Oct 25

Time To Let Things Pass For Carlos Beltran

If you thought for a minute Carlos Beltran’s bruised ribs would have kept him out of Game 2, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Beltran bruised his ribs robbing David Ortiz of a grand slam homer in Game 1, and while being treated in a Boston hospital that night began to doubt he’d be back in Fenway Park for Thursday’s game. Constant treatment helped him return, and with nearly two full days of treatment since, he will be in the lineup for Game 3 Saturday in St. Louis.

BELTRAN: A great Met scorned.

BELTRAN: A great Met scorned.

That’s because Beltran, as quiet as he is, is extremely tough. It would take a lot more than bruised ribs to keep him out of the World Series he’s waited 16 years to play in.

“I wanted to be in the lineup,’’ Beltran said. “I worked so hard to get to this point. Somebody would have to kill me in order for me to get out of the lineup.’’

Don’t forget, Beltran refused to sit after suffering facial fractures in an outfield collision with Mark Cameron in 2005, his first season with the Mets. Beltran played with several injuries during his Mets’ tenure, but unfortunately there’s a sizable segment of their fan base that prefers to remember him for taking Adam Wainwright’s nasty curveball that froze him to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, their last time they played in October.

The Mets collapsed at the end of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and this summer was their fifth five straight losing year. Unfairly, Beltran became a symbol of their long fall because of that pitch.

I heard on talk-radio today one caller say he hopes the Cardinals and Beltran will lose based on that pitch. That’s beyond ignorant.

Just get over it, will you?

Nobody could have hit that pitch. Odds are had he swung he would have missed or hit a weak popup because he was greatly overmatched.

Beltran is arguably one of the most talented players in Mets’ history and for him to be castigated years later is blatantly unfair and ignorant.

New York sports fans like to believe they are the most sophisticated in the country. If that is so, then prove it and leave Beltran alone and join us in 2013.

It doesn’t matter who you favor in the World Series. Everybody has their reasons why they root for or against a team. But, to root against the Cardinals because of that pitch Beltran took years ago makes no sense.

To blame one player for the ills of the past seven years is beyond stupid.

 

Oct 21

Mets Would Do Well To Follow Cardinals’ Blueprint

The World Series is upon us in a matter of days and the New York Mets can learn from both the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox in building their team.

Today, I’ll examine the Cardinals and see where there any familiarities. Tomorrow, I’ll look at the Red Sox.

Mets Could Learn From Cardinals

Mets Could Learn From Cardinals

The Mets say they want to build with young pitching, which has always been the Cardinals’ way. A look at St. Louis’ rotation shows the rotation highlighted Adam Wainwright is entirely homegrown. Wainwright was drafted by Atlanta – another franchise that knows how to grow pitching – but was traded and never pitched an inning for the Braves. Wainwright pitched in the Cardinals’ minor league system before he pitched in the majors for them.. A testament to how deep the Cardinals are is rookie 15-game winner Shelby Miller didn’t even pitch in the NLCS.

The Cardinals have been highly protective of Michael Wacha (the compensatory draft pick received for losing Albert Pujols), whose innings limit began on spring training and lasted through the season to the point of where he is ready for the playoffs without reservation.

St. Louis did this by not starting the innings limit in spring training but by backdating his projected starts from the playoffs. This made it easier because the Cardinals had a clear idea of how many innings Wacha would throw from each start and held firm.

Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Miller, Wacha and Joe Kelly are all homegrown and developed in the same system.

With Matt Harvey out for the year, logically more would be demanded of Jon Niese – coming off a shoulder injury – and Zack Wheeler, who was scratched from his last start because of a stiff shoulder. But, the Mets must be careful as to not have another injury like Harvey’s. That Wheeler complained after his last start is alarming.

The Mets are also looking at prospects Rafael Montero, Jacab deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Presumably, they will all have innings limitations, which should include restrictions on the minor league level and the major league level after they are promoted following the deadine to protect their Super Two status.

The Mets’ plan emulates the Cardinals. When Harvey returns in 2015, he Wheeler, Niese, Dillon Gee will form the nucleus of the rotation, with either Jenrry Mejia or Montero being the fifth starter.

It could be this way in midway through 2014 when or if Montero joins the rotation and possibly deGrom. Wainwright didn’t become a starter until his third season, and was a reliever when he threw that dynamic curveball past Carlos Beltran. This might be something for the Mets to consider with Montero.

The Mets tried Mejia as both a starter and reliever. He underwent elbow surgery this year, but should be ready for spring training.

Whatever the Mets do with him, they should pick one role and stick with it, something they failed to do under Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel.

The Cardinals believe strongly in building up the middle, which is why they chose to keep Yadier Molina and say goodbye to Pujols. One might have though Pujols would stay after the Cardinals won the World Series after the 2011 season.

The Mets are attempting to do the same with Travis d’Arnaud, who is a long way of becoming another Molina – any of them.

St. Louis has a reputation of being a small market team, but it has a big market swagger in that it has won more World Series than any franchise other than the Yankees.

The Cardinals signed slugger Matt Holliday, which was a gesture to Pujols of their intent to keep him and protect him in the lineup.

The Cardinals built with prospects – a reflection of a strong scouting system and minor league system – with first baseman Allen Craig, who could be activated for the World Series; second baseman Matt Carpenter; third baseman David Freese; and outfielder Jon Jay.

This enabled them to add what they needed from the outside, notably right fielder Beltran and shortstop Rafael Furcal.

The difference between the Mets and Cardinals isn’t so much in philosophy as it is in talent. The Mets are hoping Ike Davis or Lucas Duda could be as productive as Craig. Life would be simpler for the Mets if that occurred.

Offensively, the Mets don’t have a Holliday, and there are no similar players currently in the projected free-agent market.

Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury is a proven outfielder, and could thrive in spacious Citi Field. Red flags are his health, potential salary and the reputation of production of Red Sox players after they leave Fenway Park. He also doesn’t have Holliday’s power.

Potential free-agent outfielders include Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Curtis Granderson and Nate McLouth.

McLouth could come the cheapest; Granderson strikes out a lot and his power numbers must be carefully examined because of Yankee Stadium and the protection (outside of last year) he had in the lineup; Choo could be a one-year wonder and is a risk for a multi-year deal; and Cruz has the PED flag,

None, outside of Beltran, offer the stability of Holliday. If Beltran doesn’t stay in St. Louis, the Mets would have to consider his age and salary demands (he’ll want at least two years).

The Cardinals are an ideal blue print for any franchise and the Mets would do themselves good if they build that way.

 

Oct 05

Looking At Mets’ Free Agent Options For Position Players

Supposedly, with money to spend the New York Mets are scouring the free agent market to ascertain options to address their numerous issues and holes.

GM Sandy Alderson said adding to the rotation and bolstering the depth of the bullpen is a priority. Even so, Alderson has a multitude of other issues to address, with only two positions – David Wright at third base and Daniel Murphy at second – seemingly secure.

BELTRAN: An encore?

BELTRAN: An encore?

There’s a question nearly every where else:

CATCHER: Travis d’Arnaud goes into spring training the starter despite a small window of performance. Anthony Recker proved more than a capable back up behind John Buck. However, d’Arnaud and Recker together is a young combination, and a veteran back up is likely to be signed.

Free-agent catching market: The best catcher on the market is Atlanta’s Brian McCann, but that will never happen. The way McCann calls a game and his leadership capabilities would be ideal for a young staff, but that’s a dream. The Braves are built on pitching and would be foolish to let McCann go. … John Buck will be on the market, and I wonder if the Mets will attempt to bring him back. They could do far worse. … Jose Molina, Dioner Navarro, Miguel Olive are available, but neither stands out. … A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be on the market, but both will want to start.

FIRST BASE: The Mets haven’t decided between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, although speculation is they’ll choose the latter and attempt to deal Davis. Duda has shown a better plate presence than Davis when it comes to working the count and having a higher on-base percentage. However, the Mets remain seduced by Davis’ power potential and have not forgotten his 32 homers in 2012. Given they have two options, it’s unlikely they’ll sign a free agent unless they work deals for both.

Free agent first base market: The guy I am most interested in is Justin Morneau. He’s healthy and his line-drive style would be ideal for Citi Field. However, he might cost too much, but if the Mets clear the roster by dealing Davis and Duda, it might be worth it to give him a call. … Mike Napoli would also be expensive. … Mark Reynolds would provide power, but if the Mets are trying to reduce their strikeouts, he’s not the best option. … In looking at the first base market, it is easy to understand Alderson’s comments on a thin selection.

SHORTSTOP: Ruben Tejada will get every chance to regain his position, but he’s recovering from a broken leg, so there’s no telling if he’ll be ready. Omar Quintanilla was more than capable off the bench and should be invited back. … I would have liked to see Wilmer Flores play shortstop. He did some in the minors, but there’s concern about his range.

Free agent shortstop market: Yunel Escobar is out there, but the Rays have an option. … Rafael Furcal and Stephen Drew would be an upgrade over Tejada. … With Derek Jeter rehabbing for the Yankees, the Mets will get competition in the market.

OUTFIELD:  The Mets like Juan Lagares and envision him in their 2014 outfield. They also like Matt den Dekker’s defense, but wonder about his offense. The Mets’ improvement coincided with the acquisition of Eric Young, who resolved their leadoff hole. Young’s speed is an asset, but some scouts don’t have him rated any higher than a fourth outfielder. The Mets say they want power in the corner outfield spots, but if they replace Young their leadoff dilemma will resurface.

Free agent outfield market: The marquee names are Shin-Soo Chin, whom I am cool on. He’ll want a lot and I don’t think he’s worth the dollars. … Jacoby Ellsbury could turn this into a productive offense, but he’ll cost a lot. … Nelson Cruz, who is coming off a PED suspension, could be had for less than expected. … There has been talk in the media about bringing back Carlos Beltran, who should go down as one the Mets’ most productive players. Mets fans never forgave him for taking that third strike against Adam Wainwright in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, but they easily forget what he gave them over the long haul. Two years plus an option might get him back. … Also expensive, but somebody who could give the Mets the power they seek is Curtis Granderson, who made $13 million this season with the Yankees. … Another option who could be pricey, but is the kind of player the Mets should consider is Hunter Pence. … Nate McLouth, whom the Mets considered at one time, will be on the market.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Sep 20

Mets’ David Wright Wants To Play As Gesture To Fans

David_Wright_on_June_23,_2008

DAVID WRIGHT WANTS ONE MORE SWING

There are several reasons why David Wright wants to be in the New York Mets’ lineup tonight in Philadelphia, but catching the Phillies for third place in the NL East is not among them.

The Mets will have their fifth consecutive losing season, with long odds of catching the Phillies as they trail by three games with ten to play.

“In my eyes, third place, fourth place, you’re still going home,’’ Wright told ESPN. “So, to me, it’s not all that important. What’s important is that we try to go out there and win each game, to try to play good baseball and finish strong.’’

That has been the Mets’ mantra since mid-August, when they were swept in a three-game series in Los Angeles to fall back to ten games under .500. The Mets had been making overtures about finishing .500, and even catching Washington for second place, but those three games against the Dodgers – all winnable – deflated their season and shifted everybody’s attention to 2014.

When Matt Harvey was shut down shortly after, there was a winter chill in Flushing, and currently, the Mets’ roster has a Kissimmee travel squad look.

As team captain, Wright has been supportive of manager Terry Collins, and continued to echo his sentiments.

“I think there is something to be said – especially when you have a young team like this – to finish strong,’’ Wright said. “Where you have guys competing for jobs for next year, guys competing for playing time. With the injuries that we’ve had, with the trades that we’ve made, it sure has opened up some chances for guys that probably wouldn’t have a chance right now.’’

Collins has been saying that for weeks.

Wright knows his return won’t mean anything in the standings this season, but it could instill something that might in the future. As captain, Wright is giving his teammates a year-end glimpse into this work ethic, which could be of value to Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares to name a few.

Significantly, they play positions where the Mets are looking for upgrades or improvement. Wright also wants to play to get a feel of his health heading into winter, but there is something more.

Although Wright is too modest to say it, his coming back is a gift to the Mets’ fan base that hasn’t had much to cheer about since Carlos Beltran took a called third strike from Adam Wainwright in in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Wright knows expectations have been low in this Ponzi era, and the fans were disappointed again this season, with seemingly much of the anticipation for 2014 diminished with Harvey gone.

If nothing else, Wright wants to show Mets fans he still cares about his profession, playing well and performing for those who cheer for him. It is his way of thanking them for sticking by the team as the season faded.

It might not seem like much, but heading into an uncertain winter and future, it is a classy gesture by the classiest player the Met have to offer.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 24

Mets’ Matt Harvey Should Start All-Star Game

The starting role for the All-Star Game is Matt Harvey’s for the taking. With three more starts for the New York Mets, including an audition for San Francisco and National League manager Bruce Bochy, should Harvey run the table and go into the break at 10-1 with an ERA close to 2.00, it is totally realistic.

Unless Harvey tanks, he should get the ball.

HARVEY: Should get All-Star nod, (AP)

HARVEY: Should get All-Star nod, (AP)

“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Harvey told reporters Sunday in Philadelphia. “ … Hopefully, the performance will take care of itself.’’

Meanwhile, speaking on SiriusXM, Bochy said with all things being equal, letting Harvey start in his home city could be the deal breaker. Based on record, Harvey trails Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman (10-3), St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright (10-4), Arizona’s Patrick Corbin (9-0) and Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee (9-2), especially should they continue to win their remaining starts.

However, if any of them pitch on Sunday preceding the July 16 All-Star Game, they would not be able to pitch in the game. Of course, the same applies to Harvey, but Mets manager Terry Collins won’t let that happen.

Because of how well Harvey has performed, it would not be a token gesture by Bochy, but a decision based on merit. Bochy, one of the best managers in the game, understands the rarity of starting the All-Star Game in one’s home park, and would not deny Harvey the privilege if the numbers were equal.

And, from a strategic point of view, why would Bochy do anything to alienate Harvey or the Mets? Why make an enemy?

It wouldn’t make sense.

Prior to Sunday’s victory over the Phillies – Harvey only worked six innings because of rain – I wrote how other pitchers were having better statistical seasons and stand by that feeling. However, that doesn’t mean Harvey isn’t having his own special year, even if he isn’t the “best pitcher on the planet.’’

Harvey’s window is less than a full year with 26 career starts, but he’s demonstrated he definitely is a cornerstone pitcher, an ace to build around. He puts the odds in the Mets’ favor every five days, something that can’t be underestimated.

While he has his share of special numbers, what I like best about Harvey is his 24-hour rule, which is win or lose, he won’t dwell on a game for longer than a day. It demonstrates focus and his head is in the right place.

However, physically the right place for Harvey on July 16 will be on Citi Field’s mound.

It feels right.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos