Apr 07

Dickey Hopes To Get Off To Fast Start

Every team has its hard luck pitchers and last year R.A. Dickey fell into that category in several respect with the Mets.

DICKEY: Needs to get off to fast start.

Today’s starter against the Braves held them to a .190 average in four starts last season, but only managed to win of them. Dickey also pitched to a 3.51 ERA in the vast confines of Citi Field, but was only 2-9. He deserved better.

Dickey got off to a slow start last year, but finished strong with a 2.69 ERA over his final 24 starts. He will start this afternoon against Atlanta.

“I’ve been looking forward to it,’’ Dickey told reporters on Opening Day. “I’ve felt like I had a good spring, really gotten better, and you’re always excited to get it in there when it counts for real. We’ve certainly put in a lot of hard work, so we’ll see where that hard work takes us.’’

Once he gets into his groove, and it takes some time because his knuckler has trouble in the cold and flattens out, Dickey has proven to be one of the Mets most reliable starters.

The expectations for this year’s Mets are low and April represents an unusually difficult schedule that includes two series against their traditional nemesis in the Braves. However, the Braves are without Chipper Jones at the start and did not play well during spring training. They are vulnerable now and this Mets have an opportunity to capitalize.

 

Apr 05

Very tasteful Opening Day ceremonies

Some teams can overdo their Opening Day ceremonies. Last night, for example, the Marlins went overboard. And, what was that monstrosity in their outfield? Looks like a giant fruit basket with flying fish.

Anyway, today was nothing like that at Citi Field.

They could have gone overboard on Gary Carter, but opted for tasteful. The Kid logo on the outfield, I don’t quite understand. Is it for this year only or forever? If forever, are they going to do that with every player who passes? Seaver, Straw, Doc or Keith? Just wondering.

There’s no doubt Carter was a great player, a Hall of Famer, but most of his numbers were compiled as an Expo, despite how we remember his days with the Mets. That’s one of the reasons why his number wasn’t retired.

Despite the long and uneventful – at least in terms of player acquisitions – I am hopeful for an exciting season.

 

Mar 15

Harvey Will Be Back Sooner Than You Think

I was holding off on this post to see whether or not Mets pitching prospect Matt Harvey would survive the first official round of spring training cuts. He didn’t. But that’s okay, and for those of you that were hoping to see at least another start from this unbelievably talented pitcher, take solace in the fact that he’ll be back and it could be sooner than you think.

Harvey went out with a bang yesterday as he dazzled onlookers who gathered to catch a glimpse of the Mets phenom in action. J.P. Ricciardi, Sandy Alderson and even Jeff Wilpon were all on hand to see Harvey blaze through a team of Mets Minor League hitters while lighting up the radar gun with speeds of 95-96 MPH.

When all was said and done, the Mets 2010 First Rounder struck out eight batters over five scoreless innings of work, thus ending his first big league camp with a resounding performance.

“I wasn’t trying to throw it as hard as I can,” Harvey said. “I was just trying to hit spots and work on my stuff, and it felt pretty good.”

It’s not clear what lies ahead for Matt Harvey just yet, but I’d expect him to start the season at Double-A Binghamton, with a quick promotion to Triple-A Buffalo if he dominates in the first month of the season.

Once Harvey gets to Buffalo, all eyes will be fixed on how he handles the best the International League has to offer. Continued dominance will only hasten his arrival to Citi Field where he will ultimately make his Major League debut at some point this season.

Harvey has already made quite an impression on everyone who has been lucky enough to see him or brave enough to stand in against him in the batters box. Perhaps there’s no more fitting a way to end this post, but to recant what future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones had to say after meekly grounding out on Harvey’s improved two-seamer last Friday. “Where did you get this guy?” Jones said. “He’s throwing bowling balls up there.”

Ohhh man, you just gotta love this game sometimes. :-)

Feb 22

On the power of positive thinking.

My expectations for the 2012 Mets are admittedly low, but that’s just me, and readers of this blog realize I don’t jump off the deep end when it comes to this team.

However, I will take if they continue the aggressive play they performed last year under Terry Collins. The Mets didn’t win, but there was a crispness to their play at times.

There was a marked difference in the improvement in hustle last year from the Jerry Manuel era. Collins also promised a greater concentration on fundamentals and at times we saw that last summer. The 2011 Mets did have their comeback moments. There were times when we felt good about them.

They did win 70 games despite missing Carlos Beltran for half a season; had Jose Reyes on the DL twice; lost Ike Davis for five months; had David Wright injured; watched Jason Bay give them nothing again; traded closer Francisco Rodriguez, who was having a good year, at the break; didn’t have Johan Santana all year; watched Mike Pelfrey regress and had Jon Niese injured. There was also a bullpen collapse and Daniel Murphy’s injury.

Come to think of it, considering all that, they were lucky to win 70 games. If you were told all that would happen coming out of spring training you would have jumped at 70 wins.

Reyes will be difficult to replace, but a healthy Wright and Davis could offset the loss of Beltran. Anything Bay and Santana gives them has to be considered a bonus. Pelfrey and Niese just have to be better, don’t they?

If the Mets play fundamentally sound and pitch better they could approach .500. The season is six months long, and one or two more wins a month gets us to the breakeven record. No, .500 doesn’t get you into the playoffs, but it is the first step in rebuilding.

I want this team, as Fred Wilpon once said, to play meaningful games in September. If that happens, Citi Field could be a fun place to visit this summer, and that’s what this franchise needs.


 

Feb 20

Welcome back

I always loved this day, when pitchers and catchers report. Actually, the first day of spring training has become blurred with players reporting earlier each spring. It seems the week after the Super Bowl is when  players begin to trickle in. David Wright has been working out in PSL for over a week now.

This is the day when enthusiasm and optimism run high for the summer ahead. This spring that has been tempered for the Mets with the Wilpon’s financial crisis and the passing of Gary Carter. Incidentally, of all the tributes to Carter, the one by the Montreal Canadiens was my favorite. Their players wearing No. 8 and Carter’s image on the ice were truly memorable.

I digress for a moment, but it reminds me how much I miss Montreal as a stop on the tour. I always used to like visiting that city. Historical town, great places to eat and the obvious European flavor.

I always thought Montreal got a raw deal from MLB. Yes, attendance was dwindling, but how could that have been avoided with MLB threatening to leave for years until the city built a new stadium. Just shabby.

The Mets, you’ll recall ponied up most of the money for Citi Field, and despite getting $20 million a year in naming rights, the new stadium hasn’t provided either the payday or the home field advantage the team sought.

Attendance was just over 2 million last season, and that is the first of my top issues facing the Mets as their 50th year in existence begins:

Q1. Will the Mets draw over 2 million?

A. The debate isn’t whether the Mets have enough to contend with the Phillies and Braves, but if they have the talent to keep pace with the Nationals and Marlins? They don’t on paper or the field and are projected to finish fifth in the NL East. With a brutal April schedule, they could be trailing by double digits before the weather warms. If the Mets aren’t competitive, there’s no reason to head out to Citi Field and the attendance will drop, and with it will come a further drain on their finances. Never mind winning, but the Mets need a competitive, exciting team for the turnstiles to keep clicking.

Q2. Will the Mets win their court case?

A. Seventeen days prior to Opening Day we should get an idea how much the Mets could be on the hook for because of the Ponzi scandal. Win or lose, there will be an appeal, but should they win there’s a sliver of hope the Mets might be able to add talent at the trade deadline if they are competitive.

Q3. Will David Wright be traded?

A. I don’t believe GM Sandy Alderson for a second when he says how good the team the Mets are will have no bearing on whether Wright is dealt. If they are playing beyond expectations and people are coming out, the Mets can’t afford to trade Wright and expect fans to keep showing up. If they are stinking, who can’t envision Wright not being traded?

Q4. What’s to become of Johan Santana?

A. He’s throwing in PSL, but there’s still no timetable for his return. If he comes back or not, he’ll still cost the Mets close to $25 million. It’s a pipe dream to hope for Santana being able to pitch and be healthy enough for the Mets to trade him. The odds don’t favor a complete recovery from his type of shoulder surgery. It’s a long shot, but the Mets are hoping he’s good enough physically to give them enough starts to create interest.

Q5. Will they get anything out of Jason Bay?

A. With the fences moved in 15 feet, perhaps Bay can’t help but hit for some more power. Bay has done nothing to warrant his contract and outside the fences, there’s no reason to believe anything has changed this season.

 

On the first day of spring training, you’d like to see the team’s primary questions divorced from the Mets’ financial problems, but that’s being naive. What happens on the field is directly linked to the Wilpon’s bank accounts. That’s just the way it is.

I’ll be back later with more baseball specific questions surrounding the team.