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.

Feb 26

Mets Matters: Mejia Rocked; Wright Captaincy

Jenrry Mejia was hammered this afternoon by Miami in his spring training debut, giving up a grand slam in a five-inning first inning in the Mets’ 7-5 loss.

MEJIA: Not a good day.

          MEJIA: Not a good day. (AP)

Mejia gave up five runs on four hits in a 30-pitch inning. Apparently, few of those pitches were effective.

Terry Collins said Mejia didn’t have the darting cut on his fastball, and suggested the problem could be attributed to having Tommy John surgery after the 2010 season. That was the year Mejia was rushed as a reliever, demoted to the minor leagues where he started, then was injured.

The Mets still don’t know Mejia’s eventual role. He’s expected to start this year, but pitching coach Dan Warthen and minor league manager Wally Backman believe he’s better suited for the bullpen. Collins admitted to that after the game.

Mejia is expected to open the season in the minor leagues unless there’s an injury in the rotation.

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Feb 26

Response To Proposed Giancarlo Stanton Deal To Mets

I read with great interest what my colleague, Joe DeCaro, posted on his website about a possible trade for Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud.

STANTON: Interesting to think about.

STANTON: Interesting to think about.

There are compelling reasons for both teams to pull the trigger on this deal, but also for standing pat.

Personally, I don’t see it happening.

The Marlins don’t have to worry about Stanton’s contract until 2017, when he becomes a free agent. They are paying him a paltry $480,000 this year. The earliest the Marlins have to worry about paying him the big bucks is when he becomes arbitration eligible in 2014. He’s then a free agent at 2017.

If owner Jeffrey Loria were smart, and we know that’s not the case, he’d tie up Stanton now for the long term, but that’s not happening.

“We are hoping that that moment will come but Giancarlo needs to play this year,’’ Loria told The Palm Beach Post. “He is here for certainly the foreseeable future and we will cross that bridge at the appropriate moment.

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