Nov 08

Mets Hope Shortening Outfield Walls at Citi Will Prove Succesful

Citi-Field-New-Fences-2014

For the second time since moving into their new home in 2009, the New York Mets will be moving the outfield walls at Citi Field, reportedly bringing the right field wall closer to home plate, in an effort to help boost their overall homerun production, particularly power hitters such as David Wright and Curtis Granderson.

Following the 2011 MLB season, the Mets made significant changes to the ballpark dimensions at Citi Field, bringing in the left field wall by as much as 13 feet and right center field by 17 feet, and lowering the wall height to eight feet throughout the outfield.

In 2012, the first season played in their modified home, the Mets’ homerun production jumped from 108, 26th overall in the majors, to 139, with the biggest beneficiary being lefty first baseman Ike Davis, who hit a career-high 32 dingers to lead the team.

Although the Mets, who are pegged as 40/1 longshots to win the 2015 World Series in MLB Betting at sportsbooks available through www.bettingsports.com, have yet to comment on any planned modifications to the ball park, recently published aerial pics indicate that significant work on the outfield wall is already underway with the primary focus on the right center field area.

The upcoming changes are expected to be formally unveiled by the ball club in late November, and should provide a boost to the Mets’ power production, once again among the lowest in MLB in 2014, 20th overall with just 125 total. But shortening the porch also means changes are likely in store for the Mets’ pitching staff.

Veteran hurler Bartolo Colon and right hander Dillon Gee, who gave up 18 home runs in 22 appearances for the Mets this season will likely be moving on due to their susceptibility to give up long fly balls, many of which would carry as homers in the newly modified park. But with young hurlers Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, both ground ball pitchers, looking ready to take on bigger roles in Queens, the timing could not be better for the Mets.

New York is not the only ball club that has modified its ballpark’s dimensions in recent years in an effort to increase power production.

The Seattle Mariners significantly shortened the left field wall at Safeco Field prior to the 2013 MLB season, from 390 feet to 378 feet, while the right field fence was shortened by 11 feet as part of a major renovation at the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park.

The moves produced immediate dividends for both west coast clubs with the Padres jumping from a MLB third-worst 121 dingers in 2012 to 146 in 2013, while the M’s jumped from a middling 149 long balls in 2012 to 188, second best in the majors in 2013.

Jan 06

Remembering Jerry Coleman; A Baseball Player And Human Treasure

Most every organization has their own Ralph Kiner, a legendary figure who didn’t carve out his career with the New York Mets, but became to define the franchise in the broadcast booth.

The San Diego Padres’ Kiner was Jerry Coleman, who played second base for the Yankees, spanning the end of the Joe DiMaggio and beginning of the Mickey Mantle eras. He was so much more than a guy who showed up at Yankees’ Old Timers Game and prompted kids to ask their fathers, “who is that?”

COLEMAN: Good player; great person.

COLEMAN: Good player; great person.

I never saw him play, but heard him on the radio numerous times and learned of his malapropos. Ralph isn’t the only one to make you scratch your heads and wonder, “what did he just say?’’

One of the perks in covering the Yankees and Mets was getting to meet and talk to the players I grew up watching and only heard about. Coleman was one of those men.

I’m a World War II history buff and was fascinated to learn of his record as a pilot in both World War II and Korea. He flew well over 100 combined missions in those wars.

I forget the year, but was with the Mets in San Diego and wanted to meet him. I was told he would be at the park early, so I showed up well before game time, knocked on the door to the Padres’ broadcast booth, introduced my myself and asked if I could get ten minutes with him sometime during the series.

Almost an hour-and-a-half later I left the Padres’ booth with a full notebook and my head swimming.

We talked about his career and military service. We talked about playing baseball in 1940s and 1950s New York. We talked about the evolution of baseball radio play-by-play. We talked for over an hour before I got around to asking him about DiMaggio and the guy I really wanted to ask him about, which was Mantle. I was always a Mantle guy.

What I remember most was his sense of humor and his warmth. His humility and passion for the sport was evident. I was there to ask about him, but he asked about me. I got the feeling he was genuinely interested and it made me feel good. Those I later spoke with said “that’s typical of Jerry.”

Later, I talked to several Padres’ writers who weren’t short on stories. Regretfully, I didn’t do my story justice in relation to the time he so generously gave me.

Like I said, meeting Jerry Coleman and others like him is one the best perks of the job. Baseball is loaded with personalities and characters like Jerry Coleman. I’ve met many, and would like to talk to many others. Regretfully, there are many more I will never get the chance.

The Hall of Fame announcements will be Wednesday, and I am proud I have a vote. Coleman was not a Hall of Fame player, but he was a Hall of Fame person and I am so fortunate to have met him.

I was saddened to learn of his passing over the weekend. Others who knew him well will have words that would do him greater justice. I simply want to say I was glad to meet him and express my sympathies to his friends and family.

You were lucky to have such a treasure in your lives.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Nov 20

Mets Not Players For Josh Johnson

When you’re the New York Mets and have to think outside the box, it’s stuff like what happened today that drives you crazy.

Josh Johnson wanted to play close to his Las Vegas home and signed today with San Diego for an easily digestible one-year, $8-million contract. Even so, you have to wonder whether the Mets even kicked the tires on this one. Even if they had, don’t you wonder if free agents – even those who are questions – seriously take the Mets.

JOHNSON: Would have been worth the risk.

JOHNSON: Would have been worth the risk.

Once, one of the rising young stud pitchers in the National League with Miami, Johnson made the All-Star team in 2009 and 2010. However, he was taken down with triceps and forearm injuries last year with Toronto that culminated in elbow surgery to remove bone spurs in October.

Johnson was 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA in 16 games last year, but that’s not who Padres general manager Josh Byrnes was thinking about.

“Here’s a guy who led the league in ERA who has been a dominant pitcher,’’ Byrnes told San Diego reporters. “We know there’s risk in any signing but we’re very excited about the upside, what he can bring and now what our rotation can do to deliver us toward our goal.

“We want to be an October team. We really feel like the evolution of our starting pitching and bringing in Josh, we’ve taken a big step in that direction over the last 12 months.’’

At 29, Johnson is young enough to turn it around and regain the form that has earned him a career 58-45 record with a 3.40 ERA.

“I was pretty close last year, just not healthy,’’ Johnson said. “It was tough trying to throw through it and all of a sudden I’m getting these weird pains all the way up my triceps and my forearm’s getting tight because of everything going on with my elbow. Hopefully that took care of everything.’’

If it does, the Padres would have hit the jackpot, something the Mets, who have two rotation spots to fill, must do.

Because of Johnson’s location preference, the Mets weren’t players, but represents the out-of-box thinking they must utilize in the absence of making a substantial trade or major free agent signing.

Apr 04

Gee Hard Luck Loser To Padres As Offense Styfled

SCORE: San Diego 2, Mets 1, at Citi Field.

RECORD: 2-1.

GEE: Hard luck loser.

GEE: Hard luck loser.

SUMMARY: What, you expected this to last forever? When you pitch you always have a chance to win. When you don’t hit, that chance is negated. The Mets wasted a solid outing from Dillon Gee in suffering their first loss of the season today by the Padres. This coming after the Mets outscored the Padres, 19-6 in their first two games. “Dillon pitched well, we just weren’t able to pick him up,’’ said Ike Davis.

ON THE MOUND: Gee deserved more than a loss as he gave up a run on three hits and three walks, with four strikeouts in 6.1 innings. “That’s baseball,’’ he said, giving the stock answer for every pitcher’s hard luck loss. Gee, who is coming back from surgery that repaired an artery in his pitching shoulder, said he was not bothered by the cold. … Scott Rice gave up two hits in two-thirds of an inning, but did get out of a jam in the seventh when the Padres could have broken the game open. … Jeurys Familia threw a run-producing wild pitch in the eighth. That came back to haunt the Mets as John Buck homered to lead off the ninth. … Both of San Diego’s runs were the result of lead off walks.

AT THE PLATE: Five hits won’t get it done. Three of those hits were by Justin Turner, who was making his first start of the season. However, with a chance to get the Mets back into the game, Turner grounded out with the tying run on third to end the seventh. Manager Terry Collins said he considered pinch-hitting with Daniel Murphy, but opted to go with Turner, who was hot and had more at-bats during spring training. … Their lone run came on Buck’s homer. The Mets were 0-for-10 with runners on base, and 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Mets hitters struck out 14 times, including three times by Lucas Duda and David Wright, and twice by Marlon Byrd and Ike Davis. That’s ten strikeouts by their 3-4-5-6 hitters. Make it 11 if you count Murphy striking out as a pinch hitter in Duda’s spot (after a double switch).

METS MUSINGS: Despite having a need for a starting pitcher, the Mets didn’t have an interest in bringing back Chris Young. Instead, he signed with Washington to a minor league contract. The Mets also lost out on Josh Stinson, who signed with Baltimore. … Shaun Marcum was given a MRI that revealed neck inflammation. He was given an injection and will return to Port St. Lucie tomorrow, where he will be shut down for 48 hours.

ON DECK: The Miami Marlins are in tomorrow night for the start of a three-game series.

PROBABLES vs. MIAMI

Friday: RHP Alex Sanabia vs. RHP Jeremy Hefner, 7:10 p.m., SNY/WFAN

Saturday: RHP Ricky Nolasco vs. LHP Jon Niese, 1:10 p.m., SNY/WFAN

Sunday: RHP Jose Fernandez vs. TBA, 1:10 p.m., SNY/WFAN

Apr 03

Matt Harvey: Ace In Making

There is a likable quality to Matt Harvey having nothing to do with his pitching.

He speaks with confidence that doesn’t border arrogance. He has a big time arm without the big time attitude. He’s attentive to your questions, and thoughtful and respectful with his answers.

Harvey has a big time future, but doesn’t come across as a big timer. The tip-off is he carries his dirty T-shirt and shorts to the laundry bin instead of leaving them on the floor for the clubhouse attendant.

HARVEY: Has the right stuff. (AP)

HARVEY: Has the right stuff. (AP)

He’s acutely aware of the expectations, vocalized in the ovation he received Opening Day Monday at Citi Field, second only to David Wright in terms of length and volume.

“It was great,’’ Harvey said. “It made me feel very good.’’

Now comes the hard part, living up to the expectations of those in the stands, his teammates behind him in the field, and most of all himself.

“He has a lot going for him,’’ Wright said. “He carries himself well and pitches with confidence. We believe in him.’’

Injuries thrust Harvey into the Mets’ rotation last July and he responded, pitching with guile, poise and command. Other times, not so much. In ten starts, Harvey went 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA, including an 11-strikeout debut at Arizona. He wasn’t impressive in his lone start against the Padres, giving up five runs, but lasting five innings.

Based on last year’s numbers, there is a multitude of scouting reports and statistical projections of him. Harvey wants to hear none of that and cites one number.

“Innings are most important,’’ said Harvey. “I want to pitch over 200 innings. If I can do that, the rest will come.’’

Harvey accomplished much last year, but didn’t win at Citi Field. He gets his chance tonight against the Padres.

“It’s a new season and everybody wants to get that first win out of the way,’’ Harvey said on Opening Day. “Pitching at Citi Field is awesome. … [Tonight] is going to be a lot of fun for me. I’m really excited about it and after watching [Jon] Niese out there [Monday], it was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to my turn.’’

The original scouting report on Harvey was sketchy, but he’s no longer a surprise. Every team has him on film and knows his tendencies. That’s why it is important to tone down your expectations because often a pitcher hits a wall in his second year and realizes what he counted on before might not work now.

Harvey said his sophomore year is about making adjustments. He realizes he can’t get by on just a fastball. He realizes he can’t overpower everybody. He realizes he must bring more to the table.

“You can’t get into a routine and rhythm of doing the same things over and over again,’’ said Harvey, who had a spectacular 2.96 ERA in seven starts this spring.

“I think that kind of carried over into spring training too, facing a couple of teams, the Nationals, things like that. Those guys have seen me before. It’s just going out and attacking the zone and try to mix in different pitches in different counts and hopefully not leading every guy off with a fastball, or something like that.’’

There are nights Harvey can dominate, as he did the Diamondbacks. However, strikeouts cause the pitch count to add up, and with it, the possibility of coming out of a game early.

“I want them to put the ball in play,’’ Harvey said. “I want to keep my pitch count down and that will give me length.’’

Yes, Harvey has a plus fastball, but said it’s important to throw his curveball and change-up for strikes, especially in a fastball count.

“I can’t have them waiting on the fastball,’’ said Harvey, repeating the mantra of ever pitcher outside a knuckleballer.

If he does that, those expectations will be met, and with that, come even higher expectations.