Apr 20

How Long Will Mets Play Reyes Charade?

Mets manager Terry Collins said Jose Reyes deserves the chance to turn things around, but that’s too simplistic an approach. In reality, Collins doesn’t have any choice for now but let Reyes try to flail his way out of this wretched slump to start the season.

Reyes refutes the notion he’s trying to do too much, which is often one of the first assumptions to explain a slump.

REYES: Not the same player. (AP)

REYES: Not the same player. (AP)

“When you try to do too much, it’s tough. You have to slow down a little bit and try to let it go. I don’t feel like I am trying to do too much. I am just trying to play my game,” Reyes said.

“My game.”

What exactly does that mean? Is it the style Reyes should be playing, which is to utilize his speed by being patient at the plate and hit the ball on the ground? Or is it the style he insists on playing, which is to hit the ball in the air and not worry about drawing walks or cutting his strikeouts?

For all his speed, Reyes has never been the prototypical leadoff hitter. He has always struck out too much, doesn’t walk and insists on hitting the ball in the air. Through 15 games he has 15 strikeouts and six walks with zero stolen bases. He’s hitting .094 with a .186 on-base percentage and has been dropped to seventh in the order.

The bottom line is for all his supposed physical skills, if Reyes isn’t leading off then he might as well not be in the lineup.

Wilmer Flores can play third base as well as Reyes, if not better. But, he’s off to a slow start, also, at .171. However, Flores’ main problem is he doesn’t play enough because Collins is married to the right-lefty dynamic and won’t give him the regular opportunity to hit right-handed pitching. Again, Flores will never hit right-handed pitching unless he’s given the opportunity.

Reyes’ problems are more complex and I offer several contributory explanations.

First, his mechanics are way off. He’s lunging at pitches he should take and is trying to hit everything in the air. He’s always had that style, but at 33 it is catching up to him. However, ten years ago he could get away with it because the Mets gave him free reign to do what he wanted at the plate. They did so because he gave them enough so they would settle.

Reyes will never be the work-the-count, slap-hitter, get on base and steal his way to third type of player. Reyes always wanted to play like Rickey Henderson, but he was never as good.

Now, it’s too late to transform, and I don’t think he has the discipline to try.

Secondly, I believe this slow start is weighing on him and he is trying to do too much. Reyes will get his money – the Colorado Rockies are paying it – but he could be thinking if it doesn’t work with the Mets this could be his last chance and what else does he know besides baseball?

Could Reyes’ slow start be partially explained by him being away from camp for the World Baseball Classic? This was an important year for Reyes and he could have used the work a full spring training provides.

Finally, and this hasn’t been mentioned in the mainstream media as a cause, but his double life – a mistress with a child and ensuing court case – has to be an emotional burden. Couple that with his domestic abuse suspension and he has a lot of toxic baggage.

Most teams would run away from Reyes, but the Mets aren’t because it isn’t costing them any significant money and they are desperate because they are afraid to go with Flores as David Wright’s replacement.

The only question is how long are they willing to play this charade?

Jan 06

Hall Of Fame Reaction

Better, but not good enough.

The results have been announced and John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, Craig Biggio and Randy Johnson were voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America. All four were on my ballot, but I voted for six others who didn’t make the cut.

Here’s my ballot and reaction:

Craig Biggio: He should have been voted in last year. I don’t understand people downplaying his over 3,000 hits by calling him a “compiler.’’ You have to be pretty damn good for a long time to get that many hits.

Mike Piazza: I hear the steroid rumors, but a few back pimples shouldn’t be enough to disqualify him. He’s the best hitting catcher the game ever saw. The PED accusations aren’t founded and circumstantial.

Jeff Bagwell: Like Piazza, he’s done in by innuendo and it’s a shame.

Tim Raines: Isn’t he one of the three best leadoff hitters in history along with Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock? He is, and that should be his ticket.

Lee Smith: No love for him, but he’s third on the career list with over 400 saves.

Edgar Martinez: I don’t think he’ll get in and that’s too bad. Designated hitter is an official position and he did it as well as anybody.

Mike Mussina: If he hung around for another two years he would have won 300 games and this probably would have been a moot point. There were others more dominant, but Mussina was consistently good for a long time with 17 straight seasons with double-digit victories, and 11 overall with fifteen or more victories.

Randy Johnson: He was dominating and a no-brainer with over 300 victories and 4,875 strikeouts. Even so, some didn’t vote for him. Now, that’s a joke.

Pedro Martinez: I knew he’d make it with an average season of 17-8 with a 2.93 ERA and 217 innings pitched. Don’t forget three Cy Young Awards.

John Smoltz: I am really glad he got in. He was a joy to watch. He would have won over 300 games if he weren’t busy saving 154.

 

Feb 21

Looking At Mets’ Leadoff Situation

The primary objective for the New York Mets in their quest for a leadoff hitter is the combination of speed, base-running ability and on-base percentage.

Eric Young has the first two, but manager Terry Collins wants him to improve his on-base percentage. Young’s career on-base percentage is .325, and Collins is thinking of at least 25 more points.

YOUNG: Should bunt more.

YOUNG: Should bunt more.

“Ideally, you’d wish he’d have a .350 on-base,’’ Collins said earlier this week. “I don’t know if he’s going to, but you hope he does.

“All I know is what an impact this guy made on our team when we got him. He got some big hits, made some great plays defensively in the outfield. And when he got on, exciting things happened and we scored runs.

“So we’re certainly going to focus a lot on trying to get Eric to bunt a little bit more, maybe be a little more selective at the plate.’’

Even at .350, that pales compared to Rickey Henderson (.401) and Pete Rose (.375), two of the greatest leadoff hitters in history.

The Mets want Young to improve his walks-to-strikeouts ratio, which was a poor 35-67 last season in only 418 plate appearances and to bunt more.

With his speed, if Young averaged one bunt hit a week, that would be 26 additional for the season. Give Young 26 more hits over the same number of at-bats last year and his average would have been .320.

Collins prefers Young in the leadoff role over Daniel Murphy (lacks speed), Chris Young or Juan Lagares (low on-base percentage and too many strikeouts), or Ruben Tejada (low on-base percentage).

 

Dec 31

My Hall Of Fame Ballot

10 METS FAYTOK

I just returned from the post office where I dropped off my Hall of Fame ballot. It’s a ritual for me that on Dec. 31 every year I’ll fill out my ballot. I like holding on to it, read all I can about the players on the ballot, talk to those in the game and also to other voters.

Like most kids I grew up with, and I imagine like most of you, I grew up a baseball junkie. I even logged on to check the box score from the first game I went to, July 19, 1965, in Cleveland, where the Indians beat the Baltimore Orioles. Chuck Hinton homered for the Indians. Rocky Colavito got a couple of hits.

I think back to watching the Indians with the father, to playing catch with my brother, to Little League, and from there, I get to vote for the Hall of Fame.

It is a privilege, which is why it pisses me off no end when I hear of my colleagues selling their vote to Deadspin, to leaving ballots blank, to not returning them, to not even caring whom they vote for. Shameful in my point of view.

I am sure there will be many who disagree with my ballot. I voted for the ten players I was allowed, and have some regret for those I might have omitted. I have no regrets for those I checked.

hof ballot

Jeff Bagwell: To my knowledge he’s like Mike Piazza. He’s never failed a drug test. He was never linked or accused in the Mitchell Report. Nobody on the record has ever charged him or testified to seeing him use PEDs.

Craig Biggio: Three thousand hits. Enough said. I read where one veteran voter accused Biggio of using PEDs, but offered no proof or time-frame.

Tom Glavine: Some say they’ll keep Glavine off and vote Greg Maddux ahead of him. Absurd. Three hundred wins is an automatic ticket punch for me. Glavine and Maddux should go in together.

Greg Maddux: A no-brainer.

Edgar Martinez: I know I’ll take heat for this, but I don’t mind. I didn’t invent the designated hitter position. And, as long as MLB plays with the DH, I don’t see why a player has to have his position work against him. Sure, Martinez played most of his games as the DH, but that is a legitimate position. How many of the numbers belonging to Paul MolitorGeorge BrettCarl Yastrzemski and Eddie Murray were accumulated at a DH?

Jack Morris: He’s been on the ballot for years and don’t understand the reluctance of some voters to shy away from him. Morris was a money pitcher who fell shy of 300 wins. The game has changed and eventually you’ll see the bar lowered to accommodate those who just missed 300 wins.

Mike Mussina: He’s another who fell shy of 300 wins. If he hung on he could have made it. When you consider his body of work, he’s two blown saves a year from 300, which shouldn’t be enough to keep him out. I covered Mussina in Baltimore and with the Yankees, and have no doubts he did it cleanly.

Mike Piazza: If he gets the votes, he’ll likely go in as a Dodger. He’s on my ballot for the same reason as Jeff Bagwell. I don’t see where the accusations of several Holier than Thou writers who based their thinking on seeing several pimples on his back as being substantial.

Tim Raines: Along with Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock – both in the Hall of Fame – he’s one of the game’s premier leadoff hitters. Had he played the bulk of his career in the United States, especially New York or Los Angeles, he’d have been in already.

Frank Thomas: One of the outspoken critics of the PED era. He compiled massive numbers, and he did it cleanly.

Maybe next time:

The regrets on my ballot are Fred McGriff, who fell shy of 500 homers and Jeff Kent, the career leader of homers by a second baseman.

I never thought of Kent as a first ballot Hall of Famer, but several people have planted the seed for him. Maybe next year.

Mets on the ballot:

Mike Piazza: Voted for him.

Jeff Kent,: Maybe next year.

Moises Alou: Funny, when I think of him what I remember most is him pointing at Steve Bartman.

Paul Lo Duca: You must be joking.

Armando Benitez: His signature moment with the Mets was a 10-pitch at-bat in which he walked Paul O’Neill in the 2000 World Series. There’s also numerous blown save opportunities against the Braves.

Kenny Rogers: How about that bases-loaded walk against the Braves in the playoffs?

Apr 08

Mets Should Consider Mike Baxter At Leadoff

Six games into the season and the Mets have used three different leadoff hitters. Evidently, there are answers to be found.

One who should get a longer look is Mike Baxter, who started Saturday and reached base three times on two hits and a walk.

BAXTER: The catch that saved Santana. (AP)

BAXTER: The catch that saved Santana. (AP)

A lead off hitter needs to get on base, and if not then take the count as deep as possible to give the following hitters a chance to learn what they can of the pitcher. Baxter usually runs up the pitch count, and if he plays a full game can see as many as a dozen pitches. That’s an in-game scouting report to those following him in the order.

Little League coaches like to say, “a walk is as good as a hit,’’ and there are times it is the same in the major leagues.

“He takes a base on balls,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “If he was a genuine base-stealer, he’d be dangerous. You look up, and he’s got a .375 on-base. It seems like he’s on first base all of the time.’’

Actually, Baxter’s career on-base percentage is .360, but Collins’ point is well taken. It is an on-base percentage representative of a productive leadoff hitter, as good as they received from Jose Reyes.

The stereotypical leadoff hitter is a base stealer, the kind the Mets enjoyed with Reyes early in his career. However, Wade Boggs didn’t steal many bases and hit .321 batting leadoff in over 900 games in his career.

They all can’t be Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock or Maury Wills.

Although the game has changed and there isn’t an emphasis on base stealing as there once was, the basic fundamental of a lead off hitter has always been the same, which is get on base to set the table for the run-producers.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis was penciled in as the leadoff hitter going into spring training, but has a propensity for striking out. He is still very much a work in progress. Other candidates Collin Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin never had full seasons as a starters.

Cowgill has homered twice and if he continues to flash power he might be needed lower in the order. Valdespin is fast, but can be an out-of-control free swinger. He doesn’t figure to last long at that position, and as a defensive liability, probably won’t get many starting opportunities.

Baxter has a decent glove – Johan Santana wouldn’t have his no-hitter without him – but has never had a full time chance.

So, as long as Collins is searching for answers, Baxter is worthy of an opportunity.

ON DECK: Contrasting pitchers Matt Harvey and Roy Halladay.

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