Jan 16

Soriano Has Nationals Thinking Title In NL East

Not that the bullpen-needy Mets would have made a play for Rafael Soriano anyway, but the Washington Nationals’ acquisition of the Yankees’ 2012 insurance policy has them as the sexy pick to win the NL East.

It isn’t as if they needed much make-up after winning 98 games last season, but Soriano strengthens an already strong bullpen stronger. For his $28-million, two-year deal, Soriano will close, but the Nationals also have Drew Storen – their once closer-in-waiting – and Tyler Clippard, who saved 32 games last year, for late in the game.

The Mets, the only team not to sign a free-agent this winter, kicked the tires on Brian Wilson, who after Tommy John surgery, would be a gamble. Their closer is Frank Francisco, who ended last season with arm problems.

The Nationals’ manager, Davey Johnson, is adept at juggling a bullpen, although he was helpless as his pen blew a six-run lead to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NL Division Series. That might have been the gnawing feeling that prompted them to sign Soriano.

The Nationals already upgraded with the acquisitions of starter Dan Haren and outfielder Denard Span. Washington also expects Stephen Strasburg to work at least 200 innings. Perhaps they learned from last summer’s mistake and will pace him out better.

Washington alienated a lot of people last year when they shut-down Strasburg, giving the impression they’ll make the playoffs every season. It’s not that easy, and the Nationals are showing that with what they’ve done this winter. One thing for sure, they won’t be a surprise this year.

The Braves won’t have Chipper Jones, but added outfielder B.J. Upton to their offense. They won 94 games last summer.

Philadelphia added outfielder Ben Revere and expect to have Ryan Howard and Chase Utley for the entire season. They should better last year’s 81 wins.

It appears the Mets will be competing with Miami to stay out of the cellar, but you already knew that, didn’t you?

That Nationals are building the right way, with a mix of drafting, trades and free-agent signings. With today’s economics, a team must be strong at all three phases, which the top three teams in the NL East have shown.

The Mets are putting their eggs in the farm-system basket, which is traditionally the way to go, and still is the foundation. However, they don’t have all the farm pieces to go the whole route, as they can’t fill out their roster with them or use them to trade.

The Mets also don’t have major league pieces they can trade without opening up additional holes.

As far as free-agency is concerned, they are balking on giving Scott Hairston – who hit 20 homers for them last year – a two-year deal.

The last time they had a good mix was 2007, the summer they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. They also blew a late lead in 2008, the last time they had a winning season.

That seemed like such a long time ago.

Nov 16

Bud Selig Should Void Marlins Trade

The biggest problem I’ve had with Commissioner Bud Selig is he was an owner, but even after divesting of the Milwaukee Brewers, he remained an owner at heart.

He’s a former owner paid by the owners, so, where do his loyalties lie?

WHAT ARE MARLINS FANS TELLING YOU, BUD?

It will never happen without government intervention, but the best way for baseball to be run is have the commissioner paid equally by the owners and players association, with another percentage from the umpire’s union. That formula should eliminate the perception of partiality.

As commissioner, Bud Selig has the authority to exercise his “best interest in baseball,’’ clause, which permits him to act in the best interest of the sport regardless of whom it impacts.

Continue reading

Oct 25

Reyes Campaigns For Wright

Maybe it is revisionist history on Jose Reyes’ part, but last night at the Nets-Knicks game he said he always wanted to stay with the Mets. I remember him saying that initially, but as the season progressed he rarely expressed that sentiment. Maybe he knew he was gone.

I don’t know and I don’t care anymore about Reyes. He received a $106-million, six-year contract from the Marlins. Good for him. He’ll be run down by the end and everybody knows it. Maybe he does, too.

Any way, Reyes is on-board with David Wright coming to play with him in Miami, calling it an honor, but added he should stay in Queens. Not that he should have, but Wright.

“They should sign David (long term),” Reyes told ESPN. “He’s been the face of the franchise for a long time. `If they let him go, that’s gonna be difficult to see the New York Mets without David Wright. I can’t imagine that. You never know in this game what’s gonna happen, but I wish all the best to David. He’s a good friend of mine.”

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said extending Wright’s contract is a priority, and sooner rather than later. The Mets have a $16 million option on Wright for 2013. He’ll be back next year, but it will be harder to extend him when he’s on the open market as he said he doesn’t want to negotiate during the season. Reportedly, the Mets already have a $100-million offer on the table.

Reyes said the same thing and held to it, and the Mets never made him an offer. The perception was the team was just waiting for him to go as they had no intention of matching the Marlins in money or years.

Reyes expressed no regrets in leaving the Mets, and the franchise, despite taking considerable heat from the public early on, has no regrets, either. The Mets were pleased with what Ruben Tejada gave them offensively and defensively, and considering Reyes’ health issues and their financial concerns, they didn’t want to be saddled down with a contract for a player they projected would break down.

Reyes stayed healthy, but underperformed this year considering the contract. It was a disastrous year for the Marlins, who just fired manager Ozzie Guillen. We knew Guillen’s future in Miami was in doubt when he opened up politically and was suspended. Despite the boasting Reyes and Hanley Ramirez would get along, apparently Miami never consulted Ramirez about moving to third and their supposed friendship became strained.

Miami is a mess, even worse than the Mets and will even listen to offers for stud pitcher Josh Johnson.

 

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.

Oct 03

Amazing Season For R.A. Dickey Ends On Painful Note

R.A. Dickey’s Cy Young-worthy season ended last night with a painful revelation: That he’d been pitching with a torn abdominal muscle since April 13, injured in Philadelphia.

Ironically, Dickey will have surgery there Oct. 18.

Dickey called it a dull pain after last night’s no-decision, his eighth of the year, indicating a frustrating lack of run support.

“The pain was fairly significant from time to time,” Dickey told reporters last night in Miami. “We just did a good job of managing that. Whether it was backing off in the bullpen in between starts or getting the treatment that I needed or whatever else I needed to help with that pain, we were able to do it in a way that I was able to perform and not worry about it.”

Dickey finished the season with a 20-6 record and 2.73 ERA and 230 strikeouts while throwing 233.1 innings. That’s not good enough to win any of pitching’s Triple Crown, but good enough to be among the leaders, and even moreso considering he’s pitching on a team 15 games below .500 and with an injury.

One must also factor in opponent’s .226 batting average against him and a WHIP of 1.05. All his significant numbers showed domination on a team far from it.

There’s a school of thought the knuckleball would work against Dickey because many consider it a trick pitch. That nobody else throws it should be an endorsement for him because it is such a difficult pitch to master and one containing a high probability of error.

To wit, Dickey gave up 24 homers, including one last night. That shows he had incredible command of the pitch in the strikezone and they just wouldn’t knuckle for him those times.

There was bias from Tony La Russa in not starting him at the All-Star Game and I wonder how many of the voters might be swayed by that kind of thinking. It shouldn’t, because whether it is a knuckleball, fastball or curve, you still have to control it and Dickey was remarkable in doing it.

Perhaps also working against him is an anti-New York bias, which is often the case in voting such as this. It shouldn’t, but there are always some with phobia’s and Dickey has some significant opposition.

That Dickey did not pitch for a winning team shouldn’t work against him. This isn’t like the MVP voting where team placement in the postseason is usually an overriding factor to consider. There have been several cases of pitchers winning the Cy Young for teams not making the playoffs and Dickey should be one of them.