Sep 29

Beautiful history … and Reyes.

It was stunning to see the Red Sox and Braves collapse over the past month, then finally crumble last night. We witnessed two of the great finishes in history, and the nature of it reminded us again of baseball’s magical power and hold on us.

It told us again a game and season are never over until the mathematics dictate it to be true. The winters will be long in Boston – which they are used to by now – and in Atlanta. Both teams seemed givens a month ago, only to turn around and give it away.

Maybe, there will be a new curse in Boston.

A pennant race is the best baseball has to offer, and heading into September there seemed no suspense, not much to make us curious. But, as it has for generations, the sport inexplicably grabbed us by the scruff of the neck and shook us awake.

It made us scramble in the morning to find the scores, to force us to take a peak at the television in bars and restaurants, to ask a stranger if he knew what happened. I was in a restaurant last night that was pro-Boston. It was raucous early in the evening, but a deathly Buckner-like quiet at closing time.

As ugly as it was in Boston and Atlanta, it was beautiful to see in St. Petersburg and St. Louis, and magical throughout the rest of the country. It was truly something historic and made us realize nothing should be taken for granted.

As I thought about the grand scale, I recalled  of how earlier in the day Jose Reyes took his place in baseball history for granted. He got his hit, a bunt hit, then decided to pack it in. He figured the odds were in his favor, Ryan Braun wouldn’t catch him and he’d have is own secure spot in history.

He figured right, but didn’t count on how he’d be remembered. For those of us who follow the Mets, he is the franchise’s first batting champion. But, he backed in. One of the great stories in baseball lore is how Ted Williams refused to sit on his average and insisted on playing both games of a doubleheader in 1941, went six-for-eight and finished at .406.

Williams’ .406 is one of baseball’s magical numbers and we’ll forever remember him. But, there’s nothing magical, or special, about Reyes or his .335. He’s somebody history will forget, and fittingly, take for granted.

The Mets finally have a batting champion, but he’s no champ.

Sep 08

Game One lineup vs. Braves: Sept. 8

Game One: Mets batting order vs. Atlanta

Ruben Tejada, SS

Justin Turner, 2B

Lucas Duda, RF

David Wright, 3B

Angel Pagan, CF

Jason Bay, LF

Nick Evans, 1B

Ronny Paulino, C

Chris Schwinden, RP

NOTES: Jason Isringhausen has a herniated disc and will miss several days. … Manny Acosta is expected to be used in a save opportunity in Game One. … Terry Collins continues to be cautious with Jose Reyes, giving him the first game off. The sun is out and it should help dry the field, perhaps lessening the chance of Reyes aggravating his hamstring. … Mike Minor and Julio Teheran will start the doubleheader for the Braves. You’ll recall their names were prominently mentioned as sought after chips when the Braves inquired into Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence.

 

Sep 08

Wet forecast for today’s doubleheader vs. Braves.

Rookie Chris Schwinden and Dillon Gee start for the Mets in their single-admission doubleheader today at Citi Field against Atlanta. In the words of every announcer I’ve ever heard when the crowd is expected to be sparse, “there are plenty of seats available, so stop in if you’re around.’’

But, who wants to go out today?

The doubleheader is for the pair of games washed away by Hurricane Irene, and the weather will also be wet and nasty today.

One of the bright spots of this season is that the Mets aren’t playing out the string. Eight games below .500 recently, they begin the day one under, beyond most expectations coming out of spring spring training.

Several things are will be worth watching this weekend, beginning with Jose Reyes’ pursuit of the Mets’ first batting title. Bobby Parnell is competing for the closer role, but will share opportunities with Manny Acosta and Jason Isringhausen. And, Nick Evans is seeking to make an impression for a bench spot next year.

 

Aug 11

Liking how Collins handled Niese

After winning the first two games of this series, coming away with a split is definitely disappointing. It’s not as if the Mets had a realistic chance to catch the Braves for the wild-card, but after losing seven of their last 10 they are now 10.5 games behind Atlanta.

NIESE: Keeps on growing.

After another one-run loss this afternoon (that’s 18 on the season), they are headed to Arizona and San Diego, where it won’t be easy. The Mets are at their point of the season where the goals are fundamental, such as finishing above .500 and making value judgments on the future.

With the latter, I liked how Terry Collins handled Jonathan Niese this afternoon. Collins gave Niese 122 pitches worth of rope and stuck with him in the eighth when most managers would have been seduced by the pitch count and gone the conventional route.

Most managers would have yanked Niese after Cameron Maybin’s leadoff single, and definitely after the stolen base. Then, after an intentional walk and double steal, Jerry Manuel might have been on his second reliever.

With runners on second and third, Collins gave Niese a strong vote of confidence and allowed him to pitch to Aaron Cunningham. Perhaps it was a vote of non-confidence in the bullpen, but this was important to Niese’s development.

Cunningham grounded a ball to Ruben Tejada, who, instead of getting in front of the ball, tried to one-hand it. The ball went off the heel of his glove and Niese was on his way to becoming the hard-luck loser.

Even so, Niese got the ground ball he needed, indirectly rewarding Collins’ confidence.

A couple of years ago teams called the Mets asking for Niese and they wisely eschewed. It was one of Omar Minaya’s better decisions.

Niese still has a way to go, but this was definitely something to build on.

 

 

Aug 06

Reyes coming to Earth?

Jose Reyes said he’s 100 percent, but he’s not really. He’s not been the player he was before going on the disabled list with a hamstring, and while he’s still had a good year, he once again served reminder of the dangers of giving him a long-term contract in the neighborhood of seven years.

REYES: Vulnerabilities showing.

The offensive rap on Reyes has always been giving away too many at-bats at the plate and falling back into bad habits, such as pulling off the ball and adopting an uppercut swing.

What were line drives and crisp ground balls have turned into weak fly balls and pop ups. He’s taking a 2-for-13 slide into tonight’s game against the Braves, including nine fly ball outs.

Reyes has had had a marvelous season and somebody will give him a payday this winter. If not the Mets, then somebody.

However, two things have surfaced to warrant caution in anybody dealing with Reyes, with the first being his propensity to injury and breaking down.

He hasn’t played in 150 games since 2008, and since 2003 has only logged at least 150 games four times. From 2005 through 2008, Reyes had at least 56 stolen bases.

For a player who makes his living with his legs, there are breakdown signs for the 28-year-old Reyes.

With his health always a concern, so is his performance. Players will always have slides and slumps, but there are still holes in Reyes’ game that indicate Carl Crawford money of $142 million over seven years – which Fred Wilpon said he would not get – will be unattainable.

After three years of leading the NL in stolen bases, he has 32 now, his most in four years. His on-base percentage on .376 is the highest of his career, but how much is that playing for the contract? His career .339 on-base is more representative of his capabilities, and that’s not worthy of Crawford money. I don’t know if it is worth more than a $100,000 million package.

He’s never walked more than 77 times in his career and has only drawn 29 this summer. His career strikeouts-to-walks ratio is 498 to 319.

Reyes is a good player having a good season, but as the last few weeks have shown, there are vulnerabilities in his game that say Wilpon might have been right all along.