Apr 05

Happy Opening Day

I suppose you could ask for a nicer day, but that would be greedy. It’s bright and sunny, a crispness in the air. The forecast is for more of the same this afternoon at Citi Field.

There should be two rules in baseball: Opening Day has beautiful weather and the home team wins.

Opening Day, it is written, is about renewal, about fresh starts, about optimism. It’s also about going home to your roots.

Wherever you are, and whatever your team, you tend to remember the team of your youth on Opening Day. I live in Connecticut, but the team of my youth was the Cleveland Indians. I follow the Mets now, but when I do glance at the standings, my eyes drift to the AL Central and the Indians. The AL Central, of course, didn’t exist when I was a kid.

Yes, I know. When I was a kid there were only two leagues and fire had just been invented.

The Indians I grew up with were just an average team at best, much like they are today. And, much like the Mets, I suppose. There’s the occasional good year, but most mediocrity. Enough spring promise to keep you interested.

I know many of you will have your favorite Opening Day memories. Maybe it was a Tom Seaver start. Perhaps it was Gary Carter’s first as a Met. It will be emotional today when Carter is remembered, but today is the perfect day to remember him. Afterall, there should be a lot of people in the stands today.

My favorite Opening Day memory was April 7, 1970, with the Indians losing 8-2 to Baltimore. I have thought about it a lot recently because this is the first Opening Day without my dad, who passed away at Christmas.

I remember this one particularly because my dad took my brother and myself out of school so he could take us to the game. He told the school we would remember that day because of the game more than anything we would learn in school that day. He was right.

This is a Mets blog, for baseball fans in general and Mets’ fans specifically. I presume most of you have always been passionate about the Mets, even lately when the prospects have been glum.

Why?

What is it about a baseball team that attracts you to it? Was it a player? Was it a moment with your dad or mom? Was it because you grew up in that town? Most of us can recall when we first started following a team, even your first day seeing them live.

I would be interested to know how and why you started following the Mets, along with your Opening Day memories.

I have kept this blog going because I am passionate about baseball and I appreciate my readers. I hope you’ll stop by again this year, regardless of how the Mets are doing, to share your thoughts and insights.

As always, they, and you, are appreciated. Have a great year.

 

Apr 04

Good move in long-term deal with Niese

With Opening Day hours away, the Mets began the 2012 season on a positive note by agreeing to a contract with left-hander Jon Niese.

NIESE: Locked up for five years.

In agreeing to the five-year, $25.5 million deal – pending a physical – the Mets will avoid the arbitration and free-agent processes and locked up one of their most important young players.

With the Mets resolving their most stressing financial problem is reaching a settlement in the Madoff scandal, their next most important step is to achieve as much economic certainty as possible. That would be in reaching long-term obligations with their young talent.

They did it with David Wright and Jose Reyes several years ago. The next wave would be Niese, Ike Davis, and possibly Wright again.

Niese won a career-high 11game last year before it was cut short with a side injury. There’s no guarantee Niese will become the next Jerry Koosman, but his career is off to a good start and he’s caught the attention of others. Several teams have inquired into Niese and for good reason; he’s immensely talented and poised. And, hard throwing left-handers are a premium.

The Mets have taken deserved heat for their questionable decisions. They should also get credit for their good moves, and this is one.

Apr 03

Mets receive positive injury news

The Mets finally received good news on the injury front as relievers Frank Francisco and Tim Byrdak, and center fielder Andres Torres are all expected to be at Citi Field instead of the disabled list on Opening Day.

Francisco took a cortisone injection to his sore left knee Sunday, and after throwing off the mound this morning pronounced himself ready.

Byrdak underwent left knee surgery March 13 and is scheduled to pitch today against the Yankees.

Andres Torres sustained a strained left calf March 20 and was in the starting lineup today.

Relievers Pedro Beato (shoulder) and D.J. Carrasco (ankle) will be on the disabled list to start the season.

Today’s lineup, with the exception of pitcher Mike Pelfrey, is the projected starting lineup for Opening Day.

Andres Torres, cf

Daniel Murphy, 2b

David Wright, 3b

Ike Davis, 1b

Jason Bay, lf

Lucas Duda, rf

Josh Thole, c

Ruben Tejada, ss

Apr 02

Parnell sharp; Santana gets Opening nod.

Bobby Parnell, who had been uninspiring during his tenure with the Mets, has been scintillating this spring, enough where they could consider opening the season with him in the closer role if Frank Francisco is placed on the disabled list with a sore left knee.

PARNELL: Has had excellent spring.

While Parnell was throwing three scoreless innings at Atlanta in a spot start – because the Mets didn’t want Jon Niese to face the same team he’ll pitch against Sunday – Francisco was getting an MRI.

“Early in camp I felt a little sore in there and it went away,’’ Francisco told reporters today. “In the last three days, I felt soreness in there again, but that’s it. We’re going to take care of that. I did my workout and everything, and it felt fine, but they’re going to take a look at it.’’

 A MRI, followed by manager Terry Collins saying he was concerned about Francisco’s knee can’t be a good omen for the injury ravaged Mets.

Francisco, a Toronto castoff, was signed to a two-year, $12-million contract in the offseason. The Mets also signed another Blue Jays’ reliever, Jon Rauch, but he’s been ineffective this spring with a 7.94 ERA. Parnell, who struggled in the closer role last September, hasn’t given up a run in 12 1/3 innings during spring training.

Despite his success, I’m not so sure moving Parnell to the closer role is the way to go if Francisco’s injury is deemed short term. The Mets have bounced Parnell around in the past and he has not responded to the changing roles. Because he’s been pitching well I’d be reluctant to tinker with him.

I would reconsider that position if Francisco’s injury is determined to be long term.

Meanwhile, the Mets finally announced Johan Santana will be the Opening Day starter Thursday against the Braves. Santana would be followed in the rotation by R.A. Dickey, and Jon Niese.

 

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.