Mar 11

Jordany Valdespin Making Impact

Jordany Valdespin is not an easy person to like, and especially hard to cheer for. Ask a question and he’ll often mumble an indifferent and inaudible answer.

VALDESPIN: Decked by Verlander (AP)

VALDESPIN: Decked by Verlander (AP)

He exudes confidence on the field, but crosses the line with a brash attitude, tendency to showboat and not always hustle. Off the field he wears a bright red baseball cap reading “JV 1.’’ He often carries himself  with an “I own the world,” persona that goes beyond confidence, so much that manager Terry Collins has warned him to tone it down a notch.

Last year, Valdespin fell out of favor with the Mets despite hitting five pinch-hit homers. He didn’t help himself in the offseason when he was suspended in winter ball. Even so, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis out with a bruised left knee and Daniel Murphy sidelined with a strained right side, Valdespin is being given every opportunity to make the roster in the outfield or as a second baseman.

Valdespin has produced, but with a caveat: He plays to his own soundtrack.

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Mar 08

Bobby Parnell Looks Good In Mets’ Defeat; Dillon Gee Wild

It is too soon to say much definitive about Terry Collins’ 2013 Mets other than it has the makings of a long year.

Twice this afternoon, the frustrated Mets’ manager answered seemingly innocuous questions about his roster with a curt, “It is March 8.’’

PARNELL: Making strides.

PARNELL: Making strides.

One silver thread out of today’s 3-2 loss to Detroit was reliever Bobby Parnell, who pitched a 1-2-3 sixth as he’s settling in to the closer job with Frank Francisco destined to open the season on the disabled list with a sore right elbow.

Parnell could always throw hard – sometimes in triple digits – but had trouble with command of his secondary pitches. That wasn’t the case against the Tigers.

“My curveball is working really well,’’ said Parnell. “Last year, I was inconsistent with my curveball. Today I was able to able to throw it for strikes early in the count.’’

Parnell was aggressive and attacked the hitters, and perhaps most importantly threw his curveball in counts where the hitter would normally be expecting a fastball.

“His breaking ball has really improved,’’ Collins said. “I loved his demeanor. He’s going after hitters like he knows he’s going to get them out.’’

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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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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.

Nov 14

Dickey Leads Cy Young Race; Verlander In AL

CAN DICKEY’S INCREDIBLE SEASON CONTINUE?

Baseball’s annual postseason awards continue this evening with the announcement of the Cy Young winners, a moment that could thrust the Mets into proud, yet potentially embarrassing moment.

Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey could be in position of winning the award and then being traded if a contract extension isn’t reached.

Only the Mets.

NATIONAL LEAGUE: The Mets’ feel good story this summer that was Dickey has a chance to get better in a few hours if he’s able to join Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as franchise winners of the Cy Young Award.

The man who scaled a mountain last winter climbed another this season when he literally carried the team on his shoulders to go 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, and he did it with an abdominal tear that required surgery.

Dickey’s competition for the award, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, pitching for winning teams. Dickey’s Mets were 14 games under .500 with a winning percentage of .457. Dickey’s winning percentage was an amazing .769.

There aren’t enough ways to say how incredible that is.

The Mets didn’t hit for the second half and their bullpen kicked away leads all year. There were nights when he did it all by himself.

“To win 20 on a club with struggles is pretty big,’’ Mets manager Terry Collins said.  “Especially during the times we weren’t hitting, he was still winning games.’’

Dickey’s ERA was second to Kershaw’s 2.53; his 20 wins were second to Gonzalez’s 21; but, he was first in strikeouts (230), innings (233.2), complete games (five), shutouts (three) and quality starts (27).

Other than a knuckleball bias, I can’t see Dickey not winning.

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Things might be more up in the air in the American League between Detroit’s Justin Verlander, Tampa Bay’s David Price and the Angels’ Jered Weaver.

Both Price and Weaver had the type of seasons worth of a Cy Young, with perhaps loftier numbers, but Verlander is the best pitcher in the sport and could become the first repeater since Pedro Martinez  (1999-2000).

Price and Weaver were 20-game winners, but Verlander dominated again and took his team into the playoffs.

My thinking is Verlander is the incumbent who pitched well enough to win again. Until somebody blows away the field, he should get it, because repeating excellence might be the single most difficult thing in sports.