May 14

Seeking A Villain For Mets’ Hitting Woes

Another night, another ten strikeouts, another loss. Hmmm. Let’s see, whom can we blame?

I know, batting coach Dave Hudgens and his approach to work the count and be selective; get a pitch and drive it.

k_104_lgThat’s it, his approach is wrong. It is why they are striking out so many times. They are taking, taking, falling behind, and then whiffing. Damn, it’s Hudgens’ fault.

That’s the current analysis of the Mets’ offensive woes and it is nonsense.

There is nothing wrong with the approach, the game plan, if you will. It is fundamental baseball, and it only doesn’t work if you don’t have the hitters with the ability to make it work.

There is nothing wrong in working the count and taking a strike. What IS wrong, is taking that strike if it is a pitch you can drive. This is about pitch selectivity and recognition, and Mets hitters don’t have it.

Remember when Yankees-Red Sox games lasted close to four hours? The approach from both teams was to run up the count. For the Yankees, when they faced Pedro Martinez, the magic number was 100. Once Martinez reached that number he became less effective.

Surprise, surprise, it works that way with all pitchers on a consistent basis. Some games they’ll have the stuff to go long, but usually they’ll break down.

imagesIt worked because those teams had hitters capable of recognizing their pitch and reacting. Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill and Manny Ramirez. The term used is “professional hitter.’’

Trouble is, when you look at the Mets, you don’t find many. David Wright, sure. You can even make a case for Daniel Murphy, but he’s in a dreadful slump, which happens to everybody.

We knew going in Ike Davis and Lucas Duda were strikeout machines. Looking at their roster, so is everybody else.

Of their most-used lineup, only Murphy and Ruben Tejada are projected to finish with less than 100 strikeouts, and their numbers of 93 and 79, respectively, are high for supposed “contact’’ hitters.

For all the talk of John Buck’s hot start, he has come to Earth average-wise and his power numbers have cooled. But, not his strikeouts; on pace for 162.

Here’s the projected numbers for the rest: Wright (106, which is a marked improvement from recent years), Duda (153), Rick Ankiel (154), and Marlon Byrd (139).

Even in his limited at-bats, Jordany Valdespin is on pace to whiff 65 times. Give him full time at-bats and it would be over 100, also.

images-1Given this, then why have an approach of taking pitches?

Answer: Because that gives them the best chance to succeed, if they have the ability to do so.

Early in the year we were thrilled about Duda taking walks and having a high on-base percentage. What went wrong is two-fold: 1) he fell back into bad habits and started chasing, and 2) he didn’t swing when he got his pitch.

Too often, Mets’ hitters still swing at garbage. In fact, they aren’t taking enough. Consider Davis’ last strikeout Sunday against Pittsburgh when he flailed at three pitches outside the zone, either low or away, or both.

If the Mets had a roster of guys such as Wade Boggs or Barry Bonds, who knew how to wait out a pitcher and what to do when he got his pitch, this wouldn’t be an issue.

But, they don’t. They have a roster of guys who aren’t major leaguers.

Pitchers know the Mets are taking, so they adjusted and are throwing down-the-middle strikes early and hard-to-reach strikes late in the count.

If the first pitch is there, swing at it. The approach isn’t about taking until you have two strikes. It is about driving one strike. Sometimes, that’s the only good pitch you’ll get.

Outside of Wright, who is getting better, few Mets know how to protect the plate with two strikes, which is shorten your swing, foul off pitches that are close, and go to the opposite field.

No, the problem isn’t the approach. The problem is a roster of hitters who don’t understand the fundamentals of hitting.

The problem is also general manager Sandy Alderson, who is about the funky stats of Sabremetrics, and has settled for a roster of players not able to hit.

But, the easiest thing to do is blame Hudgens, who after all, is only trying to get his hitters to understand Hitting 101.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Mar 22

MLB And Selig Off Base In Latest Suit

There’s arrogance and there’s Major League Baseball arrogance, which is on another level.

Major League Baseball, as often has been the case when things don’t go its way, resorted to strong-arm tactics and finally the courts in its futile effort to get confidential documents from Biogenesis and its operator, Anthony Bosch. Major League Baseball filed suit today in South Florida to force Bosch to open his filing cabinet to commissioner Bud Selig and his legal storm troopers to have Biogenesis surrender documents it is not entitled to.

SELIG: Something not right, here.

SELIG: Something not right, here.

Selig wants Biogenesis to do his dirty, investigative work for him. Selig, infuriated that 90 baseball players are named on Bosch’s files, wants those documents so he can go after the players, namely Ryan Braun, whose lawyer outsmarted MLB’s hired gun when the Brewers’ MVP escaped a 50-game drug suspension on a technicality.

There is an appeals process jointly agreed to by MLB and the union and the sport lost. Now, move on.

Still, Selig clearly has it in for Braun and can’t let it go. Could be he’s going through his phone book now for Howie Spira’s number? Just who is advising this man?

Major League Baseball is threatening players and teammates – reportedly even offering immunity in some cases – for information on the 90.  Where is the Major League Baseball Players Association now in defending its constituency? Smacks of McCarthyism.

This should be thrown out on grounds of general principles. Seriously, doesn’t MLB think these things through?

Major League Baseball, as you know, has a dreadful, almost Mets-like record in the courts. It lost every time the union sued them for bargaining in bad faith, it lost in its collusion defense, it lost against Barry Bonds, it lost against Roger Clemens, and it will lose here.

Frankly, MLB couldn’t win if the other side had a signed confession.

Biogenesis was contracted to the players it individually serviced, not to their teams or MLB as an entity. Why do you think the players went there in the first place?

Biogenesis had no contract with MLB, and therefore violated nothing and didn’t wrong the sport other than bad publicity, of which it generates enough of its own in the first place.

Biogenesis has no legal obligation to oblige MLB in its request, and frankly, if it did, it would probably be vulnerable to lawsuits from the players for violating their privacy. Biogenesis might not be the most reputable organization in its field, but patients of it still should have reasonable expectations of privacy and not having their names surrendered in a witch-hunt.

Selig’s legacy is tainted at best. There’s no doubt he brought riches to the owners, in large part by ignoring the use of steroids in the late 1990’s and glorification of the sham that became the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase in an effort to spike attendance after the 1994 players strike.

Selig forced the strike by trying to push a salary cap on the union after MLB was stung on collusion charges. The union didn’t trust Selig, who drew pointed criticism from his predecessor, Fay Vincent.

“The Union basically doesn’t trust the Ownership because collusion was a $280 million theft by Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf (Chicago White Sox owner) of that money from the players,’’ Vincent said. “I mean, they rigged the signing of free agents. They got caught. They paid $280 million to the players. And I think that’s polluted labor relations in baseball ever since it happened. I think it’s the reason (former union leader Donald) Fehr has no trust in Selig.’’

That strike, subsequent killing of the 1994 World Series and resultant steroids scandal will be how he’s remembered. He’s legitimately trying to clean up the sport, but this isn’t the right way. This further damages him.

Why doesn’t he learn?

Feb 10

What I Make Of Piazza Admission

I concede disappointment in Mike Piazza’s admission in his autobiography he took androstenedione, but only because it further lends to speculation he might have used PEDs.

From andro to steroids is the logical, but unsubstantiated conclusion. Once again, Piazza denied using steroids, but this certainly won’t enhance his Hall of Fame chances. Piazza received over 50 percent of the vote, but still was far short of induction. Part of that percentage was from my vote, and for that I still have no regrets.

My criteria was there was no admission of steroid use; he never failed a drug test; was not mentioned in the Mitchell Report; and nobody accused him on the record. There was only the subject of columns pointing out his back acne. To me, Piazza had the statistical career to warrant induction and the acne is only innuendo. As a journalist, I don’t operate on speculation.

Andro was not a banned substance by MLB when Piazza claims to have used it, nor was it illegal. Steroids, however, are different in that before they were banned by MLB, they were illegal in society without a prescription.

Regarding PEDs, Piazza wrote:  “Apparently, my career was a story that nobody cared to believe. Apparently, my success was the work of steroids. Had to be. Those were the rumors. … It shouldn’t be assumed that every big hitter of the generation used steroids. I didn’t.’’

Of course, Piazza could by lying. Lance Armstrong lied. Pete Rose lied. Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa lied. It wouldn’t be a shock, but for now I believe him and do not regret giving him my Hall of Fame vote.

 

Jan 19

Mets’ Farm Team Cyclones To Host Lame Promotion

I don’t know with any certainty the truth in the Manti Te’o hoax. Only he does. I am not thrilled ESPN supposedly interviewed him, but there is no video. How does a network make that concession.

Let us give him the benefit of doubt for a moment and Te’o is a victim and was duped. Then that makes the Mets’ Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones’ promotion lame on so many levels. It would be capitalizing on someone’s misfortune. But, if Te’o were in on it, then why would they want to associate themselves with such a sick thing?

The Cyclones announced June 21 will be Fictitious Friday and with Sidd Finch taking on Roy Hobbs and the New York Knights. The team also said the Beatles will perform a pre-game concert. There will also be a petting zoo for the kiddies, with a unicorn, Minotaur and mermaid.

Just one contrived thing after another. Not so much funny and clever as it is forced. You can’t force humor.

In explaining the promotion, Cyclones GM Steve Cohen said: “Everywhere you look, there seems to be another story about an athlete that was covering up something.

“People don’t know who, or what, to believe any more. That got us thinking, we should have a night where our fans don’t have to worry about what’s real and what’s not, we’ll just tell them everything planned for that night is a hoax.’’

The event seems forced and by the time June rolls around, the Te’o thing could be forgotten. But, what if it’s true? What if he were duped? That would be capitalizing on someone’s misfortune which is extraordinarily weak.

It will come off like a bombed skit on Saturday Night Live. A clever idea gone sour.

By the way, if the Cyclones really wanted to make a point about a hoax, they should have a steroid night with character athletes playing Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens. And, if they did that, somebody will be sure to ask about Mike Piazza, only that hits too close to home.

This idea is weak from the start and the sooner it is abandoned the better.

Jan 12

Piazza Denies Steroids In Book

Some writers claim they voted NO on Mike Piazza for the Hall of Fame did so because his book, “Long Shot,” isn’t to be released until Feb. 12, after the induction announcement. Coincidence or deliberate timing?

You can make an argument either way, but not surprisingly Piazza denies any steroid use. Of course, nobody would realistically expect him to.

It’s pretty disheartening to hear how objective journalists painted Piazza with the same broad brush applied to Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Vote your conscience, but the evidence against Piazza is circumstantial at best. Pimples are not a conclusive argument.