Feb 15

Terry Collins Leaning To Jon Niese As Opening Day Starter

New York Mets manager Terry Collins reiterated his thoughts Jonathon Niese would be his Opening Day starter, as well he should according to conventional baseball wisdom.

Despite Zack Wheeler’s desire for the ball, the honor should go to Niese, last year’s starter and whom Collins called “the ace of the staff,’’ in wake of Matt Harvey’s injury. If not Niese, then it should be Dillon Gee, the Mets’ most consistent starter last year and author of 199 innings.

NIESE: Opening Day starter?

NIESE: Opening Day starter?

Barring injury, accepted baseball thinking is why Niese should start. Niese is the most experienced of the Mets’ starters – of those growing up in the organization – and having been signed to a long-term contract, the most is expected of him.

Niese’s 8-8 2013 record is mediocre, but attributable in large part because of a shoulder injury. Veterans usually get preference if for no other reason as a reward.

Bartolo Colon is obviously the staff’s most experienced starter, but has no cache within the organization to warrant the start.

As for Wheeler, he might represent the Mets’ future, but with 17 career starts and seven wins, he has a while to go.

You have to admire Wheeler’s desire to want to have that role. It shows where he wants to be in his career.

“Last year I was coming in trying to win a spot,’’ Wheeler said earlier this week. “This year I’m trying to get the Opening Day spot. … It’s nothing on those guys, on the other starters, because anybody in the starting rotation could be the Opening Day starter. But that’s just my mindset coming in – to push myself to try to get the Opening Day spot.’’

Niese probably thinks the same. At least, let’s hope he does.

ON DECK: Bartolo Colon greets media.

Feb 15

Bobby Parnell Could Benefit From Kyle Farnsworth’s Experience

While most New York Mets just phoned to say they were in town on Saturday’s reporting deadline, reliever Kyle Farnsworth held court, telling reporters he’ll be satisfied with any role manager Terry Collins has in mind.

When you’re 37-years-old and on your eighth team, you really don’t have much choice.

FARNSWORTH: Veteran presence.

FARNSWORTH: Veteran presence.

If healthy, Bobby Parnell closes, and Farnsworth will work in the late innings because of his experience. Same thing goes for Jose Valverde.

Speaking in classic spring training cliché, Farnsworth told reporters: “Nothing was explained. It’s still early. This is just quite a good opportunity to come here and try to help out the best way I can.’’

Helping out will also include being a sounding board for Parnell.

At one time, just like Parnell, Farnsworth touched the radar gun at 100 mph., but now his fastball is down to 92.6.

“I wish I could still do that,’’ Farnsworth said. “I don’t know – it’s just one of those things that you’re blessed to do, and you hope to be able to harness that.

“Over the years I’ve learned that you can get away with more mistakes throwing that hard. But the older you get the more you learn how to pitch. That’s where you have to mature and grow into things like that.’’

There’s not a pitcher alive who doesn’t wish he could throw 100 mph., but there’s also not a pitcher who wouldn’t say velocity is the third most important thing, behind control and movement.

Although Parnell made great strides last season, he’s still new at being a closer and boasted a 100 mph., fastball. If he’s paying attention, surely he’ll learn something from Farnsworth on how to set-up hitters and get by on guile as much as his stuff.

Farnsworth made 39 appearances last year for Tampa Bay, was released and signed with Pittsburgh and pitched in nine games with a 1.04 ERA.

Farnsworth’s experience also includes knowing what it takes to pitch in New York, having played with the Yankees.

“I experienced it in New York – press and atmosphere like that,’’ Farnsworth said. “That part is definitely not going to be new to me. I’m looking forward to it.’’

ON DECK: The Opening Day starter.

Jan 31

Sandy Alderson: More Work To Do

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report in two weeks, the New York Mets aren’t finished adding to their spring training roster, said GM Sandy Alderson.

ALDERSON: Not done.

ALDERSON: Not done.

Speaking at the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia this week, Alderson said he liked the direction the team is headed, defended his offseason spending, but insisted there’s more work to be done.

“We’re still looking for more players,’’ Alderson said. “The offseason develops over time in segments, and right now there are still a lot of players out there. The question with teams is: How much money do they have left and what are their needs?’’

Despite committing to $85 million in salaries this winter – Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young were the major signings – the Mets still have a myriad of issue.

First base, catching, shortstop, the outfield alignment, the batting order and rotation order will be determined from within, but the Mets’ primary need is the bullpen, which has been an issue since Alderson was hired.

What the Mets don’t know is whether Bobby Parnell, recovering from neck surgery, will be ready. If not Vic Black is first in line to assume the closer role, but that’s based more on his ability to throw 95 mph. than anything else.

The Mets will be looking to bolster their bullpen in the next two weeks, and during spring training as players are released from other teams. Even so, Alderson said he likes the direction the Mets are headed and his strategy is paying off.

“I like our team for a couple of reasons,’’ Alderson said. “The last three years, the strategy I have tried to articulate is threefold: acquire talent and develop talent, create more payroll flexibility – we had a lot of long-term contracts that were just not performing – and third, third, try to win as many games as you can without compromising one and two.

“Now we’ve turned a corner a little bit, and I’d say that now we want to win as many games as we can while being mindful of one and two.’’

Alderson did not define a successful season, but some in the Mets’ organization are privately saying the immediate goal is to finish .500 or better.

ON DECK: Later today, I’ll look at the Mets’ leadoff options.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Jan 23

Would Have Been Interesting To See A Grady Sizemore Comeback With Mets

The Red Sox did something yesterday I wish the New York Mets had done, and something I suggested before. I realize I’m in the minority on this, but I wish they signed Grady Sizemore.

SIZEMORE: Would have been fun gamble.

SIZEMORE: Would have been fun gamble.

You read that correctly. For the bargain-basement price of $750,000 – with incentive clauses on games played and plate appearances that could reach $5 million – the Red Sox took a gamble on a former All-Star.

From 2005-2008, Sizemore averaged 27 homers and 81 RBI with the Indians and was on the cusp for becoming one of the game’s best players before his career hit an injury-plagued tailspin. Then, from 2009 on, he’s had six operations, including his left (throwing elbow), two hernias, two knee operations – one on each side – and his lower back.

He missed all of last season rehabbing his right knee and back.

That’s a lot of cutting and the odds are long on him returning to star status. If he doesn’t, the Red Sox would only be out $750,000, which in today’s baseball economy is chump change – even by Mets’ standards.

It would have been a low-risk, high-reward gamble for the Mets. Conversely, they’ll give Chris Young $7.25 million, which I still can’t get over.

The probability of Sizemore reaching the 27-81 plateaus is long, but the Mets would take – and be happy with – a lot less for fewer than a million. Plus, his reputation of a hard worker and gamer would be good examples for a young team, and you don’t think Juan Lagares can’t learn a thing or two about playing centerfield from Sizemore?

I always liked Sizemore and hate to see a promising career go down as his has done. But, I also like comeback stories and Sizemore would have been a good one. Again, I know I am in the minority on this, but I’m allowed to cheer for good stories and it would have been fun to see it happen at Citi Field.

ON DECK: Mets sign Duda. All arbitration players locked up.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 07

Mike Piazza Likely To Fall Short Of Hall Of Fame; My Case For Putting Him In

Speculation has one former New York Met getting into the Hall of Fame tomorrow with another falling short.

Tom Glavine, a 300-game winner who played the bulk of his career in Atlanta, should get in on the first ballot. Mike Piazza is likely to be denied for a second straight year.

PIAZZA: Hall worthy for sure.

PIAZZA: Hall worthy for sure.

On the web site, Baseball Think Factory, its poll has Greg Maddux (100 percent), Tom Glavine (97.7), Frank Thomas (91.7) and Craig Biggio (81.2) getting in, with Piazza (72.2) looking in from the outside. To be voted in, a player must be on 75 percent of the ballots. To date, the poll results are from 134 ballots published, which is less than 25 percent of the votes submitted last year.

While all the votes have been submitted, the above is only a small sampling and things could change between now and tomorrow afternoon when the announcements are made.

Piazza was named on 57.8 percent of the ballots last winter and it is doubtful he can make up that ground in one year. Remember, it took several cracks for Gary Carter to get in.

“It’s a process,’’ Piazza said this summer after his induction into the Mets Hall of Fame. “I’m very proud of my career. Obviously I put my body of work up against anybody, I’ve said before. But, you know what? I truly feel that the process is a beautiful thing as well. It is what it is. I mean, looking back, Yogi [Berra] had three ballots. And, Joe DiMaggio three ballots.’’

That’s something I don’t get. Three ballots for DiMaggio? Babe Ruth got in on his first year, but wasn’t named on 100 percent of the ballots. That’s absurdity at the highest level. The player receiving the highest percentage is Tom Seaver. That could be challenged when it is Mariano Rivera’s turn, but there are some writers, amazingly so, who won’t vote for a player the first time on the ballot.

I know one writer who didn’t vote for Cal Ripken when he first appeared on the ballot.

Piazza was retrospective that day in Citi Field.

“You think of things in the bigger picture,’’ he continued. “And so if I’m so blessed and honored to get to that point someday, I will enjoy it and be proud and wear the honor that is so important. Up until that point, I can only do like an artist – here’s my work, my canvas -and it’s out of my hands.’’

And, it is an impressive picture with him being a 12-time All-Star and the career leader in home runs (427) by a player whose primary position was catcher.

Piazza had a lifetime .308 average, .377 on-base percentage and six years with at least 30 homers and 100 RBI. He’s among ten players in history with a .300 average and at least 400 homers.

Based on numbers alone, Piazza is deserving. But, keeping him out is speculation he was a PED user, something he continually, and vehemently denies.

No writer can say for sure Piazza was a PED user as he: never failed a drug test administered by Major League Baseball; never been charged or linked to PED in the courts such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens; never appeared in the Mitchell Report or any study subsidized by MLB; and never has been accused on the record by another player, coach, trainer or manager of using.

His supposed connection to steroids is based on speculation and because a few writers saw some pimples on his back.

This is proof?

ON DECK: Looking at Tom Glavine.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos