Aug 24

Astros, Mets Kindred Spirits?

They were born the same year, 1962, as expansion teams, and in the Houston Astros’ final National League appearance against the Mets in New York, both teams are playing like expansion teams.

Although linked by their entry, the Mets and Astros never developed an substantive rivalry in these 50 years. Playing in different divisions dulled the potential of a rivalry.  Both had long stretches of mediocrity, or worse, and there were few times they were good at the same time.

Then there was 1986.

The Mets rolled through the regular season. They dominated as manager Davey Johnson boasted at the start of the season. But, the Astros wouldn’t cave and made it a memorable series.

The Mets prevailed, 4-2, but needed 16 innings to oust the Astros in Game 6. They were on the brink of elimination in the ninth inning but rallied for three runs to force extra innings. The teams traded runs in the 14th inning. The Mets scored three in the top of the 16th, but the Astros’ rally fell a run short.

With the win, the Mets avoided facing Astros ace Mike Scott in a Game 7. The Mets could not touch Scott and to this day Keith Hernandez admits he was in their heads. The Mets were convinced Scott was scuffing the ball, but never caught him.

The series that begins tonight is the last time time the Astros will play here as a National League team as they will move to the American League in 2013.

I don’t like the idea of the Astros leaving the league. It will be odd not playing them, but then again things have been odd since interleague play and the unbalanced schedule. It’s just not the same race for every team.

As bad as the Mets have been since the break, going 11-28 and having just been swept by Colorado, the Astros have been a horrid 6-33. Part of it is playing poorly and going with young, inexperienced players, but a lot of that has to do with gutting their team in a July fire sale.

While the Mets have played some incredibly horrid baseball in August, the month did produce a bright spot in the emergence of Matt Harvey and yesterday’s stunning debut by Collin McHugh.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll look back at this month as the time when the Mets found the core of a new pitching rotation.

Jul 04

Fourth Of July Good Omen For Mets

History dictates that whoever is leading on July 4th will make the playoffs. That’s a good omen for the Mets, who lead in the wild-card chase. By the end of the month, if there are trades, then the Mets will be buyers.

Their top priority is the bullpen as they have enough offense, despite limited power, to get the job done.

Let’s look at the other playoff contenders.

Washington has the best record in the National League and with its pitching could sustain it into the playoffs. The question here is what will happen if, and when, they shut down Stephen Strasburg.

Atlanta could make a run, but the Marlins and Phillies have too many issues.

In the Central, it would be nice to see Pittsburgh hold on, but the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers are still close. This division should be a scramble until the end.

In the West, it is the Dodgers and Giants, with Arizona 5.5 games out.

Things seem more definitive in the American League. I expect the current leaders to hold on, with Tampa Bay, Detroit and the Angels the prime wild card contenders.

Apr 19

Looking At The Numbers For The Mets, Wright And Others

We’re two weeks into the young season and I’d like to share some of my first impressions and hear yours. The Mets, despite losing three of their last four games, are among the early surprises, as are several of their players.

WRIGHT: Has reason to smile.

They are playing better than anticipated and on pace to win 93 games. I don’t believe they will sustain that, but who wouldn’t take .500 if it were guaranteed? I would because it is the next step in the franchise’s development.

Ever since I was a kid I loved the early season numbers and projections. It was fun to think of all those players breaking Roger Maris’ 61 homers, but knew nobody would come close. When it finally happened and I learned why, it wasn’t fun anymore.

For example, David Wright’s .500 average leads the majors and is one of six players hitting over .400 and 28 over .340. There won’t be a .400 hitter – and maybe never will again – and I’d be willing to bet there won’t be anybody over .340.

Both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are on track to hit 41 homers and drive in 81 and 68 runs, respectively. They have the strength to hit that many homers, but I don’t think either has the plate presence or pitcher knowledge to do so. At least not this year. Their RBI totals are reasonable.

Wright won’t hit .500 or get the 230 hits projected of him, but I’d take the 28 homers and 108 RBI. The latter two should be worthy of a contract extension.

The Mets would gladly take those numbers from Wright, as they would Frank Francisco’s projected 41 saves.

Pitching wise, the Mets’ 3.69 ERA is sixth in the National League, which is a substantial improvement from last year. Also, their 43 walks allowed are 11th in the league, but ten of those came in one game. That needs to get better. They are second in the league with 101 strikeouts, an average of over eight a game that translates into working out of a lot of trouble.

In addition to the Mets, the surprise teams on the positive are Washington, the Dodgers, St. Louis and Baltimore. The Cardinals, minus Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa and Chris Carpenter, just keep rolling.

I thought the Nationals would be better, but not this good. They won’t keep playing at this rate, but their pitching is good enough to keep them contending. Their ERA of 1.92 is first; they are tied for seventh in fewest walks and first in strikeouts.

On the negative, the Phillies will climb in the standings, as will the Angels, Boston and the Yankees.

Individually, four players are on pace to hit over 60 homers, which isn’t supposed to happen in the new steroid-free era. One of those players is Carlos Beltran, who hasn’t made the Cardinals forget Pujols, but has softened the blow.

Speaking of Pujols, he hasn’t homered and is on pace for 54 RBI. He’s also on track for 81 strikeouts, which would be the second highest of his career. His 41 walks would be the lowest of his career.

I don’t believe the Cardinals will regret losing Pujols in the long term. Pujols is a future Hall of Famer and will eventually adjust to the American League and before it is over post impressive numbers. The Cardinals can live with that because even if Pujols plays another ten years, they would have gotten the best years of his career.

The most fun stats to project are the individual player numbers. The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp is on pace to hit .460 with a .500 on-base percentage, 287 hits, 87 homers and 224 RBI.

Incidentally, on the flip side, Jose Reyes is on track to play in 162 games (yeah, as if that will happen), hit .226 with a .276 on-base percentage, with 37 steals, 50 walks and 100 strikeouts.

Neither Kemp’s nor Reyes’ numbers will reach fruition, but on an off day it is fun to tinker with the numbers.

Jan 20

Thinking Mets and other things.

Just want to say thanks again to Joe DeCaro for posting on the blog as I go through some things. Going in today for a procedure. Have been in a lot of discomfort lately and hoping this will help. I will keep trying to post whenever I can.

In the interim, some thoughts have been going through my mind I’d like to share with you.

1) I understand selling bricks on the walk ways surrounding to Citi Field. It’s the norm these days outside the new stadiums. It brings in some cash, but hardly dents the expenses of a team. You’re certainly not going to sign a front line pitcher selling bricks. You’re not going to do it either by selling parts of the outfield wall. I know the Mets won’t pass on an opportunity to bring in some money, but this really looks desperate, which, of course, the Mets are … it is embarrassing, really. What’s next, having players stand outside the gates this summer holding tin cups or tip jars?

2) Saw a nice write-up in the papers where Carlos Beltran was in town to honor a a long time Mets fan and friend who passed away. He presented the man’s children with Mets jerseys. I don’t know why it was Beltran wasn’t fully appreciated here, but he is arguably one of the best position players in franchise history and was always a gentleman. He represented the Mets with class, but wasn’t always treated well by the front office, media and fans. It will be a long time before the Mets see another like him.

3) Prince Fielder talked to the Nationals and Rangers, and both could be ideal landing spots. If the money is comparable, you would have to think Texas would be ideal for him because the Rangers are already a good team; the Rangers have a band-box of a ball park; the weather is ideal for hitting year round; the Rangers offer more protection in the line-up; and the American League has the designated hitter. Yes, there are a lot of good reasons why he should lean toward Texas, just as Albert Pujols logically should have been thinking about staying in St. Louis. But, logic has nothing to do with it and it will come down to the largest check.

Jul 25

Beltran holds cards, but can’t be too picky.

Carlos Beltran has stated a preference of staying in the National League where he can play the outfield, but his first preference is to go to a contender, so Boston and Texas remain in play. He has veto power over any deal and hasn’t ruled out the Red Sox or Rangers, but has made it clear the American League isn’t his first choice.

BELTRAN: Can't disregard AL possibility.

Beltran doesn’t want to limit himself by being pigeonholed as a designated hitter because that shrinks his market, and subsequently what his next free agent contract might bring

“Right now, when they approach me about the teams, then I will decide if I would love to go to that place or not,’’ Beltran told reporters in Miami this weekend. “I made it clear to them that teams that are in contention are the ones that I’m willing to go to. … Right now, I feel so comfortable with the National League. I’ve been here seven years. I feel comfortable here. … It’s just seven years that I haven’t played in the American League.

“But let’s see. I mean, it’s going to be convenient for the organization, for sure, but it also has to be convenient for me. If it’s convenient for both, we move forward.’’

Beltran showed flexibility this spring with his willingness to move to right field, where he has stayed healthy and produced. He needs to continue to show flexibility this week if a trade is presented him to an American League team.

Beltran can’t take too hard line a stance because he can’t take it for granted he’ll never be presented with the DH choice. Beltran has stayed healthy after two years on the mend, but what if after this season a National League team is reluctant to offer him more than two years, fearing he was lucky this season?

It is one thing to show the market you can play the outfield, it is another thing to make too much of that demand where you alienate future buyers.

Beltran would be foolish to turn down Boston or Texas where if he played well he might parlay it into an extension. He can’t take the risk of vetoing a trade to an American League team and staying with the Mets and possibly getting injured and hurting his position in the market.

Most likely any trade for Beltran would be a rental, but good things can happen off a rental and if being the DH in Fenway Park can save some wear and tear on his needs, he needs to accept that option.