Mar 31

Injuries to the forefront as Opening Day nears

Much of how the Mets perform this year will be contingent on their starting rotation and core players getting significant playing time because the depth is weak. GM Sandy Alderson said as such earlier this week.

SANTANA: Might not be ready.

The biggest name is Johan Santana, who is earmarked to make the Opening Day start, but despite not having a setback – at least not one the organization will admit to – nobody has etched his start in stone.

After nearly two years, what’s the rush now? Especially if the weather is cold and rainy Thursday, why push the envelope? Even Santana is as healthy as the Mets are claiming, then there’s no reason not to push him back a start or two for him to further build his arm strength. What could it hurt?

Meanwhile, David Wright, who has missed nearly all of spring training isn’t in baseball shape. His legs aren’t there. Neither is his stamina. Yes, he could play and gut it out, but why take the gamble?

Andres Torres does not look good in center field. The word is awkward. He’s over in the minor league camp now. He might get enough at-bats by Thursday, but he’s not running fluidly.

None of the three are 100 percent. There are times throughout the season when a player will play with aches and pains. That’s part of the job. But, these three are trying to recover from injuries which sapped a considerable amount of time from them. They clearly could use more time. With how the Mets have handled injuries in the past, they should opt for caution.

It’s a long season, so don’t make it any longer by risking a significant injury.

 


Mar 30

Pelfrey arguably key to season.

Now, was that so hard?

After so many stinkers last year and this spring, Mike Pelfrey finally came up smelling like roses last night. At least somebody wearing Pelfrey’s number did.

PELFREY: Time to get serious.

Yes, I realize it is one game after so many bad ones, but spring training is for getting your hopes up, and if not for Pelfrey, then for whom?

One run on three hits in 6.1 innings is a quality start, one I’d take every time, and one reminiscent of 2010 when for most of the summer he was all the things he was supposed to be.

Pelfrey significantly regressed last year and by his own admission said this could be a make-or-break season for him. If he duplicates last year, it is easy to see the Mets cutting ties with him. They’ve already bounced that around in passing this spring, but realistically had no other choice but to keep him.

He had a bum ankle early in camp, but his arm seems fine. He has experience. He’s been successful at times, although inconsistently so. He has a reasonable salary ($5.68 million). He’s young enough to turn it around. There have been a lot of late bloomers in the sport (Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax come to mind). While not saying he has the potential of either, two summers ago he had months of dominance worthy of the hope of seeing it again.

Because of his inconsistency, Pelfrey’s value to the Mets is greater with the hope of him turning it around. And, with pitching their biggest concern – and no guarantees with Johan Santana – if the Mets are to have any semblance of a competitive team they need Pelfrey to start cashing his potential chips.

A lot of things must happen for the Mets to avoid the season everyone is projecting for them, and it begins with Pelfrey to quit licking his fingers and start pitching to his expectations. Beginning now.

Mar 29

Alderson: Taking stock of the Mets.

We are a week away from Opening Day and Sandy Alderson’s take on his team on WFAN doesn’t exactly inspire a great deal of confidence:

ALDERSON: Why is this man smiling?

He’s worried about his defense, especially that from the right side with Daniel Murphy at second and Lucas Duda in right.  Center fielder Andres Torres has been gimpy, so there’s a question about his range. And, Josh Thole is still a work in progress at catcher.

 If you’re thinking Johan Santana is back and a given for 30 starts and 200-plus innings, think again. With the signing of Chris Young, the Mets are mulling over the idea of a six-man rotation. If Young is sound, in theory expanding the rotation would give Santana more rest between fewer starts. Another plus is fewer starts for Mike Pelfrey.

Pelfrey, incidentally, will start tonight. He takes an 11.49 ERA into the game. He has not pitched well this spring.

 In regards to Pelfrey’s performance and the Mets’ dismal spring training record of 6-16, Alderson called it “some indicator’’ of what to expect during the season. Spring training numbers aren’t always a blueprint of the season, but it is hard to turn it on and the Mets don’t have the talent to do so.

Alderson said Jason Bay is not driving the ball, but we’ve heard that before in his previous two years with the Mets.

Alderson also said he was not pleased with the depth of his team and expressed concern about the bullpen.

Let’s see, Alderson doesn’t know what he’ll get from Santana; is thinking at this late date of expanding the rotation so an injured pitcher can make it; has another starter with an ERA north of 11; is concerned about his defense, bullpen and depth; admits his overpaid left fielder isn’t hitting for power.

Yes sir, Opening Day is a week from today, and the forecast is for rain and temperatures in the 40s.

 Isn’t life grand?

Mar 28

Murphy clanks at second; Mets lose again.

This will happen more than a few times this season, so let’s get used to it. Murphy is learning the position and the Mets don’t have a minor league option they can plug into second, let alone one who can hit as well as Murphy. Before it’s all over, providing Murphy doesn’t get hurt again, he’ll help the Mets more with his bat than he will hurt them with his glove.

MURPHY: Was his problems in the field.

The Mets are literally a patchwork team and second base is one of those patches. Had Jose Reyes stayed, Ruben Tejada would be more than satisfactory at second base.

In Murphy, the Mets have a potentially potent bat with an erratic glove at second base. Murphy had positive moments when they played him at first and I have a good feeling he’ll be more than adequate at second by the end of the season.
Wasted was a quality start by Jon Niese, who gave up two runs with six strikeouts in six innings. With Santana a question, Niese enters the season the Mets’ most reliable pitcher.
Mar 28

Traditions keep slip sliding away

One by one the traditions of the sport fade and disappear. Some, like all day games, travel by train and fielders leaving their gloves in the field after each inning naturally became outdated and obsolete, and no longer create a sense of longing.

Others, such as interleague play, day baseball during the World Series, alignment  and the designated hitter can still strike a chord and to some remain hot-button issues.

I was reminded today of another of baseball’s passing traditions, and that is Opening Day. The first game of the season was always played in Cincinnati, then Washington. That’s the way it was for decades. I’ll always remember the President of the United States throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the season.

For one day each spring, the sporting world belonged to baseball and Opening Day. The NCAA Tournament had passed and the NFL draft was weeks away. The NBA and NHL were playing out there seasons, but for one day in early April it was nothing but baseball.

The sport was center stage with no competition.

However, Major League Baseball, in its marketing greed has given that away. Now, the real opening day belongs to the NFL, with a Thursday night national game and the rest of the schedule on Sunday.

Not so baseball anymore. It gave up its spot on center stage when it opted to open in late March with games in Japan. I don’t care if a team wants to go over there during spring training, or even play a series during the season, but Opening Day?

After your fans have been waiting all winter for the renewal of the new season, the first games are played half-way across the world. Even more ridiculous, is that regular season games are played the same time spring training games are still in session.

Why doesn’t Major League Baseball reclaim center stage by making Opening Day on the Tuesday after the NCAA title game, or perhaps the Sunday after the Final Four. And, play the games in the United States.

Baseball still claims itself our national pasttime, but it makes for a weak argument when it plays Opening Day on the other side of the ocean.