Apr 25

Terry Collins Doing Right Thing By Sticking With Ike Davis

Ike Davis is having a horrid start to this season, hitting .131 with 21 strikeouts in 61 at-bats. It’s been all or nothing for Davis, mostly nothing in his comeback from last year’s ankle injury.

DAVIS: Anguished (AP).

Davis is on pace to hit 29 homers, but with only 67 RBI. He’s also on pace to draw 38 walks, but strike out a staggering 200 times. If the Mets are to make this a fun summer, they must get a turnaround from Davis.

Terry Collins is betting on Davis playing his way out of this rather than try to find his swing in the minor leagues.

“I truly believe the only way to get out of something like this is to make sure he continues to get in there and get at-bats,” Collins said.

Collins pinch hit for Davis last night, and will do so again if the situation dictates, but said Davis will be in there and that’s the best way to right

While Collins is demonstrating confidence in Davis, it must be remembered the Mets have few alternatives should they option him. They could move Daniel Murphy to first, but that would only delay his acclimation to second base.

They could play Zach Lutz for a few games, but Davis is the future and eventually must learn to play himself out of slumps. He might as well learn now.

Apr 19

Looking At The Numbers For The Mets, Wright And Others

We’re two weeks into the young season and I’d like to share some of my first impressions and hear yours. The Mets, despite losing three of their last four games, are among the early surprises, as are several of their players.

WRIGHT: Has reason to smile.

They are playing better than anticipated and on pace to win 93 games. I don’t believe they will sustain that, but who wouldn’t take .500 if it were guaranteed? I would because it is the next step in the franchise’s development.

Ever since I was a kid I loved the early season numbers and projections. It was fun to think of all those players breaking Roger Maris’ 61 homers, but knew nobody would come close. When it finally happened and I learned why, it wasn’t fun anymore.

For example, David Wright’s .500 average leads the majors and is one of six players hitting over .400 and 28 over .340. There won’t be a .400 hitter – and maybe never will again – and I’d be willing to bet there won’t be anybody over .340.

Both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are on track to hit 41 homers and drive in 81 and 68 runs, respectively. They have the strength to hit that many homers, but I don’t think either has the plate presence or pitcher knowledge to do so. At least not this year. Their RBI totals are reasonable.

Wright won’t hit .500 or get the 230 hits projected of him, but I’d take the 28 homers and 108 RBI. The latter two should be worthy of a contract extension.

The Mets would gladly take those numbers from Wright, as they would Frank Francisco’s projected 41 saves.

Pitching wise, the Mets’ 3.69 ERA is sixth in the National League, which is a substantial improvement from last year. Also, their 43 walks allowed are 11th in the league, but ten of those came in one game. That needs to get better. They are second in the league with 101 strikeouts, an average of over eight a game that translates into working out of a lot of trouble.

In addition to the Mets, the surprise teams on the positive are Washington, the Dodgers, St. Louis and Baltimore. The Cardinals, minus Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa and Chris Carpenter, just keep rolling.

I thought the Nationals would be better, but not this good. They won’t keep playing at this rate, but their pitching is good enough to keep them contending. Their ERA of 1.92 is first; they are tied for seventh in fewest walks and first in strikeouts.

On the negative, the Phillies will climb in the standings, as will the Angels, Boston and the Yankees.

Individually, four players are on pace to hit over 60 homers, which isn’t supposed to happen in the new steroid-free era. One of those players is Carlos Beltran, who hasn’t made the Cardinals forget Pujols, but has softened the blow.

Speaking of Pujols, he hasn’t homered and is on pace for 54 RBI. He’s also on track for 81 strikeouts, which would be the second highest of his career. His 41 walks would be the lowest of his career.

I don’t believe the Cardinals will regret losing Pujols in the long term. Pujols is a future Hall of Famer and will eventually adjust to the American League and before it is over post impressive numbers. The Cardinals can live with that because even if Pujols plays another ten years, they would have gotten the best years of his career.

The most fun stats to project are the individual player numbers. The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp is on pace to hit .460 with a .500 on-base percentage, 287 hits, 87 homers and 224 RBI.

Incidentally, on the flip side, Jose Reyes is on track to play in 162 games (yeah, as if that will happen), hit .226 with a .276 on-base percentage, with 37 steals, 50 walks and 100 strikeouts.

Neither Kemp’s nor Reyes’ numbers will reach fruition, but on an off day it is fun to tinker with the numbers.

Apr 17

Mets Come Up Big Again

Sometimes, the turning point of a game isn’t always in the late innings. Dillon Gee was in trouble early last night. The Braves had the bases loaded in the second with one out.  Gee was clearly struggling and this was the point in the game where the Braves could have taken control, had a big inning and gotten into the Mets’ bullpen early.

GEE: Stellar last night.

However, Gee, showing the composure that was the foundation of his surge last year, got Jack Wilson on a RBI grounder and struck out Tommy Hanson.

The Mets got of the inning cheaply and backed Gee with homers from Ike Davis and another from Jason Bay, the latter’s second in three games. Bay also made a HR robbing catch of Wilson in the fifth.

Pitching, power and defense. It was as complete a game as the Mets have played in a long time.

The biggest things to take out of the game was Gee’s poise, and signs Davis and Bay were breaking out of slumps.

Are the Mets for real? Ten games in at 7-3, it is too soon to call, but you have to like how they are playing, and especially beating teams in their division. You think back and wonder how they let those games against Washington get away.

Considering the expectations, there might be the sense they are playing over their heads, but for the most part the pitching has been splendid and that puts their record into context.

The one thing I am taking from this team right now is that they are fun to watch. I’m not watching with the thought of how are they going to blow this, but with wonderment of their potential.

ON DECK: Are the Mets for real?

Apr 15

David Wright Sizzles As Mets Go For Philly Sweep

I didn’t think David Wright should have played yesterday. Still think it was a gamble, but obviously one that paid off for him and the Mets.

Wright homered on the first pitch thrown to him and he’ll try to stay hot against Cole Hamels, a pitcher he has owned with a .308 average, three doubles, a triple and two homers lifetime against him.

Wright took BP yesterday, said he was ready and then started raking.

“I felt good,” Wright said. “I got a little confidence after the first at-bat. I felt real good in the cage earlier. I wouldn’t have gone out there if I didn’t think I can contribute.”

After missing much of spring training with a strained side muscle, Wright is off to a fast start at 10-for-17 and at least one RBI in every game he has played. He has 16 homers in Philly, so the Mets really wanted him in the lineup.

The Mets go for the sweep today behind a pitcher, Mike Pelfrey, who is as cold in Philly as Wright is hot. Pelfrey has given up nine homers in eight starts in Philly as is coming off a poor first outing of the season when he was tagged for 10 hits in a 5.2 no-decision against Washington.

Mar 22

Chipper Jones – Mets Killer – to retire.

Some opponents you loathe. You watch with venom in your heart for how they destroy your team. Or you despise their arrogance and swagger.

Other opponents you respect and admire, and salute for their longevity and talent. Such is the case with the Braves’ Chipper Jones.

JONES: His Topps' Rookie Card.

You figured it was coming soon, but it became official this morning when Jones announced this would be his final season playing third base for Atlanta and tormenting the Mets.

Jones will be one of the rare players, something I hoped would be the case with David Wright and Jose Reyes, to play his entire career with one team.

I covered Cal Ripken and Derek Jeter through the prime of their careers, and respected what they accomplished. Both had opportunities to leave for more money, but recognized the importance they represented to their team and cities. They are special players.

Don Mattingly and Kirby Puckett were that way, too. It was a shame it wasn’t the case with Tom Seaver and Reyes. I hope it isn’t that way with Wright.

Jones thought about retirement two years ago, but changed his mind. Now, after 18 years and a string of injuries the past two seasons, there’s no longer fighting time.

Early in camp, Jones told reporters: “Never in my mid-20s would I have given myself a snowball’s chance to be in camp and have a job at 40 years old.  But I like to think I’ve kept myself in pretty good shape over the years. The skills are still there to go out and get it done. I don’t know for how much longer, but we’re gonna ride it as long as we can.’’

I wish for him a full and healthy season, one with numbers that will have him leaving with pride and not frustration.

It was obvious watching Jones the past two years that he slowed. You could tell his range was declining and he wasn’t the same on the bases. Still, when he came to the plate in the late innings, he was showed respect from the Mets’ pitchers.

Since 2004, Jones underwent two knee operations and dealt with several other nagging issues that deprived him of 500 homers – he would have been the third Brave to reach the milestone, joining Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews – which has been an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Jones, the 1999 NL MVP, joins Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray as among the games’ greatest switch hitter, which is an unappreciated skill. Jones takes a .304 career average, 454 homers and 1,561 RBI into this season.

Of his 454 homers, 91 came in August and 74 in September, during the heat of the pennant race; 213 were hit in the seventh inning with the Braves tied, ahead by one, or had the tying run on deck.

And, against the Mets, Jones’ numbers would represent a MVP season: He hit 48 homers, with 154 RBI and a .318 career average.

He hit 19 homers at Shea, which is what he named his son. Any player who would name his child after Shea Stadium is worthy of a salute.

I’ve covered well over a two thousand baseball games, and as a reporter found Jones to be accommodating and thoughtful. His appreciation for the fundamentals and ability to perform under pressure made him a privilege to watch.

Some day, I’ll get to say I saw Chipper Jones, Hall of Famer. He’ll get my vote.