Mar 20

Dillon Gee Comeback Continues Tonight

It’s not as if Dillon Gee didn’t think he’d ever pitch again. He was just concerned with how effective he would be at this level.

Gee was apprehensive and worried when his pitching arm and hand went numb last summer. At the time, he was coming off a stretch of 54 strikeouts in 60 innings and his best start when he gave up one run in eight innings against the Cubs, July 7. He felt no discomfort during the game, but a few days later came the numbness and just like that his season was over.

GEE: Continues comeback tonight.

GEE: Continues comeback tonight.

After surgery to repair an artery in his shoulder, and assurances from doctors he could resume his career, Gee didn’t doubt he’d be with the Mets this spring. He was probably thinking about it coming out of anesthesia. What he didn’t know was how long it would take for him to get where he needed to be. He’s still not there.

“I wanted to prove to myself and everybody else I could still do it,’’ said Gee, who’ll start for the Mets tonight against Houston in Kissimmee.

That’s why last September was so important. As soon as he received clearance he started to throw, and by the end of the season knew he could enter winter with peace of mind.

“I didn’t want to spend the offseason wondering if I could do it,’’ said Gee. “It was important to take that load off my mind. I didn’t want to be thinking about it all winter.’’

In doing so, Gee was able to get in his normal off-season program and put himself in position to adjust if there was a setback.

“If I waited and something happened in spring training, it would be too late to get it fixed,’’ Gee said. “I have felt great since the surgery. I have had zero setbacks.’’

What he has had is difficulty refining is mechanics, and subsequently, his change-up. It hasn’t been the prettiest of springs for him, as he’s given up seven runs on seven hits and eight walks, with only two strikeouts in nine innings.

However, Gee isn’t worried about his composite results as six of those runs and four of the walks came in his last start, March 14, when he was rocked by Detroit. Gee reiterated the problem wasn’t surgery related, but just not having it, yet.

“My mechanics have been off,’’ said Gee. “It is always about location, and that comes with repetition every spring. I am trying to refine everything.’’

Specifically, Gee needs his change-up to be effective because he doesn’t have an overpowering fastball. An effective change-up, he said, sets up everything else.

“I need to throw my change-up for strikes any time in the count,’’ Gee said. “It isn’t where I want it to be. It is a feel pitch and it takes some time. It is a huge pitch for me.’’

Tonight will be Gee’s fourth start of the spring and he could get two more so there’s not a whole lot of time. He will enter the season as the fourth starter.

Jan 25

Mets Get Shaun Marcum; More Work To Do

Seven down, 13 more to go. That’s the math if you’re thinking signing Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal will replace R. A. Dickey’s production in the rotation.

Marcum was 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 21 starts last year with Milwaukee, good enough to be a reliable fifth starter. Dickey, of course, one year wonder or not, was an ace who won the Cy Young Award.

To make up the remaining 13 victories, the Mets need three more each from Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Even so, it still puts the Mets 14 games below .500.

Once Marcum passes his physical and the ink dries on the contract, the Mets avoid being the only team not to have signed a free agent this offseason.

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Dec 01

Teams Silent On Hall Candidates Piazza, Bonds, Sosa And Clemens

The calls started to come the other night from other Hall of Fame writers asking if I intended to vote for Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. As a Hall of Fame voter the past decade I take the responsibility seriously.

Because of their connection to performance enhancing drugs, I did not vote for Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro, the latter whom I covered when he was with the Orioles. Palmeiro certainly didn’t look bulked up at the time. I had been on the Yankees’ beat for several years when he waved his finger at Congress and said he never used steroids. I believed him.

PIAZZA: Will he make it to the Hall?

My guess, and it’s only a guess, is he thought after that display he wouldn’t be tested. I liked Palmeiro and it pains me to leave him off, At 3,000 hits and 500 homers, achieved mostly before his testimony, he was a given. He’s fallen off the radar since his retirement which leaves me wanting more.

Of the candidates, the only one I am sure of is Craig Biggio. Bonds, Sosa and Clemens are a definite no now because they have been implicated or tested positive. There is evidence as to their use. Piazza is different and I don’t know about him yet. He hasn’t failed a drug test and wasn’t accused in the Mitchell Report.

I don’t care about the newspaper articles of his back acne. What gives me pause is his autobiography is coming out in February, deliberately held back by the publisher until after the Hall of Fame announcement. I am wondering why. If Piazza didn’t use steroids, then why not come out and scream it? He has friends in the press in New York. Why doesn’t he say something?

I’ll probably wait on Piazza until next year depending on what he says in the book.

What is also interesting is the silence from the teams. Not a word. In previous years, teams would bombard the voters with emails, similar to what the colleges do when they have a Heisman candidate. Nothing, not a peep from these teams. Makes you think they know something, and it isn’t good.

Not only their silence speaks volumes, but the Giants and Cubs seem to be distancing themselves from Bonds and Sosa, respectively. Sosa is a two-time cheater in my book, using steroids and a corked bat. He can pretend not to understand English before Congress and bleach his skin white after retirement, but he can’t hide. We know what he is.

With the Mets, a franchise in desperate need of positive news, there’s been no public support for Piazza, a player who said he wants to go in wearing their cap. (The Hall of Fame decides the cap with its basis on where that player made his mark.) The Hall’s thinking with Piazza is he’d wear a Dodger cap. Clemens would wear Boston, Bonds would wear San Francisco and Sosa would wear the Cubs.

I don’t think that will be an issue on the first ballot.

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Oct 10

Top 10 Disappointments From The Mets 2012 Season

On Monday, me and John Delcos brought you the Top 10 Positives from the Mets 2012 season, and as promised here are our Top 10 Disappointments from the 2012 season in no particular order…

Doing Nothing At Trade Deadline

Kevin Burkhardt said the players looked at the front office’s inaction at the trade deadline as a “kick in the teeth”. The team had begun to slide after losing their closer, their ace and a very effective Dillon Gee as they headed into the break. Up until deadline day, including the day before, Alderson kept telling the media that the Mets were buyers although nothing was done in June or July. On the day of the deadline, Alderson showed up to Citi Field with Jersey Shore’s Snooki. While Snooki took pictures with the players at one end of the dugout before the game, Sandy Alderson was at the other end announcing that the Mets were not buyers because of their poor recent performance. “How can I justify being a buyer in light of how poorly this team is playing?” When reporters quickly caught up with Terry Collins and told him the news, his response was “You’re kidding me right?” – Joe D.

The Poison Bullpen

After spending nearly all of their available resources and making the bullpen their number one priority last Winter, the results are in and the much ballyhooed bullpen overhaul proved to be a colossal failure. The Mets’ pen ranked last in the majors in just about every statistical measure, and their 4.75 ERA was the worst mark in the last two decades for the Mets. The sad part is that the biggest failure, Frank Francisco, will be back at a cost of $6.5 million in 2013. That’s a lot of cash for a team that will only have about $5 million to spend after raises this offseason. – Joe D.

Losing Back-to-Back Series to the Cubs

On June 3, Jon Niese beat the Cardinals to lift the Mets to a season-high eight games over .500. With the Mets playing well and a growing sense of optimism, the Mets couldn’t build on that and at the end of the first half lost consecutive series to the Cubs. To be a contender, a team must beat up on the weak, and that’s the Cubs. Instead of closing the first half on an up note, the Mets lost two of three at home to Chicago in the first-half finale and closed with a sour taste. They would never recover, and lost 11 of 12 coming out of the break and the season was over. – John D.

Excruciating Loss To The Nationals

There was no shortage of disappointing losses this summer, the most gut-wrenching coming July 17 at Washington, 5-4, in 10 innings. Down 2-0 entering the eight, the Mets took the lead on Jordany Valdespin’s three-run pinch homer only to see Bobby Parnell cough up the lead in the bottom of the inning. The Mets regained the lead, 4-3 in the tenth, but Bryce Harper tied it with a triple off Tim Byrdak and scored the game-winning run on Pedro Beato’s wild pitch. Only the Mets. – John D.

The Rotation Disintegrates

The rotation was loaded with questions going into the season, but they quickly lost Mike Pelfrey, who was having a good start reminiscent of how he pitched in 2010. Then Dillon Gee complained of numbness and artery damage was discovered in his shoulder. Finally, Johan Santana went on the DL in July with a sprained ankle, and finally was shut down in late August with a back injury. If not for R.A. Dickey’s remarkable season and Niese taking a step, they would have finished 20-plus games under .500. – John D.

Did They Quit On Terry Collins?

The players denied they quit on manager Terry Collins, but the mere fact he alluded to it gave us that perception. And, perception has a way of becoming reality. There was a disturbing lack of fundamentals in the second half, too many wasted at-bats and absolutely no clutch hitting. The starting pitching, bolstered by innings from Matt Harvey and Chris Young, didn’t pitch poorly, but the bullpen was atrocious. Quit is a strong word, but they couldn’t have played worse if they tried. – John D.

Jason Bay Continues His Slide

In his three seasons with the Mets, Jason Bay has hit 26 homers with 124 RBI. The Mets were hoping he’d average that when they signed him to a four-year, $66-million contract. This year he hit .165 with eight homers, 20 RBI. Miguel Cabrera had months like that this summer. He also contributed a .237 on-base percentage and a .299 slugging percentage. Next season will be Bay’s last with the Mets. Even if he were to have a monster year, the Mets will say good-bye. – John D.

Duda Takes Giant Step Backwards

Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins can continue to rave about Lucas Duda all they want, but the truth is that nobody regressed more in 2012 than Duda. As he enters next season at 27, he has a lot to prove after falling from a slash of .292/.370/.492 in 2011 to a slash of .239/.329/.339 this season. He struck out in more than 25% of his at-bats and as Keith Hernandez pointed out several times in September, Duda had not changed his stance or approach at the plate one bit after he returned from a stint in the minors. But Duda is very cheap and under team control for five more years and the Mets have no other options, so the praise for Duda will continue, but it’s best that you temper your expectations and not buy into the hype. – Joe D.

Outfield Of Screams

Everyone including me loves to rail against the obscene lack of production from the bullpen this season, but leave some of your outrage for the Mets outfield – who accounted for the most woeful production in the majors. Jason Bay (.165 AVG), Andres Torres (.230 AVG) and Lucas Duda (.239 AVG) combined for a .280 On-Base and a .649 OPS. Scott Hairston kept things from being even worse, but with a 2-3 year deal in his future at considerably more money, nobody expects that he will be back. This was one of the worst outfields the Mets have put on the field in over a generation. There’s no help on the way from the minors unless you’re interested in watching some K-New and V-Spin reruns. – Joe D.

Catch The Fever?

Another area of concern is behind the plate where starting catcher Josh Thole was expected to have a breakthrough season after a somewhat sold season in 2011. It never happened and what’s worse, Thole regressed so badly that it may have cost him his job and possibly even a spot on the roster. Mets catchers as a whole ranked in the bottom two in every defensive measure, but hardly made up for it with their bats. Thole batted .234, Mike Nickeas batted .174 until they finally shipped him back to the minors, and newcomer Kelly Shoppach was hardly an improvement batting .203 and striking out in an incredible one-third of his at-bats. – Joe D.

Did we miss anything? I think we pretty much covered the entire gamut.

Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta, J.P. Ricciardi and Terry Collins are led by Fred and Jeff Wilpon as they board the Bat Copter, destination unknown.

Oct 04

Explaining What Went Wrong For The 2012 Mets

Other than a lack of overall talent, there’s never just one reason why a team fails to win. The Mets began the season projected for the basement, with some corners speculating 100 losses.

So, at 74-88, 14 games below .500, and in fourth place, the Mets did better than expected, but in the end were still disappointing and kicked a promising season away with a dismal second half.

The Mets were 46-40 at the break, but ended the first half on a sour note by losing two of three at Citi Field to the Cubs. This coming after losing two of three to the Cubs at Wrigley Field a short time earlier.

You can’t consider yourself a serious contender when you lose consecutive series to a team that lost 100 games. You just can’t do it.

So, what went wrong?

STREAKY BAD: The Mets’ longest winning streak in the second half was four, accomplished twice. Conversely, they had five such losing streaks, including dropping six straight three times. When a team is streaky bad like that players begin to press, which is what happened in July and August.

STAYING WITH A PAT HAND: GM Sandy Alderson said several times the team had the resources to add talent if they were in contention at the trade deadline. But, that doesn’t meaning waiting until July 31. The bullpen had shown signs of breaking down in late June and early July, and there was a woeful lack of power with Ike Davis, Jason Bay and Lucas Duda doing nothing, but Alderson was content to believe things would get better and was satisfied at the break with a 46-40 record. The Mets opened the second half with two losing streaks of at least five games and by that time it was too late.

INJURIES: All teams have them and the Mets were no exception. It’s hard to win when three-fifths of your rotation goes down. First, Mike Pelfrey, then Dillon Gee and Johan Santana. The Mets simply didn’t have the replacement parts they needed, although the got more from R.A. Dickey than they could have wished for and Matt Harvey made a good first impression.

THE BULLPEN COLLAPSED AGAIN: The wasn’t bad in April, but was non-existent in the second half. The pen’s failures can be summarized by just 36 saves, and a 20-22 record in one-run games and 3-7 in extra innings. Clearly, they couldn’t slam the door late. The problem wasn’t really the closer as much as it was the bridge leading to the closer.

NO OFFENSE: The Mets had three players with 20-plus homers, but that’s not enough. The Mets went 15 straight home games in the second half where they scored three or fewer runs which lead to a minus-56 runs differential. If Davis had any kind of a first half he might have finished with 40. David Wright couldn’t carry the team from July on and one wonders if he’ll be a 30-homer player again. The Mets received very little from Bay, Duda, Josh Thole and Andres Torres. Who would have thought Scott Hairston would lead the outfield with 20 homers?