Aug 24

Free fall personified by non-slide

The freefall some have been waiting for all season is here. After being blown out last night in Philly for the second straight game, the Mets have lost 17 of their past 22 games. Some were in excruciating style. Some, like the past two games, were simply ugly.

PAGAN: Shameful display.

Nothing was more ugly, or discouraging than Angel Pagan’s non-slide into the plate to open the game.  He was either lazy, stupid, not paying attention or faked out by catcher Brian Schneider. Your choice which is worse.

He should have been benched on the spot. When you stop thinking, you stop trying, and there appears no stopping the Mets in their fall to the basement.

To me the whole night was summed up by that play. He should have put Schneider on his butt. It was the type of play Pagan made two years ago excuses were made for his inexperience. Those excuses don’t apply any longer. Probably, with Scott Hairston injured, Terry Collins had no other choice but to start him today.

Ugly was also compounded by the loss of Jon Niese with a rib cage pull. Niese iitially injured his back last week in San Diego, and aggravated it pitching to Hunter Pence last night.

He admitted he should have said something, but didn’t. Just a dumb, dumb thing to do.

Niese has been in a funk for awhile, with a 6.82 ERA over his last six starts, lasting an average of 5.1 innings. If he’s been hurting even before San Diego, then add another dumb to the list.

The Mets are now at the point with Niese that they should consider shutting him down for the season. Seriously, what’s to be gained by throwing him out there again?

Niese wasn’t the only disappointment last night.

The frustration started early when they stranded five runners in the first two innings courtesy of five strikeouts. All of them looking.

Defensively, this was a spring training game with players over throwing the cutoff men and going to the wrong base.

The only positive coming out of last night was Lucas Duda’s continued hot inning. He was in right field last night where he should have been for the past two weeks.

He’ll be in right again this afternoon when the Mets try to avoid being swept. Mike Pelfrey will have the honors.

I don’t know about you, but I have little faith in Pelfrey today, and with good reason: He has a 7.58 ERA in two defeats against Philadelphia this year.

Here’s this afternoon’s lineup:

Angel Pagan, CF

Ruben Tejada, SS

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, RF

Jason Bay, LF

Nick Evans, 1B

Josh Thole, C

Justin Turner, 2B

Mike Pelfrey, RP

 

Aug 12

Dillon Gee is this year’s surprise

In forecasting the Mets’ 2012 rotation, there has to be a spot for Dillon Gee, just as this year’s staff held a role for R.A. Dickey as the result of this out-of-nowhere season.

GEE: This year's surprise goes tonight.

Chris Young’s injury was the opportunity Gee needed to build on his designation as an organizational arm to one with a future.

Gee, tonight’s starter at Arizona, has impressed with his guile and ability to challenge hitters. He gives no quarter and so far has been exceptional in spotting his 90 mph. fastball to set up his changeup, which is his best pitch.

“When I look at my stuff on video, I say, `Hey, it’s average,’ ’’ Gee said earlier this season. “But, guys tell me my changeup is a plus-plus pitch.’’

Catcher Josh Thole said Gee’s control carried him in the minors and has stayed with him on this level, but has deserted him recently as he has walked 12 over his last four starts.

Gee, of course, will carry into next season the specter of whether he can duplicate what he’s accomplished. The same questions were asked of Mike Pelfrey this spring.

Gee and Niese have been the Mets’ most effective pitchers. Pelfrey remains an enigma, Dickey can be upgraded and Johan Santana’s remains a question. Chris Capuano has been effective at times and should be brought back.

As they did last year, the Mets will explore the free-agent market for middle-tier arms, such as Jon Garland. There is talent in the minor leagues, but it is at least two years away.

 

Aug 11

Liking how Collins handled Niese

After winning the first two games of this series, coming away with a split is definitely disappointing. It’s not as if the Mets had a realistic chance to catch the Braves for the wild-card, but after losing seven of their last 10 they are now 10.5 games behind Atlanta.

NIESE: Keeps on growing.

After another one-run loss this afternoon (that’s 18 on the season), they are headed to Arizona and San Diego, where it won’t be easy. The Mets are at their point of the season where the goals are fundamental, such as finishing above .500 and making value judgments on the future.

With the latter, I liked how Terry Collins handled Jonathan Niese this afternoon. Collins gave Niese 122 pitches worth of rope and stuck with him in the eighth when most managers would have been seduced by the pitch count and gone the conventional route.

Most managers would have yanked Niese after Cameron Maybin’s leadoff single, and definitely after the stolen base. Then, after an intentional walk and double steal, Jerry Manuel might have been on his second reliever.

With runners on second and third, Collins gave Niese a strong vote of confidence and allowed him to pitch to Aaron Cunningham. Perhaps it was a vote of non-confidence in the bullpen, but this was important to Niese’s development.

Cunningham grounded a ball to Ruben Tejada, who, instead of getting in front of the ball, tried to one-hand it. The ball went off the heel of his glove and Niese was on his way to becoming the hard-luck loser.

Even so, Niese got the ground ball he needed, indirectly rewarding Collins’ confidence.

A couple of years ago teams called the Mets asking for Niese and they wisely eschewed. It was one of Omar Minaya’s better decisions.

Niese still has a way to go, but this was definitely something to build on.

 

 

Jul 16

Niese continues to shine; Hairston comes through.

The more he pitches, the better he gets. Even if he doesn’t know how to grow a beard, he’s showing he knows how to pitch.

NIESE: Getting better and better.

Without Johan Santana, the Mets don’t have an ace, but the closest they have is Jonathan Niese, who won his ninth game Saturday in an 11-2 rout of the Phillies.

Entering the season, it was thought Mike Pelfrey would continue to develop, but this has been a disappointing season for him. Conversely, Niese is making big strides, and beating the Phillies with seven strong innings was one of them.

Also a storyline was Scott Hairston, who homered and drove in five runs in an audition for the right field job in case the Mets deal Carlos Beltran, as they are likely to do.

Hairston was a late starter after Beltran came down with flu like symptoms. Beltran could sit again Sunday. Manager Terry Collins gave Hairston notice as soon as he got to the park, and unlike Jerry Manuel, didn’t wait until game time to make a decision. Hairston said that’s key for a role player.

“I found out I was in the lineup right away. It gave me a couple of hours to prepare,’’ Hairston said. “I’ve played in this role for the last few years. It’s a very difficult role. I rely on that experience.’’

While Beltran said he wants to play out his career with the Mets, it is expected the team will trade him as this is the final year of his contract, one that doesn’t offer arbitration which would give them compensatory draft picks.

Jun 28

Are the Mets’ handling Niese’s heart condition properly?

Just when the Mets start feeling good about themselves again, something happens that makes you scratch your head and wonder: “Can’t these guys use common sense for once when it comes to injuries?’’

NIESE: Where's the common sense?

A franchise notorious for mishandling injuries, they are raising concerns for how they are dealing with Jon Niese’s rapid heart beat.

Niese had a rapid heart beat pitching Saturday in Texas, and amazingly was allowed to stay in to face one more batter.

Niese was examined by a Rangers doctor, who didn’t find anything imminently concerning, but the Mets are waiting today for him to get an intensive medical exam with the team in Detroit.

Not only was Niese permitted to fly to Detroit from Dallas, but also to drive two hours to his off-season home in Ohio.

We could go on for hours about how the Mets have mishandled injuries, but in dealing with a heart issue, doesn’t it make sense to address it immediately?

Obviously, the Mets don’t consider the exam by the Rangers’ team physician all-inclusive, otherwise they wouldn’t be having him tested again. The odds are likely in Niese’s favor, but why take the chance?

There’s nothing to be gained by waiting and everything to lose. The new regime was supposed to handle things differently when it came to injuries, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Questions were asked after David Wright was allowed to play a month with back soreness that turned out to be a stress fracture. And, Ike Davis was supposed to be back in two weeks after an ankle sprain, but he could be out the rest of the season.

Waiting makes no sense. None.