Mar 04

Mets Wrap: Mets Beat Houston, 6-2; Wheeler Sharp; Granderson Homers Twice; MLBPA In Camp

The New York Mets won again today, beating the Houston Astros, 6-2, behind three strong innings from Zack Wheeler and two homers from Curtis Granderson.

Wheeler was scheduled to pitch two innings, but went out for a third because his pitch count was low. His best pitch was a sharp cutter.

“It was terrible in the bullpen,’’ Wheeler said. “I was worried about it, but I turned it around in the game.’’

Wheeler said it is night-and-day between this spring training and last year.

“I feel a little more comfortable,’’ he said. “I can relax and get my job done.’’

Wheeler threw a high of 96 mph., and held the Astros to two hits with three strikeouts while throwing 40 pitches.

Granderson was GM Sandy Alderson’s marquee signing over the winter. He’s slated to hit clean-up and protect David Wright in the order.

Conventional wisdom is he won’t hit for the same power he did at Yankee Stadium, but there was nothing cheap about either homer.

Granderson’s power last year was sapped because of two hand injuries, but he whipped the bat through the hitting zone and drove each ball.

In addition:

* Reliever Vic Black struggled with his command as he threw 34 pitches in one inning, and walked the bases loaded in the seventh.

* New Players Association chief Tony Clark was in camp to meet the players. In the MLBPA’s annual sabre rattling, Clark said the union would monitor the club’s spending. Currently, the Mets’ projected payroll entering the season is the seventh lowest in the major leagues. Reportedly, the team’s current loan has payroll restraints written into the terms by the lenders. The Mets dispute that language. Clark said the union is not consulted by clubs on the specifics of their loans.

* Eric Young started for the first time this spring and reached base twice. He had been sidelined with a tight side muscle.

* First basemen Ike Davis (calves) and Lucas Duda (legs), and infielders Ruben Tejada and Wilfredo Tovar (hamstrings) did not play.

* Matt Harvey long-tossed for the second straight day. His program consists of 20 throws at 60 feet on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

* Collins indicated David Wright and Daniel Murphy should play by the end of the week. Both had side-muscle problems in previous springs and are being eased into the games.

* Jeremy Hefner, who like Harvey is recovering from Tommy John surgery, started the same program.

* Former Met Johan Santana signed a minor league deal with Baltimore. (See earlier post today).

 

Jul 23

Has The Players Association Lost Its Teeth?

Is the Baseball Players Association, usually regarded as professional sports’ most powerful union, no more? Perhaps not as toothless as the impotent unions representing players in football, basketball and hockey, but in light of the Biogenesis disgrace that’s the impression.

Director Michael Weiner’s recent comments the MLBPA would not stand in the way of Biogenesis suspensions – with Ryan Braun’s for the remainder of the 2013 season the first – is not representative of a vibrant union.

The union’s rap was it would defend an ax murderer, but there is a minimum understanding in the reasoning for such a reputation. The union’s job is to not only enhance its members’ financial position, but also defend them against often overzealous owners.

While it is understandable and admirable of Commissioner Bud Selig for wanting to eradicate performance-enhancing drugs from the sport, the terms of Major League Baseball’s drug policy was defined by collective bargaining.

Selig’s heart is in the right place in wanting to clean his sport, despite that he and the owners initially looked the other way during the height of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa steroid-fueled home run chase in 1998, and subsequent shameful acceptance of Barry Bonds’ assault on Hank Aaron’s true home run record.

The policy has checks and balances and an appeals process, one Braun utilized and skated on a technicality. Braun beat the suspension because a MLB handler made a mistake. The process was in place to enable Braun to walk.

It is a process designed to avoid a witch-hunt and unfair prosecution of a player. I have no sympathy for a cheater and as a Hall of Fame voter will not vote for player linked to steroids. I want steroids gone from the sport, but want them eliminated the right way.

The Biogenesis case has been ugly from the start, with the evidence more than circumstantial against Braun, Alex Rodriguez and others. However, MLB did not have subpoena powers to obtain records from Biogenesis owner Tony Bosch, who for a price, since went to bed with Selig against the players.

That’s distasteful and creates the impression of Selig being vindictive against Braun for beating the first suspension. It was undoubtedly embarrassing for Selig and MLB to lose that case, but it was a sign the drug policy was working.

For MLB’s drug policy to continue to work it must have an appeals process and the players can’t be denied due process. Weiner should not accept MLB’s case against the Biogenesis players without question and simply taking Selig’s word, especially with him having to purchase the evidence against players from Bosch, whose reputation is certainly not above reproach.

There have been eight work stoppages in baseball, the last one the 1994 strike forced on the players by the owners for their refusal to bargain in good faith on the issues of revenue sharing and a salary cap. This one bled into two seasons and forced Selig to sack the World Series. After that, it was hoped the two sides learned something as to never have another stoppage, and after a near miss in 2002, that turned out to be the case.

However, did peace come at the price of the MLBPA selling out to Selig and the owners? For all practical purposes, Selig has his salary cap. And, if the MLBPA gives in without a hint of due process, in what other areas will the union capitulate?

And, how healthy is that to baseball’s growth?

ON DECK: About Last Night: Not liking Bobby Parnell’s response.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 27

Shouldn’t Players Association Assume Some Responsibility In Cause Of Niese Injury?

Jon Niese is in the second season of a five-year, $25.5 million contract with the New York Mets. He can thank the MLB Players Association.

Regardless of how this shoulder injury plays out, Niese will collect every penny, again thanks to the MLBPA.

However, MLBPA should also bear some responsibility for the injury in the first place.

NIESE: Cold conditions led to injury.

NIESE: Cold conditions led to injury.

For years, the MLBPA’s priority in dealing with the owners in labor talks centered around money and protecting players in disciplinary and PED cases. Unfortunately, such things as interleague play, which contributed to issues as scheduling and playing conditions has been ignored.

The norm in MLB these days is the absurdity of teams playing in frigid conditions in April, traveling cross-country for one-game make-ups and waiting out four-hour rain delays. The owners are making huge financial commitments to these players, yet have them play in conditions that contribute to injuries.

It’s like owning a high-end sports car, yet leaving it out in the rain and snow. Makes little sense.

Because the MLBPA hasn’t emphasized these areas in collective bargaining, management has rammed through such things as the circumstances of having the Mets playing back-to-back series in snowy and frigid Minneapolis and Denver.

“I think it beat up his body,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters today in Denver. “ I think he had to work extra hard. It’s freezing cold. … He’s the only guy who is really starting to get warm when he’s on the mound.

“Everyone else is standing out there. He and the catcher are really the only two guys with continual movement. When he’d come in, he’d get so chilled between innings, it was tough to go back out there and get loose. So now he had to work even harder to keep himself warm. I just think it took a beating on him.’’

Niese struggled in his subsequent starts and missed one after complaining of back stiffness and soreness. With every pitch Niese placed more stress on his body. As a pitcher, the brunt of it lands on the shoulder.

Sure, it is possible his rotator cuff tear has been an accumulation of all the pitches he’s thrown, but it also is likely pitching in the cold exasperated the stress and contributed to the injury.

Somebody has to play in those games, but the Mets, with reasonable, limited-greed scheduling, shouldn’t have been there.

Major League Baseball is trying to squeeze too much into the schedule and too much out of its players, and has been given carte blanche by the Players Association, which is content to bypass playing conditions for a bigger piece of the pie.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 11

Jon Niese’s Injury-Related Bad Habits Root To Rout

Including today’s 11-2 flameout loss to Pittsburgh, the Mets have lost Jon Niese’s last five starts, with him giving up 22 runs and not getting out of the fifth inning in three of them. He has not come close to resembling what the Mets think he should be, and that’s the No. 1 starter in their rotation.

The first game in that slide, April 18 at Colorado, and the one preceding it, April 12, at Minnesota, were played in temperatures in the high 20s. Manager Terry Collins said the cold might have had a residual effect on Niese. Niese beat the Twins, but was given double-digit runs of support.

“I think there might be. He’s had some stiffness in his back,’’ Collins said when asked if there is a connection between working in the cold and his following ineffectiveness. “He’s had trouble getting loose and (prior to his May 5 start at Atlanta) he didn’t have a good bullpen session.’’

The only thing surprising about this issue with Niese is the injury wasn’t worse and there haven’t been more weather-related injuries. This has always been one of my pet peeves about playing in lousy weather. The owners have such steep investments in their players, and yet they have no qualms about playing games in precarious conditions. This is also an issue the Major League Baseball Players Association has glossed over. Playing conditions have never been high on the MLBPA’s pecking order in negotiating with the owners.

It’s usually about money and drug testing, but working conditions somehow get ignored.

Niese, who gave up eight runs in 4.1 innings today, said to compensate for the soreness and stiffness he developed the bad habit of dropping his arm angle during his release. Consequently, hitters have been able to pick up the ball out of his hand earlier.

“I think it’s to the point now where I created a bad habit with dropping down my arm angle, and I’m kind of opening everything up,’’ Niese said, adding he wasn’t bothered by pain today. “It’s something I’m going to work on in the bullpen to get it back.’’

Niese said there’s no deception in his delivery and hitters aren’t chasing the pitchers they normally might. They are able to pick up his release point earlier, and that split second makes a tremendous difference to the hitters.

Niese is hopeful of working his release point issue out in the bullpen this week before making Thursday’s start in St. Louis against Adam Wainwright.

Aug 13

Mets Chat Room; the circus is in town.

Game #115 vs. Phillies

Evidently, the Mets weren’t all that “disappointed” in the behavior of closer Francisco Rodriguez as word is the combustible closer could be available to pitch as soon as tomorrow. Of course, with their ace facing a civil suit for rape, just how much could they say?

There were suspension limitations without facing a grievance from the Players Association, but it would have been interesting to see them tangle and watch what lame defense the MLBPA would come up with to defend assault.

The Mets’ handling of their off-season issues has been embarrassingly poor from the disciplinary stances of Rodriguez and Santana to  their lack of activity in the off-season and at the trading deadline in bolstering its pitching staff.

I understand the clubhouse mentality of “he’s our teammate and we support him,” but I wonder how much they really will embrace him for his behavior in front of their wives, girlfriends and children. Carlos Beltran, the quiet one, came out strongest calling what Rodriguez did was wrong. Otherwise, the word “mistake,” was thrown out too much.

Evidently, the words from his father-in-law, to quit being a baby, man up and play better.”

Those words can apply to ownership on down.