May 01

David Wright, Kirk Nieuwenhius Shine in April For Mets

April is in the books and the Mets are sitting well in the National League East at 13-10.  I am first to admit I never envisioned that record for the Mets a month into the season.

When the schedule came out, I penciled in seven or eight wins, tops. However, the Mets exceeded all expectations to make me wonder just how good a summer this could be.

WRIGHT: April Player of the Month

There’s been a lot to like, so let’s touch on some of April’s high points:

PLAYING THEM TIGHT: Including last night’s loss in Houston, the Mets are 8-2 in games decided by two runs or less. That is one of the best indicators a team is heading in the right direction. A team gives itself a chance to win when the score is close. There have been few games when you feel like turning off the TV in the early innings. The Mets are making you watch, and the record shows they have been worth the wait.

WINNING THE DIVISION: The Mets lost series to Washington and the Braves, the latter on the road. However, they swept the Braves and Marlins at home and won a series in Philadelphia. The NL East hasn’t been kind to the Mets in recent seasons, but they are standing up to their division rivals in the early going of 2012.

THE WRIGHT STUFF: Despite missing several games with a fractured pinkie, David Wright is back and stroking the ball with authority. Wright has hit in the clutch and posting good numbers. I’d like for him to hit with more power, but would take the average and RBI than have him slip into bad habits swinging deep. Wright is playing at a level where the contract extension should be a given.

THOLE TAKES A STEP: At the start of the season I wondered about Josh Thole, both offensively and defensively. He’s shown improvement in both areas and the staff likes throwing to him. The Mets’ catching will longer be a concern if Thole continues at this rate.

MURPHY TAKING TO SECOND: We all knew Daniel Murphy could hit, but just as important is his comfort level at second base. Last night he went into the hole and threw back to second for the force. Both catching the ball and throw have been problems. Murphy’s defense was a significant question now being answered in the positive.

TEJADA PLUGGED THE HOLE: We all wondered how Ruben Tejada would respond replacing Jose Reyes. Tejada’s glove was never in doubt, but he’s hit better than anticipated. Before it is over Reyes might have better numbers, but Tejada has not been the weak link.

HELLO NIEUWENHUIS: Andres Torres’ calf injury gave Kirk Nieuwenhuis an opportunity and it looks like one he won’t relinquish.  Nieuwenhuis plays an aggressive center field and is confident at the plate. There’s a lot to like, such as a swagger that says he belongs.

SANTANA IS BACK: Johan Santana’s recovery from shoulder surgery was one of the spring’s leading questions, and save one bad outing, he has been stellar. Wisely, the Mets have monitored his innings and will continue to do so. All they need is to score some runs for him.

ROTATION HAS BEEN GOOD: The Mets received a serious setback when they lost Mike Pelfrey to Tommy John surgery, but Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey have been solid. The Mets need more innings from their starters to stay out of the bullpen, but mostly the innings they’ve received from Niese, Dickey and Santana have been good. Much better than expected.

SURVIVING THE STORM: How the Mets respond from Pelfrey’s injury will dictate a lot about this season. They have been a resilient team and played through injuries to Wright, Jason Bay and Torres. They’ve also compiled a winning record despite little production from Ike Davis and an erratic bullpen. The pen has its positive moments, but there have also been several head-scratchers. Frank Francisco regressed after a fast start and now is nursing a hamstring problem.

I am picking Wright as my Player of the Month. Please check out the newest poll question and share your thoughts. Thanks.

ON DECK:  The newest poll.

May 01

Kirk Nieuwenhuis Move Might Have Cost Mets

Of course, it crossed my mind. Left field in Houston is a tough place to play, perhaps one of the toughest in the National League. So, when Jed Lowrie’s pop up fell between Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Ruben Tejada, it immediately raised the inevitable speculation the Mets’ newest left fielder felt awkward because it was his first time in left on this level.

As a centerfielder, Nieuwenhuis played aggressively, but on this play he appeared tentative.

“It was just a ‘tweener’ ball that I should have caught,” Nieuwenhuis said. “It dropped, and that’s unfortunate. (R.A. Dickey) was pitching a great game and I just made a mistake.”

Neither Nieuwenhuis nor manager Terry Collins blamed the mistake on the former playing a new position, but it’s on the table. There is always an adjustment period in playing a different position.

Nieuwenhuis stayed in the leadoff spot and delivered a game-tying, two-run single, but his offensive night was mixed because he was also picked off first base.

ON DECK: Reviewing April’s fast start.

Apr 30

Mets Should Leave Kirk Nieuwenhuis Alone

The was a concern when Kirk Nieuwenhuis was brought up how he would adjust to the major leagues. Well, so far he’s been doing just fine. It is too soon to say he’s made it, but he’s fielded center field as well as Angel Pagan ever did and he’s been consistent at the plate.

So far, he gets on base and makes all the plays.

TORRES: Put him in left.

Now, with Andres Torres set to come off the disabled list for tonight’s game in Houston, the Mets want to slot him back into center and move Nieuwenhuis to left field, a position he’s never played.

I don’t see the reason.

Torres is a veteran with some left field experience. He should be the one to go to left field. Why disrupt Nieuwenhuis’ rookie season? Why make him go through another adjustment period? He’s part of the Mets’ future, while Torres is a stop gap player at best.

What has Torres done for the Mets to warrant such special treatment?

We don’t know how good Nieuwenhuis can be, but we already have an idea of what the Mets can expect from Torres, and it isn’t much. It might be different if Neiuwenhuis were playing poorly and the Mets weren’t winning, but that isn’t the case.

Leave Nieuwenhuis alone.


Apr 30

Wondering If Johan Santana Regrets Signing With Mets

This time, it was the Mets’ bullpen that betrayed Johan Santana. The Mets finally scored runs for him, but the bullpen blew a four-run lead in the eighth inning with Tim Byrdak serving a grand slam homer to Todd Helton.

Another no-decision for Santana, who is still looking for his first victory since September 2010.

SANTANA: Comes up empty again.

I know Santana doesn’t regret the money, but there are times such as yesterday when I wonder if he regrets not staying with Minnesota, where he had a chance to go to the World Series, or try the free-agent market where he could have gotten the money and a better chance to win.

The Mets were still a contender when they acquired him, but there were major cracks in the foundation. When Santana agreed to the deal, did he think about those things?

Santana has pitched well with the Mets when healthy, and to be fair, injuries could have happened anywhere. But, there have been too many games when the offense disappeared or the bullpen imploded to make him wonder if he did the right thing.

“We won. and that’s all I care about,” Santana said after yesterday’s game.

But, if winning is the only thing that matters, there must be times when he wonders if he made the right decision as there have been so many games since joining the Mets when he came away empty.

Santana is 0-2 with three no-decisions despite a 2.25 ERA this year. He’s given up only six earned runs in 18 innings, with four of them coming in one start.

He pitched to a 2.89 ERA in 2010 before the injury, but with nine no-decisions. Eight of those were games decided by two runs or less, and seven by one run.

In 2009, eight games he started that the Mets lost were decided by two runs, with five by one run.

There were 11 no-decisions in 2008, with the Mets winning six of those games. The Mets lost nine of the games he started by two runs or less, with six by one run.

All those numbers reminds me of the Peanuts cartoon strip when Charlie Brown, after being told of his lousy pitching record, screams “Tell your statistics to shut up!”

Trouble is, that can’t be done. The stats are louder than ever.

Apr 29

Mets, Dillon Gee Show Spunk In Denver

Does anybody remember the old “Mary Tyler Moore” show, when Lou Grant tells Mary: “You know what you have Mary? You have spunk.” Then after a pause, adds, “I hate spunk.”

Well, I happen to love it, and it was so enjoyable to see the Mets show it yesterday at Colorado after getting spanked the night before.

Dillon Gee gave them seven innings when the bullpen needed a breather, and Lucas Duda and David Wright flexed at the plate. Wright always does in the Rocky Mountains.

It was one Saturday afternoon, sure. But, it followed a horrid Friday night. Several times this year they’ve responded from bad days and bad series with a strong effort.

The Mets are a building team and one must take positive signs when you see them. This was such a time.