Apr 13

It Would Be The Right Thing To Honor Chipper Jones

When Chipper Jones announced he would retire after the season my immediate thought was in how the Mets would do to acknowledge him. Now, when I hear some in the media and other bloggers are against it, I just scratch my head.

JONES: The Mets have been on the opposite end of that swing many times.

Yes, Jones has been a Mets Killer. All the more reason. Jones embraced the rivalry with the Mets – at a time when the Mets had real rivalries – and was passionate about playing here. So much so, that he named one of his children after Shea Stadium. He even bought Shea Stadium seats. And, on the night Mike Piazza hit that homer after 9-11, it was Chipper’s face we sought out from among the Braves. He was genuinely moved that night.

If he doesn’t want a rocking chair tour, fine, but something simple and genuine. Perhaps a weekend in New York with Broadway tickets, or a painting of Shea Stadium, or something to acknowledge how important he was to baseball summers in New York for years.

It’s petty to ignore him. So what if he was a nemesis. Boo hoo. Get over it.

Teams have long acknowledged and respected celebrated opponents for years. The Boston Celtics always had the right idea, giving a piece of the parquet to Julius Erving, to Kareem Abdul Jabbar, to Magic Johnson. And, Celtics-Lakers is more intense at any time than Mets-Braves.

Yes, they should acknowledge Chipper. It would be the classy thing to do. It would be the right thing to do.

Apr 11

Mets No Longer Lovable Losers

Well, you didn’t expect perfection, did you?

POLO GROUNDS: Where it began for the Mets.

The Mets gained the reputation as “Lovable Losers” in their infancy, which began 50 years ago today with a decisive loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Last night was also decisive, but there was nothing lovable about it as the Mets started the night with news their often-injured third baseman, David Wright, had a fractured right pinkie and is expected to be placed on the disabled list.

Then, I suppose in a page taken from the original Mets, Dillon Gee gave up a game-opening home run to Ian Desmond. We knew the Mets would eventually lose, but defeat was certain and ugly, containing butchered plays by Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda, two defensive liabilities to begin with, but not with the Marvelous Marv flair.

Gee was roughed up and the offense disappeared and their first defeat of the season was in the books. There will be others, but defeat in 2012 will be different than defeat in 1962.

Back then, New York was happy to have National League baseball back in the city and embraced the rag-tag group of veteran rejects managed by circus barker Casey Stengel. Defeat was often and came in various forms and with the Stengel proclamation: “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Well, at one time, they did. At one time, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider and Richie Ashburn could really play. However, 50 years ago, they represented memories in flannels.

Today’s Mets, while undermanned, have a core of young and talented players, with more on the way up. Had the original Mets taken to start with youth before veterans, who knows how the history of the franchise would have changed?

Perhaps, we might have had the Miracle Mets before 1969. Then again, the karma would have been altered. Like much about baseball, there’s fun and beauty in speculation.

The Mets celebrate 50 years this season, and we all have our memories and special moments. Mine is different than yours, but they are all special. I don’t know how this year will wind up, but it will be special in its own right because it will contain a new set of memories.

It began with a sprint out of the gate with four exciting and well-played victories, but sputtered last night with bad pitching, spotty defense and no hitting, just like it was 50 years ago.

But, it’s not 1962 anymore. The Mets have a new stadium and aren’t playing in the rundown Polo Grounds. Those Mets weren’t expected to be good, or even compete. Today’s Mets must compete, and in New York, that means winning.

 

Apr 07

Collins Does A Complete 180 On Tejada

It looks like the injury to Andres Torres has not only led to what will be the major league debut of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but has also prompted manager Terry Collins to do a complete 180 on how he intended to treat shortstop Ruben Tejada this season.

Going all the way back to a conference call Collins did with bloggers back on February 28th, the Mets manager was very firm on his stance that we would not use Ruben Tejada as the team’s leadoff hitter in 2012.

In response to a question by New York Baseball Digest’s Mike Silva, Collins told us:

“As far as leading off, the one thing this kid is facing right now is replacing Jose Reyes. That’s a huge thing to put on the shoulders of a 21-year-old baseball player. He’s got enough on his mind to replace Jose defensively, let alone to say, ‘you’ve got to get on, you’ve got to get into scoring position because you’re replacing Jose Reyes.’ That’s an awful lot to ask of that young man.”

Terry Collins echoed those exact sentiments later on when he was a guest of Mike Francesa on WFAN:

“No. I won’t put that king of pressure on that kid. He has more than enough on his plate as it is replacing Reyes at short. We need him to go out there and focus on being the best shortstop he can be. That’s his main focus this season and I won’t add to that.”

So here we are, just one game into the season, and Terry Collins has already scrapped the plan to let Tejada play the 2012 season without the added pressure of batting leadoff.

Tejada will now have the dual role of replacing Jose Reyes defensively in the field, and now offensively as the leadoff hitter of the New York Mets as well. Wow. He’ll be doing this under the gaze of tens of thousands of Mets fans who still resent the fact that Jose Reyes is no longer here, and under glaring spotlight of the New York media who will hound him at his locker at the first hint of trouble.

Ironically, I can’t really blame Collins here because Sandy Alderson gave him little choice. The depth on this team is going to be a huge problem all season long. One day in and already our sixth ranked prospect in the system will be debuting in center field today regardless of whether he is ready or not.

The choices at leadoff hitter beyond Andres Torres were who exactly?

David Wright? Daniel Murphy? Jason Bay?

There was no thought given to this situation after Reyes packed his bags for Miami, and even less thought was given when they traded another likely leadoff hitter in Angel Pagan. Torres was a terrible option to bat leadoff right from jump-street, and everybody knew it.

Anyway, the deed is done, the course has been charted and it’s full steam ahead with Nieuwenhuis in center field and Tejada batting leadoff.

All we can do now is hope for a successful outcome, but make no mistake that so far this season, Collins and Alderson are flying by the seats of their pants.

Mar 14

Wright update; Mets lose again.

First it was going to be a game or two, then at the end of this week, then next week and now David Wright hopes to be ready by Opening Day. Knowing these are the Mets, why didn’t they just throw Opening Day out there from the outset.

Why did it take them so long to send him to New York for this latest diagnosis of an abdominal tear? Why does this stuff always seem to happen with the Mets? Wright is easily the Mets’ most valuable commodity, so why do they treat this with such ambivalence?

I’m glad to see Wright playing this smart and taking his time, but wonder why the Mets were slow on the MRI.

***

The NBA trade deadline is tomorrow and everybody is wondering what will become of Dwight Howard. Reminds me of Jose Reyes when we all knew he wasn’t coming back. Would have hoped Orlando would have learned from the Denver Nuggets, who fleeced the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony, who has been nothing but a selfish headache for New York. In hindsight, the Mets knew Reyes wasn’t coming back and should have gotten what they could.

First Howard is leaving, then he’s staying. Make up your mind. In absence of something definitive, the Magic have to deal him and get what they can.

By the way, did you hear Reyes’ response the other day when he said he had “put the Mets behind him?” He did that when he left that last game after the bunt.

***

Dillon Gee pitched well in today’s loss to Detroit, save a homer to Prince Fielder. But, that’s going to happen. Terry Collins is still having difficulty putting together his patchwork bullpen.

 

 

 

Mar 12

Time to re-evaluate conditioning program

The Mets’ medical staff has been under scrutiny for years, but maybe it is time to re-evaluate the team’s off-season and spring training conditioning programs.

WRIGHT: Was his injury preventable?

Seven Mets, including David Wright, who returned to New York for further exams today on his side, have rib cage, oblique or upper body injuries. Manager Terry Collins offered several theories, none of which are acceptable from a team that should know what it is doing. Collins mentioned excessive weight training, overworking in pre-game warm-ups, too much caffeine and not stretching properly or seriously.

All these suggestions are preventable, and honestly, inexcusable. One or two issues is one thing, but the Mets have seven players ailing since spring training. That doesn’t suggest a team with a handle on things.

Wright, Kirk Niewenhuis, Scott Hairston, and Robert Carson have side muscle injuries. Lucas Duda, Daniel Herrera and Reese Havens have back issues. To be fair, I don’t know what it is like with these injuries in other camps, but seven is an epidemic.

Either the players haven’t been schooled or given the proper conditioning programs, the teaching of such is inadequate, or these guys don’t know what they are doing. When it comes to the body core, flexibility is as important as strength.

When Sandy Alderson and Collins took over last year, they promised a return to basics and fundamentals, and that should include conditioning, too. The Mets aren’t a team that can afford any setbacks, and this shouldn’t be occurring, at least not to this degree.