Sep 18

Are The Mets Shopping Ike Davis?

ESPN reported this morning the Mets are considering trading Ike Davis. It seems plausible explanation for why Lucas Duda has been getting more playing time at first base. Adam Rubin wrote it, so I trust the reporting.

DAVIS: Anguishing over another strikeout?

But, isn’t Davis one of the bright young talents the Mets are building around? Isn’t he one of the good products from what has been regarded as a weak farm system?

Yes, but there’s more to the story than just his age and power potential, which could reach 30 homers this season despite a slow start. He is on pace for 30 homers, but also on track to hit .223 with 142 strikeouts and only 60 walks.

Davis said he’d like to remain a Met, but understands the business side of the sport.

“If they trade me, they trade me – I can’t do anything about it,” Davis told reporters. “I have to do my job where I am at.” 

Trading Davis, despite his power potential, makes sense on several fronts:

1) The Mets have few chips they could spend and definitely are reluctant to tamper with their young pitching. Davis, with his potential and low salary, is a player who could bring in several pieces in return. In considering the available Mets that could be dealt, David Wright might bring back more, but his salary would be a deterrent. Davis is a player who could be tied up in a long term deal.

As being one of their few tradable chips is important considering GM Sandy Alderson has already spoke of keeping basically the same payroll next season, which would preclude spending lavishly in the free agent market.

2) While Davis is their frontline first baseman, the Mets have depth in the position with Duda. There’s absolutely no outfield depth and they would struggle to replace Wright or Ruben Tejada.

3) Reportedly, Davis hasn’t taken to being coached well and has a weakness for the night life. If this is true, the Mets wouldn’t want him around to influence the other young talent. Reports like this could work either way in the Mets’ attempts to deal Davis. First, Davis could be viewed as a problem, although there’s been no complaints about him in the clubhouse. Secondly, the perception could be that the Mets have been so poor in recent years that a player not being coachable could be interpreted as not that big a deal.

Davis debuted with a flair, but sustained a severe ankle injury last year and was struck by a virus this spring. He might be totally frustrated and resentful of how the Mets handled the ankle injury and this could explain any reluctance with the coaching. On the flip side, Terry Collins opted to keep him earlier this year when he was struggling instead of sending him to the minor leagues. That action must be regarded as the Mets having confidence in Davis, and that can’t be underestimated.

I often wonder what became of Davis’ approach at the plate. He arrived with a reputation of being patient, working the count and taking the outside pitch to left field. He would wait for his pitch to crush. However, we’ve been seeing less of that lately and more of him over swinging and trying to pull.

What Davis hasn’t realized, or it hasn’t been told to him – although I doubt that – is if Davis was more patient and went the other way, that he has the power to hit it out to left. Also, adding 40 points to his average would translate into more homers.

I can see Davis becoming a star player, but I can also see him evolving into an all-or-nothing slugger. If the Mets can swing a deal and fill a couple of holes elsewhere, then go for it.

 

Sep 17

Mets’ Fade Makes One Yearn For A Pennant Race

Every morning I take a glance at the standings and the pennant races. There’s nothing like the drama and intensity of a pennant race. It is the essence of the sport.

For the record, this morning the Mets are 14 games under .500 and 23 games behind the Nationals with a schedule that could plummet them to 20 below.

So much for a pennant race involving the Mets. Even the collapses of 2007 and 2008 gave those Septembers more meaning than this excruciating month. Of course the remaining schedule is of importance to the Phillies, Pirates and Braves, all in wild card contention. There are six games left with the hated Marlins in the battle to stay out of last place.

Major League Baseball added a second wild card in the hope of creating spice and interest in more cities. So far, it has worked in both leagues.

Sort of.

In the American League there are eight teams – including the three division leaders – that could end up with a wild-card berth. In the AL East there is a dogfight between the Yankees, Orioles and Rays. But, what kind of fight is it really if all three were to qualify for the playoffs? Mathematically it could happen.

In the National League, seven teams are in serious wild-card contention with all three division leaders having comfortable margins.

For all the drama – is it really manufactured drama? – in the wild-card races I think of perhaps the greatest pennant race in history, that being 1967 in the American League when five of the then 10 teams in the league were alive in September, but only one would survive.

For much of that tumultuous summer, the Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Tigers and Angels were all packed at the top. The Angels were the first to drop out, then with over a week remaining the White Sox’s woeful offense finally wore down their marvelous pitching staff led by Gary Peters and Joel Horlen.

I remember it vividly because I spent that summer in New England and started following the Red Sox on the radio at night. My Indians, of course, were like the present day Mets and well on the outside.

The Red Sox, Twins and Tigers were alive heading into the final weekend. Carl Yastrzemski’s Sox and Harmon Killebrew’s Twins would eliminate one of those teams. All three were alive the final day. Boston eliminated the Twins early, then had to wait until the Tigers lost the second game of a double-header before clinching.

There have been many great pennant races, but for the amount of teams involved, that one had the most.

It’s not the same intensity when so many are involved for a play-in game.

If the old, no-division format were in place today, the Nationals and Reds would be having a great race, with the Braves and Giants on the fade.

The American League would have a spicier race with the Rangers, Athletics, Yankees and Orioles within five games of each other. That combination would give 1967 a run for its money.

Perhaps, because I was a kid and was just developing my passion for baseball

the 1967 race stands out. But nearly four decades later, it is still special reading about it.It is one for the ages.

Sep 16

Mets Matters: Should Chris Young Be Brought Back?

Chris Young took the loss today, but worked into the seventh inning, and in doing so passed 100 innings for the season and received a $150,000 bonus.

More importantly, he’s probably showed enough to warrant a contract for 2013, if not from the Mets, then somebody else.

“It means I’m healthy,’’ said Young. “I think I’ve pitched pretty well, better than my record probably indicates. But, there’s a lot of room for improvement.’’

There is, because although Young had his moments when he worked deep into games like today, there were others when he was rocked. Still, he started 18 games, his most since 2008.

Veteran arms are important, so we shouldn’t write off Young returning even though he’s not included in next year’s rotation. Although the Mets have ideas as to how their rotation will look, there are significant questions that make Young’s presence desirable.

Both Johan Santana and Dillon Gee are coming off injuries so there will be caution with them. You have to like Matt Harvey’s future, but it is premature to label him an ace right now.

Something will happen next year, you know it, so having depth is essential. If not Young, then the Mets will shop in the bargain aisle for veteran pitching depth. The advantage of bringing back Young is the Mets’ familiarity with him.

More Mets Matters:

* Terry Collins said Jeremy Hefner would likely get the start Wednesday against the Phillies. A couple of weeks ago this series meant nothing but the Phillies, like the Brewers, have become wild card contenders.

* David Wright now has 1,411 hits, seven shy of Ed Kranepool, the franchise’s career hit leader. Yes, statistics is what it has come down to for the Mets this season. I’d also like to see Wright finish with at least 90 RBI. He has 81. Another milestone would be Ike Davis hitting 30 homers, joining Eddie Murray, Carlos Delgado and David Kingman as Mets first basemen with 30 homer seasons.

* After Jenrry Mejia was shelled Saturday, pitching coach Dan Warthen said he views him as a reliever, claiming he didn’t believe he would be able to throw 200 innings year after year. I wonder how Warthen can make that assessment when the organization keeps bouncing Mejia around from being a starter to the bullpen.

* The opportunities are getting winding down for R.A. Dickey’s bid to win 20 games. He’s scheduled to start tomorrow night against the Phillies and maybe two more after that. He’s stuck on 18 victories.

Sep 15

Jenrry Mejia Getting His Chance

A mark of a good manager is putting his players in position to succeed. He shouldn’t force a player to do something he’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable with, thereby increasing the chance of failure.

That’s what Jerry Manuel did to Jenrry Mejia in 2010. With his job clearly in jeopardy and no bullpen to speak of, Manuel insisted on putting Jenrry Mejia in a relief role coming out of spring training despite no experience at it and, no definable role with the Mets.

Mejia didn’t work for long stretches and struggled when he did get in games. Eventually, he performed so poorly he was optioned out. Once in the minors, they tried him as a starter again. He was eventually injured.

He starts tonight at Milwaukee, despite his last three appearances at Triple-A Buffalo being in relief, this after a solid stretch as a starter.

You guessed it, the Mets still don’t have an idea where Mejia fits into their 2013 plans.

Mejia had dramatically more success at Triple-A Buffalo this season as a starting pitcher than working in the bullpen. He had a 2.75 ERA in ten starts and a 5.48 ERA in 16 relief outings.

His manager at Buffalo, Wally Backman, has faith in him as a reliever.

“You know what? He had never really relieved before, until he got to the big leagues for the short time [in 2010],’’ Backman said. “They sent him back to Triple-A and he started. And then he got hurt. So this year he started as a starter.

“`And [then] we put him in the bullpen. And, believe it or not, I think it was his last three outings in the bullpen, he was pretty good. Then we all of a sudden started him again. To me, he was figuring it out.’’

Mejia has it figured out in his mind as to what he wants to do and where he’s most comfortable and it is starting.

“That’s what I’m looking forward (to),’’ Mejia said. “I want to show them I want to be a starter. I can do my job like a starter.’’

Mejia said he feels more in control with his pitches starting, perhaps because at the start of the game there’s less pressure and more a margin for error than in the eighth or ninth innings.

On paper the Mets’ rotation seems set for 2013, but it must be remembered Johan Santana and Dillon Gee are coming off injuries; Jonathan Niese has a way to go before reaching his potential and might have regressed this year; and Matt Harvey is unproven over the long haul.

All those variables could open up a spot for Mejia.

Sep 14

Should Be Calm Weekend in Brew Town; Keep Duda In Left

My guess is there won’t be any retaliatory fireworks this weekend when the Mets are in Milwaukee this weekend.

When DJ Carrasco plunked Ryan Braun this spring, Terry Collins pulled David Wright from the game to protect his All-Star – over Wright’s objections – yanked Carrasco and cut him the next day. Collins then made sure of talking with Braun at the All-Star Game to smooth over any lingering animosity.

Odds are that conversation, plus bouncing Carrasco, was proof enough for the Brewers that stuff wouldn’t be tolerated by the Mets. Also, tempering the emotions this weekend is that Milwaukee is suddenly in the wild-card race.

With the games growing increasingly important, and scarce, why would the Brewers risk riling up the Mets and possibly exposing Braun to another beaning? That would be the height of stupidity.

This should be an interesting series even without the dramatics.

The Mets will start Jenrry Mejia tomorrow in his first start of the season.

After all this time, unbelievably there are some in the organization split on what his role should be. He’s had some degree of success at both in the minor leagues, but also a measure of frustration on the major league level.

They’ve stretched him out already and with Matt Harvey shut down after one more start, that would open up an opportunity for Mejia to get three starts in the final month. That should be enough for the Mets to get a clue as where they should put in during spring training.

With Johan Santana and Dillon Gee coming off injuries, Harvey in his first full season, and the uncertainty of Zach Wheeler, there will be starting opportunities next year, and with the Mets not likely to spend in the off-season, having Mejia in place in a must.

Another reason Mejia should be in the rotation is that starters are harder to come by than relievers. It seems every winter there is a closer available. The caveat with closers is they can be hit or miss, and Mets fans don’t have to go back far to recall Frank Francisco and Frankie Rodriguez. Both saved more than they blew, but both also provided anxious moments. Come to think of it, so did Billy Wagner.

One thing I’m not getting lately, unless the Mets’ intent is to showcase him in a trade, is the sudden need to see Lucas Duda again at first base. We saw plenty of him last year, and what the Mets need to find out is if he can play left field because he plays right as if it were a minefield. Duda is in left and Ike Davis back at first tonight.

The Mets like Duda’s power potential, and unless they move him, he seems destined to platoon with Jason Bay in left field. If both Duda and Bay are on the team next season, I’d rather see Bay in right field.