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.

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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.

 

Mar 20

Alderson: Immediate impact on payroll negligible.

GM Sandy Alderson said yesterday’s positive financial developments will release some of the pressure on the team, but as expected, basically said “don’t expect too much,’’ in the near future.

“So having moved beyond that now, I think we as a franchise have a chance to go through sort of an evolutionary process to get us back to where we want to be,’’ Alderson said. “The immediate impact on our payroll is going to be negligible.’’

Currently, the biggest drain on the Mets’ payroll is Johan Santana, who earned $22.5 million last year while on the disabled list, and is scheduled to make $24 million this year and $25.5 million in 2013 and has a $25 million option for 2014.

That salary makes it impossible to deal Santana, so the Mets’ best hope is for continued progress in his rehab from shoulder surgery.

So far, so good.

Santana is ready to start tomorrow against St. Louis in Jupiter, Fla. The target is 80 pitches.

Santana is coming off a 65-pitch outing against the Tigers in which he gave up four earned runs. The start was encouraging because Santana’s velocity increased to a consistent 89 mph. and topped out at 91 mph.

Barring complications, Santana is on track to make the Opening Day roster.

Here’s tonight’s roster against the Washington Nationals:

Andres Torres, CF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

Jason Bay, LF

Ike Davis, 1B

Lucas Duda, RF

Justin Turner, 3B

Josh Thole, C

Ruben Tejada, SS

Dillon Gee, RP

Note: Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco are also expected to pitch.