Sep 19

Wheeler Leaves Us Wanting More

There is something about Zack Wheeler that leaves you – and the New York Mets – wanting more.

Tonight he threw his 21st quality start of the season; defined as at least six innings with three or fewer runs.

WHEELER: Needs to cut pitches. (Getty)

WHEELER: Needs to cut pitches. (Getty)

Wheeler struck out seven in six scoreless inning, and Carlos Torres, Jeurys Familia and Buddy Carlyle combined to retire the final 13 Atlanta hitters in the 5-0 victory.

Even so, in this age of counting pitches, Wheeler threw 105 pitches in those six innings. Sure, as a strikeout pitcher he’ll run up the pitch count, but in exchange for at least one more inning I’d give up a few strikeouts.

Is Wheeler a great pitcher? At l1-10 with a 3.51 ERA it is too soon to tell, but he is 8-2 over his last 15 starts.

For Wheeler and the Mets – who were officially eliminated from playoff contention Friday – to reach the next level, it is imperative for him to go further with his pitch count.

Only twice in 31 starts did Wheeler complete at least seven innings, and 11 other times he worked into the seventh.

Am I being too picky? Probably so, but the Mets have been boasting about Wheeler, and to completely buy into what they are saying, he needs to at least go seven.

Nobody is asking for complete games, but seven isn’t much to ask for a player being touted as an ace.

 

Sep 13

Mejia Gesture Not Classy

NOTE: Terry Collins told Jenrry Mejia to tone it down several hours after this post.-JD

 

Count me among those not enamored with the post-game celebration of New York Mets closer Jenrry Mejia, who went over the top with his reel-him-in gesture after striking out Ian Desmond to end last night’s game.

Watching Mejia was watching any NBA player thump his chest and mug for the camera’s after dunking on a defender. It was watching almost any receiver or cornerback in the NFL.

It was a reminder of how class is a fleeting thing in sports. We see self-congratulatory celebrations everywhere, and we see them because that’s what the networks like to direct their cameras. And, don’t think for a moment the athlete doesn’t know where the camera is directed.

And, it’s tiresome.

Also tiring are the weak defenses by managers and coaches.

“You’ve got to have some emotion in the game,’’ Terry Collins said last night. “We see it everywhere. I see other teams doing it. They can get mad, if it gives them more adrenaline. I want these guys to have some fun. I don’t want to corral them and worry about every move they make.’’

I’d like to hear Collins take that view when somebody gestures toward his team.

Fact is, Collins must stick up for his players in large part because of his lame duck status. If the Mets and Collins both knew he’d be back, perhaps he’d be more apt to kick butt.

I confess to being old school, maybe too old, but that’s what I believe. There’s a difference between having fun and mocking your opponent.

Trouble is not too many players see the difference and the line is continually blurred for the fans, also.

Sep 12

Gee Pitching For Next Season, Likely Not With Mets

Dillon Gee has pitched well for the New York Mets and he’s pitched poorly. He beat the Washington Nationals tonight, but Gee wasn’t sterling, giving up three runs in 5.1 innings. He was lucky he didn’t lose tonight.

By definition, it wasn’t a quality start, and illustrated why Gee is what he is for the Mets and won’t be anything more than a fifth starter. And, if things go as the Mets envision, he won’t have one of those spots next season.

The 2015 rotation figures to be Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob de Grom, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon. Gee threw 108 pitches tonight, which doesn’t get it done. One hundred pitches should have put him through seven and into the eighth. That not only applies to Gee, but the other starters, also. Wheeler and Niese are also known for running up the pitch count.

Normally, I might say Gee is pitching for a look-see next spring. Barring an injury, Gee would make the team out of the bullpen, but the logical spot-starter/long relief role is earmarked for Carlos Torres.

Gee made $3.6 million this season and is arbitration eligible this winter. However, he’s 7-7 with a 3.80 ERA, numbers that hardy warrant a huge raise.

Gee is a gamer. He pitches with guile and grit, and at 28 has a lot of innings remaining. He just doesn’t have the stuff of a Wheeler or Harvey. He’ll probably get two more starts this year to make an impression.

Somebody is sure to have noticed and he’ll be in somebody’s camp next spring. It just doesn’t figure to be in Port St. Lucie.

 

 

Sep 11

September 11 Remembrance

Certain historical events are remembered simply by the date. September 11, 2001, is one. December 7, 1941 is another, as is June 6, 1944. I have been to the World Trade Center, both the original and the Memorial. I also visited Normandy, France, and the United States cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach might be the most sobering thing I have ever seen.

I hope someday to visit Pearl Harbor.

Like many who remember where they were when the Kennedys were shot, when Elvis died and John Lennon was murdered, I know exactly where I was when the planes hit. I was covering the Yankees at the time and moving from Maryland to Connecticut. I just passed the Philadelphia exit on the Jersey Turnpike when the first plane hit.

Any doubt it was an accident was dispelled when the second plane hit. Of course, it was a terrorist attack. Anybody could tell that instantly. Those who still don’t believe have the same mentality as those who doubt the Holocaust. Then again, there are those who probably believe the Earth is still flat.

Our movers were volunteer NYC firemen. They told us the river passages would soon be shut down and they had to hustle to get over the George Washington Bridge. So, they left our truck at a rest stop and took off. My ex-wife and I knew we’d never make the bridge, figuring there would be massive traffic delays at that exit. We kept driving north – we actually saw a sign for Montreal – then turned and headed south into Connecticut. What took usually four hours lasted 11.

All the while, without television, I was glued to the radio, the way most of America learned of Pearl Harbor and D-Day. Our stuff came two days late. I plugged in the TV and that’s when I saw the images for the first time. I’ve seen them a thousands more, including too many to count this afternoon.

i knew it would be days before I covered another game. I kept waiting for the official announcement from Bud Selig, but it didn’t come for hours until after the NFL cancelled its schedule for the upcoming week. Security was tight at Yankee Stadium when it was opened for a practice. I remember the team gathering at the mound before talking with us and shared their stories of meeting with emergency personnel and those who lost family and friends.

Thankfully, I didn’t know anybody who was killed, but felt I had when I visited the Memorial years later and saw the photos and read the tribute letters. Family and friends of the murdered brought their loved ones alive for the world to get to know.

Both the Yankees and Mets were gracious in visiting firemen, the police and family members of those killed. The Shea Stadium parking lot was turned into a staging area. Nobody will ever forget Bobby Valentine and his Mets loading trucks.

Both teams were unified in their support of the city. Publicly, they acted as champions. What was disturbing was when players from each team took verbal swipes at each other as to what organization did more the city. It goes to show there’s always pettiness, even in the midst of graciousness.

Mike Piazza’s homer in the first game played in New York after the attacks, and the coming together of the Mets and Braves on the field that day created one of the most memorable scenes in New York sports history. More such stirring moments came from the Yankees during the World Series. While the grand moments are easy to remember, there was some things that get lost in the shuffle. Such as the bald eagle making his entrance into the Stadium, President Bush throwing out the first pitch with a perfect strike, and the singing of God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch, something that has become a New York tradition.

There was also the last Series game at the Stadium, when the crowd chanted for Paul O’Neill.

The Yankees returned in Baltimore, and the press box at Camden Yards was where I saw Piazza hit the homer. From there, it was on to Chicago. I never felt safer on a plane than I did on that flight. I’ll always remember a sign at the new Comiskey Park that read. “Hate the Yankees; Love New York.”

The Yankees, normally booed, were treated kindly the rest of the season on the road.

A lot of those memories came flooding back today as they do every year. So do the feelings, ranging from anger to frustration to patriotism to sadness.

They’ll return again next year.