his entire career with one team.

I covered Cal Ripken and Derek Jeter through the prime of their careers, and respected what they accomplished. Both had opportunities to leave for more money, but recognized the importance they represented to their team and cities. They are special players.

Don Mattingly and Kirby Puckett were that way, too. It was a shame it wasn’t the case with Tom Seaver and Reyes. I hope it isn’t that way with Wright.

Jones thought about retirement two years ago, but changed his mind. Now, after 18 years and a string of injuries the past two seasons, there’s no longer fighting time.

Early in camp, Jones told reporters: “Never in my mid-20s would I have given myself a snowball’s chance to be in camp and have a job at 40 years old.  But I like to think I’ve kept myself in pretty good shape over the years. The skills are still there to go out and get it done. I don’t know for how much longer, but we’re gonna ride it as long as we can.’’

I wish for him a full and healthy season, one with numbers that will have him leaving with pride and not frustration.

It was obvious watching Jones the past two years that he slowed. You could tell his range was declining and he wasn’t the same on the bases. Still, when he came to the plate in the late innings, he was showed respect from the Mets’ pitchers.

Since 2004, Jones underwent two knee operations and dealt with several other nagging issues that deprived him of 500 homers – he would have been the third Brave to reach the milestone, joining Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews – which has been an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Jones, the 1999 NL MVP, joins Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray as among the games’ greatest switch hitter, which is an unappreciated skill. Jones takes a .304 career average, 454 homers and 1,561 RBI into this season.

Of his 454 homers, 91 came in August and 74 in September, during the heat of the pennant race; 213 were hit in the seventh inning with the Braves tied, ahead by one, or had the tying run on deck.

And, against the Mets, Jones’ numbers would represent a MVP season: He hit 48 homers, with 154 RBI and a .318 career average.

He hit 19 homers at Shea, which is what he named his son. Any player who would name his child after Shea Stadium is worthy of a salute.

I’ve covered well over a two thousand baseball games, and as a reporter found Jones to be accommodating and thoughtful. His appreciation for the fundamentals and ability to perform under pressure made him a privilege to watch.

Some day, I’ll get to say I saw Chipper Jones, Hall of Famer. He’ll get my vote.

 

Mar 21

Defense up the middle weak

Traditionally, winning teams are built for strength up the middle: catcher, pitching, second base and shortstop, and center field.

That’s not looking good so far for the Mets, especially with center fielder Andres Torres sidelined with a strained calf muscle.

With minor league prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis suffering with a strained oblique, manager Terry Collins will experiment with infielder Jordany Valdespin and Jason Bay in center. I can see Bay, but Valdespin is total desperation and an indictment on the Mets’ lack of depth and foresight to bolster the position.

Second base is a concern because of Daniel Murphy’s lack of experience at the position. He’s awkward around the bag and doesn’t have consistent footwork. Meanwhile, there’s no doubt about Ruben Tejada’s defensive prowess at shortstop, but there is the matter of playing a full season.

As for the pitching, both the rotation and bullpen are deep with questions and concerns. This isn’t a strikeout staff and still walks more hitters than it should. As for the bullpen, it is patchwork with no proven lefty.

Josh Thole came up with a lot of potential, especially at the plate. He’s still relatively new at the plate and it shows with his ability to call a game and block pitches. He is still far away from being proven.