Sep 17

Mets Wrap: Zack Wheeler Shows He Has More To Learn

Zack Wheeler didn’t take the loss for the New York Mets Tuesday night although he certainly deserved so. This was one of the few times a Mets’ starter came away with a no-decision and it turned out to be a positive for him.

Wheeler was his own worst enemy in five rocky innings as he walked six, including to the leadoff hitter in the fifth that eventually came around to score in large part because he failed to cover first base.

WHEELER: Roughed up by Giants.

WHEELER: Roughed up by Giants.

It is not how Wheeler desired to finish his first season, and certainly not what the smattering of fans at Citi Field wanted to see in an 8-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Because Wheeler is on an innings limit, he might get one more start, next Monday in Cincinnati. It is up in the air whether Wheeler will pitch in the final weekend series against Milwaukee at Citi Field.

Command was a problem for Wheeler in the minor leagues and at times this season on the major league level. This time, he had trouble locating his fastball, and with that it was all an uphill battle.

If there is something to take from Wheeler’s development it has been his ability to minimize damage and put away hitters when in trouble. That’s hard to do when you walk five in one inning, as Wheeler did in the second.

He gave up three runs that inning, but it could have been worse. Even so, Wheeler was in position to get a victory when he took the mound in the fifth. He left the inning with 107 pitches, and pitch counts have been an issue.

Control did him in, but he’ll always remember to hustle to first base.

If the Mets want to stick to Wheeler’s innings limit, that’s fine, but how about skipping him in Cincinnati and let him get a final start at Citi Field? Maybe he’ll redeem himself, and it will be one more chance for the fans to see him.

Wheeler represents the Mets’ future along with Matt Harvey, and perhaps he’ll make the same progressive jump the latter did this season.

With the competitive part of the season long since over for the Mets, their main concern is keeping Wheeler and some players who are injured from doing further damage. In that regard, the Mets are in no hurry to push David Wright.

Prior to the game, Terry Collins said Wright would not be activated for the Giants series because of overall soreness sustained in his rehab from a Grade 2 right hamstring strain.

Wright wants to play, but the prudent thing is to go with caution. Do the Mets really want their last image of Wright this season hobbling off the field after re-injuring his hamstring?

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Mar 31

What Did MLB Do With Opening Day?

There have been many changes and lost traditions in baseball over the years. One particularly missed is the spectacle that used to be Opening Day.

The season always started on a Tuesday in Cincinnati and Washington; the home of the sport’s oldest franchise and in the nation’s capital for the national past time.

SELIG: Needs to do right thing for game.

SELIG: Needs to do right thing for game.

This year, lost in the midst of the NCAA Tournament, the start of the baseball season begins with Sunday’s highly anticipated Houston Astros-Texas Rangers clash.

You can’t yawn anymore if you hadn’t slept in three nights. The hook of Houston moving to the American League is a lot of things, but compelling is not among them.

Thankfully, baseball didn’t go overseas for Opening Day, as when the Mets played the Cubs in Japan days before every other team, and several years ago the Yankees played Tampa Bay in Tokyo, then returned to Florida for more exhibition games. There might have been worse ideas, but few come immediately to mind.

For a financial fix – the only reason Major League Baseball does stuff like this – the sport traded something unique and cherished for generations in exchange for a check.

This season, Opening Day in Cincinnati is polluted by interleague play with the Angels coming in. Not only is interleague distasteful for Opening Day, but if you’re going to do it, why the Angels?

A good team, yes, but if the weather is awful and the game postponed, the Angels will be scrambling for a make-up date to fly cross-country.

Inane scheduling just as the Padres at the Mets tomorrow. Can’t they see the folly in this?

Baseball’s Opening Day was always special and anticipated. Now, it’s like the NBA and NHL, where some years you pick up a paper and two games have been played before you realize the season started.

The NFL stole the concept of Opening Day when it kicks off its season the Thursday before the first weekend with the Super Bowl champion at home. By the way, good job by the Orioles for telling the Ravens and NFL to take a hike by not rescheduling their game.

It wouldn’t be hard to have Opening Day the day after the NCAA Championship in most years. But, if not, go back to Cincinnati and Washington the first Tuesday in April.

Or, have everybody play that day, and taking a page from the NCAA Tourney, have wall-to-wall games from afternoon to late at night, with conceivably four games, the first starting at 1 p.m., and the last at 10.

Make the whole day, from coast to coast, special.

I want Opening Day back, and in New York, both the Mets and Yankees should have the town to themselves. Not only are they playing on the same day in the city, but the same time.

Nobody thought this was bad idea?

Sure, the times and economics change, but does Major League Baseball have to abandon everything that was once cherished?

Dec 14

Mets’ Alderson: Expectations Higher Than Realized

Sandy Alderson said there’s not much in the FA market, but the truth is the Mets vastly underestimated the value of that market.

Ryan Ludwick, who would look good in the Citi Field outfield void of any substantial talent, signed a two-year, $15-million extension with Cincinnati, the going rate for an outfielder with a limited resume.

ALDERSON: No more twiddling thumbs.

The Mets thought two years at half was too much.

Now, there’s the case of the mediocre Manny Acosta, who logged innings out of the Mets’ bullpen last year, but not productive ones. He’ll make $1.65 million next year in Japan with the potential of another $500,000 in bonuses.

I’m not bemoaning the loss of Acosta, but if he can get that, imagine what a decent reliever will bring. Undoubtedly, a lot more.

Fact is, Alderson’s expertise is buying cheap and building from the ground up. He was brought here to get things under financial control and for the most part has done his job.

Alderson previously won, but never in a city with the expectations and payroll in New York. Alderson was hired by Oakland in 1981 as the team’s general counsel and named GM in 1983, a position he held until 1997.

Those Athletics teams, under a difference economic system, produced three consecutive Rookies of the Year in Jose Canseco (1986), Mark McGwire (1987) and Walt Weiss (1988). Alderson’s tenure also included Dave Stewart, Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley and manager Tony La Russa, he of the juggling bullpen.

Under his helm, Oakland won four division titles, three AL titles and the 1989 World Series.

Clearly, Alderson’s Oakland teams had talent, a sound scouting system and different economic system. Things were also different than in New York when Alderson’s Padres won division titles in 2005 and 2006.

However, Alderson never encountered the financial distress and expectations he inherited in New York. Those expectations included wrestling the Yankees for the city’s back pages.

By all accounts, Alderson is a sharp guy, so I don’t buy he was naïve to the pressures and expectations of New York. I even believe, working in the commissioner’s office, he had a handle on the Mets’ financial problems, but perhaps not to the degree after the Madoff scandal.

I expected a gradual turnaround under Alderson, but he’s had two years so now I’m expecting more aggressiveness in putting a competitive team on the field. Then again, it must be realized Alderson doesn’t have complete control as he must answer to the Wilpons.

He grossly underestimated things at the trade deadline last year. The Mets were over eight games at one point prior to the break, but he gambled and lost they’d continue to play well.

After Johan Santana and Dillon Gee went down, there was further stress on the bullpen. By the time Ike Davis started to hit, David Wright stopped. And, of course, Jason Bay – not acquired on Alderson’s watch – never started.

I’m expecting more of Alderson in his third year. I’m expecting comes the realization losing is not an option in New York. If traditional low-spending revenue teams such as Washington and Cincinnati can be more aggressive, and a team with little offense in San Francisco can win two World Series in three years, then more is expected from the Mets.

Maybe we don’t know how bad things are behind the scenes, but we do know how bad things are on the field.

And, it has to stop.

Oct 11

What Should Mets Learn From Playoff Teams?

So far, this has been a compelling playoffs with the possibility of all four series going to a deciding fifth game. Major League Baseball is thrilled, and hopefully this trend will continue in the League Championship Series and World Series.

That’s what baseball should be about.

Hopefully, the Mets are taking notes. Four of the teams in the playoffs – Oakland, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Washington – have payrolls less than the $100 million the Mets shelled out this year for the joy of finishing 14 games below .500.

Here’s what the playoff teams have that the Mets lack:

1) Pitching: Both starting and bullpen are vital to winning. Always has been, always will be. That’s why I get frustrated when I hear complaints about the Mets’ lack of power. Home runs are the great eraser and the Yankees proved that last night. But, they were in position to win because of pitching. Three games against the Orioles and their starters reached the eighth inning each time. Unheard of. All of the teams have solid pitching and a good bullpen. As I wrote earlier today, Baltimore’s Darren O’Day is making $1.35 million this year, so it can be done inexpensively. However, that requires an aggressive front office and superior scouting, two areas where the Mets need improvement.

2) Strong minor league base: It would be foolish to say each of these teams were built solely on their farm system. Detroit and the Yankees all acquired significant talent from the outside, but there is core home grown talent from all. Just look at Matt Wieters, Joey Votto, Matt Cain and Bryce Harper. I would have mentioned Stephen Strasburg, but the Nationals pulled him from the playoffs. It could bite them in the butt, and what if the Nationals never get back here? It is possible. That is why it was encouraging this summer when several times the Mets fielded a full home grown-lineup and why I am opposed conceptually to trading Ike Davis. The Mets have a home product who hit 32 homers this year. Those don’t come along often, and rarely for the Mets. Davis is a start, along with Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Ruben Tejada, not to mention David Wright. Bolstering the farm system and improving the scouting are essential for long-term growth. Free-agent signings should be to complement what’s already there.

3) Strong catching: Wieters is clearly the catcher with the most upside in the group. Regardless of how Russell Martin has played in October, the idea of pursuing him is outlandish and it was a ridiculous idea in the first place. Obviously, a slow news day. Martin is too old and too expensive for a rebuilding team, and let’s not kid ourselves, that defines the Mets. I was initially optimistic about Josh Thole, but those feelings have waned. He’s not hit for average or power and his defense has regressed. And, let’s not blame R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball for it. Catching is an issue, but I don’t believe it is as high on the Mets’ priority list as adding outfielders and relievers.

4) Timely hitting: It doesn’t get more timely than what Raul Ibanez did last night. The Mets were clutch in the first half, but their hitting with runners in scoring position disappeared in the second half. It all fell on Wright after the All-Star break and he couldn’t handle the strain. Each of these teams has an offensive core, hitters that concern an opposing manager. After Wright, and at times Davis, who is frightening in the Mets’ lineup. Scott Hairston had a good season coming off the bench, as Ibanez did, but after hitting 20 homers for the first time he might be too expensive to bring back.

5) Home field advantage: So far, it hasn’t helped San Francisco and Cincinnati, but nonetheless each of the teams in the postseason had a winning record at home. The Mets can’t ever be a serious contender until they learn to use Citi Field as an advantage. I understand the Catch-22, that part of that advantage is having people in the stands. The Mets need to improve the first four before this will take root. When Citi Field opened the Mets were vocal in saying they would build around pitching and defense, so naturally the first thing they did was sign Jason Bay. That’s the final lesson I hope the Mets learn …

6) Have a plan: Where are the Mets headed? If they don’t bring back Wright and Dickey, then it is back to square one. The team is operating as if they have no money and that’s a discouraging sign. GM Sandy Alderson said the team had the resources to add at the trade deadline, but waited until the team had fallen out of contention before deciding it was too late. On one hand, the Mets are singing the praises of their young pitching, but on the other it is exploring trading Davis, and could not bring back Wright or Dickey. What gives?

 

 

Jun 15

Mets’ Appeal Denied

As it should have been, the MLB denied the Mets’ appeal on R.A. Dickey’s one-hitter. The Mets’ argument was it should have been a no-hitter because they believe David Wright committed an error.

The denial came down shortly before tonight’s game against Cincinnati at Citi Field.

Manager Terry Collins said the process allowed an appeal so he rolled the dice.

“We didn’t win,” Collins said. “We didn’t expect to win it. We gave it a try. If we had won it, we would have had another no-hitter and we wouldn’t have to wait another 50 years.”

It was the proper call by MLB, which would have opened a Pandora’s Box if it allowed the appeal.