Feb 22

On the power of positive thinking.

My expectations for the 2012 Mets are admittedly low, but that’s just me, and readers of this blog realize I don’t jump off the deep end when it comes to this team.

However, I will take if they continue the aggressive play they performed last year under Terry Collins. The Mets didn’t win, but there was a crispness to their play at times.

There was a marked difference in the improvement in hustle last year from the Jerry Manuel era. Collins also promised a greater concentration on fundamentals and at times we saw that last summer. The 2011 Mets did have their comeback moments. There were times when we felt good about them.

They did win 70 games despite missing Carlos Beltran for half a season; had Jose Reyes on the DL twice; lost Ike Davis for five months; had David Wright injured; watched Jason Bay give them nothing again; traded closer Francisco Rodriguez, who was having a good year, at the break; didn’t have Johan Santana all year; watched Mike Pelfrey regress and had Jon Niese injured. There was also a bullpen collapse and Daniel Murphy’s injury.

Come to think of it, considering all that, they were lucky to win 70 games. If you were told all that would happen coming out of spring training you would have jumped at 70 wins.

Reyes will be difficult to replace, but a healthy Wright and Davis could offset the loss of Beltran. Anything Bay and Santana gives them has to be considered a bonus. Pelfrey and Niese just have to be better, don’t they?

If the Mets play fundamentally sound and pitch better they could approach .500. The season is six months long, and one or two more wins a month gets us to the breakeven record. No, .500 doesn’t get you into the playoffs, but it is the first step in rebuilding.

I want this team, as Fred Wilpon once said, to play meaningful games in September. If that happens, Citi Field could be a fun place to visit this summer, and that’s what this franchise needs.


 

Feb 21

Translating Terry Collins.

Manager Terry Collins conducted his first press conference of the spring this morning. He was upbeat and positive as expected, but made no brash projections, which was appreciated.

COLLINS: What is he saying?

However, like with all managers, there was a message beyond Collins’ words. What he said and what he meant are two different things.

Most managers take the one-game-at-a-time approach, but Collins did make the point of saying the team needed to get off to a fast start. He could have added that includes spring training, also.

Why is this important?

Continue reading

Feb 20

Delcos: Notes from the first day of camp.

* Quote of the Day: “I’m to the point now where I have to be developed and I have to be ready to play on a daily basis. That’s the biggest thing for me is not to use that as a crutch.”

That was Josh Thole talking about this being a make-or-break year for him. It’s true. Hard to believe, but this is Thole’s third year on the major league level and he needs improvement behind the plate and at-bat. Thole came up with a reputation for patience at the plate, but deviated from that last season. His game  calling also became suspect last year, as was his defense (eventually, he’ll have to learn to catch R.A. Dickey).

* Jenrry Mejia isn’t ready to throw yet. There’s no way he’ll be ready in early part of the season. The Mets still don’t know what role they are planning for Mejia, but what seems to be apparent is it isn’t a stretch to assume his arm problems might be linked to how the Mets have bounced him around from role to role.

* Word is the Mets aren’t giving out No. 7, the number worn by Jose Reyes. Why? Are they keeping the light on for him? The sooner they give out No. 7, the sooner they are moving on without him. He’s gone. Get used to it.

 

Feb 20

Welcome back

I always loved this day, when pitchers and catchers report. Actually, the first day of spring training has become blurred with players reporting earlier each spring. It seems the week after the Super Bowl is when  players begin to trickle in. David Wright has been working out in PSL for over a week now.

This is the day when enthusiasm and optimism run high for the summer ahead. This spring that has been tempered for the Mets with the Wilpon’s financial crisis and the passing of Gary Carter. Incidentally, of all the tributes to Carter, the one by the Montreal Canadiens was my favorite. Their players wearing No. 8 and Carter’s image on the ice were truly memorable.

I digress for a moment, but it reminds me how much I miss Montreal as a stop on the tour. I always used to like visiting that city. Historical town, great places to eat and the obvious European flavor.

I always thought Montreal got a raw deal from MLB. Yes, attendance was dwindling, but how could that have been avoided with MLB threatening to leave for years until the city built a new stadium. Just shabby.

The Mets, you’ll recall ponied up most of the money for Citi Field, and despite getting $20 million a year in naming rights, the new stadium hasn’t provided either the payday or the home field advantage the team sought.

Attendance was just over 2 million last season, and that is the first of my top issues facing the Mets as their 50th year in existence begins:

Q1. Will the Mets draw over 2 million?

A. The debate isn’t whether the Mets have enough to contend with the Phillies and Braves, but if they have the talent to keep pace with the Nationals and Marlins? They don’t on paper or the field and are projected to finish fifth in the NL East. With a brutal April schedule, they could be trailing by double digits before the weather warms. If the Mets aren’t competitive, there’s no reason to head out to Citi Field and the attendance will drop, and with it will come a further drain on their finances. Never mind winning, but the Mets need a competitive, exciting team for the turnstiles to keep clicking.

Q2. Will the Mets win their court case?

A. Seventeen days prior to Opening Day we should get an idea how much the Mets could be on the hook for because of the Ponzi scandal. Win or lose, there will be an appeal, but should they win there’s a sliver of hope the Mets might be able to add talent at the trade deadline if they are competitive.

Q3. Will David Wright be traded?

A. I don’t believe GM Sandy Alderson for a second when he says how good the team the Mets are will have no bearing on whether Wright is dealt. If they are playing beyond expectations and people are coming out, the Mets can’t afford to trade Wright and expect fans to keep showing up. If they are stinking, who can’t envision Wright not being traded?

Q4. What’s to become of Johan Santana?

A. He’s throwing in PSL, but there’s still no timetable for his return. If he comes back or not, he’ll still cost the Mets close to $25 million. It’s a pipe dream to hope for Santana being able to pitch and be healthy enough for the Mets to trade him. The odds don’t favor a complete recovery from his type of shoulder surgery. It’s a long shot, but the Mets are hoping he’s good enough physically to give them enough starts to create interest.

Q5. Will they get anything out of Jason Bay?

A. With the fences moved in 15 feet, perhaps Bay can’t help but hit for some more power. Bay has done nothing to warrant his contract and outside the fences, there’s no reason to believe anything has changed this season.

 

On the first day of spring training, you’d like to see the team’s primary questions divorced from the Mets’ financial problems, but that’s being naive. What happens on the field is directly linked to the Wilpon’s bank accounts. That’s just the way it is.

I’ll be back later with more baseball specific questions surrounding the team.

 

Feb 17

What is a hero?

We use the words hero and great in sports to the point where they become cliche and lose their meaning and impact.

CARTER: Lived a life of inspiration.

Gary Carter was a baseball player, who made a good living playing a game most of us played as kids and only dreamed of having the fraction of talent he possessed. We cannot use the word “hero,” in describing Carter and any other athlete when compared to a soldier who saves his comrades in a firefight, or a policeman who risks his life in protecting a person from peril, or an act of unselfish bravery by a nondescript man who runs into a burning building to save a child or stands up to a thug in a subway while coming to the aid of a stranger.

Or a parent who goes through the daily grind to set an example of morality to his child.

Carter would be the first to say he’s not a hero or great when compared to those examples.

In reading over the past 24 hours of testimonials from teammates, opponents and fans who never met him we get a glimpse into the player and man who meant so much to so many. He came to many of us as an athlete, but captivated our imaginations and captures our respect with the intensity he played the game and the dignity and integrity in which he lived his life.

With his faith, his genuine goodness as a human being, and his compassion for others, he touched many in a way that went beyond his hitting and ability to handle a pitching staff.

With the way he lived his life, Carter molded the lives of an adoring family and inspired many he never met. The ultimate testament came from teammates who said they wish they led their lives as Carter did his.

In that way, he was truly heroic. It is said a man with friends is truly rich, and Carter was wealthy in which many of us can only dream.