Jan 29

Why I Am Pulling For Flores

I don’t know Wilmer Flores well, but pulling for him to have a breakout season. And, I wanted this before Sandy Alderson foolishly cracked wise on him last weekend.

There are several reasons why, beginning with my penchant for rooting for the underdog. All those signings and trades people have advocated the Mets should make probably have made him uncomfortable, despite his well-grounded response to the rumors.

FLORES: Hope he does well.

FLORES: Hope he does well.

“You hear people talking all the time: ‘Is this guy going to be a shortstop? Can he play shortstop? Can he not?’ ’’ Flores told Newsday. “You know what? I can’t listen to that. I want to play the way I’ve been playing. … I’m not going to say I don’t hear things. But I try not to because I know what I can do, man. Honestly, I know what I can do.’’

That’s a great approach for somebody entering a season the first time as the frontrunner.

Playing Major League Baseball is hard enough without your boss dissing you. And, Alderson isn’t the only one. The Internet is loaded with comments endorsing just about anybody over Flores.

I like Flores because he works hard to succeed despite the criticism. He wants to do well and how can you not like that?

There’s criticism he can’t hit on the Major League level, but seriously, how do we know because he’s never been given a chance?

There’s also criticism his defense is suspect, but often over-looked is the aspect of positioning and pitchers working to hitters in such a way where the ball will be hit toward Flores.

Over the past few years Flores wasn’t given a real chance by the Mets. It appears that has changed, and for one, I hope he does well.

 

Jan 28

Mets, Mejia Avoid Arbitration

As expected, the Mets avoided arbitration with reliever Jenrry Mejia, who agreed to a one-year, $2.595 million contract this evening.

Mejia, whose role has bounced from the rotation and bullpen during his Mets’ tenure, assumed the closer job after Bobby Parnell was injured.

Manager Terry Collins, despite not knowing Parnell’s physical status, already anointed him as the closer in mid-December even though Mejia saved 28 games with a 2.72 ERA last year.

It was a premature announcement that thwarts the concept of competition. Playing the good soldier, Mejia said he doesn’t care, but how could he not?

 

Jan 27

Mets Rotation: A Difference Between Depth And Potential

There’s a distinct difference between depth and potential when it comes to the Mets’ rotation. There’s a lot to like about their potential, but you should be careful not to equate the names with depth.

Matt Harvey, Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz give you nine names, but also nine questions.

Harvey: How will he respond from elbow surgery?

Colon: He’s 41 and the Mets are trying to trade him. If they do, will anybody give them the 200 innings he gave the Mets last year?

Wheeler: Will he improve his command and thereby increase his innings?

deGrom: Can he encore his Rookie of the Year season?

Gee: Will he be gone by Opening Day?

Niese: Will he live up to his expectations and stay healthy?

Montero: Can he improve what has been keeping him back, which is his control?

Syndergaard: Can you count on anybody who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues?

Matz: Can you count on anybody who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues?

Sure, the best-case scenario is to have all these answered in the positive, but that rarely happens. Hopefully, these issues can be resolved and the Mets can count on these guys to be moved in the depth category.

I asked nine questions about potential Mets’ starters for 2015. Let me ask one more: Who among you haven’t wondered the same?

Jan 25

Alderson Takes Jab At Flores

Sandy Alderson thinks he’s funny, but he’s not. He once joked about driving to spring training to save money for the financially distressed Mets.

He joked about not putting together an outfield, and now took a poke at the shortstop situation and Wilmer Flores.

On Saturday night at the annual Baseball Writers Association dinner in New York, when presenting an award to Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., Alderson reportedly said: “Mets fans have been waiting all winter for me to introduce a shortstop.’’

Yes, there’s a touch of humor there, but why take a jab at one of your players for a cheap laugh? How do you think Flores feels? It’s bad enough he has to go through every shortstop rumor, but now is the butt of joke by his boss.

When Alderson says things like this, he’s not only poking fun at Flores, but the Mets’ organization – his employers – and himself. Indirectly, he’s also poking fun at Mets fans, dismissing their feelings and opinions.

 

Jan 24

Missing Ernie Banks

This one hurts. Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub,’’ passed away last night at 83.

Unquestionably, one of the highlights about covering baseball was meeting the game’s greats from when I first started following the sport. Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Pete Rose, Al Kaline, Tom Seaver and, of course, Banks.

Mets’ fans, of course, should remember Banks from the 1969 season when he was one of the few likable members of the Cubs. Some might actually have felt sympathy for Banks as he missed the playoffs for yet, another year.

Banks was the longtime face and persona of the Cubs. He was a Wrigley Field fixture who was a pleasant and kind visitor to opposing dugouts. Players loved to shake his hand and listen to his stories.

And, Banks loved to hold court, whether for a group or an individual. If you had a question, or just wanted to say hello, he would greet you and make one feel welcomed.

We’re in an age where too many of today’s athletes prefer to distance themselves from the public that adores them. That was never Banks. People liked him because he genuinely liked people.

The baseball world is a little poorer today without him.