May 09

Mets Shouldn’t Even Think Of Extending Ike Davis

During the offseason and in spring training I wrote in the interest of financial certainty, that the Mets should consider signing Ike Davis to a long-term contract as to bypass his arbitration years.

After 32 homers last season because of a strong second half, I thought Davis might be a keeper and they should do for him what they did for Jon Niese and David Wright. Lock up your investments early to keep them out of arbitration and the free-agent market is sound business. Lots of teams sign their can’t-miss youth at prices they can control in the future. In 2006, the Mets did it with Jose Reyes and Wright.

DAVIS: Another stroll to the dugout. (AP)

DAVIS: Another stroll to the dugout. (AP)

Only problem is Davis isn’t a can’t miss, but a swing-and-a-miss.

When he first arrived, Davis showed great power potential, but also was able to be selective and go to the opposite field. He showed an ability to act like a hitter. He did it the other night when he drew a walk in the tenth inning and scored the winning run in the Matt Harvey game.

“In that situation the pitcher knows the batter will be trying to hit it out of the park,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’ll be trying to get the batter to chase after a bad pitch, but Ike resisted.’’

It was a good piece of hitting, but one we’ve not often seen from Davis, who tries to go for the homer, even on pitches low and away.

Davis’ slow start should definitely cause the Mets to resist the temptation of signing him to a multi-year extension. Davis is hitting a paltry .170 with a .270 on-base percentage. He already has 35 strikeouts with just 17 hits and 13 walks. He has four homers and eight RBI.

None of those numbers warrant giving Davis an extension, or even thinking of it.

We know Davis has the potential to hit 32 homers because he’s already done it. However, whatever run production Davis is capable of providing isn’t worth his 186 projected strikeouts. Davis said earlier this spring that “I’m a home run hitter and strikeouts are going to happen,’’ which illustrates a refusal to work on the finer points of hitting.

That sizes up Davis in one short, compact stroke, something we don’t see from him at the plate.

Mechanically he’s a mess, with a dramatic hitch and propensity for lunging at pitches. His mental approach is much worse. You just have to watch a few at-bats to know he has no plan or patience at the plate. Davis is supposed to be a young lion, a future face of the franchise, but they are already starting to pinch-hit for him.

For this, any talk of a long-term deal is not only premature, but absurd.

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May 06

Amazin’ Moments: Eric Valent Hits For The Cycle

Contributed by Gerry Silverman of MetsMerizedOnline.com

Hitting for the cycle has always been one of the more singular batting feats in baseball. It is a relatively rare occurrence but not one that guarantees anything in particular for the team of the player who achieves one beyond a mention on the sports page. Granted, it involves getting four hits (a good thing) with three being for extra bases (a very good thing), but from a pure baseball perspective one could propose that if a batter had four singles in a game, he might well provide a greater benefit to his team than a cycle would, provided those singles occur with runners in scoring position.

In other words, a cycle is a feat we regard with admiration primarily because it is COOL. It is so COOL that it even has a more refined version, the so-called “natural” cycle (single, double, triple, home run in order). This unique quality allows a cycle to actually transcend the game itself, remaining COOL even if your team loses the game in which it occurs, kind of like a consolation prize.

At this point in baseball history, only two teams remain cycle-less: the San Diego Padres (who also hold the distinction of being the only franchise not to have recorded a no-hitter) and the Miami Marlins whose relative youth as a franchise functions as something of an excuse. By way of contrast, the Red Sox have pulled off the feat an impressive twenty times.

eric valentSeven Mets had achieved the cycle prior to the day in July, 2004 when Eric Valent got one of his infrequent starts, spelling regular left fielder Cliff Floyd in a game against the Montreal Expos. Valent was a 27 year-old outfielder/first baseman who had been a late first round draft pick by the Phillies in 1998. After a couple of uneventful cups of coffee with the Phils, he was dealt to the Reds for catcher and future Met Kelly Stinnett in August of 2003. That winter, he was left off the Reds’ 40 man roster and was selected by the Mets in the Rule 5 Draft.

The Mets timing was fortuitous, as Valent was about to turn 27, the apparent “magic” age for certain players when whatever baseball skills they possess coalesce long enough to produce some evidence to support their place on a major league team. The 2004 season would mark Eric’s high water mark as a player as he produced a respectable .267/.337/.481 slash line in 270 AB’s spread out over 130 games. He would hit all of his big league homers that season, including one that day in Montreal.

Facing Expos starter Rocky Biddle, Valent collected a single in the second inning and a double in the third. He then homered off reliever Sunny Kim, launching a shot that clanked off one of the speakers suspended from the roof of Olympic Stadium. That left him a triple short of achieving a cycle, generally regarded as the toughie of the bunch.

When he came to the plate in the top of the seventh, the Mets had opened a substantial lead in what would end up a 10-1 win for Al Leiter. Consequently, a discussion on going for a three-bagger had preceded his next plate appearance.  Mets coach Don Baylor had told Valent to expect third base coach Matt Galante to be “waving” him on anything hit down the line or in the gap.

When his subsequent at-bat produced a liner into the right field corner, “I just kept going when I hit it” Valent would say after the game

“When I hit the ball in the corner like that, I knew I was going to third. I just wanted to hit the ball hard. It was cool. There aren’t a lot of guys that can say they hit for the cycle, no matter how long they play. It’s a lot of luck.”

By virtue of that statement to MLB.com, we can trace an awareness of the cycle’s aforementioned “coolness factor” to the players themselves.

Of the ten Mets who have hit for the cycle (the most recent being Scott Hairston on April 27th of last year), Valent could be said to tie with infielder Mike Phillips of the 1975 team for “least likely.” After a few more desultory appearances with the Mets the following season, he was out of baseball, but in the record books. That moment of his career at least, was pretty cool.

Mets Who Have Hit For The Cycle

April 27, 2012, Scott Hairston at Colorado

June 21, 2006, Jose Reyes vs. Cincinnati

July 29, 2004, Eric Valent at Montreal

Sept. 11, 1997, John Olerud vs. Montreal

July 3, 1996, Alex Ochoa at Philadelphia

Aug. 1, 1989, Kevin McReynolds at St. Louis

July 4, 1985, Keith Hernandez at Atlanta (19 innings)

June 25, 1976, Mike Phillips at Chicago

July 6, 1970, Tommie Agee vs. St. Louis

Aug. 7, 1963, Jim Hickman vs. St. Louis

Mets Country

Apr 17

Ruben Tejada Not Proving To Be Answer At Shortstop

Replacing Jose Reyes was never going to be easy, but with Ruben Tejada’s fielding prowess if he could hit just a little that would be acceptable to the Mets. Perhaps that should read, “former fielding prowess.’’

TEJADA: What's the problem?

TEJADA: What’s the problem?

Trouble is, he’s not hitting or fielding. He’s not even just holding his own; he’s been poor at both, actually terrible. Tejada has committed six errors in 13 games – a pace for just under 80 – and the Mets have already lost a couple of games directly attributed to his defense. It matters little if David Wright believes he’s a Gold Glove caliber shortstop. What matters is if Tejada can catch the ball, and if he does, keep it out of the stands.

Both Tejada’s glove and arm have been erratic. It was a throwing error Tuesday night that opened the door for a late-inning collapse. His throwing has been especially poor. Is Tejada going Steve Sax or Chuck Knoblauch on us?

Yes, it was cold and miserable, and yes, the pitchers needed to regroup to get the following hitters, but that doesn’t change the fact Tejada’s defense is hurting the Mets and they have little answers.

They would like to bring up Omar Quintanilla, but would need to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Wilmer Flores is on the 40-man roster, but the Mets don’t think he’s ready, otherwise a Flores-for-Tejada swap would be considered. The Mets certainly don’t want to bring up Flores to have him languish on the bench.

Neither Collins nor Tejada blamed the error totally on the weather, but both said it was a contributing factor because the cold made gripping the ball difficult. News Flash: It’s not going to get better tonight or tomorrow.

Blaming the weather might be easier to accept if Tejada hasn’t been so awful this season. What’s wrong with him? Was last year a fluke? Is there an injury we don’t know about?

Whatever the reason, his current play is unacceptable and wouldn’t be tolerated if the Mets had a ready backup. If Tejada continues at this rate and the Mets tank in the second half, perhaps they should consider force-feeding the position to Flores or go shortstop shopping in the offseason.

After all, according to the Mets they will be ready to spend and contend next season. They can’t be competitive with a hole on the left side of the infield. Will they need to add a shortstop to their list?

ON DECK:  Game preview and lineups.

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Apr 13

Mets Notes: Frigid Temps Fire Up Mets Offense

OK, I was wrong, the Mets should play in 30-degree weather all time, where their record in those conditions is probably better than that of the Jets.

It was a wild game last night and I wouldn’t be surprised if SNY’s ratings spiked for those who tuned in to watch the train wreck of playing in Antarctica, where the only things missing were penguins and Kate Upton frolicking on top of the dugouts between innings.

I admit, the weather made me curious, but that went away when it became apparent they weren’t going to call it. Most likely they played on because the forecast for Sunday is rain all day.

Several things caught my attention last night, among them:

* How does Jon Niese feel today? When it is hard to grip the ball pitchers tend to compensate by overthrowing which taxes the arm. He said he didn’t have a good grip and his command was off. We’ll see.

* The Mets played well because they were warmed by the fire that is John Buck. He’s on a historic start. He will catch Matt Harvey this afternoon, count on it. However, if they play Sunday he should DH as to rest him while keeping his bat in the lineup.

* Speaking of lineups, Jordany Valdespin needs to play until he cools off. Never mind the left-hander today, keep him in there and give him a chance to stay in a groove. Valdespin has never been a full-time player. It’s time to find out.

* Ike Davis doesn’t have to look any further than Lucas Duda for an example of what he should be doing at the plate. Duda hasn’t been Ted Williams, but lately he’s about patience and waiting for his pitch. Take the walks, cut the strikeouts, and you’ll make the pitcher come to you. If it was easy, everybody could do it. Duda is and Davis isn’t.

* Ruben Tejada had a few gems in the field, and a play, well, not so good. However, he’s a talented glove who’ll eventually settle into a good fielding zone.

* Scott Atchison, who had a bad elbow, never should have pitched last night. He didn’t need that kind of work. Let’s keep an eye on him, too.

* David Wright entered the game in a slump and ended it hot. Still no homers, but he drove the ball and came through with runners on base. That had been missing.

* Bad news about Jose Reyes, who severely sprained his ankle and could be out for up to three months. The karma hasn’t been kind to Reyes since leaving the Mets.

The Mets played a terrific game under horrible conditions. The best sign is they kept focus and didn’t allow the conditions to beat them. It definitely was something they can build off of.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 08

Mets Should Consider Mike Baxter At Leadoff

Six games into the season and the Mets have used three different leadoff hitters. Evidently, there are answers to be found.

One who should get a longer look is Mike Baxter, who started Saturday and reached base three times on two hits and a walk.

BAXTER: The catch that saved Santana. (AP)

BAXTER: The catch that saved Santana. (AP)

A lead off hitter needs to get on base, and if not then take the count as deep as possible to give the following hitters a chance to learn what they can of the pitcher. Baxter usually runs up the pitch count, and if he plays a full game can see as many as a dozen pitches. That’s an in-game scouting report to those following him in the order.

Little League coaches like to say, “a walk is as good as a hit,’’ and there are times it is the same in the major leagues.

“He takes a base on balls,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “If he was a genuine base-stealer, he’d be dangerous. You look up, and he’s got a .375 on-base. It seems like he’s on first base all of the time.’’

Actually, Baxter’s career on-base percentage is .360, but Collins’ point is well taken. It is an on-base percentage representative of a productive leadoff hitter, as good as they received from Jose Reyes.

The stereotypical leadoff hitter is a base stealer, the kind the Mets enjoyed with Reyes early in his career. However, Wade Boggs didn’t steal many bases and hit .321 batting leadoff in over 900 games in his career.

They all can’t be Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock or Maury Wills.

Although the game has changed and there isn’t an emphasis on base stealing as there once was, the basic fundamental of a lead off hitter has always been the same, which is get on base to set the table for the run-producers.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis was penciled in as the leadoff hitter going into spring training, but has a propensity for striking out. He is still very much a work in progress. Other candidates Collin Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin never had full seasons as a starters.

Cowgill has homered twice and if he continues to flash power he might be needed lower in the order. Valdespin is fast, but can be an out-of-control free swinger. He doesn’t figure to last long at that position, and as a defensive liability, probably won’t get many starting opportunities.

Baxter has a decent glove – Johan Santana wouldn’t have his no-hitter without him – but has never had a full time chance.

So, as long as Collins is searching for answers, Baxter is worthy of an opportunity.

ON DECK: Contrasting pitchers Matt Harvey and Roy Halladay.

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