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.

 

 

Sep 01

Mets By The Numbers: Finishing Strong

We are at arguably the worst part of the season. The dreams of March and April, followed by the anticipation of a strong start have faded into mediocrity. The second half collapse after the break robbed us of meaningful baseball in September.

Sure, the Mets could play a spoiler role, but really, what fun is that? If the Mets wanted to spoil things for the Nationals they had numerous opportunities this summer.

WRIGHT: Aiming for 90 to 100 RBI. (AP)

No, this is the time of year, with winter looming, that forces us to take some statistical interest in the Mets, both as a team and individually. Here’s what I’d like to see:

1) Team: On Sept. 1, finishing .500 and in third place are possible. Third moreso than .500 as the Mets are eight under. Can they finish eight over the rest of the way? They reached that level only once. Of all things, it’s the one I’d like to see most. As far as third place goes, it is better than fourth, but still won’t be close.

2) David Wright: Earlier this summer, when the Mets were streaking and Wright was hovering around .500, he was a legit MVP candidate. He’s at .316 with 17 homers and 78 RBI. It would take a monster September, but I’d like for him to reach over 90 RBI, maybe 100. If he does, he most likely would have over 20 homers and be hitting over .300.

3) R.A. Dickey: He’s at the top of all NL pitching categories. The competition is strong, so even 20 wins – he has 17 – will be formidable for the Cy Young Award. Dickey leads with three shutouts and also has four complete games. All with a tough pitch to master.

4) Ike Davis: Davis was below .200 for much of the season, but is at  .224 with 25 homers and 74 RBI now. It would take a blistering month to finish at .240, but if he does, he’ll probably reach the 30 homers and 90 RBI levels. That would be a good season.

5) Jon Niese: He been erratic and has 10 wins. I’d take 13 or 14 now. Would be a nice thing to shoot for.

6) Daniel Murphy: He’s fallen below .300 to .285. I can see him getting back to .295, but .300 would be difficult.

There are others, such as Ruben Tejada hitting .300 and Lucas Duda belting 17 homers. However, for the remainder of the team, for guys like Josh Thole, Andres Torres and Jason Bay, there’s not much left to be aiming for as their numbers are so woefully weak.

For the above, reaching those levels would take some of the sting from the season and perhaps make the winter more palatable. Individual numbers is what passes for meaningful baseball in September for the Mets.

 

Jul 06

Mets’ Victory Microcosm Of First Half; David Wright Showing MVP Mettle

For those of you who missed the first half of the season, you got the gist of things if you tuned in last night’s victory over the Phillies.

WRIGHT: Delivers again. (AP)

David Wright, who delivered the game-winner in the ninth along with hitting a homer, said as much when he indicated the Mets worked every at-bat and utilized every out. No waste for these Mets.

“It seems like all year we’ve had that never-say-die attitude, continuing to play the game no matter what the score is,” said Wright, whose four RBI all came with two outs.

It has been like this all year for Wright, who, despite only 11 homers, is a legit MVP candidate, even if Mets fans don’t vote with the fervor or Giants fans for the All-Star team.

With Jason Bay down, and Ike Davis and Lucas Duda slumping at various times, Wright has been the mainstay of this lineup. If the MVP was announced today, could anybody begrudge Wright if he were the winner? There’s a lot of season left, but how soon before we hear the MVP chanting?

The ninth began with Davis going the opposite way on Jonathan Papelbon, and included a bunt by Josh Thole and a drawn-out walk by Ruben Tejada that showed a lot of patience. All that fundamental work paid off when Daniel Murphy singled off Papelbon’s leg.

DICKEY: Keeps Mets in game. (AP)

From there, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The Mets weren’t going to lose.

The only concern was R.A. Dickey, who matched a career high by giving 11 hits. Even so, he pitched with guile and got out of enough trouble where he kept the Mets in the game. Really, that’s the most important thing.

And, as usual, he was stand-up after the game.

“I didn’t deserve a no-decision, I deserved to lose tonight,” Dickey said. “The guys picked me up.”

Actually, they returned the favor.

 

Mar 22

Chipper Jones – Mets Killer – to retire.

Some opponents you loathe. You watch with venom in your heart for how they destroy your team. Or you despise their arrogance and swagger.

Other opponents you respect and admire, and salute for their longevity and talent. Such is the case with the Braves’ Chipper Jones.

JONES: His Topps' Rookie Card.

You figured it was coming soon, but it became official this morning when Jones announced this would be his final season playing third base for Atlanta and tormenting the Mets.

Jones will be one of the rare players, something I hoped would be the case with David Wright and Jose Reyes, to play his entire career with one team.

I covered Cal Ripken and Derek Jeter through the prime of their careers, and respected what they accomplished. Both had opportunities to leave for more money, but recognized the importance they represented to their team and cities. They are special players.

Don Mattingly and Kirby Puckett were that way, too. It was a shame it wasn’t the case with Tom Seaver and Reyes. I hope it isn’t that way with Wright.

Jones thought about retirement two years ago, but changed his mind. Now, after 18 years and a string of injuries the past two seasons, there’s no longer fighting time.

Early in camp, Jones told reporters: “Never in my mid-20s would I have given myself a snowball’s chance to be in camp and have a job at 40 years old.  But I like to think I’ve kept myself in pretty good shape over the years. The skills are still there to go out and get it done. I don’t know for how much longer, but we’re gonna ride it as long as we can.’’

I wish for him a full and healthy season, one with numbers that will have him leaving with pride and not frustration.

It was obvious watching Jones the past two years that he slowed. You could tell his range was declining and he wasn’t the same on the bases. Still, when he came to the plate in the late innings, he was showed respect from the Mets’ pitchers.

Since 2004, Jones underwent two knee operations and dealt with several other nagging issues that deprived him of 500 homers – he would have been the third Brave to reach the milestone, joining Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews – which has been an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Jones, the 1999 NL MVP, joins Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray as among the games’ greatest switch hitter, which is an unappreciated skill. Jones takes a .304 career average, 454 homers and 1,561 RBI into this season.

Of his 454 homers, 91 came in August and 74 in September, during the heat of the pennant race; 213 were hit in the seventh inning with the Braves tied, ahead by one, or had the tying run on deck.

And, against the Mets, Jones’ numbers would represent a MVP season: He hit 48 homers, with 154 RBI and a .318 career average.

He hit 19 homers at Shea, which is what he named his son. Any player who would name his child after Shea Stadium is worthy of a salute.

I’ve covered well over a two thousand baseball games, and as a reporter found Jones to be accommodating and thoughtful. His appreciation for the fundamentals and ability to perform under pressure made him a privilege to watch.

Some day, I’ll get to say I saw Chipper Jones, Hall of Famer. He’ll get my vote.

 

Sep 05

Today in Mets’ History: Seaver wins 20th.

The Mets made several runs at the Chicago Cubs in 1969 before they finally overtook, then lapped them en route to their Amazin’ championship season.

SEAVER: First Met to win 20 on this date.

Gil Hodges said in spring training he had a feeling for his team. Not that they would win it all, but he believed their pitching would be good enough to be a factor.

That pitching was highlighted by Tom Seaver, who on this date in 1969, became the first pitcher in franchise history to win 20 games with a 5-1 victory over Philadelphia in the first game of a doubleheader.

It was a typical, efficient, workmanlike effort from Seaver, who went nine innings, and gave up one run on five hits with one walk and seven strikeouts.

With the victory, the Mets pulled within 4 ½ games of the Cubs. The Mets lost the second game, 4-2.

BOX SCORE

SEAVER CAREER

Seaver was incredible that season, winning the Cy Young Award and finishing second in the MVP voting.

Going 25-7 was one thing, but he had a 2.21 ERA with 18 complete games, including five shutouts.  Seaver also worked 273.1 innings (which didn’t lead the NL) – unheard of today – with 208 strikeouts, averaging just under seven per nine innings.