Feb 14

Spring Wright Of Passage: Oh, Say Can You “C”

john franco captain

It’s been eight years since the last time a Met donned a “C” on his uniform. Met Hall of Famer John Franco was the last player to serve as a Mets captain; his reign lasting from 2001-2004.

In what seems to have become an annual ritual for the last 3-4 years, like placing a bet on Kentucky Derby, the subject of naming David Wright the team captain came up once again. This time it reared it’s head during manager Terry Collin’s state of the Mets address held on Tuesday at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie.

Interestingly enough, Collins sounded like the whole matter was overblown and tried to make light of it. ”He knows he’s the guy,” Collins said. “He knows he’s the man here. This is his team. He’s the face of it. He’s the captain.”

And then, with a twinkle in his eye, Collins said, “Does he need a ‘C’ on his jersey? Well No. 2 doesn’t have a ‘C’ on his jersey.”

I love this guy… Of course he was referring to Derek Jeter, but more importantly Collins seems to share the same disdain for that damned “C” as I do. I thought it looked ridiculous on Franco, and I thought it looked even worse on Gary carter and Keith Hernandez.

You want to ceremoniously name David Wright captain? Go ahead and do it, it makes no difference to me. But please, for God’s sake, no “C” on the uniform. I think it’s so cheesy ( I hate using that word) and it ruins the look of what I think are the best uniforms in baseball.

“Are we going to have a press conference to make David Wright the captain?, said Collins. “I don’t see one coming, but that’s not saying it’s not going to happen.”

O Captain. My Captain

O Captain. My Captain

Dec 28

Top Ten Mets Stories For 2012: Dickey, Wright, Santana And Others

The clock is winding down on 2013, which, if you’re a Mets fan is a good thing because it was another fruitless season at Citi Field.

Before we kiss the year good-bye, or as Gary Cohen would say, “It’s outta here!’’ let’s go back and look at the top ten Mets stories of this very forgettable season:

1. TRADING R.A. DICKEY: My argument for it being the top Mets story is it defines and underscores what is going on with this franchise.

Dickey had arguably one of the most remarkable seasons for a Mets pitcher in winning 20 games and the Cy Young Award with a knuckleball, and as it would turn out, pitching hurt.

Dickey was a feel-good and inspirational story, and despite roughly a $5 million difference, the Mets dealt him for prospects – the key one coming off an injury – that are two or three years away.

The message sent wasn’t Happy New Year, but this team is still not ready for prime time.

2. RESIGNING DAVID WRIGHT: They were supposed to sign both Wright and Dickey to tell its disgruntled fan base that the Mets were building for the future.

Wright was imperative because he’s the most popular Met and the face of the franchise. We shall see how the Mets will build on extending Wright. The first move was to deal Dickey.

3. DICKEY’S INCREDIBLE SUMMER: Once thought of as a stop-gap fifth starter, Dickey pitched to elite status this summer in winning the Cy Young Award.

However, Dickey was more than a pitcher, but a symbol of persistence who could identify with the common fan. More than any other Met, Dickey is us and showed his guile and grit every fifth day.

4. JOHAN SANTANA’S NO-HITTER: Perhaps in other seasons it would rank higher, but it came with several asterisks.

First, it was tainted, preserved by a blown umpire’s call that ironically robbed former Met Carlos Beltran. Then, there were the 134 pitches as the game was extended by the bad call.

Santana followed the no-hitter with a career-high six straight losses and again ended the season on the disabled list.

Santana has pitched well in spots, but it will always be remembered that for the $134 million contract he never pitched in a playoff game for the Mets and frequently was injured.

The last three years was a matter of merely counting down to the end of his contract.

5. JASON BAY BOMBS OUT: Santana’s contract might be arguably the worst FA deal doled out by the Mets. If not him, then definitely Bay, who between injuries gave the Mets no production.

The Mets were eventually able to buy out Bay on a differed basis, which considering what he gave the team, really doesn’t leave them in a hole for 2013.

As with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, it was best to move on.

6. ALDERSON SITS AT THE BREAK: After letting Jose Reyes leave without an offer, GM Sandy Alderson vowed the team would have the resources to add pieces at the trade deadline if it were competitive.

Before the break the Mets once were eight games over .500 and 46-40 at the break. However, cracks in the bullpen were forming and Alderson did nothing. By the time he was inclined to make a trade, the second half-collapse had begun and it was too late.

7. SECOND-HALF COLLAPSE: At one point the Mets went 15 games at home in which it scored three or fewer runs. Hard to fathom, but true.

Dickey and Ike Davis’ strong second half is what the Mets needed to struggle to finish 14 games under .500.

The second-half collapse included Santana’s six-game losing streak, Dillon Gee’s season-ending injury and the bullpen’s implosion.

8. IKE DAVIS HITS 32 HOMERS: It was frequently written Davis has 30-homer potential. Now, it is true and he’s the singular most power threat in the line-up as Wright’s homer production has dropped and Lucas Duda is still a question.

There were trade rumors of Boston having interest, but with the Mets basically void of power, Davis isn’t going anywhere.

9. METS SURVIVE REYES’ DEPARTURE: One of the more overriding issues with the Mets entering the season was how it would adjust to losing Jose Reyes.

Ruben Tejada more than ably filled the role as the Mets proved they could lose with or without Reyes. Tejada won’t become an offensive match to Reyes, but he was more than adequate and definitely was on a par defensively.

10. TEAM DOES NOTHING AT WINTER MEETINGS: The Mets didn’t counter losing Dickey with anything productive.

In fact, the Mets end 2012 in worse shape than it started the season. In addition to the normal injury-related questions to their pitching, the Mets now need to add a starter to replace Dickey.

The Mets aren’t likely to bring back Scott Hairston, who was a role player for them in the first place and have three questions in the outfield. There’s also concerns in the bullpen and at catcher.

So, the biggest story for the 2012 Mets is they’ve gotten worse.

Nov 30

Report: David Wright Agrees To Mets’ Offer

It appears all over but the autograph.

David Wright reportedly agreed to a contract that makes him the highest paid Met ever and keep him with the franchise through at least 2020.

WRIGHT: Agrees to deal. (AP)

Wright said he wants to retire a Met and this will do it. The Mets already picked up a $16 million option for next season and will add seven more years at $122 million. He’ll be 38 when the contract ends. After that, depending on how he feels, he could play until he’s 40 then ride off into the sunset as a club ambassador like Tom Seaver.

Will the Mets overpay for Wright? Definitely, if based on his production the past four years, but he’s valuable to the Mets on levels that transcend what he does on the field.

The Mets’ credibility with their dwindling fan base is at a low following a NLCS Game 7 loss in 2006 and subsequent late-season collapses the next two years; that they are on their third manager and second GM since 2008; the Madoff scandal that lead to $50 million slashed from the payroll; that no contract offer was made to Jose Reyes last winter; and they made no effort to improve themselves despite a 46-40 record at the break.

With four straight losing seasons, what’s the incentive to buy a ticket or watch on TV?

It would have been next to nothing had Wright been traded or left as a free agent next season.

Wright is the current face of the franchise and might arguably be the Mets’ best position player in their 50-year history. Last season he became their all-time leader in hits, runs, walks and RBI and made his sixth All-Star Game.

When he’s done Wright will be in the position he always wanted, which was to spend his career with the same organization like Cal Ripken and Chipper Jones.

Of the top five players named on the Hall of Fame ballot – Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio – only one, Biggio, played his entire career with the same team. (Biggio’s teammate also played his major league career with the Astros, but was drafted by Boston.)

I wrote yesterday that signing Wright means nothing if the Mets don’t add around him and I stand by that sentiment. Keeping Wright lends an appearance of stability, that if the Mets are willing to spend, it should attract future free agents.

Getting Wright done now enables the Mets to concentrate on R.A. Dickey, whose $5 million option for 2013 was picked up. Dickey said signing Wright would play a big part in his desire to return. Dickey also said he will not negotiate during the season.

Perhaps more importantly, it should signal to the younger players – Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Ike Davis – that they intend not to have a revolving door every winter and being a career Met has value.

We shall see.

Nov 15

Dickey Wins, Wants To Stay … Now Keep Him.

R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young Award last night, and emphatically reiterated his desire to remain with the Mets. That’s a good sign, and I have the feeling Dickey won’t hold out for the last dollar.

THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING R.A. DICKEY

He realizes the Mets gave him what probably was his last opportunity and there is a sense of loyalty. On the flip side, he realizes this will be his last chance at a pay-day.

“I love the Mets,” Dickey said last night. “And that hasn’t changed from the first opportunity I got against the Washington Nationals in 2010. There’s a part of me that really wants to be loyal to that.”

It is imperative the Mets re-sign Dickey for three reasons: 1) what he gives them on the field, 2) what he gives the organization and means to the fan base off the field, and 3) the perception it gives other potential free agents.

It is clear what he gives the team on and off the field, but signing him sends the significant message to other free agents that the Mets aren’t fooling around and their rebuilding is in a significant stage.

Dickey wants to be a part of that process.

“I think [Sandy Alderson] has a great plan for the future of the New York Mets,” Dickey said. “I’m sure it’s going to require a little vision, I’m sure it’s going to require a lot of hard work. But anything worth having – that’s what’s required. I’m on board, and I want to be part of the solution here.”

The feeling is mutual with Dickey and the public. New York gives him opportunities he otherwise wouldn’t have in other markets.  That works in the Mets’ favor.

“I love the fan base, my family loves being a New York Met, being in New York and all the stuff it has to offer outside of baseball,” he said. “It’s given me the platform to do things that far transcend the game. Whether it’s pouring myself into a charity I am really passionate about, or writing a memoir that I feel like needed to be written. All these things, I don’t know if I could’ve done them if it weren’t for New York and being a New York Met.

“I am aware of that, and I am appreciative of that. Because of that, I like being a Met, and I wouldn’t mind finishing my career as a Met.”

In a reality check mentioned for the benefit of the Wilpons, “wouldn’t mind finishing my career as a Met,” is not the same thing as willing to sign at any price.

Dickey will cost some significant money, and the Mets must decide if he’s worth it. That decision would be a no-brainer if Dickey had previous seasons like 2012, but he hasn’t. The knuckleball puts less strain on the arm, so he theoretically will be able to pitch into his 40′s. But, they must also gamble he isn’t a one-year wonder.

 

 

 

Nov 02

2012 Mets Player Review: Josh Thole

 

JOSH THOLE, C

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: For the second straight year, the Mets had high expectations for Josh Thole. When Thole broke in with the Mets in 2010, they liked his patience at the plate, ability to go to the opposite field and how he handled the staff. So somebody that inexperienced at the position he did remarkably well. Perhaps they overrated him as he was one of the few bright spots in a dismal season. However, he regressed in 2011, both offensively and defensively. Considering his small major league window, the Mets were counting on him to regain his plate presence, both in working the count and going the opposite way. As he developed physically, there was also the hope of him hitting for more power. Defensively, his familiarity with the staff created the hope he’d improve in calling a game. Other weaknesses included throwing out base stealers and blocking balls in the dirt.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Thole regressed this summer as he did in 2011. There were too many wasted at-bats, a lack of patience and little production. Thole hit .234 with one homer, 21 RBI, and a low .294 on-base percentage and a miniscule .584 OPS. In 104 games he had only 75 hits. He should have produced more simply by accident. He also struck out 50 times to only 27 walks. In comparison back-up catcher Kelly Shoppach homered three times with 10 RBI in 28 games with the Mets. Defensively, GM Sandy Alderson pointed to R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese as an endorsement of Thole’s game-calling, but he conveniently omitted his 18 passed balls (mostly with Dickey) and that he threw out only 17 base stealers in 74 attempts while weakness in throwing out potential base stealers for a paltry 23 percent.

LOOKING AT 2013: The Mets have a myriad of holes and catching is one of them. Shoppach contributed a little, but not to where he’s high on the Mets’ bring-back list. Because the Mets have little on the minor league level and more pressing needs, there’s not a high priority to replace Thole, who made $498,000 in 2012 and is eligible for salary arbitration. Even if Thole wins in arbitration, he won’t break the penny-conscious Mets. Perhaps more than any other Met, Thole has the most to prove. He’s been at this level for four seasons and should have shown considerably more by now. His career numbers are a .261 average, with seven homers and 87 RBI. By now he should do better than that in a single season.

NEXT: Ike Davis