Jul 21

Looking At The Pennant Races Heading Into Second Half

By rights the most intriguing storyline of the second half should be the pennant races, as that is the essence of the sport. No matter how hard Major League Baseball tries to screw up the integrity of the regular season schedule, we’re still there watching at the end to see who is left standing.

The New York Mets are one of nine teams at least ten games out of first place in their respective divisions. That puts 21 teams within reach, if you define that reach as the ability to pick up one game a week.

Mathematically, the  “best’’ race is the National League West, where nobody is more than 7.5 games out. Trouble is, three of the five are under .500, including the defending champion Giants. Do you remember when they wanted to get rid of Don Mattingly in Los Angeles? Well, the Dodgers are a mere half-game out.

Another compelling race is the National League Central, where the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are bunched up under a four-game tent. Considering the mediocrity of the rest of the league, all three should qualify, as nobody else is close to becoming a wild-card contender. That would mean the first winning season in Pittsburgh in two decades, or since before Barry Bonds juiced himself out of the Hall of Fame running.

The Washington Nationals, the team supposed to get a pass into the World Series, is floundering and Stephen Strasburg is just 5-7. Not disappointed here, as the arrogance the Nationals showed last year by saving Strasburg under the assumption they will be a playoff fixture might not come to pass.

Once again, that leaves us with the American League East with the most compelling race. Boston, a team given no chance at the start, is in first followed by Tampa Bay, Baltimore and the Yankees, who are some how six games back without Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis and mediocre years from C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. Joe Girardi, to me, is the AL Manager of the Year.

There’s the chance for a compelling race in five of the six divisions. The worst? That would be the NL East.

A lot of things play off the pennant races, including the trade deadline. Every year it is the same, but with each team gearing up for a run there seems another about to unravel and call it a season. The manufactured excitement of the wild card in some cities is often off-set by the resignation summer is over by the first of August in others.

The Phillies are in town this weekend playing the Mets. Take a close look at them as they might break up that group. They are claiming they won’t trade Cliff Lee, but it’s another July and who wouldn’t be surprised to see him check out of one city and into another? It isn’t also hard to see Chase Utley traded.

Minnesota, both Chicago teams, Milwaukee, Miami with the Giancarlo Stanton Watch and perhaps the Angels all could undergo personnel facelifts in early preparation for spring training. The Angels won’t say it, but they’d love to be out from under Albert Pujols‘s contract. Probably the same goes with Josh Hamilton.

Meanwhile, the Mets are saying they won’t be sellers, but we’ve heard that before.

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

Feb 24

Delcos Sunday Column: Mets Should Say No To Robbie Cano

The funniest thing I heard with the Yankees and their contract negotiations with Robinson Cano is Scott Boras would take this to the open market to possibly draw the Mets in as an antagonist. That’s what Boras does, and the presence of other teams – some out of the desire to make things difficult for the Yankees – would boost the price.

CANO: Mets should say No.

CANO: Mets should say No.

I laughed out loud when I read one of the teams should be the Mets. Seriously, how could anybody write that and have the readers keep a straight face?

Regardless of Fred Wilpon’s desire to spend money next year, it won’t be on Cano for four significant reasons.

First, the Mets won’t bring in anybody for more than the $138 million package they gave David Wright. He’s a homegrown franchise player and nobody will beat that amount, at least not in the next year. Five years from now, maybe. But, not in 2014.

Secondly, the Yankees would never let them be beaten out by the Mets for a player they both sought. The Mets can’t go toe-to-toe with the Yankees financially regardless of how much money Wilpon wants to spend.

Both the Mets and Yankees wanted Carlos Beltran, but the Yankees cooled at the end. Even after getting his final offer from the Mets, Boras went back to the Yankees one last time. Boras wanted the Bronx, but for that price the Yankees were concerned about Beltran’s mental toughness in the New York market.

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Jun 23

Ike Davis Comes Up Big For Mets

Yes, I know, Frank Francisco got the save last night and backed up his boast, but not before getting into trouble. Fact is, he’ll blow a key save opportunity soon enough.

The biggest thing that came out of last night was Ike Davis’ homer in the first against lefty Andy Pettitte. I wrote earlier how that match up would be key in this series.

Davis delivered last night and that was the difference and supported Jon Niese. You have to give credit to Terry Collins for sticking with him when Davis was struggling.

Jun 22

Yankees Represent Challenge For Lucas Duda and Ike Davis

There are several things I’d like to see happen for the Mets this weekend. If recent history is any indicator, they will be swept by the Yankees. Trading sweeps is not a way to make the kind of progress Terry Collins needs.

We’ve seen it before with the Mets. They’d come into the Yankees’ series on a roll and get dumped on. And, at home, too. That needs to stop, and here’s what we need to see.

* With the Yankees throwing left handers Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda (tight hammy) need to have a good series. Raking would be nice, but don’t get stuffed. It is easy to envision them getting shut down, but their development requires standing in against tough lefties.

* The bullpen bridge to Frank Francisco must produce. And, the sometimes shaky closer needs to show his mettle. Of course, the best thing would be to get quality innings from the starters.

* The RA Dickey success is no fluke, but the Yankees have a way of cutting down hot pitchers a notch. A strong game on national TV Sunday night against Sabathia would be a great way to start a long road trip.

There are other things I’d like to see, but if the Mets produce the above three, it should be a successful weekend.

ON DECK: Interleague play.

Jun 21

Mets Sweep Orioles: Dillon Gee Shines

What, you expected three straight shutouts? Well, truth be told, as the game – and Dillon Gee – rolled on, so did I.

GEE: Terrific.

Gee was terrific, giving the Mets yet another strong start, and extended their scoreless streak to 29, until surrendering a homer in the eighth. The bullpen took over and didn’t exactly cruise over the finish line.

There was a bases loaded walk to force in a run, but even so, it was good to see Frank Francisco struggle and work himself out of trouble. Not all saves can be cruise jobs.

With the sweep, the Mets have now swept two and been swept twice in their last four series. Not the kind of consistency Terry Collins is looking for, I am sure.

The Yankees are up next, but I’m doubting a sweep this time. There’s a buzz at Citi Field and will be this weekend. Here’s the probables:

Jon Niese (4-3, 3.82 ERA) vs. Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.77) on Friday, followed by Chris Young (1-1, 3.06) against right-hander Ivan Nova (9-2, 4.32) on Saturday. Sunday is prime time with  R.A. Dickey (11-1, 2.00) going againt CC Sabathia (9-3, 3.55).