Oct 28

Will Fate Choose Adam Wainwright In World Series’ Game 5?

Nobody knows where October’s spotlight will fall. Sunday it shined on journeyman outfielder Jonny Gomes, the unlikely slugger of a game-winning three-run homer for Boston in Game 4. Gomes is proof October doesn’t always belong to the marquee names.

The previous night it shined on the umpires, who correctly ended Game 3 on an obstruction call.

After Gomes’ blast on Sunday, fate chose to bite the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong, who became the first player in history to be picked off to end a playoff game. Fate is often cruel come October.

WAINWRIGHT: What will fate give him?

WAINWRIGHT: What will fate give him?

Earlier in the night Clay Buchholz produced despite a tired arm, giving the Red Sox four innings. The Cardinals had a two-on, one-out threat in the second and two-on, two-out in the fourth, but Buchholz survived both.

The Cardinals later stranded two runners in the seventh. St. Louis, a beneficiary the night before, was the ultimate giver Sunday.

Gomes provided the heart and David Ortiz gave us a made-for-TV moment with a pep talk to his teammates in the dugout in the fifth inning. Ortiz, who is having a marvelous Series and has always had a flair for the dramatics, had to know the nation was watching. It made for good television, but Ortiz couldn’t do anything to help for Gomes or Buchholz, who produced when the Red Sox needed it most.

Emotion can carry a player in football, basketball and hockey, but not so much in baseball.

Everybody contributed for the Red Sox, who, like the Cardinals have been a resilient team this season. Both teams, each of whom won 97 games this season, are on the cusp of giving us a classic World Series.

The definition of classic has to be seven games. For that to happen, Adam Wainwright has to find it for the Cardinals tonight. If the Cardinals fall behind in games 3-to-2, I don’t see them beating the Red Sox twice at Fenway Park. Wainwright, whom fate blessed against Carlos Beltran in 2006, has lost his last two playoff starts. He was routed in Game 1.

It has been a sloppy Series, which only fuels the drama. Outside the Game 1 blowout, the Series has been complete with unlikely heroes, game-turning plays, managerial decisions and tension. There has even been the unfolding saga of what Jon Lester has put on his glove. The composite score of Games 2-3-4 has been 11-10 in favor of St. Louis. It can’t get much closer.

We even saw Red Sox manager John Farrell second-guess his Game 3 decision to not hit Mike Napoli for reliever Brandon Workman. Credit Farrell for being stand-up enough to admit his doubts. You don’t see that often from a manager, especially from one the day after losing a World Series game on the most bizarre of calls.

There is a flurry of statistics to ponder over the first four games, but Ortiz going 8-for-11 is the most glaring. The Cardinals would do well to repeat the Angels’ strategy in the 2002 World Series to pitch around Barry Bonds. Having Ortiz in the field has not hurt the Red Sox, and for that they are fortunate. The Cardinals are also lucky he hasn’t hurt them more.

Despite the interesting numbers and Sabremetrics, this is still a game played by humans, and there was no number to project Gomes’ homer or the obstruction call. No stat could have projected Buchholz’s guile in pitching out of trouble. Things just happen in baseball nobody can predict.

So far, these humans – from both sides – are giving us a World Series that could be for the ages.

We can only hope.

 

Oct 25

Time To Let Things Pass For Carlos Beltran

If you thought for a minute Carlos Beltran’s bruised ribs would have kept him out of Game 2, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Beltran bruised his ribs robbing David Ortiz of a grand slam homer in Game 1, and while being treated in a Boston hospital that night began to doubt he’d be back in Fenway Park for Thursday’s game. Constant treatment helped him return, and with nearly two full days of treatment since, he will be in the lineup for Game 3 Saturday in St. Louis.

BELTRAN: A great Met scorned.

BELTRAN: A great Met scorned.

That’s because Beltran, as quiet as he is, is extremely tough. It would take a lot more than bruised ribs to keep him out of the World Series he’s waited 16 years to play in.

“I wanted to be in the lineup,’’ Beltran said. “I worked so hard to get to this point. Somebody would have to kill me in order for me to get out of the lineup.’’

Don’t forget, Beltran refused to sit after suffering facial fractures in an outfield collision with Mark Cameron in 2005, his first season with the Mets. Beltran played with several injuries during his Mets’ tenure, but unfortunately there’s a sizable segment of their fan base that prefers to remember him for taking Adam Wainwright’s nasty curveball that froze him to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, their last time they played in October.

The Mets collapsed at the end of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and this summer was their fifth five straight losing year. Unfairly, Beltran became a symbol of their long fall because of that pitch.

I heard on talk-radio today one caller say he hopes the Cardinals and Beltran will lose based on that pitch. That’s beyond ignorant.

Just get over it, will you?

Nobody could have hit that pitch. Odds are had he swung he would have missed or hit a weak popup because he was greatly overmatched.

Beltran is arguably one of the most talented players in Mets’ history and for him to be castigated years later is blatantly unfair and ignorant.

New York sports fans like to believe they are the most sophisticated in the country. If that is so, then prove it and leave Beltran alone and join us in 2013.

It doesn’t matter who you favor in the World Series. Everybody has their reasons why they root for or against a team. But, to root against the Cardinals because of that pitch Beltran took years ago makes no sense.

To blame one player for the ills of the past seven years is beyond stupid.

 

Oct 23

Minaya Hopes To See Beltran Get That Ring

Carlos = Beltran

Omar Minaya is rooting hard for Carlos Beltran to get that World Series Ring, Reports Bob Klapisch of The Record.

“I feel great for Carlos, because I still think he was the best center fielder of his time,” Minaya said by telephone Tuesday. “I’ve known him since high school in Puerto Rico and he’s always been that same person: not just a great ballplayer, but a great human being. When people like that get to the World Series, it makes you feel proud.”

Minaya has no hard feeling towards the Wilpons, whom he said had little choice but to fire him and Jerry Manuel after the collapse in Flushing was beyond repair.

“We did have a great thing going, but in New York, you have to win. I get that,” Minaya said. “We had a great season in ’06, but to lose the way we did in ’07 and ’08 at the very end … when you go out like that two years in a row, changes have to be made.”

I’m amazed at how many Met fans still define Beltran’s career by that one at-bat, seemingly ignoring the fact he carried the Mets to that Game 7 of the NLCS with a tremendous regular season and post season performance.

As Klapisch points out, Beltran was in the wrong place at the wrong time, expecting a fastball with a 3-2 count in the bottom of the ninth.

So to any Mets fan who still feels Beltran hasn’t fully paid his debts for 2006, consider the journey. He knows about pain, although there’s never been a hint of his suffering. Beltran is baseball’s equivalent of Mr. Spock – neutral and unruffled are in his genetic coding. He told The New York Times recently, “For me, being able to get so close and never being able to get to the World Series, all that has done is give me motivation to come every year, work hard, prepare myself and try to get there.”

Clearly, the commitment has paid a monster dividend: In two seasons with the Cardinals, Beltran has hit .282 with 56 home runs, and, just as importantly, hasn’t spent any time on the disabled list. His trade to the Giants in 2011 also netted the Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler, which means, in all fairness, the account is paid in full.

As for what’s next as Beltran heads into the offseason, it’s becoming painfully clear that future Hall of Famer could be heading to the Bronx according to what baseball people are telling Klapisch.

It would suck to see him come to New York and play for the other team.

Oct 12

Appreciating Carlos Beltran; Wondering About Return To The Mets

There are a lot of people who tell me if the New York Mets aren’t in the playoffs, and if there’s no arch enemy such as the Yankees to root against, they don’t bother watching the playoffs.

Too bad, because they missed a classic Friday night, and another example of Carlos Beltran’s post-season excellence to marvel over.

BELTRAN: I would take him back. (AP)

BELTRAN: I would take him back. (AP)

Beltran will be a free agent this winter, and because the man can still play and one must wonder if the Mets will make a run at him.

You do remember, that rather than pick up his $18.5-million option, the at-the-time rebuilding Mets chose to trade him to the Giants for Zack Wheeler.

I understood what the Mets were doing at the time, but even so I always appreciated Beltran, who is arguably one of the top five position players in franchise history.

I don’t know if Beltran is a Hall of Famer, but he’s a very good regular season player and an off-the-charts October performer.

Beltran drove in all three Cardinals’ runs and threw out a runner at the plate in a scintillating 3-2 victory over the Dodgers.

Add them up now and Beltran is hitting .345 with 16 home runs, 12 doubles and 34 RBI in 40 career postseason games. He also has 42 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. He’s played in October with the Astros, Mets and Cardinals, but has never played in the World Series. He is, however, an eight-tim All-Star.

“It’s just fun to watch him do his thing,’’ Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said last night.

A lot of Mets’ fans don’t want to hear that as they are instead they are caught up on one pitch Beltran took for a called third strike to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Hopefully, Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon was able to convey that to Beltran, along with the organization’s apologies for how his tenure in Flushing ended. You’ll remember, with the competitive part of the 2009 season over, instead of Beltran having knee surgery they opted to bring him back to play in 19 meaningless September games and was eventually shut down.

Then, in the offseason there was a snit between him and the organization – when Omar Minaya was still general manager – over knee surgery and Beltran had it on his own.

Beltran, as the team player he is, had no problem moving to right field for first year manager Terry Collins. Then came the trade for Wheeler and again the remembrances of the called third strike he took from Adam Wainwright.

That was a monster pitch that froze Beltran. It would have frozen Ted Williams. It would have frozen Babe Ruth. It was that good a pitch.

Instead of appreciating what Beltran gave the Mets during his tenure. Instead of acknowledging how he played hurt for the Mets, including with a broken face after his horrific collision with Mike Cameron, a great many Mets’ fans failed to recognize what they had.

Beltran, a free agent this winter, said he’d be open to a return to the Mets. I’d love for him to finish out his career here, where he’d take the pressure off David Wright and would be a tremendous influence to the Mets’ young outfielders in Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker.

Then, when 2015 rolls around with Matt Harvey’s expected return, we might enjoy seeing Beltran in another Mets’ October.

Oct 07

2013 Season Review: David Wright

david wright homers

DAVID WRIGHT, 3B

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS:

As they always are, expectations were high for David Wright, especially after a strong 2012 season, one in which he hit .306 with 21 homers and 93 RBI. And, those were numbers compiled with little protection in the line-up, at least in the first half of the season. They were also lofty because he signed a monster eight-year, $138-million deal through 2020 and was named team captain. Whenever a player signs a long-term contract, expectations are high. Staying healthy is always an issue, and if that happened Wright should have been able to meet his 162-game average of .301 with 26 homers and 103 RBI. If protected in a line-up surrounded by supposed sluggers Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, why couldn’t Wright hit 30 homers with over 100 RBI? Wright was expected to be among the league leaders in run production, and, of course, start in the All-Star Game at Citi Field.

2013 SEASON REVIEW:

Wright got off to a hot start, played in the All-Star Game, and despite little support was on a 30-homer, 100-RBI pace. However, as usual it was about staying healthy, and a strained hamstring sliced seven weeks from his season and limited him to 111 games. Nonetheless, Wright posted impressive numbers, such as a .393 on-base percentage and .909 OPS. Wright’s run-production numbers of 17 homers and 57 were paltry, but could have come close to expectations had he played a complete season. Remember, after Marlon Byrd was traded there was no protection. Wright lived up to his captaincy throughout the season. He was the go-to guy when reporters needed a comment, such as during the Jordany Valdespin fiasco. Perhaps most impressive, is with the competitive part of the season over for the Mets, Wright worked hard to get himself back to the lineup. He said he wanted to be an example for his young teammates. It is what leaders do.

CAREER STATS: 

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LOOKING AT 2014:

John Delcos Says:

A healthy Wright is an offensive force. His best years were when he was complemented in the line-up with sluggers Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. This is why it is important for Davis and/or Duda live up to their expectations and offer protection. When there was nothing to play for, Wright said it was important to return so he could get a gauge on his health. Wright might have taken a risk, but wanted to know where he stood physically as to prepare for the off-season. So, what happens? He was beaned and jammed his thumb when he fell. The hamstring does not appear to be an issue. The Mets need to surround him with productive bats, and if they do that, there’s no reason Wright can’t play up to his 162-game average and have a big year.

Joe D. Says:

This team has a lot of problems, but David Wright isn’t one of them. That said, the Mets continue to squander the prime years of his career without affording him any protection or other big bats in the lineup. Apparently, he gave the Mets an $8 million dollar, interest-free loan last Winter to help get that big bat, but it never happened. And even when they backed into some unexpected production from Marlon Byrd, the plan was to ship him off as soon possible once any value was established. I feel bad for Wright, who still believes that there’s a plan in place for this team to contend for a championship as soon as 2014. I’d love to see if Wright could ever duplicate the numbers he posted back in 2007 and 2008 when Carlos Beltran and other big-league bats complimented him. But listening to some of the names being bandied about so far, it looks like the Mets captain will have to do most of the heavy lifting himself again next season. Hopefully, when the front office does decide they are a championship caliber ballclub, Wright will still be as productive as he is now and not slipping into his career decline.

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