Feb 16

Gary Carter passes away.

It is with great sadness I report Gary Carter passed away a little over an hour ago.

CARTER; Lived a full, loving life. Rest in peace.

“I am deeply saddened to tell you all that my precious dad went to be with Jesus today at 4:10 pm.,” daughter Kimmy Bloemers posted on the family’s website. “This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write in my entire life but I wanted you all to know. He is in heaven and has reunited with his mom and dad. I believe with all my heart that dad had a STANDING OVATION as he walked through the gates of heaven to be with Jesus.”

Carter was diagnosed with four brain tumors last May, but several new tumors were found in January.

Carter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 after retiring in 1992. In 19 seasons, he hit .262 average, with 324 home runs and 1,225 RBI and was an 11-time All-Star.

“When you think of the great baseball field generals, you think Gary Carter,” Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said in a statement. “He ran the game from behind the plate with strong leadership and passion. The Kid’s contribution to our national pastime is big, but his heart was even bigger. We’ll always remember his caring way, ever-present smile and strong devotion to family, community and the Baseball Hall of Fame.”

Carter was an integral member of the 1986 World Series championship team. He handled the pitching staff with a firm hand and was clutch when the Mets needed a hit with the game on the line.

The Mets just released this statement: “On behalf of everyone at the Mets, we extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to Gary’s family — his wife Sandy, daughters Christy and Kimmy and son D.J.  His nickname ‘The Kid’ captured how Gary approached life.  He did everything with enthusiasm and with gusto on and off the field.  His smile was infectious. He guided our young pitching staff to the World Series title in 1986 and he devoted an equal amount of time and energy raising awareness for a multitude of charities and community causes.  He was a Hall of Famer in everything he did.”

I’ll always remember Carter on the field as a clutch hitter, but off it I’ll remember his smile, his sense of humor and his accommodating nature to myself and other reporters. I always checked him on my Hall of Fame ballot and was pleased with he was finally inducted.

Rest in peace, Gary.

Feb 16

Duda Hoping To Get It Right

Andrew Keh of the NY Times says the Mets have replicated the new dimensions at Citi Field at the team’s spring training complex in Florida. Field 6, which was initially constructed with fences that mimicked the original shape of Citi Field, was altered this winter to match the stadium’s new design.

So far, it has been left unused by the players who came here this week for voluntary workouts, and no one is expected to practice there before the team officially opens spring training next week. But when they do, the first fly balls there will carry with them a significant dose of intrigue.

Good call by the Mets in my opinion and it will be interesting to hear what kind of feedback we get from the players once they start playing some games there.

In addition to getting a feel for what it will be like to hit at Citi Field, it will also be useful Lucas Duda who really needs to elevate his play in right field.

Mark Simon of ESPN shared some insight on Duda’s defensive problems last season:

Duda had trouble coming in on balls and he had trouble going back on balls too. Duda had four Defensive Misplays for failing to anticipate the fence, which rated his biggest defensive issue. Pro-rated over a full season, Duda’s misplay rate would come equate to nearly 60 Defensive Misplays & Errors for an everyday player over a full season. That would be about as bad as could be. Last year’s major league leaders, Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks and Mike Stanton of the Marlins, had 49.

Yes, Duda emerged as a viable hitter with power for the Mets after he replaced Carlos Beltran in right field last season. But he looked like a train wreck defensively. Now with the new dimensions, he can gain some valuable reps out there that could make his job easier. Duda told Keh that he is eager to start the process.

“I can’t wait to get out there,” Duda said of Field 6. “My routes have to get a lot more precise, so it’ll be a good thing to go out there and start to get used to the dimensions.”

By the way, Mets outfielder instructor Tom Goodwin is already in camp and working with Duda on getting a better jump on balls.

Duda is going to be an important piece of the puzzle in 2012, and this focus on fielding his position well, should pay some nice dividends for Terry Collins and the Mets this season.

Collins, incidentally, sees the situation with Duda like this:  “This guy is going to be a monster.”

Written by Craig Lerner of Mets Merized Online.

Feb 15

Encouraging news about Ike Davis

Several key Mets enter spring training coming off significant injuries. When it comes to injuries, I fall into the “I’ll believe it when I see it” category.

DAVIS: Ankle feeling better.

What Ike Davis is seeing – and feeling – is progress in his recovering from last year’s ankle injury which kept him out of most of the season. He told reporters “he’s good to go,” and that he’d be apprehensive if he felt any discomfort.

His most telling comment was: “If I play horrible, it’s not my ankle’s fault. It’s just because I’m not very good.”

Nobody is expecting Davis to be horrible, or even just average for that matter. Davis was stroking the ball when he sustained a bone bruise in a collision with David Wright. His seven homers and 25 RBI in just 129 at-bats had him on pace to hit 30 homers with 110 RBI.

Remember, that was on-pace, not numbers he’d previously reached. It’s exciting to think about Davis’ potential power production, but he’s never had a full season where he’s hit 30 homers, so we can’t say for sure he’ll reach that plateau.

There’s a lot to like about Davis. He has raw power and has gotten better around the bag. This is a guy teams would hope to build around. We know Wright can hit and Bay has hit in the past. If all three live up to their potential, the Mets could have an imposing middle of the order.

 

 

Feb 14

Not worried about Tejada.

One of the Mets’ many questions entering the season is whether Ruben Tejada will be able to replace Jose Reyes at shortstop.

TEJADA: It's his show now.

I’m not worried about the transition because frankly, few players are capable of replacing Reyes’ offensive production. Let’s assume right now he won’t post Reyes-like numbers. If Tejada can hit the .270 to .280 coach Chip Hale hopes for him, then I’ll be satisfied. I just don’t want Tejada to be overwhelmed or an easy out in the eighth spot in the order. If the latter is the case, the Mets would have almost certain back-to-back outs which would put a black hole in their line-up.

Tejada hit at times last season batting .284 with 36 RBI, but we’ll need to see how pitchers adjust now that they have a book on him. I’d sign up for another .284 right now.

Defensively, Tejada proved he could handle the position, so maybe that’s a wash. That’s also the most important part of his job.

The Mets have so many other issues to concern themselves with, that if shortstop is capably handled defensively, that’s a load off Terry Collins.

The Mets are a team in transition, not expected to contend. If things were different, they’d be worried about shortstop. Hell, if things were different, Reyes would be here.

For where this team is now, if Tejada can hold his own, that’s all you can ask.

Feb 13

Had a rough weekend.

Good afternoon folks. I was away for the weekend, but not by design as I was hospitalized.

I was in Westchester for an appointment when I fainted and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. I was crouching at the time on my cell phone, and when I stood up I got lightheaded and collapsed. When I came to, somebody had stolen my phone. There’s got to be a special section in hell for that guy.

Tests came back negative and I was released after staying overnight, but it was a wake-up call nonetheless. They couldn’t pinpoint the problem. Maybe just a freak thing, but it scared the hell out of me. When you wake up in a hallway and not know where you are, it is scary. I’m lucky they didn’t find anything serious, or it happened when I was driving.

I think about all the traveling I’ve done and how may nights I’ve been in a strange hotel. Lucky I wasn’t in some city halfway across the country.

When you’re in a hospital bed, you have time for a lot of thinking. You can’t sleep because they wake you up every two hours to take blood or test your blood pressure. And, the lights are always on and the nurses’ station is always noisy.

I thought about a lot of things, with the upcoming baseball season among them. I am working on a book I hope will be completed by the end of the season. I plan to be out at Citi Field a lot this summer working on several writing projects.  I also hope to do a lot of game stories for an Internet outlet. Looking forward to it.

Would rather be traveling full time, but I’m happy covering baseball nonetheless. It has been in my blood for a long time.

I’m also looking forward to the season with curiosity and interest. I’m trying to look past the dismal won-loss forecast and into the future. This is a tenuous period in Mets’ history with all the swirling economic and legal issues laying the groundwork for the next decade or so.

If the Wilpons fare poorly in court they could be forced to sell. Maybe they won’t be worth the $2 billion the Dodgers are reportedly valued, but the team, coupled with SNY and Citi Field will come at a high price.

If the Wilpons keep the franchise, it will be interesting to see how they dig themselves out of this hole and when will see them be viable again.

In this, the 50th anniversary of the Mets’ birth, some are writing this team could be a hapless as the 1962 team. It won’t happen.

As an expansion team, Casey Stengel’s group was a collection of veteran castoffs and lowly ranked prospects. There wasn’t a player on that team with the talent of David Wright, or the potential of Ike Davis and Jon Niese.

Today’s Mets aren’t deep in talent at the major league level and throughout the farm system, but there is talent and potential. There’s also an expanded playoff system not around in 1962, so if they catch fire, well, who knows?

People have said and written to me saying the 1969 team had low expectations and look what happened to them. True enough, and while the offensive potential of this team is greater than the 1969 team, that unit had potential based on its superior pitching. Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman gave Gil Hodges reason to believe the 1969 team would be competitive and exceed expectations.

We’re a week away from the start of spring training and over the coming days I’ll look at some of the questions and issues surrounding the Mets.

I’m anxious for another season to begin, as I am every spring and I hope you’ll share it with me.

Thanks. JD