Jun 05

Trying To Figure Out Ike Davis

I remember when Ike Davis first came up to the Mets. His plate presence was praised. He would regularly take the outside pitch – breaking balls, too – to left field. He was strong as a bull, and the thinking was the power would eventually come.

You don’t hear that kind of talk much anymore.

He seems to be chasing everything, especially low-and-away junk with the intent to pull. Can you remember the last time he went the other way with a pitch?

With Davis’ impatience, there’s no reason for any pitcher to throw him a fastball, especially on the inner half of the plate.

There was talk earlier about possibly sending Davis to the minors to work out his problem. Initially, I was against this because the Mets didn’t have a first base alternative. They still don’t have, but Justin Turner could make do for a week or so.

The topic came up again this week, but Davis, whom I had the impression was a total team guy, said he didn’t think the minors were a good idea, claiming he had to learn to hit on this level. It wasn’t quite the response I was hoping for from Davis.

I would like to think if the Mets decided Davis needed a respite in the minors that he’d accept it and not go all Oliver Perez on us. I believe Davis will eventually find it and I’m leaning more and more to thinking if that’s in Buffalo, then so be it.

If nothing else, he’ll be able to get some killer wings.

 

Jun 04

Mets Handling Johan Santana, Jason Bay The Right Way

Terry Collins has been sweating out these days following Johan Santana’s 134-pitch no-hitter. Collins pushed the envelop with Santana and he knew it at the time. Pulling a pitcher during a no-hitter is never an easy thing to do, and Collins had a multitude of variables to consider in a short period of time. It isn’t as if he had this all mapped out, because afterall, who anticipates a no-hitter?

Chris Young will be activated from the disabled list to start in place of Santana in Washington, buying the no-hit ace extra rest. A smart thing to do. Santana’s next start will be against the Yankees this weekend.

It is also smart not to rush back Bay from the DL. He’s still not 100 percent, so what is the point to rush? The Mets have played well without Bay, and if he’s not ready, his presence can only do more harm than good.

An emerging concern is Jon Niese’s irregular heart beat. He’ll have a procedure during the All-Star break, and I’m wondering why not now? I know the Mets aren’t fooling around with Niese, but anytime you hear about the heart you have to think.

But, I concede that might be too much thinking for now. The Mets just closed a memorable home stand. Now they are about to start an interesting road trip, including the Nationals and Yankees. Can’t wait to check it out.

 

 

 

Jun 03

Johan Santana No-Hitter Fallout

Much like Red Sox fans who said, “now I can die and go to heaven (although that might be a bit presumptuous),’’ after their team finally won the World Series, so too are Mets fans saying the same thing after Johan Santana’s no-hitter Friday night.

SANTANA: Taking another bow yesterday. (AP)

You’ll start reading stories about long-time Mets fans who missed the event, just like there will be those who saw history in their first game watching the team. It’s all part of the fate when it comes to baseball. You just never know.

It does remind me of when I started covering the Yankees in 1998. I worked a month straight before my first day off – which turned out to be David Wells’ perfect game.

It’s all part of the maddening charm that is baseball.

R.A. Dickey said following Santana would be a tough act to follow, but a shutout isn’t a bad way to do it.  Dickey’s gem yesterday is part of the fallout of the no-hitter:

* The Hall of Fame will be collecting items from the game for display in Cooperstown. Sadly, he won’t be using it for a while, but a nice touch would be to show Mike Baxter’s glove. We knew Baxter was injured selling out to make that spectacular catch, but he’ll be gone at least six weeks. Ouch. Baxter’s absence hurts the Mets on several levels in that he played good defense but was also a pinch-hitting savant.

 

* From the “It Can Only Happen To the Mets Department,’’ reliever Ramon Ramirez strained a hamstring running in from the bullpen for the post-game celebration. He went from sitting for three hours to a full sprint, so it isn’t all that hard to imagine.

* Manager Terry Collins is considering bumping up Chris Young’s return date next weekend to give Santana extra rest. Wise move. Pitchers are a creature of habit, so it will be interesting to note if Santana changes his routine at all this week.

* Speaking of Collins, imagine the pressure he was under in deliberating keeping Santana in the game. The human part of him wanted to extend Santana so he’d get the no-hitter. Then, there was part of him that wanted to protect his pitcher. Coming off surgery, it was a gamble, one in which we might not know the outcome for awhile as it isn’t always the next start in which the 134 pitch-count could come into play in a negative way. Here’s hoping it never does.

Finally, a classy comment from Carlos Beltran, who had a extra-base hit taken away by a blown call from umpire Adrian Johnson, saying he was happy for Santana and was being rewarded for all his hard work in his rehab.

Jun 02

Johan Santana Thundered For Mets Before Rains Came

It poured last night, and even if that smudge on the left field line was rubbed out, nothing could wash away what Johan Santana did in throwing the first no-hitter in Mets’ history.

After 8,020 games, and the likes of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden and David Cone throwing magic for them the previous 50 years, Santana just missed throwing the Mets’ 36th one hitter.

SANTANA: Waving to crowd (AP)

We know the numbers because the no-hit streak became a part of franchise lore, to be announced nearly every day after the opponent’s first hit. It will be interesting to hear how the Cardinals’ first hit today will be broadcast.

Who knows, maybe the Mets will throw a few more in the coming years, but there is nothing like the first. Jon Niese, R.A. Dickey and John Maine came close in recent seasons, but it was special because it was Santana, who showed extraordinary focus against the National League’s premier offense and overcame the tendency to wander and shift into cruise control with an 8-0 lead.

He was aided by an umpire’s blown call – the streak would be alive today with instant replay – but for one night baseball karma was with the Mets, the way it was during the Summer of 69 and on that crisp October night when Mookie Wilson’s grounder snaked up the first base line and scooted underneath Bill Buckner’s glove.

Perhaps karma was with the Mets because after so many snake bites and near misses – many with Santana on the mound – they deserved to have one to go their way. Logically, it isn’t supposed to work that way in sports, but the Mets always defied logic, just as Santana’s comeback from serious surgery came against conventional medical wisdom.

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Jun 01

History Revised With Carlos Beltran Returning

Covering baseball for over two decades taught me several things, some simple and others more complex. Several of these valuable lessons will come into play tonight with Carlos Beltran’s return to New York to face the Mets as a member of the Cardinals.

Baseball has its ironies and Beltran comes back playing for the team that bounced the Mets from the 2006 NLCS. He also finds himself playing behind the pitcher, Adam Wainwright, who threw the knee buckling curveball that froze Beltran and forever placed him into the darkest recesses of Mets lore.

BELTRAN: Had some magic moments with that swing.

As far as irony goes, this is pretty delicious stuff, but not so savory are the remembrances of Beltran by Mets’ fans of his tenure here and comments made, and written, by several members of the New York media, beginning with WFAN’s Craig Carton, nothing more than a shock jock who vainly tries to entertain with vulgarity and cheap, crass humor.

This morning he crudely made fun of a mole on the side of Beltran’s face.

Making fun of a person’s looks or physical abnormality in the attempt of humor is simply low. It also does nothing to add to the supposed theory of New York fans and media being sophisticated. How sophisticated is it to joke about a person’s physical appearance or blemish? Are we still in the fifth grade, Carton? And, what is it Boomer Esiason always ends his show with? Stay classy New York.

Nothing classy about Carton this morning.

I don’t think much about Beltran’s reception tonight. He’ll get his fair share of cheers. Boos, too. There will also be indifference, which, to an athlete is more venomous than hate.

When it comes to Beltran’s career with the Mets, there’s nothing about it that warrants hate. Beltran was signed after a historic playoff run with the Houston Astros. The Mets, then on the verge of developing into a contender, were at an interesting phase in their history and Beltran was signed as a cornerstone.

The Mets wrestled Beltran from the Yankees that winter, but there would always be the wonder if he really wanted Queens because his agent, Scott Boras, made a last minute pitch to the Yankees.

Beltran struggled his first season with the Mets – a lot of players do in making the transition to the city – but what highlighted that summer was him playing with a broken face after a horrific outfield collision with Mike Cameron.

Say what you will about Beltran’s quiet, and low key demeanor and persona, but he played hurt and when healthy produced and posted significant numbers. He might have been one of the Mets’ best position players they have ever had if he was healthy his entire tenure here.

Beltran had an incredible 2006 season, which unfortunately for him has been reduced to one at-bat. More of those sophisticated fans at work, right?

The Mets haven’t been close to the World Series since, but that hasn’t been Beltran’s fault as much as it was their inability to bolster their rotation and bullpen, to overcome a long string of serious injuries and poor signings and acquisitions.

To say Beltran’s at-bat against Wainwright slammed shut the Mets’ playoff aspirations is an oversimplification because there is that matter of blowing a seven-game lead with 17 remaining in 2007 plus another late-season collapse in 2008. Totally unfair to pin that all on Beltran.

Beltran was a very good player on a flawed team and should be remembered for his ability to perform while frequently injured. Outside of the episode when Beltran had surgery on his own – and can you blame him considering the Mets’ shoddy history of handling of injuries? – he was pretty much a team player.

Much has been attempted to be made of about a divide in the Mets’ clubhouse between the Hispanic and American players with Beltran being made a cause. In reality, the central figure in that friction was more Carlos Delgado, brought on by his differences with then manager Willie Randolph.

Delgado had some clubhouse lawyer in him, while Beltran’s personality precluded him from being a vocal presence. And, Delgado had a deeper influence on Jose Reyes than Beltran, so keep than in mind, too, when laying the groundwork for Reyes’ departure.

Beltran was a very good player who didn’t live up to the expectations created  by that monster postseason when he was with Houston. He was never going to live up to those lofty expectations or that salary.

The important thing to remember, however, is he tried. And for that, he deserves your respect and cheers tonight.