Apr 20

Niese Needs To Pick Up Mets

The Mets are now paying Jon Niese stopper money. Tonight he needs to earn it against San Francisco’s Barry Zito as the Mets seek to stabilize after losing three of their last four games.

After a surprisingly fast start, the Mets limp home with their rotation crushed, giving up 31 runs in the four games.

NIESE: Stopper

“We need Jon to give us a game,’’ manager Terry Collins said. So far, Niese has given the Mets two, winning both behind a nifty 2.13 ERA.

Niese will attempt to pick up the mess left by Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey in the last two games, and the bullpen’s meltdown Sunday at Philadelphia.

The Mets have always liked the physical aspects of Niese’s game; his location, velocity and movement on his pitches. However, the more they see him the more they appreciate his poise and composure. He ‘s not afraid to challenge hitters, including when behind in the count. That’s how one becomes a stopper.

Apr 14

R.A. Dickey Pitches Big With Mets At Precarious Time

After two ugly losses, David Wright headed for the DL and the team headed for Philadelphia then Atlanta, the Mets are at a precarious time in the young season. Sometimes I can be glass half empty guy, but these are the Mets and you’ve seen it happen, too.

DICKEY: Pitches big when Mets needed him most.

With Cliff Lee dealing for the Phillies, I envisioned the worst last night, even after – surprise, surprise – Jason Bay homered in the first. But, R.A. Dickey came up with his 14th straight quality start.

Whether last night gets the Mets going again or delays the inevitable remains to be seen, but it was fun to watch.

As far as Bay goes, I’m reading anything into the homer. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.

Bay did say this is a “big time” for him, and he’s right. He’s been a bust so far, and even should he have two big seasons, is that enough to salvage the contract?

I’m not sure it does, but if he has a good season in could make the last year more palatable and possibly make him easier to move. Have to keep a positive thought, right?

 

 

 

Apr 13

Do The Mets Have A Rivalry With Any Team?

With the Mets in Philadelphia over the weekend, I can’t help but wonder if they have a rivalry with any team. I mean a serious, hate-their-guts rivalry. They definitely don’t have anything with the spice of Yankees-Red Sox.

For two seasons, at least, they had something with the Phillies, and in 2007 and 2008 they kicked away the NL East on the final weekend. Jimmy Rollins was right when he said the Phillies were the team to beat.

But, for 50 years, Mets-Phillies was mostly ho-hum, despite the closeness of the two cities. Geography is only a small factor for it, but it can’t be the sole essence of an intense rivalry. That’s why Mets-Yankees, to me, doesn’t make it, either. So what that they play in the same city. The bottom line is the two teams aren’t competing for the same thing. That, in large part is why interleague play doesn’t cut it.

The Mets and Phillies are competing for the same prize, but the teams are rarely good at the same time. Rollins and Carlos Beltran traded jabs a couple of times and Cole Hamels suggested the Mets choked (actually, the words were put in his mouth by WFAN talk-show hosts), which was simply a statement of fact.

Early in their history, for obvious reasons, there was a rivalry with the Dodgers and Giants. In 1969, it was the Cubs. Then at various times the rivals became the Pirates, the Cardinals, and then the Braves.

Of all of them, the Braves might have been the most intense over the longest period.

When you look at the great rivalries in sports, the competition for the same goal is usually the basis. Then other factors, such as geography and certain players spice the rivalry.

From the Philadelphia perspective, much of their scorn for the Mets was personified in Jose Reyes, but he’s gone. There’s no real Met for Phillies fans to hate. Where’s Billy Wagner when you need him.

There’s really no team the Mets face that gets the blood boiling. The Yankees, because of interleague play, is more made-for-TV posturing. I covered it from both clubhouses and the responses where mostly clipped and cliche.

The only time I felt a genuine contempt by the clubs for each other was after 9-11, when several Yankees said they thought the Mets were getting more publicity for doing more than they were. Hard to understand that thinking considering the then major was at Yankee Stadium as much as City Hall.

Both teams were sincere about the community, but circumstances dictated more cameras were on the Mets at key times. The Shea Stadium parking lot was a staging area and Mets players loaded trucks while in uniform. Both teams visited local police and fire units. But, it was the Mets who had the first game back in New York.

And, the Mets threw quite a party that night.

That was the only time I thought seriously about the Mets and Yankees playing each other. The first game back? Oh, that would have been a special night.

But, when you’ve disappointed since 2006, and had limited spurts of greatness and then mediocrity for the better part of 50 years, it makes it hard to find a real rival.

I would say the Mets’ most intense rivalry for five decades has been with themselves.

 

 

Apr 13

Mets Pushing It With David Wright

A show of hands please, who has seen this before?

WRIGHT: What is the rush?

Who hasn’t seen a Mets’ manager project a return of an injured player and that player plays in a game and gets re-injured? And, to make matters worse, it prevents the Mets from back-dating the time on the disabled list.

Based on that experience – Jose Reyes, David Wright, Ryan Church to name a few and multiple times for Reyes and Wright – I don’t have a good feeling about Wright in Philadelphia.

Wright saw a hand specialist yesterday and was given clearance to try to play tonight. He’ll test it in with batting practice and by throwing, and it will be a game time decision.

Oh boy, suspense in a Mets’ season.

Wright was injured Monday and hasn’t played since, so a DL stint would be backdated to Tuesday. If he plays now and is re-injured, the clock would start the day after he plays.

Granted, the Mets are better with Wright than without him, but I don’t understand the sense of urgency. Are the Mets that desperate that they’ll risk Wright being re-injured. If they are, then they have more problems than a third baseman with a fractured pinkie.

I always held the belief that when it comes to injuries, specifically with the Mets, to be the over. I’d sit him for a few more days.

 

Apr 12

Mets Have No Options With Bay

The Mets have been here before, saddled with an unproductive player and a huge contract. It wasn’t too long ago the Mets cursed the existence of Oliver Perez. Now it is Jason Bay.

BAY: Nowhere to go but up (Getty).

A significant difference is while Perez’s attitude in the clubhouse turned teammates against him, Bay remains a popular figure because he plays hard and hustles. He just can’t hit.

With Andres Torres on the disabled list and David Wright possibly heading there, the Mets’ serious lack of depth has been exposed six games into the season.

Realistically, what can the Mets do?

They could drop him in the order as Terry Collins hinted, but he’s still an out waiting to happen. Besides, without Wright – and with Lucas Duda and Ike Davis also not hitting – where’s he going to hit? Sixth? Seventh?

If the Mets had somebody better to play they would, but since they don’t there won’t be a platoon system and they can’t bench him.

Bay’s contract and two years of not hitting makes him nearly impossible to trade. And, do the Mets really want to eat his contract and release him? There’s that egg-in-the-face risk again of him being picked up and producing elsewhere.

The Mets’ best hope with Bay is the same as it was with Perez, and that’s for him to play and eventually fix himself.

 

 

Two days ago I thought there might have been a chance of dropping him in the order and then perhaps platooning him because the Mets didn’t want Bay being an anchor to a fast start. But, Wright is hurt and two losses later with the Mets heading to Philadelphia, what was once bright is now bleak.

Bay will stay. Sorry.