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.

 

Feb 15

Encouraging news about Ike Davis

Several key Mets enter spring training coming off significant injuries. When it comes to injuries, I fall into the “I’ll believe it when I see it” category.

DAVIS: Ankle feeling better.

What Ike Davis is seeing – and feeling – is progress in his recovering from last year’s ankle injury which kept him out of most of the season. He told reporters “he’s good to go,” and that he’d be apprehensive if he felt any discomfort.

His most telling comment was: “If I play horrible, it’s not my ankle’s fault. It’s just because I’m not very good.”

Nobody is expecting Davis to be horrible, or even just average for that matter. Davis was stroking the ball when he sustained a bone bruise in a collision with David Wright. His seven homers and 25 RBI in just 129 at-bats had him on pace to hit 30 homers with 110 RBI.

Remember, that was on-pace, not numbers he’d previously reached. It’s exciting to think about Davis’ potential power production, but he’s never had a full season where he’s hit 30 homers, so we can’t say for sure he’ll reach that plateau.

There’s a lot to like about Davis. He has raw power and has gotten better around the bag. This is a guy teams would hope to build around. We know Wright can hit and Bay has hit in the past. If all three live up to their potential, the Mets could have an imposing middle of the order.

 

 

Feb 14

Not worried about Tejada.

One of the Mets’ many questions entering the season is whether Ruben Tejada will be able to replace Jose Reyes at shortstop.

TEJADA: It's his show now.

I’m not worried about the transition because frankly, few players are capable of replacing Reyes’ offensive production. Let’s assume right now he won’t post Reyes-like numbers. If Tejada can hit the .270 to .280 coach Chip Hale hopes for him, then I’ll be satisfied. I just don’t want Tejada to be overwhelmed or an easy out in the eighth spot in the order. If the latter is the case, the Mets would have almost certain back-to-back outs which would put a black hole in their line-up.

Tejada hit at times last season batting .284 with 36 RBI, but we’ll need to see how pitchers adjust now that they have a book on him. I’d sign up for another .284 right now.

Defensively, Tejada proved he could handle the position, so maybe that’s a wash. That’s also the most important part of his job.

The Mets have so many other issues to concern themselves with, that if shortstop is capably handled defensively, that’s a load off Terry Collins.

The Mets are a team in transition, not expected to contend. If things were different, they’d be worried about shortstop. Hell, if things were different, Reyes would be here.

For where this team is now, if Tejada can hold his own, that’s all you can ask.