Mar 22

No Conspiracy: The Mets Needed To Make Wright Captain

There is a conspiracy theory everywhere you look. I read one suggesting the Mets made David Wright captain to divert attention away from the field, where they are projected to be bad. Very bad.

C’mon. Are you serious? How long do you think that will last? With virtually no hope given to the Mets this year, they’ll be coming out to see Wright and the young players such as Matt Harvey, Ike Davis, Travis d’Arnaud and Zack Wheeler. The last two you’ll probably see sometime in June.

Smokescreens like that never work. Besides, Mets fans are like children and dogs in a way, after awhile, they know when they’re getting duped.

Besides, if taking the fan’s attention away from the team is the goal, they should have done this three years ago as the attendance at Citi Field has consistently dwindled.

Wright is simply the best player the Mets have, and arguably the best player – outside of Tom Seaver – they ever produced. And best, I mean both on and off the field.

As Major League Baseball goes after Ryan Braun and others in a witch hunt over PED’s, Wright has publicly stood up against drug users. A long time ago, when I asked Derek Jeter about steroids, he said: “I don’t use them, so it’s none of my business.”

Guess again. It is every player’s business for their sport to be clean and Wright, whether or not it comes from his father who is in law enforcement, has always stood for that goal. He should be commended for that alone.

I know some don’t feel Wright is clutch enough, but that’s nonsense. Baseball is about failing three out every ten at-bats just to be good, and Wright is the best the Mets have in that regard. Who else would you rather see at the plate in the ninth inning of a close game?

Jeff Wilpon said the appointment was for all Wright has done, and will do, for the organization in the future. The Mets have been awful on the field since 2008, and even worse off it with the Ponzi scandal, numerous bad signings and public relations fiascos. With all those around him losing their heads, Wright kept his, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling.

When it was clear the Mets were about to sack Willie Randolph, Wright spoke out for his manager – and against management – because it was the right thing to do. He blamed himself and the players, not the manager whom management had spied on with Tony Bernazard.

A leader sometimes deals with uncomfortable things, and yes, Wright spoke against Lastings Milledge coming in late. He downplays it now, but it had to be done. Players often take their lead from other players, and when somebody doesn’t hustle, Wright lets him know it in a low-key, yet effective manner.

He doesn’t get in their faces, just their minds. And, that’s what leaders, and captains, do.

Mar 21

David Wright Named Captain; Disabled List Next? (Updated)

The Mets made it official this afternoon and named David Wright the team’s captain, joining a select group that includes Keith HernandezGary Carter and John Franco.

There has been speculation for years – as far back when Willie Randolph was manager – and intensified  this winter when Wright was signed to a $138-million eight-year extension. Manager Terry Collins said at the start of spring training it was something he was considering, but needed to run it through GM Sandy Alderson and COO Jeff Wilpon, as well as poll the clubhouse.

“This is probably one of the proudest days of my career so far,” Wright told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “To be on that short list of guys that have been considered captain of this franchise is, for me, a dream come true to say the least and something I’m very, very, very proud about.”

Wilpon said Wright’s appointment was sealed when he signed an eight-year, $138 million contract in early December. Wright, though, said he wanted the endorsement of teammates before accepting the honor.

“Did we announce it then? No, we didn’t announce it then,” Wilpon said. “But I believe the decision was made at that point in time. When you commit that kind of money and resources that we have to a guy like this, you want to make sure he’s the leader. And he’s proven to be that.”

WRIGHT AND WILPON: Wright named captain. Photo: Mets via Twitter

WRIGHT AND WILPON: Wright named captain. Photo: Mets via Twitter

It was a foregone conclusion the announcement would be made prior to Opening Day. According to ESPN, Wilpon said the second Wright signed the contract there was nothing else to think about.

In a statement released by the team, Franco said: “We had talks together. Being named captain is a sign of respect and a sign the players on the team hold you in high esteem.

“I took my captaincy very seriously and I know that David will do the same.”

In addition, Hernandez said: “I have been around David long enough to know that he is the perfect guy to the be the captain of the Mets.”

During the Randolph era, the manager said the promotion might be awkward because that team was loaded with veterans such as Carlos Delgado – who became a mentor to Jose ReyesCarlos Beltran, and pitchers Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez.

At the time, Randolph said there wasn’t a need for a captain because of the veteran influence. Then came the Jerry Manuel era, but the team was so bad it seemed like a futile gesture.

Even so, Wright was always the face of the franchise, and the one player the media sought out for analysis on the Mets or anything else relating to baseball. Wright will not wear a “C” on his uniform, but his leadership has been obvious in the clubhouse for years.

“Part of it, I think, is my personality, where I don’t necessarily like to stick out too much,” Wright said. “I think the uniform is uniform for a reason. So I think that everybody is kind of in agreement that we’re going to do without.”

Not having the letter hasn’t diminished his influence.

Once, Reyes wanted to stay in a game, but was clearly hobbled. Wright, knowing an injured Reyes could be a liability told the manager, then Manuel.

Wright has worked closely with the pitchers and was one of the few players who could reach Mike Pelfrey when he was losing concentration. He often goes to the mound when a rattled pitcher needs to catch his breath.

With the Mets moving in a youth direction, there was no veteran presence other than Wright, who, as an All-Star had the talent to back up the promotion.

At the start of camp, Wright said being captain would be an honor, but wanted it through his teammates and not an edict from ownership or management.

Currently, Wright has been shut down with a strained left intercostal muscle sustained while participating in the World Baseball Classic. Wright said he was hopeful of being ready for Opening Day, but at the time of the injury last Thursday, Collins said he wouldn’t be surprised if Wright were out a month.

After being examined last Friday in New York, Alderson said it would be three to five days. It has now been a week.

Once Wright is cleared to play in the next two weeks, he will likely only play in minor league games. The same will apply to Daniel Murphy, who has a strained right intercostal muscle.

The reasoning is to have the flexibility of backdating his time on the disabled list. If Wright or Murphy played in a major league spring training game and were hurt, they would be backdated to the date of the injury. If injured in a minor league game the Mets could backdate the injury from ten days to Opening Day. This limits his time on the disabled list.

The Yankees made a similar decision today with Derek Jeter, who is recovering from a broken ankle. Wright and Jeter, along with Paul Konerko are the only team captains in the sport.

The Mets also made it official and announced Jon Niese would be the Opening Day starter. However, the team did not make a corresponding announcement of Johan Santana going on the disabled list.

Mar 21

Shaun Marcum Added To Mets’ Injury List; Long Season Already Here

The worst-case scenario seems imminent for the Mets.

They faced a myriad of pitching questions entering spring training, including: Johan Santana’s availability after shoulder surgery; Dillon Gee coming off surgery to repair an injury to his shoulder; and injury-prone Shaun Marcum.

All three have been answered in the negative.

One would think a free agent would report to camp in shape, but Marcum didn’t and insisted a long-tossing program was what it took instead of the normal routine pitchers use in spring training.

Marcum said all he needed was four starts, and he might not even get that as he flew to New York on the off-day to have his shoulder examined.  He was diagnosed to have an impingement and received a cortisone injection.

Marcum will not make his start today against St. Louis and Jeremy Hefner will get the ball. Marcum is penciled in as the No. 2 starter, but if he isn’t ready left-hander Aaron Laffey is the likely candidate to replace him.

It will be interesting to see how the relationship develops between manager Terry Collins and Marcum if the pitcher misses several starts. Collins, who doesn’t have a contract after this season, already is dealing from a short deck and doesn’t need another injured pitcher.

While the Mets hope Marcum will miss just today, there’s no doubt they will indefinitely be without Santana, who hasn’t thrown in weeks and has no timetable to return. Forget Opening Day, the Mets might now be thinking May 1.

Think about it, it takes six weeks for a pitcher to get ready for the season with two weeks of long-toss and bullpen work prior to the games where he’ll get six starts to build up to 100 pitches. Santana has had none of that preparation. So, at age 34 he’s going to be ready in a few days? Hardly.

Meanwhile, Gee says he’s fine physically, but his last two starts have been painful to watch. Gee gave up five earned runs in last night’s 7-5 victory over Houston. Gee gave the Mets length last night, just not results. He insisted he’s had no setback and his mechanics are off. He might get two more starts to refine them.

The Mets hoped Jenrry Mejia could be a replacement for Santana and possibly evolve as a fifth starter if Marcum flamed out. However, Mejia has forearm tendinitis and isn’t close to being ready and will open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

All this leads to the inevitable question of when Zack Wheeler could be called up. Wheeler is working himself back into shape after straining an oblique muscle, so it isn’t imminent. Alderson is adamant about not rushing Wheeler for two reasons, 1) to not hindering his development, and 2) to not put him on the clock for his service time, thereby delaying the arbitration and free-agent process.

The bullpen hasn’t been immune from injuries, either. Frank Francisco has not progressed following elbow surgery last December to remove a bone spur and inflammation.

Everybody’s injuries are different and there is no set formula to handle them, but you can’t help but wonder why Francisco, who did not finish the season, waited for December to have the surgery. Having it in late September or October would have given him more time for rehabilitation.

As for Santana, he took it easy over the winter after two off-seasons of rehab. Alderson said he didn’t come to camp in shape, prompting Santana to take it upon himself to throw off the mound the first week of March when it was thought he was ten days away from throwing.

The Mets pitching is currently a mess. Thankfully, everything is all right elsewhere. Oh, wait a minute. David Wright and Daniel Murphy will likely open the season on the disabled list and the outfield remains a house of cards.

It’s only March and it is already seems a long season for the Mets.

Mar 20

Over Half Mets’ Payroll Could Be On DL Opening Day

According to the Mets’ timetable, today could greatly determine the make-up of their Opening Day roster and line-up, which probably won’t resemble anything you imagined a month ago.

Not even close.

WRIGHT: Will we know more today?

WRIGHT: Will we know more today?

The Mets hope to know more today of the status of third baseman David Wright and second baseman Daniel Murphy, both of whom have strained intercostal muscles. If reports are negative, it could give the Mets four prominent players – totaling nearly half their payroll – on the disabled list to open the season.

Combined, the salaries of left-hander Johan Santana ($31 million with the $5.5 million buyout is included), Wright ($11 million), closer Frank Francisco ($6.5 million) and Murphy ($2.95 million) amount to $51.95 million. The Mets’ 2013 payroll is yet to be determined, but assuming $100 million, that’s over half the roster’s payroll on the disabled list.

When Wright was pulled from the World Baseball Classic last Thursday with what was later diagnosed as a strained left intercostal muscle, GM Sandy Alderson said Wright would rest from three to five days.

Yesterday was the fifth day, and we should know more today on what’s next for Wright, who hasn’t made any promises regarding Opening Day.

“That’s looking to predict the future, and I can’t do that,’’ Wright told reporters when he returned to Port S. Lucie. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel … I’ll tell you that’s my goal.’’

When first informed of Wright’s injury, manager Terry Collins, citing Murphy’s injury this year and Wright’s strained side last year, projected the All-Star could be out at least a month.

Murphy strained his right intercostal muscle early in camp and played five innings of defense in a minor league game last weekend, but has been held out since because of continued stiffness.

Collins said he hopes Murphy will be ready today, but if he’s not by this weekend the disabled list was the probability.

MURPHY: Must play soon.

MURPHY: Must play soon.

“If he’s not back in a game, you’re down to seven days,’’ Collins said. “That’s not a lot of time to get somebody who hasn’t done anything all spring to get him ready.’’

Assuming that scenario, Justin Turner – currently suffering a sprained right ankle – and Jordany Valdespin will likely play third and second, respectively.

Meanwhile, there’s been little progress with Santana, down with shoulder fatigue, and Francisco, who has a persistent stinging feeling in his elbow after throwing. It has been a foregone conclusion for weeks now that both will be placed on the disabled list, and neither is expected to be with the Mets next season.

After spending the better part of the last two years rehabbing his surgically-repaired shoulder, Santana lightened up his off-season routine and consequently wasn’t in prime condition when he reported to camp. The Mets called him on that which annoyed Santana and prompted him – in an effort to quell criticism – to throw off the mound on March 3 without notifying Collins.

At the time, Santana hadn’t thrown in over a week and wasn’t supposed to throw for another week. Even so, Collins hoped Santana would be ready for the season. That won’t happen now as Collins said last weekend Santana wasn’t close to throwing again.

Why the Mets haven’t officially announced Santana will go on the disabled list is anybody’s guess, but Collins said Jon Niese would replace him as the Opening Day starter and Jeremy Hefner will take his place on the roster and then take his spot in the rotation.

Collins also said Bobby Parnell will take Francisco’s role as he closer. Francisco threw off the mound Saturday and reported feeling pain.

An injury also impacted center field, as a bruised left knee sidelined Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who’ll open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. Nieuwenhuis’ injury opened a spot for Collin Cowgill to be the starter.

Cowgill could lead off and play center in a line-up that might also include Lucas Duda and Marlon Byrd in the outfield; an infield – from first to third – of Ike Davis, Valdespin, Ruben Tejada and Murphy; with John Buck behind the plate and Niese on the mound.

Bet you didn’t see this coming.

Mar 18

Mets’ Injury Updates And Today’s Batting Order

The Mets can realistically expect to have three, perhaps four, significant players open the season on the disabled list: David Wright, Johan Santana, Frank Francisco and possibly Daniel Murphy.

Murphy remains sore after playing five innings of defense in a minor league game last Friday. Terry Collins said to expect him to play no sooner than Wednesday, and if he’s not playing by the weekend he’ll open the season on the disabled list. Although Murphy has taken batting practice, he has not played in an exhibition game so he hasn’t faced game pitching.

Wright said he’s shooting for Opening Day, but is uncertain. He’s telling Collins he’s ready, but that could be wishful thinking. Since this has been fouled up enough as it is, the prudent thing is to make the decision to DL him where he’ll miss the least amount of time. That includes playing him in minor league games if he’s available to get on the field before Opening Day. If Wright were to play in major league spring training games and be injured, his DL time would be backdated from then.

Justin Turner, the projected third baseman while Wright is down, hopes to play by Thursday after spraining his right ankle last week. X-Rays were negative and he’s moving around, so the disabled list is unlikely,

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who is out with a bruised left knee, hopes to bat in a minor league game today, but will not run the bases. That means no inside-the-park homers.

The following is today’s lineup against St. Louis at Jupiter:

Jordany Valdespin, cf: It is clear he has made the team, with his versatility being an asset. He’s also been hot at the plate, with another homer yesterday. Will play second if Murphy is not ready.

Ruben Tejada, ss: Hit well last year, but is on a miserable stretch this spring. Is it a slump or regression?

Lucas Duda, lf: Not hitting as the Mets hoped. Will bat lower in the order during the season. Strike outs and low on-base percentage remain issues.

Zach Lutz, lb: Wright’s injury has given him an outside chance of sticking early.

Matt den Dekker, rf: He would have a spot if he could hit.

Brandon Hicks, 3b: Getting the audition while Turner is ailing.

Omar Quintanilla, 2b: With injuries to Wright, Murphy and Turner, his versatility is a definite plus.

Matt Harvey, rhp: Lining up as the No. 2 starter behind Jon Niese.

Also pitching today for the Mets are LaTroy Hawkins, who looks like he’ll make it in the set-up role. Bobby Parnell will also go today as will Josh Edgin and Scott Rice.