Sep 24

This Day in Baseball History ….

Looking Back

Looking Back

On this day in 1991, the Mets’ Howard Johnson hit his 37th homer to set a National League record for switch-hitters. Johnson will finish the season with 38 homers and 117 RBI.

It has been a rough season for Johnson, who, as with most Mets’ coaches, is getting heat for the team’s collapse.

In particular, Johnson is under scrutiny for the team’s poor power showing, especially that of David Wright, who reached double-digits in homers this month with a pair at Philadelphia.

Wright and Jeff Francoeur are planning to work with Johnson in the off-season.

Sep 24

About Last Night: Another head scratcher from Pelfrey.

Well, at least Mike Pelfrey hung around for six innings. However, with 116 pitches he has to go longer than. By definition, it was not a quality start for Big Pelf, which is another way saying Big Disappointment.

Pelfrey gave up nine hits and walked three, and 12 runners in six innings is constantly living on the edge. His problem in last night’s loss to Atlanta was what it has been all season in that he wasn’t able to minimize the damage and his command was off.

If spring training were to start next month, by default Pelfrey would be in the rotation. But, he wouldn’t be based on merit. The Mets simply don’t have anybody they could plug in to replace Pelfrey, and the expectations are they won’t sign somebody, either. At least, not somebody at the No. 2 level.

If Pelfrey were the only issue, the Mets might be able to cope, but Oliver Perez and John Maine are concerns of the physical variety. Pelfrey had forearm issues earlier that forced him to miss one start, but they haven’t resurfaced. I wouldn’t be shocked if it came out he had been pitching hurt. These hidden injuries always seem to be a part of the Mets’ winter landscape.

If Pelfrey is hurt, it would at least explain his bad season to some degree. If he’s fine, all the more maddening. He took a positive step last year and this summer was primed for a breakthrough. But, he doesn’t seem to have grasped the mental aspects of pitching with his pitch selection. He tends to lose focus and is unable to put away hitters and is vulnerable to the big inning.

No, that wasn’t a cut-and-paste of an earlier post about Perez.

This guy, despite his physical tools, has not developed like Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, but then again, those are special pitchers. I would like to believe Pelfrey will develop as it is not uncommon for pitchers to develop later in their careers.

Still, the expectations were high for Pelfrey and we were singing his praises after a good start. They just haven’t been reached. If he duplicates this season in 2010, the Mets might have to start thinking this is as good as it gets for Pelfrey.

Sep 23

Help is not coming ….

By all reported accounts, the Mets don’t expect to be big players in the off-season FA market. Read that as follows: No John Lackey, no big name power bat, no dramatic improvement.

The Mets front office will continue to say things like “we’ll look for the best fit,” and “if it makes sense, we’ll do something,” but essentially, not much will change from this year’s team and the one the team will throw out there next year.

Mets likely to go minimum wage in getting help.

Mets likely to go minimum wage in getting help.


So, here’s the strategy the best I can see:

Catcher: A Josh Thole and Omir Santos platoon.

First base: Daniel Murphy with Carlos Delgado not returning.

Second base: Luis Castillo because the team won’t be able to unload his contract.

Shortstop: Hoping for a healthy return by Jose Reyes.

Third base: Hoping for David Wright to rediscover his power stroke.

Left field: Here’s where they might attempt to sign a middle-tier player, but don’t be surprised if Angel Pagan is out there.

Center field: Hoping for a full and healthy season from Carlos Beltran.

Right field: Jeff Francoeur could amount to their biggest signing.

No. 1 starter: The return of a healthy Johan Santana.

No. 2 starter: Hoping Mike Pelfrey rebounds.

No. 3 starter: Hoping for a healthy return of Oliver Perez.

No. 4 starter: Hoping for a healthy return of John Maine.

No. 5 starter: Wide open. Bobby Parnell could get another chance. Don’t be surprised if they go for a middle-of-the-road starter and slot him in at No. 3 and move everybody back.

Set-up reliever: I was probably wrong about Putz. With his option they won’t bite on him. Could go with Parnell if he doesn’t start.

Other relievers: Will bring back Pedro Feliciano. I can see them bringing back Sean Green.

Bench: Should re-sign Alex Cora and will likely bring back Fernando Tatis.

So, essentially, the Mets will take the approach injuries were the primary cause for this season’s blowout and they’ll hope for the best in everybody coming back healthy. Pitching is a concern, so that’s where they’ll spend their attention in the FA market. However, they aren’t likely to splurge.

Sep 23

This Day in Baseball History ….

Looking back

Looking back

Do you remember Armando Benitez?

Of course you do. How could anybody forget the pitcher with the million dollar arm and ten cent heart and brain? A nickel for both.

On this day in 2001, Benitez, pitching for the Mets, gave up three runs to the Braves in the ninth inning, with two coming of Brian Jordan homer. Jordan would later homer in the 11th inning as Atlanta won, 5-4.

I had pleasure of covering Benitez twice, first with the Orioles and then with the Yankees.

BENITEZ: Heat, but no fire.

BENITEZ: Heat, but no fire.


Was talking to one of the Oriole catchers one day about Benitez, and he told me he didn’t think he’d ever become a great closer because, “he doesn’t really want the ball.” When things were well, Benitez was dominant, but he would unravel at the slightest thing, whether it be bloop hit, an error or not getting an ump’s call.

Sure enough, once Benitez would blow a save, two or three more would follow.

My favorite Benitez story isn’t from 1998 when he plunked Tino Martinez after giving up a homer to incite a brawl, but several years earlier and it wasn’t even game related.

The Orioles were in Milwaukee at the end of the season and this was the rookie hazing day when the veterans would take their clothes and make them wear things from consignment and thrift shops. Could be women’s clothes. Could be anything.

It is supposed to be a bonding gesture, kind of like in a fraternity.

Benitez was having none if it and held up the Orioles team bus for 45 minutes. It got to where Rafael Palmeiro had to get off the bus and persuade him to get with the program. Benitez wouldn’t and ended up wearing his uniform pants with his dress shirt.

The next day, we were talking about it with manager Ray Miller, who gave us this song-and-dance about Benitez being so sensitive because he was a Latin player. Miller then asked me what I would have done. I told him, “Benitez has a credit card and I would have left without him and told him to make his own way to the next city.”

Sep 22

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #151; Nelson, oh boy.

METS CHAT ROOM

METS CHAT ROOM

Wouldn’t it be nice to see a real major league pitcher on the mound for the Mets? I hope ownership realizes a patchwork rotation won’t cut it next year.

We have, now don’t all scream at once, Nelson Figueroa going for the Mets tonight. I liked talking with Figueroa. A nice guy. I admire his determination and perseverance. I just don’t think he’s anything more than a No. 5 at best, and most likely, a long guy and spot starter. He does deserve a chance in spring training for those slots. If they are going into spring training with anything more than that, it won’t be a good sign.

Figueroa hopes to avoid losing his fourth straight start, and second in a row to the Braves. He gave up six runs in five innings last Thursday in Atlanta. Figueroa is 0-3 with a 6.61 ERA in September.

Overall, the Mets have lost 12 of their last 16 games.

MURPHY: Getting better.

MURPHY: Getting better.


One thing that has become apparent, is with the news Carlos Delgado is done for the year, that the Mets must be looking at Daniel Murphy as their first baseman for 2010. Murphy had two more hits last night, including a homer. Over the past 14 games, Murphy is batting .358 with three homers and 12 RBI.

“I like the way Daniel Murphy is swinging the bat,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “He’s really coming on.”

Murphy is showing more signs of pop as he gets to learn the NL pitchers better, and that’s encouraging. If he could reach 20 homers next year that would be a positive development. I believe he’ll continue to improve with the knowledge of the pitching and the more comfortable he becomes. He might never hit for awesome power numbers, but that’s not currently the Mets’ primary need.

As his average increases, and if he stays in one spot in the batting order, his run production should spike.