May 01

Kirk Nieuwenhuis Move Might Have Cost Mets

Of course, it crossed my mind. Left field in Houston is a tough place to play, perhaps one of the toughest in the National League. So, when Jed Lowrie’s pop up fell between Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Ruben Tejada, it immediately raised the inevitable speculation the Mets’ newest left fielder felt awkward because it was his first time in left on this level.

As a centerfielder, Nieuwenhuis played aggressively, but on this play he appeared tentative.

“It was just a ‘tweener’ ball that I should have caught,” Nieuwenhuis said. “It dropped, and that’s unfortunate. (R.A. Dickey) was pitching a great game and I just made a mistake.”

Neither Nieuwenhuis nor manager Terry Collins blamed the mistake on the former playing a new position, but it’s on the table. There is always an adjustment period in playing a different position.

Nieuwenhuis stayed in the leadoff spot and delivered a game-tying, two-run single, but his offensive night was mixed because he was also picked off first base.

ON DECK: Reviewing April’s fast start.

Jan 10

Larkin one of the last non-controversial inductees?

Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin could be one of the last non-controversial Hall of Fame inductees. With 85 percent of the vote, he entered without the shadow of PEDs. For the near future, those on the ballot will have been linked to PEDs, or might have their induction chances enhanced because they will be going up against the scorned.

Larkin had a stellar career, one without suspicion. He was deserving in every sense.

In Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, we have our test cases for those linked to steroids for the Hall voters, of which I am one. If a player tests positive for steroids or other PEDs, or has been linked to the drugs, he won’t get my vote.

My thinking for guys under suspicion is to withhold my vote until there is more information. Is it fair? No, but I’d rather hold the vote and give it to the player later because once the vote is cast and he’s inducted it can’t be rescinded.

Next year’s ballot is disturbingly loaded with those accused of steroid use or suspected. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza among them.

For Bonds, Clemens and Piazza, it is argued they compiled Hall of Fame numbers before being linked to steroids. For Sosa, it is suggested the stretch of his career where his noteworthy stats were compiled was all steroid related. In addition, not only did Sosa cheat with drugs, but also used a corked bat.

The simple take on steroids is it enables a hitter to hit the ball further. In reality, the issue isn’t whether PEDs add an additional 50 feet to a fly ball, but the extra five that enables it to clear the wall.

Steroids enable the user to continue training during the long, hot days of summer when he otherwise might not. This continued training didn’t make the hitter stronger as much as it increases his bat speed, and this is what generates the power.

Some argue the player still has to hit the ball, which is true, but increased bat speed can turn a normal fly ball into one that barely clears the wall. It is an unfair advantage. It is cheating.

Some apologists for the steroid user claim baseball didn’t have a defined anti-drug policy until recently. While this is true, use without a doctor’s prescription is against the law. It doesn’t matter MLB didn’t have a policy in place at the time Bonds was torching National League pitching.

With the holdovers from this year’s ballot, coupled with those next year who are clean, the pickings are slim, both in terms of PEDs and career numbers, of those qualified who’ll get in as did Larkin.

I have not, and will not vote for a player connected to PEDs. It is cheating and I don’t believe that should be rewarded. Fans should watch games confident in the knowledge what they are seeing to real, but that isn’t the case with drugs.

Not only won’t they get my vote, but I believe their statistics should come with an asterisk they were compiled under suspicion of PED use. This should also be noted on their plaque if they get the necessary votes.

Under the present voting guidelines, I can’t see it any other way.

 

 

 

 

Nov 16

2011 Player Review: Josh Thole, C

We began our review of the 2011 Mets by examining their free agents and players the team will consider tending contracts to. We started evaluating the rest of the roster, beginning with infielder Ruben Tejada and continue today with catcher Josh Thole. Tomorrow: Ike Davis.

JOSH THOLE – C

THE SKINNY: Thole turned heads in 2010 with his bat control and ability to work the count. The Mets had a young hitter who could draw a walk and take an outside pitch to left field. Who knew? Defensively, he was new at the position, but the pitchers liked how he handled a game and gave them a consistent low target.

PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS: If Thole could make a good impression over 227 at-bats, imagine what he could do over a full season. And, as he developed physically and filled out he might be able to hit for more power. Also, his continued work with the pitching staff should make him even more comfortable behind the plate.

HOW THE SEASON PLAYED OUT: Not according to plan. Thole had 386 at-bats in 114 games, but a fulltime catcher should get more work than that. Ronny Paulino played more as a back-up than expected and that was a reflection on Thole. His defense regressed as he led the National League with 16 passed balls and he threw out just 17 attempted base stealers (21 percent). Offensively, his batting average (.268) and on-base percentages (.345 from .357) dropped. He hit three homers in both years despite having 160 more at-bats. In a word: disappointing.

JOHN’S TAKE: Thole might have benefited by more time in the minor leagues, but that wasn’t the hand he was dealt. He took a step back after a good first impression, but that was to be expected as the league found him out. Since his learning environment has been the major leagues it doesn’t make much sense to change that now. He would benefit from having a veteran back-up, and I don’t know if Paulino is that guy. The Mets will stick with Thole for the simple facts they have confidence he’ll develop and they want to spend their limited resources elsewhere. A tip: Have somebody else catch R.A. Dickey.

JOE’S TAKE: Call it a hunch, but I don’t think Thole is long for this team. The only reason he is still hanging onto his job is because quite simply the Mets positional depth at catcher is in complete shambles, and it has been that way for most of the team’s 50 year history.

On most teams, Thole is a backup catcher – maybe. On the Mets he’s the best they got, which says more about the state of the Mets than it does about Thole who was a good soldier when he was asked to ditch his first base glove and put on what Tim McCarver refers to as the “tools of ignorance.”

Thole has already had a few pitchers jaw about his pitch calling and you don’t need binoculars to see how miscast he looks behind the plate. His instincts are lacking and his offensive game leaves much to be desired. On a team that will have too many dead outs in their lineup in 2012, Thole is the worst one because he can’t field his position at a satisfactory level. When an opposing batter makes it to first base, they start drooling when Thole is behind the plate – even those who run as slow as John Olerud. Thole is a huge problem for the rotation, and for a team that is going to find themselves struggling to score runs and protect leads next season.

Jul 25

Beltran holds cards, but can’t be too picky.

Carlos Beltran has stated a preference of staying in the National League where he can play the outfield, but his first preference is to go to a contender, so Boston and Texas remain in play. He has veto power over any deal and hasn’t ruled out the Red Sox or Rangers, but has made it clear the American League isn’t his first choice.

BELTRAN: Can't disregard AL possibility.

Beltran doesn’t want to limit himself by being pigeonholed as a designated hitter because that shrinks his market, and subsequently what his next free agent contract might bring

“Right now, when they approach me about the teams, then I will decide if I would love to go to that place or not,’’ Beltran told reporters in Miami this weekend. “I made it clear to them that teams that are in contention are the ones that I’m willing to go to. … Right now, I feel so comfortable with the National League. I’ve been here seven years. I feel comfortable here. … It’s just seven years that I haven’t played in the American League.

“But let’s see. I mean, it’s going to be convenient for the organization, for sure, but it also has to be convenient for me. If it’s convenient for both, we move forward.’’

Beltran showed flexibility this spring with his willingness to move to right field, where he has stayed healthy and produced. He needs to continue to show flexibility this week if a trade is presented him to an American League team.

Beltran can’t take too hard line a stance because he can’t take it for granted he’ll never be presented with the DH choice. Beltran has stayed healthy after two years on the mend, but what if after this season a National League team is reluctant to offer him more than two years, fearing he was lucky this season?

It is one thing to show the market you can play the outfield, it is another thing to make too much of that demand where you alienate future buyers.

Beltran would be foolish to turn down Boston or Texas where if he played well he might parlay it into an extension. He can’t take the risk of vetoing a trade to an American League team and staying with the Mets and possibly getting injured and hurting his position in the market.

Most likely any trade for Beltran would be a rental, but good things can happen off a rental and if being the DH in Fenway Park can save some wear and tear on his needs, he needs to accept that option.

 

Jul 23

Five teams in mix for Beltran.

Carlos Beltran prefers a trade to a National League team because he’s not cool on the idea of being a designated hitter, but reportedly he’s willing to accept a deal to the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox. Philadelphia, Atlanta and San Francisco are also in the mix.

The favorite to land Beltran depends on who you listen to and when. Since the Mets are talking with the Phillies and Braves, there are apparently no reservations in dealing within the NL East. Their thinking is since they won’t win this season, it doesn’t matter if the Phillies or Braves win if the Mets can gain a cornerstone player for several years in exchange for a two-month rental.