Jan 01

My Hall Of Fame Ballot

I always wait until the last minute before submitting my Hall of Fame ballot. I like to take my time to study the names, consider the numbers and strain to remember games in which I saw them play. There’s just so much to consider.

Not that any one play, or game, or even season matters. It’s about careers, and to my way of thinking, dominant and clean careers. I have no problem with “compilers,’’ players who amassed their numbers because of lengthy careers. After all, players such as Don Sutton and Carl Yastrzemski had to be pretty good to win 300 games or get 3,000 hits.

CHIPPER: He got my vote. (Braves)

CHIPPER: He got my vote. (Braves)

I do have a problem with those accused of using steroids and didn’t need Joe Morgan’s email to convince me. The essence of sports is for the viewers and opposing players to believe what they are watching and whom they are competing against is true.

That’s not possible when players cheat.

So, if a player fails a drug test, is named on the Mitchell Report, or is accused on the record by a player, coach or manager, I look at that as confirmation of steroid usage. It’s not exactly an admission, but it will have to be enough for me to vote no.

My choices are:

Chipper Jones: More than simply a Met killer, he was an eight-time All-Star and a cornerstone on all those Braves teams that reached the playoffs year after year after year. He had 468 career homers, third behind Hall of Fame switch-hitters Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray.

Jim Thome: What’s not to like about his 612 homers, .402 on-base percentage and .554 slugging percentage, especially when it is done cleanly? He’s a no-brainer to me.

Vladimir Guerrero: I didn’t vote for Guerrero, but only because I voted for Lee Smith, who was in the final year of his eligibility. My thinking was Guerrero would have nine more years on the ballot to make it. But, he was named on 71.7 percent of the ballots, and I think he’ll make it this season.

Mike Mussina: I covered Mussina both with the Orioles and the Yankees, and always regarded him as a money pitcher. He pitched for 18 seasons and won at least 15 games in 11 of them. Mussina won 270 games and could have won 300 if he played another two or three seasons. He had plenty of gas left in his tank as he won 20 games for the only time in his career and pitched 200 innings in the final year of his career. He also had a 1.19 career WHIP and a 3.58 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

Trevor Hoffman: I’m of the belief relievers matter and they all don’t have to be as good as Mariano Rivera. I firmly believe it Hoffman were on the Yankees instead of Rivera they would have still won those World Series.

Edgar Martinez: Being a DH shouldn’t disqualify a player from consideration. It’s a valid baseball position and shouldn’t devalue a player’s candidacy. He has a career slash line of .310/.410/.510, one of only 14 players in history to do so, and nine of them are in the Hall of Fame.

Fred McGriff: If he gets in, it will likely be from the Veterans Committee. With 493 homers – seven shy from what used to be an automatic ticket – he should be a shoo-in. There’s never been a hint of impropriety. He’s a testament to doing it the right way.

Omar Vizquel: Defense is also a part of the game, but often overlooked by the new age stats. But, if Ozzie Smith is a Hall of Famer, then so is Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove Award winner. Vizquel was far from an easy out with 2,877 career hits and a .272 batting average with a .336 on-base percentage.

Jun 18

Harvey And Wheeler Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

There might be some question if Zack Wheeler is ready to assume the role of savior for the New York Mets, despite his and manager Terry Collins’ proclamations to the contrary of those lofty expectations.

With the statistical and financial numbers having been crunched, the decision is it is time to start the clock on Wheeler. The Mets don’t know who’ll be dropped from the rotation. Because of today’s doubleheader, the Mets will go at least one cycle through the rotation with six starters.

WHEELER: Future is now.

WHEELER: Future is now.

Wheeler will start the second game with Matt Harvey the opener. That pitching future the Mets have been bragging about? Well, we’ll get a glimpse today.

Ideally, the Mets don’t want to return Wheeler to the minor leagues after today. As their thinking when Harvey came up last year, they want him here to stay. Because Wheeler won’t be activated until between games, rules prohibit him of being in the dugout to watch Harvey.

That will happen soon enough.

“[It will be] a fun day,’’ Collins said this afternoon at Turner Field. “It’s a great thing for this organization and its fan base to see what the future is going to be like. We’ve got two young guys that are going to be very, very, very good.

“Pitching is the name of this game. We’re going to run two guys out there [Tuesday] that can take this organization north pretty fast.’’

Harvey has been exceptional this season, but is just 1-1 with eight no-decisions in his last ten starts. In that span Harvey has given up 19 runs. If nothing else, what Wheeler should learn quickly about pitching on the major league level is there will be times when he’ll have to do it without run support, which is what Harvey is currently experiencing.

Harvey has been successful in large part because of his composure, self-confidence and sense of worth. Harvey understands his stature and expectations of him, but hasn’t let it go to his head.

Wheeler might as well have been reciting a script given him by Harvey.

“I don’t think I’m the savior at all,’’ spoke Wheeler in a press conference Monday afternoon at Turner Field, almost a half-hour where he grew up watching Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine.

Continuing his refreshing travel down humility road, Wheeler said: “We might not be doing too well right now, but I know the talent of these guys, and hopefully we can turn it around soon. … I’m just trying to come up here and play the best that I can, help out the team any way I can.

“I know people are going to scrutinize. We aren’t doing too well right now, but hopefully we can turn it around and everybody will like us again.’’

Mets fans have liked Wheeler all spring in hope of what he might give them. Today is his first chance to deliver.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 26

From One Miserable Week To Another For Mets

It was a rough week for your Mets and the upcoming week doesn’t figure to get any easier.

Whatever good feelings developed at Wrigley Field quickly evaporated when they returned home to be swept by Cincinnati. They followed that with losing their first two against the Braves, with once again Dillon Gee running into that one buzz saw inning that shredded him. They conclude their series at Citi Field with Atlanta today behind 0-5 Shaun Marcum on the mound.

No, he’s not one to inspire Matt Harvey-like confidence.

If there was a Game of the Week, it was Harvey’s no-decision Wednesday, in which they took him off the hook to keep him unbeaten.

The Met most in focus this week was Ike Davis, whose .148 average has him on the verge of being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas since before the Pittsburgh series. Davis can’t hit the high heat or low-and-slow breaking pitches. He’s lost at the plate and carried his funk out to the field.

Pitchers on this level give no quarter, and despite Davis’ proclamation he needs to learn to hit on this level, it is obvious this isn’t the place, not with quality arms against him and the cascading boos. That the Mets have waited this long is indication of their thin minor league system and lack of faith in those players down below.

The Mets escape the National League this week for the Subway Series, this time under the new format of two games each in Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are always a formidable obstacle for the Mets, but despite a bulk of their multi-million dollar talent on the disabled list, the Yankees are sizzling. It is sobering the Yankees’ minor leaguers and retreads are better than the Mets’ starters.

Jon Niese and Harvey start Monday and Tuesday, respectively, at Citi Field, where tickets – and plenty of them – are available. They can also be had at Yankee Stadium, an indication the interleague gimmick is cooling.

Interleague play has never appealed to me, but since it isn’t going away, this is a better Mets-Yankees format. Have the games dominate the week and be done with them. Four games are right while six is too many.

Everywhere he goes in his farewell tour Future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera visits with a selected group of fans and honored by the opposition. When the Yankees were in Cleveland, the home of Rock ‘n Roll, the Indians presented him a framed gold record of “Enter Sandman’’ his take-the-mound music as a gift. The Mets presented Chipper Jones with artwork of Shea Stadium.

The Mets will honor Rivera on Tuesday.

Noted for breaking bats with his fierce cutter, one of the best gift ideas I heard speculated was to presented him an autographed cracked bat from the opposition. It is such a novel idea.

I hope he gets one from David Wright. It is piling on, but I can’t help it, he won’t get one from Davis as that would mean making contact.

Yes, yes, that’s cruel. However, there is an element of truth to it, right?

The week ends in Miami for a series against the anonymous Marlins, whose lone reason for watching, Giancarlo Stanton, was injured when the teams last played.

Niese and Harvey are scheduled to go Saturday and Sunday.

Then comes June, but the good news is they can’t swoon any more than they already have.

Can they?

May 24

Mets Road Gets Rougher With Braves Coming In

The Atlanta Braves don’t have Chipper Jones anymore, but still represent the yardstick in which the Mets like to measure themselves.

There is no longer a rivalry for National League East supremacy, and what there once was had been dominated by the Braves. Kenny Rogers’ wildness and Armando Benitez ensured trumped Robin Ventura’s grand slam single.

DAVIS: Still here.

DAVIS: Still here.

Arguably, the Mets’ greatest moment in the rivalry – outside winning the 1969 NLCS – was Mike Piazza’s thunderbolt after September 11.

The Braves, who paid no attention to preseason speculation of Washington running away with the division and going straight to the World Series, are in first place, 4 ½ games ahead of the Nationals and 10 up on the Mets.

Atlanta is in for the start of a three-game series tonight, and it will be odd not to have Jones around to boo. Even so, the Braves might be the best run team in the National League and they have the same blueprint.

Gone are Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, but this weekend the Mets skip Tim Hudson, but get Kris Medlen (1-5), Mike Minor (5-2) and Julio Teheran (3-1). If they get through them, the Braves (2.79) have the third-ranked bullpen behind San Francisco and Pittsburgh, and might have the league’s premier closer in Craig Kimbrel.

The Braves have always been about fundamentals, pitching and power, and this season is no different with Justin Upton (14 homers), B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward, an outfield the Mets could only dream about.

Evan Gattis (10 homers) has more than capably handled the plate while Brian McCann has been on the disabled list.

Meanwhile, the Mets have been listless offensively, scoring more than four runs only once since beating the Braves, 7-5, on May 3. Their hitters are striking out roughly ten times a game and it is only a matter of time before Ike Davis (.147 and on a 1-for-38 slide) is shipped out to the minors.

The Mets, losers of 10 of their last 12 games, have Jeremy Hefner, Dillon Gee and Shaun Marcum, who are a combined 2-15 going for them. Hefner and Marcum comprise 40 percent of the rotation and have no victories.

Once 10-9, the Mets are 17-27 and in a free fall towards irrelevance. Prior to the Pirates series, when the Mets were 13-17, I wrote where the next two weeks could define their season and that is coming to fruition.

The Mets lost three of four to Pittsburgh and St. Louis in consecutive series, won two or three in Chicago, and swept in a three-game series at home by Cincinnati.

After the Braves come four straight with the Yankees, before closing the month at Miami.

June doesn’t get easier as the Mets have six games against the Nationals, three with St. Louis, five in Atlanta (includes a make-up game), three in Philadelphia, two in Chicago against the White Sox, and they fly to Colorado for a one-game make-up on an off-day.

By the time they conclude a nine-game road trip leading into the All-Star break, there is a very realistic chance the Mets could be 20 games under .500 if not 20 games out of first place.

The Mets’ long summer is getting longer and we’re not even through with May.

Mar 12

Chipper Jones Rejects Yankees

I was very glad to see Chipper Jones reject the Yankees’ overtures for a comeback. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to see Jones have a change of heart, but not with the Yankees … not with anybody else but the Braves.

CHIPPER: Turns down Yankees

CHIPPER: Turns down Yankees

I’ve always admired players to begin and end it with the same team. That ‘s what I want to see for David Wright. It’s one of the things I liked about Cal Ripken, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter.

It’s rare these days for a player to retire with the same team he began his career with. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that way with Pete Rose, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

The Yankees’ stream of injuries prompted WFAN to run a poll of retired players fans wanted to come back with the Yankees. Ripken was on the list. I wonder if it is more a sign of respect or just not being realistic.

Incidentally, Wright is enjoying his time at the WBC, but I can’t but wonder if his time would have been better off had he stayed in Port St. Lucie.

Think of it for a moment, he’s going to be the captain of this team, so it stands to reason his presence would be beneficial to the younger players in camp.