Nov 13

Manager of the Year: Davey Johnson and Buck Showalter

The Manager of the Year award will be announced this afternoon by the Baseball Writers Association of America. You don’t usually see managers of perennially good teams win the award because they are expected to win. The writers prefer rags-to-riches stories, but sometimes it is harder to win with a bullseye on your back.

I agree with the consensus, which has Washington’s Davey Johnson and Baltimore’s Buck Showalter the heavy favorites.

JOHNSON: As we remember him.

No Mets manager has won the award, which was instituted in 1983, for those wondering about Gil Hodges. San Francisco’s Dusty Baker – who is a candidate – beat out Bobby Valentine in 2000. As far as Johnson in 1986, he probably wasn’t considered after his declaration the Mets “would dominate,’’ that year.

He made no such statement this spring.

NATIONAL LEAGUE: Baker and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy are also under consideration, but both their teams were recently in the playoffs, with the Giants winning the World Series in 2010.

As for the Nationals, they have been traditionally bad since moving to Washington from Montreal.

The expectations for the Nationals heightened this year with the influx of free-agent Gio Gonzalez, return of pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg and rookie Bryce Harper. The Nationals were considered in some circles to compete for a wild-card, but won 98 games.

Johnson had more to deal with this season than many realized. He’s been more comfortable with veteran teams, but was patient with the young Nationals. And, despite what he thought privately, he handled shutting down Strasburg, which was a controversial decision in the sport.

The Nationals were ousted in five games by St. Louis – Mike Matheny, who replaced Tony La Russa and didn’t have Albert Pujols, should also be considered – but that experience should be something to build on, much like the disappointment of his Mets losing in 1985 to the Cardinals.

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Showalter, who won the award in the 1994 strike season, and Joe Torre in 1996 and 1998 won the award for the Yankees.

American League finalists include Oakland’s Bob Melvin and newcomer Robin Ventura of the White Sox, both with Mets’ ties. Melvin worked in the Mets’ minor league system and interviewed for the job won by Terry Collins, and Ventura played for the team, 1999-2001.

The Orioles hadn’t had a winning season since 1997, coincidentally, the last year Johnson managed the team.

Behind the Yankees, Boston and Tampa Bay, the Orioles were given no chance to win and .500 was the goal. Instead, they won 93 games and took the Yankees to five games in the ALDS.

The Orioles were 29-9 in one-run games and went 16-2 in extra innings, including their last 16. In addition, Baltimore had just a plus-seven runs differential.

Did Showalter do it with mirrors? It seems that way as the Orioles made 178 roster moves involving 52 players; had only one starter make as many as 20; and didn’t have a .300 hitter.

They also prevailed down the stretch without their best hitter, Nick Markakis.

As much as Ventura and Melvin did, Showalter is the clear choice.

 

Sep 10

Home Not So Sweet For Mets

There are a myriad of statistics to explain what has happened to the Mets this season, but there’s one that stands out like neon. The Mets are 4-18 at home since the All-Star break. They have scored three or fewer runs in 17 of those games, including their last ten straight.

 

Overall, they are an unacceptable 30-38 at home as they begin a three-game series tonight against the Washington.

 

They haven’t had a futility stretch in scoring like their last ten since 1988. The franchise record is 11 straight, achieved – is that the proper word? – in 1979 and at the end of the 1966 season and start of 1967.

 

They are facing Gio Gonzalez tonight before what should be a small smattering of people with nothing else better to do. The Mets drew less than a combined 75,000 for the three-game series against Atlanta. The Jets drew over 79,000 yesterday.

 

Traditionally, contenders aim to win at home and be .500 on the road and the Mets have failed in both accounts.

 

With the Mets not expected to substantially increase their payroll next season, I wouldn’t expect there to be dramatically different team than the current edition. We’ll have to wait until they clear $50 million in salary for Johan Santana and Jason Bay after next year to see what they put on the field for 2014.

 

The Mets, 4-11 this season against the Nationals, will start this line-up tonight:

Ruben Tejada, ss

Ronny Cedeno, 2b

David Wright, 3b

Scott Hairston, rf

Ike Davis, 1b

Kelly Shoppach, c

Jason Bay, lf

Andres Torres, cf

Collin McHugh, rhp

Jul 06

Reasons Why R.A. Dickey Should Start All-Star Game

There are numerous reasons why R.A. Dickey should start Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Kansas City, so it’s hard to understand Tony La Russa not naming him for the honor. He knows the rotation schedule of the other candidates, so what’s he waiting for? If he wants to screw with New York area fans, he’d start A.J. Burnett (9-2), right?

DICKEY: Should star All-Star Game (AP)

Here’s some of the reasons why he should start:

1. At 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA, he has the best record of any NL starter. Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (11-3), St. Louis’ Lance Lynn (11-4) – the obvious choice if La Russa was playing favorites – Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels (10-4) and San Francisco’s Matt Cain (9-3 and a no-hitter) are having the best seasons for a starter. But, Dickey’s recent run is of historic proportions. His recent ten-game winning streak is reminiscent of pitchers like Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson.

2. La Russa’s worry about not having a catcher familiar with catching a knuckleball has some merit, but I’m not completely buying it. If he’s worried about a wild pitch or passed ball costing a run, wouldn’t it be better for that to happen in the first or second innings and not late in the game?

3. Dickey is clearly the pitching curiosity of the first half, in either league. Give the fans what they want. Isn’t that what the game is supposed to be about?

There’s not guarantee of how well Dickey will pitch Tuesday. Recent starts against the Yankees and Phillies have not been good, but he’s always long on guts and his story is both inspiring personable.

He’ll only be in for an inning or two, but it should be the first two.

Feb 03

Another look at Mets’ woeful pitching.

ESPN had an interesting post when it examined the starting rotations of the NL East teams. They still have Johan Santana listed as No. 1, which is puzzling.

What I found most interesting is that every team’s No. 3 starter would qualify as the Mets’ No. 1.

Edwin Jackson is reportedly on his way to Washington, where he’s the projected third starter behind Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. The Braves’ No. 3 is Tommy Hanson. Miami’s third starter is Ricky Nolasco and Philadelphia’s is Cole Hamels.

The Mets’ projected rotation is Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee.

It’s all about pitching and this is a grim reminder of the Mets’ status.

Dec 23

Nationals making more noise … Mets remain quiet.

I don’t know much about the prospects the Nationals are sending to Oakland for Gio Gonzalez. What I do know is adding Gonzalez makes them considerably more improved, and that includes better than the Mets.

If what is reported is true, that the Mets wouldn’t part with Jon Niese and Ike Davis then that makes a degree of sense because with what is left it isn’t good enough for Gonzalez to carry. Then again, if I were Oakland I wouldn’t deal Gonzalez for a package that includes two players on the mend.

The essence of this trade reveals a key Mets’ weakness, and that’s a lack of depth in the minor leagues that could be used in trades. For the past few years, one of their biggest chips was Fernando Martinez, but injuries have slowed his career to little more than a crawl.

Do you remember when the Mets were telling us about their wealth of outfield prospects in Martinez, Lastings Milledge and Carlos Gomez? Kind of makes you think when they tout what’s down below now that we really don’t know.

It has been an interesting winter so far for other teams, including St. Louis, which will add Carlos Beltran for two years at $26 million. Beltran won’t make them forget Albert Pujols, but at least the Cardinals are attempting to move forward.

The Mets will add a few minor pieces between now and spring training, but nothing that will prompt anybody to pick up phone and order tickets.

Here we are, a couple of days before Christmas and the weather is warm enough for Opening Day. When I think about the promise and excitement Opening Day is supposed to have, I realize we won’t feel that way at Citi Field for several more years.

Sad really.