Sep 13

Mets Wrap: LaTroy Hawkins Still Has The Right Stuff

When the New York Mets begin their annual winter task of building their bullpen, they’d be wise to consider three names instrumental in beating Miami tonight at Citi Field.

Yes, Lucas Duda gets props for a three-run homer, Jon Niese pitched into the seventh, and Andrew Brown took advantage of a rare start by hitting a mammoth home run, but the Mets might not have won without Vic Black, Pedro Feliciano and LaTroy Hawkins.

HAWKINS: Still has it. (AP)

HAWKINS: Still has it. (AP)

By definition, winning 4-3 is not a slam-dunk, but a study of perseverance and endurance. Those three carried the Mets to the end.

Hawkins has been solid all year in a set-up role, and despite his reservations, assumed the closer role when Bobby Parnell went down and excelled, picking up his ninth save with a 1-2-3 ninth highlighted by a classic punch-out of Giancarlo Stanton, who already hit two homers.

In a masterful display, Hawkins got ahead 0-and-2 with two inside fastballs. Stanton wouldn’t bite on two down-and-away sliders to even the count 2-and-2. But, fearless as usual, Hawkins blew away Stanton inside with a 94 mph. fastball.

At 40, most teams might consider Hawkins an afterthought in constructing a bullpen, but he still has the fastball plus the guile that can’t be measured by a radar gun.

Not only does he get the job done, but he’s an invaluable and calming influence to the younger relievers and in the clubhouse.

My favorite Hawkins moment came at mid-season when the Mets – including manager Terry Collins – danced around the Jordany Valdespin saga. However, Hawkins, a proud veteran, called it as he saw it and wouldn’t let the immature Valdespin off the hook.

Meanwhile, Feliciano doesn’t throw in the 90s, but is still an effective lefty specialist and last night closed the eighth by getting Christian Yelich on a grounder to second.

If used properly – which is to say sparingly and not wear him out – Feliciano is still a plus.

The Mets don’t know Parnell’s availability next year after undergoing neck surgery. They must assume they won’t have him, at least at the start.

They’ll need a closer and Black, who throws in the mid-90s, could emerge as the choice. In preparing for next season, Collins should use Black in as many pressure situations as possible.

Of course, the bullpen key for 2014 is Parnell. If healthy, the three could slot in behind him and GM Sandy Alderson’s bullpen reclamation would be halfway done.

The key to a strong bullpen is having quality starters capable of working deep into the game as Niese did last night. The fewer innings the bullpen works, the more effective.

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

Aug 06

Mets Should Cut Ties With Valdespin

Talent usually warrants numerous chances, but will the New York Mets offer another to Jordany Valdespin in the wake of his 50-game suspension from the Biogenesis scandal?

Considering his other baggage, which ranges from a temper tantrum directed at Terry Collins when he was optioned to Triple-A; to being suspended from winter ball; to being photographed wearing a Marlins hat; to not hustling, and finally his look-at-me demeanor such as styling after a home run in a game seemingly decided, it’s likely we’ll never see him play for the Mets again.

VALDESPIN: Time to cut ties. (Wikipedia)

VALDESPIN: Time to cut ties. (Wikipedia)

Valdespin failed when given a chance to play second base, but has hit since his demotion. Yes, talent usually warrants another chance, but how real is the positive Valdespin displayed last year?

Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard, for one, is curious. Valdespin recently homered off Clippard, and the pitcher is wondering if the Mets’ outfielder had help. You know, better baseball through chemistry.  Clippard did not hide his anger at Valdespin, telling The Washington Post: “You’re like, ‘Those guys are doing stuff that’s affecting my career and they’re not playing the game the right way.’ So that’s frustrating.

“I think anybody can relate to that. If they’re not doing things the right way, and they’re beating you, then it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. So that’s why this is so important. Because nobody – players, ownership – nobody wants to see guys cheat.’’

Valdespin was drilled after his home run styling, and who can blame Clippard if he throws high heat the next time they face each other.

The Mets have tired of Valdespin’s act, so if he were to be released would anybody be surprised? The Mets talk about changing their culture, and getting rid of Valdespin would be a step in the right direction. If he becomes a star elsewhere, so be it.

If Clippard is upset about being beaten by a tainted Valdespin, think for a moment a Mets’ prospect who might be overlooked in favor of this guy.

This is where the Players Association is finally getting it, and is showing support for the rank-and-file over the high-salaried cheaters. It is the Players Association’s obligation to protect the accused, as it is doing with Alex Rodriguez, but it is finally yielding to the low-salaried and low-profile players whose careers are threatened by cheaters.

And, Valdespin is one of them.

Valdespin’s representative offered a lame statement about him not appealing the 50-game suspension as to not be a distraction, but in reality if he was innocent of any wrong-doing wouldn’t he have appealed?

Because he didn’t, we can conclude two things: 1) Major League Baseball had serious proof against him, or 2) MLB was bluffing and Valdespin fell for it.

If you’re innocent, you appeal. Nonetheless, it is time for the Mets to sever their relationship with Valdespin, and the sooner the better.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 05

Suspensions From Jordany Valdespin To Alex Rodriguez Bring Different Reactions

One by one the names were read, but only one brought an immediate response from me: Jordany Valdespin of the New York Mets.

The reaction was two-fold. First laughter, because aren’t these supposed to be “performance enhancing drugs?’’ The second was this probably explains a lot about his behavior, which seemingly has been a permanent case of “Roid Rage.’’

VALDESPIN: Yup, he's the man.

VALDESPIN: Yup, he’s the man.

Of the 14 players suspended in Major League Baseball’s purge – that includes the 13 today and Ryan Braun,’’ only a handful have any significance.  The rest, including Valdespin, will fade away into trivia answers.

Braun, because he was the first and had been MLB’s pet target since getting off on a technicality the first time; Alex Rodriguez, because of the contract, it’s the Yankees and the scope of the penalty of 211 games; and Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta because their teams are in pennant races.

The rest? Who really cares? And, for some, I don’t care if it hurts their chances in free agency. Wasn’t Melky Cabrera rewarded with a two-year contract?

The current climate among the players is venomous, particularly towards Braun and Rodriguez. Much of that venom directed at Braun is because he lied, but if the players were honest with themselves, it would be because Braun rolled so easily.

When he escaped the first time it showed the flaws in the system, but also that the appeals process worked. When he caved so easily it gave credibility to Tony Bosch’s evidence, evidence purchased by Major League Baseball.

It makes me wonder if Braun’s “settlement’’ of 15 games longer than the pack was part of a deal, otherwise wouldn’t Bud Selig have hit him with Rodriguez-type numbers?

As for Rodriguez, at 38 and injured, his career is winding down, the rest of this season could be the final chapter of what would have been a Hall of Fame career. Rodriguez has to appeal for several reasons. He said he’s “fighting for his life,’’ but he’s also fighting for the rest of the players who regard him as selfish.

Ironically, Rodriguez’s appeal might be one of the least selfish things he’s done in his career because he’ll force Major League Baseball to show its hand and defend its actions, perhaps in Federal Court, and from there who knows what will become of the Joint Drug Agreement and the scope of Selig’s power.

Currently, it is unlimited, but if Rodriguez’s suspension is overturned or reduce, that’s a correction to Selig’s authority because it must be remembered these players were punished not for failing a drug test, but because of their connection to Biogenesis.

And, we don’t know the depth of that connection.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 30

Mets Standing Pat As Deadline Nears And That’s Not Bad

Unless the New York Mets are completely blown away, they will hold on to Marlon Byrd and Bobby Parnell, and this is a positive development.

The Mets have been talking about changing their culture since bringing in GM Sandy Alderson and trading either or both would be counterproductive.

BYRD: Has made positive impact with Mets and fans.

BYRD: Has made positive impact with Mets and fans.

After several seasons of struggles, Parnell finally appears to found his niche as a closer. Trading a player who has worked hard to reach a positive level sends a poor signal throughout the organization. There should be some reward for success after hard work, and trading Parnell is not that reward.

Plus, and this is most important, if the Mets are to reach contender status next season as is their timetable – because they’ll have almost $50 million off the books – they will need a closer. Trading somebody who is effective and on a reasonable contract is taking a step back.

As for Byrd, he paid the price for his suspension and has been productive, picking up part of the power slack created by poor seasons from Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.

Byrd plays hard, hustles, and by all accounts is a positive presence in the clubhouse. He’ll probably want two years, but the Mets should counter with one and an option.

If the Mets are to make a run at .500, which is possible, they’ll need Byrd. I don’t believe the Mets will extend Byrd now, but doing so would send a powerful message.

Considering Byrd is 35 and has some baggage, they probably won’t receive much for him. His value could be greater as an example to some of the younger players.

I don’t know if he tried to work with Jordany Valdespin, but then again who knows if anybody can reach him? Valdespin, who was named Player of the Week for Triple-A Las Vegas, was also recently ejected from a game, a sign his control issues are still there.

Another thing about Byrd is the Mets have to know what direction they are heading as far as next year. They already have in mind a contract offer, including the number of years.

The Mets are trying to win with what they have now and probably won’t do anything.

Outside of Byrd and Parnell, there are other Mets who could be attractive to a contender, notably John Buck – whose time is being reduced and with the probably promotion of Travis d’Arnaud. Buck, however, has a connection with Matt Harvey, so that appears a long shot.

Detroit needs a shortstop, and if Omar Quintanilla isn’t in their plans, why not move him and bring up Wilmer Flores when he’s physically ready? Eventually, the Mets will need to see what Flores can do. I wouldn’t even be adverse to trading Ruben Tejada.

Relievers LaTroy Hawkins could also help a contender, as could Jeremy Hefner or Carlos Torres if the Mets are convinced of Jon Niese’s return.

Finally, there is Ike Davis, who is playing considerably better since returning from Las Vegas. If the Mets already made up their mind in the negative as far as bringing back Davis, they why are they holding on to him?

There must be a team out there needing a power left-handed bat and believes a change of scenery would help Davis.

 

Jul 24

Mets Matters: Jenrry Mejia Still In Plans

The New York Mets rave about their young pitching. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard. A name missing, one who was on everybody’s wish list several years ago is that of Jenrry Mejia.

The Mets misused Mejia under Jerry Manuel, bouncing him from the bullpen to the rotation. There was undue stress and a resultant injury that lead to Tommy John surgery.

MEJIA: Gets another chance. (AP)

MEJIA: Gets another chance. (AP)

Last season was a waste, but Mejia will be recalled to start one of the double-header games Friday in Washington instead of pushing Wheeler back a day.

Wheeler has been suffering with blisters, but Terry Collins said they’ve healed and the rookie had his regular throw day Tuesday.

Mejia started for Double-A Binghamton Saturday and gave up one run on three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in six innings.

Mejia’s stock has fallen severely, but if he does well and sticks, he could address two situations: If they continue to use him as a starter it might enable them to rest Jon Niese longer. If their ultimate plan is as a reliever, then he should report to camp in that role.

DUDA, d’ARNAUD UPDATES: Left fielder Lucas Duda, on the disabled list with a left intercostal strain) in on a rehab assignment for the GCL Mets. He’s still several weeks away, but when he returns he shouldn’t immediately get his left field job returned to him.

Although Eric Young has cooled, he’s still productive at times and has been instrumental in the Mets turning around their season. Also, Young has finally given the Mets a presence at the top of the order.

Regarding Travis d’Arnaud, the plan was for John Buck to keep his seat warm until he was ready to play. A fractured foot quashed that scenario and d’Arnaud might be a September call-up at best. He has just started playing rehab games.

MARCUM RELEASED: Shaun Marcum reported to training camp out of shape and was quickly injured. He left the Mets the same way and was given his unconditional release.

After several long and solid relief appearances, it was thought Marcum might get something in a trade, but Niese’s shoulder injury forced the Mets to keep him on the roster.

Had Marcum stayed, his only value to the Mets would have been to the media for Ryan Braun quotes.

METS MUSINGS: It remains to be seen if Jordany Valdespin’s temper tantrum after his demotion will force the Mets to dump him. However, Valdespin somehow fell into luck in Las Vegas as he’s gotten a chance to play with Wilmer Flores on the minor league DL with an ankle injury. I thought Valdespin was done, but he’s 10-for-25 with two homers and 13 RBI for Vegas. If he keeps that up, we’ll see him in September. … Minor league catcher Alex Machillanda is the clear-cut winner of the Idiot of the Month Award after he was busted for shoplifting in Port St. Lucie. Minor leaguers don’t get a lot of money, but there’s no justifying stealing.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos