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

Oct 08

Ten Positives From The Mets’ 2012 Season

John Delcos and Joe DeCaro have collaborated before on several projects and are contributors to each other’s blogs. We will be working again this offseason beginning with today’s feature on the Top Ten Positives to take away from the Mets’ overall disappointing season. Tomorrow we’ll examine the Top Ten Negatives. So in no particular order we give you our top ten positives you can take away from the 2012 campaign:

Dickey Has Remarkable Season

R.A. Dickey entered the season as one of the more consistent Mets’ starters over the past two years. Maybe he was a No. 3 starter at best, but with a tantalizing knuckleball emerged as the unquestioned Mets’ ace while going 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, 230 strikeouts and 1.05 WHIP in 233.1 innings. The numbers made for arguably one of the top ten seasons for Mets starter. Dickey also led the NL with five complete games, including consecutive one-hitters in June.-John D.

Wright Holds The Records

Wright is the unquestioned face of the Mets and ends the season as their career hits leader, and first in several other categories. Perhaps, he was the NL’s best player in the first half, but struggled in the second half under the pressures of trying to carry the offense. Wright finished at .306 with 21 homers, 93 RBI, .391 on-base percentage and .492 slugging percentage. GM Sandy Alderson said re-signing him and Dickey were the off-season priorities.-John D.

Tejada Replaces Reyes

One on the key concerns entering the season was whether Ruben Tejada would be able to replace All-Star shortstop. Reyes can be a dynamic offensive presence and a dropoff was to be expected. Tejada played an outstanding shortstop and had three hits in the season finale at Miami to finish at .289 (Reyes finished at .287), giving the Mets more production than they could have expected. Will Tejada surpass Reyes as a player? Probably not. But, did he give them one less thing to worry about this offseason? Yes.- John D.

Madoff Settlement Comes Early

The Bernie Madoff scandal was a black cloud over the franchise for two years and threatened to be so again this year. The Mets’ financial distress was instrumental in the team cutting ties with Reyes and trading Carlos Beltran at last year’s trade deadline. The fear was the possibility of dealing Wright hanging over the team as a storyline in the first half. The Mets received a positive outcome in the Madoff case and won’t have to begin paying for two more years. The Mets still won’t be big spenders this winter, but it could have been a lot worse.-John D.

Harvey Makes Strong First Impression

There was initial debate as to whether Matt Harvey was ready, but he more than dispelled that concern in ten starts where he gave up three runs or less in nine of them and went at least into the sixth in six. Harvey pitched with a guile and poise beyond his years, and statistically was impressive with a 70-26 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and 1.15 WHIP. Harvey was so impressive with his composure that the Mets already penciled him into their 2013 rotation.

Johan’s No-hitter and Whitestone Mike

June 1, 2012 will forever be remembered as the day that New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana tossed the first no-hitter in franchise history. When the Mets ace rallied from a 3-0 count to strike out Cardinals third baseman David Freese to end the game, Met fans everywhere erupted with emotion as 50 years of Mets no-hitter futility had finally come to an end. Santana struck out eight batters as the Mets handily beat St. Louis 8-0, but if not for a spectacular catch in the seventh inning by outfielder Mike Baxter, this story could have had an all too familiar and unhappy ending. However, there was plenty of joy in Mudville on this day.

Scott Hairston Busted Out In 2012

Hairston has produced at a level that far exceeded anything else any Met outfielder did in 2012. His 20 homers ranked third on the team and he enjoyed the most productive season of his nine-year career. With a slugging over .500 and an .803 OPS in just 377 at-bats, he proved to be an absolute steal at his $1.1 million price tag. He’ll fetch a nice payday this Winter and will most likely not be with the Mets, but either way, he provided some nice thrills and some big hits for us in 2012.

Niese Was Very, Very Nice

Some may have questioned the decision to give Niese a five year $25 million dollar extension at the start of the season, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find any doubters now. The Mets’ young left-hander turned in his most solid effort of his career establishing career highs in almost every single pitching category that matters. More importantly than that was the fact he logged a complete season and pitched effectively at the end as he did in the beginning of the season. Niese finished with a 13-9 record and posted an impressive 3.40 ERA and a 1.172 WHIP in 190.2 innings and has entrenched himself as one of the most dependable arms in the front of the rotation.

Ike Davis’ Second Half

It was a tale of two seasons for Ike Davis in 2012. After battling rust from a year-long layoff and suffering the effects of Valley Fever, Davis ended the first half with a slash of .201/.278/.388 in 295 plate appearances. Terry Collins resisted the calls for sending him down to the minors as they had done with Lucas Duda, and Ike rewarded Collins with a huge second half comeback that saw him slug 20 of his 32 home runs while posting an .888 OPS. Davis became an intimidating presence at the plate and his strong finish bodes well for what could truly be a tremendous breakthrough season in 2013. But will that happen in a Mets uniform?

Murphy Proved To Be Capable At Second

Nobody imagined that Daniel Murphy would last the entire season as the Mets everyday second base and yet he did just that while drawing raves from Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson who proclaimed the experiment a success. At the plate Murphy did what he always does and that is hit a ton of doubles (40), make good contact while scoring and driving in a bunch of runs. He finished the season batting .291 and when you compare that to other second baseman in the game, he was in the top third. If nothing else, he makes second base less of an urgent need for now plus increased his trade value to other teams.

Those are the positives as we saw them, and of course there are plenty of negatives as well. We’ll consider those tomorrow.