Mar 27

Will Mets hold back Santana?

This injury-riddled spring for the Mets has had one bright spot and that is the rehab of Johan Santana. His velocity has increased, topped off at 92, then leveled off to the high 80s in yesterday’s start.

SANTANA: Will they hold him back?

Santana’s arm strength has improved, but not to where the Mets would have hoped to start the season. I don’t believe a final start will get him to the level the Mets want, so after all the work he and the Mets have put in, why push the envelope now?

It’s been two years, so what’s another couple of weeks? The Mets must be cautious with this decision because Santana could represent a competitive and fun summer. I see the Mets holding back a couple of weeks to give Santana more time to build his strength with an extended spring training.

 

 

 

Mar 06

Santana passes another test.

Johan Santana and the Mets couldn’t have asked for more in the lefty’s return to the mound to face major league hitters for the first time since Sept. 2010.

SANTANA: Looked good today in two solid innings. Kept that fire in check.

With a two-inning, 35-pitch limit, Santana threw free and easy, giving up a walk and hit in two shutout innings against the Cardinals. Manager Terry Collins said what’s next is to see how he responds in two days when the throws again.

Coming off shoulder surgery, Santana kept his competitive juices in check and didn’t give in to the temptation of overthrowing. He threw 29 pitches and touched the gun in the high 80s going with his fastball and circle change.

Santana said he “wouldn’t do anything crazy,” and that included staying away from breaking balls for now.

 

Oct 24

Real baseball fans are watching … just not enough of them.

The ratings for this World Series, which has been compelling, are down but should pick up by Game 6, which is a certainty. I’m betting on a Game 7, the game’s ultimate gem.

But, that’s not enough for Maj0r League Baseball because the East Coast giants aren’t involved. With MLB’s penchant for panic and knee jerk reaction, I am beginning to wonder what the response will be.

Tinkering has already done damage to the credibility of the regular season. With interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, not every team runs the same race to October, which had been a constant for nearly a century. I guess 100 years of a good thing is not enough.

Major League Baseball is seriously considering expanding the playoffs to create interest in more cities and to add extra gates. Another round in the postseason turns baseball into the NFL, the NBA and NHL, which rewards mediocrity.

What had been unique to baseball – and valuable to the sport’s identity – was the difficulty in getting to the postseason. Every team facing the same obstacles gave value and integrity to the regular season. That has  been diluted.

It’s now a crapshoot where just about anybody can get in, and this year we have two teams that play the sport correctly, but don’t attract a national audience. What MLB wants is for the playoffs to be expanded, but in the end have the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and Dodgers somehow involved.

It doesn’t work that way.

Ratings are down for a variety of reasons, beginning with conflicts from the NFL and college football, and so many other viewer options on cable and satellite. At one time, even when the Series started being played at night, baseball was the popular choice.

It’s not that way anymore.

For years, MLB operated in a fashion to discourage growth from a young fan base by scheduling the playoffs later in primetime and its regular season pricing for tickets. It is more inconvenient for a young fan base – and also for the older fans who long supported the sport – to follow baseball. Those in their 70s and 80s who watched games in Ebbets Field and in dozens of parks that no longer exist, can’t afford tickets and don’t stay up as late. They have been shut out, just like the youth who are choosing other convenient options.

MLB needs to re-evaluate its marketing strategy to get back the fans who long supported the sport and attract its future fan base. Its not enough to get cities to build new stadiums and ride that enthusiasm, because eventually the thrill fades.

As those of us who are watching can see, it is still a remarkable, attractive sport that when played well is a joy to watch. We should savor what we are seeing and not regret those teams that aren’t here.

MLB could start by starting the games an hour earlier as to not shut out the East Coast in the late innings. Start the telecast at 7:00 p.m., with first pitch a half hour later. I’d rather have a small West Coast following in the first two innings than lose the East at the end of the game where memories are made.

In doing so, MLB would sacrifice money in its TV deals now, but it will pay off in the future, and that’s what’s best for the game.

 

Jun 03

Mets’ Daniel Murphy injured; Oliver Perez still holding tight.

The experiment of Daniel Murphy as a role player is on hold. It remains to be seen about his career.

Weeks of hard rehab work were wasted last night when Murphy re-injured his right knee trying to turn a double-play as a second baseman while playing for Class AAA Buffalo.

“I don’t think it’s real good,’’ Buffalo manager Ken Oberkfell told The Buffalo News. “The way he turned the double play was nice. He made the right pivot. It just looked like the guy got there late, and when Murph came down he never got out of the way once he planted his foot.’’

So much for fundamentals.

MURPHY: More bad luck

There was also a school of thought the Mets could showcase Murphy’s bat in the minor leagues for a deadline trade for pitching. That hope is gone now, too.

It takes skill to play in the major leagues. Also, timing and a little bit of luck. Murphy has had little of the latter two and it’s shame because he’s one of the very good guys as he would have done anything to help the Mets.

That now brings us to Oliver Perez. You kind of figured he wouldn’t be going away – at least in the way you hoped.

Until now, Perez’s selfishness has merely inconvenienced the Mets, an annoyance at best. In the next two days it could really shorthand them.

The Mets are still lobbying Perez hard to accept a minor league assignment to clear way for Jon Niese’s return from the disabled list. Niese is scheduled to pitch Saturday at Citi Field; it’s not known when Perez will throw a ball again in anger.

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Apr 14

April 14.10: About Last Night; Maine in trouble.

I don’t know if last night was John Maine’s worst game as a Met, but it sure could have been. It definitely was as complete a loss as the Mets have endured in recent seasons.

* Maine gave up eight runs on seven hits and three walks in three innings. His ERA is 13.50 and his spot in the rotation is now under question.

* Met hitters were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, effectively eliminating any chance at making a game of it last night.

* Met pitchers walked nine and their hitters struck out 11 times.

Jerry Manuel talked about a 20-game window to determine what is a fast start. At 2-5, and a miserable 2-5, maybe they are already there. Maine, hammered in both starts, is not only off to a bad start, but he’s in trouble.

“When you have that much traffic in that few innings you have to be concerned,’’ Manuel said. “He got the two outs and couldn’t put them away. You have to have some concern.’’

Maine broke 90 mph. a few times but was consistently in the high 80s. Manuel doesn’t think there’s a health problem.

“This is a performance business,’’ Manuel said. “We don’t think there are any health issues.’’

Perhaps Maine isn’t hurting, but he’s also not strong enough to be throwing that way. In the past he’s been able to get by with poor location with his velocity, getting a foul tip instead of a double in the gap.

Manuel said that’s part of the problem and he’ll have “dialogue’’ with his coaches about Maine’s spot in the rotation.

Last night was a continuation of a trend of falling behind early. Save Johan Santana’s first start, the Mets have consistently fallen behind in their games, putting pressure on their listless offense. And, right now the Mets aren’t hitting well to compensate for their pitching.

“We wanted to pitch well,’’ Manuel said. “That’s the key to everything.’’

Right now, the Mets are thinking what’s wrong with Maine and what to do about it. If it is simply a matter of building up his arm, then sending him out has to be considered. A MRI to be sure about the structure of his elbow must also be evaluated.

Currently, Maine is not getting it done. But, unlike the coin flips known as Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey, he’s not showing any upside.

Ah, what the hell. I’m not going to wait for 20 games. This is a bad start.

NOTE: Vote in the new poll concerning what should be done about John Maine.