Feb 17

Today In Mets History: Roger Craig Born

One of original Mets, pitcher Roger Craig, was born in Durham, N.C., on this date in 1930.

CRAIG: Happy Birthday to an original Met.

CRAIG: Happy Birthday to an original Met.

Craig was signed by Brooklyn in 1950 and broke in with the Dodgers five years later. He accompanied the team to Los Angeles and spent four years there before being selected in the expansion draft by the Mets prior to the 1962 season and pitched two years in the Polo Grounds and compiled a 15-46 record with a 4.14 ERA.

He became the answer to a trivia question when he started and lost the first game in Mets’ history.

Craig left the Mets following the 1963 season and went on to pitch with St. Louis, Cincinnati and Philadelphia and retired after 1966 with a 74-98 record, .430 ERA and 1.334 WHIP.

After he retired, Craig went on to manage San Francisco from 1986-1990, however his real niche was as a pitching coach where he taught the split-finger fastball.

Box Score: Craig’s first game as a Met.

Aug 11

Which Johan Santana Shows Up Tonight?

Watching Johan Santana pitch this season has been much like reading the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, The Strange Case of Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde. A twisting tale of the agony and ecstasy in the duality that some say exists in all of us. Although not quite as extreme, the concept is not lost on what has been s strange season for the Mets left-handed ace.

Leading up to and including his date with Mets history and lore on June 1st, Santana was on top of the baseball world as he led the Mets with a 2.38 ERA and subdued any talk that he was on the decline after an 18 month recovery from anterior capsular surgery in his left shoulder. The Mets ace was back and had once again become an intimidating presence on the mound – capped off by tossing his 131-pitch no-hitter, the first in Mets franchise history.

However, that night would become a turning point to the season for Santana and just like that a change set in that transform him and his performance into the antithesis of what we had come to expect.

After June 1, the former Cy Young award winner was suddenly in the throws of a pitching slump – unquestionably the worst stretch of his career. In his next eight starts, Santana pitched to an unsightly 6.54 ERA, The swagger was gone, the confidence at a season low, and the dugout whispers suddenly turned into worries and a deep and abiding concern. The Mets say an ankle injury was the cause and soon the southpaw was placed on the DL which seemed like a good excuse to give his seemingly dead arm some much needed rest. Hey, whatever it takes, right?

That said, Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal offers up an encouraging report on Johan Santana who will take the mound tonight against the rival Atlanta Braves. Fresh off Santana’s three inning rehab start in Brooklyn, pitching coach Dan Warthen spoke with Costa and if he’s right, we may see the crafty lefthander who thrilled us for the first two months of the season:

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said the difference was evident in Santana’s overall demeanor. “There were four or five starts where it just wasn’t Johan,” Warthen said. “He generally lights up a room. He has enough energy to light up this whole city on game day.” After the no-hitter, Warthen said, “He was having the kind of energy that would light up a 20-watt bulb.” The fatigue led to reduced arm speed, Warthen said, which led to lapses in control. Santana initially dismissed the ankle injury. But two more dreadful outings convinced the Mets he needed a breather. Now, they will find out if it was enough.

Santana’s fastball hit 90 miles per hour during a rehab start in Brooklyn last weekend, a benchmark he hadn’t reached in a while. “I think you will see pretty much what you saw early in the season the rest of the year,” Warthen said. “I think we’ll see 87 to 90 miles per hour. I think we’ll see better control. But I think you’re going to see a stronger, probably more consistent high-end velocity guy next year. I don’t think you’re going to see the whole Santana package until next year.”

Maybe this journey in duality will have a much happier ending than the one in Stevenson’s classic did.

NOTE: John had to have emergency surgery on Thursday and will be hospitalized until Sunday. Please wish him a speedy recovery and in the meantime I’ll post here in the interim.

Nov 10

Mets’ manager interviews to have second phase

The Mets’ managerial search will include a second round of interviews with Terry Collins, Don Melvin and Wally Backman. No word on any others getting a second round.

Speculation is with the hiring of Paul DePodesta to oversee the minor leagues and player development departments, Collins has become a frontrunner for the managerial job.

Collins, the Mets’ minor league field coordinator last season, has a better grasp of the Mets’ minor league system overall than the other candidates overall. Melvin was a major league scout last season for the Mets and Backman was manager of their Single-A Brooklyn affiliate.

Both Collins and Melvin have major league managing experience.

Initially, it was thought the new manager should not have ties to the Mets, but all three do, as does Tim Tuefel.

Sep 15

Kudos for Backman …. Manuel

Brooklyn’s season is over and the waiting game begins for Wally Backman. Quoted earlier about saying he could do some things better than Jerry Manuel, Backman took the high road yesterday, saying he’s not guaranteed of a job next year and the Mets aren’t on his mind.

Of course, they have to be on his mind, but when given a second chance to comment on the Mets’ job and Manuel, Backman took the high road, which won’t go unnoticed by management.

On a related note, Manuel knows his job is in jeopardy. He might even know he’s not coming back. But instead of crying or lobbying, he goes out there and does his job every day. That’s a professional thing to do and that won’t go unnoticed, either.

Sep 04

Beltran doing well; wants to play.

Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran reported no setbacks in his second minor league rehab game Thursday night at Brooklyn.

Beltran fielded three balls and went 0-for-2 with a walk.

BELTRAN: Wants to play this season.

BELTRAN: Wants to play this season.

Beltran, on the disabled list with a bruised right knee, hopes to return this season, even though his presence will do nothing to help the Mets in the standings.

“I feel good,’’ Beltran said. “I didn’t feel anything. It was just good to be out there.

“It’s been a long time that I wasn’t able to play in the outfield. So today was a very good day for me. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, see how I wake up tomorrow. I probably will feel a little bit sore – not my knee, my body.’’

Beltran anticipates playing the remaining three games in Brooklyn’s season, then it is possible he’ll rejoin the Mets.

Beltran is pleased because he’s not favoring the knee.

“I don’t have urgency,’’ Beltran said. “I just want to be back. I’m just doing everything I have to do to rehab myself and be with the team. I just love to play baseball. If I’m good to play, then I’ll be there.’’

The only reason for Beltran to play again this season is if he feels it for his own peace of mind. It’s a long time between now and spring training.