Sep 29

Mets Matters: Braves Prez John Schuerholz Tells It Like It Is

You have to love Braves president John Schuerholz, the architect as general manager of Atlanta’s spectacular playoff run.

He’s always been a straight shooter and last night during the Chipper Jones’ ceremony said something you don’t hear from Major League Baseball executives when he called Hank Aaron, “the true Major League Baseball home run champion.’’

Finally, an executive with the guts to put the steroid mess in its proper light. Baseball cherishes its records and the home run records – career and single season – are the most revered.

We all know Barry Bonds used steroids, and like Mark McGwire, will be shunned by the Hall of Fame voters. He won’t get mine unless there’s a drastic revision in the process.

The Hall of Fame is a baseball museum honoring its history, and history is sometimes messy. If there was a provision where on the player’s plaque there was a notation he used PEDs, I’d be more inclined to vote for him.

Until then: No.

Bravo to Schuerholz for telling it like it is.

Niese to have heart procedure: Jon Niese, who pitched brilliantly last night to earn his career high 13th victory, said he’ll have a heart procedure at the Cleveland Clinic to correct a rapid heartbeat that resurfaced in June.

Niese said after the game he wants to build off this season.

“I’m never satisfied with the number I put up,’’ Niese said. “With what R.A. (Dickey) has been doing this year, having a season like that is something to look forward to.’’

Niese said the next step is to reach 200 innings, 15 victories and increase his starts total (he had 30).

Parnell will close out season: Frank Francisco is finished for the year with elbow tendinitis and Bobby Parnell will be the closer for the remaining five games.

Parnell has the stuff to be a closer, but has spit the bit in every opportunity he’s been given. There’s nothing wrong with his velocity, but there are times when his fastball flattens out and becomes easier to hit.

Duda flashes power: Coming out of spring training there was a lot of optimism surrounding Lucas Duda’s power potential.

He has the strength to reach 30, but will finish with at least half that number. He hit his 15th last night, a three-run blast to beat Tim Hudson.

Even more impressive than the distance was that Duda was behind 1-2 in the count, but worked it full.

“Obviously I can improve in every aspect,’’ Duda told reporters last night. “There’s not really like a number I can put on it. Obviously it wasn’t the season I wanted to have — getting sent down and things like that.’’

Sep 28

Mets Matters: Last Time Facing Chipper Jones

The Mets are in Atlanta tonight to start a three-game series against the Braves and long-time nemesis Chipper Jones.

Jones has taken his farewell tour among National League parks and has been given numerous gifts ranging from a pop-art painting of Shea Stadium from the Mets, a surfboard from the Padres, and maybe the best of all, an autographed Stan Musial jersey from the Cardinals.

The Braves will honor him prior to tonight’s game and he’ll have three more shots at tormenting the Mets.

Jones will go down as one of the top four switch hitters in history, along with Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray (both over 500 homers) and Pete Rose (the career hits leader).

He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Niese starts for Mets: Jonathan Niese will make his final start of the season. The pre-season goal was 15 victories, but Niese stands at 12-9 with a very respectable 3.49 ERA, and an improved 1.18 WHIP (from his career of 1.36).

He has a very good 152-46 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, but needs to cut down on homers allowed (21).

Perhaps most importantly, Niese will end the season injury free with 30 starts.

Gee goes home: Dillon Gee is at his off-season Fort Worth, Texas, home today, having been sent home by the club after the Citi Field 2012 finale.

Gee threw a bullpen session Monday, his first time on the mound since July 13, when he had surgery to repair an artery in his pitching shoulder that caused numbness in his arm.

Gee said he had never thrown off a mound this soon after an extended down period and came away pleased.

“All I wanted to do was see how much I could build up before the end of the season,” Gee said. “And, to be honest with you, normally I’m not on the mound this early. So to be up on the mound this early and feel pretty good is encouraging. That was a goal.’’

It was important for the Mets to see Gee throw before winter, even if it was only 25 pitches so they could get a feel of his physical status.

Gee said he’ll start working out immediately after the season and begin throwing in December, as he does every year. That there are no restrictions on him is very encouraging.

Citi Field, 2012, numbers: The Mets finished 36-45 at home, a number that must at least be reversed if they are to become regarded as a contender. They scored 287 runs, their fewest at home since 1994, when they scored 235 runs. They did homer 67 times, their most at home since opening the park, but were outhomered by five.

Sep 27

Mets Matters: The Home Season Finale Today

There’s always a twinge of sadness prior to the last home game of the season. It represents finality and dreams lost.
There was little optimism coming out of spring training, but the Mets created interest, relevancy and excitement for the better part of three months. More importantly, they created optimism for a fan base that had none.
I don’t know why, but the off button was hit in the last series of the first half when they lost two of three to the Cubs, including getting pasted that last Sunday. Something just happened that was more than injuries to Dillon Gee and Johan Santana. It was as if a cloud of listlessness consumed them.
Sandy Alderson rattled off a bunch of numbers the other night. The one that was most important to me was pitches faced per at-bat. The Mets were no longer patient, no longer hitting with two outs, no longer using the whole field. They were consumed, top to bottom, with poor fundamentals.
Then the starting pitching became spotty for awhile and the bullpen imploded. As you watched July burn into August you could see on a daily basis the season slipping away. The low point? Perhaps that extra inning loss at Washington when they came from behind only to lose two leads late. By the time of the 16-1 Philly debacle, the competitive part of the season was long gone.
Once they dipped a couple of games below .500 I didn’t think they could recover. And, doing nothing at the trade deadline was another definite sign. Alderson wanted to wait and see, and what he saw was a team in decline. By then, it was too late.
The rest has been hell to watch, and I don’t need any statistics to know I was watching bad baseball. Really bad baseball.
Well, there are six games on the road after today, and it’s for Mets junkies only, much like the second half.
The Mets had a feel-good moment last night with a strong effort from Jeremy Hefner, who gave up seven runs in his previous outing. At least he leaves this season with a better taste in his mouth.
David Wright has the club hit record and today R.A. Dickey goes for 20. Wright, who had a great first half struggled in the second and is righting himself before winter. Dickey, except for a string of a few starts has been the most consistent player the team has had.
We’ll be watching today rooting for Dickey, but wondering how aggressive the Mets will be in bringing them back. If the Mets had a sense of theatre, they’d announce extensions for both today.
They won’t.
Sep 23

Mets Matters: Dickey Closing In On 20

I root for good story lines and people, and that’s R.A. Dickey. I was hoping Terry Collins would let him finish but he was gassed. Winning 20 games has become almost obsolete these days, but Dickey has a chance.
Winning 20 indicates perseverance, talent and a little bit of luck, too. To accomplish it on a team that could almost finish 20 games below .500 makes it even more remarkable.
Switching his turn this weekend will give him a chance to do it at home Thursday in the Citi Field finale. If he does it, that’s a positive send off for the winter.
More Mets Matters:
* Lucas Duda was pulled for not hustling on a pop-up in Friday night’s game, less than 24 hours after Collins intimated the Mets had quit. It was apparent Duda didn’t get the message, so good for Collins to put his foot down.
These guys, even the young ones such as Duda get paid a lot of money to play a game. There’s never any excuse for not hustling. I don’t know how many times a Met failed to hustle this season. Duda certainly wasn’t the first. Ruben Tejada has done it several times, I know. But, for the remainder of this season and next year, Collins must have a kick ass attitude when it comes to not hustling and botching fundamentals.
That’s the only way the culture will change.
* Closer Frank Francisco has elbow tendinitis but is available. Why not shut him down for the rest of the season and do some experimenting the final week? It’s not as if Francisco is going to show us something we don’t already know.
* Jason Bay homered yesterday. Collins said his power and bat speed are still there and they’ll continue to search for answers. It’s been three years and the Mets have gotten nothing from Bay for the $66 million they are paying him. If the Mets are to start fresh next season, releasing him if he has a poor spring training is the best way to go. I like Bay’s hustle and defense, but he’s got to hit.

Sep 20

Mets Matters: R.A. Dickey Switched In Rotation

Trying to get the most out of R.A. Dickey, both on the field and at the gate, the Mets moved him from Sunday’s start to Saturday. The switch allows him to start the home finale next Thursday instead of in Atlanta the next night.

It might not be much with the way the Mets are drawing, but he could be going for his 20th win in the finale which would be a good send off.

Chris Young flips with Dickey and will start Sunday against the Marlins.

Dickey, 18-6 with a 2.67 ERA, will get three chances to win 20 games. About his Cy Young chances? The Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez might be ranked ahead of him, but working in his favor is being 12 games over .500 for a team approaching 20 under overall.

As somebody who has voted for the major awards, pitchers on losing teams get more consideration for the Cy Young than MVP candidates on losers.

The Mets said several times they anticipate signing Dickey to a contract extension.

More Mets Matters:

* Jordany Valdespin was tossed last night for arguing a strike three call. Although Valdespin has been electric as a home-run bat off the bench, he does have somewhat of a short fuse and has loafed several times. That’s something young players can’t afford to do.

I’m figuring Valdespin will come to spring training, but can’t see him winning a starting job.

* Jeremy Hefner (2-6, 4.99) hopes to avert the sweep by the Phillies tonight, going against rookie Tyler Cloyd (1-1, 4.95). Hefner will compete for a job in spring training, but will likely open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

* Tonight’s game will be broadcast on 1130 AM as WFAN will carry the Giants’ game in Carolina. With the Giants on local TV and the Yankees in a pennant race, I’m curious as to tonight’s crowd at Citi Field.

* Some awful numbers: The Mets are 4-25 at home and have scored three or fewer runs in 15 straight games. In contrast, the 1962 Mets, losers of 120 games, won 10 games after the break in a similar point in the season. Yes, they are amazing.

* Frank Francisco has elbow tendinitis. Francisco does nothing for me and if the last few games in a lost season are for learning, I’d like to see somebody else get the chance to close a few games. What would it hurt?

* David Wright is five hits away from tying Ed Kranepool for the franchise lead in hits with 1,418. Although I still believe Wright will be re-signed, I’d hate for him to fall short and then go elsewhere. It would be a shame.