Apr 16

Reflections Before Mets Play In The Snow

Just because the Mets haven’t played since Saturday, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to talk about in baseball and the sporting world.

Supporting Boston …

Who isn’t disgusted with what happened yesterday at the Boston Marathon? I’ve had my computer bag searched so many times I’ve lost track. Deep down I couldn’t believe the cowards would attack a sporting event. That’s changed, and as with the travel industry, probably forever.

TRAGEDY IN BOSTON (Tweet from Evan Hill)

TRAGEDY IN BOSTON (Tweet from Evan Hill)

Many Boston athletes announced prayers, good wishes and an intent to donate money almost immediately. That’s not surprising, because for all the heat athletes get for operating in a vacuum, most of them are very aware, and willing, to donate their efforts to the communities in which they play.

Among my first thoughts in watching the horrible video, were flashbacks to September 11. I was covering the Yankees at the time and remember how they and the Mets responded.

I remember a sign in Chicago that simply read: “Hate the Yankees, but love New York.’’ I also remember Bobby Valentine managing relief efforts in the parking lot at Shea Stadium.

Of course, who doesn’t remember Mike Piazza’s homer against the Braves in the first sporting event in New York after the attacks.

Boston supported New York after 9/11, and New York should do the same for Boston. Donate blood to the Red Cross earmarked for Boston. Wear a Celtics T-Shirt and Red Sox some time this week, which is a simple acknowledgement of what our fellow Americans are experiencing.

Root against the Red Sox, but love Boston. It is a tremendous city.

Go after Alex Rodriguez

Mets fans should be grateful their team didn’t sign Rodriguez after the 2000 season. They should be happy he is the Yankees’ problem.

Rodriguez admitted using steroids, but only for a three-year period in Texas. That was difficult to believe then, and impossible now.

To me, that Rodriguez attempted to buy the documents from Biogenesis containing his name is as damning as a positive test.

Ryan Braun got off on a technicality and Major League Baseball was embarrassed and has come across as vindictive. Enter Biogenesis, which also has Braun’s name, and an ugly scenario has unfolded.

If Major League Baseball is serious about cleaning up its PED problem, it has to be doubly cautious as to not get stung on a technicality again. And, if they have the evidence, they need to go after him hard.

For the money MLB has made, Bud Selig’s legacy is the steroid scandal. The cheaters are being snubbed at the Hall of Fame entrance, but MLB needs to place an asterisk next the names of the cheaters in the record books.

Doing that, plus working with the Players Association on more severe punishment is a start. That is, if it is really serious.

Eight games not enough …

A common complaint of umpires is not taking into consideration the game circumstances when ejecting pitchers and managers after bean ball incidents.

That should also apply to players in meting out suspensions after rushing the mall.

First of all, Zack Greinke was not throwing at Carlos Quentin last week. Quentin has a tendency of leaning out over the plate and will get plunked. A pitcher does not throw at a hitter on a 3-and-2 count in a close game.

No way was Greinke throwing at Quentin. At least, no one with a sense of an understanding of the game, which Quentin obviously does not. Eight games is not nearly enough. His suspension should last as long as Greinke is injured an unable to pitch.

The weather outside is frightful …

It is currently 34 degrees in Denver with a wind chill of 25. There is a 50 percent chance of rain and 30 percent chance of snow for tonight.

Yet, they will attempt to play the summer game.

There is no way Major League Baseball could have forecast the severity of this weather in Denver, but it should have been aware of the likelihood of it being nasty.

A point I brought up last week bears repeating, and that is April should be reserved for divisional play where make up games can be easily rescheduled as part of double-headers later in the season.

Non-divisional games, like the Yankees in Cleveland and the Mets this week, and interleague games such as the Mets in Denver, is pushing the envelope in the wrong direction.

Apr 13

Mets Notes: Frigid Temps Fire Up Mets Offense

OK, I was wrong, the Mets should play in 30-degree weather all time, where their record in those conditions is probably better than that of the Jets.

It was a wild game last night and I wouldn’t be surprised if SNY’s ratings spiked for those who tuned in to watch the train wreck of playing in Antarctica, where the only things missing were penguins and Kate Upton frolicking on top of the dugouts between innings.

I admit, the weather made me curious, but that went away when it became apparent they weren’t going to call it. Most likely they played on because the forecast for Sunday is rain all day.

Several things caught my attention last night, among them:

* How does Jon Niese feel today? When it is hard to grip the ball pitchers tend to compensate by overthrowing which taxes the arm. He said he didn’t have a good grip and his command was off. We’ll see.

* The Mets played well because they were warmed by the fire that is John Buck. He’s on a historic start. He will catch Matt Harvey this afternoon, count on it. However, if they play Sunday he should DH as to rest him while keeping his bat in the lineup.

* Speaking of lineups, Jordany Valdespin needs to play until he cools off. Never mind the left-hander today, keep him in there and give him a chance to stay in a groove. Valdespin has never been a full-time player. It’s time to find out.

* Ike Davis doesn’t have to look any further than Lucas Duda for an example of what he should be doing at the plate. Duda hasn’t been Ted Williams, but lately he’s about patience and waiting for his pitch. Take the walks, cut the strikeouts, and you’ll make the pitcher come to you. If it was easy, everybody could do it. Duda is and Davis isn’t.

* Ruben Tejada had a few gems in the field, and a play, well, not so good. However, he’s a talented glove who’ll eventually settle into a good fielding zone.

* Scott Atchison, who had a bad elbow, never should have pitched last night. He didn’t need that kind of work. Let’s keep an eye on him, too.

* David Wright entered the game in a slump and ended it hot. Still no homers, but he drove the ball and came through with runners on base. That had been missing.

* Bad news about Jose Reyes, who severely sprained his ankle and could be out for up to three months. The karma hasn’t been kind to Reyes since leaving the Mets.

The Mets played a terrific game under horrible conditions. The best sign is they kept focus and didn’t allow the conditions to beat them. It definitely was something they can build off of.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 12

Mets Must Be Careful If They Trade Wheeler And D’Arnaud

 

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at New York MetsIt is fun to speculate Andre Ethier and Carlos Gonzalez in the Mets’ outfield. I would also take Josh Willingham, but pass on Carl Crawford and Alfonso Soriano. It would take a lot in terms of prospects and cash down the line to make a run at Giancarlo Stanton.

These names have been suggested as outfield possibilities for the Mets, but of all of them, only Willingham in terms of salary and talent they would surrender, makes the most immediate sense.

The Mets claim to have the resources, but we’ve heard that refrain before. Don’t tell us who is out there; tell us when you sign somebody. Until then, it is all just running in place. I want the bird in hand.

Either and Gonzalez represent an exorbitant cost in terms of salary and prospects if they trade, or just salary if they wait for the free-agent market.

They would have to wait several years for Stanton to become available on the free-agent market, and quite frankly they would be diving into the deep end of the pool if they went after him now. But, that might be their only chance because in an open market, the Mets won’t be able to compete.

However, I don’t think the Mets would be willing – or daring enough – to go in that direction.

Crawford and Soriano would just cost too much money for little production. If they went in that direction, they might as well have kept Jason Bay.

Every time I read these names, also mentioned are Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud. But, the Mets aren’t dealing them, although there is no guarantee of their stardom.

For the past few years the Mets sold us on the belief of the future with those prospects and Matt Harvey. They preached the future to the point where they let Jose Reyes walk and traded R.A. Dickey.

I might be willing to deal d’Arnaud because they have Kevin Plawecki, who is 22, in the minors. He’s in Single-A and still a few years away, but having John Buck means they could take the risk with d’Arnaud if it’s the right deal.

As far as Wheeler goes, he’s wild in Triple-A and not close to being ready. The Mets have seen wildness in Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez, so they don’t need another scatter arm. Wheeler also has blister issues, so it would be premature to give up on him now, because that might be the cause of his problems.

It would likely take both Wheeler and d’Arnaud for Stanton. The Marlins might be willing to trade in the division, but are the Mets willing to face Wheeler and d’Arnaud 18 times a year?

I’m inclined to guess not, so the path with them would be to see what develops.

The Mets are making an investment in the future, so it’s ridiculous to change course and go back to the days when they chased the big names.

They chased Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar when they were in the twilight of their careers. They chased Carlos Beltran, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez and Carlos Delgado, but didn’t have the complimentary pieces. They were unlucky with Bay and Johan Santana. They were lucky not to get Alex Rodriguez.

In all cases, the timing wasn’t there. I don’t think it is there with Stanton. The Mets have hit the bottom and are now showing signs of growth. There’s still a lot of work to do, but there will be even more if they reverse course now and guess wrong.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 12

Mets Matters: Is Ike Davis The Answer At First?

"<strongYou can Google Ike Davis with dozens of different questions, but here’s one you won’t find an answer to: Why isn’t he as good as advertised?

It was May of 2011 when Davis was hitting .302 with a .383 on-base percentage and resembling the slugger the Mets had trumpeted he could be when he ran into David Wright and hurt his left ankle and missed the rest of the season.

Then came last year, the virus and a miserable first half where he was almost sent back to the minors. He salvaged 2012 with a strong second half and 32 homers appeared to give him a pass going into this season, but he’s flailing again. How long before this season-opening slump becomes a first-half swoon?

Davis gave me an answer indicating what could be his problem this spring when I asked him about striking out, and whether he should concentrate on going to the opposite field and being more patient.

“I like to hit home runs,’’ Davis said in much the same tone a kid would say he likes to eat candy. Then, in what could be defined as defiance, added, “I’m a home run hitter; I’m going to strike out.’’

All that was missing was him sticking his tongue out and muttering, “so there.’’

Statistics can be interpreted any way you want, but Davis’ – both this year and his career – scream he might not be as good as he’s cracked up to be, and despite his manageable contract, is currently an offensive liability.

What else can you take out of a .129 batting average, .229 on-base percentage, .226 slugging percentage, one homer, two RBI and 11 strikeouts compared to four hits and four walks? Whether you are a traditionalist and believe in the basic stats, or are into the new math of baseball, it still adds up to a big hole in the middle of the order.

Go ahead, convince me those are good numbers.

Go ahead, convince me a 162-game average of .249 with 150 strikeouts to 72 walks, is somebody you build a team around.

General manager Sandy Alderson said strikeouts are acceptable if there’s a reasonable expectation of run production in return. He has driven in two this season.

These numbers, as is his .214 average against left-handers, are the result of poor plate habits. He lacks patience or pitch recognition; he either refuses or can’t shorten a swing that begins with a terrible hitch that gives him a long loop; and he doesn’t use the entire field. Either he doesn’t listen to the hitting coach or the hitting coach isn’t reaching him.

Davis can’t handle the low-and-away breaking pitches to the point where it is a mystery why pitchers would ever throw him a fastball. A manager should fine his pitchers if they threw Davis anything other than breaking stuff away. They should keep throwing him curveballs low-and-away until he proves capable of handling them.

Davis is rapidly becoming an all-or-nothing slugger in the mold of Dave Kingman, Rob Deer, Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunn. These are guys who are thrilling when they connect, but usually don’t.

If Davis continues on his current course, it will get to the point whether he changes his style and approach, or the Mets should change their first baseman.

It’s not difficult.

Apr 12

Mets Need To Weather The Storm In Minny

target-field-snowOf all the tweets in all the world of Twitter, the one with Target Field blanketed in snow is the most telling.

There is five inches of snow with more forecast in Minneapolis where the Mets play tonight. The high for the series is forecast at a blustery 43 degrees. It will be colder with the wind.

I would love to see Twins owner Jim Pohlad sit with Commissioner Bud Selig in short sleeves tonight in a vain attempt to convince us the weather is fine. But, it isn’t and probably won’t be much better next week in Denver, where it also snows any time.

It is true scheduling isn’t about one team but all 30 and you can’t predict the weather. However, it is also true MLB created this issue, and first did so with the increase to 30 teams from 20 when the Mets were born in 1962.

The insistence of a 162-game schedule stretched the season from the first week of April into October. Factor increased playoff rounds with the last two – including World Series – lasting up to seven games and we’re brushing against November.

There’s too much money to be made over 162 games and the playoffs – the vehicle for the networks to shill for their programming – so they won’t think to cut there.

Nonetheless, Major League Baseball made things more difficult for itself with interleague play, and now, interleague play every day of the season.

With interleague play comes the unbalanced schedule, which means not every team runs the same race in a season. By definition, that means the schedule has no integrity to it, thereby making it unfair.

Unfortunately, Selig loves interleague play, so that won’t change, either. Interleague play has become part of Selig’s legacy, and I don’t think in a good way.

I don’t believe MLB’s economic growth is directly attributable to interleague play as it is to the steroid era which brought on the great power numbers; the construction of new stadiums in both leagues; almost 15 years of the Yankees and Red Sox on top which increases everybody’s attendance and TV ratings; better television deals because of cable; and to Selig’s credit, the international marketing of the sport and continued labor peace.

The great influx of money made MLB, its teams and the Players Association willing to accept the playing in horrible conditions, where injuries and pitcher’s arms are at risk. Instead of improved conditions, the players union settled for more money. Seriously, don’t worry about ending a career because you’ve got enough money to retire for life at age 32.

Things happen and weather is unpredictable, but MLB can still do things to put the odds in its favor while keeping most everything it has going for it now, things that came with the cost of tradition.

First, what genius approved an open-air stadium in Minneapolis? There’s inclement weather this time of year in the Northeast and Midwest, but Minnesota is a different animal. It can snow there for another week or so and almost any time in mid-October.

If they weren’t smart enough to build a dome where it snows seven months in the year, then play the Royals or Indians or White Sox in April, teams that are easier to reschedule later.

Yesterday, the Yankees were out of their division and had a rainout in Cleveland for a second straight day. They now will have a doubleheader on an off-day and play 17 games in 16 days. That makes for tired players and poor pitching, but who cares about putting the best product on the field?

“I don’t think you can go to cold weather cities in April if you’re only going to go there once,’’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I know the schedule’s not easy to make, but if you could just stay in your division longer or go to some warmer weather cities you might be able to get by a lot of this.’’

From a business standpoint, the Indians can’t like playing the Yankees in April, when the crowds are down. They’d rather play them later when there’s a chance for a sellout.

It’s pounding a square peg into a round hole to play interleague and non-divisional play in April. The first two weeks of the season should be within the division so make-ups are easier to reschedule.

I’ve suggested this several times, even talked with players and club officials who believe it is a good idea, and that is the scheduling of day-night doubleheaders.

In this case, MLB can make the unbalanced schedule work to its advantage. Because you’re playing 18 games within the division, have several day-nighters each month. Not only does this give the owners the gates they want, but provides more off-days to make rescheduling easier.

Nobody likes to play in horrible weather conditions, and nobody likes to sit in them, either. However, this is an issue because MLB lacks the willingness or foresight to change something within its control.