Oct 27

Happy Birthday Ralph Kiner

Today is the 90th birthday for baseball legend Ralph KIner, once a slugging All-Star first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates and currently a guest analyst for the Mets on home weekends for SNY.

KINER: One of a kind.

I remember the first time I met Ralph. It was in Houston in the early 1980s when I was interning with the Houston Astros in their marketing/group sales department. I was interested in radio work and was given the opportunity to work with the visiting radio-TV crews feeding the guys notes and stats.

Growing up in Ohio I’d spend parts of my summers watching the pitiful Mets, but enjoyed listening to Ralph, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson. They were a joy to listen. I loved their stories and how they described a game. Far better than the Cleveland Indians broadcasters I watched at home.

Now I had the chance to hear those stories personally, and he was gracious with his time and the stories were so much better because I got to ask questions. Somewhere, I have an autographed ball with Kiner, Murphy and Steve Albert, a fellow Kent State grad like myself.

Kiner has led a grand life, one we’d all be envious of. Once a Navy Pilot during World War II, which is an awesome achievement in itself, Kiner graduated to the major leagues and while playing for the lowly Pirates, lead the National League in homers seven times. He played in baseball’s Golden Age, competing against fellow Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Duke Snider, Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron.

Kiner hit 51 homers in 1947 while striking out less than 100 times. Who can imagine that in today’s game?

The left field porch in old Forbes Field was dubbed “Kiner’s Korner,” the name he used for his postgame show after the Mets’ telecasts.

It was in the both where Kiner gained great acclaim as an analyst working with Nelson and Murphy, spinning yarns about the inner workings of the game and the characters who played it. He provided a combination of humor and insight.

Kiner became known for his malapropisms, which only can be defined as priceless. The following are a list of his best:

* “All of his saves have come in relief appearances” 

* “All of the Mets road wins against the Dodgers this year occurred at Dodger Stadium.”

* “Cadillacs are down at the end of the bat.” 

* “Darryl Strawberry has been voted to the Hall of Fame five years in a row.”

* “Hello, everybody. Welcome to Kiner’s Corner. This is….uh. I’m…uh”

* “He’s (Bruce Sutter) going to be out of action the rest of his career.”

* “If Casey Stengel were alive today, he’d be spinning in his grave.”

* “I think one of the most difficult things for anyone who’s played baseball is to accept the fact that maybe the players today are playing just as well as ever.”

* “It’s (Phil Niekro’s knuckleball) like watching Mario Andretti park a car.”

* “Jose DeLeon on his career has seventy-three wins and one-hundred and five rbi’s.”

* “Kevin McReynolds stops at third and he scores.”

* “Now up to bat for the Mets is Gary Cooper.”

* “On Fathers Day, we again wish you all happy birthday.”

* “Solo homers usually come with no one on base.”

* “(Don) Sutton lost thirteen games in a row without winning a ballgame.”

* “The hall of fame ceremonies are on the thirty-first and thirty-second of July.”

* “The Mets have gotten their leadoff batter on only once this inning.”

* “The reason the Mets have played so well at Shea this year is they have the best home record in baseball.”

* “This one deep to right and it is way back, going, going, it is gone, no off of the top of the wall.”

* “There’s a lot of heredity in that family.”

* “Tony Gwynn was named player of the year for April.”

* “Two-thirds of the earth is covered by water. The other third is covered by Garry Maddox.”

* “You know what they say about Chicago. If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.” 

It was good to read these again and laugh. I hope Ralph has a lot of laughs on his birthday today, and every day.

 

 

Oct 26

2012 Mets Player Review: Jenrry Mejia And Other Spot Starters

 

JENRRY MEJIA, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The Mets knew they had pitching issues entering spring training, so by definition they expected a need for emergency starters. They opened the season with Mike Pelfrey, Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee as their rotation. Santana and Niese were coming off injuries, and nobody knew what to expect from Pelfrey and Gee. Veteran Chris Young was signed for the inevitable insurance and closed the season in the rotation. The Mets forecasted starts for Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia, but most likely as September call-ups. The Mets figured they had Miguel Batista, Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia to make emergency starts in the event of injuries.

WHAT THEY GOT: Injuries claimed Pelfrey, Santana and Gee, and before it was over eight other pitchers started 58 games for the Mets. That’s roughly a third of their games. That, as much as any other statistic, explains this season. Young, who was signed in March, made 20 starts after recovering from shoulder surgery. He proved to be a reliable innings eater, so much, in fact, that it might earn him a contract elsewhere. Veterans who gobble up innings are always valuable. Harvey was so impressive in his shot that he’s going into next season in the rotation. For those not yet earmarked for a roster spot next season, Jeremy Hefner started 13 games, followed by Batista (5), Collin McHugh (4), Mejia (3), Chris Schwinden (2) and Familia (1). McHugh and Hefner had their moments, both good and bad, but made no lasting impression either way. The most puzzling is Mejia, who was coming off surgery. Although his numbers are better as a starter, the Mets still don’t have a long-term plan for him as there are factions in the organization who believe he’s better suited coming out of the bullpen. The Mets like Familia’s potential, but he was hit hard when he got the ball. McHugh, Hefner and Schwinden did nothing to separate themselves from the pack and Batista was what they expected, a long-man stop-gap.

 

LOOKING AT 2013: There is a need for Young, but he’s low on their priorities, even if the Mets don’t tender Pelfrey. Harvey is in the rotation, but ten starts isn’t a big window, so who wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a setback? McHugh, Hefner and Schwinden will probably open the season in the minor leagues and Batista could again be in the bullpen. Familia will be in the minors. The biggest question is Mejia’s role. The Mets have confused him by shuttling him between roles. For his own good and that of the team, the Mets should choose a role and stay that course until he proves incapable. Once a highly-touted prospect, Mejia seems to be regressing.

Oct 25

Reyes Campaigns For Wright

Maybe it is revisionist history on Jose Reyes’ part, but last night at the Nets-Knicks game he said he always wanted to stay with the Mets. I remember him saying that initially, but as the season progressed he rarely expressed that sentiment. Maybe he knew he was gone.

I don’t know and I don’t care anymore about Reyes. He received a $106-million, six-year contract from the Marlins. Good for him. He’ll be run down by the end and everybody knows it. Maybe he does, too.

Any way, Reyes is on-board with David Wright coming to play with him in Miami, calling it an honor, but added he should stay in Queens. Not that he should have, but Wright.

“They should sign David (long term),” Reyes told ESPN. “He’s been the face of the franchise for a long time. `If they let him go, that’s gonna be difficult to see the New York Mets without David Wright. I can’t imagine that. You never know in this game what’s gonna happen, but I wish all the best to David. He’s a good friend of mine.”

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said extending Wright’s contract is a priority, and sooner rather than later. The Mets have a $16 million option on Wright for 2013. He’ll be back next year, but it will be harder to extend him when he’s on the open market as he said he doesn’t want to negotiate during the season. Reportedly, the Mets already have a $100-million offer on the table.

Reyes said the same thing and held to it, and the Mets never made him an offer. The perception was the team was just waiting for him to go as they had no intention of matching the Marlins in money or years.

Reyes expressed no regrets in leaving the Mets, and the franchise, despite taking considerable heat from the public early on, has no regrets, either. The Mets were pleased with what Ruben Tejada gave them offensively and defensively, and considering Reyes’ health issues and their financial concerns, they didn’t want to be saddled down with a contract for a player they projected would break down.

Reyes stayed healthy, but underperformed this year considering the contract. It was a disastrous year for the Marlins, who just fired manager Ozzie Guillen. We knew Guillen’s future in Miami was in doubt when he opened up politically and was suspended. Despite the boasting Reyes and Hanley Ramirez would get along, apparently Miami never consulted Ramirez about moving to third and their supposed friendship became strained.

Miami is a mess, even worse than the Mets and will even listen to offers for stud pitcher Josh Johnson.

 

Oct 24

Mets That Should Come Back In 2013

When you scan the roster of the 2012 Mets, there are only a handful you can justify returning, and only fewer they should bring back. The following are the Mets you know will be back next year:

JOHAN SANTANA: I’d love for them to find a taker of his $25.5 million contract, but you know that’s not going to happen. Santana will go down as one of the Mets’ worst trades for what they got from him after signing him to a long-term deal. Never mind the prospects for they didn’t amount to much, but the salary became an anchor that dragged down the franchise, especially considering how often he was injured. The Twins’ asking price forced the Yankees and Red Sox to pull out, essentially leaving the Mets to bid against themselves, both in prospects and salary. He’s back because he can’t be unloaded. That’s the only reason.

R.A. DICKEY: I don’t know what it will take to bring Dickey back, but the Mets can always pick up his 2013 option and continue to muddle through negotiations. My confidence level of GM Sandy Alderson reaching a contract extension is low. Whether the Mets bring Dickey back to continue negotiations or to trade him is uncertain, but he’ll be on the Opening Day roster.

JON NIESE: He’s signed long-term, which is a smart signing by the Alderson administration. Young, left-handed arms are at a premium. The Mets could get a lot for him, but his real value is in building around him.

MATT HARVEY: He made such a good first impression that he’s already penciled into the Mets’ 2013 rotation, and hopefully will stay there for years to come. When teams call the Mets to talk trade they invariably ask about Harvey and are properly turned down.

NIESE: A building block.

DILLON GEE: The returns on Gee’s surgery are good and he’s expected to be ready for spring training. The Mets could find a veteran capable of giving them Gee’s production, but not at his salary. Gee has been a find, and if healthy, he’ll be a reliable No. 5 starter.

BOBBY PARNELL: Parnell did not grasp the opportunity to be the Mets’ closer and struggled as the set-up option. However, when Frank Francisco went down and Jon Rauch struggled, Parnell showed improvement in the second half. Parnell’s fastball is overpowering and he’s continued to develop his secondary pitches. That he’s healthy and can throw a ball through a wall would make him attractive in the trade market. Considering his age, that’s also why the Mets should continue in developing him.

ROBERT CARSON/JOSH EDGIN: Opportunities are found in the strangest places, and Edgin and Carson found theirs with Tim Byrdak’s injury. The Mets blew out Byrdak’s arm, and desperate for lefty help in the bullpen, dipped into their minor league system for these two. Both struggled at times, but also showed glimpses of what they could bring to the table. Unless the Mets get lucky this winter, they’ll go into spring training with these two lefties in the bullpen.

 FRANK FRANCISCO: He has another year on his contract – a foolish deal, agreed – which is why he’ll be in Port St. Lucie. But, if the Mets can make a deal for him they should as he really doesn’t add much to their porous bullpen.

JOSH THOLE: Both Thole’s defense and offense have regressed. Alderson seems pleased with the way he handles the staff, but he does get healthy. In a perfect world, the Mets would trade for, or develop, another catcher, but won’t as they have little to trade and little in the minor leagues. Thole comes back because the Mets have too many other priorities to address instead of their catching.

IKE DAVIS: Don’t listen to the trade rumors. He’s not going any where. A team void of power and is pinching pennies isn’t about to deal their 32-homer hitting first baseman. Not at his salary. Unless the Mets can get a boatload in return, what’s the incentive in dealing him? And, with Lucas Duda a question, why would they take that risk?

DANIEL MURPHY:  It’s too bad Murphy doesn’t hit for power otherwise he’d be a keeper. Murphy played better at second to the point where the Mets don’t have a red flag waving at the position anymore. As with Thole, he’s good enough to stay at his position while the Mets address other issues.

RUBEN TEJADA: Tejada more than adequately replaced Jose Reyes and should be here for years. If he has another year like he had in 2012, the Mets should think of an extension to keep him away from arbitration and free-agency. Will he ever be as good as Reyes? Probably not, but he’s more than good enough.

DAVID WRIGHT: I don’t see him going anywhere. As with Dickey, if the Mets don’t get anything done they’ll pick up his option and see what they can get in the trade market. It’s harder to trade a player these days during the winter because teams have the free-agent option to improve. I believe the Mets will eventually work out a deal with Wright, who said he wants to be like Chipper Jones and play his entire career with the same team.

JASON BAY: Like Santana, Bay is back because they can’t deal that contract. His value to the Mets is staying healthy and having a strong first half so the team might be able to deal him. But, after doing nothing the previous three years, that’s not likely.

SCOTT HAIRSTON:  It is hard to say good-bye to 20 homers, but that’s what I can see happening with Hairston, who’ll likely get a better offer in the free-agent market while the Mets wait things out. Hairston, despite being a role player, what the Mets’ most productive outfielder. Whether as a starter or coming off the bench, there should be a place for him with the Mets.

LUCAS DUDA: He’s back not based on 2012 production but potential. Duda had a rough season, but he’s strong as a bull and the Mets need the power. Yes, he’s a butcher in right field, but I’d consider flipping him with Bay and playing him in left field.

 

Oct 23

Carlos Beltran And Angel Pagan Have No Regrets

Angel Pagan is going to the World Series and Carlos Beltran is not. It is the third time in his career Beltran fell short in the NLCS. Of course, you remember 2006, so there’s no reason to rehash that painful memory.

PAGAN: Was he pointing west?

Just let it fade away. You’ll see, in time it will be just a dull ache rather than a sharp twinge.

When you look at the seasons enjoyed by Beltran and Pagan, naturally there’s the thought of what if they had stayed, but the truth is neither were destined to stay in New York. Beltran was always a mercenary and Pagan came here as a plug-in.

That’s also how they left.

To understand why neither have regrets leaving Flushing, despite a stated admiration for their former teammates, it is important to understand how, and why they left. In both cases, it was an unceremonious departure.

For Beltran, the Mets’ financial house of cards was starting to crumble and despite a strong first half in 2011, there was no way they were going to pick up his option. The Mets were thinking younger and cheaper, which is why they were willing to replace him in center with Pagan in the first place.

Beltran had been largely mistreated and not appreciated by Mets after he took that third strike from Adam Wainwright he had no chance of hitting. Although he played hurt and injured, and produced when he was healthy, Met fans always wanted something more from Pagan. An extraordinary switch hitter, it was expected he’d become another Mickey Mantle. Nobody could reach that level, although Beltran is arguable one of the top five position players the franchise had, in a group that includes David Wright, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza.

The key moment in the breakdown of the Mets-Beltran marriage came when in the delay in undergoing surgery in 2009. When it was clear the Mets were out of things late in the second half, rather than having Beltran undergo surgery, then GM Omar Minaya foolishly opted to bring him back in September when it was clear he couldn’t play.

Then Minaya got in a spitting match with Beltran in the offseason about surgery to the point where the outfielder had surgery on his own. Consequently, Beltran missed most of the 2010 season and was a health question going into 2011.

Mets management under Minaya made it impossible for Beltran to the point where he wouldn’t want to come back. It was a relief for everybody when he was traded to the Giants for Zach Wheeler.

Following Beltran out the door was Pagan, also to the Giants, when they dealt him to the Giants for deadweight outfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez, the latter two who have likely seen their last days as Mets.

Pagan seemingly had a breakout year in 2010, but became moody and despondent – it was later revealed he suffered for depression – and he regressed, returning to lapses of concentration in the field and giving away too many at-bats at the plate.

The same reason why the Mets acquired him – a change of scenery was needed – was the driving force for the trade. The Mets hoped moving on would made a difference for Torres; the Giants thought the same about Pagan.

It happened only for Pagan, now a postseason star for the Giants. Both Pagan and Beltran are happy to be gone. You should be happy for them because there was no way they were staying.