Oct 11

With Mets Out, Who Do You Root For?

With the Mets hibernating for the winter, who do you root for in the playoffs? When covering a game or team, I try to be very analytical. But when watching a game where I don’t have a reporting interest, I find myself taking sides. I’ll find a storyline, or a player, or something that makes me pull for one team over another.

What about these playoffs?

Well, two teams – Boston and Texas – are done. Just as well. There’s nothing really compelling about the Rangers, and the Red Sox, frankly, have are boring at times. When they were losing every year, they were the frustrated losers you felt sorry for. However, after winning three World Series, their fans have become insufferable, like they have a sense of entitlement. What other teams does that remind you of?

Let’s look at the field and find that nugget:

Giants: Yes, they’ve won three World Series since 2010, more than most teams have won in a lifetime. The Mets have won only two. But, it is how they play that is attractive. If you were up to 3 in the morning watching Game 3 of their NLDS with the Cubs. They aren’t star based – outside of workhorse Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey – but play as a collective unit. They play baseball the right way, with an attention to fundamentals and hustle. My best friend is a Giants’ fan and I like watching the games with him. They have won ten straight elimination games which is truly amazing. I would like them to send the Series back to Chicago, if for nothing else, to see the panic from Cubs fans.

Cubs: I know their story; they haven’t won the World Series since 1908. I get it, but it isn’t as if this group has been playing for nearly a century. After Steve Bartman, if is hard to empathize with their fan base. On the flip side, I do admire their organization for giving David Wright the third base bag last year after the NLCS. Very classy. But, it’s almost like a badge of honor in how their fan base takes defeat. Outside of Wrigley Field, where is their identity outside of losing. Actually, I think it would be a very cool thing for them not to win until 2018, which would be 110 years between titles.

Dodgers: I’m pulling for a Giants-Dodgers NLCS. That would be historic. That would be run. One of the greatest rivalries in sport highlighted in a Championship series. I’ve met Vin Scully, but he’s not calling the games anymore. Their arrive late-leave early fan base in annoying, but it’s Southern California. What can you do? The Dodgers have some great players to watch, like Clayton Kershaw. Would like to see him break his postseason funk. He’s going today. Of course, you could always root for Chase Utley.

Nationals: You can always root for Daniel Murphy, and I see nothing wrong with that. The Mets have had so many rivals through the years and the Nationals are the current team on their dislike radar. To me, there’s nothing compelling either way that would make me want to either cheer or boo them. Not even Bryce Harper.

Indians: I grew up an Indians fan and watched them struggle for years. This truly is a frustrated fan base. I have a good friend who works for the Indians, plus I have all those years going to that big, empty stadium. I still have the boxscore from the first game my dad took me to, plus that memory of he taking me and my brother out of school for Opening Day. I used to take a tape recorder and sit in the upper deck and do play-by-play.  Often I had an entire section to myself. Rocky Colavito, Sam McDowell, Ray Fosse, Sonny Siebert, Luis Tiant. Those were my guys. Plus, Cleveland Stadium had the world’s greatest mustard. Like the Giants, they also have a lot of players under the radar who play the right way. Credit Terry Francona. It’s good to see him back in the playoffs after he was unfairly run out of Boston.

Blue Jays: When I covered the Orioles and Yankees, Toronto was one of my favorite spots on the tour. Love that city. And, they are the only franchise I know that has their own song that they play during the seventh-inning stretch. The Canadian version of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”  Nice fans, except for the moron who threw the beer can. How can any team sell beer in cans these days with the high jackass factor? The Blue Jays are a fun team to watch. Their World Series teams in 1992 and 1993 were underrated on the all-time greatness meter. This is a very good team with a lot of great players. Could either Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista be future Mets if Yoenis Cespedes leaves?

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May 18

Will We See D’Arnaud Again?

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports Travis d’Arnaud is in California rehabbing his right shoulder with a private trainer, which makes me wonder if we’ll ever see him in a Mets’ uniform again, much less develop into an All-Star player anywhere.

His inability to stay on the field is rapidly derailing a career that has never gotten off the ground.

D'ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’Arnaud working with a private physical therapist makes me wonder why he isn’t in Port St. Lucie or in New York where he can be around team doctors and officials. When I recall the controversy of where Matt Harvey would rehab his elbow, I wonder why the double standard.

It’s a given the Mets value Harvey more than d’Arnaud, but this detachment makes me think he’ll never make it as the player they hoped he’d be and are beginning the process of cutting ties.

D’Arnaud went on the disabled list April 26 with a right rotator cuff strain, which was aggravated when he tried throwing May 7 in Port St. Lucie. GM Sandy Alderson said the pain in his shoulder subsided, but couldn’t provide a possible return date. He couldn’t even pinpoint a month.

As for the California question, Alderson said: “He’s more or less as well off out there with somebody who knows him as well as our guys would know him. Right now I can’t give you chapter and verse on exactly what his return [date] is. We have to keep in mind that sometimes when we cite chapter and verse on when he will return, we’re kidding ourselves.”

That was a fairly evasive answer, which we’ve come to expect from Alderson.

The season began with d’Arnaud the starter and Kevin Plawecki the backup. Depending on how the year progressed, one ocould be traded as a catcher with major league experience is a valuable commodity.

Plawecki has proven good defensively, in fact, Mets’ pitchers have a better ERA with him behind the plate. He offense picked up on the last road trip, but he still needs a way to go. Gone are the days when a catcher was supposed to be an offensive force – Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson and Mike Piazza – as defense is now paramount.

Buster Posey and Yadier Molina are today’s premier catchers, but Plawecki has potential. Should d’Arnaud play again this season and the debate resurface between him or Plawecki, the Mets must consider his injury history.

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Nov 29

Initial Look At Hot Stove Season

There’s been some interesting moves this offseason, but so far Toronto and Boston have made the most noise.

I’m thinking the Mets signing Michael Cuddyer, Oakland picking up Ike Davis, Cleveland getting Shaun Marcum and Arizona signing Nick Evans won’t exactly register on the baseball Richter Scale.

SANDOVAL: Big signing by Sox. (AP)

SANDOVAL: Big signing by Sox. (AP)

However, earlier this week, Boston signed free agents Hanley Ramirez – who will move to the outfield – and third baseman Pablo Sandoval. And, today the Blue Jays acquired All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson from Oakland in what is a typical move for them – trading a star to avoid paying him the big bucks.

Donaldson elevates the Blue Jays in the AL East, as Sandoval does for the Red Sox. With the Boston and San Francisco offers comparable, just why would Sandoval leave?

What hasn’t been mentioned – and Sandoval didn’t say in his Fenway press conference – was the Giants’ plans for All-Star catcher Buster Posey. Unquestionably their best player, the Giants figure to preserve Posey by moving him from behind the plate.

But, where?

He really can’t play left field, and Brandon Belt isn’t moving off first. That leaves third base, and in a couple of years Sandoval may not have a position. So, it’s a no-brainer for Sandoval to look elsewhere, and resting as a DH and peppering line drives off that wall, he could become a .300 hitter, something he hasn’t been since 2011.

Ramirez, at 31, could be considered a gamble. For one thing, he has a recent injury history and for not exactly busting it while with the Marlins. Ramirez, once an All-Star shortstop, didn’t take to third base after the Marlins signed Jose Reyes and will play left field in Boston in the shadow of the Green Monster, which is not an easy thing to do.

The Red Sox, who were burned by the Carl Crawford signing and acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez, were rescued when they dumped them on the Dodgers. They responded by winning the World Series in 2013, but are back to their free-spending ways.

We will see if they are as successful this time. However, they don’t have Cuddyer.

Sep 18

Mets Wrap: Josh Satin Delivers Game Winner; Ruben Tejada Fractures Leg

It was a situation Josh Satin has experienced countless times, even before he did so tonight with the New York Mets.

“Incredible,’’ Satin said before a crowd of notepads and cameras. “It was one of the moments you kind of dream about, especially for me, a guy who has been in the minor leagues for the better part of five years.

SATIN: Comes through in clutch. (AP)

SATIN: Comes through in clutch. (AP)

“When I take batting practice, I say it,’’ he continued before taking the role of an imaginary play-by-play announcer. “Bases loaded, down by one run, two out in the ninth …’’

What would happen next, after battling off four straight sliders from Sergio Romo, Satin had a hunch.

“After he threw me four straight sliders I had a feeling in the back of my mind he would throw me a fastball,” said Satin.

Romo did and Satin ripped it to left to drive in two runs that carried the Mets, who for seven innings had been listless against Matt Cain, to a 5-4 victory over the champion Giants.

“It’s easy say, `We’re not supposed to hit this guy,’ ” manager Terry Collins said. “This could be a big lift for us.’’

Prior to the game, Collins said he wanted his team to leave an impression on him and his coaches.

“Any time you walk on a field somebody is watching, and most of the time it is me,’’ Collins said when if there was enough time left in the season for a player to make an impression, good or bad, regarding next year.

“Every time you leave the field make somebody talk about you. Run hard to first. Back up a play. Throw a curveball for strikes.’’

The Mets did very little of those things for seven innings tonight, but there’s a reason why they play nine.

“If you wonder what our offense is supposed to be about, it was in that ninth inning,’’ Collins said. “We put on one good at-bat after another.’’

The Mets stole a run in the eighth when Matt den Dekker singled, stole second, went to third on Buster Posey’s wild throw, and scored on Satin’s sacrifice fly.

That appeared to be a cosmetic run until the ninth. Andrew Brown drew a walk off Santiago Casilla. After Lucas Duda struck out, Brown took second on a wild pitch, and Casilla continued to walk Juan Lagares.

Romo replaced Casilla, and faced Zack Lutz, who  pinch-hit for Ruben Tejada, who fractured his right fibula in a collision with Brown in the top of the inning. Lutz doubled home Brown – “It was a fastball out over the plate,’’ Lutz said – and rookie Juan Centeno, in his major league debut, singled home Lagares.

After Omar Quintanilla flew out to shallow right, up was Satin, home in his backyard.

This time, his imagination was real.

“It’s been an incredible year,’’ said Satin, “and this was the best moment.’’

TEJADA INJURED: It wasn’t so great for Tejada, who fractured his leg in a collision with Brown. Tejada will be out from six to eight weeks before beginning rehab. “I dropped down like I’ve been trained to,” Brown said. “At the last second he clipped my leg. It makes me feel horrible.”

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Aug 19

Sickels Weighs In On D’Arnaud

mejia d'arnaud

John Sickels on Minor League Ball featured Travis d’Arnaud as his Prospect of the Day and pointed out how steadily his throwing has improved as evidenced by increasing caught-stealing percentages since turning pro. So for those of you worried about those three stolen bases against him this weekend, don’t go jumping to any conclusions, and it was not like the pitcher’s didn’t play a part in it.

Here is what he had to say regarding D’Arnaud’s bat and projectability:

Offensively, his best tool is power. He was rather impatient early in his career but has made progress with the strike zone. He looked dramatically improved in that department for Vegas this spring and summer, when he wasn’t hurt anyway. His power usually comes when he pulls the ball, although he is more willing to take something the opposite way than he was earlier in his career.

I don’t see him as a .300 hitter at the major league level, but he should be good for a solid .250-.270 range, with an adequate OBP and better-than-average power. He could exceed those projections in his peak seasons.

Back in February, I wrote a Prospect Smackdown article comparing d’Arnaud with Mike Zunino of the Seattle Mariners, who is d’Arnaud’s primary competition as the top catching prospect in baseball. I concluded that I preferred Zunino very slightly because he was two years younger. Zunino has had his own set of problems this year. Catchers get hurt a lot and they often don’t have linear development curves.

Although I don’t see him in the Buster Posey or Joe Mauer class of superstar catcher, d’Arnaud produces quality play on both sides of the ball. If he can avoid getting hurt too often, d’Arnaud will be a fixture in the Mets lineup for years to come.

By the way, despite an report yesterday that the Mets will be keeping d’Arnaud once John Buck returns on Tuesday, the team says they haven’t made an official determination about that yet and it’s still up for debate.