Mar 06

Mets On Tap Today: Wonder What Johan Santana And Ike Davis Are Thinking?

Good morning from Port St. Lucie, where there’s a chill in the air and the sun is just coming up.

Had dinner last night with a friend on the Mets’ beat and like most people I speak with in the media he’s not enthusiastic about them having a good season.

Drove around a little last night and this place has changed over the past few years. Really built up. New hotels and restaurants, including a sushi place not far from where I am staying.

Walked into the lobby and three hotel staffers remembered me by name. Felt like Norm for Cheers. Was a good feeling.

Heading to camp in a few minutes. David Wright is at the WBC and Johan Santana is still here from when I traveled with the team on a regular basis.

Will make a run at Santana for obvious reasons, including a new one – the president of Venezuela died yesterday. Need to get a reaction from him. Ironically, the Mets are playing the Venezuelan team today.

Also Ike Davis to see what he knows about being added to the WBC now that Mark Teixeira is injured. Yankees can’t be too happy about that. I never have, and never will, be a fan of the Classic. It means so much more to players from other countries, especially Latin America than it does to players from the US. But, Felix Hernandez isn’t pitching (could it be that new contract?) and the Japanese players in the majors aren’t all participating.

Wright is on board, but many big name players are not. Have to wonder why.

No, there are no plans to ask Sandy Alderson whether he plans to jump out of any airplanes. Insert your reaction here.

Lot of Mets fans in the lobby. One lady I remember is a regular. She holds court every morning at breakfast. Had cards promoting the blog made up to pass around. Have to think differently now.

Have a great day folks and I’ll be posting regularly.

 

Mar 03

Did Mets Rush Johan Santana On Sunday?

Some athletes will use anything as a motivator while others simply know what it takes to get ready.

Today, pitching coach Dan Warthen tried to sell the idea Johan Santana used perceived criticism of his physical condition as the spark to get him on the mound for the first time since Feb. 19. Santana threw the day after GM Sandy Alderson said he didn’t think the soon-to-be 34-year old lefty would pitch for another ten days to put his Opening Day start in jeopardy.

SANTANA: Pushes himself to mound. (AP)

SANTANA: Pushes himself to mound. (AP)

The Mets are trying to mix the contrasting positions Santana as the ultimate competitor who knows better than anybody what it takes to get ready and the other that he uses criticism as motivation.

Well, which is it?

Reportedly, Santana was irritated at reporters’ questioning, to which my first thought is for him to get over it as he’ll get $31 million this year regardless of how much he pitches, so answer the damn questions.

There’s no doubting Santana’s heart, but he can be sensitive.

What I especially found questionable is if the Mets thought he was ten days away from throwing, then why would they let him throw today? Who’s running the show anyway?

When a team puts it in the hands of the athlete to make medical decision, there is a likely chance of failure. Just think of Ryan Church, Mike Pelfrey, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes and others.

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Mar 02

Trying To Understand The World Baseball Classic; David Wright Departs

David Cone once told me there could never be a true World Series after the real one because there are only so many pitches in an arm.

It just wouldn’t be practical for one to put his career in jeopardy for a mythical world tournament. Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander – neither of whom are in the World Baseball Classic – instead remain in their spring training camps preparing to pitch for teams that pay them.

WRIGHT: Playing for USA

WRIGHT: Playing for USA (AP)

Make no mistake, the World Baseball Classic is about two clashing financial perspectives. First, there is the noble objective of trying to promote baseball globally, and yes, that means selling even more Yankees and Dodgers caps in countries where the $20 to buy such a hat could more than feed a family for a week.

The other financial viewpoint is from the athletes who are training for their jobs. Mike Trout, arguably the best player in the sport last year, isn’t playing. There are dozens of others staying home.

David Wright is going. This is important to him.

However, baseball is not like soccer or basketball, sports that can be played in a tournament format. Excellence in baseball takes a month in the United States, with three levels of competition. And, that’s with ten teams.

To do a baseball justice on a world stage would require at least two months, not the two weeks they are trying to jam this in.

And, can it be a true tournament if many of the best players in the major leagues aren’t present? Another thing I find puzzling is why don’t the major leaguers – who represent teams in the United States – not play just for the United States. There is not even a masking of their loyalties.

Johan Santana wanted to play for Venezuela, his native country and not for the United States, the home of his employer who will pay him $31 million this season whether he throws a pitch or not.

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Mar 02

Jonathan Niese Next In Line For Opening Day Start

Jonathan Niese, whom I called the Mets’ most significant starter at the opening of training camp, threw three scoreless innings Friday against Detroit.

A key for Niese will be how he controls his change-up.

Niese, incidentally, will be the Opening Day starter if Johan Santana can’t go. I say book it. No way would Terry Collins send Matt Harvey out there just ten starts into his career.

Harvey will get the ball his afternoon against Miami.

As far as pitching assignments go, figure Bobby Parnell as the closer because Frank Francisco, who is down with a sore elbow, will likely not be ready.

AROUND THE HORN: David Wright leaves today for the World Baseball Classic. (I’ll have something on the WBC later today). … Lucas Duda was a scratch yesterday because of a medical issue. The Mets are saying it is minor. … Daniel Murphy has started hitting off a tee. He’s nine days away from playing in a game.

Feb 27

Mets Matters: Alderson Dishes On Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler And Strikeouts

mets matters

In a conference call this evening, Mets GM Sandy Alderson addressed several issues surrounding the team.

Among them:

* Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud will not be allowed to block the plate.

* The leadoff spot is still up in the air and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who is a candidate, still has work to do.

* If Nieuwenhuis plays fulltime he will strikeout over 100 times (he struck out 98 last year). That could give the Mets four players with over 100 strikeouts when you consider David Wright, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. While strikeouts are a concern, they are offset by an increased on-base percentage and run production.

* If the Mets are competitive this summer, he knows he will face the dilemma of trading a pitching prospect for a hitter.

* Alderson said how the Mets handled Matt Harvey last year should buy him patience from fans wanting to rush Zack Wheeler. He added there’s no sense in force-feeding a young player if he’s not ready.

These and other issues from Alderson’s conference call will be explored in greater detail in future posts.

THE GAME: If the Mets could take one positive out of this afternoon’s 12-4 waxing at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, it is that Duda broke a 0-for-7 slide with ground single.

No, they did not stop the game to give him the ball.

Seven of those outs were strikeouts. Duda finished 1-for-3 with one strikeout, so it isn’t as if he’s found it all of a sudden.

Terry Collins noticed Duda had a more compact swing on the single and fly ball to left. It was longer on the strikeout.

Duda had been spending extra time in the batting cage to work on his mechanics, and will do so again tomorrow. He’s expected to play Friday against Detroit’s Justin Verlander.

As of now, Duda is penciled in as the left fielder. The Mets like his power potential (15 homers last year), but must be concerned about his wasted at-bats. He had 120 strikeouts with only 51 walks in 459 plate appearances.

WHEELER OUT: Wheeler was scratched from today’s start with a slight strain of his right oblique. Although the Mets have not said anything, expect him to miss at least another start.

WRIGHT PLAYS: Wright returned to the lineup with two singles. He’s not scheduled to play Thursday, but is Friday against Detroit at Port St. Lucie. Wright hopes to play third instead of DH in that game. On Saturday he leaves for the World Baseball Classic.